How to Stock Your Vegetarian Pantry

Vegetarian pantry staples
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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.

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. We recommend keeping 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 and other noodles
  • Beans, chickpeas, and lentils (canned or dry)
  • Rice or other whole grains such as quinoa, millet, and barley
  • Textured vegetable protein, otherwise known as TVP (or you might prefer to keep some frozen meat substitutes on hand)
  • Canned tomatoes

Baking Needs

We 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. If you’re trying to cut out refined sugar, a liquid sweetener such as agave nectar or brown rice syrup is essential.

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Liquid sweetener (maple syrup, brown rice syrup or agave nectar)
  • Egg replacer
  • Baking powder and baking soda
  • Vanilla
  • Cocoa powder or chocolate chips

Cooking Essentials

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 (we like Bragg's Liquid Aminos, too)
  • Miso 
  • Tahini
  • 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 and rice vinegar
  • Peanut butter or other nut butter
  • Nutritional yeast

Spices

Spices are really what creates 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.

  • Basil
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin (ground or seeds)
  • Curry
  • Garam masala (if you like cooking vegetarian Indian food)
  • Garlic powder
  • Ginger powder
  • Onion powder
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt

Perishables

Our 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 you happen to have. Both onions and garlic can last a month or longer if stored properly.

  • Fresh vegetables
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh or seitan or frozen veggie burgers
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Lemons or lemon juice