When people ask me about making the transition to healthier eating, I always am certain to point out that they will need be doing do more cooking at home. Home-cooked meals are critical for healthy eating of any kind (and for optimal vegan eating in particular). Preparing your meals at home entails work – it takes planning, shopping, preparation, and clean-up. Often, all these these steps can be a stretch with regard to the time and effort required. Many of my clients choose eating out and/or ordering in as a matter of convenience. Thankfully, with a bit of proper set up along with perseverance, this can be shifted. In order to ensure your success with healthy, plant-based eating, it is essential that you: 1) make a commitment to cook the majority of your meals at home; and 2) have a kitchen to support your best efforts. Beyond the recipe books and your creativity, this article will highlight many of the important tools to consider when setting up a vegan kitchen for healthy cooking.
I confess I have an AWESOME kitchen set up that is very well-stocked that enables me to make amazing plant-based meals. I have many appliances and simple tools to support food preparation, from great set of knives to the humble little salad spinner. I love the salad spinner (shown here) and use it often. It is great for drying washed greens thoroughly and quickly. However, I’ve not included it (or many other secondary items) in this “list of 15” because it is not an essential item. What I am saying is that this list is by no means exhaustive – just some suggestions to get you started.
I don’t go crazy with food preparation most days. I generally do some serious cooking a couple days each week to create large batches of veggie medleys, soups, beans/grains, and other treats ready to enjoy over several days. I usually shop for groceries twice per week as a matter of convenience and freshness. I’ve found that this schedule can work for most people once they settle on a group of about 10 -12 recipes they like (what I call a “core plan”) and will cycle through them every couple of weeks. Yes, I enjoy trying new dishes but sticking to a core plan recipes makes things easier as you know exactly what you need and how to prep them. I have a bi-weekly core recipe plan that I use to stay engaged with and to love my way of healthy plant-based eating. I hope I can inspire you as well.
That said, the core plan of recipes will be a subject of another blog post. This article focuses on setting up your kitchen to support your home cooking. There are two tiers of supplies in this article – items in the first group are more of the “must haves” and those in the second group include many of the “nice-to-haves” for the vegan kitchen.
ESSENTIAL ITEMS for the WELL-STOCKED VEGAN KITCHEN
1. Sharp Knives:
A sharp and light weight knife is the most basic part of a vegan kitchen. One such type of knife is global chef knife. The important thing in any knife is that it fits your hands well and is comfortable for your to use. Dull оr рооr quality knives can make іt vеrу dіffісult tо сооk a рrореr mеаl. Your knives must be ѕhаrр аnd appropriate for what you are cutting. For example, hacking up a spaghetti squash requires a large, study knife while the small pointed paring knife is needed for the seeding of the mini red peppers.
Gооd ԛuаlіtу knіvеѕ will hоld uр hеаvу uѕе аnd саn bе ѕhаrреnеd tо еxtеnd thеіr life. I have an assortment of several types of knives and use them often. These include a couple of paring knives, chef knives (large for hacking squashes and smaller chef knives for general chopping and slicing), a tomato/bread knife (super helpful for cutting nori rolls), and medium slicers for all sorts of smaller produce. Don’t skimp on your knives. Also, take the time to learn best cutting and chopping techniques. Good knives used properly will greatly streamline and enhance your cooking experience. The Rouxbe Cooking School offers some great online knife classes (many are free!).
2. A Solid Cutting (Non-Plastic) Board:
The vegan kitchen ideally includes a couple of wooden cutting boards – one large and a second smaller. If a plastic cutting board is used, pieces of it may peel or break off and make its way into your food. If you аlrеаdу have a wooden cutting board—tеrrіfіс. If not оr іf you’re іn need оf аn upgrade, consider buying bаmbоо for the smaller one. They very lightweight and easy to use. Fоr wооdеn аnd bаmbоо bоаrdѕ, уоu wаnt to mаkе ѕurе tо hаnd-drу thеm аftеr washing to аvоіd dehydration аnd сrасkіng. Sоlіd wооd boards mау also nееd to be ѕеаѕоnеd wіth nеutrаl оіl (fооd-grаdе mineral оіl, оr wаlnut, аlmоnd, оr сосоnut oil) еvеrу now аnd thеn. Do try to minimize your exposure to plastic boards as these are not inert.
3. Assortment of High Quality Cookware:
Unless you are following a totally raw vegan diet, you’ll need to ensure that you have a good soup/stock pot, a sauce pan, a stir fry pan, and perhaps a steamer for your vegan kitchen.
It is best to avoid all Teflon, аlumіnum, аnd other nоnѕtісk сооkwаrе. Their lіnіngs can brеаk оff at hіgh temperatures, adding саrсіnоgеnіс сhеmісаlѕ tо your otherwise hеаlthу mеаl. Althоugh thеrе аrе other seemingly nontoxic, nоnѕtісk орtіоnѕ available ѕuсh аѕ Grееnраn (whісh іѕ mаdе оf 95 реrсеnt ѕіlіса), the best choices for cookware are stainless and/or is саѕt iron (if you tаkе thе tіmе to give іt a lіttlе TLC аnd ѕеаѕоn it рrореrlу). I have some great stаіnlеѕѕ steel pots with сорреr bottoms. These heat quickly and evenly, do the enamel covered cast iron pots and “ovens” for the well-stocked vegan kitchen.
4. A High-Powered Blender
A powerful blender one of the most important tools in the vegan kitchen. The Vitamix is a popular brand of blender found in many plant-based kitchens. While it’s on the pricey side, it’ll last forever. I have one that I use almost every day. The high-powered blender is used to make healthy sauces, smoothies, dressings, and dips. So, buying a good one is a sound investment (even if purchased refurbished which Vitamix offers). Alternately, the Breville, Blendtec, and high-end Ninja models are also good.
If a high-speed blеndеr іѕn’t іn уоur nеаr futurе аnd if you hаvе a fооd рrосеѕѕоr оr run-оf-thе-mіll blеndеr, уоu саn ѕtіll prepare amazing food—it just mіght tаkе a lіttlе longer.
5. Baking Sheet / Pizza Stone:
A baking sheet is often used for baking pizzas in a vegan kitchen. These pans, like all bakeware, can be made of a variety of materials, but are typically aluminum or stainless steel. Special baking stones are also sold and work well for pizzas. Sadly my stone broke so now I use a baking sheet with a silica non-stick liner. I do think the stone worked better on crusts. Someday I may replace it.
6. Collection of Mason Jars in Various Sizes:
No well-equipped vegan kitchen is ever without an assortment of Mason jars. I have them from 4 oz through a quart size and use them daily. They are a great way to store and preserve your food as well as being useful during preparation. Once you start using them, I promise you’ll be soon hooked!
The size I use most is the 16-oz wide mouth jar. They can store most anything (and storage in these jars is much better for the planet than using plastic baggies). Furthermore, with jars for food storage, there is also the added bonus of avoiding plastic in Tupperware containers. Mason (Ball) jars are super easy to wash and will last for years.
7. A Good Juicer:
In the vegan kitchen there are several types of juicers that will come in handy. I have a smaller, inexpensive citrus juicer which I use often. This may seems silly but they do save quite a bit of time and effort for lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit juice in recipes. Then, there is the more powerful juicer for vegetables and fruit. There are many variations on these juicers – some work using centrifugal force others work by “smashing” or masticating the produce to yield juice. The latter is a more efficient process but is much slower.
I have both types of these produce juicers but really only one is needed. Although it produces only about 70% of the juice as my Omega masticating juicer, I love my Breville for ease and speed of use and cleaning. It is now my go-to juicer.
8. Miscellaneous Vegan Kitchen Items
Spiralized veggies seem to be very popular these days. Whole Foods Market is now selling packages of them and recipes with them are popping up everywhere. While not mandatory for the well-equipped vegan kitchen, spiralizers are relatively inexpensive and provide a nifty tool to add variety to your eating. Most well known are zucchini noodles (a.k.a. “zoodles”) – a lighter pasta alternative that works well with any kind of sauce. Sweet potatoes can also be spiralized and made into very wonderful soups. I have this Paderno brand and enjoy it immensely. Something to consider for your kitchen – your imagination is the limit for this fun tool!
It is a good idea to have a nice assortment of spoons or other utensils for cooking vegan food. Stay away from tools covered in Teflon or other plastic items. Spoons made from natural material such as wood or bamboo are best. Tools made from stainless steel are also OK.
You will be doing a fair amount of washing and chopping lots of veggies during food prep. I use colanders many times a day to help with washing and draining. If you use any canned food at all (such as beans, hearts of palms, etc), these need to be rinsed thoroughly and strainers are helpful. So, a nice assortment of strainers does come in handy.
Measuring Cups and Spoons:
You’ll probably be following recipes for much of your cooking. So, it is important to have good sturdy sets of measuring spoons (1/8 tsp through 1 tbsp). I prefer the stainless ones. And they for measuring cups, the stainless varieties (1/4 to a full cup) really serve me well. Beyond just use for measuring for recipes, I use the stainless measuring cups to transfer cooked food from the larger pots to serving bowls and storage containers. For this use, the stainless ones hold up well.
Nice-To-Have Items for Your Vegan Kitchen
9. An Electric Grinder:
An electric grinder is actually a less-needed tool. They can be used for making spice blends – my favorite is the Indian spice blend called garam masala which is make from 7 different roasted items that are finely ground. Electric grinders are also helpful for preparing nuts and seeds for recipes (however care must be taken with nuts not to get them to the ‘nut butter’ stage!).
A grater is a kitchen utensil used to grate foods into fine pieces. They can be used for all sorts of veggies, from carrots to potatoes, and fruit as well. Most are larger, upright tools; a food processor can help with grating as well. My favorite specialty grater is a Porcelain Ginger Grater as I use fresh grated ginger in quite a bit of my cooking.
The Porcelain Ginger Grater is a little ceramic ‘washboard’ with raised teeth. To use it for ginger, you take a piece of fresh ginger and rub it back and forth over the teeth. What results is a ginger mush that can be added to your pan. Sometimes it helps to use a knife to help to remove all the ginger mush from the grater. I use this little grater almost weekly.
11. A Produce Keeper:
Definitely a more ‘fringe’ item, produce keepers are used to store fruit and veggies in the fridge – keeping them fresh and healthy. An activated carbon filter traps and absorbs ethylene gas, slowing down the aging process and keeping produce fresh food for longer time. They can be helpful to preserve the shelf life of your produce (most often they are used for lettuces) which can be particularly good to help you save money if you buy organic produce.
12. An Immersion Blender:
An immersion blender is basically a hand-held blender/mixer. You certainly don’t NEED one in your vegan kitchen but it is nice to have. I find it very helpful when I am making soups. When I get to the point where the ingredients are appropriately cooked, I often choose to “cream” the soup to varying degrees. You can also do this by removing batches and moving them to the regular blender and then returning the blended soup to the main soup pot. However, if you have an immersion blender though, you can simply use this in the soup pot ingredients directly to “cream” the soup to the desired degree. Then, it can be reheated for serving, never leaving the pot.
The immersion blender is also great for mixing sauces, making aquafaba, and other tasks normally done with a hand held mixer. They are not too expensive so it is something to consider for your vegan kitchen.
13. A Slow Cooker:
A slow cooker, also known as a Crock-Pot, is an electrical cooking appliance used for unattended cooking over many hours, maintaining a relatively low temperature (compared to other cooking methods such as baking, boiling, and frying). It provides a very easy way for the busy person to prepare a warm meal (with lots of leftovers). For example, I fill mine with all my chili ingredients and allow it to simmer all day when I am out. It is exciting to return home to the aromas of a hot, yummy dinner waiting for me in the evening.
14. A Hand-held Citrus Juicer:
You’ll find that a recipe will call for a bit of lemon juice. Hand-held citrus squeezers are great for quickly extracting the juice out of lemons, limes, and oranges for recipes. They are much easier that doing the squeeze manually and are a cinch to wash.
15. A Food Processor:
A food processor is a kitchen appliance used to facilitate repetitive tasks in the preparation of food, such as grating, slicing, and mixing. They usually come with an assortment of interchangeable blade. The full-sized food processors do take up a bit a room on the counter and I must admit, I don’t use my full-sized food processor too often. However, I also have a ‘mini-prep’ food processor that I use frequently.
The mini-prep is a tiny cousin of the full-sized food processor. It is very handy for making pesto, hummus, and other quick sauces. It is easy to use and to clean. I highly suggest you consider including a mini-prep food processor in your vegan kitchen. They are quite reasonable and are so handy. I am thankful each time I use mine.
I’ll spare you the discussion of my more esoteric tools I use only occasionally – such as the mandolin thin slicer (I use to make beet ravioli), or the stoneware crock for sauerkraut, and even the counter top dehydrator for creating raw wrap crusts and crackers. You need to weigh the advantages of all the extra tools vs. the amount of space in your kitchen. Just get what you need and will actually use – avoid too many of the nice-to-haves!
If you are on a budget or are otherwise just starting out, the three basics you must have for your vegan kitchen are 1) a couple of good knives; 2) a nice wooden cutting board; and 3) a large soup pot. Many different kinds of dishes can be made in the soup pot (as long as you have storage for the extra portions). These are the three things I use almost daily (and definitely on days when I am simplifying my food prep).
Hope that you’ve enjoyed this overview and summary of the well-equipped vegan kitchen. Have fun in your vegan kitchen – however you set it up! Create your food with love and gratitude for the best taste and most healing properties.
I’m looking forward to hearing all about your home-cooked culinary masterpieces!
If you’ve found this helpful, you may also be interested in my tips on healthy vegan eating while traveling:
DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN COOK ESSENTIAL OILS?