Building Your Plant-Based Pantry

As with all good cooking, baking, and mixing, seasoning is key. This becomes especially true with plant-based and vegan cooking, where you’re having to replace or mimic animal derived flavors. It becomes increasingly important to relearn how to build a dishes flavor profile and to know exactly what flavors each ingredient brings to the original recipe. This often means stocking your pantry and spice cabinet with food items you may have never heard of or ever worked with before. Once you do, you’ll realize just how unnecessary animal products are in our everyday lives. I’ve listed my favorite of these spices, seasonings, and supplements by taste; along with affordable options. There are even some protein recommendations at the bottom!

There are many basic seasonings not listed here that I could be wrongfully assuming many of you already have. If not, be sure to get yourself the bare essentials like garlic powder, onion powder, bay leaf, black pepper, cumin, celery salt, cayenne, paprika, turmeric – the whole shebang. Here’s a great organic starter spice set to get you in the game. On a budget? Your local dollar store almost always has spices available for only $1 each.

With these ingredients in your plant-based arsenal, you’ll be creating rich and flavorful animal free dishes in no time!

Sweet

Pure Maple Syrup – a touch of maple syrup can help to flavor and sweeten practically anything. Keep in mind that when adding maple syrup, especially if subbing for another sugar, you’re adding a liquid. Maple syrup is a great option to flavor mock bacon!
365 Everyday Value, Organic Pure 100% Grade A Maple Syrup

Agave – Derived from the Blue Agave plant, this natural sweetener works great as an animal free egg wash on sweet breads. It was once marketed as a healthier option for those dealing with blood sugar issues, but it’s high levels of fructose leave that claim up for debate. It’s neutral flavor makes it ideal for those avoiding refined sugar.
365 Everyday Value, Organic Raw Agave Nectar

Organic Cane Sugar – One would assume that sugar would naturally be vegan, and yes, naturally it is. However, it’s common practice in the United States to bleach sugar to it’s signature white color. This bleaching process uses animal bone char.
Florida Crystals Florida Crystals Sugar Cane Organic

Salt

Black Salt/Kala Namak – Most popularly used in South Asian cuisine for it’s sulfurous taste and smell. When converting an egg heavy recipe into a plant-based one, Black Salt helps round out your flavors by giving a more authentic taste. Perfect in tofu eggs, vegan hollandaise, and even a dash in baked goods.
Himalayan Black Rock Salt

Sea Salt – A good sea salt will go a long way in your dishes and don’t be afraid to use it. Just be mindful of the salt already present in the other ingredients your working with. It’s easier to add more than to take it away.
Sea Salt

Soy Sauce – This also belongs in the to the savory/umami category, as it lends such a strong umami flavor. Though it’s typically very salty, Soy Sauce is most often specifically used for the taste is provides.
Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce

Liquid Coconut Aminos – A great soy sauce alternative for those avoiding soy. Slightly more sweet than traditional soy sauce.
Bragg Coconut Aminos

Sour/Acid/Tangy

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar – This multi-use vinegar is perfect for adding a cultured flavor to recipes that need to mock butter, yogurt, or any other dairy. It also gives you a healthy dose of gut healthy enzymes!
Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Lemon Juice – Always keep fresh lemons on hand. Lemons will brighten up dishes and give a sour flavor without the cultured aftertaste of Apple Cider Vinegar. It’s best to use them together to achieve the results you want.

White Vinegar – Like the other two acids listed, white vinegar aids in dishes that originally have dairy. It’s also great for making your own quick pickles!
Heinz White Vinegar

Mustard Seed Powder – This spice adds a great sharp and tangy flavor to vegan dairy based cheeses, sauces, and dips.
365 Everyday Value, Organic Ground Mustard Seed

Bitter

Instant Chicory – Easily found in Louisiana, chicory is a popular additive in coffee. It helps to had an important depth to dishes. Being naturally caffeine free, instant chicory is safe for those with a caffeine allergy or those avoiding caffeine due to other health reasons. It’s also a great alternative for those wanting to avoid unfair trade practices. Chicory can be used in all recipes calling for instant coffee.
Organic Instant Chicory Drink

Instant Coffee & Chicory – For those not worried about the added caffeine, this combination provides great depth in small amounts. Add to “beef” broth, stews, and even a little bit to cheeses!
Community Instant Coffee and Chicory

Cocoa Powder – Often the secret ingredient in a good chili, Cocoa powder lends depth without being an easily identifiable flavor.
365 Everyday Value, Organic Cocoa Powder

Umami/Savory

Nutritional Yeast – No plant-based pantry is complete without this vital B vitamin rich ingredient! Often used for a “cheesy” flavor, Nutritional Yeast lends more of a general savory flavor. Imagine the flavor of a fresh loaf of bread with a slight sour. I use this ingredient in nearly every recipe. I’m obsessed.
Trader Joe’s Nutritional Yeast

Smoked Paprika – One of the easiest ways to add a little smoky flavor to any dish is this delicious spice. An absolute must have.
McCormick Gourmet Organic Smoked Paprika

Kelp Powder – Known for its high concentration of Umami, Kelp powder is excellent for adding a fishy flavor to vegan chowders, ramen, pho, and “crab” cakes.
Maine Coast Sea Vegetables Kelp Granules Shaker

Dried Shiitake Mushroom – The possibles are endless with these meaty mushrooms. When dried, they can be processed into powder for stocks, broths, and stews. They can also be chopped and rehydrated for a meat substitute.
Shiitake Mushroom Slices 8 oz

Tomato Paste – A bit of tomato paste in a recipe can simultaneously add umami and a sweet element to stews, soups, and gravy.
Goya Foods Tomato Paste, 6 Ounce

Vegan Worcestershire – Traditional Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies or fish sauce. A vegan alternative allows you to use this sauce in all the ways you would have before.
365 Everyday Value, Organic Worcestershire Sauce, 5 fl oz

Vegetable Stock – Keep this handy for quick impromptu soups, cheeses, sauces, curries, marinades, and beans! You can also make your own by saving your vegetable scraps like carrot, celery, onion, and peppers.

Fat

Sunflower Lecithin – This powerful brain food is used for it’s fatty flavor and emulsion properties. Sunflower lecithin is rich in choline and other essential fatty acids. I typically use powdered, as the liquid can be sticky and hard to manage.
NOW Supplements, Sunflower Lecithin 1 LB

Coconut Oil – Refined or unrefined, Coconut oil isn’t quite the health food that it’s craze would lead you to belief. However, just like most things, everything is fine in moderation. This oil helps to lend a rich fatty mouthfeel.
365 Everyday Value, Organic Coconut Oil, 14 fl oz

Avocado Oil – With a naturally neutral taste, this heart healthy oil is a great general base for homemade dressings, mayonnaise, and other recipes that call for oil.
100% Pure Avocado Oil 8.4 oz

Sources of Protein

Non GMO Tofu – This seems like a given, but tofu got a seriously bad rep with the spread of false information regarding soy and estrogen. Tofu is high in protein and mostly inexpensive. I always keep a couple packages of firm tofu in the freezer for whenever I feel like having some homemade “chicken” nugs.
Organic Firm Tofu

Chickpeas/Garbonzo Beans – These little babies are an inexpensive and nutritious way to get your protein. Use them to make your own hummus, veggie burgers, and toast the oven for a crunchy treat. These can be found at nearly any grocery store. You can also save the water from their can to use in nearly any recipe that calls for whipped egg whites. “Aquafaba” is it’s name and it whips up like a dream.

Quinoa – This complete protein is an excellent replacement for rice and adds texture to any meatless dish. Quinoa can be found in most grocery stores with the rice and other grains.

Beans – Beans of nearly all types are an easy and delicious way to “beef up” your recipes. For something easy, go for the no salt added canned variety. Have extra time? Get yourself some dried beans to infuse those babies with some flavor.


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