As a vegan registered dietitian, there are several vegan pantry staples and plant-based foods that I keep on hand at all times.
But for someone new to the vegan lifestyle, I can see how it may feel overwhelming. So I've compiled this vegan food list for beginners to help you get started on a plant-based diet.
I've seen other posts about vegan pantry staples and "essentials" that are honestly not all that essential, especially if you're new to the whole plant-based eating thing.
I get it. Seeing a huge comprehensive list about what spices and other items to keep on hand is overwhelming for a beginner. Which ones are actually essential? Which ones would you buy and then rarely or never use (and end up throwing out)?
I'm cutting out all of the fluff.
Are there some additional things you could add to your pantry and fridge as you gain more experience cooking vegan meals? Absolutely!
But I'm not going to stress you out with all the little specialty things that you won't be using all the time at first. If you find recipes you make often that use specialty items, by all means, start keeping them on hand!
Otherwise, this vegan food list for beginners is the ACTUAL bare bones of what any new vegans would need for easy, healthy, and affordable everyday meals focused on whole foods.
I decided the best way to break down this list is to organize by proteins, fats, carbs, spices, condiments, and cooking/baking items.
Vegan Meal Plan
If you're new to a vegan diet, sometimes it can be helpful to see how a week of eating could look. Download my weekly meal plan below to help you get started.
Vegan Protein Sources
As a registered dietitian, I know how important it is to get enough protein. Some staple meals and snacks I rotate through often are Vegan Buddha Bowls, Black Bean Burgers, 3-Bean Chili, Minestrone Soup, Air-Fried Chickpeas, Pesto Lasagna Rolls, Homemade Seitan, Garlic Hummus, Protein Oatmeal, Vegan Lasagna, Fettuccine Alfredo with Tofu, and Tofu Fried Rice.
- Vital Wheat Gluten (for homemade seitan)
- Tofu (I prefer super firm and extra firm tofu)
- Soy Milk
- Black Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
- Red Kidney Beans
- Cannellini Beans
- Vegetarian Refried Beans
- Plant-Based Protein Powder (My favorite is BPN Vegan Protein - code BLAIR10 for 10% off)
- Store-Bought Meat Substitutes (I don't use these often because I prefer to make seitan from scratch or use more whole food vegan protein sources, but they can be helpful while someone is transitioning to a plant-based diet or during busy weeks here and there)
- Nutritional Yeast (not to be confused with brewer's or baking yeast)
- Nuts & Seeds (see healthy fats below)
- Whole Grains (see carbs below)
While I recommend eating whole grains the majority of the time, I firmly believe in intuitive eating and that means also having delicious treats in moderation.
These are the nutritious carbohydrate sources that should be on every vegan's grocery list.
- Legumes (see the beans listed above)
- Oatmeal (unflavored steel cut or rolled oats)
- Regular, Whole Wheat, and/or Chickpea Pastas (I regularly use all three but use whole wheat the most)
- Rice (white or brown rice - whatever kind you like!)
- 100% Whole Wheat Bread
- Maple Syrup and/or Date Syrup
- Frozen and Fresh Vegetables (Whatever you like! I keep potatoes, sweet potatoes, frozen spinach, frozen peppers, frozen onion, minced garlic, frozen corn, frozen carrots, and frozen stir fry veggies on hand pretty much at all times)
- Frozen and Fresh Fruit (Whatever you like! I keep bananas, apples, lemons, frozen berries, frozen pineapple, frozen mango, and frozen cherries on hand pretty much at all times)
- Pasta Sauce
- Tomato Sauce
- Tomato Paste
- Diced Tomatoes
- Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (aka Rotel)
I mostly rely on unsaturated fat sources and include those that are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids (looking at you hemp, chia, and flax seeds).
Nuts and seeds are truly spectacular. Whether you're making delicious dressings out of tahini, creamy sauces out of cashews, or using flax seeds as vegan eggs -- nuts and seeds are so versatile! They also add healthy fats that will help regulate our blood sugar and keep us full for longer between meals.
- Hemp Seeds
- Tahini (I keep opened jars in the fridge)
- Natural Peanut Butter (I keep opened jars in the fridge)
- Chia Seeds
- Ground Flax Seed
- Chopped Walnuts
- Raw Cashews
- Unsweetened Almond Milk (my favorite non-dairy milk to cook with)
- Vegan Butter (use in moderation - Myoko's is my favorite!)
- Vegan Cheese (use in moderation)
- Olive Oil
Staple Spices & Seasonings
There are MANY, MANY types of seasonings and spices out there! This is one area where I know I can get really overwhelmed myself. I've cut this down to the bare minimum that I use very often in my kitchen.
- Iodized Salt (I recommend all vegans use iodized salt rather than other types of salt unless you are getting other reliable iodine sources)
- Black Pepper (white pepper can also be useful in some dishes)
- Fresh Herbs (I absolutely love fresh basil and cilantro)
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Chili Powder
- Curry Powder
Miscellaneous Cooking Staples and Condiments
Extra cooking and baking items are necessary for so many different recipes. You may decide you want to keep more types of vinegars and oils on hand, but I find that I rarely use other kinds.
- Vegetable Broth (I prefer to keep vegetable bouillon paste in my fridge to reconstitute veggie broth whenever I need it)
- Low Sodium Soy Sauce or Tamari
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Vegan Ranch (my favorite is Follow Your Heart)
- Sriracha (if you like spicy food)
- Vegan Buffalo Sauce
- Vegan BBQ Sauce
- Hot Sauces
- Cocoa Powder
- Vanilla Extract
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- All-Purpose Flour (I mostly use flour for making sauces and breading)
- Vegan Breadcrumbs
Vegan Shopping List for Beginners
Now that you have this handy dandy beginner's vegan grocery list to stock up with vegan pantry staples, you are well on your way to knowing your way around your vegan kitchen like the back of your hand.
With this ingredients list, grocery shopping becomes so easy. I can't wait to hear about what healthy vegan foods you cook up!
See this post for more information on the health benefits of a vegan diet.
If you're ready to start using your new vegan pantry staples, check out my high protein vegan recipes and get cookin'!