A lot has changed since the first few days and months of becoming vegan, one of which is what I thought were my “top essential” foods for surviving as a new vegan baby… but boy how mush has changed.
I don’t rely on foods anymore to help me “survive” being vegan… I rely solely on spices to live. My life is all about spices. I cannot LIVE without spices! So with that being said, here is a new updated list of top essential “foods”
Probably the most go-to pantry staple in a vegan’s kitchen. If you are looking to add some cheesiness, flavor, extra protein, or even just to add to everything because it’s habit, Nutritional Yeast is the god of all gods when it comes to vegan food. I use this so much that i have gone from a small shaker bottle when i was first vegan, to a gallon mason jar full of the cheesy goodness. I put it in almost everything. It goes into all my sauces, casseroles, cheeses, and even on popcorn!
A lot of non-vegans don’t quite understand it let alone the fandom behind it. I tried explaining what it was to my mom’s friend and she was so bewildered by it. I came up with “it’s like whey protein powder…you can add it to a bunch of stuff for added protein/vitamins/minerals and it has a specific taste to it. Except nooch is not sweet, its a savory cheesy kind of ‘whey protein'”
I hope I did nooch justice with that explanation… But I got my mom into using it and she really loves it, asking what recipes I can throw it in our use it for. So Nooch for the win!
Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning
Now my spice drawer is LITERALLY overfilling with spices…but if i could narrow it down to one I’d use everyday…it’d be the Everyday Seasoning from Trader Joes. You can actually make this if you have all the spices (not powdered) But for those of you just starting to cook for yourself, this would be a spice I would buy first.
I put this on everything when I am too lazy to break out specific spices. I love to put it on sliced cucumbers for a lite snack that is more than bland rabbit food. Being a blend of the most basic spices, pepper, salt, onion, garlic, chili etc… it can go on pretty much any food. Salads? Check! Tofu? Check! Roasted vegetables? Check! There are endless uses for this spice blend and it comes in its own grinder AND it’s less than $5!
Now lets move on to one of the best cooking ingredients ever. Oil. Oil gets a bad rep but it really does make everything taste better. I have a theory that if you are making your own food, you can control the amount of oil, butter, salt, all that “non-healthy” stuff rather than buy pre-made vegan food that’s preserved with chemicals, your good…right? Like I know EXACTLY what is going into my food when I cook it myself from whole ingredients. (ie: non processed fruits and veggies, making my own seitan and tofu, basically nothing that comes ready to eat in a package) So I control how much oil I want… ok enough legitimizing my use of oil in cooking.
I use olive oil pretty much every time I whip out a pan. It has a great flavor and great for everyday cooking… with that being said, DO NOT use it for high heat searing or baking! It works perfectly for hummus and homemade cheese, but again i use it for every day cooking vegetables, tofu, pasta sauces, casseroles. I love it. I would invest in a good extra virgin olive oil because I heard there are like fakes?? IDK really, something Ryan told me.
And what a segway because something that goes perfect with olive oil is balsamic vinegar! I use this primarily for marinating as well as dressing for my salads but even though I use it for just about 2 things, you can literally marinate ANYTHING with this and it’ll taste delicious! I love the tangy bold flavor with my grilled portebello mushrooms and as an extra kick in my salads.
Side note, it does grow “mother” so don’t be worried if you have little floating guys in the bottle. Just like Apple Cider Vinegar that’s raw, it will have natural bacteria that is good for your gut! It’s like kombucha, a probiotic but instead of drinking gross ass fermented soda, you use it in cooking and it has a savory tang instead.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Another segway! I use apple cider vinegar or ACV for a lot of my cooking BUT ALSO hair care! I use ACV in a lot of cheese making because the combination of ACV and lemon juice just does something magical that adds that signature cheesy tang and I cannot live without it. It will also help curdle nut milks for baking to mimic buttermilk. I also heard from Lauren Toyota that it helps thicken milk, but i think that’s just a non-gross way of saying your nut milk is gonna curdle.
As for hair care, ACV has so many benefits for your scalp, it restores natural ph balance, it leaves hair soft and shiny, and can help with itchy and dandruff scalp. I created a ACV herbal hair rinse by steeping lavender, peppermint, and sage in a mason jar filled with RAW ACV. Now DO NOT put straight ACV onto your scalp, you MUST dilute it. I use 1 tablespoon of ACV to about 2 cups water.
Cheese, sauces, dips, drinks, desserts, soups, butter…. This little nut is AMAZING! I think EVERY person vegan and non-vegan should have a jar full of cashews in their pantry AT ALL TIMES! If you are looking to eat healthier but not restrict your favorite treats, use this damn nut! I use this for creamy things and its SO much healthier for you than cows milk, butter, cream. If you want sweets, add sugar, if you want savory add spices (well and other things) but its a great base for anything your heart desires!
Heres what I have made using cashews: charcuterie board cheeses, cream cheese, nacho cheese, soup, pasta sauce, smoothies, cookies, lattes, omg and not to mention all the things I HAVE’T tried yet!
Tip: If you don’t want to wait for cashew to soak overnight like most recipes call for when you need to blend them, what I DO is take my kettle, boil some water and then dump the water and cashews in a mug or bowl and let them sit in there for about 10 minutes. Really there is no wrong way to soften cashews, there is just the long way or short easy way.
Well this doesn’t really fall into the pantry staples category, but this appliance … I don’t think I could live without. Originally Ryan’s present for Christmas or his birthday one year, it was only used for the occasional smoothie or margarita. NOW I use this baby almost every other day. It’s really no longer Ryan’s blender anymore just because I use it so much. Those cheeses I mentioned earlier? All made in the blender. Along with pumpkin pie, pasta sauces, nacho cheese sauce, cashew cream, and of course the occasional smoothie haha.
If you can splurge on one appliance my choice would be a good blender. I have a blender and a food processor but if I could only have one if I was stranded on a deserted island… I’d pick the blender. It does the same things… well close enough. But if you’re wanting to get really smooth cream and sauce… you can’t get that in a food processor. HOWEVER, my food processor IS dishwasher safe, which is one con I have with a blender, you got to hand wash that ish and it sucks sometimes.
Ryan has a Blendtec which has been nothing but amazing. Whenever this one dies however, I would like a Vitamix. That is like the cream of the crop when it comes to high power blenders. But our Blendtec is just perfect right now and again, something I think every vegan should own!