Getting started with plant-based eating: Vegan Food List for Beginners

Published on: 02/07/2023
vegan foods for beginners

If you’re new to vegan eating, it can be confusing and overwhelming knowing where or how to start. Once you know what foods to include on a vegan diet, it gets much easier. This vegan food list for beginners includes your must-have pantry, fridge and freezer staples to make vegan eating much easier. Plus I’ve included some common baking and cooking swap so you can veganize recipes.

A well stocked pantry means you always have the essentials on hand. You can make a variety of healthy meals with the ingredients you’ve got without needing to run to the store last minute.

You don’t have to go out and buy all these items at once. Kitchens take time to stock, so add a few things to your list every time your shop, and you’ll slowly grow the plant-based pantry of your dreams.

If you want even more simple staples to get started with plant-based living and eating, and some of my go-to kitchen essentials, check out my Plant-Based Pantry & Kitchen Guide. It’s completely free!

Pantry Staples

Keep these items at temperature in your cupboards or pantry.

  • Applesauce
  • Canned fruit (in fruit or juice)
  • Canned vegetables (lower salt/sodium)
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Coconut milk
  • Dried fruits
  • Grains
  • Herbs and spices
  • Legumes (canned or dried) – beans, lentils, chickpeas
  • Nut and seed butters
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Oats
  • Oils
  • Pasta
  • Soy sauce
  • Vegetable broth
  • Vinegars

Fridge Staples

Store these items in the fridge to maintain quality and freshness. Some can also be frozen.

  • Condiments – like vegan mayo
  • Flax (round or whole)
  • Hemp hearts
  • Maple syrup
  • Miso
  • Non-dairy butter or margarine – butter can be frozen
  • Non-dairy milks
  • Nuts – can freeze to maintain quality for longer
  • Seeds: chia, poppy, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower
  • TVP- can be frozen
  • Tofu – can be frozen
  • Yeast

Freezer Staples

  • Bread
  • Edamame
  • Fruit fruit and veggies

Baking Swaps

  • Buttermilk – adds a light, moist texture to baked goods.
    • To make: 1 cup plant milk + 1 Tbsp acid, and replace 1:1 for regular buttermilk
  • Butter – you can use neutral oils (like olive or avocado) or coconut, or plant-based butter/margarine
  • Cream – used to replace whole milk or heavy cream. Use coconut milk or coconut cream
  • Milk – almond, soy, oat, cashew. Replace 1:1 for dairy milk. Ideally choose unsweetened.
  • Honey – choose agave or maple syrup
  • Eggs and egg white – eggs play different roles in baking, so that will determine what you use to replace them. There are a few different options:
    • Flax egg – 1Tbsp ground flax + 2.5 Tbsp water = 1 egg
    • Aquafaba (chickpea liquid) – 2 Tbsp = 1 egg
    • Vegan egg replacer (use the measurements on the box)
    • Applesauce or mashed banana – ¼ cup = 1 egg
    • Silken tofu ¼ cup = 1 egg

Cooking Swaps

Easy plant-based swaps for when you’re cooking

  • Ground meat – use TVP or black beans instead. Perfect in chili, pasta sauce, tacos or burritos
  • Parmesan cheese – nutritional yeast has a similar flavour profile, providing umami to meals and a little bit of nuttiness. Sprinkle on top of pasta or adds to dressings and sauces.
  • Broth – this is a very easy swap. Replace beef or chicken broth with vegetable or mushroom broth. Vegetable broth is not as flavourful, so you might find yourself needing to add more seasonings.
  • Pulled pork – you can use jackfruit or lion’s mane mushroom to replace pulled pork. Season it the way you would regular pulled pork.
  • Burgers and hotdogs – there are so many options available these days. Try different brands and products to see what you like


Getting enough protein when you’re vegan, starts with knowing your protein options. This article I wrote explains everything you need to know about protein – why it’s important, how much you need, and good food sources. Give it a read right here.

Do you want to become a more confident plant-based home cook? And learn how to eat plant-based in the ‘right’ way? My self-paced online course might be perfect for you! Plant-Based Cooking Made Easy provides a step-by-step guide to help you become a more confident plant-based home cook.

If you want to learn more about me and what I do, follow me on social media. @harvesttablenutrition on IG and Facebook. Follow along for plant-based nutrition tips & tricks, recipe ideas and much more!


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Hi there! I’m Bailey!
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I’m a Plant-based Culinary Dietitian helping people transition to a plant-based diet, and showing the most delicious side of plant-based eating. Happy eating!

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