By The Rawtarian

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In this episode, Laura-Jane The Rawtarian discusses what you need to stock your raw pantry!


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Welcome to episode number 53 of The Raw Food Podcast. I am your host, Laura Jane, the Rawtarian, and today we are going to be getting super psyched up to talk about your raw pantry, stocking your raw pantry, going on your first grocery shop to pick up some of the typical raw food ingredients, like coconut oil or dried dates and all those delicious things that will allow you to make so many exciting, healthy, tasty raw food recipes. So stay tuned, and we will be talking raw pantry shortly.

Thank you so much for joining me on another episode of The Raw Food Podcast. I am your host, Laura Jane, the Rawtarian, and the whole purpose and idea behind this podcast was submitted to me by Julia. Thank you so much for your idea; I think it's an excellent one, so I really appreciate you sending that to me. And I'm always looking for new podcast ideas, so do send them along if anything occurs to you. Because this is episode 53, sometimes I feel like, 'Oh my gosh, what should I talk about?' I've already talked about a lot of different topics, but I think this is a super simple one that I'm shocked that I had not covered yet. So of course what I'm talking about today is the whole idea of stocking your raw food pantry. I'm sure if you go, which is my website, that you can just get a pantry shopping list; boom, easy. I'm sure I have blog posts about, you know, what you need to buy. But I thought it would be super useful - and Julia did, so thank you, Julia - to just talk about the general ingredients at a really high level. I'm going to go through different categories, like, you know, your fruits and vegetables and what you need for your liquids and oils, like, whatever, nut butters, coconut oil, lemon juice, that kind of thing. But obviously I'm not just going to sit here and read you out the list, because that would be the most boring podcast ever. What I'm going to do is kind of talk about the groups and just give you kind of like the quick and dirty overview of what you need or what you don't need or why you need a certain thing. So that's the idea. Thank you, Julia.

So I was thinking that I would approach this with some categories. Let's see. Bear with me and my paper noises. Okay, I'm going to just read the headings. We have fruit; we're going to talk about fresh fruit and frozen fruit and dried fruit. Wow, so many fruit categories. Fresh vegetables. Nuts and seeds. Sidebar: yes, I have a whole episode that's old in my archives about nuts and seeds and the different types. So if you want to know more about that, look for that older episode of the podcast. I'm going to kind of whizz through all these boring, easy things like fresh vegetables. Don't worry, I won't be like, 'Broccoli; broccoli is a brassica.'

Anyway, moving on. So I'm going to talk about the dry pantry; I'll spend a long time talking about that, and probably the liquids and oils as well, because I have a lot to say about that. I am going to touch on spices. I did talk a little bit about my own spice rack renovation in my previous episode, episode 52, which is the kitchen hacks. [laughs] Anyway. And so those are kind of like the topics that we're going to talk about. So I might as well just go in order.

Fresh fruit. Before I even begin, you have to understand a little bit about me and what I'm trying to do. I want you to eat better, if you want to eat better, and I want you to be able to actually make some change in your life, so I like to give really practical tips. And, you know, yes, money is an issue. Yes, it's harder to find, like, a persimmon than it is to find an apple. Well, depending on where you live. I guess if you live somewhere beautifully tropical, I'm jealous and I hate you, because I live in cold Canada. But generally-- so whenever I'm going to be talking about anything on any podcast episode, it's important for you to know that we just want to get the basics covered. I want you to be able to eat raw in a way that works for you, that's not too expensive, that is reasonable, that is doable and doesn't take too much time, because our lives are just-- you know what I'm saying. You know me already. So fresh fruit, we're not going to talk about it too much. Me, the fruit I always keep in my house, apples, oranges, and bananas. I wouldn't even say these are my favorite fruits. These are cheap, they're easy to eat. Of course bananas go bad quickly, but they're so easy to just grab, throw in your purse. They're pre-packaged. So those are some basic fruit that I always have around, because they're just easy.

 Some of my favorites, of course, are fresh berries, but I don't know about you, if I get fresh berries in my house, A, I've probably just spent $10 or $15 on them, and, B, I just eat them within ten minutes, and then they're gone. So I love having them, but to me, I don't tend to keep them around too often, because I just eat them and they're gone. So generally I'm just not going to talk much about fresh fruit, but I do think if you are eating horribly right now and you're listening to this podcast for inspiration about how to make some change, please, if you enjoy eating fruit and don't buy it because it's a bit pricy, or for whatever reason, just buy whatever fruit you love. Like for me, green grapes are something that I love, but I don't let myself buy them too frequently, because they're pricy, and then I eat them and they're gone. But if you can afford it, I would say please stock up and eat your favorites, please.

Okay, moving on. Frozen fruit; I always keep frozen berries in the house, because of course you can add them to smoothies, you can do so much with them, and they're handy and not as expensive as fresh. Side bar: I often get asked this question, 'Laura Jane, is frozen fruit raw?' I mean, no. It's been frozen. So, I mean, yes, but no. Clearly, if you're looking at a frozen strawberry and you've just picked a strawberry off of a strawberry plant in your yard, clearly they're not the same. But I feel like we're all trying to make reasonable change, and so I say go for it and please have some frozen berries in your freezer. You can defrost them and just eat them as snacks, you can use them in so many of my delicious raw desserts, like my raw cheesecake, and so on.

Now, dried fruit. If you've made many of my recipes, or you want to, the main thing you need to buy are dates, dried dates. Ideally, you would get the medjool, the fancy, fresh-ish dried dates that are, you know, in a little tub, usually in the-- nowadays, they tend to sell them right in the produce section in a little plastic tub, and they have a pit, and those are the more expensive and more luxury, wonderful dates that-- go for it. But a different alternative is to get the what I call baking dates, which can be found in the produce-- no, I'm lying, in the baking aisle, usually in a bag, and they're kind of super dry and they've had the pits removed, and they're much less expensive and they are easier to use, because the pits - like, the big, hard seed in the middle - have already been removed.

So why am I boring you about dates and telling you that you need to buy dates? The purpose of dates in my and most - if not all - raw food recipes is probably two or three fold. One, dates are super sweet, and so they provide a natural sweetener that's full of fiber and is so much healthier than refined sugar or whatever other sweeteners you're used to. Secondly, they provide stickiness, so this is fundamental when you're needing your food-- like, say, a crust recipe for a cake, you need it to stick together, and the way we get it to stick together is by using a sticky, sweet thing, like dates. So, dates; I have, I don't know, about a hundred bags of dates in my lifetime of doing this blog, since 2009, and dates are, like, the number one thing. You've got to get them. Just go get some, because mostly this will just allow you to make healthy desserts. And then you're going to tell me, 'But, Laura Jane, I don't even like dates. I've only ever had them in date squares, and I don't like date squares, blah, blah, blah.' It doesn't matter. Remember, dates are providing sweetness and stickiness, but mostly sweetness. So it's kind of like making-- you know in a traditional cake, when you're baking and you're using eggs in a traditional cake, you can whine to me and say, 'But I don't like eggs; I don't like scrambled eggs.' It's like, it's not about the eggs, it's not about the dates; it's about what function the dates perform. Even if you don't like dates, just go buy some. You don't have to eat them, just use them as an ingredient. So other key dried fruit that I tend to keep on hand are apricots and raisins. Those are kind of the basic ones. Raisins, of course, we all know what they are, and dried apricot, I would say overall, you can pretty much used dried apricots instead of dates in almost all of my recipes, if you're trying to limit your glycemic index or you're trying to cut down on your sugar. So what that will do-- apricots are totally not as sweet as dates, so you're going to have a much less sweet recipe, if you do that. But that is an excellent substitution idea for many of my dessert recipes, but I never do it, because it's never sweet enough for my sweet tooth. But generally, especially if you're diabetic or something, and you're trying to make some modifications, that is a good tip for you.

Fresh vegetables; you know it. Again, taking a higher level look at what I'm trying to do here, this whole idea of stocking your raw pantry is to have you have possibly completely new ingredients in your life. Let's pretend you want to do a raw cleanse or you're going raw for three days, or whatever you're doing, I would encourage you, actually, not to go too crazy in the produce aisle, if you're trying to stock your raw food pantry, just because, especially with vegetables, it can be hard to know what to do with a lot of vegetables if you aren't experienced in cooking much with them. So I would stay stick to some of the basic ones, or go off of a recipe or something like that. Onions and carrots and bell peppers would be maybe some great places to start, and an avocado or two, so we won't talk too much about fresh vegetables. But I would say don't go crazy, because I don't know about you, but I hate food waste and I hate looking in my fridge or being afraid to open the crisper drawer because something scary has been in there for a month. So, yeah, we won't talk about that too much.

Moving on to the nuts and seeds, which are extremely important, because nuts are essentially being used instead of so many things in raw food recipes. So if you grind up almonds, for example-- and that can just be done in your food processor or what have you. Grinding up sounds technical, but basically the idea is if you take almonds and you smoosh them down however you can, it's going to kind of turn into a flour. And so nuts are going to be used as a flour, they're going to be used sometimes as a creamer, if that's a word, because they can add creaminess, when you use a creamy nut like cashews. So I would say the main nuts and seeds that I try to keep on hand would be cashews, almonds, pecans or walnuts, sunflower seeds. Those are kind of the main ones that I tend to keep on hand. I do have a really long, detailed podcast about nuts and seeds, which is kind of hard to listen to, but actually has some really good information in it. But the basic idea there, without going into it too long, is different types of nuts perform different functions.

I think I always categorize it like-- and I actually have a good video that's easier and more to the point. You have creamy nuts, you have nuts that act like flour. Those are even-- for this podcast, let's just talk about those two groups, because creaminess-- let's pretend you're trying to make a cheesecake that's raw where you're going to use cashews instead of cream cheese, because they become super rich and creamy and wonderful. Macadamia nuts and pine nuts also do this, but cashews tend to be more readily available and also the least expensive choice, usually, so that's why I focus on cashews so much. And then almonds and sunflower seeds kind of fall into that group of nuts that can be just pulverized and then used as flour, to sort of bulk up a recipe, but they don't add creaminess. Actually, yeah, and then the third category is what I call I think oily or greasy nuts, which are pecans or walnuts or brazil nuts as well, I think, and they add both a lot of oiliness and a floury factor.

But anyway, I will end it there, but I do have a video about that and I've written about it, as well. I think I call them the nut types. Anyway, the main ones I keep in my pantry would be cashews, which I know are expensive, but they are important. And you can't substitute almonds for cashews; they're just not the same, because they're not as creamy. So, yeah, cashews, almonds, and walnuts; those would be the three that I always have around. And then I do use sunflower seeds, because usually they're a lot cheaper, and so I like to use those, as well. And of course, overall, when buying any of these nuts to stock your raw food pantry, you're going to want to buy untoasted, unsalted nuts. So they may not be labeled completely as raw, and of course some nuts will have been heated in the process of getting them out of the shell, blah, blah, blah, but the idea here is just no salt on them and you don't want them to have been roasted, because especially the roasting will change the flavor, so that's why we want to use untoasted nuts.

Moving on to your dry pantry. I have a lot to talk about to talk about here, so I'm not sure of the level of detail I'm going to go into. But let me just close my eyes and envision if you could only buy five ingredients for your raw pantry - oh my gosh, this is going to be hard - for dry ingredients. I should've prepared this in advance, but I'm going on the fly, and I literally have my eyes closed.

You're going to need to make something chocolaty, so you 100% are going to need raw cacao powder or cocoa powder or potentially carob. I never use carob, but that would be an idea, if you need a caffeine-free substitute. So you're going to have to have that. You can just use cocoa powder from the baking aisle that's normal in all my recipes. Cacao powder is different; it's a little bit healthier and has been processed differently. But for your basic starting point, cocoa powder. You might already have it, so just use that. It's fine. So you're going to have to do that. Oh my gosh, you have to have unsweetened, dried coconut. You must. But this is a dessert-lover talking. But the reason you see dried, unsweetened, shredded coconut in so many of my recipes is because it bulks up a recipe, much like I was talking about how ground-up almonds or those kinds of nuts will act like flour. But what coconut does that is different than grinding up nuts is it adds kind of a lightness and more like a cakey texture. So you'll find that in a ton of my dessert recipes. And even in a few savory recipes, I've used it to have that sort of lighter texture. Yes, so that is a must-have. And again, you can find that in the baking aisle. You just want to get the unsweetened, normal shredded coconut. And this is, of course, dry, and you probably know what that is.

Okay, I'm working on my five. I've got two. Number three, I'm going to say flax meal, M-E-A-L. And of course the word meal simply just means ground-up, so we're talking about ground-up flax seeds. And it's easiest if you just buy it pre-ground-up, for sure, so I would suggest buying flax meal. Why you need this is it's kind of hearkening back to what I was saying about the dates that provide stickiness. Flax meal is what I call a binding agent, so it is what holds things together. So if you're making - I don't know - raw falafel, for example, and you're getting some veggies and nuts and what have you and spices, you need it to be able to hold together and be a ball, like, in falafel form, or similarly, if you're making veggie burgers.  When you see flax meal, which you'll see in a lot of raw food recipes, it does not even taste that great. It's best to try to use the least amount possible, because it has a really pronounced flax flavor, which is not anyone's favorite. But you need a binding agent in most of those kind of recipes; that's why you see it in so many recipes. So I would suggest flax meal. I could talk a lot more about that, but I won't. So that is my number three.

Oh, I should probably be a good girl and talk about protein for a second and just say hemp hearts or hemp seeds are useful from a nutritional standpoint. They're one of the best ways you can easily add protein to your raw, vegan diet, so I would just say that. Whenever you see hemp seeds in my recipes - I don't use them that frequently, actually - it's usually just to ramp up the protein content of a recipe. So that's be being a good girl and nodding to nutrition when I have to. But generally, when I use them, it's not so much for the recipe's sake; it's more for nutrition. So I'm not like, 'Oh my gosh, the recipe won't work if you don't have hemp seeds.' It's more like if you can find a way to incorporate hemp seeds into any recipe or any meal, do it, because they're just so good for you. And they actually are. I don't even like thinking about nutrition, because I find it boring, but generally hemp seeds are amazing and anybody who's vegan, please eat them, like, daily.

So I hope someone's keeping track. Is that three or four? I think that was number four. This is a tough one, this dry pantry. You know what? I'm actually going to cap it, because those four, you've got to have, and everything else is kind of gravy, vegan gravy. I have a recipe for raw gravy, made of mushrooms. Okay, so I'm just going to list off a few other things that I definitely would keep in my, like, top 12: buckwheat groats, chia seeds. They are also handy as a binding agent, or they replace tapioca pearls. Cocoa powder, we talked about. Coconut, flax, we talked about, hemp seeds. Nutritional yeast is handy for flavor. It kind of has the cheesy flavor, so that is sometimes a handy thing to keep in your pantry. And that's really only used for flavor.

Anyway, moving on to liquids and oils. I am almost going to have a hard time. I'm going to say you definitely need to have these five liquids and wet things in your pantry. You know what I'm going to start with, coconut oil. Not any other type of oil, coconut oil. Not coconut butter, not coconut milk, coconut oil. It is usually in a jar, a big jar, and it's usually-- in the grocery store, it might be kind of solid and white and cloudy, kind of like butter. If it gets a little bit warmer, it gets all liquidy and clear. I won't bore you with the details [laughs]. Coconut oil; why is it number one? Why am I focusing on it so much? It replaces butter. Butter is delicious. Coconut oil is the raw substitute for butter. It makes recipes, just like butter does in normal cooking, so much better, so much richer. It also has a very important role in a recipe, where it solidifies when it gets cool, meaning you can make something-- let me think, let me think. Ah, I have an amazing, super delicious chocolate icing recipe. Just go to, and somehow you'll get there. It's like dates and water and cocoa powder or raw cacao and coconut oil. And the reason that you need the coconut oil is not just to make it taste better; it's going to make the icing spreadable, and it will make it kind of congeal and be, like, literally spreadable, instead of just a wet mess. So it's so important for, like, fatty, good, rich flavor, but even more important for texture. No other oil does this. And also coconut oil doesn't have too pronounced of a flavor, either. I mean, it's coconuty, but generally it doesn't throw off the flavor of a recipe. You've got to get some. And, yes, it's going to be majorly expensive and you'll be like, 'Oh my gosh, this jar is so expensive,' but usually you don't use too much of it in a recipe, and it's usually much cheaper if you buy one big jar somewhere, as opposed to, like, a tiny jar for, like-- I'm Canadian, but, you know, $12 for this teeny-tiny jar. It's better to pay, like, $20 for this much bigger jar. I mean, I've just noticed coconut oil is crazy, the difference there.

There's a lot that's so important. Lemon juice, I use that a lot. I usually try to keep fresh lemons in my fridge, but I always just keep a jar or bottle of just, you know, lemon juice. You've got to keep that on hand all the time, because lemon juice in my recipes is used as an acid, which just enhances the flavor, and it's just used in a lot of my recipes, so you'll want to keep that on hand. Maple syrup, pure maple syrup, that's also used as a sweetener when you don't want the bulk or the fibrousness of dates, so that is key. You could also use agave nectar or, you know, whatever your favorite liquid sweetener is, or honey, for example. Almond butter is very handy. Yes, you can make it yourself. It's quite hellish, but you can do it. I just buy it, almond butter, premade, but you can definitely do it yourself; it just takes a crazy long time, 20 minutes in a food processer, or longer.

And another thing that I do use a lot is apple cider vinegar. I store that in the fridge. It just tends to add a tanginess to savory recipes, like my delicious raw ranch salad dressing. It adds that-- not a spicy zing, but just that kick of tanginess to a lot of savory dressings and that kind of thing, so that's something that I use a lot, as well. And that's very inexpensive, like, a few dollars. I don't know; those are the main liquids. I have a few others that I use a lot, but those would definitely be the keys. Oh, and I do use-- yes, okay, I just flipped the pages on my notes and I'm like, 'Oh my god, how could I have forgotten?' I do use olive oil sometimes. You will notice that if I call for coconut oil, you've got to use coconut oil; if I call for olive oil, use olive oil. Don't mix them up, please. It's like putting diesel in your car instead of normal fuel; don't do it. Soy sauce is handy, and I also use pure vanilla extract quite a bit, as well, just in my sweet recipes. So I really powered through that category; I'm quite pleased with myself. I have so much-- it's hard for me, because each item I could expound on for, like, a pure five minutes of boring drivel, so I'm holding it in for you, so we can get through this.

Spices. As you know, I try to keep the spice selection in my recipes very small, because I do this for a living - I'm a recipe developer, you could say - and even I don't have that big of a spice collection. And I certainly remember when I began eating raw, I was not a cook at all; I barely had any spices at all. So I try to make it quite simple, so that hopefully you might actually have the spice in your kitchen. Some of the key spices that I actually feel like you must get, if you're maybe only going to get a few: cinnamon, hands down. Love it. You've got to have it. Onion powder, I do use it a lot in a lot of my recipes. It really does add a lot for flavor, and the difference between not having it-- like, if you make a recipe and you're like, 'Oops, I don't have onion powder,' it'll still be okay, but it really adds-- I think I've described it before as a junk food flavor. So for example, if you're going to make kale chips and you're adding some onion powder, in addition to the oil and salt, it's kind of going to taste like a bag of junk food chips, much more than it would if you don't have it. So that, I would say, is definitely key, and it's very cheap, as well. Garlic powder. I don't actually use garlic powder that much; I usually call for fresh garlic, which I didn't talk about, but generally I do try to keep just a bulb on hand for fresh garlic, so that when something calls for a garlic clove, you have it around. I would almost say I could cut it there. Of course, I hope you have more spices, but I would say you've got to have cinnamon, you've got to have onion powder, and of course the golden star of it all, salt. Come on, you've got salt, I hope. Of course, I'm always calling for sea salt. Please, throw out your normal table salt, just generally, and just start using finely ground sea salt. It's much better for you, and the flavor is much better, as well. So you need that. But I do suggest trying to get finely ground, more normal salt. Don't try to use the big crystaly sea salt, which is sometimes easier to find, to buy. You just want it to look like normal table salt.

I love spices, but I think I should honor you and say those are a few-- but maybe I'll just rhyme off some other ones that I do use, to give you a sense of if you want to step it up and have more. These are some common ones that I use: chili powder, cumin, curry powder, dill. Ooh, I love dried dill; so good in salad dressings. Garlic powder, we talked about. Onion, oregano, paprika. But I don't know; paprika-- I'm kind of neutral about paprika. Rosemary, I love it, I love it, I love it. Thyme and turmeric. Usually turmeric is a super, hyper, insanely yellow color, and usually when it's called for in a recipe, like my egg salad recipe, it's usually just used for color, really.

Yes, I don't know; that's kind of all I have to say about stocking your raw pantry. I should probably conclude by saying that might feel overwhelming, especially if you don't have many of any of these things in your life. I would say, if you really are getting into raw in a big way and you're like, 'I'm listening to this episode because I'm going to go stock my raw pantry,' I would really focus on having those wet things, like coconut oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, some almond butter, so the wet things, and then the dry pantry, which was stuff like flax meal, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, those kinds of things. Because that grocery shop is going to cover a lot of your bases, so once you do that one grocery shop, it's going to last you for a long time, and then you'll have the ingredients to make so many of my recipes, which would be amazing. And then, of course, you'll still need to get, like, your other ingredients, but it won't be as overwhelming. I think the main thing is just to get a few things in your pantry that you don't have, so that then when you look at mine or other people's websites and cookbooks and stuff, you'll have those things in your pantry. And then, of course, equipment. You'll want to get a blender - it doesn't have to be a good one - and a food processor, and then you'll be totally set to go. And I'm sure-- I know I have probably multiple podcast episodes where I would talk about the equipment, as well. But that is beyond today's episode, 53.

You have been listening to The Raw Food Podcast with your host, Laura Jane, the Rawtarian. Visit me at to browse over 100 of my absolute favorite simple, satisfying, raw, vegan recipes for free. While you're there, be sure to sign up for a free account, so you can favorite recipes and access other special features. Also, consider joining the paid section called The Rawtarian's Kitchen, where you can watch over 70 video tutorials with me, download all of my e-books, take online courses and cleanses, get printable PDFS, and much more. Visit for details on what's included. Thank you so much for joining me here today on The Raw Food Podcast, and I hope to hear from you soon. So until next time, enjoy your raw adventure.

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