Shopping for vegan food can seem daunting, but this vegan grocery list for beginners is here to help you stock your kitchen!
What I think will surprise you about this vegan food list is how much of it you already have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Look the list over, see what you have, and you can slowly acquire the rest. There's no rush!
Remember: you don't need a fully-stocked vegan pantry on day one! Stock up over time, and don't feel like you need to keep everything on hand all the time.
The beginner's vegan grocery list below will help you navigate the store aisles. You don't need to stock all of this food at all times. Think of these as categories to mix and match from, so you can build satisfying, simple vegan meals.
I've also included a list of sneaky non-vegan ingredients to help you make decisions at the store.
Download the vegan grocery list
This list is broken out by category, and I have suggestions in each category included. The idea is to help you re-learn how to grocery shop without hitting the meat and dairy sections.
Download the printable vegan grocery list here.
- Cruciferous veggies - Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy are your friends!
- Dark leafy greens - Kale, collards, and turnip greens are good for starters.
- Fruit - Fresh and frozen are nice to have on hand for snacking, smoothies, and dessert-making.
- Leafy greens - Spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens.
- Mushrooms - Do you miss that meaty mouth feel? Shroom it up. You can even use mushrooms to make meat substitutes like mushroom bacon or mushroom sausage!
- Onions and garlic - I'd put anything oniony or garlicky into this category, so leeks, scallions, and chives also fit the bill.
- Potatoes - Whatever sort you like. If you want the most nutrition, choose thin-skinned potatoes so you can leave the skins on where possible.
Refrigerator and freezer staples
- Applesauce - Great for snacking, but applesauce also works great to replace oil and/or eggs in a lot of vegan baking.
- Convenience foods - Let's be honest, you're not cooking everything you eat from scratch. Get some breakfast sausage. Pick up a vegan frozen pizza, some dairy free burritos, or accidentally vegan pies. Vegans need easy options, too!
- Frozen fruit and vegetables - Frozen fruit is great for smoothies and making vegan ice cream. And I love having certain frozen veggies, like spinach, corn, and broccoli, on hand to add to meals when I run out of fresh.
- Maple syrup - Want an unrefined, liquid sweetener? Maple syrup is your friend! If you can splash out on the biggest bottle, you'll save money in the end, because it tends to cost less per ounce that way.
- Non-dairy yogurt - For quick breakfasts and snacks, vegan yogurt is great to have handy!
- Seitan - Seitan is a wheat protein that makes an excellent meat replacement!
- Tofu and/or tempeh - Firm or extra firm for stir fries, soups, and baking. Silken for making creamy soups and sauces. If tempeh is your jam, use it in stir fries, for making bacon, and more.
- Vegan butter - Go store-bought or make your own vegan butter.
- Vegan cheese - You don't have to use vegan cheeses, but there are great options out there, if you want them! Everyone's tastes are different, so finding your favorite brands might take some trial and error.
- Vegan milk - Choose whatever sort you like. You can also make your own.
- Bread - Sliced bread, buns, ciabatta, etc. are always handy!
- Broth - Choose broth paste, boxed veggie broth, or veggie bouillon cubes.
- Canned or dry beans - I'd go with some of each, so you can make a quick meal when you need it but can save money by using dry beans when possible.
- Dark chocolate - Many high quality dark chocolates are vegan. Choose your fave! And if you want to cook with that good chocolate, here are some vegan chocolate recipes to get you going!
- Dried herbs and spices - Chances are, you already have a lot of these in your pantry! Just a reminder that spices are a huge part of what makes any food -- vegan or otherwise -- taste delicious.
- Flour - From thickening sauces to breading tofu to baking, flour is essential! Depending on what you're making you need different flours, but I like to always have small bags of all-purpose flour and chickpea flour on hand.
- Nut and seed butters - Peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, etc. are endlessly useful.
- Nuts and seeds - Get roasted nuts and seeds to snack on or to top soups, salads, and casseroles. Raw nuts are a great base for creamy soups and sauces. Flax meal or chia seeds are staples in a lot of vegan cooking, too. If you like to bake, keep flax meal on hand to make a quick flax egg replacer!
- Nutritional yeast - This adds a nice, mildly cheesy taste to your food. I put it on everything.
- Oil and vinegar - Try to have a couple of sorts of each on hand. I tend to keep olive, sesame, and sunflower oil handy. Apple cider, rice, and balsamic vinegars are also a must in my pantry.
- Pasta - Choose your favorite!
- Rice and/or quinoa - Whole grains make an easy base for quick dinners!
- Sauces and condiments - Ketchup, soy sauce/tamari, hot sauces, vegan mayo, vegan Worcestershire sauce, etc.
- Soy curls - Soy curls are available online and work well as a sub for chicken. Try my BBQ soy curls to dip your toe into the wonder of this plant based protein!
Foods that aren't vegan
When you're shopping for vegan food, there are some sneaky ingredients to keep an eye out for.
Of course, meat, dairy, and eggs are off the menu, but there are other animal-derived ingredients that sneak into products at the grocery store. Vegans avoid eating:
- albumin - egg derivative found in many packaged foods
- beeswax - controversial, but not vegan, used to make things shiny
- carmine - made from bugs, used as a red food coloring
- casein - a milk byproduct found in many packaged foods
- castoreum - made from a beaver's anal glands, used as a vanilla flavoring
- cochineal - made from bugs, used as a red food coloring
- confectioners glaze - made from bugs, used to make candy and other foods shiny
- gelatin - made from ground up animal bones, tendons, and ligaments, found in many packaged foods, especially candy and some roasted nuts
- honey - controversial, but not vegan
- isinglass - made from fish, found in many beers and wines
- lard - animal fat found in baked goods and packaged foods
- L. cysteine - made from chicken feathers, found in bread products
- whey - a milk byproduct found in many packaged foods