And they’re great for meat-eaters, too!
My experimentation with a plant-based diet started in college. Ditching meat was easy for me, but I struggled to completely commit to a vegan lifestyle—which includes foregoing not only animal products that you eat, but also other animal products that you don’t consume (like wool and feather down in your wardrobe).
About a year post-grad, my fast-paced New York City lifestyle caught up to me; I felt my body needed a break and could benefit from cleaner eating habits. So I decided to *finally* commit to a plant-based diet for exactly one year.
(To clarify, plant-based refers to the diet followed by many vegans. However, veganism is a lifestyle that goes far beyond food choices. While I personally opted to avoid leather and other animal byproducts during the year, you can still follow a plant-based diet without being vegan.)
If you follow a plant-based diet, you’ll likely do a lot of cooking on your own. In fact, I like to say that ditching animal products actually made me more creative and adventurous in the kitchen because it forced me to cook for myself for the vast majority of my meals—I never felt like the modified dishes I ordered in non-vegan restaurants were worth the price, plus, you never know exactly what ingredients are going into your food when someone else is cooking. Instead, I preferred developing my own recipes at home and making different dishes to keep my palette satisfied, like hummus from scratch.
During my 365 days of plants, I quickly discovered a handful of cooking essentials that I now consider crucial for any plant-based kitchen. These handy kitchen tools are not only great for people that want to overhaul their diet, but also for anyone who simply wants to incorporate more fruits and veggies into their meals.
From a money-saving spiralizer to a non-stick silicone mat, these 9 vegan kitchen essentials saved me both time and money during my yearlong exploration into a plant-based diet. Read on to discover why I consider them all to be necessities in my kitchen—and how they improved my cooking game for good.
Ninja Master Prep 400-Watt Food Processor
Banana “nice” cream quickly became the go-to healthy alternative to my favorite dairy-laden pints of Haagen Daaz. The unique design of this blender, which doubles a food processor, guarantees you can quickly blend bananas into the perfect consistency with minimal liquids required—and no motor burnout. Plus, it’s even strong enough to grind down nuts—like cashews or almonds—into a rich, creamy cheese sauce or super smooth homemade nut butter.
EZ Tofu Press
While a tofu press might look like a medieval torture device, it’s actually the best (and easiest!) way to make restaurant-quality tofu-based dishes at home. Squeezing the water out of tofu before cooking gives it a way tastier texture and allows for better absorption of marinades and sauces. As someone that detested tofu for years, this press was a serious game-changer for my plant-based diet.
Cooks Standard 11-Inch Hard Anodized Nonstick Wok Stir Fry Pan
Even meat eaters should take note of this non-stick wok pan. The hard ionized surface is not only durable, but also evenly heats your food so you don’t deal with half frozen potstickers or poorly-reheated noodle dishes. It also has a tempered glass lid that’s useful for steaming large batches of greens, like kale or spinach. Plus, you can even use the deep pan to turn mushy frozen vegetables into crispy, fresh side dishes—a time- and money-saving hack that completely changed my dinner routine.
Ellie’s Best Pro Quality Nut Milk Bag
When I was devoted to consuming a plant-based diet, I spent a lot of time concocting recipes in my kitchen. One of my favorite things to create at home was (and still is!) nut milk—and this high-quality nut milk bag is a critical part of the process. It’s made with ultrafine Italian nylon mesh that never lets pulp escape during the straining process and is essential for squeezing out every last drop of homemade ‘mylk.’ You can also use it as an affordable, homemade alternative to pricey green juices by straining blended greens of your choice with water. Plus, the fast-drying strainer bag is super easy to clean, so you’ll never have to worry about mold.
MAD SHARK Santoku Pro-Kitchen Knife 7-inch
My plant-based diet incorporated *a lot* of produce, from brussel sprouts to broccoli. If you plan to slice and dice a bounty of fresh fruits and veggies, you’ll definitely want to invest in a high-quality knife to make it easier on yourself. An Amazon Bestseller, this rust- and stain-resistant German stainless steel blade is a great affordable option to kickstart your collection. Complete with an ergonomic, lightweight handle and hollow divets along the blade that minimize food suction to make every slice speedier, this versatile cutting knife will quickly help your chopping skills improve.
Pyrex Simply Store Glass Rectangular and Round 18-Piece Food Container Set
A critical part of following a plant-based diet is ensuring you’re always prepared—whether that’s packing lunch to take on an airplane or bringing leftovers from the night before to snack on when you have the munchies. These Pyrex Bowls were a lifesaver for keeping my fridge organized and stocked with options, so I wouldn’t stray from my new eating habits in a moment of hunger-fueled desperation. The glass containers are safe for us in the freezer, oven, microwave, and dishwasher, making reheating meals and cleaning up after a breeze.Plus, the non-porous containers won’t absorb odors, flavors, or stains, like many of their plastic counterparts tend to do.
Spiralizer 5-Blade Vegetable Slicer
While I love to cook pre-sliced zoodles, it was hard to justify buying a pricey carton every time I visited Whole Foods. This spiralizer gave me another option that saved a ton of money while still allowing me to indulge in one of my favorite healthy recipes. Unlike other spiralizers that struggle to handle hard root vegetables, this third-generation model combines a reinforced, BPA-free plastic construction with stainless steel blades to easily shred through sweet potatoes, beets, and other tough textures. You can also choose between five different blades (that are easy to swap out), allowing you to create your meal just how you want it—the arm workout is just an added bonus.
Silpat Nonstick Silicone Baking Mat
While I loved making roasted veggies, I dreaded scrubbing off excess oil and spices from my baking sheet after the fact. With Silpat’s non-stick mat, I could finally skip my least favorite step—or at least spend less time on it. The freezer-friendly non-stick baking mat combines fiberglass mesh and high-grade silicone for an easy-to-clean mat that quickly and evenly cooks food while reducing the need of butter, oils, or sprays. That means your recipes stay cleaner without losing that covetable oven-induced browning. Plus, you’ll do your part in reducing waste since the durable mat is reusable for up to 3,000 bakings.
K Basix Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainer (Set of 3)
Trust me—you should always rinse rice and other grains prior to cooking them. You’ll immediately see the difference in their texture, with a pre-rinse leading you to lighter, fluffier grains in your meal. Considering a vegan diet tends to be higher in carbs, these strainers were a lifesaver for rinsing and draining my favorite grains. Plus, the stainless steel strainers are rust-proof and built to last for years of rinsing off pasta, spaghetti, and canned beans—and at just $10 for a pack of three, the price really can’t be beat.