If you are an avid home cook, chances are the kitchen is where you spend most of your time experimenting recipes and dishing out healthy plates. As a vegetarian running a business specializing in healthy treats, having a solid base of legumes, spices, and grains in my pantry is a must.
Stocking up on these staple ingredients do not cost a fortune. Many of my favorites cost less than a dollar per serving and can be made into an amalgamation of wholesome meals. Curious to find out? Step into my vegetarian kitchen, if you please...
As much as I want to be that cook who uses dried beans, time constraints mean opting for canned instead. I love all beans but my pantry will always be stocked with these two varieties: chickpeas and split lentils. Chickpeas are used in making hummus dips for work lunches and I have also tried roasting them with paprika & cumin to make a nice crunchy snack. Split lentils is the star of Indian curry and also one of our favorite home meals. Adding more vegetables to the dish also make it hearty and comforting, soaked up with rice or bread.
Beans are often overlooked as a gas-inducing food but there are so many ways of reducing this effect. If using dried beans, a good overnight soak should do the trick or for canned beans, a pinch of asafoetida (found in Indian stores) or ginger powder should work.
If there is one part of me who isn’t Asian, it would be my aversion of rice. Instead, I stock up on other grains such as quinoa, millet and barley that lends more nutrition and interesting flavor to vegetarian dishes.
At home, I replace rice with quinoa for a complete protein boost. It also makes a fantastic addition to soups or salads, from Indian to Mediterranean cuisine. Don’t confuse quinoa and millet though as they both look somewhat similar but have a different taste profile. Interested to know the difference? This article summarises it pretty well!
This soy product has been underrated as being tasteless and bland. However, though it does not qualify as a meat substitute, it still has the ability to develop a repertoire of dishes under its jiggly belt. My favorite way of preparing tofu is by making a clay pot stew with mushrooms, corn and green peas. A simple yet filling meal all on its own.
If you are vegan, you can also blend silken tofu and use it in cakes to replace eggs or even a no-bake cheesecake with a good ratio of gelatin to firm it up.
4. Nutritional Yeast
I started eating nutritional yeast when I became a vegetarian as it is packed with B vitamins that is abundant in meat. If you’re thinking of the yeast in bread-making, it’s totally different. Nutritional yeast is made from beet molasses or sugar cane, and comes in flakes or powder form. The best way to describe the taste of this, is of a savoury “umami” flavour so it is best sprinkled on roast vegetables or salads. I have even used it as an alternative to cheese in pesto dips and pizza.
5. Coconut Oil
This ingredient needs no introduction. Its nutritional stats are now one of the most talked about in the culinary arena. From making rich stews and stir-frying, to braising tofu and blending salad dressings, coconut oil is so versatile. I mostly use it in baking, especially for granola, quick breads and chocolate ganache for that coated sheen. Need more convincing? Here are 5 reasons why you should cook with this oil.
6. Gluten-free Flour
Personally I don’t follow a gluten-free diet or lifestyle but I bake for people who do. Because of that, I keep an array of gluten-free flours such as millet, barley, brown rice and chickpea. Almond or hazelnut meal is also a gem for gluten-free baking if you have no nut allergies. I always find the texture of gluten-free bakes slightly lighter and it’s lower in carbs as compared to regular flours.
7. Braggs Liquid Aminos
Before you go “liquid what?” I have to say I truly adore this Braggs staple in my pantry. It tastes similar to soy sauce, but is full of nutrients such as the elusive B vitamins. Use it as how you use soy sauce. I use it everyday in my stir-fries and when I make sauces or marinades.
8. Apple Cider Vinegar
Another Braggs favourite in my household but there are many brands out there these days that are equally good. Just be sure to look for one with “The Mother”, which contains high levels of beneficial bacteria. I drink a tablespoon of this mixed with some water every morning and use it in place of lemon in salad dressings. It is said to lower blood sugar and cholesterol, thereby preventing diabetes and heart diseases. I have also tried it on my hair as a mask and it surprisingly doesn’t make my hair smell after rinsing.
9. Almond Milk/Lactose-free Milk
I’m lactose intolerant but can’t live without having a bowl of cereal and milk every day. I prefer not to depend on too much soy, so almond milk or lactose free milk are perfect options in getting my breakfast fix. It is slightly higher priced than regular and soy milk but making your own almond milk is super easy and only requires 2-3 ingredients. We’ve even done the homework for you! Follow this guide and you’ll be making your own in no time.
10. Herbs and Spices
Lucky number 10 is what creates the je ne sais quoi in meals. Every ethnicity has their own variations but not all will cater for everyone so the best way to use herbs and spices is to experiment and add them sparingly to your cooking. My cabinet is well-stocked for almost any home-cooked dish but I use these 5 the most:
- Cinnamon for baked goods and sprinkled in oatmeal.
- Turmeric for those chickpea crunchies and Indian curries.
- Peppercorns (in a grinder bottle, never pre-ground).
- Rosemary for mushroom dishes and stews.
- Cayenne for a spicy hit.
You may notice that I stock mostly spices than herbs as the former is more commonly used in an Asian home.
So there you have it. The top 10 items that will always be in my pantry, ready for anyone to flex their culinary prowess. What are your top pantry staples?