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Making the decision to eat plant-based is the easy part. It’s in the doing where things can become unhinged.

Most people aren’t all swanky- pants with access to a personal chef – they ARE the personal chef, and usually with more mouths to feed than their own (plus a job to boot). Keeping up with the routine of existing life leaves little room for taking the foot off the gas.

Yet with the decision made, it’s fair to say that roughly 80% of everything a person knows about food and cooking up until this point will need to be relearned. It’s a wild arse ride for sure but one hundred percent worth it.

A huge help is knowing the high-use, staple ingredients in plant-based cooking so they can be kept on hand. Having these available in your pantry saves oodles of time back and forth to the grocery store or worse, haemorrhaging money through Uber Eats to save time.

With the exception of fresh produce, I’ve put together a list of the most commonly used ingredients in my household. I’ve even ranked them for added geekiness.

My OCD tried desperately hard to have these be a “top 10”, but the uncooperative part of me wouldn’t let go so alas, here are the 11 masters of your plant-based kitchen.

# 11 – Coconut Cream / Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the grated meat of a mature coconut. The opacity and rich taste of coconut milk are due to its high oil content, most of which is saturated fat (the good kind, so don’t worry).

Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water. The difference is mainly consistency. It has a thicker, more paste-like consistency, while coconut milk is generally a liquid.

Make sure to shake before you use it, or alternatively store at the back of the fridge for 24 hours, flip the can over and open it to gain access to the super creamy part. Then whip it up and use as a cream.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Curries
  • Soups
  • Smoothies
  • Whole grains
  • Dressings
  • Desserts

TIP – If you’re watching your weight, take it easy on these or pick up the “light” versions.

# 10 –  Firm & Silken Tofu (organic)

Ok, I know – this isn’t technically a pantry item as tofu tends to get stored in the fridge, depending on the type that you buy. But I had to include this chameleon in food making – it can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Tofu is a food cultivated by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It can be soft, firm, or extra firm and is either found in the refrigerator section at the supermarket or in the ethnic food aisle.

You don’t have to cook it first – you can eat it as is – just rinse off the packaged water from firm tofu and you’re good to go.

It works a treat by marinating it as tofu soaks up all the flavours like a sponge. The texture of tofu changes if you freeze it before use so try this too for variation.

Silken tofu won’t hold its form and you will have water to run off. It is best used for desserts, smoothies, and sauces or even used as a binder in savoury dishes.

Plant-based uses of tofu include:

  • Baked or fried and added to anything
  • Egg replacement
  • Tofu scramble
  • Sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Dressings
  • Protein to soup

TIP – Always buy organic tofu. Soy crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides.

# 9 – Rolled Oats (Wholegrain)

Rolled oats are traditionally oat groats that have been steamed before being rolled into flat flakes under heavy rollers and stabilized by being lightly toasted. As they cook, rolled oats soften further and develop a thick, gummy texture.

Be sure to buy wholegrain as like any whole food, it’s the nutrient dense version of regular rolled oats.

A neat thing about these is that they can be eaten without further heating or cooking. If you’re gluten free, an alternative is quinoa flakes. 

Plant-based uses include:

  • Thickening agent
  • Smoothies
  • Burger binder
  • ‘Meatloaf’
  • Oat milk
  • Oat flour
  • Muesli
  • Sauces
  • Pie crust
  • No bake cookies

 # 8 – Flaxseed / Linseed

Flaxseed (also known as linseed) is full of omega 3 fatty acid – a healthy fat that plant-based eaters can struggle to gain in their diet alone.

Its a tiny grain ánd not to be confused with ‘LSA’ in the shops which is a blend of seeds/nuts – not pure flaxseed.

Buy the whole seeds, and use a high speed blender or coffee grinder to grind the whole seeds. Keep the grounds in an airtight container in your refrigerator to sprinkle into your food at any chance you get.

Here’s how make a flax egg to use as a binder in cooking:

1. Add 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed into a bowl

2. Then add 2 & 1/2 tablespoons of water,

3. Pop in the fridge for 5-10 minutes – it will become thicker and ‘egg-like’ in consistency.

Note– one flaxseed egg replacement is equivalent to 1 egg so you can double it, triple it etc depending on the traditional recipe you are ‘veganising’.

 # 7 – Beans (organic, canned)

Canned beans come in all varying types and colours. They are quick, cheap and easy to use.

Don’t get me wrong, beans in their raw form are great too (and cheaper / more nutritious than canned), but it’s the convenience of the canned version that makes them a high-use pantry item in our home.

Beans are full of protein making them a great meat free alternative.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Blend into smoothies
  • Add to soups – last 5 minutes of cooking
  • Dips
  • Chilli
  • Mexican food
  • Brownies, cakes, muffins and cookies
  • Salads
  • Dressings
  • Baked beans
  • Bean based pasta sauces
  • Crepe
  • White bean pudding with coconut milk
  • Lentil flat bread
  • Curries
  • Chickpea water (aka ‘aquafaber’) to make a multitude of items

 # 6 – Apple Sauce (jarred/canned)

Apple sauce is terrific for baking. Unsweetened is best due to sugar content. It’s also a terrific egg replacement.

It adds moisture content, so you can cut back on oils and fats.

The flavour is subtle and natural, so enables it to act as a binder without dominating the taste of what you’re making.

If you have apples, you can easily make your own and freeze it down (don’t add any sugar) or buy it in jars/cans which is what we mostly do.

If buying, once you’ve opened a jar of sauce put any leftovers in ice cube trays and store it in the freezer so it’s handy for the next time you need it – no wastage.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Brownies
  • Pancakes
  • Icings
  • Cookies, muffins or cakes
  • Loaves and breads
  • Health bars
  • Burger patties

 # 5 – Tahini

Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. Being a seed, it is lunchbox safe.

This seed gives us an amazing hit of B vitamins and detoxes our liver – all while containing no sugar, salt of gluten!

You can make your own tahini or buy it. It comes in two different types – hulled and unhulled.  The hulled version has been processed more than unhulled stripping it of additional nutrition so always aim for unhulled tahini where you can.

Tahini is known for its bitter, nutty taste, but it’s usually adding in other ingredients in recipes.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Brownies
  • Pancakes
  • Icings
  • Cookies, muffins or cakes
  • Loaves and breads
  • Health bars
  • Burger patties
  • Sauces
  • Dressings

Tip: When you first open your jar of tahini you will notice the oil separates from the paste, much like peanut butter. This is normal and totally fine, just pour off the excess oil and stir in what’s left.

 # 4 – Quinoa

Quinoa is an amazing seed that is packed with protein and full of all amino acids.

This seed comes in a variety of colours, and can be served hot or cold, and as a side or a main dish.

When preparing quinoa, it is always important to rinse it before use to remove the bitter or soapy coating.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Burger patties
  • Stews
  • Meatballs
  • Salads
  • Pancakes
  • Health bars
  • Cookies
  • Muffins
  • Breads
  • Stir-fries
  • Porridge
  • Rice replacement

Ooooh, now we’re getting to the sexy stuff …

# 3 – Savoury Yeast Flakes / Nutritional Yeast

Otherwise known as nutritional yeast seasoning, or ‘nooch’, these flakes are versatile, full of folic acid, protein, fibre and B vitamins. They are also gluten free, salt free and sugar free.

Savoury yeast flakes have a strong nutty, cheesy flavour making them easy to sprinkle on anything where you want that umami flavour.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Macaroni cheese sauce
  • ‘Parmesan cheese’
  • Cheese blocks
  • Cashew cheese
  • Soup
  • Gravy
  • Dips and spreads
  • Popcorn
  • Dressings

Tip: Brewer’s yeast is VERY different to savoury yeast flakes. Do not attempt to substitute.

# 2 – Cashews

My heart goes out to anyone with a nut allergy because we use cashews heavily in our cooking.

The incredible cashew is a seed, but is commonly referred to as a “nut”.  Whatever you call it, just know the amazing things it can help us create on a plant-based diet.

One of my favourites is creamy cashew milk, its so much simpler than almond milk as it doesn’t require any soaking or  draining. Just pop them in your high-speed blender, add some water and you’ve got drinkable milk in a matter of seconds.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Cheese blocks
  • Cashew milk
  • Cashew cheese
  • Dips and spreads
  • Sour cream
  • Dressings
  • Sauces
  • Soups

Time to blow those knickers clean off with the number one … Are you ready?

 # 1 – Dates (pitted)

Forget the bad rap dates have from the 80’s thanks to Devil on Horseback.

No lady.

Dates are the best kept secret sugar alternative to use any time you need to add a bit of a sweet kick to food.

Because it’s a whole food, you consume the fibre that comes with it so it doesn’t spike your blood sugar the way refined sugar does.

Fibre is also beneficial for your poo pipes helping keep your system as clean as a whistle. Unlike sugar, you’re also getting the nutrition that comes with eating a whole food.

1 date equals the sweetness that approximately 1/2 teaspoon of sugar delivers.

The best way to incorporate dates in your food is by hot-soaking them first so they’re easily broken down by your blender/food processor.

Add desired number of dates to a bowl and pour hot water over them, allowing them to soak for approximately 10 minutes.

Discard the water and you’re ready to add these to your recipe.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Smoothies
  • Milkshakes
  • Sauces
  • Dips and spreads
  • Custard
  • Nice cream
  • Cakes, slices and biscuits
  • Icings
  • Dressings
  • Desserts

What’s your favourite pantry plant-based ingredient? We’d love to know! Please tell us in the comments below.

‘Eggy’ Fried Rice

'Eggy' Fried Rice

Course: Main Course
Servings: 4
Author: Gabrielle Olga

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • a little water as needed
  • 1 block silken tofu
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Optional

  • 1/2 teaspoon kala namak Indian black salt
  • sriracha sace to taste

Instructions

  • Heat pan over medium heat. Sprinkle a few drops of water in the pan to make sure it is hot.
  • Once hot add the onions and garlic. Stir regularly. As the onions begin to brown pour a little water into the pan then give it a good stir to prevent stick. Continue to cook the onions repeating the step of adding water as often as necessary until the onions are translucent and soft.
  • Add the veggies and stir them into the onions. Cover with a lid and cook until carrots are soft.
  • Prepare the 'egg' mixture while the carrots cook. Open the silken tofu carefully and discard packaged water. Rinse under cold water and add to a medium size mixing bowl.
  • Add the turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, sea salt and kala namak (if using). Whisk together until combined.
  • Heat a second pan and pour in the egg mix when hot. Let the mixture cook without stirring for 3 or 4 minutes and then stir through. Continue cooking until it is hot through then add to the other pan containing the onion, and vegetables.
  • Add the cooked rice and tamari or soy sauce and stir once more. Reduce the heat to low and heat until everything is warm and combined.
  • Serve immediately, adding sriratcha sauce (if using). Eat and enjoy!

Notes

A truly versatile recipe - use any combination of stir-fry vegetables you prefer.
One day old cooked rice is best as the grains separate with time.
Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge or freeze to reheat later.

Wishing you a productive week ahead. May you make some time taking stock of your pantry items at home.

In Gratitude,

Gabrielle xo

Need some pantry help? Join our non-preachy, private Facebook group and have your questions answered by likeminded #plantbods.