Vegetarian and vegan food often gets the stereotype of being all salads and artisanal vegetables, and while those can be part of a tasty and fulfilling plant-based diet, we are no stranger to the desire for hearty, satisfying food. Given this fact, stocking a good kitchen is essential. Here are 5 ingredients and products I always have in my fridge or pantry that help me whip up quick, delicious meals in a pinch.
1. Plain Unflavored Yogurt
I LOVE cultured dairy products, and yogurt is something I grew up eating in my South Indian home. Any brand of plain yogurt without gelatin will do, but my favorite brand is the Desi Natural Dahi brand. This is the closest brand to the yogurt my mom makes at home, and is incredibly fridge-friendly.
How to use it: Yogurt is a staple food in many South Indian households used in a variety of dishes, but the most emblematic is the humble yogurt rice, often called “curd rice” in India. The recipe is incredibly simple. Mix yogurt with warm precooked rice until you get a thick, porridge-like texture, and season with salt to taste. I like to add sliced cucumber, toasted mustard seeds, chopped cilantro, and some thinly sliced green chilis to the mix during the summer months. Tart green grapes or diced granny smith apples are also a surprisingly good addition to this dish and complement the sour, rich yogurt. I grew up eating this version of the dish on road trips and absolutely adore it to this day. I’m also a fan of Padma Lakshmi’s recipe for the dish.
I enjoy the soft texture and mild taste of Zucchini when cooked, and I truly think this veggie is transformed to a new level when cooked down in a rich tomato sauce. This versatile veggie is incredibly nutrient-rich and a great addition to your weeknight rotation. Store this veggie in the drawer of your fridge for maximal freshness.
How to use it: Zucchini + pasta = HEAVEN. Try my recipe for zucchini pasta with a tomato-mascarpone sauce. Alternatively, zucchini noodles are a great low-carb, gluten-free substitution for lasagna noodles; this zucchini lasagna recipe is one of my favorite summertime recipes.
3. Frozen Berries and Bananas
I enjoy fresh fruit, but frozen fruit takes smoothies to a whole new level. The textural difference it makes to a smoothie is mind-blowing. Frozen bananas in particular give it an incredibly luscious, almost ice cream-like texture.
How to use it: Smoothies and smoothie bowls, of course! Blend everything together until smooth. You can use your juice of choice to thin it out if need be, but I personally like my smoothies to be rich and thick.
4. Frozen Hashbrowns
I love potatoes so much that I could eat them as a full meal. I can appreciate a good roasted potato, but when it comes to convenience, you can’t beat a good pre-packaged freezer hashbrown.
How to use it: Hashbrown melts are, in my opinion, the absolute best late-night snack. This is my quick recipe: Crisp up the hashbrowns as per package directions, and toast sourdough bread until golden brown. Place the hashbrowns on top of the bread, and top with caramelized onions or onion relish and your cheese of choice – I enjoy pepperjack’s creamy richness and sharp flavor in this sandwich. Broil until melty and oozy, then enjoy!
5. Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Burgers
Dr. Praeger’s freezer foods have been a lifeline for me when dealing with late-night burger cravings. When you want a prepackaged product that feeds you well and is relatively nutritious, Dr. Praeger’s is the way to go. I’m a particularly big fan of their California and Black Bean Quinoa veggie burgers, as well as all of their savory veggie cake options.
How to use it: The possibilities are endless. I usually prepare the patties or veggie cakes as part of melts or vegetarian sliders, but with some lighter additions like salad greens or slices of fresh tomato to pack some more veggies into my meal. I also sometimes incorporate it in my recipe for a DIY Chipotle-style burrito bowl like this one. I roast peppers, reheat some leftover spiced kidney beans or cooked black beans if I have them on hand, and prepare a quick guacamole and pico de gallo on the side. I cook the patties as per package directions, crumble them into bite-sized pieces, and then assemble each of the finished components in my bowl. And voila, my burrito bowl is ready to go! This works amazingly well in meal prep as well.
So the next time you’re looking to stock your fridge and pantry for quick and easy meatless meals, look no further than these ideas. Eating more veggies will be a breeze with these ingredients and recipes in your weekly rotation!