People thinking about how to go vegan often assume the process demands enormous effort and sacrifice. Luckily, nothing could be further from the truth.
Switching to a vegan diet is easier than you would ever expect—just a little reading puts you halfway there. By the time you finish this short guide, you’ll be well on your way.
Let’s begin by looking at how to construct a smart overall approach. The most obvious way to become vegan is to focus on eliminating animal products from your diet. Surprisingly, however, this method of transitioning is needlessly difficult.
People who think going vegan requires gritting their teeth and exerting willpower make the task needlessly difficult. Ironically, despite their efforts, they are probably the people least likely to make a lifelong change. So let’s look at a better way.
Go Vegan by Crowding, Not Cutting
Instead of trying to cut animal products out of your diet, crowd them out. Put the emphasis on constantly seeking out delicious new foods. Every time you discover a vegan food that you adore, it’ll push the animal-based foods in your life further to the fringes. The more vegan foods you try, the more foods you’ll like, and the easier it becomes to eat vegan most of the time.
So cultivate the habit of trying new foods at every opportunity. The payoff is huge, and the commitment required is tiny. Just make a point of sampling at least five new vegan foods each week, and you’ll discover a steady stream of foods you love. Week by week, these items will begin crowding out the animal products that are currently in your diet. Before long, anytime you get hungry the first food that comes to mind will be vegan.
You’ll Find a Vast Assortment of Delicious Vegan Foods
Does going vegan mean you’re going to have to become a great cook, or spend loads of time in the kitchen? Absolutely not. You’ll be amazed by how many instant and near-instant options exist. Our list of easy vegan foods contains a ton of terrific foods you’ll want to try.
Once you’ve checked the above list, here are our top additional vegan resources to help you discover fantastic new foods:
- Cooking Guide
- Vegan-Friendly Cuisines
- Grocery Items
- Vegan Foods—Our Ultimate Roundup
- Vegan Alternatives to Meat, Dairy, and Egg-Based foods
This guide will take you a long way in learning how to go vegan. And if you read the material at the above links, it’ll make your transition even easier.
How Fast Should You Go?
Since a key part of learning how to go vegan involves discovering new foods, you’re always in control of how fast or slow you go. You certainly don’t need to go vegan all at once. Some people do it overnight, while others ease into it over months or even years. How fast you go is not nearly as important as whether the approach you take feels easy and comfortable.
Use whatever steppingstones work for you. The goal, after all, is not just to go vegan but to stay vegan long-term. You want fill your diet with delicious vegan foods that you’re delighted to eat every day.
Dipping in Your Toe
Some people get intimidated by the thought of becoming absolutely, positively vegan—with no room for slips or exceptions. If making a 100 percent commitment sounds too much for you right now, no problem. There are always smaller steps that still accomplish a great deal of good.
One of America’s most influential food writers, Mark Bittman, has long followed what he calls a “Vegan Before 6:00,” approach. That is, he eats a totally vegan diet from morning through afternoon, and then eats whatever he likes for dinner and the rest of the evening. Bittman’s approach can easily get you past the halfway point towards becoming vegan. And even if you never become completely vegan you’ll doubtless eat far fewer animal products than most people. If the Vegan Before 6:00 concept sounds appealing, you can get ahold of Bittman’s book on the topic.
Consider a Temporary Commitment
Or perhaps the idea of trying out a vegan diet sounds easy enough, but you’re not ready to commit to this change for life. No worries—why not eliminate all pressure by giving a vegan diet a three-week test-drive? One great benefit this approach is that it’ll put you well on your way to forming a lasting habit. There’s nothing like trying out a vegan diet for a few weeks to get a first-hand look at how it really feels. The experience will put you in a great position to evaluate how well a plant-based lifestyle works for you.
And never forget: week after week, following a vegan diet just keeps getting easier. The more vegan foods you try, the easier it becomes to avoid animal products. Nearly every long-term vegan you’ll meet will tell you their transition went much easier than expected.
Books on How to Go Vegan
You could certainly figure out how to be vegan without reading a single book on the topic, but why make things needlessly difficult? Just a little reading delivers an enormous payoff.
Nothing about going vegan is all that challenging, but it’s inescapable that you’ll need to make changes to the way you shop, cook, dine out, and so forth. Perhaps the best book on the topic, and certainly the most inviting one, is Kristy Turner’s But I Could Never Go Vegan! Not only is Turner’s book a super-friendly introduction, but it also contains 125 really good recipes, all of which are quick and easy to make. And her book is jam-packed with beautiful food photos, which will doubtless inspire you to get cooking.
If you want a free book that covers the same ground, you can read my Ultimate Vegan Guide online right here at Vegan.com. You really can’t go wrong with any book that is devoted to explaining how to go vegan. They’ll all teach you in just a few hours all sorts of things that would take you months or years to discover on your own.
The greater your motivation, the easier you will find the transition. Books or films about dietary choices and animal agribusiness can greatly increase your commitment. So check out our recommended books and movies pages.
Vegans and meat eaters alike often exhibit alarming lapses in their knowledge of nutrition. And unfortunately these lapses cannot be remedied through indiscriminate reading. Many books and articles that cover vegan nutrition are full of misinformation. If you read nutritional guidance that is fundamentally wrong, and take its message to heart, you can put your health at serious risk.
So at all costs, make sure the first material you read about vegan nutrition comes from reliable sources. Perhaps the best introduction to the topic is our Vegan Nutrition Guide, This guide was written by Virginia Messina, MPH RD, who is one of the world’s top experts on vegan nutrition.
For a deeper exploration of vegan nutrition, check out Jack Norris and Virginia Messina’s Vegan for Life. This book offers comprehensive information about vegan diets, including specific guidance for pregnancy, adolescence, fitness training, and old age.
Are Supplements Necessary?
Even the briefest study of vegan nutrition should convince you to find a reliable and regular source of B-12. This crucial vitamin isn’t found in unsupplemented vegan foods. The easiest way to make sure you’re getting enough B-12 is to take a sublingual B-12 tablet every two or three days. The consequences of B-12 deficiency are dire and potentially irreversible, so please don’t take any chances with this crucial nutrient. An inexpensive B-12 supplement will satisfy your needs for an entire year for about $10.
Vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, iodine, and iron are other nutrients that may require extra attention from vegans. Check out our Vitamin and Supplements Guide for coverage of these nutrients.
Buying Vegan Groceries
People wondering how to go vegan might assume that most of the work involves making new choices about cooking and dining out. But neither of these topics are as important as grocery shopping.
If you’re going to change the foods you eat, that obviously necessitates changing the foods you buy. So why not learn how to bump your grocery shopping skills up a notch? Let’s look over that information now.
Natural Food Stores & Supermarkets
Every supermarket offers sufficient foods for a diverse vegan diet (beans, rice, pasta, hummus, soy milk, fruits, vegetables, etc.) Often, though, there are better places to buy these foods. When it comes to offering a wide variety of delicious vegan foods, a good natural food store blows away nearly every supermarket.
Natural food stores are unjustly maligned for being expensive. But that need not be the case if you comparison shop. In fact, where healthful foods are concerned, natural food stores often offer much better prices than supermarkets. That’s because supermarkets tend to sell their health foods at list price, whereas many natural food stores strive to offer competitive prices.
There’s a handy way to judge the quality of a natural foods store at a glance. Just compare the size of the produce section to the vitamins section. That’ll tell you which stores are sincere about their effort to offer healthful food, rather than just cashing in on high-margin pills.
As vegan and plant-based eating has gained popularity, many supermarkets have responded by devoting entire sections of their stores to natural foods. Some supermarkets do a great job on selection and price, while others don’t.
The Best Deals at Natural Food Stores
The bulk department at a good natural foods store can save you a lot of money. You can dramatically reduce your food costs by purchasing staples like rice, beans, nuts, and cereal in bulk. The size of a bulk section is one of the best metrics for judging the quality of a natural food store. An excellent bulk section will offer items you’d never expect, like coffee, seaweed, chocolate, and a wide assortment of spices.
Many natural food stores feature a deli that sells a variety of ready-to-eat vegan items. These deli items offer one of the best ways to easily try a number of new vegan foods. If you find a deli item you especially like, you can generally make it from scratch at home, at minimal cost.
So you can see that a good natural food store can offer some good deals on high-quality vegan foods. But be forewarned that vegans can still spend a fortune on at these places on certain convenience foods. Frozen vegan pizzas and TV dinners are often triple the price of their non-vegan counterparts. So if you’re on a budget, you are best off buying most of your foods from the bulk section and produce department. A little cooking can save you a lot of money.
Farmers’ Markets and CSAs
Just as a supermarket is probably not your best local source of groceries, your natural foods store may not be the best place to buy fruits and vegetables. It’s worth your time to check into whether there’s a farmers’ market or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in your area. There’s no better way to source your food as close to home as possible.
If you want to learn more about supporting local agriculture, check out this chapter from my Ultimate Vegan Guide. Your nearest farmers’ market or CSA may be much closer than you realize. Check out the directories of farmers’ markets and CSAs from LocalHarvest.org.
If you’ve got a sizable foreign population in your city, there will probably be excellent ethnic groceries worth visiting. Asian markets typically sell cheaper and fresher tofu than you can buy elsewhere, and they also carry a terrific assortment of cheap mushrooms and seaweed. Indian markets are worth visiting just for their papadums and jarred pickle relishes, and nearly all will sell remarkably inexpensive freshly-prepared samosas and pakora.
With any luck there’s a Trader Joe’s market near you. The chain is famous for selling all sorts of delicious vegan items at rock-bottom prices. They even publish a list of their vegan items, although this list is never complete given that Trader Joe’s is constantly introducing new products and discontinuing old ones.
Buying Vegan Foods Online
If you live in a community that lacks a good natural foods store, don’t despair. Amazon.com can pick up the slack. They carry all sorts of essential vegan items, from energy bars to to hot cereals to cookies to nutritional yeast.
You can find every imaginable vegan food product on Amazon.com. The trouble is that many items listed by third parties sell for exorbitant prices. But Amazon itself fulfills dozens of great vegan foods, at prices that are remarkably competitive.
We maintain a grocery page listing Amazon’s best vegan food deals. It’s worth checking out even if you have a good natural foods store nearby, since you will certainly find items unavailable locally. Amazon won’t carry every vegan grocery item you need, but you can save a lot of time and money by ordering some of your groceries through them.
Additionally, Amazon’s prices on supplements will usually beat local retailers. We’ve got a page featuring the best deals on vegan supplements.
If you’ve never done much cooking, switching to a vegan diet can open up a whole new world for you. Vegan cooking is easy to learn, and will save you a ton of money. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can master the basics. In fact, you don’t even need to buy a vegan cookbook to get started making great food. Just check out our vegan cooking guide.
Once you’ve learned the essentials, it takes very little time to churn out delicious meals. The secret to quickly learning how to cook great vegan food is to realize that you can cook all sorts of magnificent meals without a recipe. Instead, just follow the below links to learn how to cook five essential meals, each of which can be prepared in a multitude of ways:
The above meals free you up from relying on complicated recipes. Learn them and you’ll always be ready to throw together a delicious and healthful meal in minutes. They’re unbeatable options for anyone who wants to spend more time eating than cooking.
Outfit Your Kitchen
It’s remarkable how far a little money spent on basic kitchen equipment will go. Just a few well-chosen kitchen items will open up all sorts of food preparation possibilities.
Some of the most useful kitchen appliances are extraordinarily cheap. These include items like toasters, blenders, slow cookers, and immersion mixers—any of which can be purchased for the price of an average restaurant meal. More expensive models of these appliances might look fancier but they are unlikely to perform better or last longer.
There are also a few higher-end appliances that can be well-worth the price. In particular, Instant Pots, food processors, bread machines, rice cookers, and professional-grade blenders can be game-changing additions to your kitchen. But they’re only worth getting if you’re sure you’ll actually use them regularly. See our Kitchenware Guide for buying advice on all these items.
Invest in Good Knives
Although you can happily get by purchasing the cheapest kitchen items, the one item not to scrimp on is a chef’s knife.
Think of your main kitchen knife as a lifetime investment. The Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch chef’s knife hits the sweet spot in terms of offering quality workmanship comparable to professional grade knives costing triple the price. Get it professionally sharpened every six to twelve months and it’ll totally transform your cooking experiences.
You may also want to buy a utility knife set. Since these knives are small, you can buy good ones inexpensively. Bread knives are another essential piece of kitchen equipment, not just for bread but for tomatoes. Since the blades are serrated, you don’t need to go premium—a cheap bread knife will do the job fine and last for years.
One of the biggest mistakes that new vegans make is choosing the wrong first cookbook. You absolutely don’t want your first cookbook to be full of fussy-time consuming recipes. What you need is a cookbook geared to easy meals that take 30 minutes or less to prepare.
If you later decide to branch out to more sophisticated cooking, go for it. But make sure that your first cookbook is devoted to the simplest and most hassle-free meals. There are several fantastic choices, including:
- The Simply Vegan Cookbook, by Dustin Harder
- Quick-Fix Vegan, by Robin Robertson
- Thug Kitchen 101, by Davis & Holloway
- Everyday Happy Herbivore, by Lindsay S. Nixon
These cookbooks are all perfect for getting started. If you want to get a little fancier, check out Angela Liddon’s, The Oh She Glows Cookbook. Liddon’s book features sophisticated, healthful dishes that still require only minimal time to prepare.
Choosing a Second Vegan Cookbook
Once you purchase an easy cookbook, consider also picking up an enormous general-interest vegan cookbook. That way, anytime you have a hankering for a classic dish, whether it’s pancakes or lasagna, you’ll have a solid recipe ready to go. When it comes to a big, beautiful reference cooking volume, you can’t do better than Thug Kitchen. Or, if you want something truly massive, get ahold of Robin Robertson’s 1,000 Vegan Recipes.
The cookbooks I just mentioned only hint at the enormous diversity of possibilities. You can find vegan cookbooks devoted to every cuisine, including Italian, Indian, Thai, Mexican, and Ethiopian. There are likewise vegan cookbooks specializing in Instant Pots, one-dish meals, whole-grain baking, and even homemade vegan cheese. Discover them all on our vegan cookbooks page.
People thinking about how to go vegan often worry about the difficulty of dining out. Your local restaurant options may range from terrible to incredible—it all depends on where you live. Chances are, though, that you have more possibilities than you currently realize. Most mid-sized cities have a number of vegan-friendly restaurants. And even small towns can offer surprisingly good restaurant options.
Although there are a few online vegan restaurant directories like HappyCow and VegGuide, the best way to make sure you’re not missing anything is to search “vegan restaurants” on the Google app on your phone. That’s because Google has a thousand times more listings and reviews than any vegan-oriented restaurant directory. Plus, given that Google owns the world’s best mapping software, it’s the best way to discover the vegan restaurants nearest to you.
Anytime I visit a new city, I invariably check HappyCow since it’s nice to read nothing but vegan-oriented restaurant reviews.
Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Food
When you don’t have a vegan restaurant nearby, your ability to easily find a suitable restaurant meal will vary widely by cuisine. Hands down the most vegan-friendly cuisine is Middle Eastern—avoid the meat and you’re usually home-free. That’s because it’s rare for Middle Eastern meals to contain dairy or eggs. But be on the lookout for Tzatziki, a cucumber dish made with yogurt.
Ethiopian restaurants aren’t all that common but if you can find one you can usually get a great vegan meal. Since East Africa isn’t traditionally a place for dairy cattle or layer hens, Ethiopian food tends to be based on meat, veggies, and grains. So if you avoid the meat and make sure the vegetables aren’t prepared with butter you’re usually home free. Some Ethiopian restaurants garnish their entrees with sour cream so be sure to ask to leave it off.
Other Vegan-Friendly Cuisines
Mexican food has great potential to be vegan-friendly, but it’s challenging to find reliably vegan Mexican restaurants. You’ll have to watch out for lard in the beans and wheat tortillas, sour cream in the guacamole, and chicken stock in the rice.
Italian food is tough to order without cheese, and fresh Italian pasta usually contains eggs. But spaghetti made from dried pasta and topped with marinara sauce is reliably vegan. Just be sure to ask for no Parmesan cheese. Most Italian restaurants also serve a simple green salad with Italian dressing, although that too may be dusted with Parmesan cheese unless you request otherwise.
In Chinese restaurant food, chicken stock is the primary menace vegans confront. The stuff can can vanish undetectably into soups and the broths of otherwise vegan entrees. Dairy isn’t part of traditional Chinese cooking, but egg can appear (or rather, disappear) in a variety of dishes.
Your dining options extend far beyond these cuisines. Visit our Vegan Guide to World Cuisines for extensive coverage of still more possibilities. And for more information on eating out, check out our vegan dining guide.
Vegan Fast Food Options
If you’re traveling in the United States and need a quick meal, your easiest choices are probably Subway or Taco Bell. Subway’s got “Veggie Delight” sandwiches, which are vegan if you avoid the mayo and cheese (their whole wheat bread contains honey, but their white breads are vegan.) At Taco Bell, order a “Bean Burrito, Fresco Style,” and they’ll swap out the cheese for chunky salsa.
There are also great delicious and satisfying options at Cal-Mex burrito places like Chipotle, Qdoba, and Taco Del Mar. These chains feature higher-quality, tastier food than either Taco Bell or Subway, but they are also much harder to find.
Socializing and Finding Community
Meetup.com offers an unmatched resource for finding local vegan and vegetarian gatherings. Just type Vegan into the search box and see what nearby events pop up. Many cities have vegan dine-outs or potlucks, and these are generally listed on Meetup.com. Another increasingly popular sort of gathering is called Vegan Drinks. These Vegan Drinks events feature vegan bar food, often specially prepared by the venue for the occasion.
You can also meet like-minded people at big regional vegan festivals, which are happening all over the world. Check out our directory to these events.
And for dating, most of the big platforms like OK Cupid, Plenty of Fish, and Match.com feature categories for dietary preference, making it easy to find single vegans near you. Also check out VeggieDate, a dating site that caters exclusively to vegetarians and vegans.
A Recap of Key Advice
This short guide covered a lot of ground. So let’s run through my main pieces of advice to make sure nothing gets lost:
- A starter book like But I Could Never Go Vegan! will make your transition smoother, quicker, and more enjoyable.
- Take nutrition seriously. Be sure to read our Vegan Nutrition Guide so you can steer clear of the most common deficiencies that may arise on a vegan diet.
- Even if you’re a skilled cook, make your first vegan cookbook an easy one. The Simply Vegan Cookbook is a perfect choice.
- The quickest way to learn the basics of vegan cooking is to master the preparation of these five foods: smoothies; sandwiches; salads; stir-fries; and roasted vegetables.
- Learn how to shop affordably at natural food stores, and also check out your local farmer’s market. Our grocery page will enable you to further round out your diet.
- Searching “vegan restaurants” with the Google app on your phone will enable you to discover your closest dining options. Also check out HappyCow.net.
- If you get hungry while traveling and there aren’t any vegan restaurants nearby, you can always turn to Subway’s Veggie Delight ordered without cheese or mayo. Or order Taco Bell’s Bean Burrito “Fresco Style.”
- Don’t let yourself become isolated! There are probably plenty of vegans near you. Use Meetup.com to find them. Also, don’t miss out on attending your nearest vegan festival and visiting a nearby farm animal sanctuary.
Take Your Next Step
As you can see, it’s easy to learn how to go vegan. There is always a multitude of ways you can take another step towards including more vegan foods in your life. Just by having read this guide, you’ve gained some great advantages over most aspiring vegans.
Going vegan is all about discovering as many new foods as you can, from as many places as possible. So remember that if it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right. You’re headed in the right direction when you find yourself enjoying your food more than ever before. Just stay focused on constantly trying new foods, and you’ll make rapid and effortless progress—no willpower required.