The idea that vegans eat a limited, bland diet is absurd, and there’s no better proof than the average vegan pantry. From refrigerators to spice racks and dry goods storage areas, vegan kitchens display a wide array of tasty foods and ingredients. Let’s take some time to explore some of the most essential ingredients that vegans should have in their pantries.
Of course, individual tastes apply; if you don’t like spicy food, for example, don’t feel obligated to stock up on hot sauce just because it’s a common vegan ingredient. This is simply a guide for you to use in considering which kitchen essentials tend to be common in vegan kitchens. We’ll focus specifically on ingredient categories that are unlikely to contain any hidden animal-derived ingredients. If there are any sneaky traps to avoid, we’ll let you know.
A Quick Bit of Advice before You Shop
While it is by no means impossible or even difficult to find a wide range of flavorful and healthy ingredients to use in vegan cooking, vegans do typically need to be a bit more cautious than meat-eaters and even vegetarians when they shop. Hidden ingredients like gelatin, which is made from animal bones, and beef or chicken broth, can show up in unexpected places.
When you’re shopping, you can make sure everything’s in order by carefully reading product labels and looking out for specific keywords in ingredients lists, product descriptions, and fine print. Some seemingly vegan items may be packaged or processed in facilities that also process animal products, and that may turn some vegans away from using a specific brand. These disclaimers are typically located underneath ingredient lists, but you should read all the fine print on the package of a product you’re buying for the first time. If a favorite old product announces a recipe change, or has a label that says something like “New and Improved Flavor!” double-check the label to make sure the ingredients are still compatible with your dietary needs.
Essential Ingredients for a Well-Stocked Vegan Pantry
Don’t believe the hype about limited vegan diets. The truth is that there are a ton of great vegan ingredients out there—so many, in fact, that we couldn’t cover each and every one in this list. We’re covering broad categories and giving a few examples here so you can get a lay of the land and see what’s out there for a vegan to choose from.
These basic categories should make it easy to make a shopping list and revamp your pantry if you’re transitioning to a fully vegan diet for the first time. Keep in mind, again, that personal preference can make a huge difference here, and that includes focusing on preferences for gluten content and non-GMO, organic, or conventional growing practices.
We’re leaving out two very important food groups: raw or frozen fruits and vegetables. These plant-derived foods are a clear and easy choice for vegans, and we’re sure you’ve got it covered when it comes to picking out the right options to fill your fruit bowl and refrigerator crisper drawers.
Grains are an excellent nutritional building block for vegans to use in meals at any time of day, and they can also be useful for snacking and baking too. Whole grains, such as brown rice rather than white rice, is best for vegans because they include protein and fiber, both of which are important not only for general health and energy but also for satiety, or the feeling of being full after eating a sufficient quantity of food. However, you don’t have to completely cut refined grains like white rice out of your diet if you don’t want to—just be aware that these foods may not be as nutritious as their whole-grain counterparts. The following list is just a short sampling of the many grains you can keep in your fully stocked vegan pantry.
Barley is a fantastic grain that comes in several different forms, all of which are versatile enough to serve as a side dish, like rice, or mix into soups and stews. Flaked barley can be eaten like oatmeal or added to a quick-cooking soup, and pearled barley is an excellent rice substitute for creamy risotto-like dishes. Unlike these other two varieties, hulled barley has its outer husk and, while this results in a coarser texture and longer cooking time, it includes a host of additional nutrients.
As with most other grains, oats come in several forms, and some are more nutritious than others because they include more parts of the grain. The kind of oatmeal you find sold in sugary packets that can cook in a minute in the microwave isn’t as nutrient-dense as oat groats, which are whole hulled kernels of oat. You can keep multiple different kinds of oats in your pantry for different applications. Groats are great for porridges or to add to stews. Steel-cut oats are good for oatmeal, quick-cooking oats can be fantastic for cooking, and even those little packets are good in a pinch if you need a quick, light breakfast and don’t have anything else on hand.
There’s a reason rice is a dietary staple all over the world. It’s affordable, nutritionally efficient and shelf-stable, not to mention versatile. Arborio, jasmine, wild, red, long-grain, brown basmati and pilaf mixes are all options you can keep on hand for different purposes. Short-grain rice like Arborio are great for risotto, while aromatic jasmine rice makes an excellent accompaniment to curries. It’s a great idea to keep at least one kind of rice in stock at all times in your kitchen.
As one of the “ancient grains” often hailed as a superfood, quinoa (pronounced “keen-WAH”) should be familiar to every vegan. There’s a reason quinoa has gained in popularity over the past decade—it cooks just like rice, making it familiar to most home chefs, and it’s packed with protein and a high volume of fiber. Swapping quinoa for rice or even just mixing a little quinoa into rice can be a great way of sneaking some extra nutritional value into vegan meals. Plus, some people find quinoa’s slightly crunchy texture more enjoyable than other grains. On top of all that, it’s a gluten-free grain, making it friendly to those with celiac and gluten-free dietary preferences.
Like barley, there are several different kinds of millet available, with pearl millet being the most common. Another gluten-free grain, millet is a versatile and underrated dietary staple that vegans should get to know as an affordable way to add variety to your meals.
As you’ll notice elsewhere in this list, vegans have tons of great options for protein. These vegan proteins are among the most commonly available, and you can find a range of additional options scattered around your grocery store, including in the frozen and refrigerated foods sections.
Made from soybeans and processed into a uniform, solid texture, tofu is a classic staple of the vegan diet. Available in a variety of textures ranging from the pudding-like silken to solid extra firm, you can use tofu for a wide range of different culinary applications. Tofu has a naturally mild flavor and pleasant texture that makes it extremely versatile. You can marinade, season and prepare it to take on just about any flavor you wish.
Tempeh is also made from soybeans, but unlike tofu, the soybeans in tempeh are fermented and pressed together, creating a solid mass of smaller pieces that you can cube, slice or crumble as you see fit. While tofu is pretty easy to cook, tempeh can be a bit more of a challenge, and it can have a grainy feel if you don’t cook it properly. Do your research before cooking tempeh so you can be sure to get your technique right.
Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is another soy-based vegan protein option. Unlike tempeh and tofu, TVP is shelf-stable and can be stored dry in your pantry for weeks, making it a good staple to keep on hand in a pinch. TVP comes in tiny chunks that need to be rehydrated, which you can do with flavored liquid like tomato juice or veggie broth to give your dishes extra flavor. It’s a great stand-in for ground beef for tacos, pasta sauces and more.
Though it’s not friendly for gluten-free vegans, Seitan is a high-protein form of vital wheat gluten that has a meaty texture lots of vegans really love. Seitan can be sliced into strips for fajitas cubed to replace beef in a favorite stew recipe.
As further proof that vegans don’t have to deny themselves entire food categories, there are lots of great plant-based alternatives to dairy products that all vegans should be aware of.
There are a dozen or more vegan-friendly milk options to choose from, depending on where you look. The standards include soy, almond, rice, coconut, hemp, cashew and pea milk, and each kind may come in a variety of flavors or types, including sweetened or unsweetened plain, organic, chocolate or vanilla flavored, reduced-fat and so on. There are pros and cons to each; if you are trying to avoid soy, for example, that’s an obvious no, but there are also some environmental implications involved with choosing almond milk in the midst of a California drought. The good thing is that if you decide that one dairy-alternative milk isn’t right for you, there are plenty of other options on the list to consider. You can even learn how to make several of these vegan nut and seed milks at home in your own kitchen.
Vegan Butter Substitute
Earth Balance is one of the more popular brands that vegans tend to love, but it’s not the only option available. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of health food stores and doesn’t offer a dedicated vegan or organic section in the grocery store, you can look for oil-based butter substitutes in the standard grocery store dairy aisle. The exact kind of butter substitute you choose—what it’s made from, whether it’s in stick or spreadable form—should depend heavily on what you’re using it for. If you’re making a recipe, you should probably be using the stick form. If you’re spreading it on your toast, you’ll probably want to go for a spreadable variety, though of course, it’s not against the rules to use stick-shaped vegan butter substitute for that usage as well.
Soy and other proteinaceous substitutes are common in the vegan cheese category, and you can find these products in shredded, sliced and block form in most major grocery stores. There’s a growing movement for nut-based vegan cheese as well, and these may be preferable for vegans who prefer minimally processed foods.
Vegan Yogurt, Cream Cheese, Sour Cream and Ice Cream
Beyond those basics, you can find just about any other kind of vegan “dairy” products you want, especially if you live in a bigger city and have access to grocery stores with diverse vegan product offerings. From coconut milk yogurt to rice milk ice cream and tofu-based cream cheese, vegans don’t have to miss out on these foods. They taste different from the dairy originals, but that’s probably preferable for most vegans, and in this case, “different” doesn’t mean “worse.”
They’re affordable, they’re tasty, they store well and contain a range of different essential vitamins and nutrients. Beans are arguably one of the most important food groups in the vegan diet, and they should be kept in constant supply to ensure an easy source of protein in case of emergencies.
It’s generally easier to find unusual heirloom bean varieties in dried form, but you can also find classic staples like pinto, kidney, navy, black, and lima beans in dried form as well. Lentils, split peas in a variety of colors, and black-eyed peas are also widely available in dried form. Dried beans are an excellent addition to the vegan pantry because they can be bought in bulk and cooked in bulk as well. You can cook your dried beans in large batches and then freeze them in water to store for later use. As you shop for dried beans, make sure they’re relatively fresh; old beans can be difficult to rehydrate and may remain mealy and sort of dry even if you soak them for days before cooking.
Though they’re not as cost-effective as dried beans, canned beans are still affordable. Because they’re usually priced at less than a dollar per serving, the relative savings is fairly low between the two options. Canned beans are an efficient option for emergency situations in which power and water resources are limited or unavailable. One nice thing about canned beans is that you can often find pre-seasoned varieties. From vegetarian baked beans to Cuban-style beans with a faint hint of citrus and spice; this canned ingredient offers a quick shortcut to making a hearty vegan meal.
Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts of all kinds are wonderful additions to the vegan pantry. You can use most of these ingredients in both baking or cooking recipes, but many of them are good to eat plain as a quick snack that offers both protein and fiber in a 100% plant-based form. Though seeds and nuts are high in fat, these fats are the “good” kind, for the most part, offering essential fatty acids (EFAs) that contribute to health in myriad different ways.
Technically a legume rather than a nut, peanuts are an affordable and versatile nut to use in a vegan kitchen. You can mix them with raisins for GORP, chop them up and mix them in with Asian tofu stir-fries or add them to cookies for a little extra protein. Peanuts aren’t quite as high in healthy fats as other options in this category, but they are easy to find and shelf-stable for longer periods than some other nuts, like Brazil nuts, which can go rancid over time.
Almonds are one of the healthiest and most widely available nuts known to man, making them an excellent choice for vegan pantries. You can easily find almonds in a variety of different flavors, too, including both sweet and savory options. Try oil-fried Marcona almonds for an indulgent treat or as a snack option at an all-vegan cocktail party.
Whether you’re sauteing them with garlic and olive oil for a delicious toasted salad topping or chopping them up fine to include in whole-grain vegan muffins, walnuts are a great choice for your vegan pantry. This particular nut is a common choice for baking recipes too, so they’re a great ingredient to keep on hand if you like to make muffins, scones, quick breads and cookies with a health-conscious focus.
Cashews are quickly becoming the go-to nut for vegan chefs who want to kick their culinary creations up to the next level. While roasted and flavored cashews make great snacks, blanched or raw cashews are easily adapted into a wide range of creamy sauces, spreads, and dips that make excellent stand-ins for cheese. You can use cashew cream as a topping for vegan pasta or pizza and make a thicker cashew cheese spread to use for sandwiches and party appetizers. If you plan to experiment with a lot of complicated vegan recipes, you’ll want to have raw cashews on hand.
Filled with protein, healthy fats, fiber and vitamins, nut butters are efficient nutritional sources. Peanut, almond, cashew, hazelnut, walnut and other butters are a must-have staple for the vegan pantry—so long as no one in the house has a severe nut allergy, of course. Even in those cases, though, butters made from seeds, including sunflower seeds, maybe a safe alternative. If you aren’t sure whether seed butters are safe for the people in your life with severe nut allergies, consult a doctor before stocking up on these spreads.
Tahini (Sesame Seed Butter)
While you can eat tahini spread on toast like you would with peanut butter, making it a good alternative for those with nut allergies, it’s also a great ingredient to use in making sauces, salad dressings and dips. From hummus to lemon-tahini-garlic dressing, this pasty sesame seed butter is an excellent addition to a well-stocked vegan pantry. Just remember that most tahini brands separate out quite dramatically, leaving a large puddle of oil at the top and a thick, pasty block of sesame seed butter at the bottom. You’ll want to stir thoroughly each time you open your jar of tahini.
Crispy and delicious, popcorn is an excellent vegan snack, and it’s considered a whole grain, meaning it has a variety of nutrients in addition to its fun flavor. Unpopped kernels purchased in bulk rather than in a pre-seasoned microwave packet are also mostly unprocessed and are quite affordable.
Because whole flax seeds are so small and difficult to chew, they can pass through your system undigested, which means you won’t be getting all the nutrient benefits these little superfoods offer. Opt for ground flax instead so you can fully digest all the dietary fiber and other beneficial elements contained within the seed. Ground flax is great sprinkled on oatmeal, blended into granola or mixed into a recipe for baked goods like bread or cookies. You can even mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water and let it set for about 15 minutes to create a flax egg. A flax egg is a 100% vegan egg substitute that can make your favorite vegetarian baking recipes friendly for a completely plant-based diet.
Fiber, antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals all these excellent nutrients are loaded into each tiny chia seed. You can toss chia seeds into smoothies, use them to make a chia seed pudding, or mix them into oatmeal. There are a ton of great recipes and possibilities that can turn chia seed skeptics into avowed devotees. Thanks to their health benefits, unusual texture, and versatile flavor profile, vegans should make chia seeds a part of their regular dietary routine.
Pasta, Bread, and Crackers
Pasta adds textural and culinary variety to vegan diets just as it does with omnivorous, vegetarian, and pescetarian diets. Because dried pasta is shelf-stable and is available in an assortment of shapes, sizes, types, and textures, it’s a great staple to keep on hand for those days when you can’t think of what to cook.
Classic plain pasta is a worthy staple that vegans can use to make everything from cashew-cheese lasagna to tofu noodle soup. However, your options for wheat pasta don’t end there. You can find whole-wheat pasta and dried wheat pastas infused with colors and flavors from vegan ingredients like saffron, tomato, and spinach. Beware of black wheat pasta, though; that often uses squid ink to get its distinctive inky color.
Though rice pastas are most often used for Asian cuisine and are shaped accordingly, it is possible to find rice pasta in the more familiar Westernized shapes like spaghetti or fettuccini. Asian-style rice noodles often cook quite quickly and can be a great way to add texture to tofu stir fries.
All the nutritional benefits of quinoa packed into the fun of pasta. What could be better? Quinoa pasta is a particularly great pantry staple for vegan households that include children and those who can’t eat gluten or prefer to avoid gluten. Though it’s not available in the same wide array as dried wheat pasta, quinoa pasta is available in several different shapes and sizes that you can keep on hand for some diversity in your diet.
There are lots of great sliced bread options, including some sprouted whole-grain varieties that offer a lot of protein in addition to all the other conveniences sliced bread offers. Most loaf breads are vegan-friendly, but it’s still smart to read ingredients lists and look out for sneaky flavoring ingredients like butter, cheese, honey, eggs, and milk. Some new vegans may wonder whether yeast-leavened bread is safe to eat, and the answer is generally accepted as yes, though of course, you may have your own personal preferences as far as this is concerned. Yeast are living single-celled organisms, but they’re considered to be closer to mushrooms than mammals and aren’t classified as animals.
Flatbreads and Wraps
Flatbreads like pitas, wraps, and tortillas are another important category for vegans to touch on with their shopping lists. These convenient breads can make on-the-go meals easy and will also open you up to the vegan delights of various culinary traditions, including Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking and recipes from Mexico and South America. One thing to be careful of: some traditionally made tortillas can use lard and other animal fat as an ingredient, so you may want to stick with the tortillas found in grocery store shelves rather than buying some from your local taqueria or panaderia.
From ultra-healthy rye crisps to traditional saltines, vegans have a lot of great options for shelf-stable cracker products. You can use these items as the basis of a meal that includes protein-packed spreads like hummus or peanut butter, or serve them as part of a vegan appetizer spread that includes cashew “cheese” dip.
Vegans have a ton of great options to consider in the realm of cooking oils. Most shelf-stable oils are derived from plant sources, so you can feel free to use several different kinds of oils as part of your cooking and dining routine. Some oils are better than others for different purposes, so it’s important to understand your options and go from there. These three vegan oils form a good foundation that you can fill out with other options such as avocado, peanut, or safflower oils.
While high-grade extra-virgin olive oil isn’t the best cooking oil available—the particulate contents that make it so delicious also cause this olive oil grade to burn quite easily— lower grades can be great for sauteeing the ingredients over medium-high heat. Use extra-virgin for salad dressings and bread, virgin for low-temperature cooking and standard olive oil for higher temps. One great thing about olive oils of any grade is that they infuse beautifully with ingredients like garlic, herbs, peppers and fruit to add an extra dimension of flavor to your food.
Affordable and nearly flavorless, canola oil is a great choice for mixing into recipes. If any of your vegan baking recipes call for oil, try canola first before experimenting with others. You can also use canola oil for higher temperature frying and sauteeing.
While it definitely has its place in the vegan pantry, coconut oil recently had the misfortune of going through a food fad cycle that had all kinds of people trotting out pseudoscientific “miracle food” claims. While coconut oil does have some great benefits, it also has one of the highest proportions of saturated fat of any type of fat, including butter. Fats that are solid at room temperature, including lard, butter, and coconut oil, are typically very high in saturated fat, which is the “bad” kind that’s best eaten sparingly. By all means, use coconut oil on occasion for its delicious flavor and to add variety to your diet, but don’t kick healthier vegan fats like olive oil to the curb.
Acid gives complex recipes depth, and if you ever feel like some of your vegan recipes are missing that certain je ne sais quoi, a little bit of vinegar can do the trick. As with oils, you’ll have a lot more options than just those listed here, but the following are good basics to keep on hand.
As a classic ingredient in Italian cooking, balsamic vinegar is one of the most versatile ingredients in a well-stocked kitchen. Whether you blend it with olive oil for dipping bread or mix it up with mustard, oil, garlic, and lemon for a salad dressing, balsamic vinegar is a good staple for quick go-to vegan recipes with a hint of sophistication. You can also use it for more elaborate applications. Consider cooking a cup or two of balsamic vinegar into a syrup by heating it over low heat. You can use that syrup on ice cream, berries, vegan Caprese salads and more for an interesting flavor kick.
Asian rice wine vinegar is a fantastic choice for stir fries, salads, and other dishes based on Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean culinary traditions. When mixed with a few simple ingredients like tamari, sriracha, garlic, and lime, rice wine vinegar can make an excellent marinade for tofu and tempeh.
Apple cider vinegar is often held up as a folk remedy for a range of different ailments, but it’s also a good cooking ingredient as well. The slightly sweet flavor makes apple cider vinegar a fun addition to classic American recipes like honey mustard dressing (which you can make as maple mustard dressing if you don’t think honey is vegan).
Plain white distilled vinegar can be useful for making quick pickles or creating a leavening agent for cakes and other baked goods when mixed with baking soda. It’s also a great cleaning agent that you can use to scrub down countertops for an eco-friendly way to keep your kitchen tidy.
Whether fresh or dried, herbs are an excellent realm of vegan-friendly culinary opportunity. Herbs are aromatic leaves and flowers, so they are by their very nature plant-based. Dried herbs tend to hold onto their flavor better when mixed with something that’s going to be heated, and fresh herbs tend to do best when added as a finishing touch at the very end of a recipe, or used as part of a salad. You can grow your own fresh herbs if you have a green thumb and then dry some to use later.
Some herbs you may want to keep around your kitchen include:
- Bay Leaf (best in dried form)
- Italian Parsley
Like herbs, spices are generally a pretty safe category for vegans as most of these ingredients are plant-based. Technically, spices should all be vegan-friendly; spices are derived from plant seeds, bark and roots, but some animal products do manage to sneak into this category, especially in commercially prepared spice blends. These may contain powdered cheese or bullions derived from animals, so again: check your labels.
Because vegan proteins tend to have relatively mild flavor profiles, spices can be an important part of vegan cooking, so it’s a good idea to keep your spice cabinet up to date. While most spices don’t typically go bad in a way that’s dangerous to your health, they do lose their flavor over time. Buying small quantities of bulk spices you use regularly and purchasing everything else on an as-needed basis may be the best way to ensure a fully flavorful supply in your pantry.
Some spices you may want to consider using as everyday staples include:
- Black Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Mustard Seed
- Chili Powder
- Curry Powder
- Ginger (can use dried or fresh)
Savory Flavoring Ingredients
If you buy vegan cookbooks or look up vegan recipes online, chances are you’ll see at least one of these ingredients in each recipe. These vegan-friendly flavoring ingredients are common staples that vegans use to give their recipes more depth and dimension on the savory side, which balances out the natural sweetness of a lot of plant-based foods.
Easily purchased in the bulk section of a grocery store that carries organic and natural foods, nutritional yeast is a major game changer for vegans. The deep savory flavor given off by nutritional yeast makes it an excellent addition to a variety of different vegan recipes, and you’ll see it used in sauces and gravies quite a bit as a way of adding layers of umami flavor. Though it’s said that nutritional yeast mimics the flavor of cheese, that’s not precisely true. It does have a deep savory taste, but it doesn’t taste anything like an animal-derived product and is 100% vegan.
When mixed with other ingredients, especially tamari or soy sauce, liquid smoke gives an amazing depth of flavor to vegan ingredients ranging from tofu and eggplant to beans and barbecue sauce. Use it sparingly, and you’ll unlock a whole new world of culinary possibility.
Dried mushrooms are an amazingly efficient way to make anything taste a little bit richer. Simply rehydrate them in water or a vegan broth and then strain; you can use that liquid for just about anything, including cooking rice or making sauces for pasta.
Tamari and soy sauce are essentially the same thing, but tamari has a deeper flavor and is gluten-free to boot. Whichever one you choose, their ingredients are extremely versatile in vegan cooking. You’ll end up using them for recipes that range far beyond a humble stir fry.
Use vegetable broth instead of water whenever you want to give your vegan recipes a little more flavor. Broth can also be a great substitute for milk when you’re in a pinch and don’t have any vegan milks on hand. Canned broth can be high in sodium and quite expensive, but making your own is easy. Just save scraps from sturdy root vegetables, including celery roots, carrot peels and ends, onion skins and ends, garlic cloves, and even corn cobs and boil them into a concentrated, flavorful liquid.
Miso paste is yet another vegan-friendly ingredient that gets used in creative and unusual ways to create depth of flavor in vegan meals. You can, of course, use it to make a simple tofu soup, but it’s got so much more to offer than that, making it a great choice for adventurous vegan cooks who want to really push the boundaries of their culinary skills.
Tomato Sauces and Pastes
From canned diced tomatoes to jarred, ready-to-eat pasta sauces, and easy-to-use tubes of tomato paste, these plant-based ingredients are a must-have for the vegan kitchen. Canned whole tomatoes, sauces, and pastes are excellent building blocks for recipes from a variety of different culinary traditions from Indian to Italian. Jarred marinara sauce is an excellent go-to when you don’t feel like cooking but want to eat an actual meal.
While some dried seaweeds can have a powerfully strong briny taste that some people dislike, there are lots of different kinds to try, and vegans should put some effort into finding one that works. The nutritional content of this ingredient category is quite high, and the umami flavor seaweed can give is quite effective. Nori, Dulse, Arame, and Wakame are just four of the many kinds of seaweed you can try. Eat it plain as a snack, crumble it over rice and beans, or rehydrate it with some dried mushrooms to make a unique vegan stock—there are tons of possibilities dried seaweed can offer.
Vegans need to be a little cautious when it comes to finding suitable condiments to use for dressing up simple dishes. For the most part, though, this is an easy category with a lot of options.
Jam, Jelly, Preserves, and Fruit “Butters”
In most cases, jams, jellies, and preserves are thickened with fruit pectin-a 100% natural, plant-based substance that causes sweetened fruit blends to firm up but still stay spreadable. Fruit butters are also usually completely vegan-friendly, despite their name. However, it always pays to read the labels before you buy.
Many vegans develop a love for hot sauce as a way of dressing up otherwise bland dishes. There are lots of great vegan-friendly hot sauces out there (most are, as a matter of fact; hot peppers, vinegar, and garlic are the most common ingredients in this category), so feel free to experiment until you find THE sauce that works best for you.
Mustard is a generally safe condiment for vegans, and it has the added bonus of being useful for much more than just spreading on a sandwich. Use mustard to thicken salad dressings or add a little extra flavor to stews.
Because super-processed and commercially prepared ketchup often contains gelatin as a thickening agent, this condiment is a no-go in most cases. However, modern small-batch ketchup companies are bucking the trend and making vegan-friendly options, so don’t write this one off entirely. It may just take some patience to find the right brand.
Egg yolks are a primary ingredient in mayonnaise, but there are some vegan options on the market. Just be sure you’re picking out a vegan mayo; even super-processed mayo-like spreads like Miracle Whip usually have eggs buried somewhere in the ingredients list.
Vegan baking recipes can be just as delicious and impressive as their egg-and-butter-loaded counterparts, and there’s been a major revolution in the vegan baking world over the past few decades that should make it simple to access great recipes both online and in cookbooks. If you want to open yourself up to this side of vegan home cooking, you’ll want some of these ingredients on hand.
While gelatin is out, thickeners like cornstarch, tapioca, and arrowroot powder are completely vegan-friendly. For pie fillings and other applications, you can experiment with these plant-based thickeners to see which ones you like best.
Most sweeteners are perfectly friendly for vegans because they are derived from plants. Agave, maple syrup, and molasses are all plant-based options. Some white sugar is refined using non-vegan ingredients such as charcoal made from animal bones, so you may want to skip this option unless you can determine exactly how it’s refined. Because brown sugar is usually a mix of refined white sugar and molasses, you may want to skip this option as well. There are great raw and unprocessed sugar options available that may be preferable for vegans.
Vanilla, almond, peppermint, lemon, and other flavor extracts can put a personalized twist on everything from a bowl of plain oatmeal to a recipe for gluten-free vegan scones that you’ve been perfecting for months.
Flour is another ingredient category that’s generally pretty safe for vegans, and the growing focus on gluten-free options may even make this a friendly category for gluten-free vegans as well. As always, though, read the fine print to make sure your flour isn’t being processed on equipment that processes animal products.
Baking Soda and Powder
These two leavening agents are made from a host of all-natural minerals and chemical compounds that help make baked goods lighter and airier. Fortunately, they’re almost always vegan-friendly as well.
These various odds and ends may not fit into any of the broader vegan ingredients categories, but that doesn’t make them any less important. In fact, some of these miscellaneous ingredients may end up becoming a major part of your culinary approach.
Raisins and other dried fruits ranging from cranberries and cherries to mango and peach can be a great addition to a vegan pantry, particularly if you like making customized snack mixes with nuts and dried fruit. Dried fruit adds concentrated flavor to oatmeal, granola, baked goods and more, and in most cases, it’s completely vegan-friendly. The only things to watch out for are the use of gelatin or honey in super processed dried fruits or the use of milk in yogurt- or chocolate-covered varieties.
Pickled and Fermented Vegetables
Sour, salty, spicy or slightly sweet, pickled vegetables and even some pickled fruits are a fantastic addition to any vegan’s pantry. Whether you’re sticking with the classic pickled cucumber or going for something more adventurous, like pickled asparagus or hot pickled peppers, these flavorful ingredients pack a powerfully flavorful punch. You can eat them plain as a snack, chop them up for a sauce or salad, put them on top of humble beans and rice, or even use the liquid to marinate tofu, or thin out soup that’s gotten too thick. They’re extremely versatile, and some ingredients in this category are also beneficial for your digestive health.
Specifically, pickled (or, properly, fermented) vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut can be excellent sources of probiotics for vegans. However, you should be sure to purchase vegan-friendly fermented varieties of these pickles. Cheaply made sauerkraut that uses pickling liquid rather than undergoing a full fermentation process will not give you the healthy bacteria that is so helpful to your gut flora. As always, you’ll want to carefully read the ingredient labels to make sure you know what you’re getting. Pickles with vinegar listed high on the ingredient list likely aren’t fermented in a way that will provide a dietary source of probiotics.
Canned Fruits and Vegetables
Commercially canned vegetables may not have the best flavor profile, but they are worth having on hand in case of emergency, especially if you live in a remote location or in a region that experiences frequent severe weather that causes disruptions. Alternatively, you can grow your own fresh produce at spring, summer, and fall harvest times.