What Every Vegetarian Should Have in Their Kitchen

August 05, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Article, Misc. Print This Post Print This Post

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Coming home from work after a long day, staring into the pantry and thinking there is nothing to eat in the house is not fun. Because of that, I’ve put together a list of items that every vegetarian must have in their kitchen. Now when you come home from work you can just mix-and-match these things with other ingredients or fresh produce you have on hand.

Although this list is not comprehensive, it does provide a solid foundation so that “nothing to eat syndrome” doesn’t plague your household. But, that’s not all, it’s also good to get items that can turn a quick and easy meal from ‘ho hum’ to wonderful. Once I start running out of any of these items I’m sure to put it on my next grocery list. Finally, as much as possible, I try to buy the organic version of all these staples.

In the Pantry:


Vinegar – always good to have on hand to add flavor without fat or calories:

  • balsamic vinegar (essential for salads)
  • red wine vinegar
  • malt vinegar (essential with French fries)
  • mirin (rice wine vinegar)
  • get one or two unique vinegars to add variety (champagne, sherry, herbed, etc.)



  • olive oil – I usually have at least two bottles on hand. One bottle is used for sautéing vegetables or when larger amounts are called for. The other bottle is my splurge – a really good bottle used for dressings and dishes where I know the olive oil will be a featured taste (such as for drizzling over a pasta dish).
  • toasted sesame oil
  • canola oil
  • a “unique” oil (For example, I have avocado oil and truffle oil to add something different into potatoes, rice and beans and risotto.)
  • toasted sesame oil

pantry items

Other Pantry Staples:

  • extra-firm tofu (non-refrigerated, vacuum packed)
  • brown rice
  • cous-cous (I’m a fan of pearl cous-cous)
  • quinoa
  • lentils
  • polenta (dried)
  • bread crumbs and panko (yes, both. Each brings it’s own unique flavor and crunch.)
  • soy sauce (preferably low sodium), tamari and liquid aminos
  • pasta (I usually have a box of whole grain penne, protein rich versions of pasta, orzo, risotto, etc. )
  • vegetable broth (while I usually have some in the freezer, it’s always good to have a back-up box in the pantry just in case)
  • pasta sauce (can be used as a base of a pizza, thrown into a quick chili or a marinara sauce for dipping)
  • there are many boxed items that you can keep on hand when you need something quick and easy to make (sloppy joe mixes, hummus, tabooli mix, etc. Check out Fantastic Foods for ideas.)
  • pine nuts or slivered almonds can be thrown on top of pasta, in a pinch, for a little boost of protein
  • Beans! I like having the following on hand because they are a quick source for protein. Although dried beans taste better, but when I’m hungry now it’s easier to open up a can than to wait for the beans to be ready. Watch salt content on some brands.
    • black beans
    • kidney beans
    • chick peas


On the Spice Rack:
Everyone has their favorite “go to” spices. In addition to the “staples” (dried basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, etc.) I always have the following in my cabinet so I can change the overall taste of a dish in a pinch.

  • Salt – wait. Didn’t I just say that I’m giving a list beyond the staples…well, I am. Besides just regular table salt have some kosher salt and sea salt on hand.  These alternative salts provide different levels of saltiness and textures.
  • cayenne pepper, tabasco
  • cumin
  • curry powder – hot and regular
  • turmeric
  • garam masala
  • Herbes de Provence
  • chili powder
  • red pepper flakes
  • white pepper (great in soups!)
  • nutmeg
  • bay leaves
  • saffron (this secret ingredient often makes a dish go from just “yum”…to “dang that was really really good”)
  • get a variety of pre-made seasons for quick fixes – Cajun, Mexican, etc. – but watch the salt content in them

In the Freezer:

  • peas (toss some into soups, pasta, risotto)
  • corn (throw a handful in a quick chili)
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • edamame
  • green beans
  • butternut squash (so much quicker than peeling and chopping fresh squash)
  • mixed vegetables (I usually avoid the mixes that come with sauces. I can add my own with less calories, fats and sodium.)
  • soy meat substitutes (buffalo wings, soy crumbles, veggie burgers, etc.)
  • pre-made quick frozen meals or burritos (check out Amy’s products for ideas)

In the Fridge:

  • garlic (whole garlic and pre-minced garlic)
  • lemon juice, lime juice
  • crushed ginger
  • Dijon mustard and stone ground mustard
  • polenta (refrigerated tubes)
  • soy crumbles (ground beef meatless substitute)
  • hummus
  • plain greek yogurt (use it as sour cream or as a base for dips, very versatile)
  • tempeh
  • seitan
  • chili paste with garlic (adds a nice quick zip to dishes)
  • a variety of marinades and sauces (liven up grilled vegetables with pre-made marinades, sometimes even whipping up a homemade version is just too tiresome at the end of a long day)
  • whole grain tortillas

5 Comments to “What Every Vegetarian Should Have in Their Kitchen”

  1. Your O champagne vinegar bottle made me smile; we’ve got quite a collection of their citrus oils and wine vinegars. Actually, we have two full shelves holding various kinds of oils and vinegars.

    By the way, you forgot wine. ;)

  2. This is such a great post! Very helpful for new vegetarians/vegans, and older ones (!) alike :)

  3. I keep tofu in my freezer, but it does take a couple of days to thaw out.

  4. First things first. I am the distributor for the following product. Having said that, it is one of the most amazing products on the market.

    MultiFresh Natural Deodorizer (www.multifreshnaturaldeodorizer.com) is a “must have” for any fridge containing fruits and vegetables.

    Of the several uses it has, one of the most popular is in the fridge and freezer. In the fridge the product ACTIVELY attracts and absorbs ethyline gas (the gas that vegetables release that increase the decomposition rate of vegetables). It also works in the freezer absorbing odors that make ice cubes taste funny.

    It is 100% non-toxic, safe for children, pets and food and has too many uses to mention here. Visit the “How it Works” and “Where to Use It” pages at http://www.multifreshnaturaldeodorizer.com.

    One more thing. It lasts forever, making it environmentally friendly and economical.

  5. Cool read. It’s not every day I read a fun wine article. Thanks for the info, really. Though it begs the question why.


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