January really does feel like an incredibly long month, our bank balances are scary and all the festive feasting lays heavy upon us. The next payday seems so far away so it’s a time we tighten our belts. Veganism does not have to be as expensive as sometimes it is portrayed. It is not necessary to buy organic ingredients or those from high-end stores. Simple veg and pulses make incredible meals. If you are already a vegan or taking part in Veganary what you need is a well-stocked pantry of basic ingredients.
These are essential in any vegan diet for our protein vitamins such as iron, potassium and magnesium. They really are food building blocks and can be bought so inexpensively. Buying them dried is much cheaper than tins, but tins are more convenient are there is no need to cook them first. They are great in dishes such as my smokey bbq bean burger or smokey vegan chilli
Nutritional Yeast (Nooch)
Although these powdery flakes so remind me of the goldfish food I fed my pets as a child, this ingredient is a vital part of any vegans store cupboard. This is used to mimic cheese in vegan dishes such a cheese sauce, such as this garlic and cauliflower mac n cheese or even in pestos such as this classic vegan pesto. It has a wonderful umami savoury flavour, but that is not all. Apart from the versatility, this ingredient is packed with goodness. Rich in B vitamins, iron, zinc, selenium and can also come fortified with vitamin B12.
Nuts & seeds
Nuts such as walnuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds and Brazil nuts provide us with a long list of vitamins and minerals plus plenty of protein. Great for snacking on, making nut butter or used in cooking and baking. Be careful not to overdo the snacking on nuts, although they are packed full of the good fats they are also high in calories. Seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds are great to snack on or adding to meals to bump up its nutritional value. Ground flaxseeds once mixed with water make a perfect egg replacement.
Herbs and spices
These are great for packing flavour into a meal and are always handy. Only buy the ones you know you are going to use as they do use their flavour after a few months. Spices such as garam masala, smoked paprika, garlic salt, cumin, curry powder, coriander and chilli powder are used in a variety of great vegan dishes. Herbs such as dried thyme, oregano and sage are handy to keep in. My Katsu curry sauce is a good example
Rice & grains
These can be bought so really cheaply and are great to bulk out our meals. Rice such as arborio is used to make great vegan risottos whereas basmati or long-grain are great with curries, rice salads, jambalayas or a great vegan paella. Grains such as couscous, quinoa, bulgar wheat and farro make a great addition to soups, stews and salads. Quinoa which can be used in foods such as a roast vegetable salad, stuffed peppers or even burgers. It can be used instead of using rice and has also the added benefit as containing protein.
These are like the pulses are so versatile and can be used to create so many wonderful dishes. They store well in airtight containers or mason jars
Noodles & pasta
Noodles and pasta are the core component of many dishes, whether it Asian, Italian or Greek food you are cooking just make sure that egg does not appear on the list of ingredients. They come in dried or fresh. Popular noodles are rice and udon noodles and can be used to make some great Asian broths. As for macaroni, you cannot go far wrong than that all-time comfort food vegan mac and cheese. Feel good hearty food.
I always keep a supply of dates, apricots, sultanas and prunes in stock. These are great for snacking on or adding a sweet element to savoury foods. Dates are always great for making a vegan caramel sauce or in bases for cheesecakes.
Alternative milk and creams
There are so many dairy-free kinds of milk and creams available to today, the shelves in supermarkets are full of them. Each one serves a different purpose in various dishes and drinks and has different nutritional values. A few that I buy regularly are soya, oat and almond milk. For hot drinks, I find soya the best. Coconut milk and creams are invaluable for curries and soups The single creams available are great, either made from oat or soya. Great for sauces for pasta dishes or makes a fabulous creamy filling for a chickenless and mushroom pie.
Tofu, seitan and
Tofu is soya bean curd and is made on condensed soya milk pressed into blocks. Most non-vegans and even some vegans groan at the word tofu. It conjures up a block of slippery rubber. I must admit I was the same, that was until I experimented more with it. It comes in a few different types such as silken, firm and extra firm. Silken tofu is fabulous in desserts such as cheesecakes, chocolate mousses but can also be used to create tasty smoothies and sauces. Firm tofu makes for a great tofu scramble for breakfast and in burgers. Extra-firm tofu keeps its shape once pressed so is well suited to be used in stir-fries and curries or in foods like my southern fried nuggets and fake fish and chips. Tofu has the amazing ability to take on and absorb flavours. What starts out as a very bland ingredient becomes something very tasty.
Seitan is the new kid on the block as far as meat replacement go and it really can make some fabulous vegan foods. If you are wheat or gluten intolerant or coeliac this bad boy is a no go as it is made from wheat gluten. You will have seen in all the major supermarkets a new range of vegan type steaks, burgers and substitute mince beef, some of these are made from seitan such as the vivera or Tofurkey.
Like tofu, this is made from soya beans although tempeh is made from fermented ones. It contains more protein than tofu and has a mild nutty taste. Again it is great in stir-fries but also makes great kebabs.
Sauces and spreads
These are the bottles and jars that we can use as an ingredient in our cooking or as a condiment. Always check the labels on these items to make sure they are indeed vegan. Nut butter is always great to keep a supply of whether you decide to make them yourself or buy. They are found made from a wide variety of nuts and provide a great source of protein. Great on toast or used in satay sauces or baking. Tahini butter made from sesame seeds and used in making hummus. Miso paste, this savoury condiment is used in the making of rubs, sauces and dips. Vegan mayonnaise bought or homemade is a must. Vegan Worcestershire sauce, soy sauces, fish sauce and stocks are needed for flavour and depth in dishes.
These are a few of good stock cupboard staples I think are needed in a vegan kitchen. I am sure if you are anything like me, your list of products will grow as you begin to experiment and expand your knowledge of vegan cooking and baking. There is a wide choice out there. Do not be tempted into thinking that buying the most expensive will be the tastiest, for example, my favourite soya milk is a supermarket value range. It does not curdle in hot drinks like some of the more expensive on the market. Asian food shops are a great place for rice, noodles, flours and sauces and are usually half the price of dedicated vegan stores. It really does pay to shop around. Unbranded items are worth a try and to save money buy in bulk.
I hope this helps a little. There are many more stock cupboard ingredients such as
- Olive, rapeseed, sesame seed, sunflower oil
- Sweeteners such as maple syrup, agave nectar or date syrup
- Coconut oil, milk and butter
- Coconut sugar
- Cocao nibs and powder
- Egg replacement powders
You will soon have your own stock cupboard suited to what you like to cook for yourself or family, this is just a small guide.