Stocking a vegan pantry is pretty fun. Why is that? Because some of the most utilized ingredients in a vegan way of eating are the most underutilized in the Western diet. Maybe we have something to learn! From nutritional yeast to hemp seeds, there is an amazing array of nourishing, plant-based ingredients that make vegan eating exciting. Want to learn more as well as how to make sure your pantry is stocked? We’ve compiled a manageable list of staples to get you started and included plenty of expertise from some amazing plant-loving dietitians!
Nutritional yeast may sound like a pretty strange ingredient, but don’t shun it without trying it! Nutritional yeast is simply inactivated yeast. It’s got a delicious cheesy flavor that’s perfect on so many foods, including popcorn. Beyond flavor, it’s got a pretty amazing nutritional profile too. As Jean Maxwell, MS, RD, Owner of MaxWell Nutrition LLC says, “It is the only vegan food source of vitamin B12, the body’s primary “energy vitamin,” and is high in all other B vitamins as well. Plus, it is packed with protein at 8 grams per 2 tablespoon serving and is a good source of fiber and potassium. It is truly a nutritional powerhouse!” Try her recipe for Butternut Squash Mac N’Cheese which uses cashew “cheese” made using nutritional yeast, as a base or up your greens with Luvo’s recipe for vegan mac & cheese with spicy collard greens and crispy cauliflower crumbles.
Perhaps you’ve seen tempeh next to the tofu in the refrigerated case. You’ve thought about trying it, but weren’t really sure what it was, so decided against it. Well, time to head back to the store and grab a package! Tempeh is made from fermented, cooked soybeans which are pressed into a cake. Pretty neat, right? And fermented foods are all the rage so that makes tempeh a delicious food to try! Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant Powered Dietitian and expert in all things vegetarian/vegan claims it’s a staple in her house. “I always have a package of tempeh in my refrigerator, because it is so easy to include in dishes. It is rich in flavor, high in protein and versatile.” She loves adding it to stir-fries, casseroles, stews, or salads. Here’s one of Sharon’s favorite tempeh recipes to get you started: Thai Tempeh Noodle Skillet. If you want a recipe that’s perfect for entertaining try Olympian Jenn Heil’s Kale and Serrano Chili Fondue with Crispy Tempeh Dipping Cubes.
A true staple in any vegetarian or vegan kitchen, tofu is a beloved ingredient in so many dishes. But perhaps you’re still unsure of it? If it helps, tofu is simply made from curdled soy milk, in a process similar to how cheese is made. The curds get pressed together into cakes which are what you find at the grocery store. Not only is it versatile, literally a blank canvas when it comes to cooking, but tofu is a great source of plant-based protein says Palmer. Sharon loves it’s practicality too, “you can substitute tofu with just about any cooked meat, poultry, or fish, in anything from casseroles to pasta dishes.” Her tip for best results? “Press out the extra liquid (using a tofu press or just something heavy to place around tofu wrapped in paper towels), and then cube it to use in stir-fries, baked tofu, or in casseroles.” Looking for a great tofu recipe? Here is one of Sharon’s favorites: Stir Fried Thai Tofu Sorghum Bowl.
Lentils are a must-have item in a vegan pantry. Filled with plenty of flavor and nutrition, they deserve a spot on the “must have” vegan food list. Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, co-creator of the virtual course Fit Fueling: Intuitive Eating for Active Females, weighs in on the nutritious benefits of these tiny legumes, “Not only are they an excellent plant protein source, but they also provide plenty of iron, a nutrient tough for women to obtain enough of when following a more plant-based diet. They’re also an excellent fiber source and contain a variety of B-vitamins as well as some choline.” Need some lentil-inspiration? Kelly has plenty of recipes! Try her Baked Vegan Lentil Loaf , Lentil Taco Burger, or Spaghetti Squash with Lentil Bolognese.
Remember when hemp bracelets were all the rage? Well, even if you don’t, you can still appreciate the versatility of hemp seeds as a food! Like flax seeds and chia seeds, they can easily be added to yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, pasta dishes and salad. Why add them? “They provide a boost of plant-protein, essential fatty acids, iron and magnesium,” says Kelly. And speaking of those amino acids, hemp seeds are also one of the few plant foods that contains all of the essential amino acids, an awesome protein benefit to anyone on a vegan or vegetarian diet. How about a few recipes? Kelly has some for you to try! Cashew Cookie Hemp Energy Bars and Black Bean Brownies with Hemp Seed Frosting.
Last but not least be sure to fill your freezer with Luvo’s vegan line of products. Share your favourite vegan products below in the comments section!
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