Vegetarians rely heavily on the availability of fresh vegetables to make the filling, well-rounded meals. Soy products, eggs, and cheese are also important parts of a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. While soy, dairy, and vegetables may be the stars of the show, a well-stocked pantry full of grains, legumes, and other basic vegetarian pantry staples will help vegetarian cooks whip up healthy meals in a flash.
Basic Staples for Every Cook
These basic cooking elements are important to keep on hand. It is hard to complete a recipe without them.
- All-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable and olive oil
- Vegetable broth
Staple Grains for the Pantry
Without hearty pasta, rice, and grain dishes, many vegetarians would feel hungry all the time. Here are some grain staples to keep in the pantry. Since vegetarians sometimes tire of endless pasta dishes, it’s nice to mix it up with salads made with sturdy, nutty grains like farro.
- Pasta, at least two different kinds (perhaps a long noodle and a short shaped pasta)
- Brown and white rice
- Other grains, such as barley, farro, quinoa, and kasha
Dried and canned beans keep for a long time in the pantry. Dried beans require soaking and longer cooking times. Canned beans are usually pre-cooked, making them a faster option, but they don’t stand up as well in soups and other recipes that require long, slow simmering. They are ideal in a quick chili or stew.
- Dried lentils
- Dried split peas
- Canned black beans
- Canned kidney beans
- Canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- Canned cannellini or Great Northern beans
Vegetables that Keep in the Pantry
While some vegetables turn gray and mushy when canned, others maintain their color and texture nicely. Keep dried chilis and mushrooms on hand for flavoring broths and sauces. Dried veggies are easily reconstituted by a quick soak in warm water.
- Root vegetables like potatoes and onions keep for a long time when stored in a cool, dark place. Just don’t store them together for long periods, or they will emit a gas that will cause both to spoil.
- Canned corn kernels
- Canned tomatoes, both crushed and diced
- Jarred olives
- Dried mushrooms
- Dried chilis
Herbs, Spices, and Other Flavorings
Dried herbs and ground spices add a great depth of flavor to any dish. Each cook has a different style and flair in the kitchen, so cooks should stock their pantries with the herbs and spices that best fit with their favorite recipes. The same goes for kinds of vinegar, flavored oils, and sauces. If one makes a lot of Asian food, for example, one may wish to stock sesame oil, Mirin, and Hoisin sauce.
- Dried herbs, such as basil, bay leaves, thyme, and oregano
- Ground spices, such as red pepper, curry powder, chili powder, ginger, nutmeg, and cumin
- Soy sauce
- Vinegar, red wine, white wine, and cider
- Vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (no anchovies)
- Hot sauce, such as Tabasco
- Vanilla extract
When the pantry is stocked with these basic vegetarian pantry staples, a cook doesn’t need to make constant trips to the grocery store. Some of the fastest, easiest meals can be created using ingredients from the pantry alone. Dishes like beans and rice or red lentil dal require no fresh ingredients and are satisfying and delicious.
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