How I stock my vegan kitchen

I have a lot of stuff in my kitchen cupboards but when I really think about it everything I cook boils down to the same few essentials. I’ve made a shopping list for these essentials so that anyone learning how to cook vegan has somewhere to start. It can be downloaded for free here.

So what’s on the list and why?

Produce

  • Onions – They are a base for a lot of what I cook, they add lots of flavour and they are cheap. You can even made a soup where they are the star. Store in a cool, well-ventilated area like a cupboard or as we have, a re purposed plastic bag bin!

  • Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes – They have lots of uses and they fill out a meal, they are another cheap staple, and last a while in a cool, well-ventilated area. Much like onions.

  • Root Vegetables – Hearty, long-lasting and versatile vegetables. Once again they are lovely and cheap and you can do so much with them. They are a great alternative to potatoes if you fancy mixing things up.

  • Leafy Greens/Salad Leaves – To me this means fresh spinach for salads, cabbage to eat raw or roast, kale for kale chips, bok chi for a stir fry. There is loads to choose from but make sure to include some in your diet as they are so good for you!

  • Seasonal Vegetables and Fruit – By buying seasonal you’ll get the best flavour out of your food, your cutting down on food miles and because it’s seasonal it’s normally a lot cheaper. I build a lot of my meals around what fruit and vegetables are best value that week.

  • Mushrooms – Another versatile item. I use them a lot in place of meat such as mushroom bourguignon, mushrooms in a mustard sauce or on toast for breakfast. They come in many shapes and sizes and are a great addition to recipes in place of meat.

Chilled

  • Dairy Free Spread – Great for toast, baking and cooking.

  • Tofu – Much like mushrooms its versatile and great to use in a recipe instead of meat. I get two kinds

    • Silken – Great for scramble, egg-less mayo, desserts and miso soup.

    • Firm – More firm (as per the name) so it can stand up to more cooking. Great for stir fry, Bánh mì, curries and stews.

  • Miso – A deeply savoury paste made from soya beans. It makes a quick and easy soup on its own or mix it with some garlic, ginger and chilli for a quick and simple marinade.

  • Milk – I have two down just because I like soya and Leo likes almond. This is a matter of taste and what you prefer, if it were up to me I’d just use soya milk for everything.

Frozen

  • Vegetables – There are a few that I always get because I find them so useful but this is personal preference and what you like to eat. My choices are –

    • Spinach – Its cheaper then fresh as you get so much more for your money. It can be popped in soups, curries or mushrooms on toast, its incredibly versatile and you just defrost as much as you need.

    • Sweetcorn and Peas – These go together a lot be it just boiled as a side or put in a shepherds pie. Separately though I like to pan fry sweetcorn in a little butter and spices as a side to something spicy like fajitas. Peas get used a lot on their own in curries or made into a simple soup.

    • Broccoli and Cauliflower – Another great duo together just boiled or baked with a cheesy sauce or separately broccoli goes with pretty much everything for me. I love broccoli so have with pasta, rice, stir fry, soup… I can’t get enough of it. Cauliflower is cheaper frozen and can be use the same as fresh, rather than having a baked cauliflower steak you just use frozen and have it in florets instead.

  • Fruit – This is where I should tell you about all the fruit I get to make smoothies and healthy things… Sorry I don’t. I buy things like raspberries and blueberries to put in cakes. One of my favourite things to do with frozen fruit is to make a buckle. Its a sponge mix with so much fruit in it that it can’t rise properly, it can’t be a beautifully fluffy perfect cake, instead its something to stick all the fruit together in one big delicious jammy mess. Perfect.

Pickles

We like our pickles so we always have a stash of them in the house. Olives for pasta, gherkins for making tartare sauce and beetroot… just because beetroot is awesome. They can all be used in a sandwich or as part of a meze platter, any excuse for some pickles!

Baking

  • Flour – I always have a range of flour in the house as I like to make my own bread and cakes. I also have some chickpea flour in there, it’s more versatile than you think.

    • Plain flour, this is for cakes, sauces and soda bread.

    • Bread flour, for yeast breads. Depending on what bread I want to make it could be white, brown, rye etc… but I always have some white bread flour to hand just in case.

    • Chickpea flour, for making savoury pancakes, kuku and chickpea scramble. I’m finding new uses for chickpea flour all the time.

  • Oats – We live in Scotland so we’ve got to have oats in the house. Leo has them for breakfast, I use them in cookies and in winter I make oatcakes to eat fresh out the oven. They are also useful for gluten free cooking. I’ve thrown together a gluten free cake in the past by putting oats in a blender to make them into flour. The cake was really good in the end too!

  • Yeast – For making bread. We both love making bread. Home made bread fresh out the oven is one of the most satisfying things in the world to me, its easy to make bread, much cheaper than buying it and you’ll get a better product at the end of it. I make my dough before going to work and then bake it when I get home ready for dinner.

  • Baking Powder and Baking Soda – These are used separately and together in a variety of ways from baking cakes to making soda bread. I use them a lot so I never let them run out.

  • Vanilla Paste – Vanilla is the base flavour for a lot of baked goods even if your putting other flavours on top and it can be used to make things taste sweeter without adding lots of sugar.

  • Cocoa Powder – Who doesn’t like chocolate? You can use it to flavour cakes, cookies and puddings.

  • Brown Sugar – This is a personal preference, I think it has more flavour than plain old white sugar. It gets used in baking and in my tea in the mornings.

  • Peanut Butter – Leo loves peanut butter so we always have some for hi to eat in sandwiches. It makes a great addition to cakes and surprisingly its the secret ingredient to my curry sauce.

Liquids

  • Soy Sauce – I use this instead of salt in a lot of my cooking. It has a deep savoury flavour along side saltness so it adds more depth to whatever your cooking.

  • Vinegar – I have two in my cupboard.

  • Balsamic as it’s great in salad dressings or for adding to frying onions, it has a strong flavour so it needs to be used in something that works with it.

  • Rice wine vinegar, it has less of a flavour so I use it in recipes that needs the sharp vinegar kick without the flavour such as my home made mayo.

  • Oil – I have a range of these too and again it’s down to their flavour.

    • Vegetable oil is pretty flavourless so I can use it in cakes, mayo and for general cooking.

    • Olive oil for salad dressings and for putting in bread dough, it has such a strong flavour and it burns easily so I use it as it is without heating when possible.

    • Coconut oil for when serious frying needs to be done. I use it to cook my onions before a curry or a soup. It’s also great outside the kitchen as a lip balm or a moisturiser.

  • Condiments – While they can be used on some chips or on the side of a meal I also use them in my cooking.

    • Ketchup is a bit like tomato paste just less bitter (in my opinion anyway). It has salt, sugar and vinegar in it so a little in something tomato based has a lot of your seasoning’s covered.

    • Mustard is something we love in our house. We use it in sandwiches alongside gherkins but it’s also a great addition to a creamy sauce or even made into a sauce of its own.

    • Liquid Smoke sounds like a very niche item but hear me out, it’s very useful. You can add it to fried mushrooms for a smokey breakfast sandwich, add it to cooked aubergine for a meze dip, add it to stews for an extra depth of flavour or try making your own cheese and add a touch in for a flavour variation. It has a lot more uses than you think.

  • Liquid Sweetener – I’ve got two on my list, one for general use and one that gets used on more specific recipes.

    • Agave is expensive in the scheme of things so I use it sparingly in things like mayo.

    • Golden Syrup is a lot cheaper so I can use it instead of honey in baking, drinks and marinades.

  • Coconut Milk – I always have a tin in the cupboard even if I don’t use it very often. It can be made into a curry, added into cakes and even whipped up to top a scone and jam.

  • Passata – Another base item, I use it to make pasta sauces, tomato soups and it’s a key ingredient to my curry sauce.

  • Lemon and Lime Juice – Lemon juice is added to cheesy flavoured recipes to give you a sharp cheesy flavour and a good squeeze added to home made hummus makes a huge difference. Lime goes well with spices to give you an extra flavour but my main reason for these tow is I put it in water. I find lemon or lime water a lot easier to drink.

  • Tahini – Another item that might seem quite niche but also gets a lot of use. You can add it to cookies, hummus, sauces, marinades or use it as a sauce on its own. I always have a large tub of it in the flat to add into things when I need it.

Dried

  • Pasta – A base for meals alongside rice, noodles and lentils. I buy it in 3kg bags so that it lasts. Wholemeal pasta has a lot more nutrition to it so I try to go for it as often as possible.

  • Rice – Different rice does different things so I have a small range of it to hand for different occasions.

    • Brown rice takes a while to cook but it’s well worth it. Like wholemeal pasta its got a lot more nutrition to it than white and it has a lovely nutty flavour. It’s my go to rice for most dishes.

    • Risotto rice is short grain and starchy, with the addition of a handful of other ingredients you can make a quick and easy dinner.

    • Sushi rice is short grain and starchy which makes it lovely and sticky so that you can make sushi rolls or rice balls for packed lunches.

  • Noodles – There are lots of different noodles out there so I like to get different ones each time I go shopping. There are rice noodles which go really well in a thai laksa, soba noodles which go well cold in the summer with a dipping sauce, big thick udon noodles which… well.. I’ll eat with anything as they are my favourite. The list is endless and they all have their own charm and appeal.

  • Chickpeas – Rather than taking up lots of cupboard space with pre cooked tins of chickpeas I just buy a big bag of dried ones. It takes a bit of pre planning to use them as you need to leave them to soak but if you remember to put them in water before going to work they will be ready to cook by the time you get home. They last forever and they are super cheap when you choose dried over tinned.

  • Lentils – One of my favourte supermarkets has a whole isle dedicated to all the different types of lentils out there. While I like to buy new and exciting ons sometimes on the whole I stick to two types.

    • Red Lentils cook really quickly, they don’t need to be soaked before cooking and they make a great dhal with a few other ingredients. They are quick, nutritions and delicious for a work night dinner.

    • Yellow Split Peas are a lot bigger and take more cooking. I use them to bulk out soups or mix them with red lentils in a dhal if I’ve got a bit more time.

  • Seeds – These are great for adding to bread for a bit of extra taste and texture or you can sprinkle them over salads instead of croutons, over yoghurt for breakfast… they have lots of uses.

    • Sunflower seeds can be used instead of pine nuts in a pesto or sauce. They are slightly soft like pine nuts so I also like to sprinke them over a salad.

    • Chia seeds are more a sweet thing for me, you can soak them in any liquid and they turn into something like tapioca. You can use them in salads and breads and all sorts of things but this simple way of using them as a jelly like dessert is my favourite.

    • Linseeds are full of omega fats so they are really good for a vegan diet. They are my go to seed for bread. Once I’ve made my dough I grease the tin I’m going to cook it in, add in some seeds for the dough to stick to and then bake. You then get a lovely crust of seeds on your bread.

  • Coconut – Dried coconut has both a sweet and savoury use for me. On the sweet side it can go in cakes, on breakfast or in desserts. On the savoury side it can be blended with coriander, milk and a little salt to make a quick coconut chutney, it can be put in curries or added to bread. I use it more in savoury dishes than sweet but that’s just personal preference.

  • Cashews – I avoided cashews for ages as they are pretty expensive in the scheme of things but now I’ve started using them I can’t be without them. They have this magical creamy property to them when you soak them and blend them. This makes them a great base for cream sauces and it’s a lot better for you than a bechamel sauce. The other thing they are great for is making your own cheese. Yes it seems like a lot of effort and a total faff but it’s so easy to make your own cheese and once you give it a try you’ll be converted.

  • Dates – These tasty little packages are another really versatile item. You can split them open and fill them with peanut butter for a quick snack. You can add them to your breakfast for a fruity kick or you can add them to your cashews and make them into energy balls. I’ve never been a fan of dried fruit but I always have a big box of them in the cupboard as they have so many uses.

Flavours

  • Salt and Pepper – The basics of seasoning that will be used in pretty much everything you make.

  • Stock Cubes – A must have for making soups, risotto’s etc…

  • Nutritional Yeast – This is something that I use a lot. It has a nutty/cheesy flavour so I add it to my cashew sauces, sprinkle it over pasta, I even put it in my curries now. It’s a fantastic seasoning to add a more savoury depth to your cooking.

  • Seaweed – This isn’t just for making sushi rolls or for adding to salads it’s the secret to vegan fish dishes. There are lots of different seaweeds out there so how much you get depends on how much you like it. I

    • f your going to get just one go with toasted nori sheets as they are the most versatile.

    • If you want to branch out there is kombu which looks a bit like tree bark but makes the base stock for Japanese dishes.

    • Wakame is the flat tender seaweed you get in miso soup. It comes dried and looks like tiny little specks but a little goes a long way! Its really quick to rehydrate and is great in a salad too.

    • Hijiki is more a salad seaweed to me, its more strings of seaweed and had more of a bite to it. It needs longer soaking than wakame but is another great texture for salads and soups.

  • Spices – I have a whole draw full of spices that I sometimes use but the bare bones basics are these 11. They can be used in different ways for different cuisines.

    • Garlic Powder is a staple in our house as I use it instead of fresh garlic. I use a lot of garlic, its a lot cheaper than fresh and it lasts longer. I’ll still buy fresh sometimes but this is my daily go to.

    • Turmeric is part of my curry sauce base but it also gets added to tofu along with some other ingredients when I’m making tofu scramble or an egg-less salad.

    • Coriander Seed and Cumin tend to go together. They are another spice in my curry sauce but they also work well together with some tahini and lemon for a meze marinade.

    • Cardamom is yet another curry sauce essential b ut it also gets added to desserts alongside cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and black pepper for a chai flavour.

    • Cinnamon gets used a lot in our house for Leo’s porridge, cinnamon cakes, a secret ingredient to a cookie recipe and last of all… yep my curry sauce.

    • Bay seems a like it wont get used much but it adds flavour to stews and is added to my mushroom bourguignon and my curry sauce.

    • Clove is the last essential curry sauce ingredient and it also gets added to my chai spice mix.

    • Black Salt is what gives egg-less salad and tofu scramble it’s eggyness. Its pink in colour and has a very eggy flavour and smell. A little goes a long way and you don’t need to use salt alongside it.

    • Paprika adds colour to dishes along with it’s slightly smokey flavour. I use it with turmeric and garlic powder in my chickpea scramble.

    • Five Spice is my last spice, I used to buy hoi sin sauce a lot as leo likes it but it’s full of sugar, salt and other nasties. A simple mix of soy sauce, liquid sweetener, garlic and five spice is even better!

Special Extras

You might of noticed that there is no vegan meat or cheese on the list. This is because it’s processed food. If your going to learn how to cook you need to start off with basic ingredients, having the occasional sausage or burger is fine but it shouldn’t be the star of every meal… there is so much more out there. This is where you put your treats though, I’m not saying you can never have these processed foods but they should be seen as special extras.

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