The 5 Ingredients Every Vegan Chef Should Have in the Kitchen

Photo: Stocksy/Jose Coello

Before By Chloe had a line out the door and "bleeding" plant-based burgers became the norm, there was Blossom—a New York City vegan restaurant designed to appeal to both those who strictly eat plants and meat-lovers. The first location opened in 2005, wowing critics with its simple, yet stunning menu (including some legendarily creamy, "I-can't-believe-it's-not-dairy" signature sauces).

The Blossom Cookbook
Photo: Avery

Now, for the first time, co-owners Ronen Seri and Pamela Elizabeth are sharing the recipes behind some of their most popular dishes in The Blossom Cookbook. Of course, in order to rustle up the restaurant's all-star entrées—like pine nut-crusted eggplant, zucchini risotto, and sweet potato coconut curry—you need one thing: a well-stocked kitchen.

Here, Seri and Elizabeth share the five fridge and pantry staples they rely on most often, ensuring that you'll never be caught short when you've got a mean craving for pesto zoodles. (Assuming that you don't have Blossom's executive chef Ramiro Ramirez—better known as Chef Francisco—on speed dial.)

Keep reading for the 5 ingredients every plant-loving chef should always have on hand.

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1. Nuts

According to both Seri and Elizabeth, the secret to making mouth-watering cuisine—vegan or not—is in the sauce. "It's the foundation for any dish," Seri says. The one ingredient that most of his favorite recipes have in common? Nuts.

They're used to make cashew, coconut, and even sour creams. They're the base for Blossom's famed pistachio sauce and pesto. They're even in the restaurant's parmesan "cheese," comprised of almonds, nutritional yeast, and salt. The more varieties of nuts you have on hand at home, the more you can experiment with your own sauces, says Seri—so load up. 

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2. Fresh herbs

Seri and Elizabeth use fresh herbs with abandon in the kitchen: in pastas, in salads, and sprinkled on top of just about everything for a refreshing flash of flavor. And yes, they're also a key ingredient in those cult-fave sauces. "So much of the taste comes from using fresh herbs," Seri says.

Some of the pair's go-tos include basil, cilantro, rosemary, and parsley. Forget the finished recipes—just imagine how good your kitchen will smell with such a fragrant lineup on hand.

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3. Green veggies

When Seri goes grocery shopping, the bulk of his cart is monochrome. "I always buy Swiss chard, kale, spinach, zucchini, and broccoli," he says. And no, he's not just using them to whip up salads. (Although he does make plenty of those, often massaged with an almond-ginger dressing.)

For example, he blends zucchini, broccoli, and peas to use in risotto and layers artichokes in eggplant lasagna. It's not just to "sneak in" extra servings of nutrients—Seri points out that vegetables add a layer of freshness and flavor similar to that of herbs. 

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4. Seitan

Seri and Elizabeth both cook with tofu a lot, but Elizabeth actually prefers seitan. "It's chewier and a little denser," she says. "The taste is a bit more complex." While tofu is made from soybeans, seitan is composed of wheat gluten and is a bit higher in protein. But both soak up those decadent sauces in a similar way—so if you're a tofu fan, you won't be disappointed. 

cashew milk
Photo: Thinkstock/bhofack2

5. Cashew milk

Seri prefers playing around with savory dishes while Elizabeth is more into baking, and of all the alt-milks out there, she's come to like cashew the most. "It's creamier than almond or rice milk," she says, adding that she also really likes flax seed milk for its similarly rich texture. (Some of her other favorite hacks for vegan baking include using applesauce instead of eggs, subbing out butter for olive oil, and adding chia seeds for texture.)

And what if some of these ingredients are totally foreign to you? No biggie—Seri and Elizabeth both say experimentation is the key to mastering vegan cuisine. "Sure, sometimes it might be a bust, but other times it's like, 'Wow!'" Seri says. And no, you don't need bacon to muster up that type of enthusiasm.

Now that you have your vegan ingredients ready for cooking, whip up a meal that's worthy of Beyonce herself. Or, try your hand at these 10-minute Paleo vegan recipes.

Five Ingredients every vegan chef should have in the kitchen
Graphic: Abby Maker for Well+Good

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