The 10 Gluten-Free Vegan Pantry Staples Every Kitchen Needs
First things first, there are three main reasons why it is absolutely essential to practice good pantry management (yawn) when going gluten-free:
- You will never be short on the staples you need to make something delicious and satisfying
- It could save you money as you’re less likely to resort to convenience food
- You’ll have no shortage of ingredients to experiment with when you’re feeling creative
Of course, the most important thing of all is ensuring you never have the kind of a) moment of weakness or b) lapse in concentration that could result in the consumption of gluten. Irrespective of the severity of the side effects or whether your gluten sensitivity is asymptomatic, cutting gluten out in its entirety may be the only way of staying safe and healthy.
That’s of course up to your doctor to decide - theirs is the advice to be followed to the letter.
Back on topic, it’s not untrue to say that people with coeliac disease and gluten intolerances have a tendency to eat at home more often. Not always out of choice, but due to the fact that genuinely safe (and tasty) gluten-free dishes are often surprisingly hard to come by elsewhere.
Still, the whole thing by no means has to become a struggle, or even much of a challenge. In any case, the satisfaction and reassurance that comes with knowing each and every ingredient that’s going into your body more than justifies spending more time in the kitchen.
As for which pantry staples should be kept in the gluten-free kitchen at all times, ensure you have plenty of the following within reach and you won’t go far wrong:
1. Beans and Legumes
There’s a (very) long list of beans and legumes that can be used as the basis for an even longer list of gorgeous meals and inventive creations. Keeping a stock of dried beans and legumes is great for ensuring you never run out and save money, while complementing your inventory with some quick-and-easy canned alternatives is also important.
Just a few examples of the essentials you’ll come to count on include chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, split peas and many more besides. All of which can be used as the basis for all kinds of soups, stews, pasta sauces and even gluten-free vegan meatballs.
There’s an equally long list of grains that are worth keeping on hand, which as much as anything else serve as a reminder that gluten-free baking doesn’t have to be particularly difficult. There’s plenty of scope for experimentation with their inclusion in savoury dishes, but it’s when you get to grips with the ‘alternative’ uses for things like buckwheat, polenta, millet and quinoa that things get really interesting.
Long story short - almost no bakery staple or dessert item is out of bounds, just because gluten is. It’s simply a case of switching to staples that are naturally gluten-free and keeping plenty of them in your pantry to experiment with.
3. Pasta and Noodles
Admittedly, one of the golden rules of staying healthy when adopting a gluten-free diet is to avoid the temptation to become reliant on refined carbs. They’re quick, easy, cheap and delicious, but not particularly good for you. Hence, great in moderation, though best enjoyed alongside wholegrain alternatives as your primary go-to.
Soba noodles made from buckwheat flour are absolutely gorgeous, as are wholegrain noodles and the various different types of veggie-based pastas available right now. There’s no need to cut conventional pasta and noodles out of your diet entirely, but you’ll feel way better on a day to day basis by including more wholegrain versions in your diet.
4. Root Vegetables
It’s only after you either go gluten-free or plant-based that you realise there’s a whole world of potential in root vegetables, which goes beyond the humble potato. Of course, spuds are likely to become your best friend or something you rely on more often than not. They’re cheap, easy, delicious and good for you when consumed in sensible quantities.
But then you have a cavalcade of creative recipes to explore using things like turnips, parsnips, beetroots, kohlrabi, butternut squash and about a million different varieties of pumpkin. All completely different depending on how you cook them, and the goodies you stuff them with.
5. Herbs and Spices
Most dried herbs and spices have the kind of shelf life that makes them practically imperishable, so it’s worth keeping a decent stockpile on hand. But for the sake of keeping things creative and enjoyable in the kitchen, try thinking beyond the usual herbs and spices you’d normally line your shelves with. Branch out into more exotic varieties, maybe learning how to use herbs and spices you’ve never even heard of.
Essentials for making gluten-free eating an absolute joy include things like smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, lemon thyme, holy basil, curry leaves and so on. The more exotic and unusual it is, the more deserving of a place in your pantry!
6. Nutritional Yeast
Admittedly, this tends to appear more prominently on the shopping lists of vegans than those looking to exclude gluten from their diets. Nevertheless, anyone looking to make more healthy dietary choices should embrace the gift that is nutritional yeast. This is the stuff that makes dairy-free cheese products taste cheesy and delicious, without the fat, calories and salt content of the real stuff.
If your approach to gluten-free cooking involves a fair amount of cheese, it’s worth considering the benefits of switching to a cheese substitute. Particularly given how easy it is to make your own plant-based cheese, which can be customised in a thousand and one different ways.
7. Nuts and Seeds
This actually ties in quite nicely with the previous entry, as nuts can form the basis of a wide variety of healthy dairy substitutes. Cashews in particular are incredibly versatile, which when soaked and blended can be made into a gorgeously decadent cheese-type-substance with an endless list of uses. But even if you’ve no intention of going the whole hog with your own dairy substitutes, nuts and seeds are simply fantastic for bringing protein, healthy fats and pure deliciousness into your gluten-free recipes.
Don’t forget that the fragrance, flavour and texture of all types of nuts and seeds is radically different after frying or toasting them. Even the blandest nuts and seeds burst into life with the addition of a little heat, a sprinkle of salt and your favourite herbs and spices.
8. Vinegars and Infusions
Vinegar is massively underrated, given its ability to bring out the flavour in an absolute world of savoury dishes. Once you get to grips with the use of vinegar as a seasoning and flavour enhancer in its own right, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it. Better yet, you’ll realise just how much scope there is for experimentation with all the weird and wonderful types of vinegars and infusions on the market right now.
Balsamic vinegars, wine vinegars, fruity vinegars - all with their own unique properties and something special to add to your dishes. Sweet balsamic vinegar can also be just the thing for bringing a burst of boldness to a surprising variety of desserts.
9. Gluten-Free Baking Staples
Dedicating a section of your pantry to gluten-free baking staples comes highly recommended. As already touched upon, gluten-free baking doesn’t have to be any more difficult than regular baking. Just as long as you’ve got all the gear you need close to hand at all times, you can get as creative as you like without a second thought.
Examples of the kinds of staples you’ll want to keep in stock include coconut flour, almond flower, chickpea flour, tapioca flour and so on. Each of which has its own unique properties and applications, depending on what you intend to bake. Store-brought all-purpose gluten-free flour is also available, but naturally gluten-free ingredients are often preferable.
10. Jars, Cans and Convenience Foods
Last but not least, giving yourself the easiest possible ride when time is a factor is essential. While gluten-free cooking and baking doesn’t have to be a challenge, nobody wants to spend all of their free time in the kitchen. Particularly if you find yourself in a mood where putting something creative together is the last thing on your mind, it can be a godsend to have a bunch of jars, cans, packets and (dare we say) even ready-meals on standby.
Frankly, nobody should deny themselves the gift of convenience food from time to time. Just because you need to eat a gluten-free diet doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge market for quick-and-easy meal options available. As always, it’s simply a case of opting for those that aren’t sky high in fat, sugar, salt, calories…and the inevitable subsequent guilt!