My healthy Vegan Grocery List for beginners takes the guesswork out of shopping. With an actionable shopping guide plus tips and tricks, you'll see that buying and eating vegan is actually easy and so delicious.
Starting a vegan diet?
Welcome to the club!
A few years ago I was just like you. While the rest of my family continued to eat carnivore diet, I spent hours creating a clean-eating plan and trying to find the products that were not only free from animal ingredients but also healthy.
If you're in the beginning of your plant-based eating journey, I will help you.
I will tell you exactly what products/ingredients should be on the vegan grocery list as well as what foods to avoid.
I won't just list every possible product you can buy in the grocery store but rather tell you specific options that are worth to be included in your shopping cart.
What Can't You Eat If You're Vegan
Vegans can't eat any products that contain animal ingredients.
It means that meat, seafood, dairy and eggs are not permitted.
In addition, some sugar can also be an issue.
For example, cane sugar is usually processed with bone char. That's why if your recipe calls for cane sugar, I recommend your vegan grocery list to include organic cane sugar. It doesn't contain any animal elements.
When you switch to vegan diet, it's important to read labels. Make sure you understand the ingredients that are listed. All vegan products are usually labeled with either "V" label or say "Suitable For Vegans" or "Certified Vegan".
What Vegans Eat
When I told my friends that I'm vegan, the next question they asked me was:
What Are You Eating? A Grass?
Despite the common myths, a menu of a typical person who eats vegan is very rich and balanced.
After all, the nature gives everything what we need in a form of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes.
A typical menu of a person on a plant-based diet might include oatmeal with peanut butter for breakfast, chickpea "tuna" sandwich for lunch, tofu curry for dinner.
Of course, there are lots of fruits, dried fruits and nuts in between for snacking.
The best part about vegan diet is that you can really indulge without a guilt.
So if your favorite food are potatoes, go ahead and eat them to your heart's content. Potatoes are healthy, satisfying and should be a regular item in your vegan grocery list and pantry. (Also try my Smashed Potatoes)
How To Transition Into Veganism
It can be difficult going vegan cold turkey, so I recommend doing this gradually.
My suggestion is to start with serving fewer meat and dairy-based dishes.
- Let's say you have meat/fish meals 5 times a week. First week into a vegan diet, decrease animal protein to 2-3 times/week and the rest of the days serve vegan meals.
- In a week or two (maybe even a month) depending on how you feel, serve meat/fish only once a week. If you're missing the taste and flavor of meat, substitute them with vegan alternatives. Most grocery stores carry delicious non-meat burgers, plant-based crumbles, kabobs and deli-slices. You can incorporate those in a variety of recipes, but also find another protein-rich foods. I'm talking about beans, legumes and tofu. If you try my delicious Georgian Lobio, you might not want to eat meat ever again.
- Now, I don't recommend relying solely on these vegan meat alternatives, since many of them contain not so healthy ingredients. When you're just transitions to a vegan diet, it's OK to have those now and then. Having said that, there are healthy and clean vegan "meats". I'll tell you my favorite brands below.
- After, you feel comfortable eating vegan most of the days, you can slowly eliminate meat/fish and dairy altogether and explore a world of yummy vegan recipes.
- Also, as an alternative scheme, you can try eating vegan 5 days a week and then having "non-vegan" dishes on a weekend. After you keep this schedule for a month or so, you can transition fully to a healthy vegan diet and never look back.
If you accidentally slipped and indulged in non-vegan dishes, don't beat yourself too hard. It happens to everyone. Just pick up where you left off and keep going.
How can I eat a plant-based diet?
Luckily, most US grocery stores make a transition to a plant-based diet so easy.
Seriously, there's never been a better time to change your eating habits.
Can't say "no" to milk and cheese?
Just like with meat, there are plenty of healthy non-dairy substitutes. See my vegan grocery list below for specific details on the brands that I buy for myself and recommend.
My favorite milk substitute to make a breakfast cereal is Soy Milk. Runner ups - Oat milk and almond milk.
As for the specific brands - I love Daily Harvest for Almond Milk. (You can use my promo code IRYNA to get $25 off your order).
Malk brand carries my favorite Oat Milk. I know it may be slightly more expensive that other brands, but you will appreciate that it's made with just Oats, water and a touch of salt.
When shopping for a plant-based milk, take a look at the ingredients. Not all "milk" is created equal. Most of them are loaded with unnecessary ingredients, like oil, sugars and other stuff.
Seriously, you don't need them in your "milk"!
Love eggs? Firm tofu makes absolutely delicious scrambled eggs and chickpea flour are essential for preparing the best vegan omelet.
If you're concerned about making desserts that normally contain eggs, there are plenty of egg substitutes for baking starting with commercially prepared vegan "eggs" to flax egg, applesauce and sparkling water.
Do you have to buy organic?
Eating vegan doesn't mean buying organic. If you can afford buying organic products, by all means do so. If not, conventional produce is also fine also as long as you wash it well.
Luckily, all grocery stores carry organic options. The prices vary from store to store and many times the price for organic doesn't differ much from conventional. I usually find the cheapest organic products at Kroger, Trader Joe's and Fresh Thyme.
Whole Foods has slightly more expensive choices however they also carry a bigger selection of organic products. This comes in handy if you are shopping for harder to find products, for example frozen passionfruit or sprouts.
Costco also has some organic options and the prices are affordable however the selection if somehow limited.
Must Have Vegan Grocery List
When you're going shopping, it's important to have a grocery list. That way, you know exactly what to buy and it will save you from overspending on unplanned goods. Download my printable vegan grocery list.
Fruits make a wonderful healthy snack or even a dessert. They're one of the healthiest foods and should be included in your healthy weekly grocery list as well in your daily menu.
Many people mistakenly avoid fruits for the fear of too much sugar. However, sugar in fruit is different from sugar in cookies. Almost everyone can benefit from eating fruits.
Fruits are source of essential nutrients including potassium, fiber, vitamins and folate. They contain no cholesterol and may help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
When choosing a fruit, try to pick a whole fruit versus commercially packaged fruits like juices and canned fruits.
Here's a list of my go-to fruits:
- Apples. If you like soft and sweet apples, choose Red Delicious. They're very juicy and perfect for those who have sensitive teeth. They're my favorite. Like your apples on a firmer side? Choose Gala, Daisy or Fuji. These 3 types of apples are perfect for baking as well. Granny Smith apples are firm, tart and also suitable to baking.
- Bananas. Enjoy these for snacking, making Banana pancakes or as vegan "egg" replacement.
- Citruses. Oranges, clementines or mandarines are all a wonderful choices.
- Berries. Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries. Out of all fruits, berries are usually the most expensive and comes in smaller container. If you're trying to keep a lower budget, opt for apples, bananas or citrus fruits that are usually more affordable.
- Mango. When picking mango, squeeze it gently. A ripe mango will give slightly.
- Watermelon. A ripe watermelon will be heavy, with a dull color, yellow spot and lots of vein-like webbing. These are the indicators of an extra-sweet watermelon.
- Peaches, nectarines. The same as with picking out mango, squeeze the fruit slightly. If it's on the softer side, than it's ripe.
Additional fruits to consider buying: apricots, pineapple, plums.
Frozen fruits are a wonderful choice for smoothes, fruit jams or oatmeal topping.
If you can, shop for frozen fruits at Costco or other wholesale clubs. They have a great selection of frozen fruit that will last you longer.
My go-to frozen fruits are:
- blueberries. If possible, choose wild blueberries because they contain more antioxidants than regular blueberries.
These make a wonderful choice for snacking and desserts. When choosing dried fruit, read the ingredients label and make sure there are no added sugar.
Here are the dried fruits that I recommend including in your vegan food list:
- dates. Aside from the fact that dates make a wonderful snack, they also serve as a base for many no-bake vegan desserts. (Check out my No-Bake Marshmallow Brownies). They're a few types of dates that you can buy: Noor and Medjool Dates. I recommend Medjool Dates, they're larger and have somewhat better taste.
Vegetables play a huge roll in healthy vegan diet.
Some nutritionists say that your meals should consist of 20% cooked food and 80% raw vegetables.
Whether you stick to this rule or not, it's important to try eating fresh vegetables everyday.
A diet rich in vegetables may lower your risk of developing certain diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and may positively impact your overall health.
Here's a list of the vegetables I always include in my vegan grocery shopping:
- Onions, carrots, garlic, celery. These vegetables act as a base for any soup or stew. In addition, carrots make a wonderful snack for kids and adults.
- Broccoli, cauliflower. Considered one of the healthiest choices, they're are a part of cruciferous vegetables that also include arugula, brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage. These vegetables are rich in various vitamins and phytonutrients. They may help protect cell DNA from damage and may have antioxidant properties.
- Cabbage. Also a part of cruciferous vegetables, cabbage is versatile and can be used in tacos, salads and soups. Enjoy green, purple or Napa cabbage. See my Tempeh Tacos, Napa Cabbage Slaw and Borscht.
- Beets. Super healthy root vegetable packed with manganese, folate and potassium. Beets are essential for many soups as well as salads and slaws.
- Tomatoes. When choosing a tomato, smell them. The most flavorful ones make for the most delicious tomato salad.
- Cucumbers. Any types of cucumbers are fine.
- Leafy salad. Spinach, arugula or spring mixes are all great choices. One salad that I don't usually buy and don't recommend is lettuce. It is often a subject to recalls, might contain bugs (even triple washed lettuce) and don't have much nutrients.
- Sweet potatoes. There're a few colors of sweet potato that you can find in grocery stores: orange, white and purple. The diet of the longest-living residents of Okinawa consisted of mostly purple sweet potatoes. If your grocery store carries purple sweet potato, I recommend stocking up on it. If not, typical orange sweet potato is also a wonderful healthy staple in a plant-based diet.
- Bell peppers
- Mushrooms. Apart from containing a variety of nutrients, mushrooms have a texture very similar to meat which makes them invaluable in vegan diet. (Try my Mushroom Stroganoff and Mushroom Risotto)
- Herbs. Parsley, cilantro, dill
Additional vegetables to consider buying: zucchini, butternut squash, eggplant, brussels sprouts, green beans.
Frozen vegetables make a great shortcut for soups and stews. They are prewashed and precut which saves you a lot of time when you're in a hurry.
Additionally, frozen vegetables last much longer than fresh vegetabeles which can eliminate the need for the frequent grocery runs.
Frozen vegetables that I recommend are:
- green beans
Beans And Legumes
Since vegans don't consume any animal protein, beans and legumes are essential for replacing it.
Legumes that include beans, peas and lentils are low in fat, contain no cholesterol and rich in minerals such as folate, potassium and iron.
Legumes keep us full and provide many nutrients we would usually get from meat.
Beans and lentils take up a big portion of vegan diet. In my vegan grocery list I love including canned beans, because it's much easier to prepare a meal on a whim.
You can eat canned beans without cooking, but make sure to first drain and rinse them. However I always recommend warming them up for at least a few minutes.
That being said, I also make sure to stock up my pantry with dry beans. They are really cheap and cooking beans from scratch is very easy.
Beautiful thing about legumes is that both canned and dry legumes have a long shelf life.
Here're the legumes I always carry in pantry.
- Garbanzo beans. Also called chickpeas, they're essential in hummus, many soups and curries. Chickpea cooking liquid, also called aquafaba acts as a vegan egg replacement.
- Kidney beans. I always use these in Borscht and Lobio.
- Cannellini beans. Because of their neutral taste, these beans make wonderful sauces, salads and soups. (Try my White Bean Stew)
- Split peas
- Lentils. Both red and green lentils are a staple in my pantry. They cook very fast which is perfect for busy weeknights. (Try my Turkish Lentil Soup)
- Garbanzo beans
- Kidney beans
- Cannellini beans
- Great Northern beans
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Green peas
Soy products take up a separate section here because they contain so many different varieties.
Just like beans and lentils, soy products play an important role in vegan diet. Soy is a complete protein and contains all of the essential amino-acids. Soy is rich in iron, protein and very low in fat.
In addition to their vitamin and mineral content, soybeans are a good source of special antioxidants that may help protect your body against cell damage.
Soy products are very easy to cook and they can be transformed into the most delicious meals. Even meat-eaters won't be able to resist.
My favorite soy products to include in your vegan grocery list:
- Tofu. Most of the time I use Extra firm tofu which is great for curries and Silken Tofu (Try my Miso Soup)
- Tempeh. Made from fermented soybeans, Tempeh is a good source of probiotics. There are usually plain tempeh or with flax seeds. Choose whichever you like best. Tempeh is great for grilling and tacos. (Try my Tempeh Tacos)
- Edamame. They cook in minutes and are wonderful for snacking
- Soy milk. If you like cappuccino, rejoice! Soy milk makes the best foam ever. Plus, it has a pleasant nutty and slightly sweet taste and it's perfect for desserts.
Condiments are an important part in making any dish delicious, not just vegan dish.
Some of condiments below are used more than the others and the best part is that most of them keep really well.
I recommend including most of these in your vegan grocery list.
- Oils. Olive oil, Coconut Oil and Sesame Seed Oil
- Mustard. Dijon mustard and stone ground mustards are my favorite choices
- Buffalo Sauce
- Vegan Mayo
- Soy Sauce or Tamari
- White Miso Paste. My recent favorite and very underestimated ingredient. This flavorful paste works not only in Miso soup. It has a super rich flavor and is capable of transforming any dish. I use Miso paste in sauces, such as Red Pesto Pasta and also add it to soups to boost a flavor. I buy Miso paste on Amazon, however many grocery stores carry it as well. One carton will last you for quite some time. If you decide to try Miso paste, I recommend looking specifically for White Miso paste.
- Tahini. This ground sesame seeds paste makes delicious Oil-free dressings but can also be incorporated in dishes such as hummus, falafel and so many more.
- Thai Red Curry Paste. This mildly spicy condiment is mostly used in curries and sauces. (see my Glass Noodles Stir Fry)
- Olives - I recommend Kalamata Olives. They make a wonderful addition to salads and risottos. (see my favorite Mushroom Risotto)
- Pickles. Aside for snacking and using pickles in salads, they make the most delicious Polish Dill Pickle Soup
- Vinegar. I typically buy Rice Vinegar, Balsamic and Apple Cider Vinegar. Rice Vinegar is mostly used in Asian recipes, Balsamic - for salad dressings and Apple Cider Vinegar is used in baking
- Nutritional Yeast - excellent source of B vitamins. I use it in sauces or as vegan "cheese" alternative
- Nut Butters. I typically buy Almond Butter and Peanut Butter and use those in baking (as a butter and oil replacement) or for PB&J sandwiches
- Coconut Milk - I recommend stocking up on both full fat and low fat coconut milk. It is used in sauce, curries as well as baking
- flours - whole wheat, all purpose and almond flour
- baking powder
- baking soda
- Maple Syrup, Coconut Sugar - preferred sweeteners
- vainilla extract
- vegan chocolate chips
- cacao powder
Vegan Packaged Foods
As I said earlier in the post, packaged foods play an important role in vegan diet. They help with the easier transition to veganism but also make our busy life much more simpler.
When it comes to vegan brands, some of them are healthier than the others. Many are not healthy at all. If your ultimate goal is to eat healthy and sustainably, then it especially makes sense to look at the label.
As a general rule - try to stay away from the ingredients that you can't pronounce or that you don't know.
Here are some of my trusted and most favorite brands of vegan packed foods.
Plant-based dairy alternatives
Here're my favorite brands that I regularly include in my own vegan grocery list.
- Malk. If you want a true nut milk that contains only nuts and water, I recommend this brand. Now, it might be more pricey than the others. However, unlike many other plant milks, most Malk varieties contains only 2 ingredients. This brand is available in Whole Foods and Fresh Thyme.
- Westsoy. My preferred brand of Organic Soy Milk. Just like Malk brand, Westsoy milk contains only soybeans and water. And as I said previously in the post, soy milk make the best foam for cappuccino and latte.
- Treeline Cheese. If you love goat cheese, then this creamy cashew spread will be your new best friend. It has a variety of flavors and it's my most favorite vegan cheese spread. It works perfectly for appetizers or salads. (see my Cannellini Bean And Cheese Salad). This brand is available in most grocery stores in the vegan freezer aisle.
- Miyoko's. I like to use this butter as a sandwich bread but also in cooking/baking.
- Earth Balance. I mostly use this brand in baking. Works great for pies and tarts. (see my Vegan Pumpkin Pie). This plant-based spread is available in most grocery stores.
- Siete. They have very delicious dairy-free Queso sauces which I love using in tacos or for dips.
Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
- Engine 2 Burger. This burger is probably the healthiest burger I've seen. It's made with black beans and is Vegan and Oil-free. These burgers are available in Whole Foods;
- Beyond Burger from Beyond Meat. If you miss the texture of a real meat, you will like the taste of Beyond Burger.
- Dr. Praeger's Cauliflower Veggie Burger.
- Sweet Earth Traditional Seitan and Upton's Naturals Italian Seitan. Now, Seitan is very popular substitute for meat. It's made with wheat gluten (which is hydrated gluten, the main protein in flour). Seitan has a similar texture to meat and is high in protein. However, Seitan is highly processed. It's ok to have it now and then, but I would not consider Seitan a healthful product.
- Hu Chocolate. My favorite vegan chocolate. It's Sugar-free, Oil-free and Soy-free. Enter the code IRYNA15 for 15% off on all Hu Kitchen products.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, it's not. Fruits, vegetables and beans are one of the cheapest foods. Now, if you buy commercially prepared vegan products, expect to pay the same as you would pay for regular non-vegan foods.
You can buy fruits, vegetables and legumes in any supermarket. If you shop for specialty vegan products, here are some of the US grocery stores that you can shop:
- Whole Foods. Has the biggest selection of vegan specialty items
- Trader's Joe
- Fresh Thyme
- Stop And Shop
Honey is not a vegan. That being said, there are a lot of vegans who consume honey. Depending on your reasons why you chose veganism, it's up to you to decide whether to include honey in your diet or not.
I hope you find this guide to plant-based shopping useful. If you have any questions or would like to add something to this list, let me know in the comment section below.