Of all the chapters in this book, this is the one that can push you most rapidly towards becoming vegan. Here, I run through the finest convenience foods I know. If you make a point of trying everything mentioned here, you’ll no doubt find several items you’ll want to always have on hand.
Stocking your pantry with these convenience foods can make a huge difference in your quality of life. Sometimes you’ll suddenly find yourself hungry and want something to eat right now, not thirty minutes from now. Luckily, as we’re about to see, you’ve got plenty of vegan options. It’s hard to overstate the importance of keeping delicious vegan convenience foods in your pantry at all times. I hope you’ll make life easy on yourself and stock up on as many of these foods as possible.
Energy Bars. There are about a dozen different brands of vegan energy bars on the market. Clif Bars are the most popular. They’re cheap, made largely from organic ingredients, and are bulky enough to be a substantial snack. My two favorite flavors are Chocolate Chip and Cool Mint Chocolate. I love to smear some organic nut butter on a Chocolate Chip Clif Bar and serve it with a glass of soymilk or almond milk.
Luna Bars are made by the Clif Bar people and are marketed to women. Although it’s emasculating to purchase Luna Bars if you’re a guy, it’s worth the embarrassment because they’re really good. They’re smaller than Clif Bars and have a totally different texture. In contrast to Clif Bars, most flavors of Luna Bars taste pretty similar. There’s not a flavor I dislike.
Larabars are another popular energy bar, and they are nothing like Clif or Luna Bars because they are made almost entirely of fruit and nuts. Their Cherry Pie bar is one of my all-time favorite food products. What’s astonishing about this offering is how it exactly captures several of the best flavor notes from a cherry pie, despite being a vegan product consisting entirely of dates, almonds, and cherries. I don’t know how they managed this: it’s like eating a real cherry pie that is somehow good for you.
Finally, you might want to try the energy bars made by ProBar. While they cost more than Clif Bars, ProBars are larger and made from more expensive ingredients. Their flavors and textures are outstanding, perhaps the best of any energy bar.
Entrees. There are numerous brands of boxed Indian-style entrees, made in India and packaged in shelf-stable foil envelopes. This is about as authentically fancy as cheap convenience food can get, and many of these products are vegan. Most natural food stores carry this sort of product under the Tasty Bite label. At Indian groceries, you’ll find a half-dozen other brands. Depending on the brand and the variety, these products range from scarcely edible to sublime—the best brand I’ve tried is Kitchens Of India. Always check the ingredients before making a purchase as only about 30 percent of the products in this category are vegan.
These Indian entrees are best served over rice—but what’s the point of having an instant entree like this if your rice needs thirty minutes to cook? Here, Trader Joe’s comes to the rescue by selling pre-cooked brown rice that requires only a minute in the microwave.
Another great entree to serve over pre-cooked brown rice is canned vegan chili. There are several brands available: Amy’s Organic Black Bean Chili is especially good.
Chips. Kettle Chips is probably the best-known producer of premium potato chips, and many of their potato chip flavors are vegan.
I think potato chips are overrated. What I really miss from my pre-vegan days were those poofy cheese puffs with the bright orange “cheeze” powder that would get all over your hands. Happily, the vegan world has a delicious counterpart to that nutritional travesty: Tings. They’re crisp, light, and have that same salty crunch. Marvelous.
Tortilla chips are another fine junk food. Plus you can dip them into salsa, so even if the chips themselves are oily and salty, at least they’re carrying along some great nutrition. On the rare occasions when I eat corn chips, I prefer the ones made from blue corn.
Crackers. In Chapter 11, I was pessimistic about your prospects for finding decent crackers in the supermarket. Fortunately, there are sensational vegan crackers available elsewhere. One product I often eat is Late July peanut butter sandwich crackers. These crackers evoke all sorts of nostalgic childhood feelings for me of those peanut butter sandwich crackers I ate as a kid. Yet they’re vegan and far healthier, since they’re made with all-organic ingredients. Best of all, they’re about the same price as the cruddy nonvegan crackers that supermarkets sell. You can find these crackers at natural food stores and online.
Cookies. Nana’s makes oversized inexpensive vegan cookies. It’s incredibly difficult to make a tasty mass-produced cookie without resorting to white flour, yet Nana’s has managed to do it. And their flour isn’t just whole-grain, it’s organic too. They’ve also got several varieties that are either wheat or gluten free. By weight, they’re cheaper than most energy bars, and they don’t have any refined sugar either. Nana’s aren’t the best vegan cookies I’ve ever had, but they’re pretty darn good, and I always keep some in my kitchen cupboard. All the flavors except their ginger variety are tasty, and my favorite is coconut chip. Amazon.com carries these at a great price, and many natural food stores stock them as well.
Much less healthy are the bagged vegan cookies sold by Trader Joe’s. The chocolate chip flavor is remarkable, and your friends won’t believe they’re vegan.
Of all the gourmet vegan cookies on the market, my favorite brand is Liz Lovely. This company’s cookies are available online, and at natural food stores from the East Coast to the Central United States.
There are probably a hundred other great vegan convenience foods in addition to those I’ve covered in this brief chapter, and new products are being dreamed up all the time. So, no doubt, you’ll end up with some favorites not mentioned here. But the items presented in this chapter are widely loved by vegans, and should be more than sufficient to get you started.
Next Chapter: Meat, Dairy, & Egg Replacements
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