A vegan grocery list is not your average grocery list. I’ve been vegan for over a decade, and navigating grocery stores and eating out has definitely gotten easier over the years. But if you are thinking of going vegan, or if you are vegan but feel like your diet is a little – maybe you’re low energy, or you are eating a lot of the same thing – then I really recommend spending some time planning out what vegan groceries you need. It will make your life a lot easier, trust me.
Although most stuff is common sense, because a lot of foods are either clearly vegan: fruit and veg, or not: meat, I was definitely caught out a few times at the beginning. I’d go to the store and pick up stuff I assumed was vegan but turned out not to be (ummm, what is milk doing in my dark chocolate?!). Also, it’s not hard to eat a balanced plant-based diet, but I do recommend these vegan supplements for optimal health.
I wrote this as an essential guide to vegan groceries, and my aim has been to make it as flexible as possible. It’s a great vegan grocery list for beginners, full of largely unprocessed whole foods, with an emphasis on affordable options, and how not to waste food (read more on my zero waste challenge ideas). It’s also a vegan grocery list for busy people.
Yes, in an ideal world we would all have time to meal plan, and make everything from scratch… but if you are anything like me (i.e. you have a job) this may not be the case. It doesn’t need to be Veganuary for you to give veganism a try! So this vegan grocery list has loads of vegan store cupboard staples I recommend having on hand!
Where to Shop for Vegan Groceries
Honestly, your regular supermarket is fine, I’m even finding that corner stores are starting to have small vegan sections with tofu, etc.
More and more you see labels saying ‘vegan-friendly’ or ‘suitable for vegans’, although a lot of stuff will be vegan even if it’s not labelled. But, one piece of advice: check the small print. Read packaging labels carefully, as strange non-vegan ingredients can show up unexpectedly.
Vegan Grocery Stores
One of the perks of living in a big city is being able to find specifically vegan grocery stores near me. If you can, hunt one out – you will also be supporting a vegan business.
These are a hidden treasure trove, with a million varieties of tofu, huge bricks of frozen tempeh at a fraction of the price you will pay at health food shops, and good quality coconut milk. But again, check the labels, particularly on curry pastes or condiments.
Build Your Vegan Grocery List
Work through these groups and you should have all you need to make nutritionally balanced, stress-free, delicious vegan food at home.
Fruit and Vegetables. Literally the easiest place to start because these guys are all vegan groceries anyway! Fresh, frozen, store-bought, farmers market, veg box delivery.
Vegetables and Herbs
I eat these raw, steamed, stir-fried, or roasted (that’s also how long they take to cook, quickest to slowest).
I like a lot of green – broccoli, my beloved kale, spinach. But I try really hard to ‘eat the rainbow’ to guarantee a full nutritional spectrum of vitamins and nutrients. Think yellow pepper, tomatoes, carrots, beets. I also love fresh herbs, and always have ginger, onions and garlic on hand.
For busy people, it’s easy to let fresh produce rot and go to waste. Having some backup frozen veg is great, and root vegetables like carrots, squashes, and beets, also last longer. Even if they get a bit squishy, once you cook them up they are fine.
Technically not fresh, but another busy people vegan grocery list essential is fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut or kimchi (just make sure you buy vegan kimchi), not only are they great for your gut (they are probiotics), but last for ages.
I like to have a mix of fresh seasonal and frozen fruit on hand. Fruit tends to taste sad when it’s out of season, and frozen fruit is great for all the tropical fruits I miss like mango, or out of season fruit like berries in winter. Frozen fruit also works best for smoothies and smoothie bowls, one of my favourite vegan breakfasts.
I also always have lemons in my fruit bowl, either to squeeze into my water, for salad dressing, or to add flavour to a dish.
When possible I try and eat fresh produce as seasonally and locally as possible, also if you are trying to eat organic, seasonal and produce is usually more affordable.
Vegan Storecupboard Staples
I love me an ancient grain, like quinoa, millet, or kamut. But, I’m also a big fan of the much more affordable regular grains like oats, rice (of every colour and variety), and pasta.
I like dried fruit as a snack, and always have some on hand for when I am going on bike rides and need to keep my sugars up.
I recommend having a bag of plain wheat or gluten-free flour on hand, because you will want pancakes at some point. I promise. I’ve also experimented with coconut, almond chickpea and rice flours in the past for baking.
I don’t use a lot of refined sugar, but I do like sweet things so I have a good selection of sweet syrups (like maple, agave) and granulated sugars (like coconut sugar, rapadura).
Pulses and legumes
I always have chickpeas, various lentils and split peas (for making dahls), kidney and white beans, on hand. If I’m craving salad, but want it to be more substantial I chunk in a tin of something.
These are a good source of protein, and can be dried or tinned. It’s great to soak your own, but there is no shame in the tinned version.
Nuts and seeds
Another great source of protein, and a good on the go snack. I love nut butters –– on toast, apple slices, spooned straight from the jar… peanut butter is a staple, but I might treat myself to almond or cashew butter. You can make your own, but you need a powerful blender or food processor.
Chia seeds are great for adding to smoothie bowls, or making a vegan egg alternative for baking (ground flax works too).
I’m a bit of a superfood junkie, but I don’t believe these are essential for a healthy vegan diet. Spirulina, green powder blends, maca, BCAA for vegans, reishi… I tend to blend them into smoothies, or have them sprinkled on my muesli.
Other Useful Stuff
* Tofu and tempeh. Your classic soy-based vegan proteins.
* Tinned tomatoes, passata and concentrated tomato paste.
* Coconut milk.
* Nutritional yeast.
* Miso paste. Both miso and nutritional yeast have an umami flavour, and I often recommend them to people who are struggling to feel satisfied with a vegan diet.
* Bread – usually I slice half the loaf and freeze it to stop it going bad, and grab when needed.
Dried Herbs, Spices, Condiments and Oils
These are the secret ingredients. If you throw together some sort of veg, storecupboard mix, with a few things from here you are good to go: curries, stews, salads with delicious dressings, epic sandwiches.
Herbs and spices
I’m pretty proud of my herb and spice collection, but I have built it up just by picking stuff up when it’s needed for a particular dish.
When I’m time rich I love to make my own curry pastes, check out my Asam laksa paste recipe. However, I often don’t have time, so I like to have a good quality vegan curry paste on hand.
Similarly, if I’m organised I make my own pesto, but usually have store-bought on hand too. Make sure you double-check the label for curry pastes and pesto though, traditionally neither of them are vegan, or even vegetarian friendly.
Condiments, oils and vinegars
Mustard, chili sauces, ketchup, soy sauce, liquid smoke… essential vegan groceries for me.
I use mainly coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil, but also like toasted sesame oil.
Raw apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
There are so many vegan alternatives available for not just milk, but cheese and even meat these days.
Vegan Dairy Products
I like oat milk, but I’m easy with any milk alternative.
Cheeses: some vegan cheese is more processed than others. They can be made from soy, coconut oil, or nuts. The nut-based ones tend to be the least processed, but most expensive. You can experiment with making your own though.
The weird and wonderful world of seitan and soy fake meat. I have to say that the quality of vegan sausages and burgers has gone massively up in recent years. Vegan burgers are a real weak spot of mine, and I’ve definitely be known to pick up some Beyond Meat burger patties in my time.
Living in Berlin, I’m pretty lucky to have shops like Veganz, a vegan grocery store, near me which has a great selection of vegan cheeses, spreads and meats. There is even a Berlin-based vegan butcher, for high-quality vegan meat alternatives.
Vegan Protein Sources
I’m not going to spend a lot of time debunking the myth that you don’t get enough protein if you are vegan. You do. What I will say is that a study recently came out saying that eating plant protein over animal protein might mean a longer, healthier life…
I already mentioned pulses, nuts, tofu and tempeh, which are high in protein, but a few other foods need a shout out:
Hummus. Possibly the perfect food – an amazing balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Also, you might be surprised at the amount of protein in some vegetables. If you work out a lot of are ageing and concerned about that fact (I sure am!), read this article I wrote on collagens for vegans (they’re protein, too!).
That’s what my vegan grocery list looks like! I honestly believe shopping for vegan groceries doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, and in time you will quickly build up a collection of your favourite vegan foods and flavours.