30 Cheap and Easy Vegetarian and Vegan Meals You Can Make from Your Pantry

Learning how to use a pantry or store cupboard well and being able to make delicious meals from a few cans and basic ingredients is always a useful thing to know.  Particularly in times when we have to make do with what we already have, or can't get everything we need from the shops.  Here are 30 meals you can make just with the food you probably already have, and some tips to help you make the most of your pantry or store cupboard and your money.

Whether you have more days than money left each month, you need to cut back because of a change in circumstances, you want to have a no spend week or you are unable to get to the shops for some reason, it's a great idea to have some pantry meals up your sleeve.

All of these vegan and vegetarian meals use long-life tinned or canned foods, basics from your store cupboard or pantry, and optional fresh ingredients in addition to the basics you probably have in, like onions or potatoes.  All of the recipes listed below use less than 5 fresh ingredients.

What food should I have in store?

Tinned beans are one of the most essential staples to have in your cupboard as they are delicious, versatile and highly nutritious.  Other things to stock up on next time you have a chance are bottles or cartons of passata and tinned tomatoes.  A full list of longlife items can be found below.

Other long life pantry or store cupboard food staples include:
  • Pasta, noodles, quinoa, couscous, buckwheat, bulgur wheat, millet, oats
  • Brown, risotto and basmati rice
  • Tortillas, taco shells
  • Canned tomatoes, passata, pasta sauce, red and green pesto
  • Jars of olives, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, peppers, jalapenos, gherkins
  • Olive oil, vegetable or rapeseed oil (always keep the oil in the jars above for cooking too)
  • Red and white wine vinegar, cider vinegar
  • Salsa, sauces, chutney, mayonnaise
  • Tomato paste/puree, sun-dried tomato puree, stock cubes
  • Curry paste, chipotle paste, harissa, tahini, preserved lemons
  • Dried herbs and spices
  • Chickpeas, beans, lentils canned or dried
  • Sweetcorn
  • Onions, potatoes, carrots, celery
  • Garlic, ginger, chillis (jars of minced garlic, ginger and chilli work well too)
  • Lemons, limes
  • Nuts, chestnuts, pine nut kernels
  • Longlife milk (plant or cow)
  • Eggs, Cheddar cheese, Parmesan, Halloumi cheese, butter

For baking it is also advisable to keep a stock of:
  • Sugar
  • Flours: plain, self raising, wholewheat, bread, corn
  • Yeast
  • Sugars
  • Baking soda and baking powder

If you have a freezer, it's a good idea to freeze fresh fruit and vegetables regularly, particularly when they are in season or if you grow your own and have a glut.  You can get a full list of what and how to freeze fresh produce here:


What Foods Can You Freeze?

Many people used to have a big chest freezer, but nowadays most of us have a smaller space to keep our frozen food in, so it pays to make the most of it.  Keeping some ready meals and frozen things like chips and veggie burgers is fine, but think about using your freezer to extend the shelf life of fresh foods too.

You can freeze a surprising number of fresh foods, from rolls, bread and breakfast goods, to milk, cheese and tofu.  If you have the space for more, then freeze fruit and vegetables when they are in season and therefore cheaper.  Grab the handy guide above to show you how.

You can of course always buy ready frozen bags of vegetables and fruit from the supermarket too.  Some farm shops or zero waste stores also have loose frozen foods which are handy to stock up on.

You can also save money by buying bread and bakery goods from the reduced shelves and freezing them.  Just pop frozen slices of bread, crumpets or pancakes in the toaster, no need to defrost first.  Use the frozen button if your toaster has one so it cooks a little longer.  You can also use up bread that is going stale by whizzing it in a food processor to make breadcrumbs.

It also helps to batch cook or at least cook double quantities, then freeze half for future use.  Check you have space in the freezer first though!

You can also make your own ready meals ahead of time and freeze them so you have a stock of delicious fresh food in the freezer for when you need it.

Here are some frozen foods it's always useful to have on hand:

  • Sliced bread, rolls, burger buns
  • Crumpets, pancakes
  • Cheese, paneer, tofu
  • Milk
  • Filo, puff, shortcrust pastry
  • Peas, broad beans, edamame beans, mixed veg, sliced peppers, chopped spinach
  • Mango, strawberries, blueberries, cherries (use as compote on breakfast cereals/granola or for smoothies)

A Word on Substitutions

Remember that you don't need to stick religiously to a recipe when cooking.  (Baking is different.)  So feel free to substitute away!  Here is a rough guide:

  • Fresh herbs can be replaced with dried or frozen herbs (freeze your own)
  • All vegetables can be replaced with any other fresh, tinned or frozen vegetables but you may need to adjust cooking time accordingly
  • All plant-based milks can be used interchangeably
  • All oils can be used interchangeably
  • Pasta and rice can be any variety, except when making risotto or paella
  • All nut and seed butters can be used interchangeably
  • All beans, chickpeas etc can be tinned or dried and used interchangeably, but observe soaking and boiling times when using dried
  • All nuts can be used interchangeably

30 Easy Vegetarian and Vegan Meals You Can Make from Your Pantry

1. Vegetarian Bean Hotpot

2. Black Bean and Beetroot Burger

3. Penne with the Ultimate Vegetable Sauce

4. Vegetable Chilli

5. Chickpea Tagine

6. Black Bean and Watercress Burger

7. Pomegranate and Mung Bean Salad

8. Spiced Lentil, Nut and Vegetable Roast

9. Pasta Salad

10. Home-made Baked Beans

11. Butternut Squash and Butter Bean Ragout

12. Chickpea Curry

13. Couscous Salad

14. Falafel

15. Smoked Tofu and Watercress Cannelloni

16. Quinoa and Edamame Salad

17. Veggie Bean Burrito Bowl

18. Quick Kidney Bean Burgers

19. Curried Beetroot and Lentil Shepherd's Pie

20. Vegetable Enchiladas

21. Bean and Vegetable Hotpot

22. Stuffed Peppers

23. Chana Daal

24. Buckwheat

25. Risotto Primavera

26. Penne with Peppers, Capers and Olives

27. Artichoke and Asparagus Paella

28. Risotto with Butternut Squash, Rosemary and Chilli

29. Tomato and Basil Risotto

30. Lebanese Chickpeas

More Quick and Easy Meal Ideas
  • Pasta with pesto
  • Pasta with jar sauce
  • Quinoa salad
  • Spaghetti with veggie balls (IKEA's are great)
  • Macaroni cheese
  • Flatbread pizzas
  • Stir fry, risotto, tacos, fajitas or curry (use whatever veg you have)
  • Quesadillas
  • Omelette, Spanish omelette (use what you have) or shakshouka
See Easy Recipes to Cook on a Self-Catering Holiday for more details.

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