What Does a Vegan Eat?

“What does a vegan eat?”

It’s a common concern, and a question that has become something of a joke amongst vegans, for the simple reasons that a) we’ve all heard it at one time or another, and b) the opportunities are endless for delicious, exciting food that is free from any animal-derived ingredients.

Vegan cookbooks that now number in the hundreds are readily available online, in bookstores and in health food stores. Vegan cooking sites are all over the internet, and there are even vegan cooking classes online and available on DVD.

Learning how to replace foods you are used to with foods that are new to you might seem to be a challenge initially, but once you are on the other side of the transition, you will find that preparing food is no more difficult than before.

If you’re not used to preparing food, you might find that being vegan requires you to plan ahead a bit more, and to prepare foods yourself. On the other hand, if it suits you, you could eat pre-packaged, pre-prepared foods all day long, and still remain vegan. Having said that, this author recommends a diet based on whole-foods, for both environmental and health reasons.

With a little culinary courage, you will find that it is easy to re-create your favorite foods: cakes, pies, puddings, milkshakes, pasta dishes, cream sauces, omelets, lasagna, pancakes, French Toast… Even traditional meat dishes such as roast beef can be reproduced using a meat substitute called seitan which, when prepared properly, can easily pass for sliced meat or ground beef. (Because it’s made from wheat, seitan is not appropriate for those with gluten allergies)


Image: Flickr (VeganStraightEdge)

Whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts provide an important foundation for any diet (and can easily make up the entire diet of those who are particularly concerned about good health, a light ecological footprint or economic ease).

Having said that, there are also readily-available vegan versions of common items such as milk, cheese, yogurt, mayonnaise, cereal, and many other foods including (if you so desire) desserts and snacks, such as ice cream, cookies, cakes, pies, candies and puddings. These ready-made convenience foods and products make life a little easier for those who have busy lifestyles or who still crave the tastes and textures of foods that are usually animal-based.

Many of these convenience foods are appearing ever more frequently in supermarkets and grocery stores, even in small towns where there is no health food store. In our local supermarket, vegan options appear alongside ready-to-serve dinners and lunches.

Contrary to popular opinion, I have found that most people have no problem with soy products (as long as they are not too heavily-processed). Tofu (in different forms) is a fantastic, versatile ingredient that can provide fat-free protein in a meal, or create a creamy base for home-made sauces and salad dressings.

Unless you are familiar with it, most people require some instruction as to how to prepare tofu properly, as it is basically flavorless, so it absorbs the flavor of the sauces and seasonings that it is prepared with. It also comes in different textures, each of which is ideal for a different use.

For those who do have a problem with soy, there is no reason that a soy-free vegan diet can not be perfectly healthful, delicious and varied. In fact, there are vegans who are allergic to soy, nuts, gluten and other common allergens, and it does not prohibit them from eating a healthy, varied diet.

To put it simply, shopping for vegan foods is very much like shopping for non-vegan foods. It just might require you to go to different aisles of the supermarket and maybe make the occasional trip to the health food store. If your town doesn’t have a health food store, and the items you are seeking are not available at the supermarket, you can also shop around online. Although there is the additional cost of shipping, sometimes sales will bring these products down to a comparable price.

For those who want further information on how to make the transition toward a vegan diet, I recommend Gentle World’s resource guide, Incredibly Delicious: Recipes for a New Paradigm. Not only does it contain over 500 recipes with over 40 color photos, it also has resources for vegan shopping, preparing whole foods such as grains and beans, replacing common ingredients in cooking and baking, sprouting and raw food preparation, composting and growing a vegan garden, nutritional resources, inspirational quotes from great minds throughout history, and lots of other useful information.

Next: Over 30 Delicious Vegan Recipes!

For more fantastic vegan recipe ideas, check out the following posts:

The Magic of Frozen Bananas

Living Food – Going Beyond Salads

Summer Smoothie Selection

Seven Delicious Vegan Bread Recipes

Seven Delicious Vegan Cookie Recipes

Egg-Free Spring Rolls

Italian Lasagna Vegan-Style!

Vegan Banana Bread & Other Sweet Breads

Raw Blueberry Cream Pie

Vegan Cinnamon Rolls & Pastries

Black Bean Tostadas

Tossed Tempeh Salad

Eggless Challah Bread

Creamy Dessert Beverages

Moving Beyond ‘Traditional’ Holiday Fare

Tofu/Tempeh Chunks & Cutlets

Warming Soups for Cool Weather

Vegan Focaccia & Other Home-made Flatbreads

Better-than-Beef Meatless Meat

Muffins, Muffins and More Muffins!

Tofu “Eggless” Salad

“Wish” Kabobs with Marinated Tempeh

Make Your Own Wheatgrass and Living Bread

DIY Delicious Vegan Salad Dressings

Cool Cucumber Salads

Cashew Carrot Paté

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

Creamy Soy Yogurt

Tempeh Teriyaki

Everybody Loves Pancakes!

Egg-Free Omelettes & Scrambles

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

Gentle World is a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization, whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition. For more information about vegan food and other aspects of a vegan lifestyle, visit the Gentle World website and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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Caili W.
Caili W.2 years ago

I don't touch seitan due to gluten sensitivity and don't think it's particularly healthy, so it's fine by me. There are other fabulous alternatives to meat, from organic, GMO-free soy to lentils, mushrooms and quinoa. I had no problems switching to an entirely plant-derived diet when I went vegan and my diet is so much more diverse now than it has ever been. Mind you, that is also with me staying organic and gluten-free. Giving up gluten was far tricky than giving up animal byproducts, but I've gotten quite good at cooking without it and I don't really miss it much either. The best thing I have done for myself, animals and the environment in many years is go vegan. And, even better yet, my husband made the change with me. Wonderful!

Nils Anders Lunde


Winn Adams
Winn Adams2 years ago


Patricia H.
Patricia H.2 years ago

Go Vegan, healthy way to live

Megan Beery
Megan Beery3 years ago


LMj Sunshine

Thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for sharing.

Robin R.
Robin R.3 years ago

I went vegan, thinking that I was limiting myself... and I am amazed at how much more open I am to new culinary experiences and adventures. Thank-you to all the encouraging people on Care2 who helped to convince me to take the leap from vegetarian to vegan... and to PETA for that awful video of what happens to male chicks - that convinced me never to eat another egg. I made vegan brownies for the first time the other day using vegan becel and apple sauce - they had to be refridgerated first but they are delicious!

David Noiret
David N.3 years ago

Animal products are a tiny portion of the food choices we have.

Rudolf Affolter
Past Member 3 years ago

All SORTS of wonderful things! Go to the Vegan Society website or look in a vegan cookbook. It is not a limited diet!