Items in a healthy plant-based pantry, including dried whole wheat pasta and whole wheat flour in clear containers

How to Give Your Kitchen a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Makeover

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For most people, going whole-food, plant-based doesn’t require a complete fridge and pantry overhaul. You’ll continue to use staples from your local grocery store, including fresh and frozen produce, dried and canned beans, dried pasta and grains, herbs, spices, condiments, sauces, and dips. But some things will change. Here’s a breakdown of what to toss, what to keep, and what to stock up on when going whole-food, plant-based (WFPB).

For specific brands that we recommend for convenience foods such as vegetable broths, crackers, breads, and more, check out our Whole-Food Vegan Grocery List.

First Things First: What to Toss

We recommend getting rid of all animal products and highly processed junk foods. Be ruthless. With those unhealthy foods no longer at your fingertips, you can’t mindlessly reach for them. This will also create space for more nourishing whole plant foods you’ll be bringing into your daily life.

  • White bread, white pasta, white rice
  • Cooking oils, oily salad dressings and sauces, margarine
  • Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, butter)
  • Eggs
  • Highly refined sweeteners (pure cane sugar is OK to keep for sparing use in sauces and desserts)
  • Meat, poultry, and seafood

The Well-Stocked WFPB Kitchen: Your Plant-Based Pantry List

Once you’ve cleared away the animal products and highly processed foods, take a look at what’s left. You may only need to fill some gaps to have a well-stocked WFPB kitchen. Using the lists below as a guide, take stock of your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator, and make a list of what’s missing. You don’t need to buy everything on your first shopping trip. Use your judgment, choose what you’ll enjoy, and get started.


(Tip: When shopping for canned foods, choose low-sodium or no-salt-added options.)

  • Aluminum-free, low-sodium baking powder (baking powder can be surprisingly high in sodium)
  • Applesauce (unsweetened)
  • Arrowroot powder or cornstarch (for thickening sauces)
  • Assorted canned and/or dried beans: black beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), kidney beans, white beans, lentils
  • Canned tomato products: whole, diced, and crushed (including seasoned and fire-roasted varieties); tomato sauce; tomato paste
  • Flaxseed meal (mixed with water, it makes a brilliant egg replacer)
  • Flours: whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oat flour, all-purpose flour (AP flour may be used sparingly in recipes)
  • Hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • Jarred roasted red peppers
  • Low- or no-sodium vegetable broth
  • Natural sweeteners: pure maple syrup, brown rice syrup, fresh dates, pure cane sugar (use sparingly)
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, raw cashews, walnuts, peanuts, pepitas*
  • Oil-free pasta sauces
  • Popcorn kernels for air-popping
  • Soy sauce and/or tamari
  • Unsweetened whole grain cereals: shredded wheat, rice puffs, corn puffs, muesli
  • Assorted vinegars: apple cider, rice, balsamic, red and white wine varieties
  • Assorted whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, steel-cut or rolled oats, wheat berries, millet
  • Whole grain crackers: rye crispbreads, whole wheat crackers, brown rice snaps
  • Assorted whole grain pastas and noodles: whole wheat spaghetti and couscous, Thai-style brown rice noodles, lentil pasta

Fresh Pantry

A freezer drawer stocked with whole-food plant-based vegan items


Frozen Veggies

  • Frozen artichoke hearts
  • Frozen carrots
  • Frozen corn
  • Frozen peas
  • Frozen spinach
  • Frozen stir-fry blends

Frozen Fruits

  • Frozen blueberries
  • Frozen cranberries
  • Frozen mixed berries
  • Frozen mango
  • Frozen peaches
  • Frozen pineapple
  • Frozen strawberries

Frozen Cooked Grains

  • Plain brown rice
  • Quinoa

Healthy plant-based items in a refrigerator, including fresh fruit in drawers, pure maple syrup, and no-sugar-added ketchup


  • Condiments: mustard, ketchup, oil-free barbecue sauce, pure fruit preserves
  • Dips and sauces: oil-free hummus, fresh salsa
  • Assorted fresh fruit (some presliced for instant access)
  • Assorted fresh vegetables (some presliced for instant access)
  • Miso paste (for adding umami flavor without meat)
  • Natural-style nut and seed butters: peanut butter, almond butter, tahini
  • Unsweetened, unflavored plant milk, such as almond, soy, cashew, or oat (The fewer the ingredients, the better. For brands we like, see Your Whole-Food Vegan Grocery List: Oil-Free Breads, Sauces, and Other Go-To Products.)
  • Tofu: extra-firm and silken (Tip: Silken tofu, which is great for creamy desserts and sauces, is often sold in aseptic packaging in the vegetarian or natural foods aisle, near the shelf-stable plant milks.)
  • Whole grain bread and tortillas, corn tortillas

Spice Rack

  • Basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Black peppercorns
  • Cayenne pepper and/or chipotle chili powder
  • Mild chili powder
  • Cilantro
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Curry powder
  • Dill
  • Garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground cumin
  • Ground ginger
  • Italian seasoning
  • Marjoram
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Whole nutmeg
  • Onion powder
  • Oregano
  • Paprika and/or smoked paprika
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Sea salt
  • Turmeric

Ready to get started? Check out Forks Meal Planner, FOK’s easy weekly meal-planning tool to keep you on a healthy plant-based path. To learn more about a whole-food, plant-based diet, visit our Plant-Based Primer.

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About the Author

Headshot of Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief of Forks Over Knives

About the Author

Elizabeth Turner

Elizabeth Turner is the editor in chief of Forks Over Knives. A longtime writer and editor specializing in health, nutrition, and plant-based cooking, she spent seven years as the editor in chief of Vegetarian Times magazine before joining Forks Over Knives. Her work has appeared in Prevention, Shape, Glamour, and Natural Health magazines. Outside the Forks Over Knives office, she can be found shopping Los Angeles-area farmers’ markets for really good fruit, and in her own kitchen, experimenting with plant-based recipes. Find her on LinkedIn.
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