The Importance of the Essential Vegetarian Pantry
Having a stocked essential vegetarian pantry is important, and especially now when we're limiting trips to the market. And when we gird ourselves to venture down the aisles, many items are out of stock.
In truth, my vegetarian pantry hasn't changed a bit over the past month, or over the past year. And the value of this peace-of-mind is limitless. For example, when I placed a pick-up order this morning at our local market, and saw the first available day for pickup was April 13, it was fine. I know I can almost always easily go a couple weeks without needing to hit the market. And probably double or triple that, if needed.
Since there's a lot of focus on pantry stocking right now, I thought I'd share my own personal essential vegetarian pantry list. It's more important than ever to consider the nutrient density of what we're eating, it's shelf life, and the cost to our wallets.
The below are 8 categories of pantry items I like to have on hand, with examples and recipes.
I always have a robust supply of pulses on hand, but as my husband asked, what the heck are pulses??
Well, examples include dried chickpeas, black beans, small and large white beans, split peas, and a variety of lentils. They keep a long time, are loaded with protein, fiber and other nutrients, and can be used a seemingly infinite number of ways.
So what are pulses, and what's the difference between beans, legumes, lentils, and pulses?
Legumes include all types of beans, peas and lentils, both fresh and dried. So, go ahead and throw around the term legumes freely. They cover a lot of ground.
Pulses refer to the dried edible seeds of a wide variety of legume plants.
Beans are a category of legumes, similar to but separate from peas and lentils. They are all related, and all are harvested from pods. However, beans are the seeds of a variety of legume plants that have long pods. And lentils are harvested from a variety bearing pods that are convex on both sides – similar to lentils themselves.
The best way to store pulses
Pulses can last in your pantry for years if stored properly. The best way to store them is in glass jars with screw-on lids. This keeps any pests and bugs from getting into them. I label mine with masking tape and a marker so I can easily identify the jars.
Cooking Perfect Dried Beans
Although the below posts are written for a specific type of bean, the methods described works for any dried bean.
2. Fresh Eggs
I buy organic pasture-raised eggs to maximize the nutritional content. Pasture-raised eggs means the chickens roam on pastures, feeding naturally on seeds, bugs, and grasses.
3. High Nutrient and Protein Ingredients
This category includes ingredients I can add to dishes and smoothies for an additional kick of protein and nutrients.
Nuts and Nut Butters
Miso (I prefer white miso)
Protein powder (for adding to smoothies)
4. Frozen Plant-Based “Meats”
These products have come a long way in flavor and texture, and will last a long time in the freezer. Make a burger, add them to casseroles, make tacos, or a pasta sauce. It's all good.
Morningstar Farms – I particularly like their Veggie Meal Starters
I love to bake, and particularly love to bread breads, so this category is a must for me. It might not be true for you. These are the flours I always have on hand. Truthfully, I also have a wide variety of speciality flours like coconut flour and quinoa flour, but I don't consider them part of my essential vegetarian pantry. They're more of a luxury.
King Arthur White All-Purpose Flour
Bread Flour (King Arthur)
Whole-Wheat Flour (King Arthur)
6. Canned Goods and Flavor Enhancers
I don't keep a lot of canned goods on hand, but I have a couple that I used in a bazillion recipes. Several of my list of flavor enhancers contribute an umami flavor to dishes.
Canned San Marzano Tomatoes
Canned Coconut Milk
Honey and Monk Fruit Sugar Substitute
Oil and Vinegars
7. Dried Grains and Pasta
I don't often make grain-centric meals. But any vegetarian pantry should include a selection of whole grains, quinoa and pasta to expand dishes like soups and casseroles, and satisfy needs for comfort food. They're also fit into many budgets. The below list are items I always have on hand.
Long-grain white rice such as basmati or jasmine rice
Short-grain rice for risotto
Several types of pasta
The best way to store grains
Just like with pulses, I store all my grains in glass jars with screw-top lids. I label them, and in the case of brown rice, I add a date.
The shelf life of white rice, if store correctly, can extend to years, but brown rice will only last 6 months to 1 year because of the natural oils in its bran layer. Both quinoa and farro can last for years in your pantry when stored correctly.
8. Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables aren't traditionally considered pantry items. But I always have a bounty of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables on hand throughout the year. Right now, however, I'm stocking up frozen vegetables for dinners, and frozen fruits for my smoothies.
Most fresh fruits and vegetables I buy right now are those that I know will last a long time. Otherwise I get a very small supply that I know won't go bad before I use them.
Sweet potatoes and russet potatoes (fresh and frozen)
Cauliflower (fresh and frozen)
Red Peppers (fresh and frozen)
Herbs in tubes
Final Thoughts on the Essential Vegetarian Pantry
I hope this helps you decide what goes into your essential vegetarian pantry. It's a very individual and family decision, but it always helps to see how others approach it for ideas.
This Month's Cooking Challenge
This month's cooking challenge will come out in the next couple of days, so look in your email box for it! It will be focused on flatbreads you can choose from to make. Flatbreads are easiest way to make bread I know of, since they typically don't have yeast as one of their ingredients. And the ingredient list is generally very short, and includes items we usually have on hand.