7 Essential Foods For Creating Vegan Meals

Written by Lisa Consiglio Ryan
7 Essential Foods For Creating Vegan Meals

Whether you're just dabbling in veganism or you want to upgrade to a clean food kitchen, I'm sharing the seven foods you MUST have in your pantry or fridge to make cooking easier and more nutritious.

Many of these ingredients are common in my recipes and daily life. Plus, once you have these goodies in your pantry, most last a long time, so you'll always have them on hand.

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. There are many foods like fruits and veggies (hello, avocado!) that are crucial in a vegan kitchen.

Enjoy adding these ingredients to your meals, and you’ll soon find that you won’t be able to live without them:

1. Fresh dark leafy greens

This is a given. For a plant-based diet, well, you need to eat plants. Spinach is a basic and kale is sexy, but experiment with other greens to get your fill of these nutrient-dense plants (try collards or Swiss chard for something new).

You’ll get a boost of chlorophyll, a phytonutrient that feeds your blood cells energy to keep illness at bay and your body working properly.

Use in: salads, soups, smoothies, juices, and even desserts (yes!).

7 Essential Foods For Creating Vegan Meals


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2. Coconut oil

Extra-virgin olive oil, almond oil, and macadamia nut oils are amazing choices for the vegan pantry. But coconut oil is the must-have because you can bake with it and even use it as a beauty product.

Go for the cold-pressed extra-virgin coconut oil to get all the enzymes intact.

Use in: baked goods, veggie stir-frys, and to repair split ends.

7 Essential Foods For Creating Vegan Meals

Coconut Oil

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3. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is gold. I haven’t gotten sick in years (knock on wood), which I think is due to downing a tablespoon each day.

Not only does apple cider vinegar boost immunity, this raw, fermented vinegar is great for your skin, digestive system, and keeps you looking younger longer.

Use in: salads, soups, and shots or drinks.

7 Essential Foods For Creating Vegan Meals

Apple Cider Vinegar

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4. Raw nuts and seeds

Raw nuts and seeds are protein-packed and jazz up any meal. I always toast them for a pop of flavor.

Pepita seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, whole flax seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds (my favorite!), and macadamia nuts.

Use in: Toast and toss on salads and in soups, add to smoothies, or eat straight up as a snack.

7 Essential Foods For Creating Vegan Meals


Photo by Stocksy


5. Nutritional yeast

This “cheesy”-tasting protein is a must for any vegan. Don’t let the “yeast” word throw you off — it’s not the same as brewer’s yeast and doesn’t promote candida.

Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B12, necessary for vegans. It’s low in fat, gluten-free, and packed with folic acid, zinc, and selenium. It comes in powder and flake form and can be found in any natural food store. I sprinkle the flakes on anything and everything I make.

Use in: bean tacos and burritos, and as a topping for popcorn and soups.

7 Essential Foods For Creating Vegan Meals

Nutritional Yeast

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6. Dried and canned beans and legumes

For a great source of protein and fiber, not to mention the easy and quick factors, have a stash of beans and lentils at your fingertips.

Chickpeas; red, green, and black lentils; black beans; adzuki beans; and black-eyed peas are great starts. The oligosaccharide, a particular sugar in beans, can cause bloating, so try soaking and cooking beans with a piece of kombu to aid digestion and prevent gas.

Use in: soups, chili, salads, and hummus.

7 Essential Foods For Creating Vegan Meals

Legumes and Beans

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7. Almond butter

Almond butter is more expensive than peanut butter but it’s worth it. Almonds are extremely high in vitamin E, which is great for the skin.

Be sure to compare brands, as some can cost up to $15 a jar. Trader Joe's has reasonably priced options, but you can find almond butter at any natural food store.

Use in: dips, smoothies, muffins, sandwiches, snacks, and desserts.

7 Essential Foods For Creating Vegan Meals

Almond Butter

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Recipe: Power Balls

Makes 35–40 balls


  • 2 cups raw almond butter (you can substitute any raw nut butter)
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 4 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flakes OR 2 tablespoons sesame seeds


1. In a large bowl, mix almond butter and honey together.

2. In a blender or food processor, blend oats until powdered. Add oats to almond butter mixture. The consistency should be sticky (if too thick, add a little more honey).

3. With your hands, make 2-inch-wide balls and roll in flakes or seeds. Place balls on wax paper on cookie sheets. Store in fridge for 3 hours before eating.

Note: You can roll the balls in cacao nibs, pumpkin seeds, etc. Go wild! Store balls in freezer for endless access to these protein bites.

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