10 Vegan-Friendly Independent Grocery Stores in L.A.
Torn between “I want to stock my fridge with beautiful non-GMO produce and gourmet vegan products to be able to make every scrum-diddly-umptious dinner imaginable!” and “I don’t want to have to sell a kidney!” it’s hard to add shopping local into the mix too. But hey, we’re vegan, and compassion trumps easy any day of the week.
When it comes to grocery shopping, an ever-increasing number of environmentally-conscious vegan consumers are searching for alternatives to big brand stores—and Mom and Pop grocers have begun to sit up and take notice. Here’s our curated list of LA’s 10 best independent vegan-friendly grocers to fit every budget and cuisine. Viva el Mercado independiente! Screw the man! I will not be a cog in your corporate wheel! Okay, okay, okay—here we go.
South Bay and DTLA
Founded by a Manhattan Beach husband/wife duo that got their start in the fruit export business, Grow was conceived as a brick and mortar farmer’s market with a home delivery option. Stocking some of the best vegan products around like Blöde Kuh’s fermented cashew schmear and OrVeganic’s Healthy Butters (Crack Butter with maple sap and raw dates is our favorite! Careful though, it’s predictably addictive) they are one of the few places around that carries Cena’s frozen vegan meat—although, make sure you call ahead because they sell out fast! The DTLA location also has several good vegan deli options including a new seitan Reuben and South Bay is set to launch Plantae Bar’s vegan sushi rolls in their prepared section later this month.
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Imagine walking into a grocery store and perusing every shelf without ever needing to read a label. Breaded scallops? Why sure. Instant cheesy bacon mac? I’ll take two! An entire Thanksgiving turkey? Why not! All 100% vegan. When you go to the milk section at Organix there’s no need to scan past 2% and skims—options include nut, soy, and oat milks only. For an organic produce market, their hot deli selection is surprisingly naughty with a line-up of decadent street tacos & burritos, carne asada fries, sandwiches, and burgers inspired by non-veg fast food chains. Consider for instance their Mac Daddy, a take on the Big Mac complete with two vegan patties, sesame seed buns and vegan thousand-island dressing—gut buster indeed.
The first unnerving sight at many international markets is a pungent fish market or expansive meat counter—not at Vege Wholesale! This Vietnamese family-owned wholesaler in the heart of OC’s Little Saigon stocks exclusively vegan and vegetarian meat alternatives. But don’t just think of the usual Tofurkey sausages. What makes Vege Wholesale different is imported, mostly Taiwanese veg products like imitation stew tendon, veg hot pot packs, and vegan fish sauce. They carry canned and frozen alternatives for every meat imaginable from ham and mutton to unconventional seafood like flake along with all of those beloved specialty items like dried mushrooms, fermented sauces, and curry pastes that you expect from an Asian market. Just make sure you check all labels before buying as they do stock vegetarian products as well.
LA, Calabasas, Santa Monica, Venice, & Pacific Palisades
A true LA success story, this family-run, fully-organic market and deli has five locations and has been operating for over 50 years. Dubbed “the Barney’s of grocery stores” Erewhon is the place for bougie gut-cleanses like Reishi Tonic, cold-pressed juices and artfully-crafted drinks like Coconut Bulgarian Rosewater. They even have a vegan option for their adaptogenic bone broth cleanse so we herbivores can join in on the nutrient party. Their deli has a large selection of not only vegan items but many raw options like kale pesto pasta, overseen by their in-house raw chef at their Venice location, Chef JJ, a graduate of the all-vegan Living Light Culinary Institute. But if you’re worn out on all of that health-nuttiness, don’t worry. You can also pick up a gluten-free peanut butter brownie from their selection of Karma Baker on your way out.
Munchies such as mushroom jerky and hard-to-find products like Sophie’s canned vegan “toona” take center stage at this kawaii/superhero-themed hole-in-the wall vegan haven.
Marketed as a “vegan 7/11 alternative” this female-founded convenience store stocks all-vegan brands exclusively and is host to weekly pop-up events. Check out “Late Night Brunch” on Fridays from Munchies Vegan Diner and you can even catch a live vinyl DJ set on Punk Rock Thursdays, both days with extended store hours till 10 pm. Their permanent pop-up, Vrank’s is a New York style hot dog cart that operates from noon to close daily. Besties also features their own coconut water ice cream from their in-house soft serve machine.
The mothership! Did you know that the company that makes your favorite vegan ranch started in 1970 as a sandwich counter in the Valley? The store is surprisingly not 100% vegan—the brand itself from its inception was lacto-vegetarian—but nonetheless stocks a multitude of vegan products. They carrytheir own full line naturally (even samples of new products not yet on the market!) but also harder to find items like offerings from Herbivorous Butcher. In 2018 the café went entirely plant based—peckish shoppers can choose from an expansive menu including mac ‘n’ cheese and French toast to enjoy in their large dining hall or patio. A one-stop-shop, the market also has refrigerated supplements, beauty supplies, and even books and hippie bric-a-brac like salt lamps and artful home goods.
Serving the Santa Monica area since 1981, Rainbow Acres boasts an almost entirely organic produce section with harder to find items like fresh aloe vera and an expansive bulk food section (perfect solution for shoppers trying to go waste free) with 100 different dried fruits, grains, and nuts. Their deli section has many veg options such as raw pad Thai and collard green wraps from their in-house vegan chef Leslie. They even make their own raw cold pressed coconut and almond milks—a rare find with a short shelf life so take heed! Make your shopping trip on Friday between 11 am-2 pm and they’ll even give you your own free bag of fresh popped coconut oil vegan popcorn to munch.
We love this Armenian-Lebanese market in East Hollywood! This no-frills family shop specializes in exotic produce like kiwi berries, persimmons, dragon fruit, California-sourced loquat, and even whole jackfruit when it’s in season—all presented in the boxes they came in with crudely scribbled price tags that are decidedly reasonable. The Armenian bakery next door is owned by the brother and is the source of all of their delicious deli items including four different kinds of vegan dips like fresh-made baba ganoush (called mutabbal in Lebanese) and vegan-stuffed cabbage and grape leaves.
A favorite of celebrities and personal chefs, Vincente foods is a hometown grocer that has adopted a modern selection of products while maintaining its retro roots. A 71-year-old business, the storefront hasn’t changed since their second grand-reopening in 1962, although I can hardly imagine our parents and grandparents expected to see products like Daiya cheese on the shelves back then. This is the place to find your fancy imports like canned truffles, aged balsamic, and first-pressed olive oil. Peruse one of the most gourmet salt collections around with flake and smoked salts, their line-up of gourmet jams and preserves, and chocolates from around the world in several vegan varieties.
Santa Monica and Culver City
Don’t get hung up on the word “Co-op.” This community-owned store requires no membership to shop. The most comparable to Ralph’s or Whole Foods on our list, these two enormous supermarkets have come so far from their humble beginnings—co-opportunity was started by the four founding owners in a garage in 1974. They now offer everything from an entirely organic produce section to a full catering facility and a deli with an expansive salad bar and hot food line. Come in on Mondays for their “Meatless Mondays” where half of the hot line is taken over by vegan and vegetarian options like Southwest quinoa, roasted asparagus, and plantains. Weekly store demos and pop-ups give shoppers a chance to learn about and sample some of the best vegan products around like kefir from Fermenting Fairy and supplements by Pines the Wheat Grass People.
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Feature photo credit: Erewhon