10 Vegetarian Staples That Are Always on My Shopping List

updated May 29, 2019
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The best way to ensure I eat wholesome, filling vegetarian meals every week is to stock up on the right ingredients at the grocery store. If my pantry and fridge are full of my favorite staples, I know I can whip up a flavorful meal — packed with protein, veggies, and whole grains — at a moment’s notice.

Curious to know what I stock up on? Here are the 10 vegetarian staples you’ll always find in my shopping cart.

1. Lentils

I always buy dried lentils instead of canned, as they cook up in about 20 minutes — no soaking required. I stock my pantry with French green lentils for soups and salads (they hold their shape well) and red lentils for curry.

2. Quinoa & Brown Rice

I always reach for a bag of quinoa (white or red!) because we go through the stuff so quickly at home. In 15 minutes I can have a complete protein to toss into salads, chilis, and frittatas. I also grab a bag of short-grain brown rice to use as a base for black bean burrito bowls, to make kimchi fried rice, or to stuff into peppers (I sub lentils for the ground beef here).

How To Make Creamy Avocado Pasta (Image credit: Lauren Volo)

3. Avocados

Avocados make their way into my grocery cart every trip. I’ll whip up a quick guacamole to top scrambled egg tacos, add avocado slices to grain bowls, and blitz up an avocado to make my favorite pasta sauce (trust me on this one).

10-Minute Black Bean Tacos (Image credit: Lauren Volo)

4. Canned Beans

Even though I cook lentils from scratch, I often rely on canned beans to round out my pantry. I’ll open a can of chickpeas to make crispy chickpeas to top salads or soups with, or a can of black beans to make 10-minute tacos, or a can of white beans for a beans & greens hash.

5. Tahini

Much like avocado, tahini is that magic ingredient that seems to make any vegetarian meal better. I’ll use it to make a turmeric tahini sauce to top a grain bowl, whip up a batch of hummus to spread on sandwiches, or whisk together a simple dressing to jazz up green salads.

6. Canned Tomatoes

Canned whole peeled tomatoes are always in my shopping cart. While I love to use fresh tomatoes, they are only at their best for a short window of time. Canned tomatoes, on the other hand, are always there for me when I need to make soup, Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce, or shakshuka.

7. Canned Coconut Milk

Canned coconut milk is a staple in our house, as we eat a lot of curries, soups, and peanut sauce. I’ll also cook brown rice in some coconut milk when I want to add more flavor and body to it. Coconut milk also makes its way into my chia pudding and smoothies for breakfast.

8. Eggs

This one might be a bit controversial, as I know not all vegetarians eat eggs, but eggs are an invaluable part of my diet. From scrambled egg tacos to a fried egg atop kimchi fried rice to a perfect soft-boiled egg in a bowl of veggie ramen, eggs make their way into so many dinners each week.

9. Tofu

Tofu is a major grocery staple for me. (I want to cry every time Whole Foods is out of my favorite local brand.) My go-to method is to cut it into cubes and bake it until crispy; these tofu “croutons,” as my husband calls them, go on salads and rice bowls. I also love to add tofu to stir-fries.

10. Vegetables

What kind of vegetarian would I be if I didn’t eat any vegetables? (Answer: A lousy one!) I always stock up on leafy greens (lacinato and curly kale, Swiss chard, spinach), Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes depending on what’s in season.

What vegetarian staples do you always buy?

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