This beginner’s guide to stocking a plant-based pantry will simplify your grocery list and help you feel at ease in your transition to a plant-based lifestyle.
Do you ever feel flustered in the grocery store because there are 27 brands of the same food product and you can’t even begin to compare them all? Or maybe you show up without a grocery list and walk up and down every aisle seven times looking for an item you already put in your cart? We have all been there. Probably multiple times. I get it. I remember the first time I went grocery shopping after transitioning to a plant-based diet, and everything seemed so overwhelming. It’s like I completely forgot how to shop for whole foods. This grocery list on how to stock a plant-based pantry will help beginner’s transition to a plant-based diet with minimal stress, but also help lifelong vegans reflect on their current shopping habits.
Plant-Based Pantry Essentials
A plant-based diet is obviously not limited to its shelf-stable options. The pantry essentials listed below covers all macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) while providing key vitamins and minerals required by non-animal protein eaters. The key to stocking a plant-based pantry, though, is to focus on whole foods. Fill up on the wholesome ingredients that come straight from Mother Earth and get conveniently packaged into a carton, can, or jar for your everyday use.
Getting Started with Your Pantry
This pantry list is not exhaustive but it’s a good place to start when you first transition to a plant-based diet or if you’re trying to keep your meals and groceries simple. Feel free to customize each category based on your food preferences and unique nutrition needs. If you’re not sure what your nutrition needs are, Chef Shannon Nutrition offers one-on-one nutrition counseling paired with culinary coaching to make this pantry list even more customizable.
For a more detailed guide and full grocery shopping list, don’t forget to download the free e-guide below!
Keep Your Pantry Organized
Before we make a run to the grocery store, follow these steps to help keep organized and ensure you have all your nutrients covered:
- Create a menu for the week
- Write a list of ingredients to satisfy your meal plan
- Take inventory of your current pantry and cross off what ingredients you already have
- Write down what items you still need or need to restock
- Double check your list! (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “written down” something in my head…)
Your Plant-Based Pantry Shopping List
The foods listed are divided into categories. Every store is a little different, but I recommend writing your list and organizing your pantry in a way that flows similar to your primary grocery store. Here are your plant-based pantry essentials:
- Whole Grains
- Fruits & Vegetables
- Nuts & Seeds
- Dairy & “Meat” Alternatives
- Ready-to-Eat Meals
- Cooking & Baking Essentials
- Packaged Snacks
There is an emphasis on ‘whole’ for this category because we do want the majority of our grain choices to come from whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and quinoa. Feel free to include other grain foods you enjoy that may be more refined. These can still be part of a balanced plant-forward diet.
- Brown rice
- Legume-based pasta
- Oats (steel-cut or rolled)
- Rice noodles
- Soba noodles
- Popcorn kernels
- Whole grain breads (loaves, bagels, buns, etc.)
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole grain pita & tortillas
- Whole wheat products
Fruits & Vegetables
Canned and dried produce may not be a first choice for some of us, but they can be a great addition to soups, smoothies, and baked goods. When certain fruits and vegetables aren’t in season, dried, canned or frozen varieties still allow you to have an affordable option year round. Lean towards canned vegetables that are low in sodium and always drain and rinse the goodies before use. Look for canned fruits packed in 100% fruit juice rather than syrup. Double check the nutrition label of dried fruits to limit added sugars.
- Baby corn
- Diced tomatoes
- Dried fruits (apricots, cranberries, mango, prunes, raisins, etc.)
- Freeze dried fruits and vegetables
- Green beans
- Hearts of Palm
- Mandarin oranges
- Pulled jackfruit
- Pumpkin puree
- Roasted red peppers
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Tomatoes (diced, paste, sauce)
- Water chestnuts
Beans, peas and lentils are at the heart of a vegan and vegetarian diet. Legumes serve as a primary source of amino acids (the little building blocks that make up protein). They contain numerous vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron, folate, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc. They are loaded with fiber for gut health and satiety. And there are so many varieties that make them easy to add into any meal. This Summer Chickpea & Lentil Salad is booming with legumes and pantry staples.
- Adzuki beans
- Black beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Cannellini beans
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- Cranberry beans
- Fava beans
- Great Northern beans
- Kidney beans
- Lentils (brown, black, green, French, red)
- Lima beans
- Mung beans
- Navy beans
- Pinto beans
Nuts & Seeds
Another amazing category with so many varieties and so many uses. Turn cashews into cheese. Garnish pasta with pine nuts. Turn almonds into almond flour pancakes. And, if you’re like me, your purse is never low on trail mix. If your grocery store has a bulk section, check for nuts and seeds on sale first.
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Flaxseeds or flax meal
- Hemp seeds
- Macadamia nuts
- Nut butters
- Pine nuts
- Pistachios (shelled or hearts)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Seed butters
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Dairy & Meatless Alternatives
This is a tough category to name for me because plant-based proteins aren’t as simple as saying tofu or tempeh. Amino acids are found in all plant foods to some extent (with the exception of oils). So, that leaves me in a pickle and I hope you don’t mind the “meat” in this meatless category.
- Shelf-stable milks (almond, coconut, hemp, oat, rice, soy)
- Canned coconut milk and coconut cream
- Shelf-stable tofu
- Vegan protein powder
Do you ever come home from a long day and look at your meal plan and just say “Nope”? That’s what this category is good for. Having ready-to-eat meals in the pantry at all times is a life, time and stress-saver. I call these emergency meals. The possibilities are endless with the growing number of food brands exploring this area, so these are just a few general ideas to get started.
- Dry falafel mix
- Lentil and bean soups
- Microwave meal packets (chana masala, grains & lentils, vegan ramen, etc.)
Cooking & Baking Essentials
This list may look intense at first (and I hate to say that it could be longer), but it is meant to serve as a basis to what you can have stocked if you are feeling kitchen fancy and ready to have a good time with some recipes. Most of these items will last several months in the pantry. If any of these ingredients look unfamiliar, go ahead and research some plant-based recipes (or check out my other blog posts) that use it for some inspiration later on in your plant-based journey.
- Arrowroot powder
- Baking mixes (muffins, pancakes, quick breads, etc.)
- Baking soda and baking powder
- Cooking oils (avocado, coconut, extra virgin olive oil, sesame, etc.)
- Cornmeal/polenta* (also part of the grain category)
- Corn starch
- Dairy-free chocolate chips
- Flours (almond, all-purpose, coconut, chickpea, gluten-free, etc.)
- Nutritional yeast
- Potato starch
- Sugars (beet, coconut, and other vegan sugars)
- Sweeteners (agave, honey*, maple syrup, stevia)
- Spices and seasonings
- Tomato sauce
- Tomato paste
- Vanilla extract
- Vegetable broth
- Vinegars (apple cider, balsamic, rice, red wine, sherry, white)
- Vegan pasta sauces
- Yeast (for baking)
Spice up your life (and, uh, food) with a variety of condiments. I refer to these as “plate pizazz” when I teach my plant-based plate method to my clients. Not only will these condiments provide flavor, but they can also be concentrated in amazing nutrients.
- Chili sauce or paste
- Curry pasta
- Hot sauce
- Mustards (brown, dijon, spicy, yellow, etc.)
- Salad dressings
- Soy or tamari sauce
- Vegan ketchup
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce
There’s nothing more refreshing than good ole water, but it doesn’t hurt to have our favorite water-based beverages on hand for a change of taste.
- Coconut water
- Teas (black, green, herbal, iced, etc.)
- Sparkling waters
If you’re like me, you have a snack attack every afternoon. My nutrition journey includes a history of restriction which actually just led me to binging on an entire bag of chips when I “let” myself buy them. Since then, I’ve learned that if I consistently have my favorite snacks in the house, I don’t exactly crave them as much. But, what I do crave is a well-balanced snack to fuel me until my next meal!
- Chips (bean tortilla, corn tortilla, kale chips, potato chips, etc.)
- Chocolate covered nuts
- Crackers (whole grain or nut & seed based)
- Fortified cereals
- Granola bars
- Nut/seed bars
- Dairy-free microwave popcorn
- Rice cakes
- Roasted chickpeas
- Seaweed snacks
- Sweet snacks (cookies, chocolate candies, etc.)
Stock Up Your Way
Don’t forget to customize this list to make it fit your lifestyle and your needs. What are some of your favorite pantry staples? Is there anything you would add to this list? For the full grocery shopping guide, download it here!
So tell me, do you still have questions about shopping on a plant-based diet? Let’s chat here and follow me on IG @chefshannonnutrition for more plant-based pantry and kitchen tips!