Great Staple Food Items to Have on Hand

Great Staple Whole Foods

Here is a list of staple items I always have on hand – these are all great basics when planning a whole foods, plant-based menu plan:


Chickpeas are an excellent source of protein and easy to incorporate into many different types of dishes. Whether you like chili, soups, hummus, veggie burgers, a falafel or a variety of homemade snacks, the garbanzo bean is an excellent main ingredient. One cup of chickpeas provides 12g of fiber and 15g of protein; plus, you can make a whole batch plain and use them in different ways throughout the week. Just remember that slow soak + slow cook + slow cooling = best chickpeas. Just consider this a trip to the spa for beans, to bring out the best in them. Just like how it works for us. Soak beans over night (in at least 3x the volume of water to beans). Cook at a simmer for 75-90 minutes until tender throughout. Some beans like white beans take up to 150 minutes to cook thoroughly, whereas lentils and smaller legumes can cook in under an hour and do not need an overnight soak. Add salt and allow to cool to room temperature while in the water.


Packed with protein, red, black or white quinoa makes a great (gluten-free) base for many meals, and can be used it as a sub for rice or pasta, combined with fresh veggies, beans, nuts or your favorite sauces for dishes that range from light to hearty. It takes just 15 minutes to cook several cups, so you can plan ahead and have extra on hand in the fridge. You can also toast quinoa in a pan and then grind it into a flour to use as breading or in a treat like Quinoa Cookies.


Like quinoa, buckwheat is actually a seed – a pseudo-grain – which means it’s also gluten-free. Buckwheat has a strong, nutty flavor and makes a great homemade cereal or you can pop it in a jar with some nut milk and cinnamon for an easy overnight raw oatmeal substitute.

Brazil NutsBrazil Nuts

These silky smooth nuts are packed with selenium, a mineral that is important to good health and that many of us tend to not get enough of. The nutrients in these nuts support good thyroid function and immunity, and they blend brilliantly into a no-strain nut milk. Simply combine three parts water to one part Brazil nuts and blend on high for several minutes. This will keep a couple of days in the fridge, so having a stash of nuts on hand means easy homemade (preservative-free, sugar-free) nut milk whenever you’re running low.


Essential to making non-dairy cheeses, desserts (like Raw Carrot Cake) and sauces, cashews keep well for extended periods in the pantry. When you’re ready to use them, soak them in hot water for at least 30 minutes, rinse, and blend. Combine with salt and nutritional yeast for a soft cheese; with dates and maple syrup for a cakey filling, or with miso, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and mint for a smooth and creamy Mediterranean-inspired sauce. Of course, they are also delicious as a snack when roasted and seasoned.


Walnuts are packed with healthy oils and nutrients. Having a high Omega-3/-6 ratio and being high in the healthy form of Vitamin E (gamma-tocopherol), and thus provide fantastic nerve and heart health benefits. They are also a great source of minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium, as well as being high in fiber. Walnuts are also a great source of phytonutrients like quinone juglone, tannin tellimagrandin and flavinol morin. Remember that phytonutrients are great anti-oxidants and help prevent cancer.

Nut Butternut-butter

Smoothies, sandwiches, apples, your fingers when no one is watching – what doesn’t nut butter go well on? Having almond, peanut, or other nut butters handy means a quick brain-boosting refuel of fat and protein when you need it, as well as a great flavor-booster for sauces, soups or desserts. You’ll be glad you have it, I promise. Be sure you are checking the ingredients of your nut butters, as many have added sweeteners or unhealthy oils that aren’t ever necessary in nut butters.


This is a craveworthy blend of sesame seeds and sea salt: it adds flavor, crunch and nutrients to a meal (even something as simple as cucumber is made 10x more exciting with gomasio). The sesame seeds provide a whole spectrum of amino acids and calcium; sea salt provides sodium, chloride, iodine and a host of other trace minerals essential to the body’s functioning. You can even find varieties that include dried seaweed for extra nutrient goodness.

Maple Syrup or Brown Rice SyrupMaple Syrup

These low-glycemic vegan sweeteners are tremendously versatile and keep indefinitely in the pantry. Use them in baking, sauces or smoothies as you would use agave or honey. Maple syrup is packed with B Vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc. Brown rice syrup is gentler on the body than other sweeteners because it’s lower in fructose, and is gluten-free.


A quick way to add a dash of minerals and a salty, briny flavor to anything you’d like to resemble the taste of seafood, dulse is a nutrient-packed dried seaweed common in Macrobiotic cooking. Sprinkle it over salads or use in seafood dishes to add some zing and some body-supporting goodness to your day.


This thick, chewy seaweed is not only delicious in soup, it’s a great way to make beans more easily digested. Toss a piece of kombu in with your chickpeas (above) or any other bean to help break down the starches that can sometimes cause bloating.

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