Going plant-based is easier than you’d think, especially once your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry are abundantly stocked with healthy vegan foods and staple ingredients. We’ve put together a grocery list to get you started. You don’t need to buy every single item on this comprehensive list. Use it as a guide and you’ll find yourself well-equipped to whip up affordable, healthful vegan meals for the weeks and months to come. Read on for the full list, or click to jump down to a specific section:
- Whole Grains and Pasta
- Spices, Condiments, and Flavor Enhancers
- Bread and Crackers
- Non-Dairy Milks
- Nuts and Seeds
Fruits and vegetables are integral to a healthy vegan diet. While all produce is vegan, the following list covers the fruits and veggies most commonly used in our recipes, plus ones that are ideal for snacking.
With weekly meal plans, Forks Meal Planner takes the hard work out of making nutritious meals the whole family will enjoy.
Note that tubers and starchy vegetables—such as corn, green peas, potatoes, winter squash, and yuca—are the most satiating types of produce, so it’s especially important to keep some of those foods on hand.
Wondering if you should buy fresh or frozen fruits and veggies? Either is great! Studies have found that frozen produce is no less nutrient-packed than fresh. A few good ones to keep in your freezer: frozen berries, mango, peaches, and pineapple; frozen corn, green peas, and vegetable medleys (such as stir-fry blends).
- Bell peppers
- Green peas
- Leafy greens (kale, chard, collard greens)
- Sweet potatoes
- White potatoes
- Yuca (aka cassava)
Fresh Herbs and Aromatics
Beans, lentils, and other legumes are central to a plant-based diet. They can take the place of meat in nearly any dish. Their high fiber content helps you feel full. Plus, research shows that a diet rich in legumes is the most important dietary predictor of longevity in people of different cultures.
To get the most bang for your buck, opt for dry beans and lentils, which are often sold in the bulk-bin section of the store. (You can find soaking and cooking times for the most common varieties here.) If you care more about convenience than cost savings, go for canned beans and lentils, which are already cooked. Be sure to look for canned varieties labeled “low-sodium” or “no-salt-added.”
- Black beans
- Cannellini beans
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- Kidney beans
- Navy beans
- Pinto beans
- Soybeans and edamame
- Brown or green (the most widely available varieties in U.S. supermarkets; versatile)
- French green or Puy (thick-skinned and firm; ideal for salads and soups)
- Black or beluga (good for salads, bowls, and stews)
- Red (yellow and orange once cooked; soft, creamy texture; ideal for dals, dips, and creamy soups)
Also known as bean curd, tofu is made from soy milk, which means it’s more processed and more calorie-dense than soybeans. Tofu cubes are occasionally added to FOK recipes for soups and stir-fries. We also use it to add creaminess to homemade sauces and desserts.
- Soft block tofu (good for pureeing to replace egg and dairy in baked goods)
- Medium block tofu (good for thickening dressings, dips)
- Firm block tofu (good for scrambles)
- Extra-firm block tofu (meaty, dense)
- Silken tofu (comes in soft and firm varieties; good in place of dairy in baked goods and blended dips)
Whole Grains and Pasta
A fundamental element of a healthy vegan diet, grains are versatile, filling, and can be incorporated into virtually any meal. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and wheat berries are the nutritional gold standard in this category. When it comes to pasta and noodles, those made from whole grains are far healthier than white pastas, which are highly processed.
You don’t need to buy every type of grain on this list, but try to have at least two or three favorites stashed in your pantry. We also suggest rotating through less familiar grains to try them out and add variety. Much of the time, you can use different types of grains interchangeably in recipes. See our Grains Cooking Guide for cook times and other helpful info.
- Brown rice
- Bulgur wheat
- Cornmeal (polenta)
- Oats, rolled
- Oats, steel-cut
- Rye berries
- Spelt berries
- Wheat berries
- Wild rice
Pasta and Noodles
Whole-grain pasta options are more readily available at grocery stores than ever before, and many are gluten-free.
- Brown rice noodles (typically found in the international section)
- Chickpea pasta
- Quinoa pasta
- Udon noodles
- Soba (buckwheat) noodles
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whole wheat lo mein noodles
Spices, Condiments, and Other Flavor Enhancers
Spices and condiments can transform basic staple ingredients into mouthwatering meals. This list is by no means exhaustive but covers the essentials of a well-stocked spice rack.
- Arrowroot powder
- Bay leaves
- Black peppercorns (for freshly ground black pepper)
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili powder (mild if you prefer less spicy)
- Curry powder
- Garlic powder
- Red pepper flakes/Crushed red pepper
- Sea salt
Condiments and Other Flavor-Enhancing Staples
Opt for low-sodium, no-salt-added, no-sugar-added, and oil-free varieties of these whenever available.
- Barbecue sauce
- Fresh salsa
- Hoisin sauce
- Hot sauce (vinegar-based)
- Miso paste
- Mustard (any variety you like)
- Natural-style nut and seed butters: peanut butter, almond, tahini
- Nutritional yeast
- Pure fruit preserves
- Pure vanilla extract
- Sambal oelek (chili paste)
- Tamari (always gluten-free) or soy sauce
- Teriyaki sauce
- Vegetable broth
- Vinegar (balsamic vinegar, seasoned brown rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and/or apple cider vinegar)
You don’t have to forego baked goods on a whole-food, plant-based diet, but focus on whole grain flours. You may see all-purpose flour and/or pure cane sugar in small amounts in FOK recipes when it really makes a difference in taste and texture.
- All-purpose flour, unbleached
- Almond flour
- Brown rice flour
- Chickpea flour
- Oat flour (typically gluten-free; great for cookies, bars, crumble toppings)
- Potato flour
- Sorghum flour (gluten-free)
- Spelt flour (great for all baking needs as a 1:1 replacement of all-purpose flour)
- White whole wheat flour (this whole-grain flour tastes most like all-purpose flour; it’s great for yeast breads, pizza crusts, and muffins)
- Whole wheat flour (great for breads, cakes, crusts and cookies)
- Applesauce, unsweetened
- Brown rice syrup
- Dates (to make Date Paste) and/or date syrup
- Pure maple syrup
Other Baking Essentials
- Baking powder (look for aluminum-free, low-sodium varieties)
- Baking soda (look for low-sodium varieties)
Bread and Crackers
While whole grain breads, tortillas, and crackers are part of a whole-food, plant-based diet, they are also calorie-dense and should be enjoyed in moderation, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Store bread in the refrigerator or freezer so that you don’t have to worry about it going bad before you’ve had a chance to eat it.
Breads and Tortillas
- Whole-grain pita bread
- Brown rice tortillas
- Whole-wheat tortillas
- Corn tortillas
- Rye crispbreads
- Whole wheat crackers
- Brown rice snaps
There are a plethora of plant-based, non-dairy milk options on the market today. Just pick one you like, and look for unsweetened, unflavored varieties with very short ingredient lists.
- Almond milk
- Oat milk
- Rice milk
- Soy milk
- Coconut milk beverage (high in saturated fat, use very sparingly)
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are very high in fat, so we recommend using them sparingly, especially if you’re looking to lose weight. That said, here are a few useful varieties we use in recipes. They’re often available in bulk bins. If buying prepackaged, check that the only ingredient is the nut itself—no added salt or sugar.
- Poppy seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
A Note About Vegan “Meats”
Rather than purchasing highly processed faux meats, we encourage you to instead opt for legumes, which can deliver meaty taste while promoting great health. Worried about getting enough protein on a vegan diet without those faux meats? Put those fears to rest with our No-B.S. Guide to Vegan Protein.
Brands We Like*
The following are some brand-specific recommendations for whole-food, plant-based foods.
Canned Sauces, Condiments and Broth
- Frank’s Hot Sauce
- Tabasco sauce
- Simple Truth tomato ketchup
- Simple Truth yellow mustard
- Engine 2 Marinara Sauce
- Whole Foods Red Enchilada Sauce
Bread and Tortillas
- Food for Life/Ezekiel Breads
- Alvarado Street Bakery
- Mestemacher Breads
- Paramount Whole Wheat Lavash
- Trader Joe’s sprouted whole wheat breads
- Edward & Sons Brown Rice Snaps* (Varieties with no added oil include Tamari Seaweed, Tamari Sesame, Onion Garlic, and Unsalted Sesame)
- Engine 2 Crackers and Chips
- Finn Crisps
- Wasa Crispbreads
- Ryvita Crackers
Hummus, Dips, and Salsas
- Almond Breeze Unsweetened Almond Milk
- Eden Edensoy
- Pacific Non-Dairy Milks
- Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk
- Silk Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milks
*Editor’s Note: Companies frequently change their ingredients and recipes. If you see something on this list that is no longer compliant, please let us know.
Check out our Plant-Based Primer to learn more about adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet.