How to Be a Herbivore in Singapore Part 4 – shopping for groceries!

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Previous: 01 why vegan . 02 nutrition . 03 cooking . Next: 05 social eating . 06 eating at hawker centres . 07 challenges and support.

Note: This article contains reward links to products from iherb.com. I’ve tried these products and genuinely like them, hence I can recommend. If you purchase from my links you will get 5% off the next order and I will get 5% rewards credit, thanks in advance if you do! 🙂

“So hard to find vegan groceries and snacks here!”

“Vegan food is expensive!”

True, because:

  1. Vegan labeling isn’t common here yet.
  2. Vegan meat and dairy alternatives are imported, often frozen, from foreign countries and thus pricey.
  3. Vegan foods are often wrongly equated with health foods, and health foods always cost more.

Not true, because:

  1. Vegan food includes fresh produce which are plenty and cheap.
  2. If you read the ingredients you’d be surprised at the number of accidentally vegan packaged foods available.
  3. Many cheap local foods are vegan, just not marked as vegan.

This is my complete guide to places to buy everything from breads to nutritional yeast to ice creams, with indications of price range!

 

1) Wet markets (pasars) – Affordable

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I get the bulk of my ingredients here. Not only are the produce fresher and sometimes cheaper than supermarkets, you can also support local businesses directly. Markets are stock full of local and imported veggies, tropical fruits, fresh tofu, local condiments, spice packs, dried foods and tempeh so fresh that it’s still warmly fermenting on the shelves. For tempeh, you have to go early as they sell out fast. And in a lucky neighbourhood, you get a well-stocked vegetarian grocery stall full of vegan goodies like from Malaysia and Taiwan.

 

2) Regular supermarkets (NTUC, Giant, Seng Siong) – Affordable

The second biggest bulk of my food comes from mainstream supermarkets. They have a great selection of fresh, dried and processed foods like miso, kimchi, non-dairy milks, canned beans, organic tofu, breads, edamame and granola bars that are not available in wet markets. Tempeh is also often available here (tip: go early), but I find wet market’s tempeh a lot fresher.

The health section is a gem – quality beans, nut milks, cider vinegar, organic grains and flaxseeds at cheaper prices than dedicated health stores. However, I seldom buy from this section unless there’s a discount or I really need it soon. Because iHerb or Mustafa sell them cheaper.

The health food section at NTUC.

Accidentally vegan breads: according to ingredients listed on NTUC’s online shop, what I’ve seen and confirmations from fellow vegans:

NTUC:

  • Sunshine Multi Grain
  • Sunshine Smart – Carb
    (not listed on website, confirmed from fellow vegan)
  • Sunshine Enriched Walnut Bread
  • Sunshine Potato Wholemeal buns(not listed on website, confirmed from fellow vegan)
  • Sunshine Softmeal Bread
  • Sunshine Wholemeal Cream bread rolls (Chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, cookies & cream flavours)
  • Sunshine Extra Fine Sprouted WHITE Bread (not the wholemeal one)
  • Fairprice Wholemeal
  • Gardenia Wholemeal Hamburger Buns
  • Gardenia Foccacia (not listed on the website, from my experience)
  • Top One Enriched White Bread
  • Top One Enriched Wholemeal Bread
  • Five Loaves brand has a good variety of vegan bread items (like cinnamon rolls), available at some NTUC finest.

Giant Supermarket (in-house breads, source: accidentallyvegansg):

  • Multi_Grain
  • Flaxseed
  • Charcoal multi-grain
  • Multiseed
  • Walnut bread
  • Sultana

This may not be a complete list. In case I missed out any or the companies change recipes (it happens), always check the ingredients first.

 

3) Traditional Chinese dried goods and medicine (TCM)
shops – VarIED prices


They aren’t just about Chinese medicine and herbs! You will find :

  • Cashews, peanuts, walnuts and similar nut snacks, often at good prices.
  • Various dried fungi like shiitake, wild mushrooms, kelp, seaweed etc.
  • Dried flowers – rose, chrysanthemum, lavender etc.
  • Beans – Dried red bean, kidney beans, green beans etc
  • Grains & Seeds – Barley, millet, oats, lotus seeds, sesame etc
  • Superfoods – Chinese dates, gojiberries, peach gum etc.
  • Convenience foods like instant soy or oat milk, sesame pastes or black sugar ginger tea.

Hock Hua, Eu Yan Sang are the most well-known chains. Smaller shops are also found in most neighbourhoods.

A shelf from Hock Hua.

Prices will depend on the quality of the product or how exotic it is. The morel mushroom in this photo (top left) costs $45 per bottle as it’s a rare delicacy. Common ingredients like green/red beans, peanuts, dried shiitake and kelp are around $2-5 per packet, depending on their grade. TCM shops’ staff are usually knowledgeable about their goods, don’t be shy to ask for recommendations.

 

4) Indian GROCERY shops – Affordable

Legumes, lentils and spices heaven! There’s one in almost every neighbourhood. My fav biryani and curry spice packs are from here. Many dry indian snacks are vegan – can’t resist a $2 pack of muruku!

A shelf from an Indian grocery shop.

Vegetarian products from India are always labeled with this green circle in a square. Just look out for dairy.

 

5) Mustafa – VARIED PRICES

You’ll be surprised at the amount of vegan foods sold at this supermarket on steroids. The maze-like layout, poor organisation, crazy weekend crowds and unhelpful staff can drive one insane. But with prices that are too good to be true and selections unmatched by any other store, braving the madness is worth it.

Vegan groceries there:

  • Singapore’s biggest selection of dates all year round.
  • Huge range of Bob’s Red Mill’s products!
  • Vegan cheese. Over the years they changed brands a few times, from Sheese to Daiya and now they’re selling Violife (2020).
  • Nuttlex and Natura vegan butters. 
  • Non-dairy milks like almond, macadamia, soy, oat milks of various flavours. Also has Califa as of 2020.
  • Instant soy, oat and nut milk powders and cereals.
  • Black salt (kala namak)! And many other condiments.
  • Fry’s faux meats, Linda McCartney and various Chinese mock meats.
  • Various sizes and types of TVPs (textured soy proteins).
  • Nut butters (some with prices that will make iHerb cry) – pistachio, tahini, raw, roasted, blended with cacao, hazelnut chocolate blends, etc.
  • Various canned beans (read: aquafaba), veggies and fruits. They don’t have canned green jackfruit but have fresh ones at the fridge section in veggies & fruit area. Tekka Market nearby also sells fresh green jackfruits.
  • All sorts of nuts and dried fruits.
  • Various flours, grains, organic beans, lentils, quinoa, chia seeds.
  • Wraps – wheat, spelt, oat, rice and gluten-free.
  • Baking section has nutritional yeast, rice/date/maple syrups, cacao nibs, coconut flakes, real vanilla extracts and beans.
  • Interesting Italian dried pasta selection (note: black pasta = squid ink)
  • Huge variety of oils. Avocado, walnut, coconut, herb-infused, etc.
  • Many dark chocolates bars there are vegan.
  • Mind-blowing amount of snacks – chips, seaweeds, local sweets, nuts, nut bars, granola bars, murukus.. I even saw raw kale chips once!
  • Spices – dried, powdered, mixed, in shakers, in grinders, etc.

Shopping there can be overwhelming, so ask a seasoned fellow vegan to guide you there – their staff are the most unhelpful service personnel you can meet. Mustafa sometimes can run out of stock for certain items for months so best to grab it when you see – you never know when it runs out!

 

6) iHerb – Varied price range

Vegan heaven – protein powders, marshmallows, fruit-flavoured B12, nut butters, cosmetics,  shampoos, EVERYTHING! Free shipping to Singapore for orders above USD85! My go-to for items sold too expensive or unavailable here. Here’s a list of links to good stuff I’ve tried and tested:

Use my code ZHB975 to get 10% off your first purchase!

 

7) Local health stores and vegetarian grocery shops – Varied price range

Health stores in Singapore comes in 2 types – Asian and Western. They carry interesting, often healthier and organic niche products (nutritional yeast, gluten-free cookies, etc) not found in mainstream supermarkets.

Cheaper places (mostly Asian groceries):
Most Chinese vegetarian eateries have a grocery shelf with local-style veg foods (斋料) like egg (and dairy) free Chinese New Year cookies, meatless bak kwa and vegan sambal belacan. There are also many Chinese vegetarian groceries hidden in neighbourhoods – check this list or Happy Cow to find one near you!

They often stock various noodles, local condiments (I get sambal and belacan here), dried beans and nuts, preserves, cereals, seaweeds and instant foods (my travel staples!). Check ingredients before buying. 

image
The selection from a vegetarian grocery shop near my house.
  • Fortune Centre – This vegetarian enclave is mainly known for the variety of vegan – friendly food spots. It’s also got a few shops and eateries selling Asian groceries at level 1, 2 and 3.
  • Green Natural – Chinese vegetarian health shop with both Asian and Western health foods.
  • Kian Joo  – A popular Chinese vegetarian grocery shop, part of the small belt of old-school vegetarian businesses along Sims Ave. Carries Asian mock meats, frozen and canned foods, local sauces and health foods. Neighbour to Eastern Highlands veg bakery mentioned above and Kwan In Vegetarian food court (best cheap laksa here!)
  • Redmart – Have a good selection of imported vegan meat and dairy alternatives (Beyond, Gardien, Fry’s etc) but may be sold out by now. Do email them to ask for restock.
  • Mekhala Living – Fair-trade, organic, vegan and gluten-free Southeast Asian sauces, rice, spices and oils. I’m a fan of their delicious Thai-inspired sauces!
  • Nature’s Glory – Mainly organic Asian groceries. Good range of local and imported dried and fresh produce.
  • Phoon Huat – Doesn’t matter if you’re making parfaits or ang ku kueh, they can meet most of your baking and confectionery needs! Carries various flours from rice to gluten-free, nuts, chocolates, extracts and flavourings. Also has a shelf of imported foods with vegan ones (I saw vegan ramen, snack bars and digestives). Gullon brand has many vegan cookies and biscuits. Note that their dairy-free creamer is not vegan and they have no other vegan butters except Crisco (ugh).
  • Sunny Choice – A delicious organic (mostly) vegan eatery that sells Asian health food and organic groceries.
  • Taste Original – Excellent Asian sauces and healthy ramen selection.
  • Yes Natural – Large selection of vegetarian and vegan foods and body care products. Have a vegetarian bakery (vegan options labelled) and restaurant at their Aljunied outlet.
  • Zenxin Organic –  Carries everything from fresh local produce to eco-friendly vegan household cleaners.

A note on Asian mock meats: Many of them contain milk, eggs as cheap binders and they aren’t always clearly labeled. Some untrustworthy suppliers even use animal-based flavourings, but an insider from Agri-Veterinary Authority (AVA) says they DNA test vegetarian mock meats for animal meats. Gluten-based ones (seitan) are the safest as gluten is a strong binder by itself. If the packaging looks dodgy – don’t buy. My advice is to either buy from well-known brands or avoid them completely.

Pricier places (Western groceries):
Carries imported items like organic kale, gluten-free, vegan faux meats, non-dairy cheese, vegan eggs and yogurts. Since they are often flown in frozen or refrigerated, prices can be a shock to those who are from the West.

image
“So what do you drink if you don’t drink cow’s milk??” Fellow vegan Shimin bursting with joy over the abundance of non-dairy milks at Mahota. Thanks for providing the photo!
  • Brown Rice Paradise – Large organic and healthy lifestyle store.
  • eat ORGANIC  – Has vegan meat alternatives.
  • Four Seasons –  High-end and quality imported health foods.
  • Marks and Spencers – Although not as many as the others on this list, they carry some accidentally vegan snacks (gummies, bourbons, digestives etc) which are delicious and quite affordable! Often have clearance sales where a pack can be as low as $2. Vegetarian, dairy and eggs are clearly labeled under diet & allergy information. I’m a huge fan of the chocolate bourbons.
  • Super nature – Large organic and healthy lifestyle store.
  • The Organic Grocer – Imported organic Western groceries and foods.
  • Vitakids – Kids’ health store with lots of vegan products.
  • Little Farms – 2 stores, one in Tanjong Pagar and one in River Valley. I like their coconut yoghurt.

If you’re an expat vegan living here, note that health foods, vegan meat and dairy alternatives available in your home country are sold here at much higher prices. If price is a concern, I encourage you to eat more whole foods and more like a local. Healthier and there’s less food miles too 🙂

8) High-end (atas) supermarkets – Pricier

“Atas” is a Singlish term for expensive, high-end and Western things. The main ones here are NTUC finest, Cold Storage (carries vegan kimchi now!) and Marketplace selling mostly produce and foods from America, Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Every one will have a selection of imported vegan ice creams (So Delicious, Tofutti, Booja Booja etc), faux meats (Fry’s, Gardein etc) and dairy alternatives (Nuttlex, CoYo, Pacific, Silk, Natura etc). They are tasty and often clearly labeled vegan, but pricey and often highly processed. I rarely patronize them as cheaper places are enough to meet my needs. Veg*ns from foreign lands will welcome the familiar sight but not the unfamiliar price – remember, you’re paying for the products’ plane ticket here.

 

9) Vegan bakers – Varied price range

When I started being vegan around 2008 there were almost no vegan bakers..but look at the choices now! Many of them do seasonal bakes like Chinese New Year snacks and Christmas cakes too.

  • Bakening – Free from all grains, gluten, dairy, refined/artificial sugar, soy, additives, gums, colourings and preservatives. Many vegan options available.
  • Smoocht – Famous in the local vegan scene for their handmade ice cream and pizzas; they have a selection of delicious ice cream cakes too.
  • Delia.v – Beautiful and elegant 100% vegan pastries.
  • Delcies’ – The priciest but healthiest bakery with gluten-free, diabetic-friendly, nut and soy-free options. Certified halal, 100% vegan.
  • Eastern Highland Vegetarian Bakery – Promotes themselves as eggless vegetarian but 95% of their bakes are vegan. Main selling points are the affordable price and local old-school nostalgic charm – fluffy buns, sandwich breads, durian rolls and brightly-coloured cakes. Always ask the friendly boss (uncle in singlet) for vegan as not all the staff are knowledgeable.
  • Sayang’s – Home cake baker with 100% vegan, beautifully frosted chocolate cakes, halal-friendly.
  • M Bakery – Vegetarian bakery specialising in local-style sweets and bakes with many vegan options.
  • Well Loft – Rustic, homemade and beautifully flavoured sweets baked with love. Thanks Zenna for the pretty pics!
  • Yes Natural Bakery – Healthy buns, breads, a few cakes with good vegan options, clearly labeled.
  • Vegan Vice – Impressive handmade, from scratch, healthy vegan gelatos. See my review here.

 

10) Vegan Ice Cream & yogurts – Varied price range

Look at this list compiled by local vegan outreach group Animal Allies Singapore. I prefer buying local brands as they can be much cheaper.

If you’re as turned off as me by the prices of non-dairy yogurts here, I wrote about how to make yogurt here. Super easy, no culture starter and machines needed – only a handful of quinoa, water and coconut or soymilk needed!

 

11) Local organic farms

Organic is better for our health, environment and I taste a huge difference in overall quality – sweeter, juicier, more tender and flavourful. I don’t eat full organic due to the cost, but I support local farms sometimes. Supermarket organic produce generally isn’t as fresh as buying direct from farms. Quanfa farm is my current favourite because of their low free delivery quota, you can find a list of local veggie farms here.

 

12) If you need lots of fruits and nuts..

Teck Sang is where you go if you’re nuts about nuts at wholesale prices! Probably the most affordable nuts and dried fruits place in Singapore.

To get all the fruits for your raw or HCLF/RTF/801010 needs, befriend your neighbourhood fruit stall’s sellers. They are usually friendly folks and can give good discounts if you bulk purchase or buy off their almost overripe fruits.

 

13) Bonus: Vegan lifestyle products & services

  • Bubbly Petz is Singapore’s first 100% restraint-free grooming studio that stocks vegan and eco–friendly pet supplies! A family of friendly folks are behind this studio that feels more like a furry babies daycare. Located opposite Loving Hut, one of the best vegan cafes here.
  • Handmade Heroes is another 100% locally-grown vegan brand that sells handmade quality skin care products. Shampoos, scrubs, face masks and lip care items – the perfect gift for your vegan friend!
  • Julian is a tattoo artist who uses vegan ink!
  • Luke Tan is a Singaporean vegan bodybuilder and does physical training and coaching tailored to vegans’ needs.
  • Kinokuniya and library@orchard has a great selection of vegan cookbooks in their culinary section.

 

Lastly, reading labels is a must

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No one will judge you for reading ingredients on a pack of food because Singaporeans mind their own business. There are sneaky animal products in the form of food additives and emulsifiers (E numbers) lurking in many processed foods. A handy app is Animal-Free or simply Google the strange-sounding names. For E numbers, check against here.

Here are some examples:

  • Cochineal/Carmine/Natural red colouring – Red food colouring made from crushed red insects.
  • Isinglass – Fish bladder extract used to distill alcoholic drinks.
  • Rennet – Cow’s stomach lining extract used in cheeses.
  • Gelatine – Gelling agent made from melted animal bones used in gummies.
  • Vitamin D3 – Sheep’s wool or fish liver extract often added in juice.
  • Bone char – Animal bones, a slaughterhouse by-product used in sugar refining process to make white sugar. Widely used local brand SIS is bone char free. When in doubt, use unrefined sugar.
  • Castoreum – Fake vanilla flavouring usually called ‘natural vanilla flavours’. Extracted from beaver anal glands.

Next > How to eat out in a social setting?

34 responses to “How to Be a Herbivore in Singapore Part 4 – shopping for groceries!”

  1. Thank you so much for this! This has got me excited about moving back to Singapore soon 😀
    I appreciate all the hard work you put into it ❤

    Like

    1. Hi Wayde thank you so much! Hope your move back here is smooth 🙂

      Like

  2. THIS POST IS SO SO SO AMAZING!!! Thank u!!

    Like

    1. Thanks for visiting!

      Like

  3. Hi! I’m just moving to Batam, Indonesia. I’m a newbie vegan and love your blog and IG. I’m wondering to go for a grocery shopping in Mustafa Centre.
    Could you brief me a hint? Is it the one inside Mustafa Centre?
    How about Iherb? Is it an online store? Thank you so much.

    Regards,
    Maya

    Like

    1. Hi there thanks for visiting! Mustafa’s groceries are at level 2. you’ll need a lot of patience and time navigating in there so try to avoid weekends and weekday nights. iherb.com is an online store, it takes about a week to deliver to singapore 🙂

      Like

  4. […] (Note: The costs I talk about are taken from major supermarkets mostly around the east area where I live. There are cheaper prices for these groceries as I learned from another local plant-based blogger. Do check out this very helpful guide.)  […]

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing your blog and for linking my site! lovely to see a new vegan blogger in SG 🙂

      Like

  5. Thank You for the Vegan groceries info!

    After reading some info about Dr.Sebi, I plan to transit into a plant-based diet in coming weeks and then to full vegan in 2018.

    May i know is there any shop in SG that sell Hemp Milk?

    Like

    1. Hi! I’m so happy to hear that, all the best for your plant based journey! Unfortunately hemp foods are not allowed to be sold in SG, but you may get it from iherb.com. So far i’ve not heard of any issues shipping hemp items to SG.

      Like

  6. Do you know of any market or any place that sells cheaper western greens like spinach, kale, etc? Just asking ☺️

    Like

    1. spinach is a local veggie too, so you can buy those at wet markets, usually grown locally or from Malaysia. Those brands that are packaged nicely and imported are basically the same vegetable but much pricier. I’ve never seen a cheaper kale tho!

      Like

  7. You, my friend, are a saviour!!! I can’t even tell you how helpful this post is for me ❤

    Like

    1. Most welcome!

      Like

  8. Where is the like button?

    Like

    1. Thanks for visiting! You can “like” it on my facebook :).

      Like

  9. Thanks for this post! Really helpful!!

    Like

    1. most welcome! 🙂

      Like

  10. fking hero!!!! Thanks alot!

    Like

    1. such passion! most welcome 🙂

      Like

  11. Woahh this is so informative! I’m moving to SG soon and I’m so happy there’s actually a lot of places to shop from which aren’t that expensive!

    Like

    1. glad to be of help!

      Like

  12. Can you pls add a section about each item and where you find it in Mustafa. I know some may not be in stock, but pls try your best?

    Like

    1. Unfortunately that requires lots of time and effort, especially Mustafa is quite messy and they move items around sometimes. Like always, will try my best but i have a full time job. hope you understand.

      Like

  13. Incredible post! Impressive amount of information- Thanks for putting it together. I am about to start a plant- based diet and now after reading your post I believe it will be easier to implement. Thanks!

    Like

    1. Hi Katerina, Thank you so much , I am glad it has helped you . All the best on your journey and feel free to let me know if you have any further questions 🙂

      Like

  14. Hi, the bread talk breads all contain dairy and eggs. Confirmed from the employee & he showed me their allergen list. If you want I can send you the photo of the pages

    Like

    1. thanks for the update! they might have changed recipe since then. i will edit accordingly.

      Like

  15. HI Everyone! I just want to find out about SIS refined white sugar are vegan?

    Like

  16. Salute to the hard work of the writer from a fellow vegan ! I am a hard core vegan, living in Singapore for almost 6 years never once bent my rules to please my taste buds as many of my other vegan friends do upon coming overseas,

    This post is great ! 👍👍👍👍will help many.
    One small point To be noted is while checking bread or biscuits or cereals, one must also avoid “fortified flours” or any added Vitamins minerals etc as most vitamin supplements are animal based.
    Hence the only vegan bread I ever found is the one without any niacin riboflavin etc etc, the I new which use plain flour, Country loaves and five loaves brand ones mentioned here.

    Like

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! Btw Sunshine and gardenia had confirmed that they don’t use animal based additives 🙂

      Like

  17. I have recently moved from London to Singapore and this list is a lifesaver for vegans in SG!! Thank you so much for putting this together!

    Like

    1. hope you’re having a great time here. Glad to be of help and thank you for visiting!

      Like

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