Michele Poff

Stocking the Plant-Based Pantry

What do plant-based people eat? All of the edible plants!

Plant-based eating has five major food groups:

Legumes (e.g., beans, lentils, garbanzos, tofu; soy milk)
Grains (e.g., wheat, oat, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, rice; rice milk, oat milk)
Nuts & Seeds (e.g., almond, cashew; pumpkin seed, flax seed, hemp seed; coconut milk, almond milk)
Vegetables (e.g., broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, beets, cauliflower; sea kelp, sea vegetables)
Fruits (e.g., jackfruit, pineapple, papaya, banana, melon)

Also add:

Nutritional yeast (B12 source)

All plant-based foods are made from these ingredients in some form. Your pantry should stock all of the dried elements possible.


As you’ll be eating legumes twice a day, every day, on the plant-based diet, stock up a full selection of legumes. In this part of the world, the options are generally limited to red, black, white, garbanzo, and lentil, but sometimes specialty stores have others. If you can get your hands on adzuki beans, definitely grab a few packages (phenomenal nutritional profile). Always buy dried, then soak to draw out toxins before cooking. Buy a couple of cans of beans for emergencies. Garbanzo and lentil flours are also legumes. Anything soy based is a legume. Soy products should always be organic.

Organic silken tofu is available in the area at BM stores and Mini Price in Quepos. Mini Price also carries organic firm tofu. You’ll want both. Canned tofu, if your palate allows it, is also available at times. Mama Toucan’s in Dominical also carries firm tofu, locally made. Tofu’s shelf-life is generally at least a month or two after the expiration date.


Stock your pantry with the full range of grains for variety in flavors, textures, and nutrients. It’s relatively easy to find different rices, quinoas, organic whole wheat flour, and some specialty grains and flours e.g., buckwheat and rye here. Also, vital wheat gluten is useful as an ingredient for vegan sausages and similar items, though you may need to mule it in or find it in the city. Seal containers carefully.

Oat milk and rice milk are in the grain family.

A Note on Gluten

The grains that contain gluten are wheat (including farro and other wheat derivatives), rye, and barley. Oats must be labeled gluten-free.

People with gluten sensitivity need to avoid these grains.

Gluten causes inflammation. This is because gluten sticks like glue to our insides – you remember papier mâché, right? You dip newspaper strips in a paste made from flour and water to make a piñata! This is the stickiness on our insides, too, and it gunks up and prevents smooth passage through the pipes. There are a lot of diseases of inflammation, such as arthritis and other -itises, heart disease, cancer… the list of diseases of inflammation is long. Adopting an anti-inflammation diet will help reduce these diseases, which means, in part, eliminating gluten from your diet.

Nuts & Seeds

Your pantry should have the full range of nuts and seeds (in glass jars, closed tightly). Here are some fun facts about some of these tiny food items:

Pumpkin seeds have the highest protein concentration of all plant-based foods.
Flax seeds are insoluble fiber in whole form and soluble fiber in ground form.
Both flax and walnut are important sources of omegas/essential fatty acids.
Cashew and macadamia are very high in fat and make delicious creamy sauces.
Sprinkle on salads and smoothie bowls, blend into smoothies, and made dishes from them in their own right.

Almond flour, almond milk, cashew milk, and coconut milk are in the nut family. Almonds are low in fat, cashews are high in fat, and coconuts are high in saturated fat.

Additional Pantry Items

Nutritional yeast is a necessary pantry item. When fortified, it’s one of the very few plant-based sources of B12. So, either learn to love it, or take a B12 supplement.

Cocoa powder is a superfood. It’s plentiful here, rich in fats and other nutrients, and needed to make anything chocolate.

Condiments and sauces are always important. Plant-based food can easily be very bland, so add flavorings generously. Stock:

Range of bottled condiments, spices and spice mixes, dried herbs and dried ground garlic and onion
Miso paste (any kind)
Go-chu-jang next time you get to an Asian market (Korean fermented pepper paste)
Vegetable stock cubes
Bragg’s aminos and soy sauce

Cane sugar and brown cane sugar

Oils: coconut for occasional recipes and personal care; avocado for occasional hi-temperature cooking; olive for occasional cooking and other uses. Note that all are fruit oils.

Rice paper if you want to wrap things (made from white rice usually).

Seaweed wrappers if you want a sea flavor and sea vegetables.

Agar agar for gelling, like gummy candies and some cheeses.

Tapioca starch and corn starch for thickening.

Noodle selection (pay attention to ingredients).

Various flours, organic when possible. Remember that the flour is the food item in dried form. So, banana flour is dried ground bananas. Coconut flour is dried ground coconuts. So whatever flour you’re using, you’re eating the nutrient profile of that food item. Bananas are a fruit, high in carbohydrates and potassium. Coconuts are a nut, and very high in fat. Rice flour is usually made from white rice. Garbanzos are a legume, high in protein, low in carbohydrates, with nearly no fat. Lentil flour, a legume flour, can be made at home in a coffee grinder or hi-speed blender from dried lentils.

Eat the Full Spectrum

Each food item has its own nutritional profile. Each is high in some nutrients and abysmally low in others, so eating the full range of plant options available helps ensure balanced nutrition. Get creative!

Optimally nutritional meals include a serving of legumes, a serving of starch (grains or starchy vegetable like potato, yucca, corn, or butternut squash), a double serving of vegetable, and a small portion of fat. Serving sizes should be about a half cup (~120g) for women and three-quarters of a cup (~180-200g) for men. Daily snacks include fruits, vegetables, and possibly protein. If you want to reduce the starch intake, double up on the legumes and drop the starch for some meals. Once again, get creative! Join some plant-based recipe groups on Facebook and mount your collection of fabulous plant-based recipes. Yum!

Recipe: Chocolate Chia Pudding

  • 1 cup soy or other plant milk, fresh coconut water, or combination
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons ground chia seeds (use coffee grinder or hi-speed blender)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (adjust to taste. The more you add, the richer the flavor)
  • Small pinch salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cane sugar (adjust to taste)
  • A few drops vanilla flavoring
  • A few drops organic peppermint oil (optional)
  1. Stick it all together and stir or blend to mix well.
  2. Adjust flavors to preference. Let set for 5 minutes or longer. Serve chilled.

Filled with calories, essential fatty acids, protein, and other nutrients. This is plant-based fuel! And it’s delicious! Enjoy!

Michele is the author of Whacked Out, a science-based book on well-being in body, mind, spirit, emotions, and relationships. She holds a PhD in Communication and has lived in Costa Rica 10 years, working remotely as writer, editor, course constructor and investigative researcher/data scientist across the disciplines. She is thrilled to share simple insights to healthier lifestyles, contributing to a healthier community overall. Michele leads well-being retreat tours through the Brazilian Amazon. paradisefoundretreat.com. Discounts for Quepolandia readers!