Vegan pantry cooking is a good skill set to develop. It can help you save money on groceries, avoid ordering delivery food from a restaurant, and discover how long you can last without going to a store. Twice a year, I run a vegan pantry challenge to encourage us all to push our boundaries when it comes to cooking from what we have… but never had I anticipated that we’d be stuck at home for over a month with limited opportunities to get groceries! At this stage, I am starting to run out of inspiration when it comes to improvising dinner. I turned to a wonderful crew of vegan food bloggers to ask them to share their best vegan pantry cooking tips… and recipes to inspire us all to keep on cooking. What are YOUR best tips? Make sure to share them in the comments.
Start with a list
Vegan Yack Attack’s Jackie Sobon says: “The key to making new or more creative dishes with your pantry ingredients is to make a list of what you have on hand, then pair foods together.” She loves making this Chipotle Brown Rice Bake with what’s in her pantry, and the recipe below includes many substitution suggestions.
Batch cook black beans!
I have to agree with Sophie DeSantis of Veggies Don’t Bite: black beans rock! She says: “Make a big batch of black beans and use them all week in burritos, enchiladas, burgers or even served simply over rice!” Yup, yup, yup! Check out her method for preparing those lovely vegan black beans:
Spice it up and add color
Sarah’s Vegan Guide has great suggestions for making dishes pop: “When cooking with mostly ingredients from my pantry, I always make sure to add lots of spices and color! Adding the right spices can bring a dish to a totally new level. My favorite spices are onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika or turmeric. Having liquid smoke in your pantry also makes a great addition to many savory dishes! As for the color, I rely on frozen foods in my freezer like peas, spinach and broccoli. Adding some green veggies not only makes the dish healthier, I think it’s also more enjoyable to the eye and more fun to eat!” She wanted to share this creamy tahini chickpea pasta recipe that can totally be made from pantry ingredients.
Stretch what you have further
Pantry cooking is a great opportunity to learn how to use up every part of what you have. Listen to Sophie from Vegan on Board: “When you are cooking with what you have in your pantry you want to make the most of what you have – and not let anything go to waste. You can save your veggie scraps to make a tasty soup, keep your potato peels to make crisps, and transform leftover rice in to delicious vegan rice pudding.” I’ll definitely try her rice pudding recipe, but you might also want to check out her potato crisps!
You can still enjoy the flavor of herbs!
Fresh herbs can be replaced with dried herbs, or if you keep pots of herbs in your kitchen or if you have a herb garden then you can use fresh herbs. Fresh herbs can also be bought in packets in the supermarket, you can chop them up and freeze them and use them bit by bit.
Count on rice
Renee from the Veeg blog loves to build dishes with rice: “If there is one item that I truly depend, it has to be rice. As long as there’s rice in the pantry, the meal possibilities are endless! Take this one-pot wonder, for example. To your beautiful rice, you add canned tomatoes and dry lentils (which are also dependable pantry staples) to create a delicious and nutritious homemade dinner.” Here is her recipe for an enchilada rice that you can make in just one pot:
Frozen veggies save the day
Sarah from Bad to the Bowl reminds us that there is life beyond fresh produce: “When you combine pantry staples with frozen vegetables, your pantry meal can still have that fresh taste, even if you have not been to the grocery for weeks! Simmering the veggies in sauce will infuse them with more flavor.”
A simple extra step can make a big difference
Kelly from Seitan Beats Your Meat reminds us that sometimes putting in a little more effort can bring big taste rewards: “Finding different ways to prepare common ingredients (such as toasting your grains before cooking or pickling vegetables) is a great way to add new flavors and variety to your meals when your options are limited.” The recipe she shared here, a Mediterranean quinoa salad, is completely open to ingredient substitutions.