pantry essentials, vegan, plant-based, nuts, seeds

A Well-stocked Pantry is Your

Secret Weapon 

Keeping your pantry stocked with a variety of non-perishable staples will keep your health on track. These foods are basic, versatile, fairly inexpensive and have a long shelf life. As you begin to cook regularly and develop your own recipes, you'll form a more personal list. In the meantime, use this list as a guide. ​

Pantry Categories:

  • Whole grains, pasta, frozen bread, and whole grain flours

  • Dried and canned legumes

  • Oils and vinegar

  • Sauces and condiments

  • Nuts, nut butter and seeds

  • Dried fruit

  • Herbs and spices

  • Miscellaneous items

whole grains, bread, vegan, plant-based

Whole Grains, Whole Grain Flours, Pasta and Frozen Bread 

Despite the misconception that carbs make cause weight gain, whole grains are associated with decreased risk of developing chronic diseases. Unlike refined grains, whole grains contain the entire kernel - the brain, the germ and the endosperm, which provide bountiful nutrition. Store whole grains in a sealed container at room temperature, away from sunlight. Frozen bread comes in handy if you don't eat bread often.

These are some of my favorite grains:​

  • Farro: this ancient grain is exceptionally high in protein and fiber, and packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

  • Wild rice: it's the grain of an aquatic sea grass, so it's not quite rice, but possesses all of the nutritional benefits of rice and more. 

  • Oats(rolled, old fashioned or steel cut): oats contain a powerful fiber that helps lower cholesterol and stabilize blood glucose levels.

  • Quinoa: due to its high antioxidant and protein content, this ancient grain is growing in popularity. It is light and fluffy, and acts as a great addition to a salad or stir-fry.

  • Chickpea flour: has serious binding power; therefore it's often used in gluten-free baking recipes.

  • Arrowroot flour:  a lesser known flour that is frequently used as a substitute for cornstarch.

dried beans, lentils, vegan , plant-based, pinto beans

Dried and Canned Legumes 

Legumes, including beans and lentils, are a healthy source of plant-based protein that boast versatility in the kitchen. Lentils cook in less than 20 minutes, while beans take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to cook. Having some canned beans on hand makes it easier to include them daily. 

​​These are some of my favorites:

  • ​Chickpeas

  • Pinto beans

  • Black-eyed peas

  • Great Northern beans

  • Edamame

  • Split peas

  • Black beans

  • Lentils (red and green)

Chef, vegan, oil, vinegar, plant-based

Oils and Condiments


Oils are not a healthy food - they consist of 100% fat. One tablespoon of oil has a whopping 120 calories and, therefore, it promotes weight gain. Instead of adding oil to your meals, opt for a healthy, whole food instead, such as avocado, tahini or nuts and seeds.  If you're in good health, adding a teaspoon of oil as a flavoring agent won't jeopardize your health; though it should be used sparingly. ​​

These are some of my favorites: 

  • Extra-virgin olive oil: the monounsaturated fats in olive oil are not heat stable, therefore, olive oil is best used in salad dressings.

  • Sesame oil: add a teaspoon of sesame oil to an Asian-inspired dish. 

  • Flax oil: Much like flax seeds, flaxseed oil is loaded with heart-healthy, omega-3 fatty acids. It can be used for low-heat cooking or as a rich addition to salad dressings.

  • Apple cider vinegar:  take a shot in the morning to improve digestion or add it to your favorite salad dressing. 

  • White vinegar: commonly used as a pickling agent or as a tart addition to recipes like marinades and salad dressings. 

  • Balsamic vinegar:  I enjoy adding balsamic vinegar to salad dressings and marinades.

mustard, condiments, vegan, plant-based

Sauces and Condiments

If you like bold flavors, stock your pantry with an assortment of condiments and sauces. These basic items not only elevate the taste of your meal, but they also increase the nutrient content. Consider making your own sauce and condiments to avoid excess salt and preservatives. ​

These are some of my favorites:

  • Miso paste: this savory, salty, fermented soybean paste is often added to marinades, salad dressings and soup bases.

  • Tahini: a healthy, oil-free base for salad dressings. Add some lemon and cumin for some zing.

  • Tamari: a great, low-calorie option for seasoning. Pour over steamed veggies or use in a stir-fry. Low sodium tamari is available. 

  • Sriracha: for those who like their food extra spicy. 

  • Coconut Liquid Aminos: soy sauce substitute that’s both soy and gluten free, and made from the fermented sap of coconut and salt.

nuts, seeds, vegan, plant-based

Nuts, Nut Butter and Seeds 

A small handful of nuts or seeds provide filling protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and important vitamins and minerals. Not only are nuts and seeds a convenient snack, but they're also a great addition to sauces, desserts, smoothies and cheeses. Consider keeping a few varieties of raw nuts and seeds on hand; they're easy to store and have a long shelf life.

​These are some of my favorites: ​

  • Cashews: ideal for making cheese, raw desserts, salad dressing, and pasta sauce like alfredo sauce. 

  • Sunflower seed butter: a great alternative for those who are allergic to peanut butter. ​

  • Chia seed: I love adding nutrition-rich chia seeds to my oatmeal or smoothie. Chia seed pudding is an easy, overnight, breakfast recipe. 

  • Sprouted pecans: due to their sweet taste, I find them to be even more delicious than regular nuts. Make your own sprouted nuts or purchase them.

  • Pine nuts: one word: pesto. 

  • Macadamia nuts: makes for a sultry, creamy base for a salad dressing.

dried fruit, apples, apricots, vegan, plant-based

Dried Fruit

Dried fruits contain a lot of fiber and are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. They're a great addition to granola bars, oatmeal, grain salads, and desserts. Some dried fruit products contain added sugar and preservatives, so opt for a natural, no-sugar added product. 

  • ​Golden raisins

  • Dates

  • Dried mango

  • Apricots

  • Dried mulberries

  • Goji berries

spices on spoon, vegan, plant-based

Spices and Herbs

Cooking with herbs and spices enhances the flavor and nutritional content of your meal without adding additional salt, sugar or fat. If you don't know where to start, consider using seasoning blends, such as taco seasoning, garam masala, jerk spice blend, za'atar, or everything-bagel seasoning to achieve a desired flavor profile. 

​Some of my favorites: ​

  • Ginger

  • Cayenne

  • Basil

  • Garlic

  • Oregano

  • Cumin

  • Smoked paprika

Image by Andrea Leon


These items may not fall under a specific category, but they are still some of the most essential items in a plant-based pantry. These foods add a unique flavor to your dish that you'll absolutely enjoy. 

These are some of my favorites:

  • Plant-based milk: There are so many varieties and shelf-stable options.

  • Nutritional yeast: packed with B vitamins, nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor to your dish. 

  • Nutrition powders: throw a scoop of chlorella, spirulina, maca, and cacao powder into your smoothie for additional nutrition.

  • Dried sea vegetables: seaweed contains a wide variety of essential minerals, including calcium, copper, magnesium, iodine, and iron. The most popular sea vegetables are kombu, wakame, hijiki, dulse, agar and kelp. 

  • Sun-dried tomatoes: The intensely flavored, sun-kissed veggie packs high levels of lycopene and antioxidants. ​

  • Cocoa nibs: bitter, rich, and full of antioxidants; they're a wonderful addition to your oatmeal or smoothie.

Next: Plant-based Substitutes

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Iraina Rosenthal-Tawil, RD

Founder, Your Life on the Veg

Iraina is a registered dietitian based in New York City. She specializes in plant-based diets for the prevention and management of chronic disease. She offers virtual nutrition counseling via a HIPPA-secured online platform. 

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