These are some of my favorite ingredients that I couldn’t cook without! Read below to find out their prices, benefits, and uses.
Chia seeds are a great source of fiber and omega 3’s. They also have good amounts of protein and antioxidants. They have no flavor, so adding them to things won’t ruin the taste of whatever you are making. When added to liquid, they will continuously gel up as time increases. For baked goods, they provide a nice textural addition, and can also help thicken up the batter/mix. They are also great in smoothies and puddings. A 12-14oz bag ranges from $7-$9, and will last you a while!
Like Chia seeds, Flaxseeds are high in Omega 3’s, and are a great thickening agent. I tend to use them mostly in baked goods, or pancakes/waffles. If you mix ground flaxseeds with water and let them sit, they will turn into an eggy substance, which is why they are a common egg replacer in vegan baking. Once again, they are pretty flavorless. You may get a hint of extra nutty-ness, but they won’t interfere with the main flavor of your dish. A 12-14oz bag ranges from $6-$8, and will also last you a while.
At this point I’m sure everyones heard about the magical wonders of coconut oil, but it is something I use extremely often when baking. I use it to oil my pans especially when making pancakes, or substituting it for butter or other oils in baked goods. It’s still super rich, so it won’t give your food that “too healthy” taste. Though I will say if you hate the flavor of coconut, this might not be for you, as it does has a subtle coconut flavor. I’ve only used coconut oil in my cooking, personally I’d rather put it in me than on me; but you do you! A 14 oz jar usually ranges from $5-$9 depending on the brand.
I don’t know if I would consider this a top essential, but it is definitely good if you are trying to cut back on sugar. Stevia is a completely natural sweetener (made from a plant) and has no calories, sugar, etc. I like to use the extract rather than the powder/granules because it just blends better and I think you get more for your money with the extract. Some people say that stevia has a weird flavor and after taste, but I think if it’s used right you can avoid that. I tend to put a few drops into pancake mixes, frostings, or other baked goods that don’t need to be extremely sweet. I think it’s best used to bring out the sweetness of natural ingredients, and not in dishes where sweetness is the star of the dish. A 2 oz bottle is around $9, but will last you a really long time. (One serving is only four small drops.)
Medjool Dates are the best! They have become my essential binder and sweetener for crusts, energy balls/bars, puddings… the list could go on. Dates are super sweet, so you really don’t need any additional sweetener if you’re using these in a recipe. They also have fiber, vitamins, and nutrients, unlike your basic refined white sugar. They have some many different uses, plus they’re fruit and they’re cheap. Go buy some!
I saved the best for last in my opinion. As a hardcore chocoholic, this ingredient has become a staple in my life. You could probably put this on anything and I’d say it tastes great. Anyways, if you’re looking for chocolate flavor, this is the good stuff. I usually dump this in smoothies or puddings, but I’m also a fan of sprinkling it plain on bananas and peanut butter, or making my own chocolate with it. Please note you have to get the unsweetened kind, otherwise it kind of ruins the “healthy” theme, and you’ll basically end up eating hot chocolate mix. I usually go for the Ghiradelli brand bag or container, which are usually around $5.
You can easily get all these ingredients for around $30-$35, and they will last you a very long time. They are definitely worth the investment!
*I do not claim credit for any of the photos in this post*