Top 5 Must-Have Pantry Items for a Plant-Based Diet

Whether you’re newly transitioning to a plant-based diet or you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ll notice over time that there are some certain ingredients or recipe components that will help to have on hand all the time. This is especially evident when you start exploring the recipes on KevCooksPlants, as you’ll notice I do my best to keep things simple and reduce the number of ingredients you’ll buy for one recipe and never use again. I can’t stand that!

So here’s a list I put together to help guide all you plant-based diet home chefs and help you shorten your dinner prep time by having these pantry or fridge staples on-hand. I’d love to hear what your top items are, so let me know in the comments, and let’s share ideas!

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Kid-Friendly Grilled Vegetables in Foil Packets

VEGAN | PLANT-BASED | WFPB | GRILL IDEAS

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I know, I know… it’s summertime grilling season, and options for vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based meals always feel limited. Seriously, how many veggie burgers can we eat?!? Well here’s a cool twist on grilled veggies, and the great part about it is you can get the kids involved in choosing what they eat for dinner — grilled vegetables in foil packets, customized for each person!

Just grab some foil, cut up your favorite grilling veggies, and create these easily customized grill packets. No more picking out the vegetables your kids refuse to eat or fighting over food left on their plates. Everyone chooses which veggies they want and adds what spice blend they want, and everyone is happy. The kids take ownership and feel in control of what they’re having for dinner, and in the end — they’re still eating veggies, so everyone wins. And it’s really fun!

Want to spruce this up a bit? Serve it alongside my oil-free WFPB garlic bread!

My favorite vegetables to add to my grill packets are:

  • Corn on the cob (cut into thirds)
  • Potato wedges
  • Peppers
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Baby bella mushrooms (whole)

Try it with all of your favorites! And if you’re stumped on what seasonings to add, try this out — we thought it was great!

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Oil-Free Italian Tomato Salad (WFPB)

VEGAN | PLANT-BASED | WFPB | OIL-FREE

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Truly one of the best summertime meals EVER. The freshness, the flavors, the refreshing tastes… and oh yeah, the garlic! I used to love Italian tomato salad before going plant-based and oil-free, and now I don’t have to give it up. This WFPB version of Italian tomato salad is just as flavorful and satisfying as its olive oil-covered cousin, but so much healthier!

Make sure you make this ahead of time so it can chill for a few hours or so and the delicious flavors can come out, as well as the extra juices (the best part). Dip your favorite whole grain crusty bread into this oil-free Italian tomato salad and soak it up! I love this so much that I make it the main course, but it’s great as a side dish too.

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Vegan Instant Pot Red Potato Salad

VEGAN | PLANT-BASED | WFPB | OIL-FREE

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When we’re talking about side dishes to bring to a barbecue or party, one of the most popular selections has got to be potato salad. Even better, why not go for a more flavorful and creamier Instant Pot red potato salad?!?

But as we know from our previous non-plant-based lives, potato salad is routinely loaded with fatty, calorie-packed mayonnaise! So let’s do something about that…

This WFPB version of the crowd-pleasing favorite uses my oil-free vegan mayo and includes creamy, tasty red potatoes, dill, fresh parsley, and celery (including the leaves)! I have to say I was completely shocked that my kids gave this one a thumbs-up, because they’re usually not fans of white potatoes unless they’re deep fried and covered with ketchup!

Note: You don’t necessarily have to use the Instant Pot to make this — just cook the potatoes how you normally would before putting everything together.

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Instant Pot Quick and Cheesy Vegan Enchilada Soup

VEGAN | PLANT-BASED | WFPB | OIL-FREE

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Quick and cheesy indeed! The kids loved this vegan enchilada soup and it was so easy to put together. It’s a great departure from your typical “Taco Tuesday” repertoire. Call this vegan taco soup or enchilada soup, or whatever you think it is, but all I know is that it got scarfed up pretty quickly in my house!

This vegan enchilada soup takes advantage of, dare I say, the versatility of my Creamy Versatile Instant Pot Cheese Sauce. I’m not normally a big soup guy, but this one is definitely on the list to make often. It’s also a dish you can easily swap out ingredients for if you prefer a different type of bean, want to add meatless crumbles, or even a splash of hot sauce.

Put this one on your menu for the next Taco Tuesday!

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Oil-Free Vegan Thai Peanut Sauce

VEGAN | PLANT-BASED | WFPB | OIL-FREE

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As you probably already figured out, I love Thai food. The variations in flavors — from sweet to savory to spicy, and sometimes all three together — and fresh, colorful veggies keep me coming back for more. This oil-free vegan peanut sauce recipe definitely qualifies. I’ve found you can take almost any Thai dish and convert it to a vegan or WFPB recipe. One of my favorites to order in a Thai restaurant is vegetables with peanut sauce. Add some red pepper flakes to this sweet-savory dish and I’m all over it!

So of course I decided to make an oil-free vegan version of this awesomesauce and send it your way! This one is always a hit at home, especially with the kids, who probably think I’m just melting peanut butter on their veggies… but hey, they’re eating their veggies! This oil-free vegan Thai peanut sauce has so many different uses. Let me know in the comments how you used it!

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Instant Pot Vegan Jambalaya

Normally, I try to shy away from spicier dishes (even though I love them) because my wife and kids aren’t usually into it. But this time I wanted to try something new, and I had a plan for those who might find this Instant Pot Vegan Jambalaya a bit too spicy.

First, and most importantly, I picked a cajun spice blend that was on the mild side. There are lots of blends out there, and it’s helpful to read the ingredients. Some are heavy on the cayenne, while others rely on chili powder, black pepper, or other spices to add the heat. Some will even specify “mild” or “hot.” Depending on whether or not you want to actually taste your food, choose wisely! I chose a blend that didn’t have any cayenne in it.

Second, I tried to choose a vegan sausage that didn’t have flames all over the package! If you’re like me and need to limit the spice, look for a mild version. But if you want variation and control (and have a few extra bucks), grab a package each of mild and hot so each person can decide how spicy their dinner is. We’ll be cooking the sausage separately from the jambalaya, so variation will be a snap! Note: For WFPB, omit the sausage altogether unless you find one that doesn’t have oil in it (and isn’t disgusting).

Finally, after cooking this dish in the Instant Pot, top with sausage of choice (or none at all) and slap a dollop of plain, unsweetened plant-based yogurt on top. This really helps cool down the spiciness for those who aren’t digging it and it tastes amazing!

Ok, let’s do this!

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Why Does Everything on the WFPB Diet Taste The Same? F— This, I’m Quitting!

This is a question I hear a lot from people who are new to the whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet. To be honest, I encountered the same thing — many recipes seem to have similar ingredients or similar spices. If you’re finding that to be true, then it may just be that your plant-based recipe collection is in need of improvement.

Like I mentioned, I went through the same thing when I transitioned to plant-based. And when I hear other people having the same complaint, I find that they’re probably stuck at number four in what I call the “plant-based conversion process.”

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Instant Pot WFPB Vegan No-Butter “Chicken”

I’m no expert when it comes to Indian food. In fact, if I go to an Indian restaurant, I don’t have much of a clue what I’m ordering unless I’m dining with a seasoned pro who can help me out. What I can tell you though, is this oil-free vegan version of Butter Chicken (a very popular Indian dish) is incredible… and sooo easy! It’s soy curls, chickpeas, and a cashew-tomato sauce with Indian spices. No butter, no chicken, but no lack of flavor!

Not only did I love it, but the whole family did too. And that’s hard to do when we’re talking about kids who judge food based on how closely it resembles pizza.

Note: This version isn’t very spicy, but if you’re looking to spice it up, add in some cayenne in place of the chili powder.

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General Kev’s Sesame Cauliflower

Quick story here. I recently moved from an electric wok to a the stovetop variety for its ease of use and easier cleaning, as well as the ability to control the temperature better. I bought a copper-coated one and I love it! I can’t believe how nonstick it is. I know I’m so late to the game on this, but I have a pretty expensive All-Clad set that I normally use, so incorporating a $20 pan into my collection just seemed wrong. But I’m so glad I did, especially for a sticky dish like this. The cleanup was such a breeze. I’d recommend you use something similar for this!

I know, I know. You’re here for the recipe. Ok, here it is.

Two of the most popular dishes in Chinese takeout are General Tso’s Chicken and Sesame Chicken. They’re very close to the same thing, with the General’s version usually being a bit spicier and the Sesame variety being sweeter — at least that’s my experience.

So I thought I’d make a plant-based version, marrying the two dishes and leaving the spice level optional, allowing it to be chosen by each person at the table. Here’s how I did it.

Note: This dish is not for the carb or sugar conscious! Proceed with caution!

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