It can be positively daunting: The first time you see a recipe that calls for “Bragg Liquid Aminos” or “agar-agar powder,” your first inclination might be to pass on the recipe in favor of one with ingredients you’ve actually heard of (or at least know where to find in the grocery store). This is part of what makes plant-based cooking frightening for the novice — but it need not be!

First, know this: Not all plant-based recipes require unfamiliar or particularly unusual ingredients (in fact, I’d say most of them don’t).
Second, do this: Replace the word “stranger” in the famous quote, and let this quote be your mantra: “A strange ingredient is just a friend I haven’t met yet.”
Third, remember this: There is a delicious substitute or alternative for nearly every non-plant-based item out there, you just need to know what it is so you can pick it up (or order it online if stores/farmers’ markets near you don’t carry it).
Fourth, keep this in mind: You can go plant-based in whatever way is right for you. That could mean restocking everything in your kitchen all at once, or slowly phasing out a food you have and replacing it the next time you shop with a plant-based alternative.

Here you will find a list of some of the items I recommend keeping in your pantry and fridge so that cooking and baking are a breeze.
Don’t panic — you probably have lots of these things already, most can be found in your grocery store or ordered online, and they are merely suggestions!

veggiesOrganic Fruits and Vegetables
Here it is: the one list of food you can eat all day, every day.
Tip 1: Wash fruits and veggies as soon as you bring them home so they’re ready to go when you’re ready to eat.
Tip 2: Keep frozen mixed berries, peaches, and/or blueberries in the freezer — buy packages, or freeze fresh ones yourself.

Herbs, Spices, and Natural Extracts
Herbs come from the leafy, green part of a plant; spices come from the other parts, such as roots, stems, or seeds. Sometimes you need fresh, other times dry. There’s no list in this category 1) because there are simply too many to count, 2) because you probably already have your favorites (and the most commonly used ones) anyway, and 3) because you can always add to your collection if a recipe calls for something you don’t have.

Dried Fruit
Great for adding an accent to a spicy or savory dish. Also nice to use in granola or with a handful of your own homemade trail mix as a small snack:
• raisins
• dried cranberries
• dried cherries
• dried apricots

Lavendar, nuts, seedsRaw Nuts and Seeds

Both are nutritious — to a point: Nuts and seeds have natural oils, but excessive oil can be detrimental to your health. I use them for cooking and baking, as a small snack, or in a smoothie. I always have the following on hand, plus others I buy as needed:
• raw cashews
• raw pecans
• walnuts
• raw almonds (whole and slivered)
• pumpkin seeds
• whole golden flaxseeds (vs. dark flaxseeds, which can darken baked goods)
• pine nuts
• sunflower seeds
• raw hazelnuts
• macadamia nuts

milkNut/Plant Milks 
Did you know you can replace cow’s milk with a plant-based milk in almost all recipes? And that the recipe for homemade buttermilk is the same for plant-based buttermilk (see list below)? Did you know that with a high-speed blender, it’s a cinch to make nut or seed milk yourself? Here’s a video from My New Roots that shows you how to do it, or you can purchase these milks at the grocery store (but read the label and go for the most natural ones):
• almond milk
• hemp milk
• rice milk
• hazelnut milk
• coconut milk
• homemade plant-based buttermilk (place 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass measuring cup; add plain almond milk up to the 1-cup mark; stir and let rest for 10 minutes)

Nut Butters
Conventional peanut butters often contain a load of sugar, salt, hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, and other additives. Natural peanut butters should only contain peanuts (and possibly salt). Remember that all nut butters are high in fat, so use wisely — and try other types of nut/seed butters, too:
• peanut butter (unsalted)
• almond butter
• sunflower seed butter

Beans, Lentils, and Other Canned Goods
I grew up with a mom who grew up on a farm, so there was no such thing as supermarket canned vegetables in our house (she canned, pickled, and preserved everything herself when it was in season, and we ate it all through the year). I do, however, often rely today on the convenience of canned beans, but by all means, buy dried beans and soak them yourself if you’re so inclined (I do it when I have time)! I always have the following canned goods:
• black beans
• refried beans
• chickpeas
• dark red kidney beans
• cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
• dry lentils
• hearts of palm
• diced tomatoes
• San Marzano tomatoes (What’s the deal with these?)
• pureed pumpkin
• coconut cream and/or full-fat coconut milk 

Pickled and Other Preserved Veggies
These add great accents to sandwiches, salads, and pastas:
• dill pickles
• olives
• capers
• sun-dried tomatoes
• pickled beets

Rice, Grains, Flours, and Thickening Starches
Whole grains can make delicious side dishes and entrees, but remember that a balanced diet is critical (read: don’t eat spaghetti for dinner every night). Here’s what I tend to have in my pantry all the time:
• basmati rice
• brown rice
• quinoa
• farro (a type of hulled wheat)
• bulgar (made from dried, cracked wheat)
• oats
• white whole-wheat flour (nutritionally the same as whole-wheat flour but lighter in color)
• all-purpose flour 
• non-GMO organic yellow cornmeal
• pasta (check the label; most are naturally plant-based but some contain egg)
• cornstarch
• agar-agar powder (a gelatin substitute) or kosher gelatin (because regular gelatin is made from boiling together animal bones, skin, hooves, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments)
• arrowroot powder (made from grinding the roots of a tropical vine; it’s a thickening agent)

Homemade KetchupCondiments, Sauces, Vinegars, Powders, and Fridge Staples
These are the products that you’ll wish you had every time you go for a plant-based recipe, so I recommend keeping them around:
• Himalayan black salt (also known as kala namak, sulemani namak, and kala loon) — a must-have in the kitchen if you want to make tofu scrambles and egg salad that are nearly indistinguishable from actual eggs
• distilled white vinegar
• white wine vinegar
• balsamic vinegar
• apple cider vinegar
• cooking wine
• vegetable broth

• vegan Worcestershire sauce, such as Annie’s (non-vegan versions contain anchovies)
• soy sauce (and/or tamari, a gluten-free, healthier version of soy sauce)
• Bragg Liquid Aminos (healthier than soy sauce or tamari; it’s a non-GMO Project Verified liquid protein concentrate derived from soybeans; easy to find in grocery stores)
• Dijon mustard
• unsweetened applesauce (also easy to make yourself — apples + water + food processor or high-speed blender!)
• artisanal or gourmet ketchup (check out my recipe for a homemade version)
• organic barbecue sauce
• organic hot sauce
• plant-based mayo (my favorite is Just Mayo from Hampton Creek)
• miso (a high-protein fermented food paste consisting primarily of soybeans, salt, and usually grain)
• tofu (both extra-firm and silken)
• baking powder
• baking soda
• Red Star nutritional yeast (Red Star brand because it doesn’t contain whey (which comes from milk) and it’s fortified with Vitamin B12; nutritional yeast is packed with protein, B vitamins, and folic acid; it has a cheesy / savory / nutty flavor, and it’s used to make the next item, among other fantastic recipes)
• cashew-Parmesan cheese (must have a batch of this one on-hand at all times — it takes only a minute to put together!)

Despite the ever-changing media messages about which oil is good for you, the bottom line is, none of them contain a single vitamin or mineral (that includes the highly praised coconut oil). But did you know you can just as easily saute veggies in water instead of oil? Did you know you can use applesauce to replace oil in many baked goods? Make little adjustment where you can, and use these as you feel comfortable:
• extra virgin olive oil
• coconut oil
• grapeseed oil
• toasted sesame oil
• canola oil
• Earth Balance spread (see Dairy Alternatives section)

Egg Substitutes for Baking
Many people find it shocking to learn how much baking can be done without eggs. Depending on the nature of the recipe, you may not even need to replace an egg at all. When you do, choose the one that makes the most sense for the recipe (for example, I wouldn’t choose peanut butter if I were making cornbread). Here are my favorites (each equals 1 egg):
• the flax egg (the one I use most; 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed + 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons of water; stir it up, wait a minute, and it will become creamy and egg-like)
• the chia egg (1 tablespoon of chia seeds + 1/3 cup water; mix and let sit for about 15 minutes)
• agar-agar powder + 1 tablespoon of water
• half of a mashed banana
• 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce
• 1/4 cup blended silken tofu
• 3 tablespoons of peanut butter

Sugar, in almost any form, is not considered nutritious. One exception is date sugar, which offers some nutrition (since it’s just pulverized dates), however it’s not interchangeable with white sugar in most recipes. Molasses comes in second place for health benefits. The rest of the lot? Nada.
This is noteworthy: Typical granulated table sugar, although derived from sugarcane (a plant), is not acceptable for consumption by many vegans. This is because the juice from the sugarcane is heated to crystalize, and then filtered and bleached with animal (typically cow) bone char. The sugar does not actually contain bone char particles, but it does come into contact with them. The same holds true for for brown sugar (which is often just refined white sugar with molasses added) and powdered (confectioners) sugar (which is simply white sugar milled into a powered state). If you want to avoid this, only purchase sugar that is certified vegan. My favorite company (and the one most commonly found in grocery stores) is Florida Crystals®. Whole Foods Market carries vegan versions, too. I keep the following sweeteners on hand:
• Medjool dates (whole)
• bananas
• molasses
• pure maple syrup
• Florida Crystals® Organic Cane Sugar
• Florida Crystals® Organic Brown Sugar
• Florida Crystals® Organic Powdered Sugar

Chocolate comes from cacao beans, which are grown on cacao trees, so, surprise — it’s naturally plant-based! The trouble happens when cow’s milk is added (read: milk chocolate). But don’t despair: Lots of chocolate — especially dark chocolates — have no added animal byproducts, and you can also purchase chocolate made with non-dairy milk. Tip: Take a quick glance on the label where it states allergen information. If you see “milk,” “casein” (milk protein), or “whey” (the watery part of milk) the chocolate is not plant-based. Chocolate comes in different forms (from chips to bars to powders — but you knew that). Here’s what I keep on hand:
• Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips (or other vegan chocolate chips)
• raw cacao powder (notice the spelling? it’s raw, so it’s not  to be confused with the next item)
• unsweetened cocoa powder (here’s a great article on the difference between cacao and cocoa)
• Dutch-process cocoa (cocoa powder that’s acidity has been neutralized; here’s a helpful article on the difference between Dutch-process and regular unsweetened cocoa powder — they are not interchangeable in baking without some adjusting in the recipe!)
• raw cacao nibs (chocolate in its purest form; nibs are dried and fermented bits of cacao beans)

Store-Bought Dairy Alternatives
A huge percentage of products in the supermarket contain dairy — and it’s in foods you’d least expect. A good example? Certain lactose-free so-called “veggie” cheeses (go figure). Reading the label for the word “milk” is not enough to find hidden dairy, either. If the product you’re looking at contains “casein” (milk protein) or “whey” (the watery part of milk), it is not plant-based. Tip: Take a quick glance on the label where it states allergen information, and you may see it faster. Here are a list of the dairy alternatives I use (click on the link to see the company’s products). Keep in mind that these are processed — not whole — foods:
• Earth Balance Soy-Free Spread (butter replacement; recommendation: avoid the omega-3 version — some folks (including yours truly) have noticed a fishy taste, probably because the omega-3 is derived from seaweed)
• Earth Balance Shortening (for baking)
OM Sweet Home (incredibly creamy and delicious non-dairy butter, among other products)
Kite Hill (non-dairy cream cheese, ricotta cheese, yogurt, and much more)
• So Delicious Dairy Free (coconut coffee creamer, ice cream, and more)
Three Little Birds (if you’re in NY, this ice cream is a must-try; it’s made with cashew milk and is unbelievably delicious!)
• DF Mavens (ice cream)
Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss (ice cream)
• Field Roast Chao Slices (non-dairy cheese)
• Follow Your Heart (cheese substitutes and vegan sour cream)

Meat Alternatives
Disclaimer: This category is fairly contested by plant-based eaters. Some people are repulsed at the thought of eating anything that mimics animal flesh, or don’t want to eat something that’s not closer to a whole food, so they abstain entirely from meat substitutes. On the other hand, some people are excited about the prospect of enjoying the textures and flavors of meat on occasion without the negative health consequences, the participation in the suffering of animals, or the degradation of the planet. This is your call.
Noteworthy: The food industry is getting really good at these products. And the products are getting easier to find in grocery stores as existing food companies and new startups race to meet demand.
How nutritious are these faux meats? That’s up for debate, but check the labels. Some, you’ll see, are loaded with additives and preservatives, while others contain more whole plant-based material. Also note that just because it’s a faux meat does not mean it’s 100% plant-based (some contain eggs, milk, whey, or casein — a milk protein), so check the label. I use them from time time — you’ll see them in some recipes on this site — but not on a regular basis. Here are the ones I recommend checking out, if you’re into it. Click on the link to see the company’s products:
• Beyond Meat
• Field Roast
• Gardein
• Lightlife