15 Plant-Based Ingredients to Keep in the Kitchen

15 Plant-Based Ingredients to Keep in the Kitchen

Whether you’re trying to incorporate more plant-based foods in your diet, or you’re curious if there’s something out there you haven’t tried yet, here are my 15 favorite ingredients to keep in the kitchen at all times:

  1. Nutritional Yeast

    Nutritional yeast, or “nooch,” is a holy grail food for vegans…and really anyone for that matter. It is a deactivated yeast that packs a MEGA cheesy punch and is full of the B12 vitamin. You can buy it in flake or powder form (I personally prefer flakes). Sprinkle some nooch on your popcorn or pasta for a cheesy flavor, cook with it as a seasoning, or even add it to your favorite sauces and dips! Can you say vegan nacho cheese?

  2. Bananas

    Bananas are high in fiber and antioxidants…and super stinkin’ delicious! Bananas can be used in a variety of different ways – from toppings, to binders in baking, to “nice cream” and smoothie bases! Small tip: the riper the banana, the sweeter it is! And the best part? Bananas are fairly inexpensive, very accessible and freeze wonderfully! I love to top my overnight oats with banana slices, or throw it in the blender to make a creamy smoothie!

  3. Fruit

    Bananas aren’t the only fruit you should have on hand at all times! Our society has developed an unnecessary fear of fruits, thinking that the sugars in them will cause weight gain. I love this article by Forks Over Knives that promotes eating “nature’s candy” in abundance. Fruits like apples, clementines, grapes, peaches and pears are very easy to eat on-the-go, and are a much better option than spending the money on those greasy fries! Other fruits like mango, kiwi and dragonfruit are a perfect tropical treat to have on a warm summer day. I’ve always been drawn to fruits…who wouldn’t want a naturally sweet treat in their day?

  4. Veggies

    I know these last two food groups have been kind of vague – but that doesn’t make them any less important! Veggies are a vital thing to keep on hand for weekly meal prepping, and healthy and quick dinners at home. The veggies an be anything you prefer; our fridge is usually stocked with bell peppers, carrots, celery, mushrooms, broccoli, cucumber and green beans every week. These ingredients are great salad toppers, perfect for a veggie soup, and very simple to use in a stir fry. Veggies don’t have to be a part of a meal, either! Carrots and cucumbers are some of my very favorite foods to snack on during the day.

  5. Purple Cabbage

    According to livestrong.com, 1 cup of purple cabbage offers 2 grams of fiber (or or 8 percent of your daily value), 216 milligrams of potassium, 51 milligrams of Vitamin C (or 85 percent of your daily value), and 20 percent of the 5000 IU of Vitamin A required each day! Who would’ve thought that all of these nutritious benefits were hiding behind that AWESOME vibrant color? I love mine raw, especially in salads and tacos, to give it a pop of color…but it’s great cooked, too! Just toss a little bit of lemon juice in the pan to keep it purple.

  6. Spinach

    I first got hooked on spinach because of its proven cancer prevention properties…and it slowly became my leafy green of choice! I use spinach for the base of my salads (which I try to eat once daily), and as a serving of greens in my smoothies! Before you think “ew, spinach mixed with my fruity pineapple-mango-banana-berry smoothie? She’s gotta be kidding me….” hear me out! Just one cup of spinach added to your smoothie – whether it be green, fruity or even chocolate – is virtually TASTELESS! That’s right, I said it; you can’t even taste it. And it gives you a serving of veggies you may not have had otherwise. Popeye was onto something.

  7. Cauliflower

    These days, there is a cauliflower swap for everything: pizza crust, “bread”sticks, tots, sauce, rice, mashed “potatoes,” nuggets…you name it, they’ve cauliflowered it. And for good reason! Cauliflower is delicious simply spiced up and oven roasted and tossed in a buddah bowl, but some of the BEST sauce recipes I’ve tried (I’m looking at you, vegan mac and cheese) are also made with cauliflower.

  8. Fresh Garlic

    Okay, this one is more of a preference thing. Personally, I LOVE GARLIC; I am a step away from carrying a shaker bottle of garlic powder in my purse so that I have it on hand for any situation. Are we still friends? …Great! Joking aside, garlic is fantastic minced and pan cooked, or roasted in the oven, to add to your meals. And get this: consuming garlic daily lowers your cholesterol AND reduces the risk of picking up the common cold by a whopping 63%. Staying healthy while getting some garlicky goodness in my meals? I’ll take it.

  9. Whole Grains

    Thank goodness for whole grains! Seriously…I don’t know what I’d do without my oats in the morning. A typical day for me has some kind of grain involved in at least two of my meals; generally oats for breakfast and either quinoa or rice for dinner. Sometimes when people hear the word “grains” they think “carbs,” and immediately want to cut back on them. In my opinion, grains and carbs have gotten a pretty bad rap in the body image department. We NEED these foods to thrive! Plus, they’re very cost effective and most of them are easy to prepare, which makes them a perfect addition to any meal!

  10. Potatoes

    In keeping with this “carbs are the enemy” thing, I want to tell you about my obsession with potatoes. Not just because they’re a DELICIOUS comfort food, but because of their incredible accessibility and health benefits. You read that right: health benefits. The trouble with the way we view and consume carbs does not come from the potato – it comes from the way our common versions of potatoes are prepared. I’m talking about that large fry, loaded with salt, fresh out of the deep fryer from a fast food place. Did you know you can make french fries at home, in your own oven, with NO OIL? I know, I know…mind blown. And don’t even get me started on the amazing things you can do with sweet potatoes. Is anyone else hungry?

  11. Spices

    Before I became a vegan, I would rely on butter, oils and heaps of salt (I know, salt is vegan, but stick with me) to flavor my foods. My favorite food when I was a kid? BUTTERED PASTA. When I started eating more whole, plant-based foods, I realized that some of them were fairly bland and I really needed to step up my cooking game to be able to enjoy my meals. I also wanted to cut WAY back on my salt intake and really lower the amount of oils I used to cook as well. Enter: spices. I was always kind of worried about using spices in my dishes; would I use too much? Which ones go together well? Do I even like this flavor? Will it ruin the whole meal? After some trial and error, I’ve realized that spices are my very best friend in the kitchen! I love using (mild) curry powder, paprika and cumin for taco night, a cinnamon/cardamom/cloves/ginger/nutmeg blend for chai flavored overnight oats, parsley on my potatoes…the list goes on! Scared to incorporate bold spices into your meals? Start of small and taste test as you cook.

  12. Beans

    Beans are widely regarded as the largest source of vegan protein, for good reason! Some studies show that beans should be eating with EVERY MEAL. While I don’t necessarily get my legumes in 4-5 times a day, I definitely add them as a staple in my main meals as much as I can. Our favorites are black beans, refried beans, red kidney beans and chickpeas (to name a few). Beans are great when you buy them raw and soak them, but let’s be honest – we don’t all have time for that. Canned beans are great too! Just be sure they are reduced sodium in a BPA-free can for the healthiest option.

  13. Natural Sweetener

    I don’t think there’s a day of my life that one of my recipes doesn’t involve either pure maple syrup, raw cacao powder or coconut sugar (or on indulgent days, all three!). These are exponentially healthier alternatives to things like table sugar and milk chocolate chips or bars. Not so fast on that maple syrup, though – I’m not talking about Aunt Jemima brand that’s found with the freezer waffles in the supermarket. You want the REAL stuff, the sap cracked straight from the maple trees. It is a little pricey, but well worth it. Just a tiny teaspoon of this stuff packs your recipes with flavor, makes a great topping for your pancakes, waffles and fruit….and even promotes a healthy heart. Give me the sweetness!

  14. Plant-based milk

    I’d be lying if I told you I don’t take a daily swig of my unsweetened almond milk…straight from the carton. When I first transitioned over to plant-based milk, I was drawn to rice milk. After a little while, I tried almond milk and fell in love (it also has a significantly lower calorie and fat content than rice milk). Here and there, I’ll treat myself to soy milk in a Chai Latte or protein shake. I’ve always got cans of full-fat coconut milk in my pantry as well, because it’s THE BOMB for curries and sauces! I think there’s even a homemade milk-making experiment in my near future!

  15. Nuts and Nut Butter

    Peanut butter………is my spirit animal. I could eat it with anything from rice cakes and oats, to veggie burgers (seriously). The trick is to get the all-natural stuff. Look at the ingredients list on your peanut butter jar: if there is anything OTHER than peanuts on that list, chuck it! Just kidding – obviously don’t waste your peanut butter. But next time you go to the supermarket to buy a nut butter (this could be almond or cashew butter, as well!), the most important part of a healthy purchase that ingredients list. Nuts are their own are pretty stellar, too. Cashews can be used in a variety of recipes, from soaked cashews as the base of homemade ice cream, to raw cashews used to make homemade vegan parmesan cheese.

My name is Chelsea Fredrickson – I am in love with seeing different parts of the world and finding new parts of myself along the way. I am the creator of and author for Freddy Finds Herself; a lifestyle blog dedicated to documenting my adventures, my successes and failures, and showing others that our process of evolving is never complete and meant to be celebrated.

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