Vegan and vegetarian kitchen staples for quick meals are great to have around when house guests come to visit. Whether you're the only vegan or vegetarian in the group, or is a diet one of your family members follows, these staples will save you time in the kitchen.
And read this post if you're interested in must-have staple that should be included in a the essential vegetarian pantry.
When the holidays come, our house is filled with family members. Meat loving family members. They all eat meat at every meal. Demand it, really.
For years I went crazy trying to figure out how to make them happy and have a separate vegetarian meal for myself that gave me enough protein, and tasted good. No, not just good, but great.
After a several years of that, I gave in and reminded myself I was a wimpy vegetarian. But while I do sometimes eat fish, I don't feel good eating it everyday. I feel best with a primarily vegetarian diet. So I had to figure out a better plan.
My solution this year is perfect. I have a number of pre-prepared ingredients I can do a lot with in a jiffy without a lot of fuss. But they're so much more than just ingredients. They're my vegan meal starters that will keep me much more relaxed while I make dinner for the other 8 people joining me at the table.
As a note, a friend mentioned that these are also ideal to keep on hand if you have a vegan member of the family coming to visit for the holidays. She's already made two of these dishes in preparation for her own family coming to visit, one of which is vegan.
So, here's my current list of must-have vegan and vegetarian kitchen staples for quick meals.
#1 Cooked Legumes
I'm particular when it comes to my chickpeas.
I don't like the taste of canned chickpeas, or the ones that come in a box. So I cook them up super-fast in my Instant Pot. They keep in the refrigerator for around 4 days, and freeze quite well. (Just be sure they're completely dry when you freeze them.)
And there are so many ways to use them:
- Lightly mash or add whole chickpeas to a tomato-based pasta sauce that can be toss with pasta or stuffed into pitas pockets. Or forget the sauce, and lightly mash cooked chickpeas and sauté with garlic, thinly sliced olives, lemon, salt and pepper. Adding pasta is optional. To die for either way.
- Season and roast some cooked chickpeas for tacos, burritos, salads or snacking.
- Add to soups and stews with abandon.
- Toss with roasted peppers and black olives, heap over cooked farro or quinoa, and dress with a miso or yogurt dressing.
If you don't have an Instant Pot, I have posts that describe the best way to cook them on the stove top and slow cooker. Both posts share tips for success every time, and troubleshooting suggestions for stubborn chickpeas that refuse to soften.
For the record, I'm cooking up some black beans too, as they're great with just about anything. I'm thinking toasted tortillas topped with black beans, shaved cabbage, avocado, cheese, and a little salsa. Other vegetarian kitchen staples for quick meals in this category include white beans and lentils.
#2 Roasted Tomato Sauce
Sure, you can buy it already made. But making this sauce is so easy, and then you can add extra ingredients you want. This Smoky Spicy Roasted Tomato Sauce takes only 3 minutes of vegetable prep, and quick sauté, and then slide it in the oven and walk away for an hour. And the post lists ways to adjust it to suit your own taste.
I use this sauce for pastas, vegetarian meatballs, spaghetti squash, roasted eggplant, shakshuka, and as a base for making a super quick vegan chili.
# 3 Lentil Bolognese
This Lentil Bolognese is my newest member of my top 5 must-have vegetarian kitchen staples for quick meals. Check out this post for the recipe and all the uses I've already found for it.
#4 Roasted Veggies
The flavor we most miss when we move away from meat is what's called the fifth taste. Umami. There are a number of ways to replace it in foods, and having these Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes on hand are one of my favorite solutions.
I add them to grains dishes, casseroles, soups, pasta dishes, cauliflower steaks and grilled cheese sandwiches. Carnivorous Maximus, my husband, loves them on his steaks. And because I eat some fish, I've combined them with seared tuna steaks, halibut, salmon and shrimp.
I plan to roast up some additional veggies, like this Easy Garlic Roasted Cabbage, cauliflower florets and butternut squash cubes. They're all great on their own, but also in soups, quick casseroles, and hearty warm salads like this Warm Cauliflower Salad and this Mediterranean Cauliflower Salad with Crispy Chickpeas + Miso Dressing. I just toss the veggies in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400˚F until tender.
Eggs are a perfect way to add some protein to so many vegetable and grains dishes. You can make shakshuka (pictured above), throw an egg on top of pan-roasted Brussels sprouts, or over cauliflower hash. It takes a side dish and turns it into a satisfying meal.
As a note, this is obviously not an option for vegans, but perfectly acceptable to vegetarian diets.
With these vegetarian kitchen staples for quick meals stashed in my refrigerator and freezer, I have lots of options during the meat-filled holidays.
As a final note, I started meal planning for myself and CM this year. But I started Christmas Holiday meal planning a few years ago - especially since it includes 5 of my (incredible) grandchildren. I write out every day - breakfast, lunch and dinner - and also add the activities we have planned together.
For example, if we're all skiing all day, I need a lasagna that's already put together and just needs to go into the oven while we slump into stuffed chairs to talk about the day.
Or, better yet, one that's already cooked, and just needs reheating! Or something that cooks in the slow cooker while we're out having fun.
There are enough things to stress over in life already, and one of them shouldn't be dinner. Even during the holidays when you face multiple diets at the table.