If you are new to plant-based eating, you may be curious about which items are handy to have in your pantry or fridge for veg cooking. Alternatively, you may be well versed in a handful of veg recipes, and wish to shake up your usual ingredients and go-to meals. Whatever it is that has brought you here, welcome!
There are countless foods, condiments, and combinations we’ve discovered in our collective years of veganism. But to save you from an eternal scroll and information overload, we’ve collated a list of just 12 grocery items to grab on your next shop. While each ingredient can be used in scores of dishes, some recipe inspo has been included to get you rolling (or frying, or stirring, or whisking).
1. Nutritional Yeast, also known as “Nooch”
You are very likely thinking what in the vegan-world is nooch? and that is ok (we first thought this too). Nooch is the deactivated form of a strain of yeast from the same family as brewer’s or baker’s yeast. It offers high nutritional value (hence the name) including B vitamins, protein, and fibre. From pasta, soup, and chilli, to savoury toast and popcorn – sprinkle whatever you’re eating with these yellow flakes of nutritious fairy-dust to add a deliciously cheesy and nutty flavour.
Recipe recommendation: This 5-minute homemade pesto by Minimalist Baker couldn’t be more simple or delicious.
2. Leafy greens like Kale
We all know fresh fruit and veg are important, but did you know kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence? This greeny-purply leafy vegetable is high in vitamins A, B, C, and K, packed with antioxidants, and a source of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. You can eat it fresh in salads, bake it into crisps, blend it in smoothies, or fry it up in stir-fries – so if you’d like to add more greens to your diet, kale is an easy one to sneak into brekky, lunch, or dinner.
Legumes offer a range of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre and protein. When it comes to versatility, the modest little chickpea takes the cake (and can even help you bake a vegan cake)! When cooking with chickpeas, strain out the liquid from the tins and keep it stored fridge – this liquid is called aquafaba, and can be used as an egg substitute in baking. A guide to using aquafaba can be found on Minimalist Baker. From appetizers and lunches, through to dinners and desserts, there is a chickpea-related recipe you should add to your favourites.
For a healthy snack or dip for unexpected guests, whip up hummus in a flash (recipe by Simple Veganista).
You can’t go past this flavour-packed Chickpea of the Sea recipe for a plant-based “tuna” salad (recipe by Simple Veganista). For extra “sea” flavour, add some shredded nori (seaweed) sheets.
The curry options are endless, but here is a hearty Chickpea Curry by Loving it Vegan to warm these chilly nights.
And lastly, for those with a sweet tooth, you can’t go wrong with Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies (by My Kids Lick the Bowl). Dairy-free chocolate chips are becoming easier to find, but just in case, Coles stocks Sweet William dairy-free chocolate baking buttons.
Head to the long-life milk section of the supermarket and you will be overwhelmed with plant-based milk options. There are plenty of great milks across the range of soy, rice, macadamia, almond, pea, and oat milks available. A great place to start is Vitasoy Oat Milk. If you are a coffee fan, this is without a doubt the best milk to pour into your morning brew.
Vitasoy Oat Milk is made from 100% Aussie grown oats, and one glass has 38% of the recommended calcium intake. This option helps support Australian farmers while making a better choice for the animals. Visit DropDairy.com.au for information and Animal Liberation’s exposé on Australian Dairy farming.
On top of this, Oat is of the most environmental milk options on the market – it has significantly less environmental impact in terms of emissions, land use, and water when compared to Dairy milk, and much less water use than almond and rice milk. For further reading on the environmental impact of one glass of different milks, see Climate Change: Which Vegan Milk Is Best? (BBC).
Recipe recommendation: Beyond adding it to coffee, cereal, and smoothies, you can make The Fluffiest Vegan Pancakes by Tasty. They are seriously fluffy – just make them and see!
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is fermented apple juice with a sour taste and very strong smell. Studies suggest it can offer health benefits such as killing harmful bacteria, promoting healthy digestion, and lowering blood sugar levels. While some drink AVC straight or diluted in water, doing this long-term can cause damage to the enamel of your teeth. Just like other vinegar, however, it can be used in cooking, salad dressings, and baking. Outside of the kitchen, it can be used as a skin toner, dandruff treatment, and all-purpose household cleaner.
Recipe recommendation: ACV is one of the ingredients in Tasty’s Fluffiest Vegan Pancakes mentioned above. You can also try this simple Salad Dressing by Hummusapien and pour it over some fresh kale as a side. For something a little cheekier, this mouth-watering Potato Salad by Minimalist Baker will not disappoint.
6. Agave Syrup
Agave Syrup is a plant-based liquid sweetener that can be used in place of honey. It originates from the agave desert plant, native to Latin American and the southern USA. The syrup can be added to hot drinks, used to top pancakes, or as a replacement for honey in baking – as it has a different consistency to honey, please read How to Use Agave Nectar.
Although it is plant-based, this sweetener is highly processed and should only be consumed in moderation. Please be wary that plant-based does not automatically equate to healthier. The bulk of a balanced diet should be fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains. Highly processed foods, and those high in fats and added sugars should be eaten sparingly.
Wherever honey is used, however, reach for a vegan sweetener like agave instead. Although this is not an Australian example, Earthling Ed covers the issues with honey in his YouTube clip Why Vegans Don’t Eat Honey.
Recipe recommendation: This creamy and tangy Vegan Honey Mustard dip is a great accompaniment to roasts and BBQs, or can be used to drizzle on salad.
It goes without saying that butter or margarine should also not be considered a staple food. It is, however, handy to have in the fridge for cooking and baking when required. When a recipe calls for butter, simply use Nuttlex in its place as a plant-based alternative to dairy butter.
The current consumption of dairy is having a profound impact on our environment and the animals born into the industry. We mentioned it in the Oat Milk section, but if you’re interested in further reading on dairy cows or the environmental aspect of dairy, visit DropDairy.com.au or Climate Change: Which Vegan Milk Is Best? (BBC).
Recipe recommendation: Nuttlex can be used in place of butter on toast and sandwiches. It can also be used to make mouth-watering Garlic Bread (Loving it Vegan) to accompany a wintery soup or to make this drool-worthy Chocolate Cake (Nora Cooks) to impress the chocolate-lovers in your life.
Tofu is one of the most versatile foods available and an excellent source of plant-based protein. It comes in different levels of firmness from silken to extra-firm and has a pretty bland flavour making it amazingly transformable. With all the textures and flavours it can take on, don’t let one average tofu experience put you off. Just as marinades, sauces, and condiments are used to flavour meats, take the same logic into your plant-based cooking and smother this beautiful blank tofu canvas in flavour. Tofu can be blended into creamy sauces, crumbled for scrambles, fried in chunks, dropped into soups and curries, baked or roasted in the oven, or marinated and tossed on the BBQ.
Recipe recommendations: For a hearty weekend breakfast, whip up a Vegan Scramble (Loving it Vegan) and serve with some fresh crusty bread. For dinner, treat yourself to some homemade Thai food with Tofu Satay and Peanut Sauce (Cupful of Kale).
There have been countless unplanned dinnertimes where pasta has come to the rescue. It has a lengthy shelf life, cooks quickly, and can be paired with a different sauce each time you make it.
This edamame pasta is made from organic edamame beans and is gluten-free as well as vegan.
Although a little pricier than wheat-based pastas, edamame pasta offers higher levels of protein – 100g of this pasta has 14.8g of protein before anything else is added. Even higher is Green Pea Pasta with 22g of protein (per 100g serve).
Recipe recommendation: Cook Edamame Spaghetti according to package instructions and serve with 5 Minute Homemade Pesto or try this one-pot Coconut Turmeric Pasta for maximum flavour with minimal cleanup.
Every pantry needs a healthy range of stocks, herbs and spices – they can transform the most basic of dishes into hearty and wholesome meals with just a simple sprinkle. It might surprise you that there are certain brands of Chicken and Beef stock that are animal-free. One of these veg-friendly stocks, available from most major supermarkets, is Massel Chicken Stock Powder.
Recipe recommendation: Use the stock in place of the broth when making this Easy Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup. It’s cold and flu season, and it is currently raining – if there was ever a time for a big bowl of chickeny-but-vegan soup, it’s now.
11. Flaxseed Meal
Flax seeds, also known as linseeds, are tiny, omega-3 rich oil seeds. In meal form, flaxseed can be sprinkled on almost anything to give a nutty and nutritious boost.
Considered a super-food, they are good for your heart, skin, and digestion. And they are also a super-food for today’s chickens. How so? Well, flax meal can be used as a substitute for eggs in cooking and baking. Stats indicate that over 15,000,000 eggs are laid in Australia every day. Watch Animal Liberation’s Eggsposed,which shines a light on the Australian egg industry, or visit AL ‘s Hen information.
By substituting eggs for flax “eggs”, we can reduce and eradicate the suffering of these intelligent birds. Visit Minimalist Baker’s instructions on how to make a flax-egg here.
12. Pumpkin Seeds
Nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy fats, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Consuming a variety of nuts and seeds will allow your body to draw different essential nutrients. For example, pecans are rich in vitamin E, walnuts offer omega-3 fats, and sesame seeds are high in calcium – but these are just some examples out of countless.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the highest plant-based sources of protein. They’re easy to snack on, and add a delightful crunch when tossed into salads or sprinkled on cereals, plant-based yoghurts, and toast.
Recipe recommendation: Jazz up your morning with Jazzy Avocado Toast by Nutrition Studies.
For a more extensive list of grocery items including mock-meats, dairy alternatives (milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, ice-cream), egg substitutes, sauces, sweets, and workout supplements, visit Animal-Free Grocery Shopping.
What ingredients have you discovered on your plant-based journey? Let us know in the comments. Happy cooking, everyone!