Vegan Essentials: Everything You Need
Have you recently made the switch to a vegan lifestyle? Do you feel lost in all of the dos and don’ts you see online? You are not alone—it’s very common!
There are many reasons people become vegan, from health to animal rights to concern about our environmental impact. Whatever your reason for going vegan, making the switch can feel a little overwhelming. We want to make the transition a little easier, so we’ve put together some essentials every vegan should have in their fridge, pantry, and spice rack to make delicious vegan meals.
How to Transition to a Vegan Pantry
The first thing you should do to transition to a vegan pantry is taking inventory of what you already have. This is a great time to “spring” clean your fridge, pantry, and spice rack. And if you’re worried that you might have to throw out all of the food you have when you become a vegan, the answer is no. Many condiments, whole grains, spices, and oils are already vegan.
There may be a few things you’ll have to toss that you would have expected to be vegan, like honey. Honey is a product made by bees; therefore, it is not vegan. A few others are some marshmallows, some processed beans, and creamy condiments like mayo and ranch dressing. Don’t worry; all of these items have delicious vegan alternatives.
If you’re looking to gradually switch to a vegan diet or you’re concerned about food waste, you can also always finish the non-vegan products that you have and simply not buy new ones when you run out. You can also donate non-vegan products to avoid food waste and help someone else out.
The best way to know if something is vegan or not is to read the label. In the ingredient list, look for anything that has an animal product listed, like lard, gelatin, eggs, or dairy. There are also sneaky ingredients that are not as obvious, like casein or whey that you’ll have to watch out for. You will become so trained to look at ingredient lists, you will probably even check the items labeled vegan out of habit.
Here is a simple essential list that will get you confidently on the road to becoming a vegan.
Tofu and tempeh, made from fermented soybeans, are great to have on hand. Tempeh is a nuttier, firmer option, but they both take on the flavor of what you are pairing them with.
Plant-based proteins are also everywhere these days, from burgers and sausages to seafood, all in plant-based form. Just one word of warning: these highly processed foods can be high in sodium, so you may want to opt for less processed options.
Nuts and Seeds
As vegans, we have to be a little more careful to make sure we are getting certain nutrients that are readily available in animal products. Luckily, finding those rogue nutrients isn’t nearly as hard as you might think.
Some vegans have trouble getting their omega-3s, and nuts and seeds provide a simple answer. Walnuts have the highest amount of omega-3s compared to other nuts, but almost all nuts are high in omega-3s, protein, and healthy fats that support overall health.
Little itty bitty seeds hold the power to grow an entire plant: maybe even a tree! With all that growing potential, it’s no wonder why seeds are so important for a healthy vegan diet. Chia, flax, pumpkin, sunflower, and hemp seeds are all great options to have in your pantry. Throw them in your smoothie, mix them in your granola, choose them as a protein-rich afternoon snack when you need a pick-me-up.
A staple in any vegan pantry, beans are full of protein and fiber. Beans help you feel full and stay full longer. Add them to soups, tacos, or salad, and you’ll never miss meat again.
Perhaps an obvious choice for our list, vegetables are important in a vegan diet.
In traditional Western diets, animal protein is often the star. In vegan cooking, make the veggie the star. They have been taking a back seat on the plate for long enough. When deciding on which veggies to keep on hand, think about what you like. We could tell you that you MUST have Brussels sprouts, but if you don’t like them, they’ll likely sit in your fridge until the next time you get around to cleaning it out. What’s the point of that?
If you don’t often eat vegetables, find new vegan recipes that look interesting to you. You may find out you really do like Brussels sprouts when you roast them and drizzle them with a balsamic reduction. Try out veggies of all colors, too—this will help you get all the different nutrients vegetables have to offer. Taste the rainbow, but make it full of healthy stuff.
Veggies like leafy greens are full of iron and calcium, which are both extra important for vegans since they are not eating animal products. Favorite leafy greens include romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, bok choy, and collard greens.
Mushrooms are very versatile in vegan cooking. Mushrooms have a very meaty, umami flavor and texture and can take on the role of the animal products in many dishes.
For example, a portobello mushroom can be prepared like a steak or a burger, or you can use diced mushrooms as the base for shepherd’s pie, rather than ground beef or lamb. Mushrooms are high in vitamin D, which is a difficult vitamin for vegans to find naturally, so they have even more going for them than their delicious flavor.
You can’t go anywhere without seeing cauliflower on the menu in some creative way. From rice to pizza crust, the options are endless. Cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, are very high in many nutrients like vitamin K and folate.
Fruit is like nature’s candy. Stocking your fridge with fruit gives you healthy snacking options throughout the day.
Fruits provide you with many nutrients like fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Like vegetables, eat fruits in a variety of colors. Here are a few of our favorite fruits, along with some interesting preparation options.
One thing you may miss as a vegan is a big bowl of creamy, sweet ice cream. Look no further than the iconic banana.
You can make a delicious ice cream out of frozen bananas that will even fool you, and you made it! Don’t forget to mix in some Pleasantly Perfect Peanut Butter Chocolate Bar for some added crunch.
If you want to see the strangest-looking fruit known to humankind, google the jackfruit. It is huge, prickly, and pretty intimidating looking, but when you cut it open, there are little sections of pulp that you can break down to look like shredded meat. Add in your favorite vegan barbecue sauce with smoked paprika, and you have yourself a fantastic alternative to pulled pork.
Don’t worry; you can buy jackfruit in a can. It is much easier than breaking down the whole fruit, so you can try out this dish with lower stakes.
There is always a need for plant-based milk. You can put it on your cereal in the morning, add it to your smoothie, or put it in your coffee. Make creamy soups, gravy, or add a splash to your mashed potato to make them creamy.
Plant-based milks are also perfect for baking, whether you’re making vegan muffins, cupcakes, or anything else. Whether you choose almond, oat, coconut, or soy milk, keep a gallon on hand for whenever the need arises.
Remember when we talked about slowly transitioning your pantry to a healthier, more plant-based one? Grains are a great place to do that. For example, while white rice is vegan, there are healthier alternatives like brown rice that will fit nicely into your vegan diet as well.
While processed grains like white bread and white rice are often stripped of their nutrients, whole grains are more likely to have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals like iron and potassium, as well as more fiber, which supports good digestion. This is because whole grains retain all parts of the seed, which is where many of those nutrients are, while more processed options have some of the good stuff removed.
You don’t have to throw away your white rice, but next time, try buying brown rice, which is a whole grain. Other whole grains include oatmeal, barley, quinoa, or farro.
Looking for a delicious snack? Popcorn is a whole grain. While your popcorn is popping, melt some of our Deviously Delicious White Chocolate Bar With Crispy Almond Pieces and pour it over your bowl of popcorn for a sweet treat that totally aligns with your new dietary choices.
When you are new to a vegan diet, using spices you are comfortable with can help make the transition easier, and luckily, most spices are vegan! Garlic powder, Italian seasoning, chili powder, cumin, turmeric, and curry powder are all easy and versatile spices to have on hand. You can also branch out with more unique options like Chinese five spice, lemon pepper season, and cajun seasoning.
Ready, Set, Go Vegan
Transitioning to a vegan diet doesn’t have to be difficult. When you set up your fridge, pantry, and spice cabinet with our vegan essentials, you are sure to succeed.
We believe the possibilities are endless for delicious, wholesome, vegan foods. Keep visiting the wonderful and curious world of MiiRO for unlimited vegan inspiration.