The Coronavirus pandemic has brought a lot of questions up around how much food we should be stocking up on. As a vegan, most of my calorie intake comes from fresh fruits and veggies, so it can be challenging to ration my intake so that I don't have to go to the store as often. Instead, I've been keeping a watchful eye on what meals I can make with the ingredients I have. Here are some of the most essential pantry staples I have, and how I can can make healthy meals with them- without compromising taste!  

Nutritional Yeast (aka "nooch")

Nutritional yeast is a type of inactive yeast made with sugarcane and beet molasses. You can purchase it in either powder or flake form at most major grocery stores. 

Nooch is a solid source of B12 vitamins, which are not found in other plant-based foods. It's also full of proteins and immune-boosting compounds that help improve digestion and help your body function.

I personally love the flavor of nutritional yeast. It has cheesy undertones and is a key ingredient in many vegan mac & cheese recipes. You might also find it in cashew cream sauces, tofu scrambles, and might even sprinkle it on oven-roasted potatoes for a yummy, high-protein kick. I personally really enjoy it in homemade hummus too!  

Liquid Aminos 

Why didn't I know about liquid aminos before I went vegan? Its flavor is similar to that of highly-concentrated soy sauce, but without the overpowering saltiness. I use liquid aminos in almost every stir fry I make, especially when broccoli and mushrooms are involved. Just make sure to add aminos gradually to your dish; a little bit goes a long way! 

Raw Cashews 

Nuts are a really good source of healthy fats, protein, and calories for vegans. If you're just planning on eating them by the palmful, try for the roasted varieties. But if you're cooking, raw nuts are the way to go. While many stores may offer raw nuts in their bulk department, you might have to shop around until you can find some. 

You'll notice that a lot of vegan pasta dishes include cashew cream sauce. Many of these recipes require you to soak the raw cashews in boiling water a couple hours before you start cooking; the process breaks them down and makes them easier to blend. But if you're like me and forget to read the recipe in its entirety before you start cooking, you might forget to set the cashews out before you start (whoops)! 

Cashews are a good thickener in soups and sauces. While coconut milk carries a weird (and occasionally off-putting) undertone, cashew cream is a little more nuanced. 


If you're a vegan, you have to love hummus. It's a fact. Just kidding! 

This legume is high in fiber, fat, and protein, making it a great supplement for any vegan diet. It's a key ingredient in one of my favorite foods, hummus, but can also be found in many Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern soups and salads. I love sprinkling chickpeas on salads or making my own vegan cookie dough with chickpeas, almond butter, chocolate chips, and vanilla! 

You can purchase chickpeas dried by-the-bag or canned. Pro-Tip: If you're making hummus, boil your chickpeas for seven or so minutes beforehand; it will make them softer when you blend them! 

vegetable, cereal, legume, meat, pea, chickpeas, garbanzo, corn
Christin Urso


It's been touted for years as a superfood, and I must admit, quinoa is a great grain (but not my favorite- that award goes to farro). It's very versatile, protein-rich, and can be used as an ingredient in many different recipes. 

One of my favorite ways to use quinoa is in burrito bowls. Simply boil a 1/4 cup of quinoa with some water or veggie stock (1:2 quinoa-to-water/stock ratio). Then, build your bowl with quinoa, black beans, corn, salsa, guacamole, greens, or whatever your heart desires!

Nut Butters

Peanut butter is one of my all-time favorite foods! It's filling and full of healthy proteins & fats. I start almost every morning with peanut butter powder and banana on a rice cake. If I want a sweet and savory snack, I might add some peanut butter to apple or carrot slices. Or if I'm feeling ambitious, I might just take a scoop right out of the jar and eat it off the spoon! 

If peanuts aren't your jam (haha), you might want to try almond, cashew, or sunflower butter! Almond butter is higher in fat and lower in protein than peanut butter, but it has a rich smokey flavor that is oh-so-delicious. I use almond butter in a lot of baked goods because it has a smoother and more nuanced flavor than peanut butter. Cashew butter is a lot more fatty, but still a viable option if you're craving something smooth and rich. If you have a nut allergy, sunflower seed butter might be an option! 

cream, sweet, milk, jam, caramel, chocolate, honey, peanut butter
Maggie Gorman

Flax Seed 

Omega 3 fatty acids are a critical part of a healthy diet. Unlike their dubious cousin, the Omega 6s found in highly-processed, hydrogenated oils, Omega 3s give us energy and promote healthy brain functioning. You can find Omega 3s in chia, hemp seeds, and flax! 

Flax seeds are good to sprinkle on toast or oatmeal to increase the fat content of your breakfast. They can also be ground up and used as an egg-replacer in baked goods.