Hello, friends! I’ve been meaning to put this resource together for years. Finally, here it is!
I know the vast array of vegan brands and products you’ll find on grocery store shelves can feel overwhelming when you’re first making the switch—especially when you know that many of the products out there are ahhh-mazing, but some are…well, let’s not sugarcoat it. Vomit-inducing. Shopping for vegan food without someone guiding the way is like tiptoeing through a minefield. But dude, that’s why I’m here!
Before you start droppin’ dollar bills left and right trying out products that will make you curl your nose up, take a moment to familiarize yourself with some of the most widely loved and respected brands below. I’ve outlined my personal favorite vegan products in each category, also taking into consideration what is most accessible and widely loved.
Best Vegan Meat
There are four leaders in this category: Field Roast (my personal favorite), Beyond Meat (for those who want something that tastes almost exactly like animal meat), Tofurky (their deli slices are the best), and Gardein. All of these companies are phenomenal.
The new kid on the block is Impossible Foods, maker of the Impossible Burger that bleeds and is (for many palates) indistinguishable from animal meat.
Best Vegan Milk
Where to begin? There are hundreds of options out there, and again, they are all very different. You’ll want to find your favorite base (it could be soy, almond, cashew, coconut, flax, oat, and beyond). Then you’ll want to choose between sweetened and plain (unsweetened). And finally, choose between vanilla and original flavor. Beyond that, every brand tastes a little different. I filmed a taste-test video for you below. Of course, you can also always make your own nut milk in minutes!
Do keep in mind that we tend to like what we’re used to, so it may take a few days or weeks to adjust to something new. When I first decided to go vegan, I would pour half cows milk and half soy milk into my cereal until I got used to the new flavor. Before I knew it, I had fallen in love with soymilk and could never imagine going back. Our palates are incredibly dynamic and can be trained to love the most healthful foods if we just give them the chance.
Best Vegan Creamer
I’m not picky in this arena—I love a lot of them. But my go-to creamers are Silk, Ripple, and the Trader Joe’s brand. So Delicious also makes a variety of coconut-based creamers if you’re a fan of coconut! These days even mainstream brands like CoffeeMate make vegan creamers.
Note: While I’m personally not drawn to any particular creamer type (I only drink coffee occasionally), I know this is an area where many people feel lost when they first go plant-based. Remember that there are tons of options, and they’re all very different. Unlike cow’s milk (which all pretty much tastes the same), plant-based milks are each unique. Vegan creamer can be made from soy, cashews, almonds, coconut, peas, and beyond—all plants with very different flavor profiles and levels of creaminess. Plus, they come in sweetened and unsweetened varieties, and fun flavors like vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel.
If you don’t find a vegan creamer you love from the store, you can very easily make your own by blending raw nuts and water and straining out the pulp with a nut milk bag. Have fun with the process of exploration—if you approach it with an open mind and a spirit of adventure I guarantee you’ll find a vegan creamer you love and will never want to go back!
Best Vegan Butter
The most widely available and super-delicious vegan butter is made by Earth Balance. They make tubs of spreadable vegan butter as well as baking sticks for all your cookie and cake making needs. My favorite is the Original and the Organic Whipped. They have phenomenal distribution so you should be able to find it at most grocery stores in the United States.
To see your other vegan butter options, check out our ultimate guide to vegan butter.
Best Vegan Yogurt
My top picks in this category are Silk, Forager, Kite Kill, and Stonyfield Organic‘s dairy-free soy line. Toni from Plant Based on a Budget and I filmed an entire vegan yogurt taste test video (below), and as you’ll see, some were delightful while others we couldn’t even bring ourselves to swallow.
Best Vegan Ice Cream
This one’s tough. There are so many really great options in this category. A few of my favorites include So Delicious, the Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy line, Ben & Jerry’s (yup, they recently launched a fully vegan line!), Haagen Dazs (when you’re looking for extreme decadence), and Double Rainbow’s soy line. Coconut Bliss is also amazing if you’re a coconut lover!
Best Vegan Mayo
In recent years an explosion of vegan mayonnaise options have come to life. Even Hellmann’s now makes a vegan mayo! I was never really a mayo girl, but I’ve come to appreciate it in recipes like chickpea “tuna” salad from time to time. My favorites are Vegenaise (by the brand Follow Your Heart) and Just Mayo.
Best Vegan Meltable Cheese
It’s a tie! Daiya shreds and So Delicious shreds both work great on pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, burritos, and beyond. But friends, these are really only good when melted, so be sure to melt them completely!
If you want to see some of the other cheese options out there, check out our vegan cheese guide.
Best Vegan Sliced Cheese
This is the most exciting category to me because just a handful of years ago there were zero good options. Today, we’ve got several! The best are Field Roast CHAO slices and Violife (a European company that is new to America and will have wide distribution soon). These sliced cheeses are so good you can eat them straight out of the package. Yum.
Best Vegan Fancy Cheese
Hands down, Miyoko’s Kitchen. Specifically, go for the Double Cream Chive—it’s their most popular for a reason! I’ve served this up on a cheese platter to many non-vegan cheese lovers, and I’ve gotten a stellar response every time.
Hungry for more? There are many brands of gourmet vegan cheese to look out for these days. Here are 7 of the most popular.
Best Vegan Mozzarella
Once again, the gold goes to Miyoko’s Kitchen. Miyoko’s cashew-based vegan mozzarella is phenomenal on pizza and also great served fresh in a caprese salad or a panini. They even have a smoked mozz for extra flavor pizzaz!
Best Cream Cheese
Kite Hill makes an amazing cultured cream cheese. Their chive flavor is my favorite! It’s even good as a cracker dip. If you’re a fan of plain Philidelphia style cream cheese, go for Tofutti Brand. It’s one of the longest-standing vegan cream cheeses on the market and works great in cheesecake recipes and beyond.
Best Parmesan Cheese
My go-to meal growing up was pasta with parmesan cheese. We’re talkin’ loads of parm. If there was one food I never thought I could live without, this was it. But here I am on the other side of that obsession. Let me tell you, life isn’t any worse without it.
There are a few brands of vegan parmesan cheese out there. Follow Your Heart makes a shredded parmesan that is quite good—it looks just like the real thing! Violife makes parmesan wedges that you can grate yourself (faaancy). Go Veggie makes a grated vegan parmesan cheese that’s reminiscent of the super finely grated Kraft parmesan. Parma makes a nut-based alternative to parmesan which is made with ground nuts, nutritional yeast, and spices. It’s different, for sure, but if you approach it with an open mind it’s really quite delicious!
I enjoy all of these options, but another one of favorite ways to dress pasta to get that parmesan-y vibe with no cheese at all is by using olive oil, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, nutritional yeast (aka “vegan fairy dust”), and salt. Sometimes I add chipotle powder for extra flavor. It’s not the healthiest dish on the planet, but man is it delicious.
Even with all these options, there’s still room for improvement in the vegan parmesan department. I’m sure within a few years (definitely within the next decade) plant-based parmesan will be indistinguishable from the dairy version.
Best Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese
If you’re a mac and cheese lover, you’re in luck! Not only are there countless recipes online for homemade vegan mac and cheese, but you can also find frozen and shelf-stable mac at the store. My personal favorites are the frozen Amy’s dairy-free mac & cheese and the Field Roast Mac n Chao.
There you have it! I hope this guide helps you navigate the grocery store with more confidence and find some great plant-based alternatives for meat and dairy-based foods you loved. Keep in mind, of course, that everyone’s palate is different, so even the products that are coveted by many may not be your thing. That’s OK! There is always another brand or recipe to try.
Also, remember that all the foods above are the packaged specialty foods. To live as healthfully as possible, the bulk of your diet should really be whole foods (veggies, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, and spices) in their unprocessed form. When you shop, stay on the perimeter of the grocery store as much as possible and keep the processed foods to a minimum. This will not only boost your general health and wellbeing but will also save you loads of money!
With that…let the adventure begin!