The goal of keeping a well-stocked vegetarian pantry is to keep plenty of key vegetarian cooking ingredients on hand, enabling you to whip up a variety of healthy and satisfying vegetarian meals at any time. Your grocery list will, of course, vary depending on the size of your household and your favorite foods, but you’ll always need a combination of both main ingredients and flavor-enhancing spices and cooking essentials.
The ingredients listed here have been selected not only for their nutritional value and role in vegetarian cooking but also because they are the most common ingredients featured in the vegetarian recipes on this site.
See also: Thinking of going vegetarian? Start here!
Besides these basics needed for cooking, you’ll probably want to stock up on some foods to grab on the go, such as whole grain breads for vegetarian sandwiches, veggie burgers or meat substitutes, soy or dairy cheese, vegetarian deli slices, condiments, breakfast cereal, salad dressing, fresh fruit and snacks such as popcorn, pretzels and chips and salsa. I like to keep flour tortillas on hand too for quick burritos and wraps.
Dry and Canned Goods
Pasta and rice are familiar foods that can be prepared in countless different ways. Stock up on brown rice instead of white for an added nutritional boost.
- Pasta, noodles
- Beans, chickpeas, lentils (canned or dry)
- Rice or other whole grains such as quinoa, millet, and barley
- TVP - textured vegetable protein (or you might prefer to keep some frozen meat substitutes on hand)
- Canned tomatoes
I recommend using egg replacer in baked goods even if you’re not vegan, as it keeps well and is much more convenient, healthy and cost effective than eggs.
- Liquid sweetener (maple syrup, brown rice syrup or agave nectar)
- Egg replacer (See also: Are eggs vegetarian?)
- Baking powder, baking soda
- Cocoa powder or chocolate chips
If you haven’t already, you’ll soon become familiar with most of these ingredients as they are common in vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
- Soy sauce, tamari or nama shoyu (I like Bragg's Liquid Aminos, too)
- Stir fry sauces
- Soy margarine
- Vegetable broth (canned or powdered)
- Soy milk or another milk substitute
- Olive oil, sesame oil and maybe a high-heat oil such as canola oil
- Balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar
- Peanut butter or other nut butter
- Nutritional yeast
Spices are really what create the difference between basic dishes and exotic ethnic cuisines. Not all flavors are for everyone, however, so experiment to see which spices and combinations you like to use the most and which you could do without. Here are a few of the more commonly used spices that you may want to have on hand.
- Black Pepper
- Chili powder
- Cumin (ground or seeds)
- Garam masala if you like cooking vegetarian Indian food
- Garlic powder
- Ginger powder
- Onion powder
- Red pepper flakes
My favorite fresh vegetable to keep on hand is broccoli because it stores well and goes great with tofu in a quick stir fry along with whatever else I happen to have. Both onions and garlic can last a month or longer if stored properly.