It’s true that small appliances require some space, but it’s also true that they can make it easy to prepare and eat delicious, nutrient-dense, and cruelty-free vegan, plant-based dishes. While you can get along without them, I do think a couple are worth the space they take up on your counter, and their price points are really reasonable.
I also recommend — if you can / if you have space — keeping those you use often (like the air fryer and blender) out on your counter. If you have to dig around a closet every time you want to use them, you never will.
If we don’t have time to be sick, we have to make time to be healthy.
NOTE: This blog post also corresponds with a podcast episode I did by the same name, but also include LESSONS FROM A KITCHEN REMODEL. Listen and learn more here.
In no particular order, here are my favorites and why. (Disclosure: while no one pays me to make these recommendations, if you purchase them through the links provided, I make a small commission.)
Top choice: Ninja Air Fryer (4 quart) – perfect size and fits on counter nicely. Only issue is that I often have to cook in separate batches. If you want a larger size, I recommend my 2nd choice.
2nd choice: Ninja Air Fryer (5.5 quart) – If you have the space, go for this “family size” air fryer. You can cook a lot at once, and it comes in lots of fun, pretty colors.
2. Pressure Cooker: Game-changer in no uncertain terms. It is not an exaggeration to say that getting a pressure changed everything for me. Beans (without soaking!) are ready in 30 minutes and taste better than any bean in a can or even cooked on the stove for hours. The pressure just seals in the flavor and makes the world taste good.
Top choice: Instant Pot (8 quarts) I’ve had others. This is the best.
3. Blender: A blender is best for liquefying or blending liquid ingredients. Because the blade is all the way at the bottom, it doesn’t do as good a job as a food processor. However, I use my blender to make smoothies, shakes, and nice cream on a regular basis, which the food processor isn’t meant for.
Top choice: Vitamix. Nothing beats this blender and its tamper. Period. Full stop.
4. Food Processor: As I mention below, I love my Kitchen Aid food processor because it has a large bowl with a large blade and a small bowl and blade that fits into it. I LOVE the versatility of that. I use my food processor for quickly chopping onions, carrots, and garlic; for pureeing soups; for making peanut butter; for pulsing chickpeas for Better-Than-Tuna…just name it. The only thing I don’t use it for is blending (like for making smoothies and nice cream).
Top choice: Kitchen Aid 11-cup. I have had this machine for almost 20 years and haven’t had to replace any parts — ever. That’s the first reason I recommend the Kitchen Aid brand; the second is because one machine has two bowls and two blades – large and small – a convenient feature that not all food processors have.
5. Soy Milk Maker: While you can make soy milk without a machine, it’s INFINITELY easier to do so with a soy milk maker.
Top choice: Joyoung Soy Milk Maker. I’ve come around to having the milk made in the stainless steel pitcher and then just straining at the end. It’s super easy to do, and you won’t have to worry about the holes in a strainer cup getting clogged. This one also enables you to make milk with unsoaked beans, but you’ll get more milk with soaked soy beans.
6. Countertop Toaster / Convection Oven: Before we renovated our kitchen (someday I’ll share before and after photos), we didn’t have space for a toaster oven, and I really really missed having one. Not a TOASTER, mind you — a toaster OVEN. Basically a small convection oven. I don’t like using my large wall ovens unless I have to; they use a ton of electricity, and the fan is loud. So, I use our countertop convection oven for everything from baking Japanese sweet potatoes and drop biscuits to toasting ciabatta!
Top choice: Oster Toaster Oven. Digital, easy to use, lots of options and settings. No complaints.
7. Popcorn Air Popper: I don’t hide the fact that I eat popcorn several times a week, and while I grew up on Jiffy Pop, there comes a time you grow out of your childhood habits. I have had an air popper for 25 years and while it looks a little worse or wear, it’s perfect in my eyes.
Top choice: Presto Air Popper. My original air popper is so old (25 years?) that I can’t find it anymore, but this one has the same features I love!
8. Electric Stand Mixer: A stand mixer is essentially the same as a hand mixer but with more powerful motors than their hand-held counterparts. I’ve had my machine for at least 20 years — also a KitchenAid — and while I technically could live without it, I use it frequently: for kneading bread dough, for whipping up aquafaba for “egg whites,” and for making quick, large batches of cookie dough. Most stand mixers come with a variety of various additional blades, whisks, and hooks.
Top choice: Kitchen Air Stand Mixer
9. Juicer: We’re probably getting to the “nice-to-have’s” at this point, but I have to include a few other countertop appliances, including my juicer. I juice at least once a week. My favorite combination is carrots, ginger, and apples. My juicer is decades old, so I can’t recommend it — literally. It doesn’t exist anymore. I do know, though, that you’ll want to choose between centrifugal juicers and masticating.
Centrifugal juicers have one blade and works a lot like a blender. Masticating juicers, which I have, make use of an augur instead of a blade and grind food instead of slicing it. In short, centrifugal juicers tend to create much more food waste than masticating juicers and are not able to break food down as well as masticating juicers. Personally, I would recommend a masticating juicer, which have also been called slow juicers — mostly because the slower process is believed to preserve nutrients better than high speed juicers that generate heat. And also because it requires a little more prep (quartering an apple, for example, rather than shoving an entire apple into the shoot). I’ve never found that to be an issue.
I started researching masticating juicers, but because there are so many to choose from, I think it’s just easier if you pick your own.
10. An electric kettle: This is one of those small appliances you don’t think is necessary until you have one, and then you realize you use it all the time! It’s more energy-efficient than boiling water on the stove, and 10 times as fast. If you drink a fair amount of tea, it’s a game-changer. What I love about both of these is that you can change the temperature depending on what type of tea you’re drinking: green, oolong, white or black.
Top choice: Miroco Temperature Controlled Electric Kettle
2nd Choice: Breville Variable-Temperature Kettle
NICE-TO-HAVE’S BUT NOT ESSENTIAL
NEXT, I wanted to include countertop “appliances” that may not be essential, but I’m happy I have them, and I definitely use them. I’m walking the line between “appliances” and “tools” here, but I make the rules, so it’s okay if I break them.
Top choice: Krups is a good, reliable brand.
Top Choice: Breville is my recommended brand.
Top choice: Dash has lots of great reviews and really pretty colors.
2nd choice: Kitchenaid – there are also versions that have a detachable whisk. I really like this stick blender — and those like it — where you twist to separate the body so all you have to do is put the blade part in the sink to wash it — and not the whole thing that’s attached to the plug.
Top choice: Kitchen Aid Stick Blender
Top choice: Cuisinart Waffle Maker with Pancake Plates
Top choice: Ivation
Top choice: Burton Butane Burner – I’ve had 3 for years; you just have to buy the cartridges separately.
2nd choice: Coleman Butane Burner — I haven’t used it, but it looks very similar, it’s a lower price point, and it’s a good brand.
* Remember to listen to my podcast of the same name that also includes lessons from our kitchen remodel. *
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