You’ve recently made the decision to become vegan? … Or to try half-vegan, three-quarters-vegan, plant-based, or to lean a little more towards the plant-based side of the world?
Surely, depending on where you live on this planet, and what your circumstances and food preferences are, there is a lot of room for personalization of this list. There are (almost) a billion different vegetables, fruits, nuts, sauces, ready-made vegan meals, plant-based milks, … and vegan tiramisu gelati (not yet) …
a) You want to make yourself healthier. That will make you happier. You take control of your life, feel better, enjoy your own body more, …
b) You want to help protect the environment (i.e. reduce climate change promoting greenhouse gas emissions, the pollution of water, air and soil, the use of arable land, fresh water, and fossil fuels, as well as the escalating species extinction rate) …
c) You want to stop supporting the slaughterhouses and factory farms, and the needless violence against animals.
Make the place where you live a paradise full of amazingly delicious vegan ingredients. Delicious ingredients will lead to delicious food. Invite some friends over to help you. In no time you’ll be a happy vegan camper.
Note: If you’re shopping at the supermarket, and at the check-out other customers are glancing at your shopping as if to say “Whoa, that’s some healthy shopping” or “Who will eat all of this?” you know you’re doing something right.
Note: Many food products say “May contain traces of …”. This is information for people with allergies. A product that states “May contain traces of milk/eggs/…” is still vegan. There are no animal products in the ingredients, but the food was manufactured on the same machines or in the same factory/company as other (non-vegan) foods, and therefore might contain traces of these.
So, without further ado … here’s the shopping list. Adjust at you own discretion.
Recommendations: Try to buy a few different kinds at the same time. Try to mix it up every now and again. Don’t always just buy the same fruits. If possible choose more local and seasonal fruits.
Berries – Can also be bought frozen.
Melons – including watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, …
Lemons (Make some fresh lemon juice.)
Cherries – often available frozen too
Cranberries – You can use the fresh, unsweetened ones for cooking.
… and many other fruits that are available where you live.
Note: Some people (who are not nutrition scientists) claim that fruit is unhealthy because it contains sugar. Fruit contains a lot of things, including fibre, vitamins, minerals, sugar, and many other plant components (“phytonutrients”). The science says: Fruit is healthy. Aim for four or five daily portions of fruit.
If you have diabetes, you can eat fruit, but it’s probably best not to eat too much of it. Instead, focus more on vegetables and legumes.
Do not brush your teeth directly after eating acidic fruit – rinse your mouth with water first – otherwise the fruit acids can attack your tooth enamel and in the long-term do some damage.
Recommendations: If you like snacking – try to snack more one nuts (no salt) and dried fruits.
…. and many other dried fruits that are available where you live.
Note: See the note on fruit above. Dried fruit is a more concentrated source of sugars than fresh fruit. It’s OK to eat dried fruit every day. But don’t live on mostly fruit/dried fruit.
Recommendations: Buy some vegetables that you like to eat cooked and some that you like to eat raw. Always buy a variety of vegetables. You can also buy some frozen vegetables, … and some carrot juice (if you like).
Tomatoes – Also buy some canned tomatoes (whole, chunky or puree; I prefer: no salt)
Chinese cabbage/Napa cabbage
Boy choy/Pak choi
Spring greens/collard greens
Lettuce – Iceberg is probably the least nutritious one.
… You can also pick some dandelion leaves or nettle leaves.
Cabbage – white, savoy, or red
Potatoes – Potatoes are probably not the healthiest vegetable, because they are less micronutrient-rich than other vegetables. But that doesn’t mean that potatoes are unhealthy (unless by potatoes you mean French fries or potato chips).
…. and many other vegetables that are available where you live.
“Condiment vegetables” – what else should we call them?
Recommendations: Eat more garlic, onions and ginger. Some traditions exclude these foods – very likely not a good idea.
Sauerkraut or other pickled vegetables – like pickled onions, pickled ginger, …
... and many other “condiment vegetables” that are available where you live.
Recommendations: You don’t need to have these. But often they are easy to grow and/or widely available and very very tasty.
The usual suspects such as basil, mint, thyme, oregano, …
Cress – different types
… and many other herbs that are available where you live.
Nuts and other healthy fats
Recommendations: Eat nuts or seeds every day.
Note: Yes, peanuts are not nuts botanically speaking. Neither are walnuts, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamias, … (See here – nerd info)
Nuts (unsalted) – for example almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, macadamias, pecans, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, pistachios, etc.
Seeds (unsalted) – for example sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, etc.
Ground linseeds/flax seeds – We cannot digest the whole seeds, as their shells are too hard.
100% nut or seed butters
Tahini (sesame seed butter)
Olives – Most black olives are “dyed” black.
Durians – if you live in Vietnam or Thailand … or they live with you
Cold-pressed olive oil
Cold-pressed rapeseed oil/canola oil
Cold-pressed linseed/flax seed oil
Coconut flakes – if you like them
Coconut oil – if you must … I mostly avoid it because it’s high in saturated fatty acids, which are quite likely not very healthy.
Margarine – Look for one that’s vegan and does not contain hydrogenated fats, and in the long-term one that contains a relatively low amount of saturated fatty acids.
Hemp oil – if you’re a hippie
Toasted sesame oil – if you think of yourself as a “chef”
Chufa nuts/tiger nuts
... and many other nuts, seeds, and oils that are available where you live.
Recommendations: You don’t need to buy a huge variety of these. But sometimes it’s nice to mix it up and try something new.
Note: Some people – who are not nutrition scientists – claim that wheat or all gluten-containing grains are unhealthy. This is not what the science shows. Unless you are allergic there is no need to avoid wheat/gluten.
Spaghetti and other Italian pasta – white or brown
Other noodles – Check for eggs in the ingredients.
Oat flakes/rolled oats
Rice – white or brown
Buckwheat – roasted or unroasted
Bread – white or whole grain … Note: Some breads contain animal products, especially sweet types of bread. Check the ingredients. Vegan types of bread might be … baguette (might contain dairy), bagels, sourdough bread, German lye-coated bread rolls and pretzels (check ingredients), pumpernickel bread, vegan naan (Naan is usually not vegan), chapatis, Turkish or Middle Eastern flat breads, pitta bread, wheat or corn tortillas, arepa bread (Check the ingredients.), sweet Christmas-y German dried fruit breads. Second note: In some countries, like Italy, animal fats – like lard – are sometimes added to bread. Another note: Some whole grain bakeries add honey to some whole grain breads.
Couscous (wheat) – Cooks extremely fast. Just add boiling water.
Corn – for popcorn, if you like popcorn
Polenta/corn grits – if you’re Italian, or a non-Italian polenta fan
Udon noodles – Japanese wheat noodles (often used for soup)
Soba noodles – Japanese buckwheat noodles
Muesli/Müsli – Check the ingredients.
Ready-made sugary cereal – There are some that have less added sugar.
Muesli bars/granola bars – Some are more based on dried fruit, some are protein-rich, some are more grain-based, some are fortified with several vitamins and minerals (for example Clif Bars)
Vegan protein powders – not necessary but available
... and many other kinds of grain-based foods that are available where you live.
Legumes and legume products
Recommendations: Eat legumes daily. Choose your favourites and keep trying new things. Rinse all legumes well after boiling, also the ones from a can or jar.
Note: Healthy “fast” legume foods are tofu, tempeh, soya milk and other soya foods, as they are already cooked and ready or almost ready to eat. Quick-cooking legumes are for example red lentils or mung dal, ... or frozen green peas.
Silken tofu – very soft, perfect for desserts
Tempeh – A lot of non-vegetarian friends of mine love tempeh.
Edamame – young green soya beans
Soya “nuts” – roasted soya beans, quite hard to chew actually
Natto – Natto is a Japanese soya food made from fermented soya beans. The problem is that usually natto comes with a small sachet of black sauce which contains soya sauce but also a tiny amount of fish sauce (bonito).
Red lentils – peeled lentils. They cook really quickly.
Brown or green or yellow lentils
Mung dal – pieces of mung beans. They cook really quickly.
Chickpeas/garbanzo beans or split chickpeas (chana dal) – You can make your own hummus.
Baked beans – Usually they are vegan.
Frozen green peas
Lupin beans/lupini – commonly eaten in Italy or Spain
Kidney beans – I also keep some canned Kidney beans in my pantry.
White beans like cannellini, flageolet, or navy/haricot beans
Legume-based noodles – made from mung beans, lentils, …
... and many other legumes that are available where you live.
Note: Legumes are any kind of bean, lentil, or pea. Technically legumes are the plants and the actual beans/lentils/peas are called “pulses”.
Recommendations: These can be part of a healthy diet, although some can be quite high in salt. Some are more and some are less intensely processed.
Ready-made vegan meat alternatives – vegan “chicken”, ground meat, hamburger patties, sausages, beef jerky, etc.
Tempeh – see above
Tofu – see above. If you freeze tofu and defrost it again the tofu will have a sponge-like, “meaty” texture.
Marinated tofu, smoked tofu, or tofu made with herbs and spices – widely available
Textured vegetable protein (TVP) – dried soya chunks, soya mince, soya cutlets, etc.
Veggie burger dry mixes – often made from grains, seeds and legumes
Seitan (wheat gluten) – as a powder, or ready-made (unflavoured or flavoured)
Meat alternatives made from green jackfruit
Green jackfruit – frozen or in a can. Look for vegan recipes with green jackfruit used as a meat alternative.
Some mushrooms can be quite meaty.
... and probably quite a few other meat alternatives that are available where you live.
Recommendations: I recommend using calcium-fortified soya milk. Soya milk is good source of protein. Other plant-based milks usually are not.
Plant milks – including soya, oats, almond, rice, coconut, etc.
Soya yoghurt – There are some without added sugars.
Plant-based cream alternatives (for cooking) – including from soya, oats, rice, coconut, etc.
Plant-based whipped cream alternatives – These are whippable. Usually the ingredients are not extremely healthy. Available for example in tetra packs or as spray cream.
Vegan cheese – Probably the best advice is to try several types and brands. Not all of them are very good. They’re getting better though.
... and probably quite a few other dairy-alternatives that are available where you live.
Note: In coffee some plant-based milks can curdle. The acidity of the coffee makes the soya protein curdle. You can either add more plant milk (less coffee, more milk), … or choose a different brand.
Note: In Spain chufa nut (tiger nut) milk (called "horchata") is widely available. The fresh chufa nut milk, available in cafes etc. is usually not vegan (it contains cow’s milk too). But in supermarkets you can find vegan chufa nut milk.
Note: In East Asian food stores some brands of soya milk also contain cow’s milk. In some East Asian stores they also have "colourful" soya milk which contains not just soya but also several other kinds of legumes and also several kinds of grains (I recommend trying it.).
Recommendations: Spices have many healthy components. Plus they add a whole new dimension to food. Don’t ignore spices – I would say.
Chili flakes or powder or dried chilis
Turmeric – Do use this one. If only as a “health tonic”.
Cinnamon – If you eat huge amounts of cinnamon, choose Ceylon cinnamon.
Cumin powder and/or cumin seeds
Caraway seeds – They look like cumin but taste quite different.
Ajwain – If you like Indian food you might like this.
Wasabi powder or paste – if you like wasabi
Allspice – I never have this.
Curry powder – a spice mix. There are some that don’t have salt.
Garam masala – another Indian spice mix. There are some that don’t have salt.
Cloves – if you know what to do with them
Dried dill – even though fresh dill tastes much better, I think
Fenugreek seeds – These smell so amazing.
Nutmeg powder or whole nutmegs and a little grinder – essential for Italian-o-philes
Dried parsley – Like with all herbs: If you’re privileged to have access to fresh herbs, choose fresh.
Saffron – if you feel aristocratic
Dried sage – I don’t believe in magic, but sage is quite something.
Dried tarragon – for show-offs
Star anise – if you must
Zahter – If you have an Arab/Israeli/Turkish shop nearby, ask for Zahter (zaaah-ter – there are many ways to pronounce it). It’s a mix of spices/herbs that’s eaten with good olive oil and bread. Dip the bread in olive oil, then in zahter, enjoy. There are different varieties of zahter depending on where it comes from.
... and many other spices that are available where you live.
Cooking stuff – that’s the technical term.
Recommendations: Keep your favourites at home. They can transform any simple dish – of pasta/rice, vegetables and tofu, for example.
Note: Some of these are more suitable for baking or desserts, rather than typical cooking.
Vegan mayonnaise – Quite a few brands are available, depending on where you live.
Vegan mayonnaise – Quite a few brands are available, depending on where you live.
Cocoa powder – fairly traded if that’s an option
Cacao nibs – if you’re a foodie (snob)
Carob powder – I like it.
Miso – if you like. The light-coloured types are usually milder.
Sweet red bean paste – if you like experimenting
Vinegar – I like normal Balsamico.
Soya flour (full fat) – perfect for baking cakes or making pancakes (Use 2 tablespoons of soya flour + 4 tablespoons of water, mix with a fork – instead of one chicken’s egg.)
Lasagne sheets – white or brown … or green … Note: Black Italian pasta usually contains “sepia” which is somehow made from squids.
Flour – white or brown (wheat, spelt, rye, …)
Yeast – fresh or dried, for baking
Baking powder or baking soda – if you like baking cakes … Note: Like salt these do contain sodium which can increase your blood pressure – which is bad.
Chickpea flour – Some people like to use it.
Nutritional yeast flakes – for cheesy sauces
Brewer’s yeast flakes – Compared to nutritional yeast flakes, these taste a little bit more like beer, as they are leftovers from the beer making process.
Yeast extract – such as Marmite or Vegemite
Vegetable stock/bouillon – powdery or cubes (Check the ingredients.)
Mustard – Can’t forget mustard.
Tapioca or tapioca flour – This is basically just starch. I would use corn starch or potato starch instead, if this is what you like to use in baking to make the dough lighter.
Liquid smoke – These are actual smoke components dissolved in water. Probably healthier than actual smoked foods.
Black salt/pink salt/kala namak – This is a sulphur-rich salt from India that tastes like boiled eggs. You can use it with avocado or for tofu “egg” salad. Use sparingly.
Vegan soups in cans
Marinated artichoke hearts
Bamboo shoots (“bamboo sprouts”)
Pineapple in a can – or just buy all fruit fresh (or frozen), if possible
Syrups – such as blackstrap molasses, molasses, maple syrup, sugar beet syrup, rice malt syrup, agave syrup, …
Coconut sugar – This sugar seems to make your blood sugar go up more slowly compared to white or brown sugar or syrups.
Normal sugar – Oh god! Use sparingly.
Jam and marmalades – There are some with a really high fruit content.
Kimchi – a kind of Korean “extreme” Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
Indian pickled green mangos – if you’re adventurous
Ready-made Italian pasta sauce – Check if it’s vegan.
Vegan pesto – There are some vegan ones, red or green.
Turkish ajvar – or South Eastern European ajvar
Breadcrumbs – You can also make your own from stale bread. Make sure it’s not mouldy!
Egg replacer – I usually just use soya flour. Soya flour will make a very light-coloured dough slightly more brown-ish though.
Salt – Choose iodized salt. Sea salt, Himalayan salt, etc. don’t really have any benefits over plain table salt, plus they are usually not iodized (fortified with iodine).
Agar-agar – Can be used instead of gelatine.
Vegan jelly – if you love jelly (“Jell-O”)
Vegan chocolate – Many types of dark chocolate are vegan. But many companies are also beginning to make more explicitly vegan chocolate.
Puff pastry or filo pastry/phyllo pastry – often available frozen and vegan
Apple strudel – sometimes available frozen and vegan
Vanilla beans/vanilla pods – for fancy baking and desserts
Vanilla extract or rum flavouring
Ketchup – The Western world’s favourite vegetable?
HP sauce – if you’re a Brit-o-phile
Mango chutney or other types of chutney – possibly the best invention ever
Tabasco or other spicy sauces – such as Thai chili paste
Soya sauce – Use sparingly as it’s high in salt (sodium).
Other East Asian sauces – Check the ingredients.
... and a lot more vegan “cooking stuff” that is available where you live.
Recommendations: If you go picking mushrooms in the forest you should know what you are doing. Some are very poisonous.
Note: Once you enter the world of mushrooms and eat more than five kinds of mushrooms on a regular basis you’ll stop being a foodie. You’ll be a connoisseur.
Shiitake mushrooms – or maitake mushrooms
... and very many other mushrooms that are available where you live.
Recommendations: Only eat seaweed in small amounts. All seaweed is quite high in iodine and too much isn’t good for you. Too little iodine isn’t good either. So, small amounts of nori or wakame or dulse can be a good idea – if you like them.
Nori sheets – These are used for making sushi. You can also just rip them into small pieces and sprinkle them over food. Delicious.
Dulse – Has a purple colour, is popular in Ireland, and tastes really delicious. Use sparingly.
Wakame – Use sparingly.
Arame – Use sparingly.
Kombu – Very high in iodine. Use really sparingly. I would also rinse some of the salt off.
Hijiki/hiziki – It’s best to avoid this type of seaweed because it’s very high in arsenic. Also known as sea spaghetti.
... and very many other types of seaweeds that are available where you live.
Note: Seaweeds are commonly eaten especially in many East Asian countries (including China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, etc.) – but also in some other regions of the world.
Total junk – a derogatory term used by nutritionists
Recommendations: Obviously you don’t need these. But you might occasionally dabble in the occult world … of junk food. Use sparingly.
Vegan ice cream
Vegan sugary yoghurts – Many “fruit” yoghurts (vegan or not) are very sugary.
Gummies – There are some vegan ones. Note: Not all vegetarian gummies are vegan, because they might contain beeswax.
... and surely many other intentionally or accidentally vegan junk foods.
Recommendations: Drink a lot of water. Don’t drink a lot of alcohol.
Note: For plant milks, see dairy alternatives above.
Water – I usually only drink tap water.
Mineral water – Calcium-rich mineral water can be a really good calcium source. But tap water is eco-friendlier.
Carrot juice – might contain honey
Other vegetables juices – might contain salt
Fruit juice – It’s probably best, healthwise, to not consume too much fruit juice. But Multivitamin juice (fortified fruit and vegetables juice) can be a good idea for children.
Ready-made smoothies – or make your own (cheaper and often better)
Tea – herbal tea, green or black (loose-leaf or in tea bags)
Coffee – Coffee seems to be a healthy drink for (non-pregnant) adults. But not getting enough sleep isn’t healthy. So, don’t replace sleep with coffee.
Energy drinks – probably best to minimize your consumption of these
Beer – Beer is usually vegan. German or Austrian beer is always vegan.
Wine – Wine could be “vegan” or vegan. This is because gelatine is sometimes used to filter the wine (not as an ingredient).
Hard liquor – Often vegan, but there are some types of liquor with more or less obvious animal products in them, such as cream (Bailey’s – although there’s a vegan Bailey’s too), eggs (egg nog), insects (carmine/cochineal extract used to be used in in Campari), worms (in some types of tequila), … and gelatine is also sometimes used for filtration.
Note: Many vegans are not concerned about these small amounts of animal products that are not actual ingredients. However, if you prefer avoiding such products, preferentially or always, check for vegan labels, write an email to the company and/or check barnivore.com.
Recommendations: In the long-term I would recommend that you pay attention to a few important nutrient for vegans. Most importantly, take a vitamin B12 supplement or consume B12-fortified foods.
Vitamin B12 supplement – not urgent if you’re a new vegan, but important in the long-term
Vitamin D supplement – not urgent, but probably a good idea during the winter if you live far away from the equator
Iodine supplement – not urgent, but probably a good idea if you are vegan, don’t eat seaweed and eat very little salt (and therefore very little iodized salt too)
... and you probably won’t need any other supplements.
Note: More info on recommended supplements and important nutrients for vegans: here
Where to shop
Recommendations: Depending on where you live you can do all your shopping at the supermarket. But also depending on where you live there might be quite a few additional options that are worth checking out, for example …
East Asian food stores (Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, …) – They might have tofu, silken tofu, tempeh, seaweeds, spices, legumes, soya milk, sake, fresh East Asian vegetables and mushrooms, East Asian vegan ice cream, tropical fruit, East Asian vegetarian (vegan, gluten-based) mock meats (in cans, frozen, …), sauces, …
Middle Eastern food stores (Lebanese, Syrian, Persian, …) – They might have tahini (sesame seed paste), spices or spice mixes like zahter, olives, olive oil, dates, flat breads, hummus, baba ghanoush (Aubergine pâté), …
South Asian food stores (Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, …) – They might have all kinds of spices, legumes, dried soya chunks, fresh South Asian fruits and vegetables, coconut products, …
Central African/Caribbean food stores (Ghanaian, Nigerian, Jamaican, …) – They might have fresh tropical fruits (including plantains or soursop) and vegetables, spices, …
Latin American food stores (Mexican, Colombian, Peruvian, Brazilian, …) – They might have tortillas, spices, fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen açaí (Brazilian shops or cafes), sauces, …
Health food stores
... and possibly many other shopping opportunities depending on where you live.
Note: Some foods are available cheaper online, especially if you buy in bulk.
Where to eat out
Recommendations: It’s probably useful to check out local vegan Facebook groups, the vegan restaurant website/app Happy Cow, and just Google maps. Depending on where you live there are more and more vegan options in many places. These include …
100% vegan restaurants, cafes and bars
Vegetarian or health food restaurants with vegan options
Mainstream restaurant chains with vegan options
Mainstream fast food chains with vegan options – including McDonald’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, etc.
Non-vegetarian restaurants with accidentally vegan options (these could also be side dishes that you can combine to make a meal) or options that can easily be veganized
Non-vegetarian fast food places with intentionally or accidentally vegan options.
… and probably several other options depending on where you live.
If this list was helpful to you say: Hallelujah!