Here are 60+ easy recipes you can make entirely with pantry items, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything in between. All are vegan, and there are many gluten-free, soy-free and nut-free options. Also tips for shopping and tiding over these stressful times with tasty meals.
All of the recipes in this post are filling and delicious. I am not including any recipes that call for fresh veggies (except potatoes, sweet potatoes or cabbage). In the few recipes where a veggie or fresh herb garnish is called for, you can make do with frozen or canned veggies or without, and with a dry herb.
I also have a pantry list for you, but before that, here are some ideas for cooking from your pantry:
- Cook ahead if you can. I don't think this works for everyone, it certainly doesn't for me, because not everyone has the freezer space to stockpile two to three weeks of meals and who has the time to make so many meals at one go? I am working from home, but I still have to put in a full day of work, so setting aside a day, even on the weekend, for cooking is not feasible. But if you're looking to use up fresh veggies before they go bad, you can make a few meals in advance. Most soups, chilis, stews, veggie burgers and pasta recipes will freeze well. You can also make casseroles with fresh veggies and bread or pasta. I have tons of vegan casserole recipes on Holy Cow! and you can find them using the search box in the sidebar. You can search for a recipe with the ingredients you have on hand by simply entering the ingredients: so, for instance, if you're looking to use up eggplant and chickpeas, enter these into the search box for recipe suggestions.
- Sprout: Yes, this might sound odd, but at a time when fresh veggies might not be easy to get, sprouts can be an admirable stand-in, nutrition-wise. All you need is a colander and a bowl, and you can make all the sprouts you want with beans and lentils. Here's a primer on how to sprout.
- Buy some extra frozen vegetables: I am sure you have this covered already. I usually almost have frozen veggies on hand because with an extremely busy life, I can't always cook fresh veggies as soon as I buy them, so if I have a recipe in mind and I can sub with a frozen veggie (think spinach, butternut squash, even okra) I will just buy the frozen version. Frozen veggies are nutritionally great as well because they are packed soon after being picked, which means they preserve more of their nutrients than fresh veggies do.
- Eat some Indian food: I know I have a bias, but a basic Indian meal of dal and rice can be made entirely with pantry items and it never gets boring. A sabzi or a side dish is great with a basic dal like this Spicy Urad Dal and boiled rice, but if you don't have fresh veggies, serve it with an Indian pickle or poppadums, also great pantry items to have on hand. In fact, if you're looking for a wholesome, one-pot meal, nothing beats a khichdi, like this vegan Instant Pot Khichdi with Mung Sprouts (you can make it without the Instant Pot).
- Bake: Most baked goods can be made with pantry items, and whether you're an experienced baker, or someone who's just beginning, now is a great time to get your oven mitts on. Here are some great vegan bread recipes, vegan cookie recipes and vegan cake recipes to get you started.
- Start on sourdough: Begin a sourdough starter. (You can find a gluten-free sourdough starter recipe here). It will reward you with tasty food, healthfulness, and give you moments of pure joy as you see it develop! 😉
- Eat healthy: When there is a threat around, the best thing you can do is keep yourself strong, by exercising, getting out in the fresh air, and eating well. Eating healthy out of the pantry is not at all difficult when you're plant-based or mostly-plant based: you already have all the tools you need, you just have to use them.
Pantry items to buy:
- Beans and lentils: Dry or canned or both (although dry beans are easier to store and takes up less space). Any kind of bean is fine and you can usually sub one kind of bean for another in a recipe.
- Pasta and noodles: Pasta makes an easy meal anytime and most people like it. Noodles and especially ramen noodles are a cheap buy and you can use the ramen in creative dishes like this Ramen in a South Indian Coconut Stew.
- Rice: Rice is nutritious, easy to cook, and you can make so many tasty dishes with it.
- Quinoa: A nutritional powerhouse, which is important when you need to watch out for your health.
- Flour: If you know how to bake bread, or are willing to try, you don't have to worry about stockpiling it in the refrigerator or running to the grocery when you really don't want to. Keep enough whole wheat flour and unbleached all purpose flour--or gluten-free all purpose flour--handy so you can make your own breads if you have to. If you're into healthier bread making, you can also stock up on rye flour. And you can of course use flour to make desserts too, because who said you don't deserve a treat? Here are some great vegan bread recipes to try.
- Canned tomatoes: You can substitute canned tomatoes in almost any recipe that calls for fresh. You can stock any kind you like, diced, whole, pureed or sauced, but I usually find two kinds fulfill most of my cooking needs: canned whole tomatoes (like roma or San Marzano) and pureed tomatoes.
- Spices and herbs: Because you want food to taste good, no matter what. And they stay forever in your pantry. I cook a lot of Indian food, so I probably have more spices in my pantry than the average American cook. You don't need everything, but if you like to cook globally, have some of these on hand: cumin seeds, garam masala and/or curry powder (they are not similar but can be used interchangeably for some dishes), black peppercorns, turmeric and cayenne. For herbs, keep dry basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage handy.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds pack nutrition in tiny packages, making them ideal to have around. You can use them for snacks, grind them up into milks, and add them to your favorite recipes. Cashews, almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are good to have on hand.
- Non dairy milk: Soy milk or almond milk or coconut milk or any milk you use in your cooking and baking.
- Coconut milk: the canned kind, for curries.
- Soy curls or TVP chunks or granules: An easy hit of protein for when you need it.
- Dry mushrooms: Not absolutely necessary, but they are great in soups, stews, casseroles and pastas.
- Oils and condiments: Vinegar, soy sauce or tamari, vegan butter (if you plan to bake), extra virgin olive oil, and a vegetable oil that you can use to stir-fry or saute, like almond oil or avocado oil. And salt, of course.
Freezer and refrigerator items:
- Bread: Whatever kind you like, but perhaps some sliced bread for casseroles, burger buns for veggie burgers and
- Frozen vegetables. Again, don't empty out the grocery store, but buy what you can reasonably store in your refrigerator and use over a couple of weeks. You can buy canned vegetables, but I really don't care for them (other than tomatoes and probably pumpkin). But if it's all you can find, go for it.
- Frozen fruit: Good for smoothies and also for vegan desserts like this vegan cherry pie.
- Tofu and tempeh and vegan meats: These are handy to have on hand to add to salads, soups, stews and casseroles, and they keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
- Condiments: Vegan mayo, ketchup and mustard are great to have on hand. Also keep some good bottled lemon juice on hand in case you can't go to the grocery store. You can use it to add flavor to all sorts of recipes, including this Glazed Lemon Tofu.
- Veggies: Potatoes and sweet potatoes and winter squash all have a longer-than-your-average-veggie lifespan. Cabbage also stands in the refrigerator without spoiling for a couple of weeks, and so do Brussels sprouts and carrots. And don't forget the onions and the garlic.
- Olives and pickles: Great to toss into salads or for sandwiches.
- Vegan cheese: Not absolutely necessary, but nice.
Now here are some recipes you can make almost entirely with pantry and freezer items. Remember, don't be afraid to experiment and substitute. For instance, if you don't have kidney beans but you do have black beans or garbanzos, use those. If a recipe asks for fresh spinach but all you have is frozen, bung it in, no one will know. If a stew calls for a particular veggie like, say, a sweet potato, but you only have carrots, use those instead. You know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention.
Substitute with gluten-free bread when bread is called for to get a GF version.
- Vegan Spinach, Sausage and Cheese Casserole
- Vegan Pancakes (whole wheat)
- Whole Wheat Vegan Waffles (whole wheat)
- Vegan French Toast Casserole
- Vegan Hash Brown Casserole
- Vegan Pumpkin Bread Pudding
- Vegan Chorizo Breakfast Quiche
- Vegan Breakfast Casserole
- Vegan Gluten-Free Sourdough Waffles
- Vegan Gluten-Free Buckwheat Brown Rice Waffles
- Quick Masala Dosa (GF Masala Dosa here, or, if you have more time, try this Brown Rice Dosa)
- Idli GF
Most of these sauces are gluten-free and you can make the others gf by using gluten-free pasta.
- Vegan Marinara GF
- Vegan Pasta Puttanesca GF
- Classic Vegan Lasagna
- Vegan White Pesto GF
- Vegan Manicotti with Spinach and Bean Ricotta
- Vegan Pumpkin Spinach Lasagna
- Vegan Penne alla Vodka
- Instant Pot Spaghetti with Meaty Marinara
- Lentil Marinara GF
- Vegan White Pasta Sauce GF
Vegan Stews and Soups:
- Vegan White Bean Chili GF
- Easy Chana Masala GF
- Creamy Lentils Spiced with Ancho GF
- Creamy, Curried Crockpot Chowder GF
- Easy Brussels Sprouts Stew GF
- Instant Pot Dal Makhani GF
- Garlicky White Bean Soup GF
- Tofu Makhani or Butter Tofu GF
Rice and grain recipes:
- Vegan Dirty Rice GF
- Garlic Fried Rice GF
- Instant Pot Khichdi with Mung Bean Sprouts GF
- Soya Pulao GF
- Turmeric Pilaf with Pistachios GF
- Masala Rice with Beans GF
- Jeera Rice or Cumin Rice GF
- Vegan Quinoa Biryani GF
- Lemon Garlic Rice GF
- Vegan Barbecue Meatballs GF
- Vegan Lentil and Quinoa Steak GF
- Vegan Bean and Oats Burger GF
- Easy Vegan Chick'n Curry with Potatoes
- Instant Pot Vegan Butter "Chicken" GF
- Vegan Swedish Meatballs
- Creamy Polenta with Wild Mushrooms GF
Sides and snacks:
- Vegan Falafel GF
- Vegan Black Eyed Pea Cakes GF
- Vegan Corn Fritters GF
- Aloo Tikki GF
- Baked Samosas with Chickpea Filling
- Vegan Harissa Meatballs GF
- Gigantes (Greek Style Baked Lima Beans) GF
- Lemony Greek Potatoes GF
If you have tomatoes and onions on hand, make this Tomato Onion Masala Sauce and you can make a variety of recipes with it.
If you're looking for a recipe and can't find it, let me know. Stay safe and stay healthy.