This vegan grocery list for beginners will show you a plethora of options and make shopping a breeze! I'll also give you some pointers along the way that should be helpful for beginners and experienced vegans alike.
Note: You can find the printable option of vegan foods you can buy at the grocery store at the bottom of this page.
1. Beans and Legumes
- Black Beans: These are slightly firm and are always nice to have on hand for their versatility.
- Black Eyed Peas: Because of their color and harder texture, black eyed peas are ideal for making things like Cowboy Caviar.
- Cannellini Beans (or any white beans): White beans are slightly softer than the others and are perfect for Italian pasta dishes.
- Edamame (soy beans): You can buy frozen edamame in the freezer section and microwave for a quick snack or buy the shelled variety to throw into stir fries or Asian-themed dishes.
- Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas): Mash with some tahini and lemon juice to make a mock tuna salad or use a blender to make hummus!
- Kidney Beans: Their dark red color makes kidney beans a great option for adding visual appeal to a dish. Pair with grains, pasta or almost any vegetable.
- Lentils: Extremely high protein legume that are great by themselves, in soup or even turned into a "lentil loaf."
- Peas: Blend it up into a soup with some nutritional yeast (under the vegan cheese section) or enjoy it with some whole wheat pasta and marinara for a simple and satisfying meal.
Fresh vs Canned and Usage Ideas
- Many beans can be used in sweet recipes (like black bean brownies) as well as savory dishes. If you're getting canned beans, be sure to get unsalted if you want to use them for this purpose to keep the flavor profile as versatile as possible.
- You can get beans in the bulk/dry section and cook them yourself without salt/preservatives if your diet requires. It's also cheaper.
- Some can also be found frozen, like peas.
- You can use white beans to make an easy low-fat vegan cheese sauce.
- Because they are cheap, satisfying and nutritious, beans and legumes should be a staple of your vegan grocery list.
2. Root Vegetables
- Beets (canned or fresh): Canned beets are a convenient way to add nutrients and colorful phytochemicals to salads.
- Carrots (fresh or frozen): Fresh carrots are ideal for dipping (like in that homemade hummus!), and it's always nice to have frozen carrots on hand for stir fries or mixing with pastas and grains. Check out our guide to freezing carrots.
- Sweet Potatoes (yams): Sweet potatoes can stay good for a few weeks, especially if you store them in the fridge. Cutting them into fries or cubes and throwing them in the oven with a little sea salt is a simple and easy way to make an impressive and filling side dish.
- White Potatoes: Baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes - need I say more?
- Pumpkin (canned): Incorporate it into soups, pasta sauces and dips for an added boost of flavor and nutrients.
- Squashes (any color): Squash is affordable and a great addition for soups, stir fries or even making breaded fries.
- Turnips: Best for winter soups, but turnips can also be roasted and mashed like potatoes. I find them to be slightly more starchy.
- Yucca: You'll usually find Yucca in more Spanish-themed ethnic supermarkets. It's a harder and starchier version of a potato. It can be sliced into fries or boiled.
- Bake a white or sweet potato and stuff it with beans and jarred salsa for a quick and filling lunch or dinner.
- Yucca makes great fries if you cut them up and top with salt and pepper. You don't even need to bake it with oil for it to be delicious.
- Throw 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice into smoothies to create a warm fall flavor.
- Amaranth: A nutty grain that tends to have a stronger/nuttier flavor than the others. Use it anywhere you'd use grains and toast it first for maximum flavor!
- Barley: It's a filling and nutritious grain that can be used anywhere you'd use rice.
- Buckwheat: If you've ever had "Kasha" from a deli, then you've had buckwheat. It's a hearty grain that goes great with caramelized onions and mushrooms.
- Bulgur: Part of Middle Eastern Cuisine, it's great for everything, but especially for making Tabbouleh.
- Corn: Corn doesn't have to only be something you eat on the cob. Keep frozen bags of kernels on hand for salads or to use as a bed of grains. Check out our guide to freezing corn on the cob.
- Farro: Farro looks like a darker and larger version of barley and makes for a great choice in hearty meals. Use it to stuff bell peppers, make burgers, make poke bowls or even soups.
- Oats: Cheap, easy to make, and delicious, oats should be a staple on anyone's grocery list. Try mixing dried oats with bananas for easy 2-ingredient cookies.
- Rice (any color): While you certainly can use white rice as one of your staple grains (many of the longest living populations do), the colored rices are more nutrient dense - especially red and black rice.
- Quinoa: Light, fluffy and full of nutrients -- you can use quinoa in almost anything. Even in a breakfast bowl with fruit, nuts and plant-based milk.
4. Colored Veggies
- Artichokes: Buy just the hearts and combine with spinach and cashew cream to make an artichoke and spinach dip or stuff the whole artichokes with vegan breadcrumbs and lemon juice.
- Asparagus: Great for any cuisine, but works especially well with stir fry or as a side for mashed potatoes. It can be eaten fresh, but can also be stored by freezing.
- Broccoli: Much like asparagus, can be used for pretty much any cuisine you can think of and packs a nutritious punch!
- Brussels Sprouts: Shred them raw for a salad or bake them with some salt, pepper and liquid smoke for an easy side dish.
- Cabbage (purple or green): Try it steamed or eaten thinly sliced raw in a tahini slaw.
- Cauliflower: Such a versatile veggie that can be used for everything from buffalo cauliflower bites to blending into an Alfredo sauce or as a rice substitute.
- Kale: Kale can be used for a bunch of things, including salads and smoothies. If you want to eat it raw, try using your hands to massage it with tahini or avocado.
- Bok Choy: This cabbage is ideal for making Asian-style soups or cutting and throwing into stir fry. You can even grill it whole because it's so hearty.
- Arugula: Great for a quick topping for vegan pizzas or to add a peppery bite to a vegan bowl, arugula is a flavorful, versatile green.
- Bell Peppers: Perfect for chili, curries, or stuffing with grains, beans and even some mock meats, bell peppers are an excellent way to add both color and nutrients to your dish.
- Cucumbers: Salads are obvious, but you can also use sliced cucumbers dipped in hummus for a filling snack.
- Spinach (frozen of fresh): There's many ways to eat spinach, but combining it with homemade cashew cream (just soaked cashews and water) is a quick way to make a steakhouse style creamed spinach -- vegan style of course.
- Find a few green veggies you enjoy and focus on eating them on a regular basis.
- If you hate greens and have trouble eating them, try hiding them in a whole fruit smoothie.
- Don't be afraid of the steam-able microwave bags for convenience. They're perfect when you're short on time.
Depending on the season, you should be able to find most of these fruits in your average grocery store.
- Buy bananas in bulk and freeze them when they begin to get brown for smoothies.
- Get the berries from the freezer section to save money.
- Use Medjool dates along with cashews to recreate rich vegan treats like a plant-based cheesecake.
Mist fruits can be bought while in season then stored to be enjoyed later. You may check out our guide to freezing peaches to learn more.
6. Meat Alternatives
- Tofu: Tofu is basically curdled soymilk that's been pressed and formed into a block. Don't believe the myths about it. It's enjoyed by some of the longest living populations, including the Okinawans.
- Tempeh: Tempeh is a block of fermented soybeans that can pretty much be used anywhere meat can. Check out our post on where to buy tempeh.
- Seitan: Seitan is known as the "wheat-meat." It's vital wheat gluten with some seasonings that's formed into different shapes and textures to add protein and bulk to a variety of dishes.
- Pre-made Mock Meats: Brands like Gardein make frozen bags of mock pork, chicken, meatballs and more.
- Veggie Burgers: Brands like Bubba Burger have veggie burgers that are made from things like oats and veggies.
- New "Plant-Meat" Burgers: Beyond Burgers and Beast Burgers are strikingly real and are great to throw on the grill.
- Mock Sausages: The sausages from brands like Tofurky are probably some of the most realistic mock meats out there.
- Plant-Based Jerkys: Great for snacking, road trips or even used as fake bacon on sandwiches, vegan jerky is plain awesome!
- When buying pre-made mock meats and veggie burgers, be very careful to check the labels. Look for 100% vegan brands like Gardein.
- You can freeze tofu or tempeh, so feel free to buy in bulk.
- Be sure to try some of the new products as they come out. Items like the Beyond Burger are becoming all too real.
7. Cheese Alternatives
- Nutritional Yeast: The go-to ingredient to make vegan food taste cheesy without anything that's bad for you.
- Shredded Cheeses: You'll be able to find several brands of shredded cheese like Go Veggie, Daiya and Follow Your Heart.
- Sliced Cheese: Some of the best brands of vegan sliced cheese nowadays are Daiya and Chao. There are more, but these are the ones you're likely to find in the grocery store.
- Plant-Based Parmesan: The parmesan cheese made by Go Veggie is the most realistic vegan cheese I've ever tasted. I can almost promise you won't know the difference - it even smells like stinky parmesan!
- High-End Fermented Nut Cheese: Miyoko's kitchen that age and ferment cheeses made from plant-based ingredients. These are by far the best tasting, but rarest and most expensive.
- Pre-made vegan cheeses are great to have on hand, but it's also easy to make your own healthier cheese sauces by blending soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and a bit of salt.
- For a lower fat vegan cheese sauce, you can replace the blended cashews with white beans or potatoes.
Aside from honey, vegans can pretty much eat any and all sweeteners.
- Maple Syrup
- Date Sugar
- Beet Sugar*
- Organic Cane Sugar*
- Flavored Stevia Drops
*When buying conventional table sugar, it may be the case that non-organic cane sugar is filtered with bone char. To avoid this, simply buy beet sugar or organic cane sugar.
- If you don't like stevia, try combining it with another sweetener or even small amounts of real sugar. It tastes best when used in synergy with something else.
- Flavored stevia drops also tend to be far less "stevia-tasting" but also add other flavors like vanilla, chocolate or hazelnut.
- Consider using sweet fruits like dates and frozen bananas to naturally sweeten things to get an extra boost of nutrients and fiber.
9. Nuts, Seeds & Fats
- Nut Butter of Choice: An easy way to add extra calories and healthy fat to any meals. Just make sure you're getting the "natural" nut butter and double check the label for things like sweeteners or palm oil. It should be 100% nuts.
- Flaxseeds: A vegan's best friends for omega 3's as it's one of the richest plant-sources.
- Chia Seeds: Great for making pudding, chia seeds can also be used where you would flaxseeds.
- Tahini: A sesame seed paste that is a great whole-food replacement for mayo, especially when mixed with lemon and onion powder.
- Sesame Seeds (raw or toasted): You can sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on almost anything to add a deep nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
- Plant-Based Butter:There are so many good brands out there that you can use as a 1:1 substitution for the real thing. Use sparingly.
- Cooking Oil or Spray: A small drop of cooking oil can go a long way in preventing things from sticking. Use sparingly.
- The fats on this vegan shopping list that aren't whole foods (vegan butters and oils) are generally agreed to be less healthy for you. Use in moderation.
- If you want to buy almond butter or another specialized nut butter, consider making your own at home because it's far less expensive.
- If you eat a lot of Omega-6 rich foods (like processed oils), it is even more important to eat ground flax-seeds to keep your Omega-3 and Omega-6 ratios in check.
10. Sauces and Condiments
- Tamari (gluten free soy sauce): A great way to make anything more salty while adding an element of depth rather than salt alone.
- Sriracha Sauce: A spicy chili sauce that goes well on almost anything.
- BBQ Sauce: Watch out for honey, but most BBQ sauces are completely vegan. You may want to make your own at home if you're trying to avoid processed sugar.
- Mustard: I have mustard reserved for mashing with chickpeas, tahini and lemon for a tuna salad replacement.
- Ketchup: Use on vegan burgers or mix with vegan mayo to make a french dressing.
- Plant-Based Mayo: While traditional mayo contains eggs, there are vegan options everywhere.
- Buffalo Hot Sauce: Frank's Buffalo Sauce is 100% vegan and great on almost anything, but beware of other buffalo sauces that might contain real butter.
- Jarred Salsa (red or green): If you've got a starch and a salsa, then you've got yourself a meal! Keep some jarred salsa on hand.
- Kimchi: Korean pickled cabbage that adds spiciness, savoriness and crunch to anything. You might also want to take a look at our options for the best container for kimchi if you need more info about storing it in your refrigerator.
- Pickles: Try to find creative ways to use them outside of burgers and deli sandwiches. They can be a great addition to salads or even just a tasty treat on their own.
- Capers: Make great additions for salads. They're kind of like condensed olives with a really strong flavor.
- Olives: Olives are very satisfying if you're craving a fatty food. Use them in salads, eat on their own or blend them into a tapenade.
- Cacao Nibs: A healthier alternative to vegan chocolate chips as they're a whole food with no processed sugar.
11. Spices and Flavors
- Smoked Paprika: An easy way to add depth and smoke to anything.
- Turmeric: Super anti-inflammatory and a great way to make things yellow.
- Garlic Powder: This universal spice can enhance the flavor of just about any savory dish.
- Onion Powder: Great when you don't need something as strong as garlic and want to add a combination of savory and sweetness to your recipe.
- Vanilla Extract: The ultimate condiment for anything you make that's sweet. I like to use vanilla to take oatmeal to the next level.
- Ginger Powder (or the whole root): I find ginger to be best used for Asian marinades or green smoothies, anywhere where you need something floral and uplifting.
- Basil (fresh or dried): Great for cold salads, flavoring tomato sauces or making a vegan pesto from scratch.
- Rosemary: Ideal for roasting veggies, combine with thyme to bring a Thanksgiving theme to any dish.
- Thyme: Thyme and rosemary go together like peanut butter and jelly, so you can use this spice in combination with rosemary or in similar ways on roasted veggies.
- Cinnamon or Pumpkin Pie Spice: Add to oatmeal, squash or smoothies to capture the flavors of fall any time of the year.
- Cocoa Powder (100%): A staple ingredient that can make anything taste like chocolate - even beans!
- Veggie Broth: A great way to add flavor anywhere where you might otherwise use plain old water.
Side Note: Trying to figure out how to go vegan in a healthy and sustainable way?
Check out this vegan starter kit
You can usually find little clam-shells of sprouts (not literal shells of clams) in the produce section. Sprouts are loaded with nutrients and are great for adding texture to almost anything including sandwiches, salads or vegan poke bowls.
- Alfalfa Sprouts
- Broccoli Sprouts
- Mung Bean Sprouts
- Radish Sprouts
- Chickpea Sprouts
13. Milk Alternatives
- Almond Milk
- Soy Milk
- Cashew Milk
- Oat Milk
- Coconut Milk
- Hazelnut Milk
- Hemp Milk
- Flax Milk
- Non-Dairy Coffee Creamers (refrigerated or shelf-stable)
Bonus Tips on Dairy Alternatives
- If you're not supplementing B12 (you should) then make sure you're getting a milk alternative that has B12 added.
- In my experience, soy milk is the best in coffee because it's the most similar to "regular" milk in consistency and taste, but consider non-dairy coffee creamers if you like cream.
- You can use the raw materials, a blender and a nut milk bag to make your own at home.
- The coffee aisle of most grocery stores usually have plant-based options for creamers that are shelf stable.
14. Sea Vegetables
Eating sea vegetables is important because they're one of the few sources of iodine aside from fortified salts.
- Nori: Nori is what your sushi is wrapped in. You can buy the sheets at almost any grocery store.
- Dulse: Dulse is another type of seaweed that comes in flakes. You can use it in almost anything as it will add a nice savory flavor without being overpowering.
- Kombu/Kelp: You'll usually find kombu dried in long strips. It's ideal for flavoring soups or even making a light salad with sesame seeds.
- Wakame: These are the seaweed flakes that most Japanese restaurants use in their miso soup. A little packet goes a long way as the flakes tend to become huge once they hydrate.
- One of my favorite restaurants uses dulse flakes in their vegan Caesar salad. Seaweed can be used in small quantities for a flavor boost without being "fishy".
- Rolling your own vegan sushi with nori is easy after a few tries. The bamboo rollers don't cost much.
15. Vegan Junk Food
If you're so inclined, there's an endless list of vegan junk food to enjoy. You probably don't want to make these a regular part of your daily diet, but when the craving for delicious junk food hits, there are plenty of vegan ways to satisfy it.
- Takis (some flavors)
- Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos
- Most cake frostings (careful of cream cheese frostings)
- Nondairy popsicles
- Vegan Chocolate Bars
- Many Italian ice flavors
- Most standard potato chips (look for milk products on the "cheesy" flavors)
- Daiya brand Mac and Cheese boxes
- Almost all "fruity" candies, but look out for gelatin in gummy candies
- Chocolate chips by Enjoy Life
Printable Vegan Grocery List with Tips
Click the image below to get the full-sized printable version.
What's mentioned above are just the basics. If you're looking for more specific stuff based on your diet, then you might wanna look into recipes. If you're into raw diets and you like raw food, check out this list of the best raw food cookbooks for vegans.