What Do & Don’t Vegans Eat (Food Lists)

by Alena

Not sure what vegans eat? We’ll share helpful food lists of vegan and non-vegan items, so you get a good overview in no time!

Going vegan has become really popular lately! But it can be confusing to understand what vegans can eat when you’re just starting out.

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There are different vegan diets emphasizing or omitting certain foods, and you come across cryptic ingredients when checking the label!

Our article is here to help you out. 

Whether you’re looking to go vegan yourself or want to cater to a vegan, this overview of what vegans eat is exactly what you need! Check out our vegan grocery list for more tips.

What is a vegan

Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to reduce the exploitation of animals as far as practicable and possible.

This lifestyle entails the food on your plate, clothes or cosmetics you buy, other fabrics and materials like leather sofas as well as zoos or horse riding.

The main foods vegans don’t eat are meat, fish, seafood, dairy, eggs, honey and other by-products.

Find the complete lists of what vegans can’t eat further below in this article!

different vegetables, grains and legumes on a tablepin it

What do vegans eat

The short answer: anything without any animal products! 

This includes veggies, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and many convenience foods like meat or dairy replacements, frozen pizza, or ice cream.

Let’s take a closer look at each section!

Vegetables

Most people think “vegetables” when being asked what vegans eat. Well, yes, that’s true! Although this is no requirement for being vegan, we all should eat our vegetables every day.

Enjoy the following foods raw or cooked, baked, roasted or pureed!

  • Cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cabbage
  • Leafy greens: spinach, lettuce, arugula, collard greens, swiss chard, romaine
  • Nightshades: eggplant, bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes
  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, taro, parsnips, beets, carrots
  • Winter squash: pumpkin, butternut, kabocha, acorn
  • Allium vegetables: onions, scallions, garlic, leeks, chives, shallots
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus, artichokes, celery
  • Cucumber, zucchini, avocado
  • Green beans, snow peas, snap peas

Fruits

Ah, nature’s candy! Bursting with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and water, fruits can be eaten several times per day as a snack, breakfast or when made into a dessert.

Buy what’s in season and always have a bag of frozen fruit at home to make smoothies, stir into oatmeal or bake into banana bread!

  • Apples, pears
  • Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • Grapes, figs, kiwi, pomegranate
  • Raisins, dates, goji berries, mulberries
  • Bananas, mangoes, pineapple
  • Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit
  • Watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe
  • Nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries
  • Passionfruit, dragon fruit, lychee, guava, jackfruit

Grains

Grains offer steady energy thanks to their complex carbs and can be turned into so many tasty things! 

From bread to pasta, pizza, cookies or tacos, grains are on everyone’s plate several times per day.

Focus on whole grains for additional health benefits and choose unprocessed ones like rice over flour products if you’re looking to lose weight!

Go for pseudo-grains like rice or millet if you’re gluten-free.

Legumes

This food group is really underappreciated! Legumes like beans, lentils and soy products are full of plant-based protein, fiber, complex carbs and minerals.

Especially Mexican and Asian cuisines make use of this delicious food in many traditional recipes!

Beans and lentils are among the cheapest and healthiest foods and can be cooked from scratch or bought in cans. Our favorite way to eat beans is hummus!

  • Kidney & black beans
  • Cannellini & navy beans
  • Navy, pinto, fava beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Lima beans
  • Split peas, yellow and green
  • Lentils: green, brown, red, yellow
  • Tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk
  • TVP, soy curls

Nuts & seeds

Nuts and seeds are the last of the five main vegan food groups. They can be used in salads, smoothies or oatmeal and their butter can be made into caramel sauce or vegan mayo!

If you’re allergic to nuts, find our nut-free vegan recipes here.

Nuts and seeds offer important omega-3 fats, calcium, zinc, magnesium and iron. Take your pick!

  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia, Brazil nuts, pistachios, pine nuts
  • Seeds: chia, hemp, flax, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower
  • Nut Butter: almond, cashew, peanut, macadamia, coconut
  • Seed Butter: tahini, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed 

Condiments

Spices, herbs, and sauces make food taste fantastic in the first place! 

Anyone who thinks that vegan food is bland doesn’t know how to put some flavor in their meals — after all, an unseasoned piece of meat doesn’t taste like much, either.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to fresh or dried herbs and pantry spices. Pay closer attention to pre-made spice mixes and sauces or other condiments and check if they are vegan!

Find recipes for ketchup, salad dressing, stir-fry sauce, and our favorite vegan dips on our website.

  • Herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, etc.)
  • Spices (ginger, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, etc.)
  • Aromatics (onion, garlic, scallions, etc.)
  • Sauces (soy sauce, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, chili sauce, etc.)
  • Ketchup, mustard, relish
  • Hummus, guacamole, salsa
  • Vegan mayo (i.e. Veganaise)
  • Oil, vinegar
  • Nutritional yeast

Beverages

Apart from drinks containing cow’s milk and some juices or wines made using fish bladders, vegans can have pretty much all beverages!

Check for the vegan label to be sure or stick to mostly water to make things super easy.

  • Water, flavored or sparkling water
  • Coffee, tea
  • Juices & smoothies
  • Plant-based milk
  • Kombucha
  • Most sodas
  • Vegan wine & beer

Convenience food

Vegan convenience food has come such a long way over the years! Find our 100+ favorite replacements here or try them yourself to see which ones you like.

While some processed foods have a vegan logo on the front or back, there are a couple of “accidentally vegan” products that can be detected by skimming the ingredients list.

There’s pretty much a vegan convenience food for every item these days!

  • Vegan cheese
  • Vegan ice cream
  • Frozen pizza
  • Bagels
  • Margarine, cream cheese
  • Potato chips
  • Cookies like Oreos
  • Spring rolls, ramen
  • Pretzels, puff pastry, waffles

What vegans don’t eat

Vegans choose to avoid foods derived from animals. Apart from the apparent meat, fish, dairy, eggs and honey, they also don’t eat products made from these foods like gelatine, beef broth and more.

Meat

An animal has to lose its life to produce meat (lab meat is the only exception.) This is something vegans oppose —  and they don’t care about labels like “humane” or “grass-fed.”

Vegans value the well-being of the individual animal and don’t want them to be mistreated or killed unnecessarily (unless they are in a lot of pain, like a pet that has to be put down.)

  • Red meat: beef, pork, game, lamb, goat, etc.
  • White meat: chicken, turkey, ducks, etc.
  • Insects or exotic animals

There’s a replacement for any meat product available at grocery stores! You can also make your own from legumes, veggies or jackfruit.

Fish & seafood

Fish are not vegetables and have the ability to feel pain and to suffer! 

Vegans don’t eat any sea creatures, except for “ostrovegans” who eat mussels or oysters because bivalves are most likely not sentient.

  • Salmon, tuna, cod, etc.
  • Shrimp, lobster, crab
  • Clam, scallops, prawns
  • Anchovies and other fish

Eggs

Eggs come from chickens and aren’t consumed by vegans — even free-range eggs. 

While there is a hypothetical case in which it would be ethical to take an egg and eat it, this situation rarely happens in the real world.

Eggs can sneak their way into many products, as you’ll see below!

  • Egg yolks & whites
  • Mayonnaise
  • Baked goods made with eggs
  • Breaded and battered foods
  • Cream pies, fillings, puffs
  • Custard, ice cream
  • Eggrolls

Dairy

Dairy cows produce breastmilk only for their young when they are pregnant. Vegans oppose everything that goes on in this industry so that humans can consume milk from cows, sheep or goats!

Nowadays, there is a plethora of dairy-free milk on the market and you’ll be sure to find your favorite ice cream, cheese or whipped cream in a dairy-free version.

Try our almond yogurt or cashew sour cream if you want to make your own! The list below outlines the main products containing dairy.

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Cream 
  • Ice cream
  • Whipped cream
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Creamy sauces
  • Breading
  • Pudding
  • Curds
  • Some medicine

Honey

Honey comes from bees and is therefore not plant-based. However, not all vegans avoid honey as they are not convinced that bees feel pain or need to suffer for honey production!

It’s easy to swap honey for other vegan sweeteners: use maple syrup, agave syrup, rice syrup or brown sugar. In some cases, white sugar can be non-vegan.

Non-vegan ingredients

Apart from the aforementioned non-vegan foods, a few sneaky ingredients are also derived from animals.

Check your label for these!

  • Isinglass
  • Choineal
  • Gelatine
  • Bone char (used to make white sugar)
  • Shellac
  • L-cysteine
  • Red food dye
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More vegan food tips

If someone is thinking about what vegans eat, they seem to forget that: vegan food is just food. 

It’s typically something we’re all familiar with and goes far beyond a sad salad or carrot sticks!

If you’re new to plant-based eating, start by getting some vegan staple foods, then follow our cooking tips to make tasty beginner-friendly recipes!

You can also tweak your vegan diet by choosing more vegan weight gain foods or weight loss foods!

Check out what I eat in a day as a vegan or how to plantify your plate next.

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About Alena Handwritten FontAlena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.

2 thoughts on “What Do & Don’t Vegans Eat (Food Lists)”

  1. Hi Alena,
    Thank you for your lovely website and resourceful contents.
    I have been vegetarian and vegan since the ’90s.
    Love to see vegan entering the mainstream culture in recent years.
    I also happy to see certified nutritionists specialized in plant-based nutrition.
    One observation about my experience reading your article, it contains too many embedded ads that disrupt my reading. I would love to see a more conservative placement of ads, especially not embedded in the text of the article.
    Best of luck with your good work.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for the feedback, I’ll have my partner check on that :) Have you noticed whether other small business websites similar to ours have noticeably fewer ads? x

      Reply

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