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!

  1. Raw Cashews

Easily one of the most used must-have items in my pantry. Raw cashews can be used for so many things, especially to make cashew cream. Cashews, water, and a quick spin in the blender, and you have yourself an amazing ingredient that adds creaminess and depth to a variety of dishes. I use raw cashews in many of my recipes including:

  1. Smoked Paprika

I never used this spice until I switched to a plant-based diet. Since then, I’ve found smoked paprika prevalent in so many recipes to give a subtle, smoky flavor to dishes that might normally get it from meat. And since I really don’t like the overpowering flavor of liquid smoke, I turn to smoked paprika instead. Be careful when buying this, though. The price of smoked paprika, like many spices, can vary dramatically by brand or quantity. Make sure you’re shopping for the best price per ounce. I use smoked paprika in many of my recipes including:

  1. Vegan Parmesan Cheese Topping
vegan Parmesan cheese

Total game changer. This is a must-have for sure. If you’re already buying vegan parmesan cheese from the store, STOP. It’s overpriced and probably full of oil or who-knows-what. This oil-free parmesan cheese topping has so many uses — from pizza and pasta to soups to baked green tomatoes or just about anything else you want to add a bit of extra flavor to. We always have this on hand, and it’s super easy to whip up any time you’re out of it — just 4 ingredients! Here are just a few of the dishes I incorporate my Vegan Parmesan Cheese in:

  1. Plain Unsweetened Almond Milk Yogurt

Plain, unsweetened plant-based yogurt is almost always in my fridge. I’ve tried a lot of different varieties and learned a lot as I did. First of all, if you’re using yogurt as a recipe ingredient, make sure you’re buying plain, unsweetened plant-based yogurt. If you’re not sure, check the ingredients. There should never be any kind of sweetener in it — cane sugar, maple syrup, agave, anything — no sweetener at all. If you’re just eating it as a snack, then get whatever you like, but I’d still warn against sugars. Adding your own fresh fruit to plain unsweetened yogurt is really all the sweetness you need.

But aside from that, I’ve found what you’re using the yogurt for is really important in deciding which plant it comes from. Personally, I like almond milk yogurt for almost all uses, especially recipes, but I do grab a small container of coconut milk yogurt for some toppings, like spicy curry dishes or even burritos and fajitas. I’ve also recently found that plain unsweetened almond milk yogurt is a great base for salad dressings! Check out some of these uses for plant-based yogurts:

  1. Creamy Versatile Instant Pot Cheese Sauce
WFPB nachos

When we first transitioned to a plant-based diet, we tried a lot of cheese substitutes. Cashew-based, tofu-based, bean-based, potato-based — you name it, we probably gave it a shot. But there’s one cheese sauce we’ve found to be by far the most versatile and delicious. Think of this as a nacho or Velveeta-type cheese sauce. We use it for everything, from nachos to soups, to baked potatoes and even risotto. Really, the best thing about this is how easy it all comes together and how healthy it is, unlike the oil-based processed vegan cheese you find in your local stores. Here are some of my favorite ways to use this amazing cheese sauce:

Now that you’re familiar with these 5 basic staples, you’re ready to stay true to this plant-based diet transition and create some amazing meals!

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Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share on KevCooksPlants? Send it to me at and I’ll take a look (and of course credit you when it’s posted).

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