top of page

Vegetarian Pantry: What to Buy

Here is my almost-global and slightly South Asia-inspired pantry (non-perishables, spices, fridge, freezer and canned) list of vegetarian items to stock up on in case of any emergencies that you may encounter. It is a good list also for someone trying to set up their kitchen for the first time, or seriously attempting to go vegetarian.

Photo credit: Martin Lostak, Unsplash

So think of this as a vegetarian pantry preparedness list, not a doomsday scenario - although it is likely to help you with that as well. Note that this list is not necessarily vegan or gluten-free but there are many elements of this diet here.

I live in Los Angeles, USA. So, this list is based on my grocery shopping experience here.

If you are looking for a tabular or a list to download, I have that too!

Protein Sources

First, our vegetarian source of protein is definitely pulses and legumes. Harvard School of Public Health describes and distinguishes between pulses and legumes, should you fancy some tangent reading.

Photo by Faris Mohammed, Unsplash

Every six months, I usually buy about four pounds of each of my family favorite beans, lentils, peas. I suggest you choose the ones that are versatile in both taste and to cook. I also suggest varieties in terms of dry and canned varieties. Blogger Archana from Ministry of Curry based in New York City has a wonderful list with photos, where she talks about at least 20 varieties. Visit your local South Asian (preferably, Indian) store or find some at your local Whole Foods or Lazy Acres. Ensure that if you are buying a dry variety, you have a pressure cooker or a slow cooker to cook them in.

Tempeh, tofu and edamame are some other ideas. The latter can be frozen and tofu has an expiration date but stays well in the fridge.

We are not a soy family but we definitely enjoy natural sources of soy.

Photo by Yoav Aziz, Unsplash

My friend, Priya Joshi says tofu can be frozen and tofu-lovers could consider soy curls. She suggests buying Butler’s soy curls from Amazon or the Butler’s website.

They are shelf stable and can be reconstituted with many marinades. They are also they much less processed. Google has many recipes.


Fresh vegetables are always my go-to. From my local Indian store, I tend to buy bottle gourd (doothi/ lauki) and tindora (ivy gourd). In general, most of my fresh vegetable purchase is from the farmer's market or Whole Foods.

Fresh salad leaves, okra, cauliflower, broccoli, spring onions, cabbag