Veganuary: 10 Vegan & Low Waste Ingredients to Always Have on Hand

baked beans in pot with a spoon.

It’s always so much fun to share tips and ideas with others who are trying to follow – and enjoy – a vegan diet. Here are my top ten items that I always have in my kitchen!

I originally wrote this article for Borough 22 back in April 2019 and it's a great list for any one starting out on a vegan diet. I've tweaked it slightly since with some brand recommendations. All my choices are low waste too!

Borough 22 make the yummiest vegan and gluten free doughnuts that can be delivered to your door!

1. Nut butter

Needing no introduction, I live on this stuff. I put it on toast, a spoonful on porridge, in a smoothie or you can make a sweet sauce by heating up and adding either plant milk, coconut oil or maple syrup. It’s also great for homemade savoury sauces (see 3 below). I only buy nut butter from 100% nuts meaning there’s no palm oil or added sugars and you can generally find it in a glass jar (Pic's is my fave, available in Tesco), or a 1kg tub of Meridian (available in most supermarkets and health shops).

2. Chickpeas

Another super versatile essential. You can buy dried and soak overnight (see if you have a bulk store near you to buy zero waste). I always forget to soak them in advance so I buy them tinned. Not only can you add chickpeas into curries, stews and chilli, you can use them to make homemade plastic free hummus or dip (try blending a can of uncooked chickpeas with an avocado for a super quick dip) or a quick snack of dry roasted chickpeas. The Chickpea water can also be saved to make vegan meringues or chocolate mousse (see Bosh TV recipe).

3. Soy/Tamari sauce

My go-to sauce for adding flavour to a savoury dish. I mix with garlic, ginger, toasted sesame oil and sweet chilli for a basic stir-fry sauce (taste test to find the ratio you like!). I also use a dash for stews, chilli and its great for coating tofu and baking in the oven.

4. Tofu

It wouldn’t be a vegan list without mentioning tofu. In the supermarket you can generally find either silken tofu (which is better for sauces and desserts) or firm tofu. Firm tofu is really versatile however if you’re new to tofu it can take a while to become fond of it.

For a beginner, I cut the firm tofu into 1.5cm chunks, coat it cornflour and then fry in the pan with a decent amount of oil. You could also buy or make a marinade to add once the tofu is crispy. My favourite is a sticky sweet and sour sauce.

Another option is marinading the firm tofu overnight for ultimate flavour. I like either soy or a homemade barbecue sauce. Simply cook in the over for 30 minutes. I now love tofu so much that I also sometimes just cut into cubes and eat it raw from the packet.

My ultimate favourite is using tofu for breakfast. Either a scrambled tofu or slicing into 1cm blocks and re-creating an Egg McMuffin (see Bosh TV again!) 

5. Oats

An absolute staple. I buy organic jumbo oats in paper from the supermarket. Use oats to make porridge, your own granola, flapjacks, add to smoothies and energy balls or blend up to a fine almost flour like consistency to make pancakes. I eat them almost every morning. You can also make your own oat milk at home with three simple ingredients (oats, water, salt and optional date).

6. Coconut milk (in a can)

Not only can it be used to make Indian and Thai curries, it’s great for baking too. Refrigerate to make cake frosting or whipped cream or give it a very good shake and add to your smoothies for a milkshake style thickness.

7. Tomatoes

Again not a cupboard essential but if there’s one fresh thing I like to see in the fridge it’s a whole load of tomatoes. You can make so many things from them and add them to so many dishes. Make your own sauce, salsa or pizza base. Whip up a simple salad or add them to stews and curries. I love balsamic roasted vine tomatoes on toast for a simple yet delicious brunch.

8. Nuts

We always have almonds and cashews in the house as they are great for snacking and either topping sweet or savoury dishes. Chopped nuts are great for salads and ground nuts can be used in baking. A hit of good fat and protein. You can even soak cashews overnight to help make the ultimate creamy dairy free sauce.

9. Nutritional Yeast

Something that will be a new ingredient to non-vegans in nutritional yeast. It has added Vitamin B12 which is the only vitamin we cannot reliably get from a plant-based diet. It looks like fish food but you can add it to a creamy pasta or risotto sauce, soup, in scrambled tofu or even a nut roast. It has a cheesy flavour however it can easily be added to a lot of dishes without anyone noticing.

10. Baked Beans

I have to mention the mighty baked beans, shop bought in a tin. Did you know baked beans on wholemeal toast is a complete protein meal? If you’re short of time these are a go to in our household and a must have with a big vegan fry up. You can try making your own smoky baked beans from scratch too!

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