Mark Bittman's VB6 Pantry Essentials

June 27, 2013

This week, Mark Bittman is serving as a Guest Editor at Food52. He chose a Wildcard winner, answered our questions, and has been sharing recipes from his new Cooking Basics app.

Today, Mark outlines the five pantry staples that are essential to go Vegan Before 6. To get you started, we're giving away five copies!


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1. Aromatics, the staples that make everything else taste better: onions, garlic, ginger, shallots, carrots, and celery, for example.


2. Fresh vegetables and fruit should be the base of every meal. When in a time crunch, frozen vegetables make prep a snap, and you can use frozen fruit to whip up a smoothie. (Some beans -- like lima, fava, and black-eyed peas -- are sold frozen, too.)

Essential Spices

3. An assortment of spices, chiles, dried herbs, and fresh herbs will liven up any meal.


4. Beans are a must. They come in hundreds of varieties. You can use canned beans in almost all recipes, and smaller beans, split peas, and lentils cook quickly. Then you can refrigerate or freeze them in small containers.

Whole Grains

5. Brown rice and whole grains. Keep at least a couple of these around and cook them in big batches. There's a huge variety -- explore it all. 

Mark is giving away five copies of his new book, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good. To enter, tell us: what are your most trusted pantry staples?

Photos by James Ransom

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Donna Webb Neubert
    Donna Webb Neubert
  • Jennifer Alger Morse
    Jennifer Alger Morse
  • Annie
  • Don Val
    Don Val
  • Barb
My books include the bestselling How to Cook Everything and Vegan Before 6 P.M. (VB6), where I provide all the necessary tools for making the switch to a Flexitarian diet with lists for stocking the pantry, strategies for eating away from home in a variety of situations, pointers for making cooking on a daily basis both convenient and enjoyable, and a complete 28-day eating plan showing VB6 in action.


Donna W. January 31, 2014
Coconut oil, garlic, onions, ginger, sesame oil.
Jennifer A. November 26, 2013
Olive oil, garlic and dried herbs! So intrigued by VB6. Huge Bittman fan and have read all his books. Also LOVE (and own) How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
Annie September 23, 2013
Am looking forward to trying this way of eating.. Love fruit & vegegetables
Don V. August 12, 2013
After a few years of poor me eating resulting in 43 lbs weight gain, aching knees, and a total lose of energy. Couldn't break out of the self destructive cycle. Well finally enough pain! My wife introduced me to Mark's sparkling vg6 style of healthier eating and on my way. Feeling mentally better already. Current weight 263, will keep you posted. Have a great 24.
Barb July 27, 2013
Pop corn, olive oil, and sea salt. I will be able to have a snack that satisfies.
Sherry A. July 27, 2013
Homemade rosemary oil, San Marzano tomatoes and canned beans.
Crystal C. July 25, 2013
Beans, rice, pasta, pesto
Maria July 21, 2013
It might sound weird, but next to more regular stuff like canned tomatoes, pasta and chicken stock is something I can't possibly live without: hearts of palm.
Snubby July 15, 2013
I always have quinoa,organic chicken stock,good olive oil,roasted red peppers,and a drawer loaded to the gills with herbs and spices!
Angballa July 10, 2013
Olive Oil, Quinoa, Brown Rice, La Boite spice blends, Rancho Gordo Beans, Good Vinegar, Onions, Garlic, Thyme plant, Parsley plant, Unsweetened Coconut, Coconut Oil
Wendy M. July 10, 2013
Garbanzo beans and garlic :)
cindys July 10, 2013
Beans, whatever is in my garden, always onions and garlic. I keep canned sardines for emergency sandwiches to take for lunch when I have no leftovers.
Bette July 10, 2013
Whole grain pasta, blueberries, apples, quinoa, lemons, shallots, garlic, onions, spinach and tomatoes.
arcane54 July 6, 2013
beans, farro/quinoa/whole wheat berries, olive oil, a variety of herbs/spices, dried fruit and nuts, mustard, vinegar(s), stock
happycao July 6, 2013
Dashi, soy sauce, CSA veggies!
kirstenmlindquist July 5, 2013
I have a huge pantry, kind of a fanatic since being a poor grad student and on food stamps. Here's my short list of must have:
pinto beans, garbanzo flour, walnuts, salsa, masa harina, cilantro, jalapeno, onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, carrots, celery, cabbage - able to whip up Mexican meals or a great salad in no time!
mnewman July 3, 2013
Dried beans, garlic, olive oil, cinnammon, rolled oats, vinegar, onions, eggs, herbs!!!
Milford July 2, 2013
Beans , ginger, garlic ,butter ,olive oil and bacon
Milford July 2, 2013
And grainy bread
barbscullion July 1, 2013
pasta, rice, olive oil, garlic and dried beans
HelloMyNamesJen July 1, 2013
Arugula, olive oil, onions, veg stock and walnuts!!!