This list of vegan essentials will help you stock your fridge and pantry so you’re always ready to make healthy plant-based recipes. Some of these ingredients are pantry items and some are fresh so will need to be re-stocked often.

Roasted sweet potatoes on a baking tray - Vegan Essentials.

If you feel overwhelmed with all the options out there today, this list of vegan essentials can help you get back to basics with everyday staple foods that will help you create nourishing plant-based meals, and cover many of your nutrient needs. Even with just these foods you’ll be able to create endless meal variations.

These vegan essentials are foods that I include in my diet on a daily and weekly basis but as you progress in your plant-based journey you’ll start to build your own list of staples. Maybe you love farro or barley instead of brown rice. Maybe you don’t eat soy and that’s totally fine. Maybe you’re allergic to cashews but love walnuts. All good! We’re all unique so what works for me might be exactly what works for you. The good news is, there is plenty of variety in a plant-based diet and lots of ways to get the nutrition you need.

Fruit and Vegetable Staples

In addition to the essentials listed below you should always be stocking fresh fruits and vegetables as well. The specifics of those will vary seasonally and by what’s on your weekly meal plan. Produce staples for me include:

  • kale
  • broccoli
  • onions and garlic
  • zucchini
  • carrots
  • bell peppers
  • mushrooms
  • avocado

But there are dozens of others that get rotated through weekly and monthly, such as beets, asparagus, arugula, fennel, celery and cucumber.

Herbs and Spice Staples

And lastly, before we get into the list, having a variety of staple herbs and spices will help you prepare flavourful meals with elevated flavours. Herbs and spices also come with their own host of health benefits and many are rich sources of antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Essential herbs and spices in my kitchen are:

  • cinnamon
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • garlic powder

There are countless others you can add to you pantry. I also love paprika, cardamom, cayenne and many others. As you experiment with new recipes and dishes, you’ll find your favourites.

25 Essential Vegan Foods

Use this list of my top 25 recommended vegan essentials to stock your stock your fridge and pantry. This these foods on hand, you’ll always be ready to make healthy plant-based meals. Some of these ingredients are pantry items and some are fresh so will need to be re-stocked often.

1. Brown Rice

Brown rice and tempeh in a white bowl.

Brown rice is a whole grain that makes a great addition to breakfast bowls, curries, bowls, salads, soups and stews. It stores well in the pantry provides a range of essential nutrients you need in your diet. Brown rice provides essential complex carbohydrates for energy as well as fiber, folate and a range of other vitamins and minerals.

For more information on whole grains and alternatives to brown rice, review my Guide to Whole Grains.

Recipes to try:

2. Rolled Oats

Oven baked steel cut oatmeal with apples and banana, topped with berries and almonds.

Rolled oats are a wonderful, nourishing food to stock in a vegan kitchen. You can use them to make oatmeal of course but they’re also great in baking, for making homemade oat flour and even in savory dishes like homeamde veggie burgers. I like rolled oats, large flake oats or old fashioned oats best buts quick oats and minute oats are fine too.

Oats have anti-inflammatory properties, are low in sugar and fat and high in hearty health fiber.

Recipes to try:

3. Quinoa

Carrot, chickpea and quinoa salad bowl.

Quinoa is a whole grain much like brown rice in its nutritional value but is slightly higher in protein. Quinoa is light, fluffy and versatile and works well for warm and cold salads, either as the main ingredient or addition to a green salad. It also works well anywhere you’d use rice such as in burritos and burrito bowls, buddha bowls, wraps, curries and stir fry. I even add it to smoothies sometimes and it also works well for breakfast porridge.

Quinoa also only takes 15 minutes to cook so it’s a good choice if you need a quick whole grain option. It keeps well in the fridge and can be made as part of your weekly meal prep.

Recipes to try:

4. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a condiment that is used to create a cheese, nutty flavour. I use it in soups, sauces, pasta and even in desserts at times. Bonus: nutritional yeast is typically fortified with vitamin B12, which is an important nutrient to consider in a vegan diet. You can read more about it in my guide to nutritional yeast.

Recipes to try:

5. Plant-Based Milk

Pouring healthy, creamy homemade oat milk into a mason jar for storing.

Dairy milk is one of the easiest foods to replace because there are just so many options for plant-based milks today. From oat milk to soy milk and everything in between, there is sure to be a plant-based milk you love. You can always make your own too! Use plant-based milks in soups and curries, oatmeal, smoothies, coffee and for drinking.

Recipes to try:

6. Canned Coconut Milk

I used canned coconut milk often to make quick curries but you can also use it in sauces, smoothies, oatmeal and desserts. If possible, look for a coconut milk with two ingredients: water and coconut. Most will have guar gum but guar gum-free brands do exist. I still use brands that contain guar gum on occasion but it may cause digestive upset for sum.

Did you know you can use full-fat coconut milk to make coconut cream by placing it in the fridge overnight? In the morning, carefully open and scoop off the solidified cream from the top. You can use this method to make the peanut butter mousse in this recipe.

Recipes to try:

7. Canned Beans

Canned beans are probably one of the most convenient and inexpensive items to keep stocked in your pantry. They’re nutritious, filling and versatile. I like to stock chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans but often have pinto beans and white kidney beans on hand too.

While I still cooked my own dried beans, you can’t beat canned beans for meals in a pinch. You can throw them in soups, make chili, add them to salads, make veggie burgers or even just enjoy for a snack.

Recipes to Try:

8. Dried Lentils

Vegan lentil taco filling in a white bowl plus bowls with carrot, avocado, salsa and cilantro.

Dried lentils are much faster to cook than beans and they don’t require any soaking time so I always have red and green lentils on hand. They can go right into recipes like soups and stews, mashed to make lentil tacos or added to salads and bowls. Lentils are an excellent source of protein, fibre and many vitamins and minerals.

Recipes to try:

9. Tofu and Tempeh

Homemade crispy tempeh bacon in a savory vegan breakfast bowl.

Tofu and tempeh are an excellent source of protein in a vegan diet. Being made from soybeans, they’re both complete proteins and contain iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins.

Tofu is very versatile and can be used to make everything from vegan quiche to tofu scramble, bacon to sauces and dips. I most often bake tofu to add to salads, bowls and curries.

To bake tofu, I simply toss it with some soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari), garlic powder and pepper and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. You can add a little arrowroot powder or cornstarch for a crispy coating. It can also be pan-fried in a dry pan until browned and crispy.

For more information on soy and how to prepare these foods, read my Guide to Tofu and Tempeh.

Recipes to try:

10. Vegetable Stock

I stock vegetable bouillon in my pantry so I’m always ready to make soups, stews and sauces. Soups and stews are an essential part of a healthy vegan diet and are budget-friendly, great for families and work well for meal prep. I like using vegetable stock cubes so I don’t have to worry about leftover stock going bad in the fridge.

Recipes to try:

11. Miso Paste

I love miso paste for making sauces and soups. You can make a super quick and easy, nourishing miso soup by simmering stock and veggies then stirring in miso paste at the end. It’s delicious and takes less than 15 minutes. Miso adds a umami flavour to dishes and because it’s fermented it contains gut-friendly probiotics.

Recipes to try:

12. Tahini

Broccoli Kale Vegan Chickpea Salad Recipe - Running on Real Food

Tahini is one of my favourite ingredients and I use it pretty much daily in everything from oatmeal to smoothies, sauces and even desserts. Tahini is made from sesame seeds so is a good source of iron and calcium.

I use it most often to make lemon tahini sauce which is a great healthy sauce to keep on hand for dressing salads and buddha bowls. It’s also delicious over roasted veggies. And of course, it’s a must for healthy hummus recipes!

Recipes to try:

13. Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

Roasted potato buddha bowl.

Potato and sweet potato are both budget-friendly, filling, healthy foods that make a great addition to a vegan diet. They’re nutrient-rich and provide a good source of unrefined carbohydrates in the diet.

I like to make roasted potatoes and baked sweet potato as part of my weekly food prep so I have a carb source ready to go all week and of course, the both make delicious oven-baked fries.

Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, potassium and vitamin B6. They also contain fiber and antioxidants that promote the growth of good gut bacteria and contribute to a healthy gut.

Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, potassium (when you eat the skin) and vitamin B6. They’re also very filling, low in calories, naturally fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low in sodium. In addition, potatoes contain resistant starch, which may help reduce insulin resistance and therefor help improve blood sugar control. You can enjoy white, yellow, red and any other colour of potato to enjoy the same health benefits.

Recipes to try:

14. Cashews

Peas, pineapple and cashews in a pan with rice cauliflower for cashew cauliflower rice.

Cashews are handy to have on hand for making everything from cashew milk to cheesecake. I use them often in energy bars, sauces and even blend them into coffee to make creamy cashew coffee. I also make cashew cream to use in recipes and cashew sour cream to use as a topping for burritos and bowls. You can soak them for a smoother result but if you have a high-speed blender, there’s no need to soak them.

Recipes to try:

15. Lemons and Limes

I use lemons in my morning lemon water and to for flavouring everything from soups to sauces. Limes are handy too and both can be used to add flavour to dishes without the need for extra salt or calories.

16. Soy Sauce or Tamari

Soy sauce, gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos are handy as a condiment and adding umami flavour to sauces, curries, soups, noodles and stir fry. Choose a low-sodium soy sauce or if you need a gluten-free option, look for tamari or coconut aminos.

17. Canned Diced Tomatoes

Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup | Running on Real Food

Canned diced tomatoes are great for making quick stews, chili and soups. I always have a can stocked in the pantry for a quick meal when I don’t have many other ingredients. Look for no-salt added organic diced tomatoes. I like the fire-roasted ones from Muir Glen.

Recipes to try:

18. Bananas

You can’t beat bananas for a quick snack on-the-go or pre-workout energy boost and they’re a must-have for thick and creamy smoothies. Bananas are a good source of energy and provide potassium, B vitamins, vitamin c, manganese and fibre. I use them most in smoothies but they’re also great for snacking, desserts and breakfast. Check out my 10 banana snack ideas or try one of the recipes below.

Recipes to try:

19. Apples

Apples are another wonderful, portable fruit that makes a great snack or quick, natural boost in energy. I love making baked apples for a healthy snack or dessert, sautéed apples are amazing and of course, you can’t beat sliced apples with almond butter for a healthy snack. Apples are rich in antioxidants and fiber and act as a prebiotic that’s good for digestion.

Recipes to try:

20. Frozen Berries

Blueberry Peach Match Smoothie from the Vegan Protein Smoothies E-Book

Berries are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can eat, however, fresh berries are expensive and not always available out of season. Frozen berries can be easily added to smoothies, oatmeal, baking and desserts and are just as nutritious as fresh ones.

Watch for sales and stock up on berries like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or berry mixes. Berries are low on the glycemix index so they make a healthy sugar-free treat and they’re rich in fiber that can help lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels.

Recipes to try:

21. Flax Seeds

Ground flax is one of my favourite “superfoods” to stock in my kitchen. Dr. Greger, the author of How Not to Die suggests consuming them daily to optimize health. Just one tablespoon of ground flaxseed per day is enough to take advantage of their many health benefits.

They’re a handy substitute for eggs in baking and can help bind recipes like pancakes. I love adding them to oatmeal, energy bars and smoothies too. They work well to thicken smoothies and oatmeal.

In addition to being the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds contain one hundred times more lignans than other foods. Lignans are phytoestrogens that help lessen the effect of the body’s own estrogen, which among other benefits has positive implications for breast and prostate cancer.

The fibre in flaxseeds may also have preventive effects against colon cancer. They’ve also demonstrated to help control cholesterol, triglyceride and blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation. They can also help improve digestion thanks to their dietary fibre content and the alpha-linoleic content they contain has been linked to brain heal.

Recipes to try:

22. Chia Seeds

Vanilla Coconut Chia Pudding - Running on Real Food

Just like the flaxseed, the chia seed is an everyday superfood too. You can use them to make chia seed pudding, replace eggs in baking and add them to bars, smoothies, oatmeal, granola and yogurt.

The list of health benefits of chia seeds is long and impressive. Chia is a good plant-based source of omega essential fatty acid and it’s high in protein and full of minerals, vitamins and fibre. They’re also high in magnesium, calcium, iron and antioxidants. Chia seeds are very easy to use, they soak up liquid and have a nice mild flavour so you can use them in all sorts of recipes from baking to blending.

Recipes to try:

23. Dates

Dates are a wonderful food to use as a natural sweetener. You can blend them into smoothies, use them as a base for homemade energy bars and balls and blend them into drinks and other desserts. They are high in sugar but that natural sugar comes packaged along with fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. A few of their health benefits include:

  • high in fiber which promotes heart and digestive health
  • good source of potassium
  • excellent source of copper, good for bone health
  • source of manganese
  • source of magnesium giving them anti-inflammatory and blood pressure benefits
  • source of iron
  • contain vitamin B6 which supports brain health
  • may support a healthy pregnancy and delivery
  • contain isoflavones that are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • contain vitamin A, important for healthy vision

Dates make a great pre-workout or intra-workout snack if you need a natural boost in energy!

Recipes to try:

24. Salad Greens

I like to include mixed salad greens in my weekly grocery shopping since they’re so convenient for making quick salads. I use them often for lunch and lazy dinners.

I’ll start with a couple big handfuls of greens then top them with baked tofu, lentils or chickpeas, roasted squash or sweet potato, grated beet or carrot, tahini and maybe some nuts or seeds. They make a quick and easy meal and are packed with tons of antioxidants and other essential nutrients. They’re also convenient for adding greens to smoothies.

25. Squash

Roasted squash on a pan for vegan meal prep.

I’m including squash because they make such a great source of low-glycemic carbohydrates in the diet. I cook a couple squashes every week as part of my weekly food prep. I love kabocha, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash.

All squash has similar health benefits. They’re have anti-inflammatory properties and are rich in beta-carotone, B6, and C, folate, magnesium, fiber, riboflavin, phosphorus, and potassium. They’re also a good source of manganese, which helps to boost bone strength and helps the body’s ability to process fats and carbohydrates.

The antioxidants they contain help to fight free radicals that have been linked to cancer, heart disease and premature aging. They also contain very high levels of vitamin A, including carotenoid phytonutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which help boost the the body’s immune response.

Recipes to try:

More Vegan Essentials

For a more thorough list of vegan essentials, check out my vegan grocery list or shop by macronutrients with my vegan macro cheat sheet. For more staple foods, review how to stock a vegan pantry.