Looking to begin a plant-based/vegan lifestyle or just hoping to eat more vegetables every day? Congratulations! You’re making a wonderful decision for the environment. This guide will explain where to start with some staple recipes, along with tips + tricks for maintaining a plant-based kitchen.
If you’ve recently decided to begin eating more plants or are transitioning to a fully vegan lifestyle, it can seem like an overwhelming journey. There are endless options in grocery stores for prepackaged foods that tout themselves as the “healthy” choice. I am happy to report that eating a plant-heavy diet is actually so much easier than our society makes it seem. Think about it — many of the oldest cultures and civilizations in the world thrived on diets rich in beans and rice! This “perfect protein” is accessible and planet-friendly, with a close to unlimited number of variations.
The key, of course, is finding a way to prepare plant-based proteins (and meals) that suits your personal taste buds. This is the only way you’ll “stick with” a certain way of eating, and frankly the only way I believe you should. Food is about enjoyment, and eating a diet rich in plants makes me feel my best and helps me know I am contributing to a better food ecosystem.
It makes me sad that so much “vegan” culture has been taken over by $9 green smoothies, wellness shots, and imitation meats. While there is of course nothing wrong with these items inherently, they can become exclusionary. Vegan food can be delicious while still remaining affordable and accessible. Personal dietary choices are the #1 way we as individuals can impact the planet for the better, and reduce our carbon footprint. I will admit I do not eat a 100% vegan diet all of the time, and I am OK with this. Over the years I’ve learned to find a balance that works for me that does not include any kind of restriction or labeling. I will say I was raised as a vegetarian, so I may not have the enzyme to digest meat? Who knows! I will say this: all of the recipes you’ll find on Garlic Head are 100% vegan, or have vegan adjustments. I often include gluten-free options as well, for my friends with sensitivities.
Finally, I want to note that eating a completely vegan lifestyle is rooted heavily in privilege. Food access issues are rampant in this country. Education around how to eat plant-based has never been a priority in many communities. One goal of my website is that it will inspire someone to try something new, while branching out in the kitchen and having fun with cooking.
Basic Staple Ingredients in my Plant-Based Pantry and Fridge
While there are SO many unique ingredients to have fun with, the below list includes only the items I purchase again and again. These are my most reliable pantry stalwarts, those most heavily featured in my recipes.
- Lentils (green, brown, and red), chickpeas, white beans, black beans
- Oatmeal, brown rice, white rice, popcorn, various types of long and short pasta, crusty sourdough bread, corn tortillas
- Quinoa, pepitas, flax, sesame
- Walnuts, almonds, cashews
- Other plant-based proteins
- Extra-firm tofu, hummus, nut butters
- Cooking and finishing oils
- Olive, canola, sesame
- Garlic (hello), shallots, yellow & red onions
- Cumin, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, powdered ginger, garlic powder, cinnamon, turmeric, nutritional yeast, Old Bay, chili powder, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
- Lemons, limes, dark leafy greens, avocados, broccoli, bell peppers, frozen peas, tomatoes (fresh or canned), parsley, carrots, handheld fruit (oranges, bananas, peaches, apples, berries etc.), potatoes (all kinds), cabbage
What are the most important kitchen tools to own?
- Skillet (preferably cast iron)
- Large, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven
- Sharp Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- A few mixing bowls of varied sizes
- Utensils such as a spatula and wooden spoon
- Storage containers (I wash jars and packages from store-bought items to store leftovers)
- Coffee grinder + pour over
And the very useful but less important:
- Food processor (I almost added this to essential but I realize they are expensive and many recipes I write include workarounds!)
- High speed blender
- Salad spinner
- Whirley Pop
- Immersion blender
If you’re looking to save money on some of these items, places like Facebook Marketplace are a great platform to begin with. I’ve also had a lot of luck at TJ Maxx.
Now that your kitchen is stocked, here are the recipe posts I recommend starting with (click on the title to visit the recipe):
While there of course are a LOT of ways to cook tofu, this method if my favorite for never-soggy, perfectly crispy nuggets every time.
My favorite affordable protein, this post details four varieties of lentils and lists my favorite cooking methods.
Have fun with dinner and feel like a kid again! This recipe is full of nostalgic flavors and so simple to make.
Sweet potatoes are the base for so many delicious vegan meals. This post explains the easiest way to roast them in a pressure cooker.
Quinoa is actually a seed (not a grain) which helps explain so many of its health benefits. These salad recipes offer 3 unique takes on the perfect packed lunch.
We often hear we “should be” eating more kale, but how do we actually make it taste good? This post answers that question 15 times over!
This recipe is a childhood favorite of mine, and helped inspired the name of this blog!
This Chili Crisp is a must-try! It is the ideal topper for so many recipes, adding a perfect dash of heat and spice.
I promise, you won’t miss the meat and cheese with these recipes! Pizza is one of my favorite foods, and these 15 ideas are a perfect place to start cooking.