The Essential Vegan Kosher Staples List

This blog post is inspired by an Instagram story poll I did last week.  I asked “What vegan kosher staples have you relied on during home quarantine?” Thanks to your answers, I have compiled a list of essential vegan kosher staples to have in the cupboard or pantry. 

Vegan + Kosher cookbook

If this pandemic is inspiring you to eat more plant-based and vegan food, these cookbooks are a good place for you to find some simple and healthy plant-based vegan kosher recipes.

COVID-19 and eating and food shopping changes

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected our lives in ways which are instantly dramatic, and sometimes also mundane. At the beginning of the home quarantine, I wrote this piece for the Jewish Book Council about how the com­mand­ment of Bal Tash­chit, giv­en in Deuteron­o­my 20:19 – 20, speaks to us now. It can be under­stood to mean that our actions should pro­tect the envi­ron­ment, and that waste­ful or destruc­tive behavior are eth­i­cal­ly wrong. 

grains and dry beans

Food Shopping – A Mundane Activity with an BIG Impact

As with everything – our lofty ideas (in this case about protecting our environment) are connected to our most mundane daily choices. During home quarantine, something which seems so basic has been a major tension point for many people: grocery shopping. People have had a hard time getting hold of some basics as items ran out of stock. Some items, such as flour and dried pastas, became more popular and demand outran supply. How might our shopping habits change long term? Will we stock up more or less? Will our store cupboard hit lists be the same, or are there items we no longer think of as necessary? 

Our Food Shopping Behaviors Are Evolving

Our food shopping behaviors have been changed and are evolving, with all of these factors affected:

  • what foods we buy
  • how we buy food (i.e. more online food shopping) 
  • how much food we buy per shopping episode (i.e. buying more in bulk)

Trying to eat healthy and stocking the kitchen shelves (or pantry if you are lucky enough to have one) don’t have to be mutually exclusive ideas. There are plenty of long-life, shelf stable ingredients to include in a healthy, plant-based diet. 

Generosity During This Time

A reminder for all of us about generosity during this time. If we have time to think about food shopping and make choices, we can count ourselves blessed. There are many people who are suffering right now and lack access to food. If you are in a position to share money or time, here is a 50-State Hunger Resource Guide created by Mazon that gives detailed information about essential services, government benefits and food assistance that are available in the USA. FYI, Mazon is a USA advocacy organization inspired by Jewish values and ideals. Mazon works to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel.   If you are looking for a hunger relief NGO working in Israel, Yad Ezra V’Shulamit is a humanitarian organization which helps families overcome poverty. I interviewed founder Rabbi Aryeh Lurie to learn more about his motivation and his work.  

Plant-based Nutrition Basics 

There are plant foods that we should always have on hand(read more about plant-based nutrition here):

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • starchy vegetables
  • roots/tubers
  • intact whole grains
  • legumes (beans, peas and lentils)

Beyond the plant-based basics, we need other foods to brighten the flavor or add texture to our meals. 

The Instagram Poll Pantry Essential List 

During this extraordinary moment of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are at home cooking more and relying on canned staples. With all of these things in my mind, I did a poll on Jewish Food Hero instagram stories last week. The question was “What vegan kosher staples have you used the most while in home quarantine?”

These were the most popular answers:

  • chickpeas
  • canned peeled tomatoes
  • Flours
  • Rice
  • Oats
dried rice and beans

The Essential Vegan Kosher Staples List 

Here is my running essential vegan kosher staples list.  At the end of this blog post, I would appreciate it if you can let me know if I left out any staples that you feel are essential.

Long-Life Grains For Your Pantry

Brown Rice is a daily staple. This short grain brown rice is the most flavorful I have found and is simple to make on the stovetop. Using a rice cooker is a great idea if you eat rice everyday (like my family does).  

If you prefer white rice, try this delicious American style Basmati rice

Whole Oats – stovetop cook oats with water for the most simple and delicious whole food breakfast. You can dress it up with maple syrup, frozen or fresh fruits and sprinkles of nuts. Or just enjoy it plain (my favorite). 

Oats can also be blitzed up into flour for baking. Try these two ideas from our Community Recipes series for inspiration:

  • Kira’s Almond Butter Oatmeal Cookies
  • Suzanne’s Vegan Brownies with a Surprise Ingredient (link coming soon!)

The Canned Legume Winner Is…. 

Chickpeas! On my instagram story, chickpeas were the most popular legume. You can:

  • add them to any salad for an instant protein protein boost
  • use them in this spiced tomato sauce (kids LOVE this dish)
  • turn them into baked falafel
  • blitz them into paste for a delicious oil-free hummus

My favorite canned chickpeas are salt-free organic chickpeas. 

Canned legumes offer ultimate convenience, but dried versions such as these save space and offer a more interesting flavour. 

Something to think about with legumes is mixing it up. If you usually stick to chickpeas, next time you go grocery shopping try another variety. Fill your cart with butter beans, black beans and red and green lentils 

dried grains and beans

Brighten and Enliven Meals with these Essential Vegan Kosher Staples 

Flavor Fixers:

  • Stock: Good quality vegan bouillon powder or cubes are an absolute must. 
  • Spices: here is a essential list of spices for every kitchen.
  • Herbs – fresh is best but not always practical. Dried basics include basil, oregano, bay, thyme and rosemary. However, add lime leaf and lemongrass, and your cupboard will always be ready to make a surprising and fragrant meal from hardly anything. 

Canned Essentials:

  • Coconut Milk:  When you eat plant-based, coconut milk can be used as a sort of butter to add richness in soups, stews and even in this delicious vegan Challah recipe. 
  • Canned Tomatoes are essential in soups, curries, stews and – of course – tomato sauces.  

Jars to the Rescue

  • Tahini: or another nut/seed butter like almond or peanut butter. Add tahini to dressings, try Hayley’s Tahini Cake and use nut butter to make these date balls that taste like raw snickers bars. 
  • Tomato Paste is usually needed alongside canned tomatoes to deepen the taste and thicken the sauce.  
  • Miso Paste: fermented soy bean paste that adds that essential umami taste to dressings and sauces and can be a valuable add into soups and stews.
  • Molasses: a sugar by product with medicinal properties. Its sweetness is longer lasting than more refined sugar, and it has significantly more vitamin and mineral content too. 

Molasses is basically the leftover syrup after the sugarcane or sugar beet syrup has been boiled to extract all the sugar. Blackstrap molasses is the byproduct of the third boiling cycle, so contains the least sugar of all molasses varieties. It also has the most vitamins, minerals, and the darkest most sticky, gloopy texture.

Here are two miso pastes that are kosher, vegan and delicious.

White miso

barley miso that is vegan, kosher and macrobiotic

  • Jarred goodies like sun dried tomatoes, olives, artichokes and capers provide intense punches of flavor in space saving jars. They can be added to simple salads and sandwiches, or stirred through sauces to provide deep and rich flavor. 

Texture Time:

  • Nuts / seeds – these are shelf stable unless you live in a warm climate, in which case keep them in the fridge to stop them spoiling. I like to keep almonds, walnuts, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin. Flaxseed deserves a category of its own: it is a gut soothing, digestion easing ingredient which easily replaces eggs in baking. 
  • Croutons: No need to buy these – you can make them with day old bread. They are great on soups and in salads. Bake them on a low heat for a long time to get a pleasing crunch without drowning them in oil.

Sauce Basics:

  • Dressing ingredients: vinegar(s), mustard, sugar. For a cover-all winning combination, go for apple cider, dijon and palm sugar – but any brown sugar would do. 
  • Chutney – whether homemade or store bought, mango or tomato chutney should be in your kitchen. An immediate livener for the most disappointing sandwich, chutney can be loosed to create an intense dipping sauce for anything crunchy. 
  • Ready made curry paste – fragrant citrus Thai green curry paste, or a deep fiery Indian Madras. Ready-made curry paste means you can have a complexly flavoured meal ready in moments, without any hassle. 
  • Tamarind paste: a popular add in in Indian and Asian food, tamarind paste adds a perfect sweet and sour base flavor to many dishes. I used it in this lentil tomato tamarind stew. Sadly, I cannot find a kosher certified one – this one below looks great and hopefully they will get kosher certification soon.

Dry Goods:

  • Flours: Read this to learn more about flour types. Most people need all-purpose flour that contains 11.7% protein. I like this King Arthur all purpose unbleached flour. 
  • Dried fruits – raisins, apricots, and dates. Add them to oatmeal, combine with oats and seeds to make healthy granola. Dates can also be blended into savoury dishes to give a toffee sweetness

Tell us in the comments: what are your pantry must-haves during the COVID-19 home quarantine?

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