Five Canned Foods You Should Always Have In Your Pantry
Today we’re back with another one of our Top 5 videos and this one is all about our favorite canned foods. We’ve found that having a few cans of ready-to-go foods on hand is essential for keeping us on track with our whole food plant-based diet.
The fact is that eating the way we do does take a little extra thought and preparation. Although we’re eating the simplest food on Earth, mainstream society rarely caters to us like it does “junk food junkies” whose decisions about what to eat are mostly based on speed, convenience, and over-the-top flavors.
But let’s face it; healthy vegans want fast food too! There are nights where the last thing we want to do is chop and cook a bunch of veggies for our meal. These are times when the thought of preparing food is so abhorrent, we contemplate skipping mealtime altogether just to avoid the onerous task of cooking and cleanup.
Times like these are when we’re so grateful that canned foods exist. When we want to prioritize speed and ease without compromising on nutritional value, these are the items we always have in our pantry to make it easier on us.
If you’re a zero-waste homesteader person who has the time to grow, harvest, chop, cook, and can your own pantry staples then our hats are off to you. But many of us have full-time jobs, families, or other time-demanding obligations that make the convenience of having ready-to-go foods on hand a true godsend, so we hope this list is as helpful for you as it is for us.
#1 - Tomatoes
We always have diced tomatoes and canned tomato sauce on hand. I’ve mentioned in other videos that on those nights I can’t stand the thought of cooking, I’ll dump a can of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce, a bag of frozen veggies, and some spices in the InstantPot, push a button and walk away until the pot beeps and tells me that it’s time to eat. That’s about as close as we get to “fast food” and it suits us just fine!
We also use canned tomatoes to save time when making our homemade marinara sauce. Dillon always likes to throw a can or two in when making his Starch Blaster as well. If you’re not familiar with Dillon’s Starch Blaster, we created a free downloadable PDF document called Starch Blaster Formulator on our Free Downloads page. It’s a staple meal that gets made weekly in our home. We also have a Freezer & Pantry Essentials checklist on that page too!Click here to download your copies now!
#2 - Garbanzo Beans
Garbanzo beans are so versatile. They’re delicious right out of the can without anything added or they can act as a base for more complex, ingredient-heavy recipes. Having canned garbanzos on hand makes it easy to whip up a batch of delicious, creamy hummus for the week (or a party!). We also love to drain a can, season them heavily, and pop them in the air fryer to make crispy chickpeas perfect for salads or snacking.
Recently, we saw on TikTok a recipe where someone took a can of chickpeas, a handful of dates, and a few chocolate chips, whizzed them up in the food processor and called it a “healthy cookie dough”. We don’t eat sugar, so we’d leave out the chocolate chips but this gave us some good ideas for making a whole food sweet treat out of this pantry staple. Yay garbanzos!
#3 - Black & Pinto Beans
We put black and pinto beans in the same category because we use them interchangeably. It’s no secret that Dillon and I are obsessed with Latin food. It’s our favorite cuisine and we eat it every single week. For us, you can’t have a good Latin meal without either black or pinto beans present and accounted for on the plate! We like to eat them whole or blend them up with a little liquid to make healthy refried beans.
Our love for black and pinto beans isn’t limited to Latin-inspired recipes. We’ll throw them in pasta, in salads, and in soups. They’re fabulous in everything! Another favorite “fast food” meal of ours is to mix together a can of beans, a bag of frozen rice, some store bought salsa (or homemade pico if we’ve made it recently), and a few shakes of Fiesta Fire Blend for some extra kick. It’s how we get our Latin food fix… in a flash!
#4 - White Beans
White beans get their own category aside from garbanzo, black, or pinto beans because we use them in a completely different way. There are very few things I like to eat whole white beans in. I don’t know why but I just don’t really care for them in the way I do black or pinto beans. However, I find white beans incredibly useful for blending into other recipes to add creaminess without adding fat.
Most vegan recipes that attempt to mimic their traditionally dairy-heavy counterparts will use cashews to create a similar mouthfeel to dairy. While cashews are a whole food, they fall into a category known as “overt fats”, which also includes other nuts, seeds, and avocados. If you’re trying to lose weight on a whole food plant-based diet, overt fats can be your downfall. They’re just TOO easy to indulge in. That said, if you’re already at a healthy weight, there’s nothing wrong with having overt fats here and there but even then, we find it best to limit them.
The next time you come across a vegan recipe calling for cashews, try substituting a can of white beans instead! We love using blended white beans in soups and even salad dressings. It’s surprising how much they help create that creamy texture we love.
#5 - Corn
A great way to add some starch with a lovely, sweet little crunch is to throw a can of corn in it! This is one of the only vegetables Dillon and I enjoy from a can. In the video, Dillon and I go on a bit of a rant about how awful we think canned green beans, peas, and mushrooms are… yuck!
But we’ll use frozen and canned corn interchangeably. It’s perfect in salads, in Latin-inspired dishes (naturally), and in soups, such as a creamy Corn Chowder where you could even use some canned white beans to help create a creamy soup base (wink wink!).
Bonus #1 - Olives
It wouldn’t be a Top 5 list without a few honorable mentions, now would it? We always have canned olives on hand when we want a salty, briny pop of flavor. If you’re on a completely salt-free diet for health reasons, feel free to skip over this section because it’s nearly impossible to find olives without sodium.
Dillon and I are not 100% salt-free; we’re in good health and there’s nothing in our bloodwork to indicate that we need to avoid salt at all costs. Still, we never cook with salt but we will occasionally sprinkle a small amount on our food before eating it. Olives can act as a sort of “whole food salt” for us; we like to chop them up and add them on top of our salads, potato dishes, and almost anything Italian-inspired.
Bonus #2 - Water Chestnuts
We recently used water chestnuts in one of our Well Your Weekend Cooking Shows when we were making lettuce wraps. Water chestnuts add a surprising little crunch that makes any dish a little more special. Sometimes, you just need a little extra crunch in your life, am I right? Water chestnuts are a fabulous way to add a nut-like crunch to your dishes without adding any fat. If you’re a crunch-lover like we are, make sure you keep a can of these in the pantry!
There you have it: the Top 5 Canned Foods (plus a couple more) that we like to have in the pantry at all times for quick and tasty meals that won’t get you off track with your healthy diet. We hope this was helpful for you!