If you're a new vegetarian, or interested in adding more vegetarian foods to your diet, you may be wondering where you can find vegetarian food or where to go shopping for vegan food. Sure you can find fresh fruits and vegetables just about anywhere, but what about things like tofu, tempeh, seitan, and meat substitutes?
As more and more people become vegetarian, more and more grocery stores are stocking vegetarian and vegan foods, like soymilk, tofu, dairy substitutes, and veggie burgers. Some larger stores are even adding a “natural foods” aisle, where you can find soy cheeses, a variety of vegetarian deli meats, and whole grains, among other products. Shopping for vegetarian groceries has never been easier! Read on to find out where else to shop to stock your vegetarian kitchen.
Natural Foods Stores, Health Food Stores, Co-ops
Natural food stores, health food stores, and co-op groceries are great sources for items like seitan, tempeh, and soy products that can’t be found at your regular grocer. One of the largest natural foods chains in the United States is Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's also stocks plenty of vegetarian meat substitutes and vegan ingredients.
To find locally owned stores that stock items for vegetarians and vegans, check your yellow pages under either “Natural Foods” or "Health Foods" to find natural foods stores in your community or search the Green People or Happy Cow websites. Many natural foods stores have a bulk section, where you can purchase as little or as much of an item as you’d like. If you can’t find a particular item that you’re looking for, most health food stores and co-ops are also happy to fill special orders, so be sure to ask!
Produce Stands, Farmers Markets
Depending on where you live, you may have access to a seasonal or weekly farmers market, where local growers sell organic fruits, vegetables, free-range eggs and more. Produce is usually cheaper at these markets, as it comes directly from the source. If you’ve never been to a farmers market, allow yourself extra time to browse and chat with farmers about their products. Produce stands vary from rural stands that just sell a few items to large stores that carry much more than fruits and vegetables. You may be able to find a few specialty items at larger produce stands as well-- things like spices, tofu, and dairy-free salad dressings. I've been lucky enough to visit several places which have locally made vegetarian options, such as fresh tofu in central Virginia, and locally made tempeh in Gainesville, Florida.
Ethnic grocers are a great way to explore new flavors and tastes! Most Asian grocers sell tofu, miso, noodles, stir fry sauces, vegetable broth, and seaweed, often at a much lower price than natural foods stores. Try out new sauces for stir-fries or tofu marinades. Depending on the size of the store, you may also find exotic fruits and vegetables and a variety of mock meat products. I like to buy tea and spices at my local Asian grocer as well because the selection is usually superior and the prices reasonable. Middle Eastern and Greek grocers can also be a source for exploring new flavors. Look for grape leaves, hummus, tahini, baba ganoush, falafel, and grains. Jewish or kosher stores carry a variety of dairy-free items as well, including a variety of products from the popular Kosher Parve brand Tofutti.
Adventist Book Stores
Adventist book centers are a secret wealth of vegetarian mock meat products, frozen vegetarian foods, and TVP. One of our readers, Sharon, told us about her experience, "I went bananas! Not only did they have all the canned items I know and love, they had various forms of TVP that I have not seen for years, (some I have never seen) and their frozen selection was much greater than I have seen in any natural foods store. Besides that, many of the items come in very large size containers, almost food service size." So if there's an Adventist church nearby, find out if they have a store and stock up on vegetarian specialty products!
If there's no health food store in your area, there are a few places online where you can buy just about anything you need for your vegetarian kitchen. A few of the best are Pangea Vegan Store for baking goods, sauces and desserts, VegeCyber for mock meats like vegetarian ham and textured vegetable protein (TVP), and Food Fight Grocery for vegan specialty items, snacks, and treats.