New Zealand is a beautiful and scenic country in the Southern Hemisphere. It is very well-known for its dairy products and meat. While steaks and meat are a big part of the local cuisine, there are lots of good vegetarian options throughout the country. Being an English speaking country, New Zealand is perhaps not as challenging for English speaking tourists as some other countries around the world. Explaining your dietary preferences should be relatively straightforward. And with some information beforehand, you will be able to enjoy local and global delicacies while you are in New Zealand. Following are some tips on finding vegetarian food in New Zealand:
Indian food never fails
Indian food is known for being vegetarian-friendly and there are plenty of Indian restaurants all across New Zealand. So, you will have no trouble finding a good Indian restaurant in a major city or a tourist spot. If you are on the South Island, then head over to The Spice Room. They have branches in Wanaka and Queenstown. The one in Queenstown is right across the parking lot from where all the buses pick-up and drop-off. A nice Indian dinner after a long trip to Milford Sound is just excellent. In cities across the North Island, a simple search on Tripadvisor or Zomato will give you a list of high-quality Indian restaurants.
(Indian sabzi or curry nicely garnished)
Burgers are veggie too
Well-known burger joints in New Zealand will almost certainly have a vegetarian option. The most common options are the veggie burger and the falafel burger. If you are particular about not consuming cheese with animal rennet, then ask the server if the cheese in the burger is animal rennet free. Or you can ask them if they have cheese with vegetarian rennet. If they don’t have such options, then ask them to leave out the cheese. Most of the cheeses in New Zealand tend to have animal rennet.
One must-visit burger joint in New Zealand is Fergburger. It has a couple of vegetarian options and the size of the burger is massive. It took us 45 mins just to finish one. This place is so famous that it always has a queue no matter what time of the day (or night) you go. If you are in Wanaka, then Red Star Burger is great. KFC outlets in New Zealand may also have a veggie burger option. It will not be listed on the menu, but you might be able to get one if you ask the person at the ordering counter. There are plenty of other local burger joints in every major city that would be serving vegetarian burgers.
(the falafel burger at Fergburger)
(Fergburgers are massive – much larger than my hand)
Italian and Pizza are safe options
A simple pasta, spaghetti, or a cheese/vegetable pizza is a safe bet anywhere in the world, and New Zealand is no different. While ordering, just make sure that the pasta sauce has no meat and the white sauce has no eggs (if you do not eat eggs). If you are particular about animal rennet in cheese, then ask for cheese which is made with vegetarian rennet or leave out the cheese altogether.
Base Woodfired Pizza is a great option in downtown Christchurch area for pizza. If you are headed to Wanaka, then Francesca’s Italian Kitchen is a very famous Italian restaurant there. You will have to make a reservation as the place tends to be packed every day. But they have amazing gnocchi and garlic bread. Pizza section of the menu has vegetarian options too. In Queenstown, a couple of great options are Bella Cucina (vegetarian pizza, pasta, and gnocchi) and Farellis Trattoria (they have a separate vegan menu). Winnies Pizza is an excellent place for vegetarian pizzas in downtown Queenstown. They also have nachos, pastas, and other items. If you do a quick search, then you can always find local places like this one which specializes in pizza/Italian food.
(A nice vegetarian Pizza at Winnies Pizza in Queenstown)
Enjoy delicious Asian cuisine
You will find a good number of Asian and south-east Asian food places throughout New Zealand. Thai food is the most common. Chinese food is also easily available. We especially liked eating at Thai Siam in Wanaka. They had a decent number of vegetarian options. We just had to point out that we do not want any fish sauce in our curry. In fact, as a rule of thumb, ask the server not to put fish sauce at any Thai place that you visit because Thai food uses fish sauce quite a lot. On the North Island, Sri Penang in Auckland is a great option for Malaysian food. They have tofu and a few other vegetarian options including the famous sambal. In Christchurch, you can get great Burmese food at Bodhi Tree. Queenstown has a few vegetarian options such as Tham Nak Thai, At Thai, and Madam Woo, and they all have some vegetarian options or tofu-based dishes. Chinese food places will have beancurd, tofu, or vegetables that vegetarians can order. Rice and noodles are also an option at any Chinese restaurant.
(Thai Siam at Wanaka – yellow curry with rice)
Subway stores are everywhere
Subway has vegetarian sandwiches and salads and can be found in many towns and cities across New Zealand. You cannot go wrong with Subway.
(Subway sandwiches are a convenient and easy option)
Coffee-shops/Cafes can be surprisingly good
New Zealand has a strong coffee culture and Wellington, in particular, has some of the best cafes in the country. Here is a list of top cafes in Wellington. Interestingly, coffee shops and cafes are great places to find a vegetarian snack or perhaps even a full vegetarian meal. Sandwiches and smoothies can be found in cafes across New Zealand. We were particularly impressed with Christchurch-based C1 Espresso. This cafe in downtown New Zealand is most famous for its sliders (small burgers). These sliders come in canisters that are shot through pneumatic tubes at 140 km/hr. Straight from the kitchen to your table takes on a totally new meaning here! Another cafe worth visiting is the Astro Cafe on top of Mt. John overlooking Lake Tekapo. It is the best place to have lunch. Absolutely beautiful. And they had vegetarian sandwiches which were quite filling.
(sandwiches and juice on top of Lake Tekapo)
(C1 Espresso – Sliders and Onion Rings shot through tubes)
Supermarkets are a cost effective option
Do a shopping run at outlets of New World or Fresh Choice supermarkets, as they would stock local produce and imported/packaged foods. Look for items that can be identified easily as vegetarian (e.g. fruits, veggies, bread, pasta, snacks, etc). You might be able to find vegetarian rennet cheese too. Cereals, chips, chocolate, milk, yogurt, beans, and other foods can also be found at supermarkets. The size of bread slices in New Zealand was pretty big when we went. If your hotel or motel has a kitchen, then you can buy lots of good supplies from the supermarket and then cook it in your room. Doing this will be much cheaper than eating out.
(fresh produce and other amazing foods at supermarkets in New Zealand)
Desserts to spoil you
New Zealand has amazing ice creams and other desserts. The most famous dessert shop in South Island is Patagonia. It has plenty of ice creams (huge servings), cakes, cookies, sundaes, churros, and even breakfast items. Patagonia has outlets in Queenstown, Wanaka, and Arrowtown. Keep in mind that the cakes may have eggs in them. There are plenty of dessert places on the north island too. You can get gelatos or visit a patisserie. Here is a list of famous ice cream places in New Zealand.
While in New Zealand, you must also try the Kapiti ice cream bars. Kapiti is a local brand and they have some great ice creams. I particularly liked the passion fruit with honey flavour. Another famous brand is Tip Top ice cream. You can get these brands at local convenient stores and at rest stops on long bus journeys.
(Chocolate mousse cake at Patagonia)
(Kapiti ice cream bars)
Other interesting local options
Pita Pit – Pita Pit is a global chain of pita sandwich restaurants. It is a fast-food format joint where you can select what filling you want in your pita pocket. You can get a good number of vegetarian options at this place. The taste is excellent too, and you can flavour your sandwich with whatever sauces you want. There is a falafel pita, a garden pita, and a mint fritter pita. If you don’t want to eat the pita bread, then you can get those options in the form of a salad too. You can even customize by choosing what vegetables and patties you want to add. There are vegan patty options too.
Sheffield Pie – When you drive to Arthur’s Pass from Christchurch, you will go through a town called Sheffield. This town has a famous pie shop called the Sheffield Pie Shop. It is located right on the highway and you won’t miss it. Pies are a very traditional New Zealand dish and you must try one when you are in the country. Sheffield Pie Shop sells plenty of fruit, gourmet, and savory pies. Most of the pies are non-vegetarian or egg-based. However, there is one vegetarian option which is made of kumara (a New Zealand version of sweet potato) and other vegetables. You can also opt for the fruit pies as they will also be vegetarian. The pies are quite filling and very tasty. Who says you cannot eat local while being a vegetarian?
(Cherry Pie at Sheffield Pie Shop)
(Garlic-roasted Vegetarian Pie at Sheffield Pie Shop)
Mexican/South American – Major cities and tourist areas have Mexican restaurants offering vegetarian enchiladas and nachos. The one we went to was called Amigos Mexican Grill in Wanaka. While not the best Mexican that you will eat, it is definitely an option if one craves Mexican vegetarian food. In fact, overall, the Mexican food in New Zealand isn’t excellent. We looked Mexican restaurants up because they tend to have a few vegetarian options. There are plenty of Mexican food places in Auckland too.
Queenstown was excellent for trying out global foods. We found a place called Caribe Latin Kitchen in the downtown area there. It was a Venezuelan food joint and if you like spicy food, then this place is THE NUMBER ONE option. If you miss your Indian spicy food or are tired of eating bland food around New Zealand, then come to Queenstown and head over the Caribe Latin Kitchen. They have Arepas (Venezuelan sandwiches) and Quesadillas which are vegetarian. After you order your food, you can grab a couple of cups and pour some of their homemade sauces for dipping. Some of these sauces are really spicy. Besides the food, Caribe Latin Kitchen had imported Mexican sodas and other imported South American beverages. They now have an outlet in Christchurch downtown area as well.
(Arepas and Quesadillas at Caribe Latin Kitchen Queenstown)
Sushi/Japanese – Japanese food is fish and meat-heavy, but it is surprisingly vegetarian-friendly too if you are lucky. In the sushi menu, you can often find a cucumber roll or a California roll (minus the crab). Japanese cuisine has tofu dishes as well. One restaurant in Wanaka called Sasanoki even had vegetarian ramen (finding veg ramen is quite rare). Besides these dishes, you can also ask for vegetable udon noodles and miso soup (without dashi or fish stock). It is definitely worth checking out a Japanese restaurant in New Zealand as chances of finding at least a couple of vegetarian items on the menu are high.
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/lists:
The best resource online for finding veggie food places – https://www.happycow.net/
A tripadvisor list of vegetarian friendly restaurants in Auckland
A tripadvisor list of vegetarian friendly restaurants in Wellington
Here is a list of vegetarian friendly restaurants in Christchurch:
C1 Espresso – 185 High St Christchurch Central Christchurch 8142
Cook N With Gas/ Astro Lounge – 23 Worcester Blvd, Christchurch Central
Oopen Pasta Grill – Ibis Hotel – 107 Hereford Street, Christchurch Central
Lotus Heart Vegetarian – 363 St Asaph Street, Christchurch, New Zealand
Fiddlesticks – 48 Worcester Street, Christchurch, New Zealand 8013
Dmitris Souvlakis – South Food Court, Restart Mall
Base Woodfired – 107 Cashel Street, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
Arjee Bhajee – 13 Riccarton Road, Christchurch
Cafe Valentino – 168 Saint Asaph St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
Bodhi Tree (Burmese) – 397-399 Ilam Road, Christchurch 8053, New Zealand
Venuti – 791 Colombo St, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand
Velvet Burger – 111 Riccarton Road, Riccarton, Christchurch 8041, New Zealand
Welcome Vegetarian Cafe – 2 Wharenui Road, Riccarton Road, Christchurch
Thai Container – 151 Bealey Avenue, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand
Here is a list of vegetarian friendly restaurants in Akaroa:
Bully Hayes – 57 Beach Rd, Akaroa 7542
HarBar cafe – 83 rue Jolie, Akaroa
L’Hotel – 75 Beach Road, Akaroa 7842
La Thai – 69 Beach Road, Akaroa, 7520
The Brasserie – 41 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
Giant’s House Cafe – 68 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa 7520
A list of veg-friendly restaurants in Wanaka:
Francesca’s Italian Kitchen – 93 Ardmore Street, Wanaka 9305, New Zealand
The Spice Room – Helwick St, Wanaka 9305, New Zealand
Cafe Gusto – 1 Lakeside Road, Wanaka 9305, New Zealand
Amigos Mexican – 71 Ardmore St, Wanaka 9305, New Zealand
Sasanoki Japanese – 26 Ardmore St, Wanaka 9305
Red Star Luxury Burgers – 26 Ardmore St, Queenstown-Lakes 9305
Subway Wanaka – 145 Ardmore Street, Wanaka, Otago
A list of vegetarian friendly restaurants in Queenstown:
Caribe Latin Kitchen (Arepas/Venezuelan) – 36 Ballarat Street, Queenstown 9300
Sombreros Mexican – 11/13 Beach Street, Queenstown 9300
Fergburger – 42 Shotover Street, Queenstown Town Centre 9300
Vudu Cafe (Brunch/Pancakes) – 23 Beach Street, Queenstown 9300
Subway Queenstown – 36 Camp Street, Queenstown, Otago
Pita Pit – 38 Ballarat St, Queenstown, Otago
Bella Cucina – 6 Brecon Street, Queenstown Central 9300
Habebe’s (MidEastern syle cafe) – 30 Shotover St, Queenstown 9300
Farellis Trattoria – 88 Beach Street, Queenstown 9300
Winnies Pizza – 7/9 Queenstown Rd, Hillsborough, Queenstown 9348
Joe’s Garage – Searle Lane, Queenstown Town Centre 9300
The Spice Room – 15 shotover street, Queenstown
Cow Restaurant – Cow Ln, Queenstown 9300
Devil Burger – 5/11 Church St, Queenstown 9300
Johnny Barr’s – 15 Church St, Queenstown 9300
Tham Nak Thai – 7 Beach Street, Queenstown Central 9300
At Thai – Upstairs, No.8 Church Street, Queenstown
Empanada Kitchen (Food truck) – 60 Beach St, Queenstown 9300
Madam Woo – 5 The Mall, Lower Ballarat St, Queenstown
Rata Dining – 43 Ballarat Street, Otago 9300