When I first started my journey toward healthy eating, cooking at home, and cutting meat out of my diet, my kitchen looked like most college kids. I had some cheap pots and pans, a few spoons and stirring utensils, a couple cheap knives, a peeler, a baking sheet, a muffin tin, some cheap tupperware, and some miscellaneous things that I had acquired over 5 years (I finished my M.S. and B.S. in 5.5 years so I had some time to collect). That said, I definitely had a learning curve, and have accumulated a lot of new handy tools that have transformed my cooking abilities. I put this list of best kitchen essentials for vegetarian cooking together to help you with ideas for your kitchen transformation, or just what are some essentials and luxury items you may want to purchase.
Essentials for any Vegetarian Kitchen
Good pots and pans. Ceramic and stainless steel are good options. I used to have some cheap non-stick pots and pans, which worked but the non-stick peeled away and scratched very easily. As a food scientist, I researched coatings and realized that some of this can leech into your food and thus, you are ingesting it. When we got married I asked for a nice set of stainless steel with a copper lining in the base for even heat distribution. It has been one of the best gifts we’ve gotten.
Baking sheets. I didn’t realize how often we’d be roasting veggies and other stuff, but getting one or two good baking sheets will pay off. I got one of these Nordicware pans about 6 years ago and its been one of the best cheap investments I’ve made.
Blender or food processor. Before I really got into cooking, I virtually never used a blender or food processor, but since investing in them, I seriously use them all the time. We splurged on this Vitamix blender and it was worth the investment. Smoothies, soup, nut butter, nice cream, nut milk, baby food, we’ve done a lot with it.
- This is the Ninja we had, it’s a great blender for under $100. It doesn’t make great nut milk, nut butter, or grind up leafy greens well. But for soups and fruit smoothies, it’s great.
- Food processor. We use this one and it has done all we have needed from it. A great budget-friendly processor running under $50. Not ideal for anything liquidy, but nut butters, falafel, cookie dough with dates, energy bites, bean burgers, and many other things it works great.
- Mini food processor. We got this in college and it’s still humming along. Great for smaller grinds like puree tomatoes for Indian dishes, chutneys, hummus, salad dressing, It’s great for spaces with limited storage but isn’t ideal for things with a lot of liquid because it leaks.
Quality knives. I’ve seen a ton of mixed reviews on knives and I’m here to say these are fairly inexpensive ($70 for a whole set) and they’ve lasted us 5 years so far and they look like new. I do have a splurge-worthy knife that I won at a vendor show but honestly don’t use it as much as my value knives. Do yourself a favor and get at least a good chef’s knife and paring knife. You’ll use them more than you realize. Make sure to get a sharpener too – you should sharpen your knives frequently.
Utensils. Either wood or silicone are my preferred cooking utensils. I have stainless steel and plastic sets and the plastic have degraded over time (making me think we eat it), and the stainless steel scratch the cookware. Wood does degrade too, but it’s a natural material versus plastic. Silicone are great too and more budget-friendly.
Storage containers. Get yourself some food storage containers with air tight lids so you can save those leftovers and easily reheat in the microwave. Pyrex, anchor, and Corningware make great glass or ceramic ones. I even found this set of pyrex mixing bowls that have lids so they double for large storage containers for meal prep. If you watch holiday times you can find good sales on these.
Can opener, make sure you get a good one. In 4 years I’ve been through 4 of them, and so far this one has been doing the job. You can get real fancy with electric ones but this hand-operated one works great and doesn’t take up much space.
Measuring cups and spoons. Get nice stainless steel cups and spoons. They are dishwasher safe and will last you a lifetime. I got some fun multi-colored plastic ones that sadly melted in the dishwasher. Also get some nice liquid measuring cups like this glass pyrex one.
Colender. This is one of those things that is used more than I realized. Not just pasta requires a colender. We use it for when we boil potatoes or peas, or even noodles for stir fry.
Cutting boards. If you don’t already have cutting boards, you really should invest in a few. I have bamboo and plastic ones and much prefer plastic. The bamboo are great but require maintenance. Over the years of forgetting, they have cracked and actually lost pieces. Either way, you will need at least one cutting board.
Don’t forget oven mitts. I’ve burnt myself too many times, and these mitts that go up the arm a bit are great for taking out something when you’re a bit unsteady or might tap your arm on the side of the oven. They double as a place to set a hot pan or dish.
Luxury Kitchen Essentials for Vegetarian Cooking
I made a thorough list of things you will need very regularly in the list above, but these are items that I still use a lot but you can get by without. If you are looking for a gift idea, start here!
Get a coffee grinder for making your own flours, or just grinding your own beans at home. We use this to make oat flour quite a bit and it takes very little storage space. You can also get a dry grains container for a Vitamix but they’re pricy and take up more space.
Immersion blender. This is one of those things I didn’t know I needed until I got it. Between making whipped cream with the whisk, grinding soups and gravy for Indian dishes with the grinder, or even frothy drinks, it’s a hit for things that you don’t want to put into a blender. Bonus is that it doesn’t take up a lot of space.
Instant Pot. You don’t NEED one of these, but you kind of need one. There are SO many functions of an instant pot. We do most of our Indian dishes in these, from dal and chana masala, boiling potatoes, to rice. You can even make your own yogurt, oatmeal, or get really fun and do pot in pot dishes. They also have a new air fryer lid to make your favorite crispy veggies without another utensil.
Slow cooker. If you have an Instant Pot already you won’t need this, but you can make a lot of dishes with a slow cooker. Stew, dal, aloo gobi, oatmeal, monkey bread, etc.
Strainers. We never had strainers until a couple of years ago, but they are dual use. I use them for straining tea when I make chai or other spiced teas and sifting flour or other powdered ingredients for baking. These are the ones I have and they don’t get rusty, cheap ones do so keep that in mind.
Loaf pans are great for making your own bread or dessert loaves (like banana bread, apple cinnamon bread, or pumpkin bread).
Baking dishes such as cake and brownie pans, and muffin tins are great. There are so many delicious snacks that you will use these for. I love making breakfast muffins and black bean brownies.
This was one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. A nice stand mixer has been so handy for making dough for rotis and naan, homemade bread, cakes, brownies, mashed potatoes, muffins, and lots of other stuff. I love this mixer, but if you have limited counter space, I’d recommend an artisan model since they’re smaller.
Cold brew maker, I’ve had a few of these just by chance, and all have worked well. I preferred the OXO most because it didn’t leak and had a large storage container. Make cold brew coffee or tea and keep it in the fridge for quite awhile. This Asobu maker is nice and compact, but it did start leaking over time. Toddy also makes a good one with a stronger concentrate.
Wok or Kadai. For stir fry dishes, Indian vegetable dishes or even just large batch cooking, these type of pans work great.
If you are on your journey to eating vegetarian or vegan, or even just starting to cook, here is a great place to begin on building a kitchen. This list of kitchen essentials for vegetarian cooking contains some essentials and luxury items that will make your experience fun and easier. I hope this list has helped you improve your learning curve and gives you an idea on what things you want to get to start.
Let me know if there is something in my kitchen utensils for vegetarian cooking list that I missed, or if you have any comments or concerns. Thanks for reading!