We created this vegan grocery list, especially for beginners. It is to show you all the useful and essential plant-based ingredients you need to start your vegan journey right now. Not only that, but we are giving tips, recipes where you can use each item.
How to start a vegan diet?
To start a vegan diet that would stick in the long run, you need three things to consider:
- MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS – We see a lot of failed attempts mostly due to the fact that they only wanted to eat exactly the same meals as before but vegan. And if those veganised meals didn’t taste the same as their non-vegan versions, they were disappointed and quit. I tell you now they will never taste exactly the same, but that doesn’t mean they are not tasty.
- KEEP ON OPEN MIND – You will come across lots of different ingredients you may have never heard of before. You need to be curious to try out new things, new tastes, new textures. If you keep an open mind, you will realize super fast that the number of choices to eat vegan is endless.
- LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE – Most people who start a vegan diet doesn’t have much experience in cooking vegetables. You need to leave some time for trial and error. You might need to make something a couple of times to see what flavors, what textures are the best to your taste.
- easy and simple recipes.
- vegetables and fruits that you already like.
- familiar ingredients.
Vegan Grocery List for Beginners
We hope that after you see what is in our vegan pantry, putting together your own vegan shopping list will be easy peasy. There is an abundance of plant-based ingredients and foods that you can buy or make. Literally, there are hundreds of different fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains that you might not yet come across.
I remember when we first started out. It felt like a whole new world has opened up for us. There are so many recipes and things we wanted and still want to try, but previously never know about. Of course, it may feel a bit overwhelming at first, but don’t worry you’ll get the gist sooner or later.
Quick note: We eat gluten-free due to a medical condition, therefore this vegan food list is actually a vegan and gluten-free shopping list too.
It will probably come at no surprise but the largest part of the vegan diet is eating lots of fruits and veggies. We try to eat a balanced diet and mix things up by eating them raw, dried, cooked and baked. Although when it comes to fruit…
…it is best to eat as much fresh seasonal fruits as you can!
You probably don’t want to see here a list of all fruits there is available, but I would like to highlight some important staples to add to your vegan grocery list. We try to make sure that we always have these fruits in our pantry:
- Banana -> It is probably not an understatement to say that banana is the most popular, hence the most important fruit in the vegan diet. Why? It is a natural sweetener and an egg substitute in vegan baking. We use bananas to make smoothies, nice cream, oatmeal, pancake, waffle, cookies, cupcakes, banana bread and many more.
- Avocado -> It is in close competition with banana for No. 1. We use avocado to make guacamole, pasta sauce, pesto, salad dressing, pudding, nice cream, smoothie, cookies, or simply add to any salad or sandwich raw and sliced.
- Apple -> Kids love apples so we always have some around. They are great to add to oatmeal, or make apple juice, or apple butter or bake with them. We also love fried apple rings for breakfast.
- Orange -> Kids love oranges too, so we try to have them around. They are a great source of calcium and other vitamins. We add them to smoothies, make juice or eat them raw.
- Lemon -> Lots of vegan recipes call for lemons so we always have some in our pantry. You need them to make for example various dairy substitutes like cream cheese, nut cheese, cheesecake. We add them to hummus and other dips or make salad dressing.
Depending on the season, we love to get whatever we can buy fresh. We love to eat them raw, but we also added some other suggestions on how you can incorporate more fruits into your diet. We usually stick to common fruits like
- Apricot -> apricot jam is coming soon
- Berries -> add them to smoothies, nice cream, salads, oatmeal or make berry sauce or berry jelly
- Cherries -> add them to smoothies, nice cream, salads, oatmeal or make sour cherry soup
- Clementine -> add them to salads or make juice
- Currants -> add them to smoothies, nice cream, salads, oatmeal
- Grapefruit -> add them to salads or make juice
- Kiwi -> add them to smoothie or salad
- Mango -> blend it on its own and you got a tasty mango mousse
- Melon (Cantaloupe, Honeydew) -> add it to smoothies, nice cream or chia pudding
- Peach -> we like to make a pie or a crumble
- Plum -> we like to make jam, pie or crumble
- Watermelon -> add them to gazpacho soup
Don’t underestimate frozen fruits. They supposed to have the same nutritional value as fresh fruits. And since Dr. Greger thinks so, I believe him. We have always a couple of frozen fruit bags in our freezer to add to our smoothie or oatmeal or make fruit sauce for topping:
- Banana (peeled, sliced and bagged to make nice cream any time)
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries)
- Mixed berries
We do have dried fruit, especially during fall/winter. However, we ALWAYS have dates all year round.
- Dates -> Dates not only tasty to eat on their own, but they are also used as natural sweeteners in a vegan / plant-based diet. We add them to make cashew milk, no-bake cheesecake crust, bliss balls, and other healthy snacks.
- Apple slices
- Banana chips
- Craisins aka Cranberries -> I make the quickest cranberry jelly ever using them
The heart and soul of your vegan grocery list are vegetables. It is not only more appetizing and more fun to eat colorful food but that is how you can have a healthy vegan diet.
Hence the saying “eat the rainbow”!
Start with veggies you already know and you already like and look for vegan recipes using them. Then venture out and try new ones from time to time. Here are the vegetables we usually have in our pantry and recommend to add to your vegan shopping list.
Again, we recommend eating seasonal, locally grown veggies. We always have the following veggies in our pantry:
- Onion and garlic -> All great recipes start with onion and garlic. Am I right? Not to mention you can make a killer vegan onion gravy.
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes -> Most of the vegan comfort foods have potatoes or sweet potatoes as an ingredient or as a must-have side dish like shepherd’s pie, lentil loaf, or pot pie. They also make creamy soups without any dairy substitutes. Not to mention there are tons of hidden veggie desserts using sweet potatoes like brownie or chocolate pudding.
- Other root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, turnips, kohlrabi rutabagas, celery root…) -> We use them a lot in soups, curries, and stews. We also add them (aka hide them) to mashed potatoes.
- Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, and collard) -> I find that the darker green they are the more nutrients they supposed to have. Our favorite is spinach as they not so bitter in taste as all the others. We use it a lot to make spinach soup or pasta sauce. We add them to stews, curries, and any main dish we can think of. We even add them to smoothies.
- Salad greens (all kinds of lettuce) -> They are must-haves to make salads of any type.
- Bell pepper
Our favorite quick vegan meals are pasta and stir-fry, so we buy a variety of veggies to mix and match.
- Asparagus -> It is the best if roasted for sure.
- Beetroot -> We eat them roasted, in salads or as a burger patty.
- Broccoli -> Add them to pasta, stir-fry, curry…
- Cabbage -> Cabbage makes for a tasty soup and is an ideal candidate for Asian stir fry. However, we also use them as “pasta” for lasagna.
- Cauliflower -> We also grate it raw and use it as vegan ground beef to make spaghetti bolognese, lasagna, chili or taco. You can also find many recipes using cauliflower as “chicken wings”.
- Eggplant -> It is a widely used veggie in a vegan diet. You can make vegan bacon or vegan meatballs. Not to mention eggplant parmesan and baba ganoush (roasted eggplant dip) are so delicious.
- Mushroom -> Mushroom can also be a great vegan ground beef alternative to make spaghetti bolognese, lasagna, chili or taco.
- Peas (Snap peas)
- Pumpkin / Squash -> Soup or pie or cheesecake?
If we have an abundance of veggies that we would like to save some for later, we put them in the freezer. We also buy some frozen if something is out of season. As veggies are picked and frozen when they are ripe, they are just as good as fresh ones. We always have the following veggies in our freezer:
- Carrot (peeled, sliced and frozen) -> We just drop them to any soup or stew we cook.
- Green beans
- Spinach or kale
- Zucchini (peeled, cut into cubes and frozen)
- Veggie mix for stir fry
If you are new to a vegan or plant-based diet, you might have a hard time eating legumes. They can have quite a unique taste if you are not used to it. There is a wide variety of legumes you can buy, but we recommend to start first with the more familiar ones. We usually eat the following beans and legumes:
- Chickpeas -> We use them a lot as they don’t have such a strong, unique, beany taste. For some extra protein, we add them to any dish we can think of pasta, stir fry, soup, stew. We also make a quick and easy hummus to use in various ways even as a dessert. Here are 25 creative recipes for “What to eat with hummus?“.
- Beans (black, kidney, red…) -> Hello Mexican food! Who loves a burrito? and bean chili? If you would like to hide them a bit, they make for tasty burger patties.
- Lentils (green or brown) -> Brown lentils can be a great ground beef substitute as well for spaghetti bolognese or for sloppy Joe’s. Our favorite recipe using brown lentils is this vegan lentil loaf.
- Red lentils -> They deserve to be mentioned separately as they are AMAZING. We make tortillas, pancakes, waffles using them apart from the more common soup or stew recipes.
- White or cannellini beans -> Similar to chickpeas they have a neutral taste compared to other beans, so we like to use them for added protein in any dish we can think of pasta, stir fry, soup, stew even in burger patties.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are the healthy fats of the vegan / plant-based diet. So make sure you have them regularly, although a handful is usually already plenty enough. The usual ways are eating them raw, adding to granola, sprinkle on top of oatmeal or salads or add to any baked goods like bread, cookies, muffins, cupcakes, brownies, cakes…
If you are new to eating vegan, you might be surprised to hear some of the other ways we eat nuts and seeds. They are ideal to make dairy substitutes like milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, cheesecake, etc.
- Cashew -> As cashews have the most neutral nutty taste, they are used in most vegan recipes.
- Peanut ->You can easily make peanut butter at home.
- Pistachios -> We make a festive nut cheese using pistachios for a vegan Christmas appetizer.
Not to mention I use nut butter (peanut or almond butter mostly) in baking instead of dairy butter.
These are the 5 most important and widely used seeds in the vegan diet. We have them all year round. And here is why you should also add them to your vegan food list.
- Flax and chia seeds -> Ground flax or chia is used as an egg substitute in vegan baking. Whole chia seeds make a great quick jam and breakfast pudding as well. They are also a great source of Omega 3 and 6, so we add them to smoothies, oatmeal, and porridge or sprinkle them on salads.
- Hemp seeds -> If you need a quick protein boost and Omega fat boost, you can add them to smoothies, oatmeal, or porridge or sprinkle them on salads.
- Sunflower -> If you are allergic to nuts or looking for a nut-free recipe, you can almost ALWAYS change any nuts to sunflower seeds instead. It has a stronger taste then, for example, cashew, but sunflower seeds are widely used to make dairy substitutes.
- Sesame -> Apart from being nutritious, there is no hummus without sesame seeds. Have you heard of tahini? One of the main ingredients of hummus is tahini, which is actually toasted sesame seed paste.
We also like to use nuts and seeds as creamy soup toppings.
- Pumpkin seeds are great to top pumpkin soup or cauliflower soup.
- Sunflower seeds and Sliced almonds are great to top spinach soup.
We eat gluten-free due to a medical condition. However, even if you don’t need to eat gluten-free there is plenty of grains that are worth trying and adding to your meals.
- Buckwheat -> It is actually a pseud0-grain, but very nutritious. We add buckwheat to quick bread, or mix it with other grains like rice, millet or quinoa for a side dish. Buckwheat also makes a juicy and moist lentil loaf.
- Millet -> You can cook and eat millet just as you would rice, although we prefer to make porridge or these sweet dessert balls. We also use millet as a ground beef substitute and add it to chili for example.
- Oats -> No introduction is needed here. The most popular breakfast in the vegan diet is oatmeal.
- Quinoa -> It is also a nutritious pseudo-grain just like buckwheat. It is a great addition to any meal instead of rice. If you need an extra protein boost, you can easily add them to any salads.
We have a comprehensive Gluten-free Flour Guide with recipe ideas, where I explain all the different flours, starches, powders. It is a great information source if you are interested in vegan and gluten-free baking. If not, you can always get your baked goods in the store.
- Bread (Be open to change white bread to more nutritious alternatives like multi-seed bread)
- Tortilla (In case you need a grain-free red lentil tortilla recipe)
- Bagel (Be open to change bagels made of white wheat flour to more nutritious alternatives like multi-seed bagels)
- Pasta (Be open and try corn pasta, chia pasta, edamame pasta to get more nutrition within one meal)
The most common question is which alternative milk taste the same as dairy milk. The simple answer is none of them will taste exactly the same especially if you’d like to drink it on its own. So which alternative is the closest? Well, it is usually different for everybody. Some would say almond, some would say soy, some would say a combination of 2 different ones. You need to test it for yourself.
The most popular kinds of nut milk are cashew milk and almond milk. The store-bought version is usually enriched with Calcium and B12 (Alpro, Blue Dimond, Daiya, Silk or So Delicious). However, we make our own using our How To Make Cashew Milk guide as it is just too damn easy to do it and nut milk can be quite pricey.
Other non-dairy milk
You can find soy, rice, coconut, oat, and ripple (high protein pea milk which is vegan moms’ favorite choice for vegan kids). Most people swear that the best coffee creamer is Oatly Barrista, but I like my coffee with cashew milk.
Canned coconut milk
This is the full-fat canned coconut milk to use as heavy cream and whipped cream. It has a mild coconut taste which is great to make Asian-type soup or curry. You can add it to smoothies, oatmeal, chia pudding or make ice cream during summer. You can mask the coconut taste in some cases like in our killer vegan cheesecake or in our vegan chocolate frosting.
Other dairy substitutes
There are more and more brands popping up every day offering alternatives to the most popular dairy products. Whether you need something soy-free, or nut-free, or coconut-free, different products may be suitable for you. Here is just a quick shopping list below with some of the commonly available brands that we recommend for you to try first.
- Vegan butter -> Earth Balance is by far the best one. If you are more open to whole foods, then I recommend trying nut butter, sunflower seed butter or tahini.
- Vegan cheese -> Depending on your preference the most popular ones are Miyoko, Daiya, Violife and Chao. You can also make nut cheese at home if you are more open to a different taste.
- Vegan yogurt -> Depending on your preference the most popular ones are Silk, So Delicious, and Chobani
- Vegan cream cheese -> We love Tofutti (made from soy/tofu) and Violife (made from coconut oil), but Daiya (made from coconut oil) and Kite Hill (made from cultured almond milk) are also quite good. If you want to try to make it at home, we have a tasty 5-minute Tofu Cream Cheese recipe.
- Vegan sour cream -> Depending on your preference the most popular ones are Tofutti, and Follow Your Heart.
- Nutritional yeast -> It is an inactive yeast and the taste of which resembles parmesan cheese. It is
Meat substitutes are considered processed foods. They may not be the healthiest vegan options but can help your transition to a vegan diet. The most popular brands are Beyond Meat, Gardein, Impossible, Lightlife, Quorn and Tofurky. You can buy meat substitutes for almost everything.
- Chicken strips
- Deli slices
- Nuggets (chicken and fish)
If you are looking for whole foods alternatives to certain meat products you can certainly make them at home. Some of them will taste very similar to meat, but some will taste very different. Some of them have a similar texture, but some will be different. It will all depend on your taste, preference, openness.
- Vegan bacon – tempeh, eggplant slices, rice paper
- Vegan ground beef – cauliflower mince, walnut mince, mushroom mince, soy curls or TVP (textured vegetable protein), millet, quinoa, lentils
- Vegan pulled pork – young canned jackfruit, eggplant stripes, oyster mushroom stripes
- Vegan beef cutlets – soy cubes, young canned jackfruit
- Vegan chicken cutlets – extra firm tofu, oyster mushrooms
- Vegan fish – banana blossom, extra firm tofu sticks
- Vegan tuna – chickpeas, young canned jackfruit
- Vegan salmon – thin carrot slices
Not all egg replacers are created equal. You need to use a different one depending on what dish you need a vegan egg for.
- Chickpea flour -> to make vegan omelet or quiche
- Tofu -> to make vegan scrambled eggs
- Mung beans -> to make vegan scrambled eggs
- Aquafaba (aka canned chickpea water) -> It whips up like egg whites so you can make macaroon, whipped cream, royal icing or fluffy cake batters.
- Vegan yogurt, silken tofu -> to make quiche
- Ground flax, ground chia, psyllium husk, agar agar -> to use in vegan baking when you need the binding feature of the egg
- Apple sauce, mashed pumpkin, mashed sweet potato, mashed overripe banana, mashed avocado -> to use in vegan baking when you need the binding feature of the egg
- Store-bought egg substitutes: Just Egg, Bob Red Mill’s Egg Replacer, Ogran No Egg, Ener-G Egg Replacer
Is sugar vegan? You might be surprised that it is not always vegan. Sometimes companies use bone char in the production. You can read more about it including a list of trusted companies in this PETA article. In any case, we prefer to use “healthier” alternatives:
- Maple syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Date paste / Date syrup
Condiments and other cooking essentials
- Apple sauce
- Apple cider vinegar
- Balsamic vinegar
- Chili paste or sriracha
- Coconut oil
- Herbs (basil, coriander, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme)
- Lemon juice
- Miso paste -> To make vegan cheese
- Lemon juice
- Liquid smoke -> If you would like to make homemade bacon you’ll definitely need this
- Olive oil
- Soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free)
- Spices (salt, pepper, curry, chili, sweet paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin spice)
- Tomato sauce
- Vegetable stock