This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please refer to our disclosure policy here.

Welcome

This guide is meant to help you consider the plant-based pantry staples you need for your new diet. If you’re just getting started with a new way of eating, you may be extremely overwhelmed. You may be wondering what you can eat.

You may be mentally preparing yourself to cut out some of your favorite food groups. But you may have no idea what to replace those food groups with. Maybe you haven’t even considered that they should be replaced!

This guide is meant to show you that there are so many different foods out there that you CAN eat. It’s meant to show you that you should focus on eating plenty of healthy, whole foods rather than trying to cut things out. 

When starting a plant-based diet, let the new, delicious, plant-based foods crowd out the less healthy options on your plate in a natural, gradual way.  

For a deeper dive on why and how to start a plant-based diet, please see my Plant-Based Diet Guide.

Getting Started on a Plant-based Diet

First, the ground rules for going plant-based:

  • Start slowly.
  • Try not to get overwhelmed. 
  • Remember that small steps can make a big difference. 
  • Always consult with your doctor about your personal health situation.

As you get started, try to remember that you’ve probably been eating your current diet for a lifetime. For this reason, it will likely take some time (and maybe some trial and error) to make your plant-based dietary change. 

That’s okay!!

When transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet, seek to establish a sustainable, long-term lifestyle change. Plan to build your new habits slowly over time, finding what works best for you. Once you’ve built the habits, you’re more likely to stick with the lifestyle change!

If you make mistakes, take a little while to get where you’re going, or reach for convenience foods occasionally, that’s all okay. 

Your goal is to make plant-based eating a part of your lifestyle, and to eat this way for life. Some bumps in the road are fine–you’ll still get where you’re going on your journey to better health! 

What Are Plant-Based Pantry Staples?

In a few words, delicious whole foods, with plenty of variety! We have access to so many foods in our modern world. Some that are seriously health-promoting and some that are seriously deleterious. 

On a plant-based diet, you can eat anything that was grown, rather than slaughtered. In addition, there’s an emphasis on whole foods. A simple switch from white rice to brown rice means switching from a refined food to a whole grain, for example. 

A whole-food, plant-based diet isn’t complicated or difficult to understand. It can be summed up as follows: eat real plant foods! But our world of packaged convenience foods with too many ingredients we can’t pronounce can make it difficult to find what your body needs.

However, once you know where to look and what to look for, finding the right foods and eating this way will become so much easier. For me, it’s now second nature.

Below, I’ve included many of my favorite foods, as well as some dietary facts and health benefits, to help you start stocking your kitchen with plant-based pantry staples! 

How to Use This Pantry Guide

Take a look at this guide and first focus on how many of these foods you already eat regularly. Pat yourself on the back! Then take another look and see how many of these foods you’d like to try. 

There are truly so many plant-based foods to choose from! To get started, buy at least one of these new-to-you pantry staples each time you go the grocery store. If possible, buy a new fruit or vegetable each time you go to the grocery store as well.

Over time, you’ll discover that there are a lot more delicious, plant-based foods than you thought there were. Similarly, you’ll realize that plant-based eating is anything but boring! You might even find your new favorite food in the process.

In this way, you’ll eventually have a new repertoire of healthy, plant-based foods that you reach for at the grocery store. You’ll ultimately be able to replace many (or all) of the processed foods and animal products you were previously eating with your new favorite plant-based foods. And you won’t feel deprived at all!

Quick Disclaimer

Please note that none of the information included below should be construed as medical advice. I am simply sharing with you what I have learned after much research, in hopes that it can help you too. As always, it’s important to discuss with your doctor about your personal health situation and to do your own research!

Without further ado, let’s get into this pantry guide!

Recommended Foods for a Plant-Based Pantry

#1

Beans & Legumes

Beans are amazing for so many reasons, including their protein, fiber, and iron content. They are inexpensive, versatile, and packed with antioxidants. In looking at the longest-lived people in the world, eating beans is an important dietary pattern we should emulate!

What to Look For When Purchasing

Choose a variety of beans, including dried, canned, frozen, and jarred varieties for your pantry. When purchasing canned beans, look for  BPA-free cans and brands that include just beans, water, and salt on their ingredients list. Additionally, look for low- or no-salt varieties when possible.

To make beans even more economical, make your own beans from scratch as often as you can. Dried beans are easier to cook than you think and you’ll get to control exactly what does (and does not) get added! (See here for my black beans recipe and here for my white beans recipe.)

A Note About Soybeans

Soy misinformation is, unfortunately, everywhere. Organic, non-GMO soybeans are not to be feared though, and soy foods shouldn’t be excluded from a healthy diet. Soy packs a powerful punch of protein and phytoestrogens, and may reduce your risk of certain cancers.

When shopping, choose whole soy foods that have been consumed for hundreds of years, such as tempeh and miso.

Varieties to Try

  • Black Beans
  • Edamame
  • Garbanzo Beans (i.e. Chickpeas)
  • Garbanzo Bean Flour (i.e. Chickpea Flour, Besan Flour, Gram Flour)
  • Kidney Beans
  • Lentils (Red & Brown are my favorite)
  • Lupini Beans (these make a good snack on the go!)
  • Peas & Split Peas
  • Pink Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Refried Beans (ensure that you choose a lard-free variety)
  • Soy Curls
  • Soy Milk
  • Tofu (sprouted, if available)
  • Tempeh
  • White Beans (e.g. Great Northern, Cannellini, Navy)
  • 100% Bean-based Pastas

#2

Whole Grains

Containing all of the beneficial fiber that is stripped away from their processed counterparts, whole grains are minimally processed and extremely nutritious. Whole grains contain tons of vitamins and minerals, including important B vitamins, and will help keep you full. The myriad benefits of whole grains are proof that low-carb dieters were misinformed and missing out! 

What to Look For When Purchasing

Try a variety of whole grains to find what you like best. When looking for whole grains, look for items that are just the grains whenever possible (like oats and brown rice, for example). Alternatively, look for items that are marked “whole” grain, “whole” wheat, or “100% whole wheat”.

Though the packaging can sometimes be confusing, choose items that contain high amounts of fiber, since fiber is usually a good indication of whole grain status. Want to try a new type of whole grain? Check out this guide to cooking barley the easy way.

A Note About Oats

If you eat a lot of oats, like I do, you may want to pay special attention to the brand and type of oats you purchase. For more information on oats and their glyphosate content, please see this post from the Environmental Working Group about oats and Roundup.

Varieties to Try

Please note that I’ve included some items (like quinoa) that are not technically classified as grains, but that function as grains on our dinner plates!

  • Barley (hulled is a whole grain, pearled is not)
  • Brown & Wild Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Whole-grain, stone-ground Cornmeal
  • Farro
  • Kamut
  • Millet

#3

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds are nutrition superstars! In fact, eating too few nuts is now known to be detrimental to our health. Nuts are high in healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and various vitamins and minerals.

Aim to include a variety of raw nuts and seeds in your diet, since each type has slightly different nutritional benefits. The common advice is to stick to small serving sizes for nuts, since they are high-calorie foods. However, after many studies, it seems that nuts do not lead to weight gain, but do lead to longer, healthier lives

What to Look For When Purchasing

Look for raw nuts and seeds whenever possible. Since roasting high-fat foods (like nuts and seeds) at high temperatures can lead to unhealthy compounds like AGEs (advanced glycation end products) and acrylamide, it’s best to avoid roasted nuts. 

By the same token, try to find raw nut butters, or make your own in a high-speed blender. Ideally, your nut butters should list only nuts in the ingredients, no oils or other stabilizers.

Flax is a highly recommended addition to a healthy diet! Be sure to grind your flaxseeds before use or buy small quantities of pre-ground flaxseed that you’ll be able to go through quickly.

How to Store

Store small quantities of nuts and seeds in the fridge for daily use and keep the rest of your nuts and seeds in the freezer for peak freshness and to avoid rancidity. Storing nuts and seeds at cool temperatures also helps to preserve their omega-3 content.

Varieties to Try

  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin Seeds (i.e. Pepitas)
  • Raw Nut Butters
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Tahini (raw, if available)
  • Walnuts 

*If you purchase Brazil nuts, be careful not to eat too many per day, since they are very high in selenium. 

#4

Herbs & Spices

Dried spices and herbs are extremely powerful, highly anti-inflammatory, and may be protective against cancer. They are also quite cost-effective, as they provide a large number of antioxidants in just a small pinch. By loading up your meals with spices and herbs, you will be able to reduce the salt, fat, and oil in your meals without losing out on the flavor.

What to Look For When Purchasing

When shopping, look for types that contain only the herb/spice. Avoid spices that contain preservatives, added salt or sugar, or anti-caking agents, when possible.

If you don’t have many spices on hand already, it can be expensive to buy them all at once. For this reason, start small by purchasing just 1 or 2 of these spices each time you go to the grocery store. Alternatively, you may want to consider purchasing online through Thrive Market. Since Thrive sells many of their spices for just $2.99 each, you could stock up for relatively little. (Here’s a discount code for 25% off your first Thrive order.)

Finally, if money is very tight, or your pantry is far from plant-based right now, focus on your other pantry essentials first. To hold you over, purchase just a few pre-blended, multipurpose spice mixes, such as Italian Seasoning, Taco Seasoning, and Curry Powder.

Varieties to Try

#5

Everything Else

All of the items that didn’t fit into the food groups above. These are delicious additions to every pantry and things that I use frequently. 

Please note that if you are transitioning to a plant-based diet, you must supplement vitamin B12. This does not mean that a plant-based diet is “unnatural” as some claim. In fact, while animal products can be a good source of B12, animals don’t make their own B12, either. The true source of B12 is bacteria in soil. In reality, animals get their B12 through fortified animal feed, manure, and untreated water. Did you know that humans also got their B12 from untreated water and dirty vegetables, before water purification and modern living? 🙂

What to Look For When Purchasing

There are many items in the grocery store that are accidentally vegan, but there are also many items that, somewhat surprisingly, aren’t vegan. When considering packaged foods, pay particular attention to the ingredients lists!

In all cases, try looking for reduced sodium, salt-free, oil-free, additive-free, and/or unsweetened varieties of each item. For canned items, choose BPA-free cans or Tetra-Paks whenever possible.

Items to Try

Vitamin B12:

  • Choose a high-quality supplement, preferably containing cyanocobalamin

Healthy Beverages:

  • Water
  • Hibiscus Tea
  • Green Tea
  • White Tea
  • Black Tea
  • Black Coffee
  • Other Herbal Teas
  • Soy Milk/Other Nut Milks

Specialty/Baking: 

  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder (aluminum-free)
  • Chickpea Flour
  • Whole-grain, stone-ground Cornmeal
  • Oat Flour
  • Whole Wheat Flour

Other:

  • Low-sodium homemade or store-bought vegetable broth
  • Dulse Flakes
  • Nori Sheets
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Olives

Sauces:

Sweeteners & Related:

  • Applesauce
  • Cocoa or Cacao Powder
  • Coconut Flakes/Shreds
  • Medjool Dates
  • Date Sugar or Syrup 
  • Dried Fruit (unsulphured)
  • Maple Syrup
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Beans

Vinegars: 

  • Apple Cider (unfiltered and “with the mother”)
  • Balsamic
  • Red Wine
  • Rice
  • White

Recommended Fresh Foods to Complete your Plant-Based Kitchen

In addition to the pantry foods above, be sure to purchase a variety of fruits, vegetables, and tubers for your plant-based kitchen! It’s important to incorporate a variety of different fruits and vegetables on a daily basis to get all of the different micronutrients and phytonutrients you need to thrive.

You really can’t go wrong purchasing any fresh fruits, vegetables, tubers, or mushrooms of your choosing. However, if you purchase frozen or canned varieties, look for low- or no-salt added vegetables and no-sugar added fruits. Additionally, if your kitchen skills are still “burgeoning”, start with a smaller amount of fresh items that you have comfort with already, that can be prepared very simply, or that can be eaten raw. For the rest of your produce, feel free to rely on frozen items.

Fruits, Vegetables, and More

Fresh Items

I love fresh fruits and vegetables. There is something so satisfying about brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, all lined up on your kitchen counter. Furthermore, fresh fruits and vegetables often provide the most versatility, since you’ll be able to do with them exactly what you wish. (For example, you can’t exactly make a kale salad out of frozen kale!)

I’ve included some of my staple foods below as a starting point. Your staples may look very different, and that’s perfectly okay! In addition to these staples, I typically switch up my other fresh fruits and vegetables depending on sales, seasonality, and what I’m in the mood for.

Staple Vegetables

  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli or cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Greens (kale/chard/spinach/dark-colored lettuce of your choosing )
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes

Staple Fruits:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Lemons/limes

Fungi, Tubers, etc.:

  • Fermented sauerkraut
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweet potatoes
  • White potatoes

Frozen Items

Even if you’re a kitchen pro, it’s always a good idea to use your freezer wisely! Why choose frozen?

  • First, frozen fruits and vegetables are typically picked and frozen at peak ripeness.
  • With frozen fruits and vegetables, the washing and chopping has been done for you, which will save you some time in the kitchen.
  • You won’t have to worry about fresh produce spoiling before you can eat it, which will save you money and help reduce your food waste.
  • Choosing frozen means that you’ll be able to eat healthy seasonal produce (like berries) year round.
  • Finally, frozen fruits and vegetables can be less expensive than their fresh counterparts.

How do you make frozen vegetables taste good?

If you’re anti-frozen produce because it just doesn’t taste good, then I’ve got a tip for you: You should almost never follow the cooking instructions on the back of the bag!

For the most part, I heat frozen veggies in a pan with a splash of water and season amply with dried spices, herbs, vinegar, tamari, etc. In fact, I urge you not to eat plain broccoli that you microwaved “in the bag” for 6 minutes. It will be overcooked and tasteless, and that’s not what we’re looking for here!

Frozen Vegetables:

  • Bell pepper blend
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Edamame (shelled and/or in the pod)
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Stir-fry blends

Frozen Fruit:

  • Bananas
    • Peel them, freeze in a single layer for a few hours, then place them in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container for storage
  • Berries
  • Mango chunks
  • Pineapple chunks

Miscellaneous:

  • Nuts and seeds (for long-term storage in order to protect their omega-3s)
  • Whole grains (uncooked or cooked, also for long-term storage)
  • Pre-cooked meals in individual portions
  • Tomato paste (in tablespoon-sized portions for easy additions to recipes)

Three Ways to Start Creating Your Plant-Based Pantry

As mentioned previously, start slowly when transitioning to this lifestyle so that you aren’t overwhelmed or tempted to give up. I’ve included three concrete ways you might like to make your plant-based pantry transition. Personally, I am a big proponent of the “adding” or “crowding out” method. If you keep adding the healthy, plant-based, high-fiber foods above, you will eventually reduce other less healthy food options because you will be satisfied!

  1. Add More Healthy Foods:
    • Start by buying a few plant-based foods each time you go to the grocery store so that you can expand your palate. No need to try to cut out any food groups to start.
  2. Commit to One Change at a Time:
    • You might try transitioning one food group at a time (meat) or veganizing one meal per day (lunch). Stick to it for a little while, and then slowly transition an additional food group or meal.
  3. Make the Plant-Based Transition Gradually:
    • Instead of changing your diet (and pantry) overnight, you may first want to use up the food you have on-hand already. Then, commit to replacing each of your old foods with a new, whole-food, plant-based alternative as you run out. Not only does this make the transition more manageable psychologically, it’s also a good way to keep your diet change economical!

Conclusions

I believe that everyone can improve their health through the power of plants. For the most part, introducing more fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains into your diet is sound advice. However, please always consult with your doctor about your personal health situation. Additionally, please be sure to consult with a doctor or therapist if you have an unhealthy relationship with food.

I hope that the above guide has given you a better idea of the variety of foods a vegan, whole-food, plant-based pantry contains! Eating plant-based does not mean eating boring foods, void of flavor. By combining vibrant, fresh plant foods with the beans, grains, spices, and flavorings listed above, you can continually create new, interesting meals. Remember that food should help you to thrive, it shouldn’t leave you feeling deprived!

Please let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed and feel free to reach out if you have any questions. If this Plant-based Pantry Guide was helpful, please leave me a comment below!

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. You can read our disclosure policy for more information. 

Search

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.