When I first went Vegan, I had a strong aversion to vegan cheese and meat alternatives. I was already a bit of a picky eater with texture issues and I couldn’t get near the majority of vegan convenience items. I was more than happy to continue on as a Vegan without the the convenient plant-based meats and cheeses that so many others were enjoying. I was satisfied making my meals from scratch with the majority coming from the produce section. Despite my initial general dislike, a few chosen brands and items shone through. Not everyone has the time and resources to make home cooked meals from scratch, nor does everyone want to so please don’t let that be a deterrent from going vegan. Here is my list of favorite convenient vegan alternatives, I feel if they passed my picky palate test then chances are they’ll pass yours. And just know, taste buds change. If you don’t like them today, you may in a couple months once you ditch the meat and dairy. I know I’m embracing foods now that I didn’t initially.
- Gardein – vegan meat alternatives like chik’n nuggets, meat-less balls, even fried fishless filets and turk’y holiday roasts. So far, I’ve liked everything I’ve had from Gardein. Some Targets carry them and even some grocery stores have their own Gardein products under private labels. Our Wegman’s brand meatless products are made by Gardein.
- Field Roast – Sausages, frankfurters, deli slices, and burgers. The Apple Sage sausage was one of the first vegan meats I REALLY enjoyed and their burgers are pretty top notch.
- Tofurky – tempeh bacon – good for BLTs! We also enjoy their Peppered Tofurky deli slices and pepperoni for topping pizza.
- CHAO cheese by Field Roast – when this hit the shelves, the vegan community went wild. It’s a game changer but a bit of a challenge to find. Definitely pressure your grocer to stock it.
- Follow Your Heart – Their newly reformulated slices are on par with CHAO, some say even better. Their mozzarella shreds are the closest thing to traditional dairy and great for pizza.
- Daiya brand cheese shreds – I’m not the biggest fan but many vegans are, it might be worth a try and is generally easier to find.
- Toffutti brand cream cheese and sour cream. These are our favorites out of all the ones we’ve tried.
- Earth Balance – the butter we buy but they also have great snacks like vegan cheddar squares, cheddar popcorn, boxed mac & cheese
- Plant and Nut Milks – The options are virtually endless these days. Rice, hemp, cashew, soy, almond, coconut, oat, vanilla and chocolate, etc. If you don’t like one, move on to the next. We buyRice Dream unsweetened original because it’s what my son likes best and Almond Dark Chocolatefor a treat
- Silk Coffee Creamer – Soy or almond base, original and flavored
- So Delicious Coconut based coffee creamer – original, vanilla and hazelnut
- Califia Farms coffee creamer – I haven’t tried it but rave reviews from the community and theirCold Brew Coffees are pretty darn spectacular.
- Mayo – we love Vegenaise by Follow Your Heart but Just Mayo is quite good, often easier to find and cheaper – even available at Dollar Stores.
- Pizzas – Some days frozen pizza is just what the doctor ordered. My favorites are Amy’s Vegan Margherita Pizza and Vegan Harvest American Flatbread but be warned, these are personal sized and you won’t want to share!
For the sake of keeping this list somewhat manageable, I deliberately left off ice cream and desserts. That’s a whole ‘nother list in itself but a delicious one.
Now, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t add in a disclaimer. Convenience, in general, comes at a price. Convenient and processed foods are rarely optimal for health, despite often being healthier than their animal-based counterparts, and the costs can add up. For the healthiest and most budget-friendly vegan diet, stick to whole foods: vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes, and grains. You’ll pay for convenience with your health and wallet so these work great as transition items or occasional treats. But as I always say, I don’t care what you eat, I care WHO you eat. As long as it’s vegan, the choice is yours. Just know that if you live off of packaged foods and don’t end up feeling your best or finding it tough to afford, don’t blame Veganism, there are ways to take the ethical stance of Veganism and making it fit with your needs.
What items will you start swapping out today?