I’ve been a vegan for 7 years — these are my 6 go-to recipes using only cupboard staples

I went vegan 7 years ago and never looked back. Here are six of my favourite recipes. Billie Schwab Dunn
  • I’ve been a vegan for seven years, and I’ve perfected a variety of pantry-friendly recipes.
  • Although I like to cook, I don’t like to spend lots of my spare time in the kitchen, so it’s important to me that recipes don’t take too long to prepare.
  • From a Mexican rice and chickpea curry to banana pancakes and a tomato pasta, here are my go-to dishes that use only cupboard staples.
  • Some of these recipes have been passed down from my mum, and they’re perfect for when you need a comforting meal.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I’ve been vegan for seven years, which has given me the chance to experiment with my cooking and perfect a variety of quick and easy recipes. It’s also shown me – and those that I cook for – that being vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out on flavour.

There is so much more to vegan food than eating tofu and quinoa (even though both of those foods are delicious).

These six dishes are regulars in my recipe arsenal – some have even been passed down from my mum, and they’re perfect for when you’re looking for something comforting.

Plus, each recipe mainly consists of tinned goods and ingredients that you probably already have lying around the house, or that you can easily buy from your local corner store.

1. I love whipping up Mexican rice when I need something quick on a weeknight.

Mexican rice is one of those meals I make when I feel like I don’t have anything in because — most of the time — I always have the ingredients I need to make it.

This is a recipe my friend and her boyfriend made me once when I first moved to London. I’ll forever associate it with memories of drinking cheap prosecco, and thinking about my future in a new city.

My friend originally used a recipe from Tasty but, since I’ve been making it, I’ve made it my own. That’s the great thing about cooking – you can adapt things to your own taste or to whatever you have in the cupboard.

You need:

  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of corn (or 2 small cans)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cups of rice
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock
  • Chilli powder
  • Cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime
  • Coriander to garnish

My favourite thing about this recipe is it requires very minimal chopping, which means I don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

This Mexican rice takes no time at all and is a great way to eat a lot of veggies.

All I chop beforehand is the garlic and the cherry tomatoes – feel free to use as many as you like.

Heat up some oil in a large pan before adding the garlic, and cook it until it becomes fragrant. Be careful, though, as you don’t want to burn it. Next add the black beans, corn, rice, vegetable stock, chilli powder, cumin, salt, and pepper all at once.

You want to let this concoction cook for 10 minutes, stirring as it bubbles away and tasting it to make sure it doesn’t need any more stock, cumin, or chilli. Then add the cherry tomatoes and let the dish cook for another five to 10 minutes. I don’t like the tomatoes to cook for too long, as I think they lose their sweetness.

You’ll know it’s ready when the stock is absorbed and the rice is perfectly cooked. Then transfer it to your bowl, squeezing lime over the top and topping everything with sliced avocado and coriander (I stole some from my housemate). Honestly, this dish is bursting with flavour, and it takes up barely any time at all. The addition of the lime juice and coriander also makes it taste incredibly fresh.

2. Whenever I make my chickpea curry, I like to cook a large batch so that I can feast on it throughout the week.

Looking at the ingredients might not spark a lot of creativity, but everything in this picture results in a curry that has so much varied flavour.

My mother is the queen of curries, but it was her chickpea curry that always had our dinner guests asking for more. I’ve tried to recreate her brilliance – albeit with a few alterations.

Although my version has limited vegetables compared to my mum’s, feel free to add as many as you like. I particularly love potatoes in curry, but had just run out of them myself. If you do choose to use hearty vegetables, add them after sautéing the onion but before you throw in the garlic and ginger, then cook the veggies until they have softened a bit.

This is my favourite dish – it’s perfectly creamy, and has so many incredible flavours.

All you need is:

  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 1 inch of ginger, chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 3 teaspoon chilli flakes (I like it spicy)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fenugreek
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • 2 cans of full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Cornflour
  • Rice, cooked

To get started on the curry, heat some oil in a large pot or pan before adding in the garlic, onion, mushrooms, and ginger.

The bags under my eyes might make it seem like this curry was tough work, but it wasn’t — I try to make it at least once a week because I love it so much.

Season the fragrant ingredients with salt and pepper, occasionally stirring until the onion becomes translucent and the mushrooms turn a golden brown and have shrunk in size. Next you want to add all of the spices (feel free to adjust the amount). If you don’t have access to all of them, don’t worry – the curry is also delicious with just the turmeric, chilli flakes, and cumin.

At this point your house should be filled with the intoxicating scent of all of the spices coming together.

Add the chickpeas and season them with salt and pepper as they cook. The goal here is to let them sizzle and fry in the spices until they start to get a little bit crispy, which should take approximately 10 minutes.

Pour in the two cans of coconut milk with the stock and add some extra salt and pepper, which will really help bring out all of these gorgeous flavours. Bring it to a simmer and cook it for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the whole dish thickens and the creaminess stews.

I like my curries to be thick so that they coat the rice nicely, which means the addition of cornflour is vital. Mix two tablespoons of cornflour with one tablespoon of water in a glass or jar until it becomes a smooth paste. Then mix it into the curry while it’s simmering.

Now it’s time to add the kale, which you want to cook until it is nice and soft. Season this with – you guessed it – more salt and pepper. All you have to do now is serve it up with a good amount of rice and voila! A richly-flavoured curry that is bound to please whoever you serve it to.

3. When I need to satisfy my carb craving, I turn to my simple tomato pasta recipe.

All of these ingredients are so basic that I’m sure you have them all in your cupboard as we speak (apart from maybe the nutritional yeast).

Yes, this is basic, but it’s a classic for whenever you need a carb-loaded hit – and who doesn’t love pasta?

Growing up, this is a meal that my family would always cook the day before our weekly food shop. Now it’s something I quickly whip together if friends are coming around before a night of drinks and we need to line our stomachs (thanks mum!).

My tomato pasta has gone through many variations through the years, depending on what ingredients I have lying around the house.

For the most basic, cupboard-friendly version, all you need is:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 packet of pasta
  • Passata
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried oregano, dried basil, and chilli flakes
  • Vegetable stock
  • Nutritional yeast (you can omit this if you don’t have it, but it really adds something special).

You can replace the tinned tomatoes with fresh tomatoes and add mushrooms and baby spinach if you have them (today I did not). For this pasta I’m not a big fan of measuring ingredients, so feel free to put as much of these products in as you feel you need.

To start, you simply need to chop the onion before adding it to a pan that has been heated up with a splash of olive oil, and cook until it’s translucent.

I know this meal isn’t fancy, but it is extremely satisfying.

Next, chop up and add two cloves of garlic. Can we all agree that garlic and onion cooking together creates one of the best scents in the world?

If I’m cooking with mushrooms and fresh tomato, this is when I would chop them up and add them to the pan. But this time I moved right on to adding olives that I had cut in half. I also added capers, which my mum has always told me need to be cut in half for the meal to taste better (but if I’m feeling incredibly lazy, that’s a step I’ll completely ignore).

Then it’s time to add the dried oregano, basil, and chilli flakes before throwing in the tinned tomatoes and stock, allowing them to stew together. I’ll also add three teaspoons of stock powder (it was the only kind of stock the shop had) with a cup of water because I love the strong umami flavour.

Last but not least is the passata. I always decide how much to use based on whether there’s enough sauce to coast the pasta, and whether I like the consistency. If, like me, you don’t want your sauce to be too thick, aim for it to have a similar consistency to ketchup (don’t worry, it won’t taste like ketchup). Add salt to taste.

If you have any nutritional yeast on hand, this is the time to use it. I tend to absolutely drown my pasta in it, but this isn’t a necessary step if you don’t have it.

I know it’s not one of the most exciting meals to look at, but my tomato pasta is bursting with flavour and can be made as interesting as you want it to be. This is also a great meal to cook right before pay day as it doesn’t involve any expensive ingredients. If you’re feeling really fancy, add a bay leaf while cooking for extra flavour.

4. When I’m after something that involves very little cooking, I’ll rustle up rice and lentils.

Can you believe that apart from the addition of water, these five ingredients result in a meal that will have you asking for seconds?

Now I know, I know, rice and lentils doesn’t sound all that exciting. But there’s something about this dish that’s so incredibly comforting. My mum used to always cook up large batches and store it in the fridge so that whenever I came home from a long day of work or school, I had something quick and easy to eat. At a time when I’m more than 10,000 miles away from my mum, it always feels like a bit of home.

Of course, I can’t cook it as well as my mum, but this recipe is so easy and simple to follow and only needs a handful of ingredients.

All you need is:

  • 2 cups of rice
  • 1 cup of green or brown dried lentils
  • 2 large brown onions
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 5 cups of water

To start, you need to make sure you wash and pick through your cup of lentils, as sometimes there may be small stones hiding inside. Accidentally munching on one is definitely something you want to avoid.

She isn’t pretty, but this dish is packed with flavour and always reminds me of home.

Then put the lentils into a pot with double the amount of water and some salt, and cook it on the stove for 10 to 15 minutes. Once that’s done, you need to add two cups of rice and four cups of water and stir, leaving it on the stovetop until the rice is cooked. I tend to cook it for 10 minutes.

While that’s cooking, chop up two brown onions (I prefer them diced). Add them to a hot pan with oil and fry them until they’re completely translucent.

Once all of that is done, tip the caramelised brown onions into the pot with the rice and lentils, stirring them through. The addition of the oil-coated onions makes the dish creamy and bursting with flavour. Salt it well, and enjoy! This is an incredibly cheap, nutritious, and delicious meal that proves lentils can go a long way.

5. Banana pancakes are the best thing to whip up for a lazy Sunday brunch at home.

This recipe is a great way to use up bananas that are starting to look a little sad.

I have fond childhood memories of standing on a stool in the kitchen as my little hands helped my mum make pancakes. She would teach me special tricks, such as knowing that it’s time to flip them when they bubble around the side.

It became tradition to make pancakes for special occasions, such as birthdays and Mother’s and Father’s Day. Soon I took over the pancake-making duties, using my mum’s recipe but adjusting it slightly so that it’s vegan-friendly. The great thing about this recipe is that – unlike most baking recipes – you can play around with the quantity of ingredients that you use. And let me tell you, these are so incredibly fluffy and deliciously-flavoured thanks to the bananas.

I like to listen to “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson as I’m cooking for a completely cliché, but totally soul-fulfilling morning.

All you need is:

  • 3 cups of self-raising flour
  • 1 ½ cups of soy milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Salt
  • 2 bananas
  • Olive oil

First sift the flour into a bowl. I often use self-raising flour with the baking powder because I find this makes the pancakes extra fluffy, but you can use plain flour instead.

These pancakes are not too sweet and they’re not too rich — they’re just right.

Add the rest of the dry ingredients – the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon – and mix them together.

Once that’s done, make a well in the dry ingredients (this used to be one of my favourite parts as a kid). Pour the soy milk and vanilla essence into the well before you begin mixing the flour and liquid ingredients together gradually, drawing the flour from the inside of the well. This helps to incorporate the dry and wet ingredients easily, and makes for a less lumpy batter.

Then you need to mash up the bananas before adding them into the bowl. The trick here is you don’t want the pancakes to be weighed down by using too much banana, as the batter won’t be able to cook properly. You want the batter to have a thick, yet smooth, consistency.

Heat up the pan with some oil and then add in the batter for your first pancake. When the pancake looks like it has become dry around the edges and little bubbles have formed on top, it’s time to flip! You want to cook both sides until they’re nicely golden, but remember – the first pancake is always the worst.

When I’ve cooked each pancake I’ll put them inside a tea towel to keep warm, which is a trick my mum shared with me that surprisingly works.

Then serve the pancakes up however you like – I love eating mine with maple syrup or lemon and sugar. Feel free to incorporate other fruit, or include chocolate chips.

6. Tacos are a simple crowd-pleaser that are as fun to cook as they are to serve up.

Who would have thought that such simple ingredients could make such a crowd-pleaser of a dish?

This was another favourite in my household growing up as it’s so easy and quick to make, while also being incredibly fulfilling. It was one of the first dishes I perfected with the help of my dad, which I then taught my brother how to make as well. The three of us would take turns cooking it, and sometimes we would make it all together. A recipe that has memories attached to it is always a winner in my book.

You need:

  • Passata
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 brown onion
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt
  • Lettuce, shredded
  • Cherry tomatoes, chopped (you can also swap these for regular tomatoes)
  • 1 pack of taco shells

Begin by chopping up the onion, then heat it in a pan with oil until it becomes translucent, adding garlic halfway through.

It may not win any Instagram photo competitions, but it is definitely going to put a smile on your face.

Cook them both until they’re fragrant and their intoxicating scent is wafting through the house. Next you’ll want to add the cumin, chilli powder, salt, and sugar before tossing in the beans.

Pour in the passata next – you want to use enough so that the beans are well-covered. This recipe really relies on the beans, so make sure you buy a tasty passata otherwise it will really affect the dish. If passata isn’t an option for you, use tomato paste with a dash of balsamic to cut through the tomato, and add a splash of water to thin it out.

Leave this to simmer for 15 minutes until the mixture has thickened enough that it won’t make the tacos soggy.

While that’s cooking, chop up enough cherry tomatoes and lettuce for however many tacos you’ll be serving. This is also a great time to prepare the guacamole, which only needs avocado, salt, cumin, chilli flakes, and a couple of squeezes of lemon all mixed in a bowl together.

Once the beans are cooked well, it’s time to serve up! I like to fill my tacos with the beans first, then the lettuce, guacamole, and finally the tomatoes. If I have any vegan cheese or nutritional yeast, I’ll put that on right after the beans so that it melts a little bit on top.

The tacos can also be turned into burritos, depending on what you prefer. All you need to swap in the recipe are the taco shells for tortillas.

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