Vegan Grocery List: Top 50 Staples for a Meat-Free Diet

A well-stocked vegan kitchen can make a big difference when it comes to cooking and eating plant-based foods.

boy holding jar full of organic almonds.Selective focus
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Just because someone doesn't want to eat things that once roamed about doesn't mean they have to sacrifice the pleasures of cooking and eating. On the contrary, with the right ingredients, a vegan diet can be as sumptuous as any other.

Additionally, even just swapping a few animal-based items for plant-based ones can make a big difference in the sustainability of one's diet. Consider this: If everyone in the United States skipped meat and cheese for just one day a week, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road—or not driving 91 billion miles!

The following list of staple vegan foods you can buy at the grocery store is a great place to start.

The items listed here fall into three basic categories:

  • Ingredients that can stand in for their animal-based counterparts.
  • Ingredients to enhance plant-based dishes.
  • Ingredients to add nutrients that a vegan diet may be lacking.

This list is in no way complete, and everyone's tastes and goals are different. But these staples can open a lot of doors to the wonderful world of plant-based eating.

A word to the wise: When first transitioning to a vegan diet, you may feel the need to add fake animal products to your meal plan. That’s fine if it helps you step away from the cows, but in general, many of these items are highly processed—AKA glorified vegan junk food—and you may be better off without them. We've listed some of the better products here; just be aware and take a look at the ingredients list when shopping.

Dairy Foods That Don't Come From Cows

Vegan oat milk in glass
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Alternative milks: There is an abundance of new alternative milks on the market, in addition to the standard soy, rice, and almond milk. There are a number of nut milks; but look for an option with a low carbon footprint, like oat milk or a brand like Ripple, which is made from pea protein.

Buttery spread: If you need a butter swap, go for non-hydrogenated versions, like Earth Balance.

Dairy-free cheese: Daiya melts and doesn't taste like plastic, so that's good. There are also a number of artisanal plant-based cheeses that may be available where you shop.

Cream cheese: Tofutti makes a reasonable mock cream cheese.

Sour cream: Again, Tofutti's version of sour cream is reasonable.

Non-dairy yogurt: Good for probiotics. Few brands taste the same as cow's milk products, but coconut-based yogurts are a different kind of delicious.

Plant-Based Proteins

Roasted Tofu with Soy Sauce, Broccoli and Rice
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Tofurkey: If you can't live without a "roast," the classic vegan turkey is beloved by many.

Field Roast products: Grain-based faux meat products, not too processed and unusually tasty.

Tofu: Silken for smoothies and puddings; medium or firm for cooking.

Tempeh: Soybean-based meat substitute.

Seitan: Meat substitute made from wheat gluten; great texture, great protein.

Frozen vegetable burgers: Making your own is better, but these are convenient in a pinch.

Beyond and Impossible products: Yes, these very meaty stand-ins are more processed than a homemade veggie burger, for example. But for someone really craving a meat item, they do the job.

Edamame: Fresh (frozen) soy beans are a great high-protein snack or side.

Beans: Dried and home-cooked are cheap and the healthiest.

Chickpeas: In addition to beans, because they're so versatile.

Nuts: Because, protein and healthy fats.

Nut butters: Because, peanut butter!

Cashews: In addition to nuts, because they can be soaked and then pureed as an amazing stand-in for creamy sauces and more.

Seeds: Sesame, sunflower, poppy, pumpkin, chia ... all high in protein and healthy fats.

Grains to Get You Going

Vegan buddha bowl with hummus, quinoa with curry, lettuce, sprouts, green and red cherry tomatoes, sliced radish and sesame and poppy seeds
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Brown rice: Ditch the white for more-nutritious brown; or try another whole-grain option like Lotus Foods forbidden rice, which is sustainable, nutritious, and stunning!

Quinoa: One of the few plant-based perfect proteins.

Steel-cut oats: Great for breakfast.

Whole grain grits: Filling and delicious.

Whole-wheat couscous: More nutritious than regular.

Multigrain pasta: Whole-wheat or legume mixes offer more nutrients and don't all taste like cardboard.

Sprouted bread and tortillas: Food for Life products are nutrient-rich and altogether lovely.

Vegan Pops of Flavor

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Agar agar: Vegan substitute for gelatin.

Nutritional yeast: A must for B12 and very palatable; use like Parmesan cheese or anywhere else you'd like a cheesy component.

Miso paste: Excellent for adding umami to vegetables, and it's a great anchovy substitute.

Vegetable broth: Go for organic, and watch the sodium. (Also, save you vegetable scraps and make your own broth; it's an easy and delicious way to reduce food waste.)

Vegetable bouillon: Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base works well.

Dried mushrooms: Like porcini, to add a meaty component to soups and stews.

Tomato paste: Great (surprising) source of iron and umami.

Sun-dried tomatoes: Fantastic for adding texture and flavor.

Capers: Great for adding a punch of salt and vibrancy.

To Help With Desserts

Thick, dark molasses poured into a bowl

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Flax seeds: To make a viable egg substitute for baking.

Chia seeds: For nutritious puddings and egg substitute.

Vital wheat gluten: A great binder that also adds protein.

Coconut oil: Great for replacing butter in some recipes.

Vegetable shortening: Non-hydrogenated, like Spectrum.

Agave syrup: Instead of honey.

Maple syrup: Instead of honey.

Blackstrap molasses: Fantastic source of iron, and with a deep complicated flavor great for baking or to drizzle over oatmeal, vegan yogurt, and more.

Flavorful Add-Ons

Hands holding a bowl of kimchi
Kimchi will bring the heat to your next vegan dish. Buppha Wut/Shutterstock

Mayonnaise: Vegenaise tastes most like traditional mayo, Spectrum is a bit sweeter. Primal Kitchen and Sir Kensington are great too. You can also make your own.

Bragg Liquid Aminos: Liquid protein concentrate, delicious soy-sauce taste.

Sriracha: Or other favorite hot sauces.

Harissa: Tunisian hot pepper paste makes anything taste good.

Tahini: Sesame paste can be used as a condiment or in preparing Middle Eastern recipes. It has also become popular as a baking ingredient.

Kimchi: Great source of probiotics and its texture and spicy tang can perk up the blandest of dishes.

Sauerkraut: A surprising source of health benefits.