Stocking your kitchen with these meatless staples will make impromptu meals easier.

EatingWell Editors
Updated April 29, 2020
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Pictured Recipe: Vegetarian Taco Salad

While a good shopping list is the key to a quick and painless trip to the grocery store, a well-stocked pantry is the best way to ensure you'll have everything you need to cook once you get home.

Whether you're a vegetarian, flexitarian or you just want to cut down on eating meat, our Healthy Pantry includes many of the ingredients you need to prepare a healthy meal any night of the week without having to resort to processed food.

Oils, Vinegars & Condiments

Oils are used for much more than keeping food from sticking from the pan–olive oil is used in salads and sauces. Likewise, vinegars are used for flavor and to balance and brighten dishes. Other condiments are used to add layers of flavor to dishes or to just give them a kick.

  • Oils: extra-virgin olive, canola
  • Vinegars: balsamic, red-wine, white-wine, rice, cider
  • Asian condiments: reduced-sodium soy sauce, hoisin sauce, vegetarian "oyster" sauce, chile-garlic sauce, toasted sesame oil
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Mustard: Dijon, whole-grain
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise, low-fat

Pictured Recipe: Caramelized Balsamic Onions

Flavorings

Don't underestimate the power of flavorings! When you're cutting out meat from your diet, you may need to lean heavily on flavorings to give your dishes more body. And while fresh herbs from the farmers market are ideal, dried herbs are convenient and sometimes preferred. Salt can be a flavor enhancer if you use it correctly, while items like onions and garlic can serve as flavor bases for meals.

  • Salt: kosher, iodized table
  • Black peppercorns
  • Herbs and spices, assorted dried
  • Onions
  • Garlic, fresh
  • Ginger, fresh
  • Olives: Kalamata, green
  • Capers
  • Lemons, limes, oranges

Dry Goods

Keeping your pantry stocked with dry goods can be very helpful if you want to keep grocery shopping to a minimum. It's also handy to have these things on hand if you want to start a vegetarian meal plan or plant-based diet. On our list are whole grains like brown rice that have a good amount of dietary fiber along with things like dried beans for protein as well as some sweets because everyone needs a treat.

  • Pasta, whole-wheat (assorted shapes)
  • Barley: pearl, quick-cooking
  • Bulgur
  • Couscous, whole-wheat
  • Quinoa
  • Rice: brown, instant brown, wild
  • Dried beans and lentils
  • Flour: whole-wheat, whole-wheat pastry (store opened packages in the refrigerator or freezer), all-purpose
  • Rolled oats
  • Cornmeal
  • Breadcrumbs: plain dry, coarse whole-wheat
  • Crackers, whole-grain
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Bittersweet chocolate
  • Sweeteners: granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, pure maple syrup
  • Tofu, shelf-stable

Nuts, Seeds & Fruits

Fresh fruit is a luxury when you can't get to the grocery store so we put our favorite dried fruit on the list so you have a source of dietary fiber. Nuts and seeds can be a source of protein and most keep well in the pantry for a long time, but not forever. To make those items last a little longer, after you open them, nuts and seeds can be stored the refrigerator or freezer.

  • Nuts: walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pine nuts
  • Natural peanut butter and/or other nut butters
  • Seeds: pepitas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Tahini (sesame paste)
  • Dried fruits: apricots, prunes, cherries, cranberries, dates, figs, raisins

Pictured Recipe: Mediterranean Cabbage Soup

Canned & Bottled Goods

There is no shortage of healthy food that calls for vegetable broth and canned tomatoes and having canned beans around can be a dinner saver when you don't have time to soak dried beans.

  • Broth: vegetable, "no-chicken" and mushroom
  • "Lite" coconut milk
  • Tomatoes, tomato paste
  • Beans: black, cannellini, kidney, pinto, great northern, chickpeas, lentils
  • Wine: red, white or nonalcoholic
  • Madeira
  • Sherry, dry

Refrigerator Items

Dairy is one of the biggest sources of protein for vegetarians in the refrigerator section of the grocery store, but we through in a few other staples to round out our veggie meals.

  • Milk, low-fat or nonfat, and/or soymilk or rice milk
  • Buttermilk or buttermilk powder
  • Yogurt, plain and/or vanilla, low-fat or nonfat
  • Sour cream, reduced-fat or nonfat
  • Parmesan cheese, good-quality
  • Cheddar cheese, sharp
  • Eggs (large) or egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
  • Orange juice
  • Tofu: water-packed, baked and/or seasoned
  • Tortillas: corn, whole-wheat

Pictured Recipe: Piña Colada Nice Cream

Freezer Basics

Frozen fruits and vegetables are great to lean on when you can't them fresh. Having them on hand may mean you can skip a trip or two the store.

  • Fruit: berries, other fruit
  • Vegetables: peas, spinach, broccoli, corn, edamame