When I first started transitioning over to vegan baking my first thought was ‘What the heck do I use for this?’. After many years of baking with copious amounts of butter and always seeming to run out of eggs for my next batch of cookies, I wasn’t really sure where to start with this new venture into vegan baking. Thankfully, the internet is the best resource and helped out tremendously when I was navigating this weird and confusing change, so I wanted to share with you what I keep in my pantry so I can keep churning out top notch vegan cookies, cakes, and everything in-between. Keep in mind that this list isn’t definite and I will keep adding to it as I continue to learn and grow in vegan baking, but for now, these are my staples. I would also love to hear your staples and things you have to have on hand too. Let’s get started!
Flour– Obviously this is a given, but I usually try to keep around whole wheat and all purpose flour. Whole wheat flour doesn’t work for all recipes but is a nice option to have around for the denser and heartier breads or cakes in my repertoire. King Arthur Flour and Hodgson Mill make reliable and awesome products, but sometimes I just go generic store brand too. Keep in mind that some flours are bleached and that just kind of creeps me out, so I try to go with the unbleached.
Sugar- Again, this is a given, but it was surprising to me that some sugar isn’t vegan and it goes through a process that involves bone char and bleaching, which again, just kind of is weird, right? It’s all a matter of personal preference, but I try to go with more of an unbleached version, like this one from Wholesome Sweeteners rather than the regular white stuff.
Baking soda– This ingredient is one that I never thought I would use box after box of, but between using it to wash my face and hair (dang right!), plus using it for baking, I go through this stuff like crazy. Baking soda is an awesome leavener since we aren’t using eggs in traditional cakes, breads, and muffins.
Coconut Oil– This stuff is up there with baking soda for me. I try to avoid vegan butter as much as possible when baking, primarily because it’s expensive and just filled with different oils. I know that this is an oil, but it’s easier to find and can be used in several different ways in the kitchen, so it’s great to just keep around.
Maple Syrup- Growing up, maple syrup came from a bottle with a log cabin pattern and was only really used on waffles and pancakes, end of story. Now, I keep it on hand for sweetening desserts and, of course, breakfast too. Get the real stuff because that other stuff just won’t cut it. My favorite version comes from a small shop up in Door County, but since it’s hard to get up there in the winter, I grab a big jug from Trader Joe’s and call it a day. The real maple syrup is going to cost a little bit more, but it’s worth it!
Vanilla Extract- I learned from my dad that when baking, if there is vanilla extract involved, more is always better. For a long time, I bought the store brand extract because it is cheaper, but now I’m in the habit of making my own vanilla extract and I don’t see myself going back to the generic version anytime soon. Vanilla beans seem to always be a bit on the expensive side, but I’ve found that Penzey’s has a great price on vanilla beans with awesome quality (they aren’t paying me to say that, I just love basically everything they sell).
Apple Cider Vinegar- Again, this was something that, before vegan baking, I didn’t use much of, since I didn’t have a lot of reason to. Now, it’s a perfect leavener when combined with baking soda, since the reaction between the two makes cakes and breads rise and stay light and fluffy.
Dates- Before I went vegan/plant based, I had never purposely touched a date in my life. Dates conjured up images of gross, shriveled fruit that shouldn’t be anywhere near my cookies, thank you very much. Now, I usually have a jar of date paste or a container of dates in my fridge at all times. These can be a bit expensive, but I’ve found great prices on them at local type grocery stores. The Italian market close to my house used to carry Medjool dates at an awesome price, but stopped last year, so I’m on the hunt for a new source! If kept too long, dates can dry out, but rehydrating them in hot water makes them good as new in no time. For a more comprehensive guide on baking with dates, check out another one of my Vegan Baking Basics posts.
Ground flax seed- Again, this was an ingredient that, before going vegan, I thought was only used by hippies and the ultra-healthy fitness fanatics. Turns out, ground flax seed gels up much like an egg when it’s combined with water and allowed to sit for a few minutes. Where I purchase ground flax seed varies, I’ve found good deals on it anywhere from TJ Maxx (weird, right?) to Whole Foods. Make sure you store it in the freezer, or it can go rancid rather quickly! I detail more about how to use ground flax seed as an egg substitute in my Egg Replacements post.
Chocolate- I mean, there really doesn’t need to be an explanation for this, right? At a given time, I usually have a bag of chocolate chips and a big bar of chocolate in our cabinets. Chocolate chips are usually the easiest to melt and use in cookies, but the bar chocolate is good for grating and chopping up for other recipes. Higher quality chocolate makes a huge difference too. You don’t need to break the bank, but avoid chocolate chips and bars that are primarily fillers rather than the good stuff.
Tell me, what are the essentials you keep around for baking? Like I said, this will change and evolve over time, but for now, this is what I like to keep around.