5 Must Have Kitchen Tools for a Plant-Based Diet
Are you considering going plant-based?
The reality is that you can make it work with your standard kitchen tools, but if you want to speed up all that prep work that goes into plant-based cooking these things are a must.
These are kitchen tools I've accumulated slowly over the 3 years that I have been cooking plant-based and while it takes a lot of kitchen space to store them, they help me feel equipped to cook a wide variety of cuisines, whether I want something sauteed, stir-fried, air fried, baked, pressure cooked, creamed, or otherwise.
I will link things here to Amazon Canada or the appropriate website, in case you are interested in buying one.
#1 Kitchen Tool: Vitamix or High Powered Blender
This was one of the first appliances I bought myself after turning vegetarian. While expensive, you can cut down on the price by buying a refurbished or an entry-level mixer, which is what I did. My favorite things to make in my blender are smoothies, creamy cashew sauces, and frozen fruit nice cream (pureed frozen bananas or other fruit to make sorbet). I also grind my own flax seed in my blender and then store it in the freezer so it's fresher than pre-ground flaxseed. More advanced plant-based chefs may use a blender for dough, nut butter, plant-based milk, or soups.
Looking for a more budget-friendly option? Try Ninja BL610 Professional 72 Oz Countertop Blender.
Why it's a must:
So many plant-based recipes call for creamy sauces, like vegan mac n' cheese or other homemade sauces like marinara or salad dressing. On top of that, nice cream is the most de-light-ful plant-based dessert around. While you can make these things in a food processor or regular blender, I like having the power behind a higher-end blender.
#2 Kitchen Tool: Food Processor
I started off with just a small food processor like this KitchenAid 3.5 cup mini food processor but eventually ended up with a larger more powerful Ninja BN601 Professional Plus Food Processor. Now I use both for different functions! My mini food processor is still my everyday onion and carrot chopper, and I have been using it to make nice cream as well since it's a little faster to clean than the Vitamix. I keep it very accessible because of how often I am reaching up to grab this and use it in my everyday cooking.
I could use the larger food processor to chop onion and vegetables too (and I do if it's a larger recipe), but I mostly save it for making lentil burgers and falafel. It's so handy to be able to dump everything in the bowl and pulse a few times to have it all chopped and mixed. Perhaps in my new home, I will have this baby out on the countertop and that will help me use it more. Other uses for large food processors can be making dough, pulverizing oats into flour, making nut butter, making hummus, or believe it or not, processing vegetables (grating, slicing, etc).
Why it's a must:
Some high-powered blenders can achieve similar outcomes as a food processor, but having the bowl instead of the blender pitcher can help mix food more evenly than a blender does. That's why I use my food processor to make things like veggie burgers, falafel, and hummus!
#3 Kitchen Tool: Toxin-Free Pans
I am not an expert on non-toxic pans, mostly because I've only recently become more concerned with the levels of environmental toxins found in our cookware. However, there are a few women I trust who have looked into the effects of toxins found in non-stick cookware and have presented alternative cookware to use. For more information please read this.
Why should we be concerned with the toxins in non-stick cookware? Well, they've been associated with developmental effects on babies in utero, thyroid, liver, and kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, and infertility (Source: Plateful Health Non-Toxic Cookware Guide).
I won't pretend to have a toxic-free kitchen, but I do recommend you aim to nonetheless! The best cookware to use to reduce your exposure to harmful toxins are stainless steel (I love our Kitchen Charm set), but a profession grade cookware is best like the brand All-Clad, cast iron (Lodge, Field, or Le Crueset), or ceramic, like Xtrema.
When it comes to baking, choosing stainless steel baking/muffin sheets or ceramic bread pans and using silicone mats or muffin cups can erase your need for non-stick versions of these pans (more on this below).
Worried about all the mess and frustration of cooking without non-stick pans? Seasoning cast iron pans (coating them with oil after wiping down or cleaning) can help them become more non-stick. Using a little oil or cooking spray while cooking can also help. Using silicone mats is also a lifesaver (more on this below).
#4 Kitchen Tool Food Grade Silicone Products
"Silicone is a synthetic rubber that contains bonded silicon and oxygen. Bonded silicon is a natural element, abundant in sand and rock." While it does not decompose naturally, it has an incredibly long life that allows you to use it over and over. When heated or frozen, it doesn't release any chemicals and it is non-stick and very easy to use.
Silicone is a wonderful alternative to using lots of cooking spray, oil, or butter when cooking and baking. You can use mats on top of stainless steel trays and roast vegetables with minimal or no oil. You can also bake using silicone baking inserts or silicone baking pans (although my experience is that those don't cook as evenly) to minimize added oil or cooking spray.
Also, in my experience, vegan home chefs like to make some things in bulk/advance and store it in the fridge or freezer. If that's you, then reusable silicone storage bags are a must. I've been using these (sadly, mine aren't silicone) to store frozen bananas, muffins, and pita in the freezer while also using them to bring healthy snacks on day trips or airplanes. These are a must when preparing your own healthy foods instead of buying processed food from the store.
#5 Kitchen Tool Instant Pot
So I've had an Instant pot for 3 years, and I'm just getting into using it on a more regular basis. Why? FAMILY. When you start a family, suddenly you need more hands-off cooking methods. Enter the ease and mindlessness of an Instant Pot. Pile all the ingredients inside, start the timer, and off you go.
Instant Pots are not only great for entire meals like soups or stew, but they are also great for cooking beans from dried, which is an incredibly economical way to go. You only need to soak beans if you want to reduce the amount of gas-promoting compounds, but otherwise, you can just rinse them, throw them in the Instant Pot, cover them with 1-2 inches of water, and start the timer. This is a great way to make beans in bulk, which you can then freeze or refrigerate for later use.
Similarly, you can use the Instant Pot to make grains, such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, bulgur, amaranth, wild rice, etc.
Instant Pot gurus will also use this tool to make baked or mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, risotto, steel-cut oats, spaghetti, vegan yogurt, and even bread!
Bonus Kitchen Tools for Plant-Based Cooking
These tools are not essential, but they can be very handy when trying out a variety of cuisines.
Bonus Kitchen Tool #1: Air Fryer
Okay, I TOTALLY recognize that this is not a must. I mean, hey, I barely use mine more than 1-2 times a month. But when you get a hankering for something very crispy, an air fryer can really make the difference while using significantly less oil than a traditional recipe.
The things I love to cook in the air fryer are falafel, cauliflower wings, onion rings (just tried that one), potatoes, and kale chips. I'm still trying out new air fryer recipes each month.
Vegan air fryer gurus may use the tool to make donuts, tofu nuggets, crispy chickpeas, taquitos, edamame, veggie fries, Brussels sprouts, and more!
Bonus Kitchen Tool #2: Hot Water Pot
Most of you are thinking...... whaaaaa?
This is a kitchen tool very common in Asian households due to the passion for drinking tea and hot water on a daily basis. This type of pot is like a kettle, but it keeps the water at a constant temperature so you never have to wait a minute or two for the water to heat up.
This is not only great if you are a tea drinker but also makes it super easy to quickly make broth from bouillon, soak cashews in hot water, start a pot of pasta boiling, or mix up some matcha for a recipe or latte.
Bonus Kitchen Tool #3: Immersion Blender
Immersion blenders are essentially blender motors/blades without the jar/cup. As such, you can plop them easily into a pot of hot soup and blend away without the dangers of hot liquid leaving the pot it was cooking in.
I love using my immersion blender for Jamaican Pumpkin Soup, pea soup, or other pureed soups. If you are an immersion blender guru, however, you could also use it to make guacamole, mash potatoes, salsa, pesto, applesauce, pancake batter, vegan mayonnaise, and even smoothies (if the blender came with a beaker for this purpose).
Many, like my Kitchen Aid immersion blender, also come with a chopper or food processor attachment, so you could save space by using this instead of buying a separate food chopper.
Bonus Kitchen Tools #4-5: Lemon and Garlic Press
Plant-based cooking seems to involve a lot of lemon juice and a LOT of garlic. Now, I've decided to save myself time and just buy pureed garlic in a jar, but when I really want to have a true garlic taste, I use my garlic press! It's so handy and relatively easy to clean.
As mentioned, lots of lemon juice is used to add tang to vegan cooking, therefore, having an easy-to-use lemon press is essential in my mind.
Bonus Kitchen Tool #6: Stand Mixer or Hand mixer
I find the "Essentialness" of these depends on how you grew up. If you grew up with a stand mixer for baking and cooking, you likely view it as essential. If you grew up without one, you often view it as a really expensive countertop decoration (sadly, I fall here). But nonetheless, these are a great tool if you are an avid vegan baker.
However, I am perfectly content with my hand mixer which costs around $50, is more compact, and fits in my cupboards. Hand mixers are great if you rarely bake or use your actual hands to mix things more often.
In plant-based cooking, you really can get by with minimal kitchen tools. I tried to choose the most practical and widely used for plant-based prep and cooking.
The most important things you really need for plant-based cooking are hands to chop with, cutting boards, knives, pots, and most importantly- GOOD RECIPES!
You can get by without all these extra things, but they do save you time (and sometimes tears in the case of onions) and can make plant-based cooking more sustainable for you.
Leave a comment with YOUR favorite kitchen tool for plant-based cooking.
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