Just a few short years ago, the idea of seeing specialist vegan food sections in the meat aisles of supermarkets seemed like plant-based pie-in-the-sky thinking. Yet here we are today with just that, an abundance of animal-free products adorning the shelves of most mainstream stores. What a time to be alive.
About 1.5 million people in Britain are thought to be vegan, and the shift in retailers’ offerings – and thinking – is making their lives a hell of a lot easier.
But the extent of options can still be variable depending on where you live, especially if that is outside of a big city. If it is unique or hard-to-come-by products you are after, the web is your best bet for tracking them down.
We set about browsing to find a range of classics and some more unusual products that are not always easy to find in regular bricks-and-mortar shops.
We discovered sweet treats, savoury delights, sauces to liven up any meat substitute or humble vegetable and vegan skincare items, because veganism goes far beyond simply what you eat.
Our main takeaway from the search is that plant-based people can take heart from the vast array of options available online, even if they have to wait a few days for them to land on their doorsteps.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best vegan products you can order online in 2021 are:
- Best overall – Original sosmix vegan sausage mix: £5.50, Alternativestores.com
- Best vegan gummy sweets – Free From Fellows sweets: £1.89, Bravurafoods.myshopify.com
- Best vegan ingredient – Clearspring organic young jackfruit: £2.99, Clearspring.co.uk
- Best for people with intolerances – Bellygoodness mixed box of sauces: £19.95, Bellygoodness.com
- Best vegan baking kit – A Kind Mama Vegan Bakery Biscoff brownies kit: £10, Akindmama.com
- Best egg substitute – Oggs egg alternative aquafaba: £12, Loveoggs.com
- Best for vegans who miss meat – Sgaia vegan steak: £3.90, Sgaiafoods.co.uk
- Best nutritional yeast – Notorious Nooch smoky vegan bacon nooch: £3.99, Youngvegans.co.uk
- Best vegan skincare – SMPL nourishing cream: £28.90, Shoplikeyougiveadamn.com
- Best for vegan sushi – Vegan zeastar sashimi zalmon: £9.29, Vegex.co.uk
- Best fresh tempeh – Tempeh Meades: £13, Tempehmeades.com
Original sosmix vegan sausage mix
Those who have been vegan or vegetarian for decades will likely be familiar with this meat-free marvel. There is nothing glamorous about sosmix, but combine the dry powder with water, form into sausages or burgers, fry and prepare to be blown away. The texture and taste knocks spots off many of the vegan sausages available in supermarkets, and it quashes the misconception that a vegan diet needs to be expensive because a 500g bag of the mix can be transformed into dozens of sausages or burgers. The versatility of sosmix also means it can be used in a multitude of recipes, including sausage rolls, stuffing balls, pies and pasta dishes – and added herbs, spices and seasonings only further elevate the flavour.
So popular is sosmix that Alternative Stores, one of the few places still selling the original product, sold more than nine tonnes of the stuff in 2020, with orders coming in from around the world. The online shop is a 100 per cent vegan superstore, owned and run by a family of vegans, who were brought up on the dried sausage mix. As well as sosmix, Alternative Stores sells a huge range of vegan products and groceries, including cheese, chocolates, supplements, clothes and shoes.
Free From Fellows gummy bears
Best: Vegan gummy sweets
Even in 2021, not all bricks-and-mortar shops sell vegan gummy sweets. It’s frustrating, especially when we’re craving an old-school treat. The thing is no one would know these chewy lemon, apple, orange and cherry bears are free from gelatine. They are deliciously sweet and fruity, just like the conventional non-vegan sort. The real shock lies on the ingredient list – these sweets are made without sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, egg, nuts, GMOs and artificial colours and flavours too.
Beyond gummy bears, there are wine gums, cola bottles and midget gems among the Free From Fellows range of delicious sweets. Bravura Foods, the vegan distributor that sells them online, also has a vast variety of other snacks, including Freedom mallows, Panda liquorice and Vegan Bakery biscuits.
Clearspring organic young jackfruit
Best: Vegan ingredient
Are you really even a vegan if you have not tried and fallen in love with jackfruit? While it is nigh on impossible to get hold of the fresh fruit in the UK (and you are looking at about £155 for a whole fruit if you can find one), the canned and jarred stuff is now widely available. Clearspring’s jackfruit is organic, wonderfully chunky and hugely versatile. We used a jar to make a biryani, and the fruit became superbly tender, taking on the flavours of the spices and herbs. It would be just as tasty as a barbecue pulled jackfruit in a burger bun or with Mexican seasonings in tacos.
Every single product in Clearspring’s online shop is 100 per cent vegan, and free from artificial additives, MSG, colourings, preservatives and added refined sugars. Besides jackfruit, the range includes tofu, savoury snacks, nut butters, sauces and dried mushrooms.
Bellygoodness mixed box of sauces
Best: For people with intolerances
Sometimes we could all do without the hassle of having to make a sauce from scratch. Only, many ready-made options contain ingredients not suitable for vegans. But plant-based folk are in safe hands with Belly Goodness. The brand’s sauces are also suitable for those who avoid gluten, yeast, nuts, soya, dairy, added sugars, onion, garlic and tomato. It was founded by Gail and Fran, a mother and daughter duo of nutritionists who wanted to create delectable sauces made with natural ingredients and without any of the common trigger foods that can irritate the gut.
The mixed box comes with a jar each of the gorgeous curry, nomato, Mediterranean, chilli and white sauces. There are no hard-to-read ingredients, and there are so many uses. They can be used as a spread, poured over veggies or tofu, stirred through vegan mince for a bolognese or can even be used as a dip straight from the jar.
A Kind Mama Vegan Bakery biscoff brownies kit
Best: Vegan baking kit
Vegan baking can be daunting when you first start out. People can worry about the lack of eggs and butter, but it is a common misconception that animal products are needed to create a fabulous bake. Eve at A Kind Mama Vegan Bakery has done all the hard work coming up with a failsafe recipe for scrumptious chocolatey brownies with the unique caramelised flavour of Lotus Biscoff biscuits, the accidentally vegan delights. The baking kits come with all the dry ingredients and a recipe card, to which you add dairy-free milk, vegetable oil and a tiny bit of effort and you have yourself a fine tray of brownies that vegans and meat-eaters alike will want to demolish.
The name gives it away, but all of Eve’s products are 100 per cent vegan and she even makes ready-made brownies and blondies, including those with peanut butter, chocolate orange and marshmallows, for delivery to doorsteps around the UK.
Oggs egg alternative aquafaba
Best: Egg substitute
Once you have built up confidence with A Kind Mama Vegan Bakery’s baking kits, you can graduate to more adventurous vegan bakes. More confident bakers will be au fait with aquafaba, the liquid from a can of chickpeas that we disgracefully used to pour down the sink. That was until we learned of the egg-replacing possibilities of this sweet-smelling yellow liquid.
Each recyclable carton of Oggs aquafaba is the equivalent of four eggs and can be used for making cakes, cookies, ice cream and meringues. It is also low calorie, fat-free, and has no added sugars. We had a ball using it to make vegan garlic mayo with only a handful of ingredients. Watching the aquafaba balloon in size when whisked. is great fun for kids and the glossy, smooth and rich-tasting mayo beats most shop-bought varieties.
Sgaia vegan steak
Best: For vegans who miss meat
This vegan steak certainly does not look as bloody or gruesome as a meat steak, and that suits us down to the ground. It more closely resembles seitan, without all the hard work of making it yourself, and the texture is a little firmer than some other meat substitutes we have tried. Interestingly, you treat the Sgaia steak much in the same way as you would a beef steak. Slice it into strips, cut it into chunks or leave as is and fry in a little oil for three minutes on each side. We used it to whip up a vegan steak and cheese baguette that was every bit as delicious as the real deal.
Sgaia has a whole range of ready-to-eat vegan meat alternatives, including burgers, pastrami, pepperoni and bacon rashers. And if you love the hand-crafted products as much as we do, you can sign up for a subscription to receive a regular delivery and you will get a 10 per cent discount on every recurring order.
Notorious Nooch smoky vegan bacon nooch
Best: Nutritional yeast
Nooch, or nutritional yeast, has long been a staple of the vegan diet. We love using it for mixing into sauces to add a hint of cheesiness, sprinkling over salads or for adding extra crunch to roasted veg. But we had never heard of bacon-flavoured nooch, until now. This wonder from Notorious Nooch adds a beautifully rich smokiness to foods, and it is sensational sprinkled on vegan pizza.
This extra-special nooch is available from the Young Vegans Superstore, from the folks behind the famous Camden vegan pie shop. The pies are available online for UK delivery, as is a generous range of other vegan products such as pizzas, cheese and alcohol.
SMPL nourishing cream
Best: Vegan skincare
Veganism is about much more than what you put in your mouth, it is a lifestyle and that means using only products, including skincare, that are vegan and cruelty-free. This nourishing cream from 100 per cent vegan and natural brand SMPL is kind to animals, your skin and the planet. With SPF, it hydrates all skin types and is free from perfume and other irritating ingredients. Plus, SMPL products come packaged in sugarcane tubes or recycled plastic bottles.
The moisturiser is available online from the appropriately named Shop Like You Give a Damn, Europe’s largest online department store for vegan, fair and sustainable fashion, cosmetics and homeware. Each product is vetted using a 14-point ethical and sustainability criteria, so you can shop with confidence and compassion.
Vegan Zeastar sashimi zalmon
Best: Vegan sushi
This is not fish. We repeat, this is not fish. This impossibly realistic vegan “zalmon” sashimi could fool even the most eagle-eyed diner. The sashimi arrives frozen, ready for defrosting and slicing thinly to make into vegan sushi or cubing for a poke bowl. Made with tapioca starch, the texture is remarkably like that of raw salmon, and we know of no other vegan sashimi alternative that compares flavour wise.
This mind-blowing product is available to buy online at Vegetarian Express, which also stocks Zeastar’s no tuna sashimi, kalamariz and shrimpz among its full range of more than 700 chef-quality plant-based foods, including vegan bacon, sausages and puddings.
Tempeh Meades tempeh
Best: Fresh tempeh
You can pick up tempeh in most supermarkets now, but fresh, traditionally made tempeh is much harder to come by. Luckily, the brilliantly named Bristol-based Tempeh Meades sells its products online for UK delivery. The independent producer makes its unpasteurised tempeh using the same methods as in West Java, where the brand’s founder Benedict Meade learned his craft.
That means forming cooked soya beans into a block, adding a starter culture, and fermenting it twice over three days. As well as traditional soya bean tempeh, there is one with red quinoa and a four-bean variety, made with red haricot, fava, green marrowfat split peas and soya beans. The firm tempeh is super healthy, high in protein and fibre, and it tastes fantastic too, with a nutty flavour that is enhanced by seasoning and marinating.
The verdict: Vegan products to shop online
When something has been around for as long as original sosmix has, you know it is good. The dry mix miraculously transforms into whatever shape you desire, and it adds a wonderful texture and flavour to any vegan dish. Plus, it is extremely versatile and reasonable. Sosmix is a timeless veggie classic, and we love that it is still sold by a vegan, family-run business.
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