I have decided to do another series of tips. I have come across a lot of people who are trying to go vegan, who have visitors who are vegan, or who are just trying to incorporate more vegan meals into their diet. One of the many questions I get is “what kind of things should I have?” These posts are my best attempts to answer those questions. I am going to start basic with grains, beans and legumes. Over the next few posts, I will also get into products like non-dairy alternatives, sweeteners, and condiments. This first post, I am focusing on what I feel is the most important part of a vegan kitchen (other than vegetables, of course!)
When I first went vegan years ago, I had no idea how to cook. I also had no idea how to create a balanced, nutritious meal on my own. That meant that I didn’t know how to cook grains or beans, possibly the simplest of all things to cook. Over the years, I have learned a thing or two about cooking legumes and grains. I have also learned the importance of having those on hand.
First of all, I recommend having a group of at least three grains (or pastas), and legumes on hand at all times. For grains or pastas, I always keep brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and quinoa (which is technically a seed) on hand. Those three go with anything, and are easy to prepare. I can pretty much top any of those grains with veggies and a protein and have a meal. When it comes to legumes, I always keep black beans, chickpeas, and some type of lentil on hand. That offers enough of a variety without over crowding my pantry. I prefer getting dried beans because they are more affordable. I typically soak and cook the whole bag, then portion out the beans into freezer-safe containers. This way, I’m not using as many cans, I can control the salt level, and I am able to have freshly cooked beans anytime. For lentils, they cook so quickly that soaking isn’t necessary, so I just cook them as I need.
It is particularly important to keep quinoa or the combination of beans and rice on hand, since those two things provide all of the amino acids to create a complete protein. If nothing else, I try to get at least one of those in each day to ensure I am getting all of the nutrients I need.
Despite my attempts to keep my pantry at a minimum, being a chef, I find myself acquiring all sorts of grains and legumes. In addition to the list above, I almost always have barley, farro or kamut, amaranth, white rice, polenta, and arborio rice for grains. I use them every once in a while, but they aren’t necessities. When I cook for others, I rarely use barely, kamut, or farro because they aren’t gluten-free. So many people don’t eat gluten anymore, and things like barley, kamut, or farro may seem safe because they’re just grains, but they are actually specific varieties of wheat. For legumes, I also typically keep white beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, and split peas. Once again, I don’t use that often, but they are always nice to have on hand just in case.
This post is to help anyone who needs a little guidance when it comes to putting a basic vegan kitchen together. I have gotten so many questions recently, I figured the easiest way for me to share my tips would be through a series of blog posts. Next week, I will cover baking essentials!