You don't need fancy gadgets and expensive appliances to make healthy meals, but you will need to make sure you've got all the essentials. Check out this guide for a run-down on plant-based kitchen necessities.
If you're eating healthily and preparing the majority of your own food, it's important that you have the right equipment. This doesn't mean you have to deck your kitchen out with fancy gadgets and expensive appliances - in fact, you probably have most of what you need already! Here's my comprehensive list of essential and good-to-have items for a whole food plant-based kitchen.
Yes, we will begin by stating the obvious! In any kitchen, you'll need a few knives to get you started. It's good to have a large-ish chef's knife, a bread knife (also great for tomatoes!) and a smaller paring knife, which will come in handy for peeling and slicing fruits and veggies. It's also helpful to have a sharpening stone to prevent your knives from becoming dull, as this will make it more difficult to slice and can result in accidents.
Another necessary item to have is a chopping board (or two). Large boards are great for big cook ups, while smaller boards are ideal for those times when you only need to dice some garlic or slice a lemon. Bamboo, wooden and plastic boards are all great - but they each have positive and negative qualities. Plastic can go straight in the dishwasher, which is convenient, but surface cuts can harbor a lot of nastys. Wooden boards need to be hand cleaned and are susceptible to mildew if not looked after properly, but don't have the potential chemical contaminants that many plastic boards do. Do what is best and easiest for you, but be sure to avoid glass boards, as they will ruin your knives!
Pots and Pans
It's good to have a few different pots and pans, particularly if you're cooking for more than one person. I would recommend the following: a large pot for soups and stews, a medium pot for pasta and grains, a small pot for sauces, and at least one large and one small frying pan for large and small culinary endeavors (ie. pancakes for the family vs. grilled onions for a sandwich.) Non-stick stoneware pans are especially great to have when you're cooking without oil.
Mixing bowls are great for, well...mixing things! They're especially useful for baking and salad making, though you're sure to find at least 10 other uses for them. It's handy to have a couple of different sized bowls - large bowls for salads, medium for baking batters, and smaller bowls for whisking dressings or blending spices.
Important kitchen utensils to have are tongs, a spatula, a ladle, wooden spoons, a slotted spoon, and a balloon whisk. A set of salad servers can also come in handy if you're having family-style meals.
Scissors will allow you to neatly open packages, so you can easily re-seal them with clips. They're also fantastic for chopping herbs directly into dishes or over salads - no cutting board required!
Graters and Peelers
There are a variety of graters and peelers that serve different purposes. Regular graters are perfect for shaving carrots and beets, while fine graters are ideal for ginger and citrus peels. A standard veggie peeler is also good to have. Not only will it remove peel quickly and easily, you can use it to slice vegetables into long thin ribbons for salads and stir-fries.
Fresh citrus juices are used frequently in plant-based recipes such as salad dressing and dips, and you'll get the most out of the fruit with a good citrus press. Manual or electric presses both work well.
Sieves and Colanders
You may be surprised to discover how much use your colander gets when cooking plant-based meals. Even if you're not straining the liquid from canned legumes twice a day, you'll need it to drain boiled potatoes and pasta, and rinsing or washing your leafy greens. A fine mesh sieve also comes in handy for baking and straining finer foods.
Non-stick baking sheets are great for pizzas, roasting vegetables, and toasting nuts and seeds; alternatively you can line your oven trays with a sheet of baking or parchment paper. You'll probably want to have a couple of Pyrex or ceramic oven dishes for cooking casseroles, or for keeping dishes warm when there's no more room on the stove. Silicone muffin trays and cake moulds are also a must-have if you're a baking fanatic like me!
Perfect for making dips and soups, a good quality blender can really make a difference in your kitchen. With so many different brands on the market these days, it's easier than ever to get a quality model at a reasonable price.
In addition to a blender, a food processor is a very useful appliance to have. So many staples can be made effortlessly in a food processor, from dips and purees to veggie burgers and bread dough. Nowadays, most come equipped with additional blades for slicing and grating, which can save you a lot of time and effort as well.
This is not a necessity, but it will come in handy if you're preparing a lot of grains. Brown rice, quinoa and millet require little to no attention when prepared in a rice cooker, leaving you free to tend to other things, like prepping vegetables (or just putting your feet up!) Many rice cookers now come with timers, so you can set them before you leave for work, and have perfect rice ready and waiting for you when you get home.
Again, not a necessity, but a great addition to your kitchen, especially if you enjoy Asian cuisine. Quickly stir-frying vegetables allows them to hold their color, texture and nutrient value. Both electric and traditional woks are widely available, and they don't have to set you back much either.
Electric Pressure Cooker
A lot of people in the plant-based community absolutely love their electric pressure cookers - myself included! They make cooking legumes, grains, soups, stews and chillies an absolute breeze. Brands like the Instant Pot allow you to set timers, so you can throw your ingredients in ahead of time, and have a meal cooked and ready when you want it. They also function as slow cookers, rice cookers, and with a regular stove-top setting, so it's essentially like having 4 or 5 different appliances in one.
Article photo courtesy of Slightly Everything via Flickr