We want to help you cook awesome vegan food with what you have in your pantry! This post is packed with ideas, recipes and substitution suggestions so you can make the most of your vegan pantry staples.
We’ve got a lot of experience on living from staple foods from our travels in our campervan. Often we’re in the middle of nowhere off grid, with no refrigeration and no shops nearby. So we know what pantry supplies are great to have on hand and how to stay well fed for weeks without shopping.
We also spent a whole month living on a random selection of out of date, leftover and surplus supermarket food when we did our Food Waste Challenge to raise funds for food charities. We had to be creative with what we cooked and ate, but we had plenty of food to eat. I’m pretty sure many of us have hidden treasures in the corners of our cupboards.
And as volunteers for UK charity Foodcycle, which transforms surplus supermarket food into community feasts, we’ve learnt a lot about how to adapt recipes and substitute ingredients.
In this guide you'll find our tips for pantry cooking, and a list of our favourite store cupboard supplies and lots of ideas and recipes to use them in! Plus if you're out of an ingredient you'll find our helpful substitution suggestions handy!
Stay well and stay well fed,
Sophie & Paul
Vegan Pantry Staples and What to Make With Them!
Here you'll find our favourite vegan staples, plenty of ideas on what to cook with them, and substitution tips for ingredients you're running low on.
Read on for all our tips, or jump straight to the ingredient you want ideas or substitution suggestions for...
Oats are incredibly versatile. They're high in fibre and an excellent source of protein (16g per 100g) so they are nourishing too. Here's a few of our favourite things to do with them:
- Have them for breakfast in porridge, overnight oats or muesli
- Grind them up into flour and use in pancakes
- Add them to vegan meatballs and burgers as a thickener and binder
- Use them whole in sweet treats like cookies or oat bars
- Make them into oat milk (the leftover pulp can go in porridge or smoothies too!)
Out of oats? Try using rice, quinoa or buckwheat to make porridge instead. For no bake recipes you could try other grains such as quinoa flakes, rice puffs or even popcorn!
Rice, rice baby! This staple food is a favourite in our cupboard. White, brown, arborio, wild... Here's what we like to do with rice:
- Serve it with a generous portion of lentil dal or apple curry
- Make vegan egg fried rice with leftovers
- Use it to make vegan risotto with any veggies we have on hand
- Cook it in a creamy, sweet rice pudding for dessert
Run out of rice? Have couscous with your curry instead. Got some bulghur wheat lurking in the back of your cupboard, use that instead! Or how about quinoa for a change. And did you know you can use barley to make risotto?
When we we're doing Foodcycle's 'Breadline Challenge' we had £2.00 a day to spend on food for a week. So naturally we bought a big sack of potatoes - they're cheap, versatile and keep really well. Store in a cool, dark place and you can live off the humble potato for ages! We like to make:
- Potato goulash flavoured with herbs and caraway
- Lentil shepherd's pie topped with mash
- Spicy crisps made from leftover potato peels
- Mohnnudeln - a delicious Austrian sweet dish (yes you can even use potatoes in dessert!
Out of spuds? Use other root veggies instead. Bakes sweet potatoes are awesome. And swede, turnip, celeriac or carrot make great mash.
Paul could eat pasta everyday! But we are try to make our precious stock last 🙂 When we treat ourselves, we love to make these vegan pasta dishes:
- Simple spaghetti with marmite and nutritional yeast
- Creamy vegan carbonara with a silken tofu sauce
- Pasta covered in wild garlic pesto
- And our own homemade pasta for vegan ravioli (fillings can easily be adapted to what you have on hand - dried mushrooms, soy mince, canned pumpkin...)
All out of pasta? Go for noodles instead, or try orzo, polenta or barley as an easier to find alternative. Or how about make your own gnocchi or use spiralized veggies instead of spaghetti. Thin slices of veggies like butternut squash also make a great alternative to lasagne sheets.
We love baking so much. We actually have a whole cupboard in our campervan just for flour so we can make bread when we're on the road! If you're lucky enough to have flour at home, this is how we like to use it:
- Very simple vegan pancakes - put 1 cup flour in a mixing bowl and whisk in soy milk until you have a batter the thickness of cream. Heat some oil in a non stick pan until its well heated and pour in your batter. Flip over when the top side has started to cook. Enjoy with lemon, sugar, jam, or my favourite melted dark chocolate (and maybe even some vegan vanilla ice cream!)
- To make our easy no knead pizza dough
- For some outdoor fun with the family our campfire bread on a stick recipe always goes down a treat!
- And with wholemeal or rye flour we love this nourishing seeded sourdough loaf
No flour to be found? Chuck some rice or oats in a high speed blender and whizz it up into flour. Or use it as an opportunity to try your hand at some gluten free baking and try other flours such as almond, buckwheat or our favourite gram flour...
You can also make flour go further in pastry, by replacing half of the flour amount with very smooth mashed potato.
The main thing to consider when adapting recipes using flour and substituting different types of flour is that the absorbency will vary.
Wholemeal flour, for example, will typically produce a more dense result, and absorb more liquid than plain white flour. So be prepared to adjust the amount of liquid in the recipe.
Also known as garbanzo bean flour or besan, this flour is made from ground up chickpeas and over the last year has become an absolute favourite in our store cupboard. We love how versatile it is you can use it as both an alternative to flour, or to eggs! These are our favourite ways to use it:
- To make this really easy chickpea flour tofu
- Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup gram flour, 1 tbsp oil and some kala namak to make a vegan 'egg' scramble
- In our vegan egg fried rice
- And as a substitute to plain flour in recipes
If there's one thing we always make sure we have a good stock of in our cupboards - it's lentils! These little protein powerhouses are amazing to have on hand for all kinds of meals. Red lentils are the quickest and easiest to cook, perfect for making our favourite Red Lentil Dal.
Red lentils are also great for:
- Thickening soups
- Adding to curries
- Soaking in water and blending to make tasty flourless flatbreads!
Green, brown and black lentils take longer to cook, and taste great when:
- Combined with tomatoes and herbs in our flavoursome lentil ragu
- Cooked in a stew with any veggies you have to hand
- Spiced with warm Middle Eastern spices and simply served with rice
- Cooled down as a salad with a simple vinaigrette.
Low on lentils? Use any kind of legume for a nutritious boost to a meal. Those yellow split peas hidden in the back of your cupboard would make an awesome dal!
Black beans, kidney beans, butter beans, aduki beans, baked beans... There's so many varieties of beans and they are so easy to use when they are canned. Here's some easy pantry friendly ideas...
- Make yourself big comforting pot of vegan chilli
- Flavour black beans with paprika and cumin and enjoy in a simple but tasty burrito
- Make hummus (yes you can use any kind of bean, not just chickpeas!)
- Make a salad with diced onion and an easy oil and vinegar dressing
Down to your last can of beans? Using dried beans saves both money and space. Soak overnight before cooking until tender. Once cooked, most varieties of beans can be used interchangeably in recipes. 1 ½ cups of cooked beans is equal to 1 standard 400g/14oz can.
Frozen and canned vegetables
Canned and frozen veggies are sometimes considered to be not as 'good' as their fresh counterparts. But veggies that are canned or frozen are often picked when fully ripe and processed straight after harvesting. Preserved veggies are an excellent pantry staple to have on hand for convenience, nutritional benefit and long shelf life!
These are our four favourites to have in stock:
- Tinned tomatoes
- Canned sweetcorn
- Frozen peas
- Frozen spinach
Tofu usually needs to be stored in the fridge, but unopened packets can have a long shelf life of 2-6 weeks. So we consider it to be a pantry staple. Silken tofu that comes in box cartons/tetrapaks can be stored out of the fridge and has an even longer shelf life of several months. Tofu can also be frozen, simply drain any excess moisture after defrosting.
Our favourite pantry friendly tofu recipes are:
- Scramble it up with some turmeric, kala namak and other seasonings for a tasty breakfast (you can use silken or block tofu)
- Covering in teriyaki sauce and eating with rice or noodles
- Coating extra firm tofu in cornstarch and frying until crispy. You can use bottled lemon juice in our Sticky Lemon Tofu recipe.
- Blending silken tofu makes a deliciously creamy sauce for vegan carbonara
- Silken tofu also works brilliantly in vegan desserts, like our easy vegan tiramisu
No more tofu? You can make your own from soybeans or soy milk and lemon juice. Burmese tofu is made from gram flour and is a great alternative to soy tofu.
Seeds and nuts
We just love adding a crunch to our meals with the addition of seeds or nuts. And they don't just enhance the texture too, but are an excellent source of plant based protein, omega 3 & 6 and beneficial minerals.
Here's some great use for nuts and seeds:
- Sprinkle them on your breakfast oats
- Toast and use as a garnish to soup or risotto
- Add them to pesto (the perfect way to keep fresh greens for longer)
- Make them into nut milk
- Blitz them into this tasty vegan parmesan
- Make chia pudding
- Use ground flaxseed as a binder in vegan brownies
- Caramelise nuts and use to top desserts and ice cream!
Substituting nuts and seeds. You can pretty much use any kind of nut or seed in place of another. Though almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds vary in the flavour they bring to a dish, they can often be used in a similar way. Chia seeds or ground flax swell up in water to make a jelly like texture, and can often be substituted for each other.
If you're anything like me you'll make sure to always have a big jar (or two!) of peanut butter at home.
Nut butter is great for:
- Adding to stews or curries for a flavour boost and creamier sauce (we love it in our Apple Curry!)
- Blending into smoothies or homemade banana nice cream
- Using in baking and no bake recipes
- And just eating by the spoonful 😉
Run out of nut butter? If you have a good high speed blender you can make it yourself. Lightly toast the nuts and then blend them until smooth (this can take a while!) You can also use the same method to make tahini from sesame seeds, or sunflower seed butter. We often use tahini as an alternative to peanut butter in baking.
We always have a stash of dried fruit in our store cupboard. Dried mango, apricots and apple rings are our fave to snack on. Raisins, dates, and cranberries are our favourites for baking and cooking with.
If there's dried fruit that's been hanging around in your cupboard for a while, you can soak them in water (or something stronger!) before using to make them more juicy again.
Dried fruit is not just for sweet dishes, you can also use it add a great burst of flavour to savoury dishes. We love the raisins in our potato lentil dahl!
You can easily dry fruit at home in an oven, like these tasty Apple Rings.
This is where we vegans have the advantage! Soy, almond, oat, coconut, hemp - there's dozens of varieties of non dairy milk, and they're shelf stable.
- Make yourself an easy chia pudding with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds to ½ a cup of plant milk. Top with some frozen fruit, jam or seeds and you've got yourself a tasty breakfast or healthy dessert.
Down to your last carton? If you've got a blender, making your own milk is a great option - you can use oats, almonds, walnuts, hemp seeds, cashews, sunflower seeds... Or even just whizz up some nut butter with water. Many baking recipes which use plant milk in the batter, can also be made with just water, like these blueberry pancakes. Or use half water/half plant milk to make it go further.
No vegan pantry staple list is complete without chocolate right!? I probably don't need give you ideas on how to eat it, but here's a few just in case...
- Use it as a filling for dessert calzone
- Make an easy chocolate fondue by melting equal weights dark chocolate with canned coconut milk. Then dip in your favourite fruits - canned peaches or frozen banana work great!
Need a chocolate substitute? The results won't be exactly the same, but in a pinch you can replace 30g/1oz of dark chocolate with 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon fat such as coconut oil. You may also want to increase the sweetener in the recipe as well.
Thanks for reading!
We hope you found this vegan pantry cooking guide useful and we've inspired you to make the most of what you've got and experiment with ingredients.
If you want specific recipe ideas for what you have at home, leave a comment with what ingredients you have, and we'll be happy to help out! We'd also love to hear your pantry cooking tips and tricks!