There are a few essential tools I recommend for an efficient plant-based kitchen. I realize that some of these are expensive, but they are excellent one-time investments in your health. If it’s easier for you to prepare whole-food meals from scratch, obviously you’ll be more likely to do it. Here are a few of my favorite appliances:
This is my number-one kitchen appliance, and I use it at least once a day, sometimes more. It’s a professional-grade, high-powered blender and it’s absolutely wonderful for making everything from smoothies to salad dressings, soups and sauces to homemade nut milks. You can even use it to make nut butters and ice cream. It’s better than a standard kitchen blender because of its ability to liquefy food into a smooth consistency, where other consumer appliances fall short. This is why there is (at least) one of these blenders in every restaurant kitchen and smoothie store. If it’s mostly liquid, you’ll want to make it in the Vitamix.
This may be my number-two most important appliance. I use it to grind flax seeds, which is a major baking staple in my kitchen, as well as to grind smaller quantities of other seeds, like sunflower, into a meal when I don’t feel like dragging out the big guns (food processor). I also use it to dissolve miso paste or curry paste in a liquid base, blend a can of separated coconut milk, or make small quantities of salad dressing, for example. It’s also perfect for individual-sized servings of smoothies and pudding.
You need one for blending ingredients that are more solid than liquid (fruit and veggie purées, pesto, grinding seeds and nuts, etc.). I bought a small four-cup food processor several years ago when I first became interested in going vegan, because I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it. As it turns out, I use it often. But my advice is to go bigger. As Derek Zoolander would say, “It has to be at least three times bigger than this!” Something on the order of 12 to 16 cups would be ideal. My sweet husband bought me an amazing Magimix food processor for my last birthday and I LOVE it.
A food dehydrator is a necessity for raw food vegans, who don’t cook anything above a temperature of 118° to preserve the food’s natural enzymes (which are broken down in the cooking process), in order to promote digestion and the body’s nutrient absorption. If a raw food diet is more extreme than you’re willing to go, your dehydrator will still be an important tool. Use it to dehydrate nuts and seeds (that you soak to make them easier to digest and more nutritionally available) back to an appetizing crispness, as well as to make crackers and chips, fruit leather, cookies, granola, protein bars, desserts and much more. The Cadillac of dehydrators is the Excalibur, and I highly recommend it. I used to have a $30 one and it worked, albeit more slowly and less efficiently, but I quickly outgrew it. Save your money and put it toward the better brand if that’s an option for you. Also be sure to get the accompanying ParaFlexx sheets; they are a necessity.
An electric press-style grill like a panini press or a George Foreman grill is really nice for grilling veggies in the kitchen year ’round, and of course for making toasted pressed sandwiches. I have one very important bit of advice if you’re looking to purchase one: Be sure to buy a grill with removable plates, because it is a serious pain to clean if you can’t remove the grill plates and put them in the sink to wash them.
This is very handy when making soups because you can blend your food directly in the pot. Before I had an immersion blender, I was pouring the soup back and forth between the blender and the stockpot, complete with burning splashes and ingredients accidentally down the drain. I recommend getting one with a stainless steel shaft, because I never felt good about submerging a plastic tool in a boiling pot.
Maybe this isn’t essential, but it sure is awesome. Ice cream may be my favorite dessert, and vegan ice cream tends to be pricey at the supermarket. The possibilities are endless when you can make your own, and the cost of this machine isn’t terrible, especially if you go to Bed Bath & Beyond and use your 20% off coupon. I know you have one lying around. (They never expire, by the way, despite the date marked on the coupon.) Or you can order it on Amazon.
Why is there no juicer on my list? I have one and never use it. I prefer to liquefy whole fruits in my Vitamix, so I get all the benefit of the fiber in addition to the water and sugar. The only thing I use my extraction juicer for – on very rare occasions – is to make pure carrot juice, which the Vitamix can’t do. I could easily live without my Jack Lalanne juicer. Although I have to admit: I haven’t given it away yet…
Check out the non-electric kitchen tools I recommend, as well!