When you start eating a plant-based whole foods vegan diet, there are so many new things to discover. As someone whose idea of stocking my pantry meant making sure I had enough boxes of Kraft Dinner on hand, it was like learning a whole new language!
Of course, it’s not necessary to rush out immediately and buy all of the super-foods you read about, but here are some things that over time I have enjoyed and found useful (whether you go totally vegan, or not.). These days, I usually have all of these on hand in varying amounts…
1. Hemp Seeds
Yes, that hemp. Shelled hemp seeds (or “hemp hearts”) are nutritional powerhouses, high in omega-3s, protein and they taste really great, with sort of a soft nutty flavor.
One of my favorite uses for them is to sprinkle them onto a salad–they soak up the dressing and stick to the greens a little bit, and it gives everything such a nice texture. Other uses include using them in my awesome broccoli, blended in sauces, and pretty much snuck into any savory dish where you want to raise the nutrient profile. I often throw half a cup into my endless vegan burritos.
I buy them in bulk and keep the large container in the freezer, and a smaller mason jar in the fridge. The little glass jar is nice enough that I just put it out on the table as a condiment when we have salads. It’s also possible to make your own hemp milk from seeds, but I haven’t explored that yet.
2. Cacao Powder
This is the stuff that chocolate is made from. All of the nutrients, none of the sugar or milk. Straight up! Cacao is high in magnesium and antioxidants. This is part of my go-to coffee substitute solution, and of course it’s also great in baking (I use it for a chocolate version of my sugar-free ginger muffins –which is delicious, I should post the recipe) and even in cooking dishes like red velvet mole (there is a recipe for this in my absolute favorite cookbook Appetite for Reduction.)
Keep it at room temperature. I usually buy it in bulk, transfer it to a mason jar, and keep it next to the Pero in my cabinet.
3. Chia seeds
Chia is actually a superfood that is high in calcium, fiber, and omega-3s. You can mix it with water and it forms a gel that you can use to substitute for eggs. I have also read about it being used as a substitute for butter, though I have to admit I’m skeptical of that one.
There are also lots of great vegan pudding recipes out there that incorporate chia (and often cacao)–that’s something I’m exploring right now, although I haven’t found the perfect recipe yet.
For now, I just throw them in my smoothies whenever I remember. They are really great for making the humble smoothie into more of a filling, energy-packed meal. I buy them online for the best price, and keep them in the fridge, in the bag they came in.
4. Nutritional yeast
But it’s good no matter whether you are vegan or not. It has the same “umami” flavor as cheese, and can be used in sauces, as a topping for vegetables, or popcorn. Top some pasta with nutritional yeast, tamari, and olive oil for a quick and filling ’vegan mac ‘n cheese’–comfort food!
I order it in bulk and keep it at room temperature. In a mason jar. (Have I mentioned mason jars enough in this post?)
5. Bulk grains and canned beans
Lest you think all vegan staples are exotic (expensive!) super foods–let me tell you that the stars of our easy go-to meals are very basic: canned beans and grains from the bulk bin. Have enough of these on hand and you will never go hungry. Add a vegetable and you have a complete meal.
For your canned beans: in the US, try to buy “Eden Organic” brand, since that is the only brand that currently uses BPA-free cans. Or buy pre-cooked beans boxed in a cardboard container from Fig Organics.
As for grains, my favorites are quinoa and brown rice, but we have lots of different ones on hand. They are super-cheap if you buy them in the bulk bin at a natural food store such as Whole Foods (or if you are lucky enough to have a great co-op like we have here in Seattle.) Store them in…mason jars!
Thus endeth the most mentions of mason jars in a single post! (The crunchy mama alternative to “put a bird on it”—”put it in a mason jar”)
What are your favorite pantry items for a healthy whole foods diet? Teach me your tricks!