Plant Based Staples: Ingredient List
I’ve received many calls and texts over the years from friends and family wondering if certain foods are considered plant-based or not.
“Are these frozen burritos plant-based?”
“What about this hummus?”
It can be pretty confusing, especially when you start out eating plant-based, also known as ‘Whole Food Plant Based’. Recently, I explained what Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) means, and the differences between WFPB and Vegan. One thing I didn’t provide is a more detailed WFPB ingredient list.
Before I jump into that, just a few reminders from the WFPB post. WFPB means:
- Whole fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
- No animal products such as eggs, milk, meat, cheese
- Minimally processed using mostly plant-based ingredients if it is a snack, meal or condiment
- No oil, for cooking or in snacks, meals or condiments
- No refined sugars if it is a snack, meal or condiment
It’s completely up to you how close to the letter you follow these guidelines.
I definitely eat processed foods sometimes, but I try to eat minimally processed foods. These foods are limited because I know that foods in whole, plant-based form are best for my body. I try to eat WFPB 90% of the time.
It helps to read the labels and start getting to know the ingredients listed in processed foods to determine if you think they are plant based, minimally processed or processed to the point of unhealthy. I googled many ingredients when I started eating plant-based if I didn’t know a word and learned a lot!
These lists are not exhaustive, but are a base to get you started and to help you when you are planning meals and grocery shopping. Build up your ingredients slowly, depending on the types of meals you make.
Keep the low/ non-perishable pantry items stocked regularly, such as rice and canned beans. Then you’ll only have to stock your perishable items, such as fresh fruits and veggies, on a regular basis. Plus, the perishable items will change more often depending on the meal you are making.
Basic Ingredients to Get Started
These ingredients are found in most simple, plant-based recipes and can be used to put together simple and budget-friendly meals.
- Veggies: kale, romaine, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, eggplant, corn (canned or fresh), zucchini, pumpkin, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, onions
- Fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, mangoes, kiwi, lemons, limes, tomatoes, avocadoes
- Legumes: chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, butter beans, red lentils, green lentils, yellow lentils
- Whole Grains/ Rice: brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, rolled oats
- Nuts/ Seeds: cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans
- Condiments: peanut butter, tahini, maple syrup, soy sauce (or tamari), rice vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, mustard, miso paste, nutritional yeast
- Spices: paprika, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, chili powder
- Herbs: basil, cilantro, fresh garlic, fresh ginger
*Cashews, nutritional yeast and a few other items can be expensive depending on where you live in the world. Cashews and nutritional yeast are used for a lot of sauce and dressing recipes, so I included them here. However, there are many recipes without nuts or nutritional yeast you can find if needed
Optional Additional Ingredients
These ingredients are plant-based, but can be expensive and are more supplemental ingredients. They have many nutritional and cooking benefits, however after living in Taiwan for a while, I now know that they aren’t accessible for everyone. Or inexpensive. This list is not exhaustive.
- Chia Seeds: used to make breakfast puddings or in smoothies; used as a substitute for eggs in baking.
- Coconut Milk: used for curries and often found in other plant-based recipes.
- Flaxseeds: can be ground up and added to smoothies and oat breakfast bowls for an extra nutritional punch. They can also be used to replace eggs in a lot of recipes like veggie burgers or baked goods.
- Dates/ Dried Figs: used as a natural sweetener in recipes.
- Tofu: used as a meat replacement or in desserts.
- Tempeh: used as a meat replacement for meals such as tacos, burritos, bolognese.
- Chili Flakes: used to spice up meals.
- Turmeric: with many nutritional benefits, turmeric is added to spice mixes or breakfast bowls. Can be fresh or dried and ground.
- Corn Starch: used to thicken up sauces, for breading foods or in baked goods.
- Veggie Broth: used in soups and sauces.
- Hot Sauce/ Sriracha: used to spice up meals.
- Bread Crumbs: used for breading foods
- Flour: whole wheat, chickpea, etc. Used for many purposes but just remember it is pretty processed.
- Whole Wheat Pasta or Soba Noodles: used in many meals but just remember it can be pretty processed.
- Plant-based milk (almond, soy): used in place of cows milk for baking, over oats, etc.
- Stevia: used as a natural sweetener.
Note: You will find different staples that work for you, depending on the meals you make or recipes you like to use. Find what fits best for you!
Here is a PDF version to help you the next time you go shopping:
Common Meals Made with the Base Ingredients
- Oat Bowls with Fruit
- Green Smoothies
- Chickpea Scrambles
- Veggie Bowls with Miso dressing
- Chickpea Avocado Sandwiches
- Veggie Burger Sandwich with Cashew Cheese
- Vegetable and Potato Curry
- Lentil Pasta Bolognese
- Soba Noodle Salad
If you’re interested in my specific pantry list, which I update on occasion but stays pretty consistent, you can see it in the Veggie Campus Starter Guide.
I hope this helps you the next time you go shopping, or to answer any questions you had. Please let me know in the comments if you have any additional questions I can help with!