Budget-Friendly Vegan Pantry Staples

Whether you’re a veteran vegan or just beginning a plant based diet, this collection of vegan pantry staples showcases basic, affordable, vegan must haves for creating your plant based shopping list on a budget. Perfect for creating easy meat free pantry meals and beginner vegetarian cooks.

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People often ask me what vegans eat. They seem to think you can’t have a meal without some form of meat or eggs or dairy; but you’ll find, with a couple minor additions or substitutions, we mostly just eat regular old food. This post is an abbreviated list of the vegan pantry staples we actually keep on-hand in our pantry or that make our vegan shopping list often. 

This post isn’t going to be one of those “perfect/healthy/expensive AF” vegan pantry lists. It’s for people looking for vegan groceries on a budget, for those looking for a plant based diet for beginners, people who want to live a balanced vegan lifestyle (with healthy AND fun foods), people who want to make this lifestyle a long-term thing without breaking the bank or sacrificing flavor. 

As I said, this is a list of items in OUR ACTUAL PANTRY as two vegans of 7+ years. There’s nothing on here we don’t use often. Except maybe the boxed cake mixes, we don’t make nearly enough cake, but that’s only because brownies are usually easier. LOL!

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Overhead shot of vegan pantry stpales: 3 plates with different dehydrated soy meats on them : textured vegetable protein crumbles and strips and soy curls.

1 – Deyhdrated Soy Meats

Textured Vegetable Protein – also known as TVP, this product is a great replacement for items that call for minced or ground meats. Perfect for tacos and vegan chili, it’s also a star player in our homemade vegan meatballs and plant based burgers.

Soy Chunks/Soy Curls – Soy chunks or curls are great for replacing meat like chicken in dishes like vegan pot pie and vegan chicken stew. They are also the finishing touch on our plant based chicken noodle soup.

2 – Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast, or “nooch,” is an absolute vegan pantry must have. You NEVER want to run out of this powdery gold, that’s why we buy the big bag! Great for adding to sauces and sprinkling over dishes like pasta and popcorn, nooch is also the main ingredient in both our chickenless bouillon powder and our vegan cheese seasoning.

3 – Kala Namak

Also known as Himalayan or Indian Black Salt, Kala Namak is a sulfur smelling rock salt that is great for giving an eggy smell and flavor to things like tofu scramble and is a great addition to homemade samosas. While some local stores may carry black salt, you can also easily find it in an Indian or Asian grocery or, of course, on the good old internet. This is a must for any vegan egg dishes and is the star element in our vegan egg yolk.

Overhead shot of a jar of nutritional yeast, kala namak, and smoked salt.

4 – Beans

Black, white, pinto, garbanzo…the list goes on and on, but beans truly are an integral addition to the vegan pantry. From using them in a simple dish of rice and beans or creating a hummus, to our White Bean Toona Salad, to using a bean puree to thicken soups like T’s Homestyle Vegetable Soup or using them to make our Vegan Cheddar and Whiskey Fondue, beans truly are a “magical fruit.”

5 – Spices

If your current spice rack consists of salt, black pepper, and garlic powder, it’s time to update your thinking…and your spice rack. Turmeric, fennel, celery salt, ground mustard, black salt, smoked salt and smoked paprika, cinnamon, ground ginger, these – and so, so many more – deserve a place at the table. If you want exciting, great-tasting food, you need variety in your availability of spices…because variety is indeed the spice of life.

Overhead shot of plates of sunflower seeds and walnuts

6 – Ground Flaxseed

Another vegan pantry staple, flax is a great plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, fiber, and much, much more. Ground flaxseed (or flax meal) is also great for thickening sauces, adding to smoothies, or using as a flax “egg” in many vegan recipes from egg-free peanut butter cookies to pancakes to vegan meatballs. Check out our “Flax Egg 101” post for more specifics and uses of the tremendously versatile and useful flax egg.

7 – Other Nuts and Seeds

Walnuts are always making an appearance on our vegan shopping list because A) I just loves to eat them, and B) They make the BEST vegetarian ground meat. Check out our Walnut Meat Guide for more info there!

Cashews are a vegan pantry staple as they are perfect when creating creamy sauces and recipes like our Cheesy Vegan Broccoli Soup. For those with a nut allergy, or even just looking to save a bit at the grocery store, sunflower seeds are a great, budget-friendly replacement to be used instead of cashews in creamy recipes.

Overhead shot of a bag on vital wheat gluten for making seitan. Text on the bag reads: Anthony's premium vital wheat gluten, non-gmo / vegan / natural

8 – Vital Wheat Gluten

Used primarily when making seitan recipes like our stuffed seitan roast, we also love to use some VWG to help give that certain chewiness to our homemade onion bagels and pizza dough.

9 – Canned Coconut Milk and Cream

An easy way to add creaminess to soups and sauces and curries. Brand really matters (as I have found out), and you want to get something unsweetened and with as few ingredients as possible. We really like Native Forest or 365 (Whole Foods’ store brand). You can also make it into vegan whipped cream! Try to get full-fat coconut milk, as anything labeled “light” is usually just a watered down version.

Overhead shot of a square of nori

10 – Nori or Kelp Granules

Nori, kelp, and other sea”weeds” are great to use in a variety of ocean-inspired dishes. From artichoke crab cakes to our white bean toona, kelp or nori flakes give a fish-like taste to vegan seafood recipes.

11 – Grains

Rice – while we do keep some bags of slow-cooking rice around as well, we really love the variety, availability, and ease of boxed and boil-in-bag instant rices. They are so convenient, and, if you’re anything like me, you’re always forgetting to get the rice going first, so those 30-minute rices don’t always work when dinner is almost done. LOL!

We also like to keep some quinoa, couscous, and barley around as well for a variety of choice and style of dishes, stews, and soups.

Overhead shot of convenient and budget friendly vegan staples like boil in bag rice, chocolate cake mix, onion soup mix, and falafel mix

12 – Falafel Mix

IDK if all of them are vegan, so read the ingredients to make sure there’s no dairy derivatives in there; but falafel is not only a good, approachable vegan option, it’s SO tasty! Get a box of falafel mix, some pita, and serve them with our whipped vegan feta dip. It will not disappoint!

13 – Pasta Staples

The vast majority of all boxed, dried pasta brands are vegan. Keep a variety of pasta types on hand along with various sauces and olive oil. Some brands,  like Botticelli, even make a vegan bolognese (and it’s delicious!). Keep non-perishable jars or cans of roasted red peppers, olives, sun dried tomatoes and the like on-hand as well for super easy and super delicious add-ins.

Overhead shot of vegan pantry pasta meal staples: spaghetti and rotini pasta, extra virgin olive oil, a jar of Botticelli vegan bolognese, roasted red peppers, sliced olives, and sun dried tomatoes

14 – Refined Coconut Oil

A MUST for adding animal-type fattiness for realistic vegan cheese (like this vegan feta cheese) and meat making (like this slow-cooker vegan corned beef).

Make sure you get the coconut oil labeled refined and not virgin or unrefined. Unlike the other two, refined coconut oil does not have the coconut flavor to it. You do not want your corned beef tasting like coconut.

15 – Boxed Cake Mix

A lot of cake (and brownie!) mixes are “accidentally vegan” (You might be surprised to see that some of the most popular brands are!) and can be made without the eggs or dairy milk they call for on the box. There are various schools of thought as to what to use to replace the eggs – from flax eggs, to applesauce, to soda – and many of them work well, but I found the box cake mix fix on Gretchen’s Vegan Bakery is the best and most consistent. (And she’s got another for boxed brownies!)

Oh, and what indeed is a cake without frosting? You’ll also find many of the big brands’ frosting varieties are also “accidentally vegan”… even some brand-name buttercream icings contain neither butter nor cream! So go celebrate by making yourself a cake!

Overhead shot of a jar of 365 refined coconut oil and bottle of apple cider vinegar

16 – Vinegars

Vinegars are a great staple to keep around particularly because of their versatility. Apple cider vinegar which can be added to any plant-based non-dairy milk to make a vegan buttermilk when the recipe calls for it (like in our Vegan Buttermilk Ranch). Also, white vinegar, rice wine vinegar, and Apple Cider Vinegar are good to have on hand for vegan baking and great for adding that necessary fermented flavor to vegan cheese sauces. 

17 – Lentils

These are pretty much the only beans we buy dry because they’re really easy to cook and super cheap. You can throw brown/green lentils into a pot of soup to cook easily and add protein. Red lentils are MAGIC – overcook and blend them to make a soup of their own or add them to a Creamy Potato Soup. They are also a key ingredient in our vegan condensed cream of mushroom soup.

18 – Canned Vegetables

Always good to have a variety on hand. Artichokes make great “crab” cakes and vegan white pizza toppings. Canned beets can be blended into puree to add color and nutrition to vegan meats. They’re what give our vegan seitan ham its wonderful color! 

Pureed pumpkin or sweet potato can be a great addition to smoothies, creamy soups (Like our spicy vegan pumpkin soup), or even creamy sauces (how does Smoky Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese sound?).

Canned beans, artichokes, beets, pumpkin puree, organic coconut milk and cream from a vegan pantry

19 – Agave and Maple Syrup

Agave and maple syrup are great liquid sweeteners for vegans to keep on hand and can be used in place of honey. Maple syrup is best for desserts while agave is more of a neutral flavor. 

20 – Vegan-Friendly Soup Mixes

Great to add to dips and soups and all kinds of things. Check ingredients to make sure it’s vegan, but quite a few popular dried soup mixes are made without animal products.

We hope this post helps you get started building a vegan pantry of your own! 

Have a pantry staple you love that’s not on our list? Leave your ideas in the comments, so this can be a more complete resource for future readers!

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this list of staples. I am a fairly new vegan and have been adding things little by little as I come across something, usually while I am in the middle of making something. I was given some soy curls and didn't know what to do with them. They were delicious as a snack like potato chips. Now I will need to get more.
    1. I'm so happy you found this helpful, Deanna! Soy curls are indeed tremendously versatile: just wait until you try them in a stew or as jerky! Thanks for reaching out, and let us now if, as a fairly new vegan, you need any assistance or recipe ideas.
    1. Hi, Jim, we do! I've supplied the link, or you can Google "Plant Power Couple Quiche" Hope this helps! (I don't believe our safety protocols will allow a URL link, so you may have to copy and paste into the address bar.) https://www.plantpowercouple.com/recipes/simple-vegan-quiche/

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