London has recently overtaken Berlin to be named the ‘Vegan Capital of the World’. Take a tour round the streets of East London in particular and it’s easy to see why. Moving here after a year of struggling to find animal-free food in Latin America, I was inundated with signs for vegan food and plant-based fare on every street.
From Shoreditch’s hipster central to the resplendent junk fare in Hackney, it’s a haven for every hungry vegan, and also home to Vegan Nights, the UK’s only monthly vegan event that turns into a dance night later on. The list of venues is endless, but here are a few of the top places to visit if you’re in the area:
Boxpark is stereotypical millennial central, but this means a plethora of interesting eats, many of which are vegan. Once home to the (sometimes in-)famous CookDaily, which has now moved to Hackney, it maintains a surprising number of vegan options under one roof.
EatChay, known for it’s bao buns and Bánh mìs (below) sits alongside Biff’s Jack Shack, a ‘filthy vegan junk food’ place where you can get realistic chicken wings in multiple fiery sauce options, as well as some seriously stacked burgers.
If you’re nursing a hangover, there’s none better than What the Pitta to serve you up a feast of mock-donor wrap stuffed with fake donor meat, salad, and tahini. It’s a beast but it’s so worth it.
If you fancy something on the sweeter side, Nosteagia also offers several vegan options of its iconic bubble cones. This is a really intense treat if you’re feeling pudding for lunch, or otherwise a seriously scrummy snack to share with a friend.
Brick Lane is generally known for its curry mile, but the area is waking up to the surrounding vegalution. While many of the curry houses now explicitly advertise vegan options, it’s also home to multiple all-vegan places including VeganYes, a curious Italian/Korean fusion. Mooshie’s burger bar is definitely worth a visit, with a big selection to suit your vurger tastes. Canvas Cafe is a wonderful vegan cafe-cum-social project that offers mental health support groups, creative sessions, and the chance to gift a meal to someone who can’t afford one.
On the sweeter side of life, Vida Bakery sells VEGAN RAINBOW CAKE, (hallo, snowflake heart attack)! Also worth knowing is the fact that Crosstown doughnuts does multiple vegan options.
On a non-food note, Fifth Dimension is also a friendly vegan tattoo place. It’s also home to the Boiler House weekend market, which usually has multiple vegan options, and of course, Vegan Nights.
Is an event that usually takes place once a month, on the
first Thursday of the month, though this can vary. The first time I walked into
vegan nights, my mind was blown. It was the biggest vegan market I’d ever seen,
with the most incredible spread of stalls offering food from around the world,
and I knew I didn’t have to ingredient-check any of it.
Apart from fresh, hot food and cakes there are also stalls like KindaCo that sell artisan cheese you can take home to enjoy the next day, and ethical products like soy wrap (to substitute for cling film) and vegan fashion.
As the night warms up and the drinks are flowing, it turns
into a dance-night with inevitable dance offs, and if you’re very lucky, the
chance to meet another tasty vegan.
Also in the area
…and worth noting are Essential Vegan Cafe, which has a really nice vibe if you just want to sit and work for a while with an oat latte and delicious cake. Vurger is, IMHO, the best vegan burger in London.
Lollipop in Spitalfields is great, and there are also various options in the Spitalfields Market itself- including Merkamo Ethiopian, a favourite lunchtime treat. If you fancy something healthy, Redemption offer the most beautiful and filling Buddha bowls, non-alcoholic beverages and desserts.
Newer haunts include the expensive but TOTALLY SICK Genesis, which serves milkshakes that are pure chocolate fudge, deep-fried avocado tacos as well as healthier options like turmeric-roasted cauliflower. Unity Diner was set up as a non-profit by vegan god Earthling Ed. While I’ve only been for a coffee, the menu looks amazing, and given the amount of hate it has got from anti-vegan protesters, we should all totally be supporting this business.
The Black Cat Cafe was the first all vegan cafe I went to in London and I’m so glad I did. Another social project run by volunteers (damn these vegans are all good humans), it also has affordable prices and a super chill and friendly atmosphere.
Temple of Seitan is where London’s vegan junk scene started. With it’s mock wings, stacked burgers, and seriously fatty mac n cheez, it’s the perfect place for when you’re feeling wicked. Another bit of home comfort can be found at Sutton and Sons, which made headlines as the first all-vegan fish and chip shop.
CookDaily (mentioned earlier) has re-homed to Hackney where you can still get all the old favourites, including noodles, curries, and a good old English breakfast. I have a bit of a weakness for this place and can’t stop going back.
The Spread Eagle is an all vegan pub and another headline-grabber. Home to former street-food vendor Club Mexicana, their popularity is not surprising. I love their light but tasty tacos, washed down with a vegan cider, and the staff are as ever for this sort of place, cool, friendly, and alternative.
No doubt, if you have landed in East London you’ve landed on
your feet as far as finding vegan grub is concerned. So what do you think?
Which are your favourites? Did I miss anywhere? Do get in touch and let me
know- I’m always looking to try new things.
Thailand is a haven for vegan eating on a budget. Or at
least it would be if it wasn’t for that damn fish sauce in everything.
I love street food, and no doubt it helps you to save your money for the really exciting things when you travel. In Bangkok, though, with the exception of the mango sticky rice (below) that is sold on every street corner for 30-40 baht (making a delicious breakfast for less than £1), by and large I was unable to trust that seemingly vegan street food really was.
No problem, though- there is no shortage of vegan and
vegetarian restaurants where you can be sure what you’re getting is not only
fish free but delicious.
My number one recommendation for Bangkok is May Kaidee. This is a vegetarian restaurant and cooking school that also has locations in Chiang Mai and New York. The first time I visited I was ravenous after a long plane journey. I decided to start my trip with a classic Pad Thai. Because I was hungry I also got a ‘starter’ of deep fried tofu in peanut sauce.
It was phenomenal value, not least because when my ‘starter’
came it looked like this!
Huge! And for about £1.50. The deep fried tofu was perfect –
crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, and the peanut sauce, wow.
The Pad Thai also really hit the spot. And for two huge courses (that meant I didn’t need to eat for a good twelve hours) with a couple of beers it only set me back around £7.50!
Take their cooking class
I would also strongly recommend their cooking class if you have the time to take an afternoon out. After tasting the food I signed up for one the next day and spent a hugely enjoyable afternoon learning how to make Tom Yum soup, Massamam curry, Pad Thai, and mango sticky rice. Then I didn’t need to eat again for another twelve hours after staggering back for a nap!
The teacher was incredibly funny and upbeat and made what would otherwise have been a nice enough afternoon one of my favourite parts of the trip. Although it’s a vegetarian cooking school they can easily make the food vegan if you let them know by using coconut instead of egg.
My other favourite haunt, Ethos, is just a few doors up. What was wonderful about this place is the extremely chill vibe they have created. Close to the main strip but tucked down a quiet alley, it’s an oasis of calm that serves up smoothies, salad bowls, and Thai dishes that are guaranteed to be vegan. You sit on giant cushions that are sprawled around the low tables. There’s a bookcase and a constant stream of friendly nomads to keep you entertained if you fancy a couple of hours of down time. I recommend the smoothies and the homemade tempeh with peanut sauce.
I’d heard great things about Mango but I must say I was disappointed. I had forsaken my favourite breakfast of mango sticky rice because I was preparing for a day of sight-seeing and a long journey and wanted something that filled me up.
However, I found the service slow, and the food unremarkable. I decided to go for a ‘chocolate smoothie bowl’ with granola and fruit that I hoped would be substantial but quick. As a solo traveller I was completely ignored while the owner tended to the needs of couples around. I actually had to seek them out to place my order after being ignored for twenty five minutes and then at the end to even attempt to pay.
It took an hour to get in and out which would have been fine if the food was fantastic, but when it arrived it, although it looked insta-worthy in its presentation it turned out to be a small fruit salad with a thimble-full of a chocolate drink and some cheap cereal bites that you can buy on the street for about 10 baht. This cost over £6. Total waste of money and time, and the attitude annoyed me too.
Perhaps I just got a bad day and bad luck because other people’s meals looked fantastic, and it generally gets rave reviews. If you’re only there for a short time I’d recommend May Kaidee or Ethos over here in a heartbeat. Or better yet, be braver than me and push more street stalls to make you something vegan!
San Francisco has a reputation for liberal thought and
progressive values. It’s therefore no surprise that it is also a leading light in
vegan cuisine. From bowl-themed health and wellness inspired cafes to veganised
Asian dishes and some serious junk, you could eat in a different place in San
Francisco for a month before you ran out of options. Here are a few of my favourites:
For the health
Nourish Café is your best bet for giant bowls of wholesome goodness. They’re a little on the pricey side but they’re gargantuan enough that you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day. The original nourish bowl is stuffed with quinoa, yams, avocado, sprouts, hummus, cucumber, mixed greens, tomatoes, beet sauerkraut, sunflower seeds, hemp dressing, and I added mock marinated tuna as a topping for extra protein.
Another great choice was the bibimbap bowl with tofu,
carrot, pepper, avo, cabbage, bean sprouts, mixed leases, cucumber, cherry
tomatoes and jasmine rice. Tip: If you’re going with a friend and
fancy a sweet treat in the form of a smoothie-bowl or one of their raw cakes
afterwards, maybe split both to save enough room (unless you’re feeling extra
hungry). They also sell health drinks including kombucha on tap.
If you’re venturing along the coast, Café del Soul in Santa
Rosa also does an amazing array of vegan salads and this seriously green ‘hummus
If you’re craving a brunch that will fuel you for a day of sight-seeing, Andana Fuara is your best spot for breakfast burritos, vegan huevos rancheros, French toast, and giant stacks of pancakes.
For when you’re on
Ike’s sandwich shop can be found in multiple locations both in San Francisco and if you’re venturing out in the rest of California. It’s worth noting it as a stop-in on a road-trip since options on the road can be limited. They have a huge menu of vegan sandwich options with mock meats. My favourite were the ‘turkey’, mozzarella and avocado, and the ‘go sharks’, with mock chicken, buffalo wing sauce, lettuce and tomato.
Gracias Madre has an authentic vibe, killer cocktails, and sources all of its organic ingredients locally. I got the Flautas de Camote with sweet potatoes, caramelized onion, guacamole, cashew nacho cheese and black beans, with a side of margariiittaaaa!
For the best Asian
San Francisco has a huge Asian influence in its food and culture
as it became home to migrants from China and Japan in the 1900s. The fusion of
this and the hippie vibe means that you can get some of the most authentic and
incredible eats in vegan versions all over the place!
Indochine’s pot-sticker dumplings were the perfect combination of crisp, doughy, and flavourful. Their signature clay-pot with mock prawn is also a must-try dish.
Golden Era is one of the top-rated vegan Chinese places and for good reason. The ‘lemongrass deluxe’ is one of their specialities with mock chicken and broccoli in a spicy lemongrass sauce. I really enjoyed the fried bananas with soy chocolate ice cream for dessert. Better yet, they’re extremely affordable, so if your wallet needs a break from some of this city’s high prices it’s a good spot for a bargain dinner.
Mister Jiu’s is not a vegan spot but it has several vegan options and is simply put the best Chinese I have ever eaten in my life. This sort of place would normally be way out of my price range, but if you’re lucky enough to have a friend to treat you or if your wallet is bigger than mine it is well worth forking out a bit more for this kind of taste experience. There’s no greasy ‘vegetable chow mein’ here. We munched through fluffy mushroom bao buns, Szechuan tofu, carrot and peanut noodles, bok choi, and my surprise favourite dish, crispy scarlet turnip cakes. The cocktails also pack a punch.
For sushi, you have to go to Shizen. At risk of sounding repetitive this was the best sushi I have had in my life! I never used to be into sushi since I stopped eating fish as a kid and previously vegan versions were pretty bland. The game has upped, particularly in London, over the last few years as the demand for both Japanese and vegan food has increased, but I’ve never had anything like these sushi rolls. Even my ardent carnivore friend was impressed! The rolls we tried were:, ‘secret smile’ with sweet potato tempura, avocado, spicy tofu, roasted pepper, sesame mustard and seaweed pearls. Then: ‘secret weapon’ with marinated eryngii mushroom, avo, spicy shredded tofu, pickled jalapeño, pickled pineapple, sweet shoyu and habanero sauce. Finally, the ‘colonel’s pipe’, with smoked beets, cashews, creamy tofu, asparagus, avo, sweet mustard, and orange zest.
For something a bit different:
Ethiopian food has surged in popularity in the trendy corners of London in the last year. It also makes a splash in San Francisco. I’ve got really obsessed with it recently since it’s delicious, naturally vegan, affordable and so healthy. This veggie banatu combo from Tadu Ethiopian included a delicious stew (top left) I’d never had before. It was a huuuuge meal for a bargain price.
For serious junk:
Another non-vegan place, but a good one to check out in non-vegan company, Tony’s is known as the best pizza in San Fran for good reason. Better yet, the chef has started to include vegan cheese as an option on the vegetarian pizzas to veganise them! Unfortunately when I went they had run out, but I still really enjoyed a cheese-less feast with crunchy fried onions and scallions. Tip: better than the pizza was the fried dough ball starter. Giant crispy but fluffy light dough balls you could crack open and stuff with a bruschetta veg mix. I think I died and went to carbed our heaven!
If you’re in Haight Ashbury and you’ve got the munchies, Vegan Burg does some pretty satisfying burgers. My standards for vurgers are pretty high after spending a year sampling the best Shoreditch has to offer, and IMHO these weren’t quite up to the standard of Vurger or Mooshies. The BBQ burger was a bit bland, but I really enjoyed the fake fish with tartar sauce for something a bit different. It was crunchy, sour, and satisfying.
So all in all this is why I left San Francisco a few pounds heavier! Have I missed anything? Feel free to get in contact and let me know your favourite foodie finds there.
It seems like EVERYONE is talking about veganism right now.
A once niche market is exploding everywhere – not just in hipster spots in Shoreditch, but
every high street in the UK and every supermarket is bursting with vegan food,
products, magazines, you name it. It’s hard to say right now whether the UK is
more divided over Brexit or the new Gregg’s vegan sausage roll (though I expect
there is a high correlation between each side on both issues). I’ve been vegan
full time for over a year now, and I was in transition and mostly vegan for the
year before that. But why?
Well, apart from enjoying looking smugly down my nose at everyone
else (obvs) and the added bonus of knowing our very existence raises the blood
pressure of Piers Morgan on a daily basis, there are some really solid reasons
why so many people have made the transition, turning veganism from a fringe
movement to a full on vegalution within just a few years.
I should just say in advance that I don’t judge anyone for eating meat and dairy (although I obviously don’t like it). We have all grown up eating this way and it’s all we’ve ever been told is normal, natural, and until recently all that has been available in a Western diet. There are so many things that are messed up in the way we’re accustomed to living out lives that we don’t see the behind -the -scenes of, and this is just one of them. I was guilty for years, even as someone who was vegetarian since childhood ‘for the animals’ of being blind, and then resistant to knowing, how abusive the dairy industry was because I really loved cheese (and god, I’m not too holier- than-thou to admit that I miss it). I didn’t want to give it up, or to have my life made any more difficult when I felt I already went out of my way enough to ‘do the right thing’. But now this choice is getting easier and ever, and the reasons for it, when I read about them, were too compelling to ignore. So here we go:
The animals.Dairy is scary. Milk and eggs are natural by-products which animals need to get rid of anyway, right? So animals don’t die for dairy? Wrong.
To produce milk, cows, like humans, have to have recently given birth – it doesn’t just naturally come out of them all the time. So, to maintain a supply of milk dairy farms have to forcibly inseminate cows (which is basically inter-species rape). Like human mothers, the cow brings her baby to term, gives birth, bonds with the baby. The baby is then taken away from her so that humans can take the milk that was made for them. Baby boys are killed, baby girls are bred into the same system of abuse. The mother cow mourns the loss of her child just as we would. Can you imagine having your baby taken away from you? She is then pumped with hormones and her milk is taken from her for the next few months. Then she is impregnated again, her baby is taken away again, and the system repeats. There is no ethical milk, no such thing as free-range. Cow’s milk was never meant for human consumption. Why would we consider drinking milk from other animals (cats? pigs?) to be gross, but assume that cow’s milk is meant for us?
While there are scales of abuse in the industry, and supposedly UK farms conform to higher welfare standards than the rest of the world (though I’ve seen some horrendous videos of treatment of animals in UK dairy farms), there is just no way to produce milk without actively engaging in this process of abuse. ‘Organic’ does not mean ethical. Cows can naturally live for 20 years, but in the dairy industry she will only make it until six before her abused body is worn out and she is culled for meat. Not so natural after all. Realising this fact also helped me to understand vegetarianism is an illogical position; by consuming dairy, you are contributing to the meat industry even if you think you’re boycotting it.
And what about eggs? They’re chicken periods, right? So they come out all the time without harming the bird? Well, yes, if you have a pet chicken. But we go through 32 million eggs every day in the UK. To feed this drive, chickens are bred to lay hundreds of eggs per year, whereas in the wild they would have around 12, about the same amount a human female has a period to maintain a reproductive system. And more birds are needed, so hundreds of thousands of baby chicks are born every day. The cute yellow fluffy things, right? But what use are the boys, who will never give eggs? None. So the male chicks are killed by the most convenient way possible, which can include gassing, or even being thrown into a giant blender. Yes, seriously. There is no such thing as ‘free range’ – this happens at a ‘happy egg company’ and it happens at all large scale egg companies. And even if you say you only buy locally – will you check every item you ever buy and eat that has eggs in it? Every cake, every pastry, every shop-bought sandwich on the run? The only way to not participate in this abuse is to get out of eating eggs completely.
The environment. There is a building body of conclusive scientific evidence demonstrating that the meat industry is the highest contributor to climate change, is a huge factor in wide-scale destruction of the rainforests, and is not sustainable for long-term food production. A plant-based diet is the only diet which can produce enough food for everyone without destroying the planet. What about soy being damaging to the environment? I’m asked all the time. Actually, the VAST majority of soy (about 75%) is produced for cattle feed. Which produces less calories and contributes even further to carbon emissions. If we took out the cows, we would need less soy because we could produce more food for more people with the same resources. Climate change is already causing devastation, loss of livelihood, and taking lives around the world every day through extreme weather and destruction of resources. We cannot afford to be flippant about this. Going vegan is the best thing you can personally do to contribute to reducing climate-change right now, and if we don’t, we seem to be very close to hitting a crisis point soon where it actually becomes necessary to avoid extinction.
Reducing extreme poverty and malnutrition worldwide. If skipping meat for more meals meant you could make sure someone else doesn’t go hungry, isn’t that the easiest way for the average person to contribute to end global food poverty? Meat production being a less effective use of resources is not just theory, it is a large part of the reason why there are so many people dying of malnutrition on our planet right now, while others have an excess of calories. (Here are some other reasons). SO much more land is needed for breeding animals, for meat which is exported for wealthier people to eat. A report in this scientific journal demonstrates that a meat-based diet uses 160 times the resources of a plant-based one. So, for every one hundred people that go plant-based, the resources could be freed for up to 16,000 more people to have enough to eat.
Health. There’s a myth that you need to eat meat and dairy to be healthy and maintain a balanced diet that fulfils all your nutritional needs. Not only is this not true, but meat products, particularly red meat and processed foods, have now been recognised by the World Health Organisation and cancer charities as carcinogenic. There is a clear link between eating meat and getting bowel cancer, the second deadliest cancer in the UK. It increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18% and pre -menopausal breast cancer by 22%, as well as pancreatic and prostate cancer.
Meat and dairy are also very high in
saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and erectile
dysfunction. In fact, scientific studies have shown that high meat intake
directly contributes to developing type 2 diabetes.
So not only does it kill the planet to produce it, it’s actually killing you
too. And people say vegans are extreme…
But what about dairy? We’ve been told our
whole lives to drink milk, that dairy is good for you and full of calcium. But
the reality is, cow’s milk is produced biologically to make little cows grow up
fast. It’s not meant for humans. Which means that by ingesting cow’s milk (a
baby cow growth formula), we actually ingest a huge whack of hormones that are
not meant for our species. It’s not really surprising that so many people are
‘lactose intolerant’. As the saying goes, you’re not lactose intolerant, you’re
just not a baby cow, bro.
So what of the alternatives? The protein
question is one I’m asked all the time. The good news is, it’s incredibly easy
to get enough protein as a vegan. Animals that people eat for protein actually
have to get their protein from somewhere too – plants.
We can just skip going through an animal to get it. Apart from the
booming market in meat substitutes, there are all natural and high-nutrient
foods like beans (kidney, black, edamame, uduki, soy etc.), pulses like
chickpeas and lentils, nuts, seeds, and nut butters, and even peas, rice, and
oats actually contain a surprising amount of protein, and are very low in
saturated fat, particularly compared to meat protein. Calcium is found in a
huge array of leafy green
veg as well as fortified foods. The only thing you can’t get in a vegan
diet is B12 – but I just take a supplement
and that’s that. Easy. I’ve never eaten a more healthy, nutrient dense diet and
I consume considerably less saturated fat.
It’s more accessible and cheaper than ever before. There was a time when being vegan meant your only option when eating out was a side-salad or chips, and making the choice was a real sacrifice that made eating socially really difficult. This is no longer the case. I admit that it is only since the vegan movement started to boom in 2016/7 that I decided it was easy enough to hop on board by trying Veganuary thinking it would be just a ‘one month challenge’, but when I realised how easy it was, I made it permanent. The majority of restaurants now cater to vegans and will help if they don’t have something on their menu already.
The fact that it’s gone mainstream means it’s also cheaper than ever. The idea that a vegan diet is only for pretentious middle-class people is a myth. Doesn’t everyone deserve to eat well? The majority of naturally vegan foods are cheap anyway (I eat a lot of oats, rice, veg, beans, chickpeas). However, if you are into substitutes (I love a big burger or fake fish finger every now and then), these are now either at or close to price parity with animal products. Case point, I have a vegan friend who only earns £10k a year! If you think about it, meat and cheese are actually really expensive, so you might find eating more vegan meals helps rather than hurts your wallet.
It’s delicious. There’s no reason why in this day and age eating vegan means just soggy soy and brown rice. I don’t find it a sacrifice, and if anything I’m eating better and more interesting food than ever. Going vegan has inspired me to expand my cooking repertoire and try loads of new recipes and ingredients I’d never heard of before. From seitan to nooch, jackfruit, banana blossom, and almond butter, there’s a world of food to discover.
And speaking of the world, given my love of
travel, it’s been really exciting to try local vegan food as I roam the planet,
diversifying my palette and showing that there really are a million different
takes on a plant-based cuisine. I hope that this blog and my linked Instagram account
will inspire others by showcasing how to eat and travel vegan, with some
serious food porn along the way. Going
vegan is no longer a sacrifice, it’s just a way of living to reduce suffering,
in accordance with our planet’s limits, that still means you can eat an
incredible array of amazing grub every day – and live longer, too.
So why not try it? Even if it’s for just a
month, a week, or trying a new recipe or menu item here and there,
incorporating more vegan food into the global diet will do wonders.
When I said I was going to Iceland, a lot of people got wide
eyed when they remembered my veganism. What
are you going to eat?! Ice?
I guess it has a reputation for having a diet heavy with fish and meat, and that may be so. However, was pleasantly extremely surprised how easy it was to be vegan in Iceland. Particularly in the capital of Reykjavik, it is a well-established concept. Beyond that, though, I was still really taken aback that a lot of the service stations and supermarkets as we got further out into the sticks not only had vegan options, but they were clearly labelled to avoid doubt. Winning!
Now, two things to say about eating on an Iceland holiday. First of all, you’re probably going to spend most of the time on the road, which means cooking for yourself on a campstove. This makes things easier in that you can cook your own recipes from scratch with naturally vegan ingredients (beans, rice, pasta, veggies), and apart from this, the main supermarket that you will see everywhere (Bonus) does your whole line of vegan substitutes- milks, yoghurts, burgers, mince etc. One morning feeling particularly extravagant I even made some vegan blueberry pancakes (pictured). However, this leads to point two- everything is VERY expensive. A shop for one week of main meals cost a fearful amount, and we had to keep topping up on fresh veggies as we went.
Because of this, a lot of people in the know had brought
their own veggies and pasta etc. with them. As I’d flown on the most budget
flight possible, I didn’t really have enough luggage to do this. It wasn’t quite as bad as I was expecting given
the rep Iceland has for being expensive in general, but with the cost of also
renting your cooking equipment if you don’t have it, don’t go thinking that
because it’s a camping trip it’s going to be a budget holiday.
However- I was really pleased to find that if you needed it, the options were generally available. One particularly good campsite (at Skaftafell National Park) had several vegan dinner options in the café as well as two kinds of cake. The exception to this is in some of the further out places, where it’s worth ensuring you are stocked up with hummus, bread, and other picnic items before venturing, because even if there were vegan options available in the one café in some of the far-off stretches of road (and there generally weren’t), it will cost you about £17 for a soup. Also, it’s just too damn pretty to sit inside.
In Reykjavik, however, (probably at the start and end of your trip) you’ll be made up. Eat Co has two locations and is the perfect lunch stop for huge, healthy salad bowls, smoothies, almond lattes, and all other kinds of good-for-you hipster grub. After eating limited fresh veggies during the week due to the cost, it was great to stuff our faces with these once we got back to civilisation.
The best spot for a dinner out is undoubtedly Kaffi Vinyl.
Taking hipster chic to the next level, this place is a chilled-vibe, low-key
vegan restaurant, jazz café and record shop all in one. The prices are higher
than at home but not bad for Iceland, and for it we got a huge bowl of
delicious noodles and an Oumph! Teriyaki bowl, with a fairly priced house wine.
If that doesn’t already warm your snowflake heart, they also sell a range of
feminist and gender queer stickers. Yay!
So go forth to Iceland vegan friends, without fear of only
eating moss. Unless you want to try the traditional moss schnapps, but from
experience I would say probably DON’T 😉
Nicaragua is undoubtedly the hardest place on my Latin American adventure to be a vegetarian or vegan- the former is a barely grasped concept, and veganism really barely exists. That said, there have been some fantastic spots I’ve been while roaming the country with delicious, healthy food. Unfortunately because it is mostly gringos that go there, the prices are a lot higher than the average food in a local comedor, and I’ve mostly eaten in.
Being gringoville, Granada is an easy place to find vegan food. Although there aren’t any specialist places, most of the cafes and restaurants offer something. The Garden Café is a haven with a vegan salad comprising of cucumber, tomato, onion, leaves, hummus, chickpeas, grains, flaked almonds and pitta. They also do a chunky hummus and avo sandwich. Pita, pita also does a hummus falafel salad plate, though at great expense.
In Managua, the amazing Ola Verde has a huge range of delicious options including this lentil moussaka with an amazing cashew cheese topping. Portions are a bit small for the price, but they also have a deli counter selling the sexiest tomato hummus, natural peanut butter, tofu, and pots of pre-made couscous salads, marinaded tofu, proper dark chocolate etc. For other staples head to whole food shop La Naturaleza, which is basically the only place you will find a good range of soy based burgers, smoked tofu, and other healthy things. The bookshop Hispamer has a gorgeous café which is a haven in the city which serves the best smoothies ever and an amazing quinoa salad, which you can ask for sin queso. A bit out of town but near to my house was the Restaurante Andana, worth a cheap taxi ride for a low-cost, local style vegetarian buffet meal, which when I went included the usual gallo pinto, plantains, salad, and a veggie burger. They also do a big range of salads and smoothies.
If you are thinking of doing Spanish lessons, the beautiful La Mariposa eco hotel and Spanish school is set less than an hour out of the city in the small town of La Concha and includes vegetarian, organic, home-grown food as part of the bundled price.
In Leon head to the beautiful Casa Abierta, the most peaceful eco-hostel with a lovely relaxing vibe. Or if you’re just there for the day, still drop into their restaurant which has an all vegetarian, and largely vegan menu including salads, burritos, pastas, and really unusual smoothies. I had the falafel salad with the best vegan mayo- or if you are a veggie, my friend had the goat’s cheese topped with cashews which was also delicious, especially paired with a colibri smoothie of fresh orange, passionfruit, and basil.
Though I generally prefer independent places to chains, Casa Del Café, which is omnipotent in Managua, does an exceptionally affordable lunch menu where you can get a salad, soup, and drink for just $5 which is great when you’re on the run or need an easy, cheap place to go. Their chia pudding is also creamy and immensely satisfying. It’s also worth knowing the supermarket La Colonia does a breakfast for just 45 cordobas (just over $1) which includes gallo pinto and a tortilla (which is vegan) or if you are a veggie, also a fried egg, and a slab of Nica cheese, with a coffee.
On the whole it’s not easy- I tried to explain in multiple ways not eating meat and still got served ham- but if you can find the right places, there’s lots to choose from in Nicaragua and supporting those business supports a better, healthier, and more sustainable lifestyle- so go for it!
Costa Rica is possibly one of the most progressive countries in the world: last year, 100% of energy supplied to homes was from renewable sources, it has no army, a University of Peace, endless eco-projects, a focus on green tourism… and so naturally it also has a large veggie/vegan population. Although the average meal will cost considerably more than in other Latin American countries, the towns have an undeniably hippie vibe, and there are a plethora of little veggie and vegan cafes and restaurants to get stuck into.
Dominical is one of many such little surfer beach towns I visited on my travels, and although all the restaurants offered veggie options something kept drawing me back to Café Mono Congo. With an enormous menu of both veggie and vegan choices of various tastes, there was something for everyone. I became addicted to their giant breakfast burritos: stuffed with rice, beans, avocado, plantain, salsa picante, and a choice of egg or tofu, and optional cheese.
They also had a zesty quinoa salad, smoky bean stew, lasagna stuffed with veggies, curry, vegan beers and cider (god I’ve missed cider), fresh smoothies, incredible coffee, and a huge fridge full of brownies, buns, tartlets and other treats. Next door was the best health food shop I’ve seen in my travels, packed to the gills with tofu/seitan meats, hummus, baba ganoush, vegan cheese, fresh local fruit and veg, wholegrains, pulses, natural treatments and anything else the ethical grocery shopper might ever dream of.
Mandala was sadly the only restaurant I had time to visit in the vast array of veggie places in San Jose, but I was not disappointed by the unusually delicate tasting (and hard to find) Thai curry. They also made the best natural lemonade (served in a hipster jar, but forgivable for the flavour).
In Montezuma, which I think may be my spiritual home, every restaurant has awesome veggie options including hummus, falafel, curries, salads etc. and so most of the time I didn’t even have to bother looking for veggie restaurants. Although it was tasty, I was slightly disappointed with the rather expensive salad at Café Organico, but they do host live music some evenings so it’s worth checking out.
The best surprise here was that the ice cream place Ice Dream which, as well as selling some delish looking dairy free sorbets, makes these vegan tofu veggie rolls which are both incredible looking and tasting- especially with the peanut dipping sauce!
In Santa Teresa, you can’t miss having lunch at Olam Pure Food. I wanted to eat everything on the menu, but being slightly hungover ordered the vegan pizza. What I got I wouldn’t exactly call a pizza- the wholegrain crust was tasty but decidedly not bread, and the tofu cheese was soft rather than melty- but nevertheless it was delicious and satisfying, and all natural.
Tamarindo was my final stop, and at Pura Vegan I ate the best red Thai curry of my life: the first genuinely spicy thing I’d had in months, rich and full of flavour, I couldn’t stop eating but I didn’t want it to end. I’m genuinely sad now thinking how I will never get to eat it again.
Given that at home my diet is mostly made up of hummus and gin, I was delighted to address the chronic hummus deficiency I’ve suffered from while travelling at the Falafel Bar, which I visited multiple times to have variations of falafel, hummus, and shakshuka. Apparently people are such fans of the place you can even by shirts and hats celebrating the falafel bar. As amazing as the food was, I’m not sure I’m enough of a falafel enthusiast to commit to a hat…. though if someone can find me a hummus hat, I’d gladly show it off everywhere I go.
The good thing in Costa Rica is, if you’re short of cash, it’s for once very easy to make the cheap food in local restaurants veggie: casadas are the omnipresent plato typico for Costa Ricans, and there is usually a version vegetariana that contains just rice, beans, plantain, avocado, eggs, and cheese (you could probably even ask to skip the dairy if you’re vegan, you’ll just get a funny look. Filling, not (too) unhealthy, and easy on the wallet, I ended up eating a lot of these… and an interesting note to leave on- apparently they are called a casada (which means married)- because the saying is that if you marry a Tico (Costa Rican) woman, that is the meal you will end up eating for the rest of your life. Could be worse!
Peru is vegan heaven. There’s a sentence I never expected I’d write. I ate better vegan food in Peru than I’ve eaten in my whole life. It may not be the traditional fare, but veganism is a well understood concept, at least in most of the towns on the backpacker trail, and there are vegan versions of most of the typical dishes- even vegan ceviche! Everything is plentiful, delicious and healthy. In Peru I was in foodie heaven.
The surprises started in Puno. Puno is a nondescript town that most travellers use just as a gateway to Lake Titicaca. It’s big, ugly, and uninspiring- so imagine my surprise when I found the best vegan restaurant (at that point) on my trip- The Loving Hut does a ridiculously cheap set lunch menu for 15 Soles (about £3.50) that includes salad, soup, main dish and pudding. Usually with these set lunches the portions are small- but here the main was so mammoth that I broke my principle of always finishing every meal. The best thing about this place is the tofu fish and meat substitutes. I’d really missed healthy protein and realised how much I rely on Quorn and tofu at home, but here they have vegan ceviche, vegan prawns and rice, tofu chicken, burritos, and much more.
The owner was so friendly and told me about the next surprise of the trip- that in Arequipa there was a vegan festival on the weekend I was arriving! With ridiculously good luck, I went straight to check it out- and it was phenomenal. I ate about three meals worth of food and finished with the best cake of my life- an amazingly rich, vegan, dark chocolate and passion fruit cake- the picture can’t convey the foodgasm.
In Arequipa I also had vegan ceviche in El Buda Profano (pictured below) which was delicious but unsatisfying compared to the Loving Hut version.
For extremely satisfying fare, head to Burger Chulls, where I got a vegan lentil burger with sweet potato fries and a passion fruit drink for just 15 soles again! (£3.50!) and couldn’t move for the rest of the evening.
Crepes are everywhere in South America, surprisingly, and have been the biggest test to my attempt to be vegan most of the time (sorry, I caved for nutella). But Le Petit Francaise will treat you to an incredibly delicious vegan batter hummus and roast vegetable crepe that is to die for. They are so nice they would probably also do you one with lemon and fruit if you asked.
Huacachina is an incredibly small town in the middle of the desert, so imagine how shocked I was to eat the best falafel of my life- in a hostel! Bananas has an incredible menu and these sexy bastards were melt-in-the-mouth delicious, and came with hummus! (I think I’ve had hummus deficiency since arriving in Latin America so I was too excited about this). La Casa de Bamboo is another hostel with an exclusively vegetarian menu, including Thai curry, falafel and incredible large breakfasts. I went three times in my two-day stay.
Lima is meant to be the best place for food, but was less inspiring for me (but I hated Lima in general). However, here I did get a vegan version of a very traditional dish called causa– avocado layered with potato, and vegetable (usually with tuna or chicken). It was creamy, salty, and very satisfying.
If Peru is vegan heaven, worship at the altar of Cusco, where a quick search on Happy Cow revealed more veggie restaurants than it was physically or financially possible for me to visit in my time there. The crown for best veggie food was removed here from the Loving Hut and rewarded to Green Point. I’ve never been so happy from food, and I get happy from food often. Again, for 15 soles, a lunch menu included salad, rich and sweet pumpkin soup, a moderately spicy and fragrant chana masala, topped with yukka (god I’ve missed curry) and a delicious banana and chocolate mousse (all vegan!). The evening options are also incredible- I had a portion of vegan lasagna as big as my head and packed full of fresh veg, while my friends had dumplings and courgetti spaghetti. In spite of my fare I got extreme food envy for the people at the next table who ordered sizzling hot tacos, my god.
Here I also enjoyed El Encuentro, which offers mainly meat substitute versions of traditional Peruvian food (which to be honest, is a lot like Chinese- meat, rice, soy sauce). And I had the best salad I’ve ever eaten in a shamanic raw vegan restaurant- which was so large it took a full forty minutes to eat!
More than these, in Cusco, vegetarian food is advertised everywhere, even at mainstream restaurants, and you can get vegan cakes at bakeries. I’m sad I didn’t spend more time in Cusco for many reasons, but the food is a large factor.
So vegans and vegetarians- don’t fear South America- go to Peru!! And add to this list of amazing, healthy, and satisfying food. Nom.
Before going travelling, I spent three months as a vegan- having tried Veganuary, found it surprisingly easy, and decided to carry on. I’d been a veggie for 16 years- having given up meat at 9- but had only just made the connection and the next step- to cut dairy and all other animal products. Lots of people asked me ‘are you going to continue when you’re travelling?’ and I said that I would try to do so most of the time, but suspected I may need to revert to vegetarianism at some point.
I was right. I know some people manage to just about live as a vegan out here- but it requires serious dedication, pre-planning, and basically never being able to eat anywhere with friends, and sitting in the corner of a hostel eating peanut butter out of a jar instead. As much as I love the last activity, after a couple of days here it became obvious that for me, vegan would be too difficult. Vegetarianism is well understood in South America, but veganism is barely a concept- although there are some great little restaurants and cafes trying to change that. As it is I’ve managed to do vegan 70% of the time, but I have reverted to eating cheese and eggs occasionally… On the short tours I’ve taken (2/3 days exploring the islands of Lake Titicaca, and the Uyuni salt flats) the only non-meat or fish option has been omelette… omelette… more omelette. I have no idea how you’d explain veganism in Spanish, to people with very little means doing what they need to survive, but I think you might starve.
However, I want to write about those little awesome beacons of the plant-based life that are dotted all over the continent to give some guidance to other veggies and vegans travelling in the region. Though it’s usually possible to get a veggie option in restaurants, it tends again to be- omelette. Or tomato pasta. Or pizza. Without a doubt the best (and usually vegan) food I’ve found has been in the little veggie cafes and restaurants.
In La Paz I was lucky on the first day to stumble into Restaurante Vegetariano Armonia, a little vegetarian restaurant over a bookshop, in the bohemian district of Sopocachi- all the best things in one place! Armonia only opens for lunch, but offers an incredible buffet between 12 and 2.30pm for just 34 Bolivianos- around £3.84. I ate two huge plates of mixed salad, fried plantain, potato cakes, spinach fritters, and veggie rice, and had to stagger back to the hostel after for a nap.
The other veggie haven in La Paz has to be Namaste, a funky hippie haven easily within reach of the main market. The extensive menu of delicious and healthy options includes tofu and peanut Thai veg stir fry, empanadas, soy fritters, lentil burgers, nachos, and burritos. I had these gigantic tacos, stuffed with veggie mince, salad, and guacamole. They set me back just 29 Bolivianos for a huge and satisfying dinner.
I couldn’t help returning the next day for the set menu lunch, which consisted of a salad with the most delicious dressing I’ve ever had, soup, vegetarian lasagna (which I must admit was a bit cold), and fruit in some kind of rice pudding. Again, only 25 Bolivianos- and they do great coffee too!
In terms of street food, it’s quite disappointing that the local favourite- salteñas- basically Latin American pasties- are mostly full of meat and potato. However, in Sucre there is one place- Salteñeria Flores– that offers a veggie option. Hot, stodgy, and full of beans and veg, it’s a cheap and satisfying-if not mind-blowing option.
Another favourite street food in Sucre are papas rellanas– which are served everywhere for breakfast. In the week I spent in Sucre learning Spanish, I often went in the morning to the spectacular Parque Bolivar to buy one or two of these treats for breakfast. Con huevos, is basically a veggie scotch egg- a boiled egg wrapped in mashed potato, and deep fried. There is also a queso option which is flat and has chunks of cheese melted into the potato- and again deep fried. You can either eat them there in the park, out of a plastic bowl with a teaspoon, next to all the locals on little stools, or take them away in a plastic bag to eat at home with a good English cuppa. Good for the waist? No. But the soul, yes. And only 3 BOB each- around 32p!
The other fantastic thing for veggies are the markets- with fruit and veg stacked high and sold so cheap. Best of all are the freshly squeezed fruit juices, which would set you back four times the cost at home and have several times the flavour here, with fruits you’ve never seen before easily there to try. Just make sure you ask for it sin leche as there is a local habit to add milk to juice for some reason (yuk!), and also sin azucar if you prefer your sugar natural rather than added.
Sucre is a veggie paradise and the one place I think it would be doable to be vegan 24/7. Without a doubt the best place is the Condor Café, which is also home to the Condor Trekkers, an eco-friendly local touring company which is not-for-profit, and puts its proceeds into local projects such as building roofs for schools, and teaching children about health and hygiene in deprived areas. It does dirt cheap and huge cheese empanadas, delicious falafel and avocado sandwiches, and another bargain-a-licious set lunch menu.
Prem is mostly open for lunch times, but serves awesome and huge seitan baguettes, fresh juices, and set menus in a friendly little place just off one of the main streets.
El Germen is another great find with a huge menu of vegan options, including a ridiculously cheap 12 BOB veggie burger, quinoa soup, veggie lasagne, and veggie curry. I went with the tofu curry, having been missing protein substitutes, though I have to admit it was quite bland and not really what I’d call a curry. Still- healthy, and cheap, and I still went back the next day for a veggie burger which was much better.
In Copacabana, I was extremely surprised to see a vegan food cart at the bottom of the main high street- and sad as it is, could hardly contain my excitement to have hummus for the first time of weeks. Selling veggie burgers, falafel wraps, hummus sandwiches, vegan brownies and flapjacks and energy balls, this cart belongs to Hostal Joshua nearby, which also has a vegan restaurant- though sadly only open until 8 so I missed it the one night I was there, but on the basis of the sandwiches definitely worth checking out if you are there.