Making nutritious meals is so much simpler to do than you might think. A fully-stocked pantry is key to making them happen. When you’re short on time, having your go-tos on hand is essential to eating well without all the fuss.
Cookbook author and founder of Deliciously Ella, Ella Mills follows this philosophy to a T. She swears by her plant-based pantry staples and says they’re her secret to putting together a quick meal without compromising taste or nutrition. Here are her favorite healthy finds.
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Dried herbs and spices
These are essential because they help to make any ingredient or dish taste great, adding rich flavor and depth to each bite. I always have spices like cumin, paprika, turmeric, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, chili flakes, and more! I like to use a mix of them in every recipe. I’m also a big fan of raw cacao powder so have that in the cupboard too for sweet recipes.
Condiments and sauces
I can’t cook without a selection of bits to use as dressings, condiments, and for extra splashes of flavor. My go-tos are tamari, apple cider vinegar, tahini, nut butters, sesame oil, and good quality extra virgin olive oil. Simply stirring peanut butter and chili flakes into a simple olive oil dressing instantly adds so much flavor to roasted veggies. And did you know that adding tamari and apple cider vinegar to your quinoa or rice while it cooks stops the grain from being bland? It’s a delicious trick! I like having some coconut oil on hand for baking, as well. It adds a delicious hint of flavor without overpowering your dessert with coconut taste.
Grains and pasta
Good carbs are not your enemy! I always have porridge oats, jumbo oats, quinoa, brown rice, and buckwheat on hand. Not to mention brown rice or spelt pasta also serve as great bases for meals. Try making porridge oats for breakfast with almond, which just take three minutes to cook. Top it off with peanut butter and banana slices for a complete meal. Jumbo oats are also awesome to bake with, and they’re great for on-the-go oat bars, cookies, and gluten-free cakes. I love quinoa, brown rice, and buckwheat for salads, veggie bowls, and spicy curries. And good pasta is a must for easy 10-minute meals when I have long days at work.
Cans of beans, lentils, and chickpeas
These are my other staples. They’re a great way to add more protein to a veggie meal and make it heartier too. I love quick-cook chickpea chilies, homemade hummus, lentils for warm dals, and other beans for veggie curries and stews. Sautéing black beans in garlic is a favorite, too. A side of garlicky black beans always goes down well with friends!
Canned tomatoes and coconut milk
Canned foods are essential to making healthy vegan dishes — as long as you read the nutrition labels! Canned tomatoes go in everything from flavorful pasta sauce and curries to hearty stews and soups. And coconut milk adds just the right amount of creamy. Plus, these two staples are great carriers for all herbs and spices too.
Dried fruit, nuts, and seeds
I love almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dates, dried apricots — you name it! Dried fruit, nuts, and seeds frequently make an appearance in my dishes, so I tend to always have a stash on hand. I love toasted nuts and seeds on salads and quinoa bowls, but they’re also great for sweet recipes. I make a batch of cacao and almond energy balls every week using almonds, dates, cacao powder, almond butter, coconut oil, and a pinch of sea salt. They’re my favorite snack!
A great blender and food processor
An awesome blender and food processor are so important for churning out delicious vegan meals — or, really, any kind of food! I use my blender to make smoothies and soups. And my food processor is perfect for homemade pesto, hummus, and dips, as well as energy balls and other raw desserts.
Ella Mills is a best-selling cookbook author, entrepreneur, and creator of DeliciouslyElla.com, which has received over 110 million hits in the past three years. A champion of eating well though natural whole foods, Ella has released three best-selling cookbooks in the UK, created a #1 app, shot fashion campaigns, opened three cafes and two pop up shops in London with her husband Matthew, and launched a product line stocked in over 2,500 UK stores — all in the past five years. Ella’s new US cookbook, Natural Feasts: 100+ Healthy, Plant-Based Recipes to Share and Enjoy with Friends and Family, is launching in October 2017. Find her on Instagram.