Argentina, often known as the steak capital of the world, is a challenging place for vegetarians. While metro cities like Buenos Aires have quite a few options these days, things get tricky once you are out of the metros. The main reason for this challenge is the lack of awareness about a vegetarian diet. As you may have heard, places like India or East Asia have some sort of awareness thanks to Buddhism/Hinduism. But such concepts simply do not exist in mainstream Argentina. A majority of Argentinians believe that eating meat is good for the body, as one gets rich nutrition by consuming it. In fact, if you ask for vegetarian food, there is a chance that the server would pack small pieces of meat in your meal with the intention of trying to “help you” eat “healthy”. Add to the mix the fact that Argentina is a Spanish speaking country, you are in for an interesting time (especially if your Spanish is not so fluent). But with some preparation and knowledge, the food part of your trip can be tackled, and you might even enjoy some of the local vegetarian delicacies.
The following resources are a result of lessons learned through experiences of various people who successfully found vegetarian food in Argentina.
1) Learn to say I am vegetarian in Spanish/Give your flights meal instructions
I am vegetarian in spanish is Yo soy vegetariano. If you are a female, then you can say Yo soy vegetariana.
Note that the “g” in vegetariano/a is silent and is pronounced as an “h”. (ve-hee-taa-riano)
2) Print the following image and show it to the restaurant server/chef
* if you have trouble printing the images below directly, then you can copy paste these images below onto a word document and then print*
Following are phrases that can be used to explain dietary restrictions, and what you can and cannot eat. They are written in English and Spanish, and each card is the size of a currency note that can be easily stored and pulled out. You may strike out whatever options do not apply to you, since I made this to suite a large variety of dietary preferences. Note that the word for chicken is pollo, pronounced as po-yo, as the two “l”s are silent and pronounced as “y”. Similarly, the word for ham is jamón, which is pronounced as haamon, as the “j” is silent.
Below is a checklist that you can customize to communicate what you can and cannot eat:
3) Eat at these types of restaurants
Argentina has a significant Italian influence due to migration from Italy during past decades and centuries. Hence, there is an abundance of pasta and pizza places in the country. While you have to be careful with pasta and be very specific about communicating your dietary restrictions, a cheese pizza is something you can rarely go wrong with. So, fresh pasta and pizza are two great options in case you do not find anything vegetarian to eat.
You can also go to an Indian restaurant and try some Indian food. Indian food is quite rare in Argentina, but you can find a few Indian restaurants in Buenos Aires. But be warned that the taste may not be completely to your liking. It is far from the authentic Indian taste and would seem like some sort of localized interpretation of Indian dishes. But, if you are in need of veggie food and out of options, then you cannot go wrong with an Indian restaurant.
You can also visit Asian food places, like Chinese or Thai food, as you can always get tofu, or veg fried rice, etc. But make sure, especially at a Thai restaurant, that they do not put fish oil while preparing your food.
Lastly, don’t forget Subway. There is a Subway in almost all major places of interest throughout Argentina. There is one in Ushuaia too! Location list here.
4) Plan ahead
While you cannot always expect to know exactly where and when you will eat, try to keep a list of few vegetarian restaurants in the area that you are going to visit. To create a list, use the following websites:
- Happy Cow Argentina – This is perhaps the best resource online
- Here is a list of Indian restaurants as posted by the Indian embassy in Buenos Aires
- Couple of tripadvisor forums on veg friendly restaurants in Argentina here and here.
- Veg Friendly restaurant list in Buenos Aires from tripadvisor.
- Links to some well known veg eateries in Buenos Aires – Buenos Aires Verde , Bio restaurant , Arevalito , Artemisia , La Fábrica del Taco , Kensho Cocina Organica , Hierbabuena , Pizza Vegana
- See the resource links in section 7 below, as some of them have a list of places that serve veggie food in Buenos Aires and beyond
5) Try these Argentinian vegetarian dishes
Medialunas – These are croissants, you might get them during breakfast or at a bakery/coffee shop.
Empanadas – These are savoury pastries, and are mostly not vegetarian. However, there is one which is of interest. The vegetarian empanada choice is normally cheese (queso). Sometimes it is served with a chili and tomato dip called aji.
Humita – This is a mashed mixture of corn, onion and cheese, and comes wrapped up in a corn husk. The humitas are boiled in the corn husk wrapper, and you have to remove it before eating the mixture inside.
Provoleta – This is what your order in an Argentinian steakhouse. It is usually served as an appetizer. The dish is basically grilled provolone cheese, slightly harder on the outside, and soft melted goodness on the inside. It is often served with toast/bread.
6) Shop at a grocery store
You can always walk in to a grocery store and pick up chips, chocolate, milk, yogurt, bread, and more. Grocery stores would also have a section with fruits and vegetables. You can pick up some to toss up a salad in your hotel room or at a common kitchen area. If you are renting an apartment or doing Airbnb, then you can probably use the kitchen to its fullest and cook up some simple stuff, or make yourself a sandwich.
7) Check out these resources
interesting experience: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jul/29/local/la-me-linthicum-argentina-vegetarian-20130730