A vegan diet can be a humble affair. After all, some of the most basic meals are already vegan: beans and rice, roasted sweet potatoes and salsa, peanut butter and jelly—the list goes on. These meals are solid basics to keep in your rotation, but some days, we crave a bit more pizazz. How do you make picture perfect smoothie bowls, homemade almond milk, and perfectly seared mushroom scallops? It’s all about the equipment. Add these essential appliances to your kitchen wishlist to save money, cut down on prep time, and easily cook like a vegan pro.
Plant-based noodles are in right now, and for good reason. From spiralized butternut squash to classic zoodles (zucchini noodles), you can now find veggie spirals prepackaged in most grocery stores. Save yourself a few dollars and make your own noodles. A handheld spiralizer is inexpensive but somewhat limited to zucchini and other small cylindrical produce. If you desire the ability to spiralize anything under the sun, invest in a countertop spiralizer appliance. While a bit more costly, these models often come with different attachments that can take on the most bulbous of squashes. Handheld or countertop, you’ll have handmade, ready-to-eat plant noodles in a flash, without boiling a pot of water!
Pro tip: Plant noodles pair perfectly with a medley of sauces to create an easy, instant meal. Try this Sweet Potato Alfredo recipe for a lighter take on this classic dish. To make these hearty noodles with little grunt work, the 7-blade option from Spiralizer will do well by this dense veggie.
2. Cast Iron Skillet
Treat this pan well and you’ll have it forever. From expertly seared tofu and mushrooms to perfect pancakes, a cast iron skillet is an essential tool for any home or professional cook. It’s the ultimate non-stick pan—without the questionable coatings of other commercial skillets that claim to be “non-stick.” Cast irons are also oven-safe and double as an excellent baking dish for everything from cornbreads to cobblers.
Pro tip: Learn how to break in and care for your skillet with this video featuring vegan cookbook author Jenné Claiborne (aka Sweet Potato Soul), then try out that new skillet with this amazing Vegan Cherry Skillet Cobbler.
While not the most compact of appliances, the air-fryer deserves a permanent place on your kitchen countertop. You’ll quickly make room for it after experiencing its transformative cooking abilities. Not only does it make food perfectly light and crispy without any oil, the air-fryer also significantly cuts down on your cooking time. You can have thick potato wedges, “fried” tofu, toothsome brussels sprouts, and even small batch baked goods—all in about twenty minutes or less. The oven just can’t compete.
Pro tip: Check out these air-fryer-friendly recipes to make everything from appetizers to entrees and desserts. Don’t know which appliance to purchase? Opt for this cool aqua machine by DASH for a pop of color in your kitchen.
4. High-Speed Blender
Make no mistake: there is a gargantuan difference between the standard $29.99 blender and the awesome power of a high-speed Vitamix or Blendtec. Think of the standard blender as a Smart Car engine, while the Vitamix and Blendtecs are akin to the engine of a Ferrari. Although this tool is an investment, you will likely find yourself using it every day to make soups, sauces, smoothies, and sweet treats.
Pro tip: Soften the sticker shock by looking for a certified refurbished high-speed blender on Amazon. They’re trustworthy and relatively less expensive. Once you’ve made your purchase, whip up this wonderfully decadent sweet potato mousse.
5. Food Processor
Even with a high-speed blender, it is recommended to have a food processor on hand. A mini 24-ounce model will usually do the trick for those who are cooking for just one or two. This Cuisinart Mini-Prep model might look puny, but it is mighty! You’ll find the food processor essential for making cauliflower rice, nut butters, salsa, raw dessert crusts, pie dough, and veggie-based loaves and burgers.
Pro tip: Use your processor to meal prep batches of cauliflower rice to accompany your weeknight bowls, or blend up these vegan lentil meatballs for a savory meatball stroganoff.
6. Instant Pot
The Instant Pot may not seem like a crucial kitchen appliance for those who have not experienced its magical cooking powers, but once you try it, you’ll never want to live without. This device is especially useful for those who have little patience for meal time. With an Instant Pot (or pressure cooker), you can have full meals on the table in under 20 minutes. It also makes batch cooking and meal prep a breeze.
Pro tip: From beans to quinoa to one-pot-wonders, this quick cooker can do it all. Get inspired by one of these seven lightening fast recipes.
7. Bamboo Steamer Basket
Like the Instant Pot, once you know your way around a bamboo steamer basket, you’ll never look back. Unlike microwave steamer baskets, this handy tool allows you to steam food in multiple layers. They are also essential for cooking homemade wontons or buns, and they work wonders with tamales!
Pro tip: Be sure to line the bottom of the steamer basket with parchment paper or banana or cabbage leaves so the food does not stick, then, try this recipe for authentic vegan dumplings.
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.