Spanish cuisine has been influenced by important events in history. Spain used to be a territory of the Roman Empire, a portion of Spain was ruled by Arabs at one point, and the discovery of America have all played a role in shaping Spanish cuisine. But, a lot of Spanish food isn’t vegetarian. Surprisingly, ingredients like eggs and tuna fish are often considered vegetarian by the locals. So, for a vegetarian, knowing the right information and the right places is important to successfully navigate the Spanish food scene. The following is a guide to vegetarian food in Spain.
1) Learn to say a few vegetarian phrases in Spanish
To say “I am a vegetarian” in Spanish, you have to say “Yo soy vegetariano”. If you are vegan then say “Yo soy vegano“.
You can then follow up by pointing out the foods that you do not eat. To say “I do not eat ….” in Spanish, you have to say “Yo no como….” and then add the following words as per your dietary preferences:
carne, which means meat, pescado which means fish, mariscos which means seafood, and so on.
A complete checklist is provided below. So, if you want to say “I do not eat meat”, just say “Yo no como carne“.
You can end with a simple “thank you” or “muchas gracias“.
2) Print the following image and show it to your server while ordering
* if you have trouble printing the image below directly, then you can copy-paste the image onto a word document and then print*
The following are phrases that can be used to explain dietary restrictions, and what you can and cannot eat. Tick whatever is applicable. They are written in Spanish. You can show this to your server while you order or ask the restaurant staff before you get seated. This sheet will be helpful at places where English isn’t spoken.
You can also use the cards below to communicate your dietary preferences.
3) Try these local dishes
Patatas Bravas – Patatas means potato. This dish consists of bite-sized cubes of white potatoes fried in oil and topped with a spicy sauce. Patatas Bravas is a tapas dish and can be easily found in most restaurants across Spain. It is completely vegetarian and a safe option to order no matter where you are traveling within Spain.
Paella Vegetariana – Paella is, perhaps, one of the most famous Spanish dishes. It is a rice dish that is generally cooked with seafood. However, there are places where you can get a vegetarian or even a vegan version. The aroma of the beautiful saffron-colored rice with pieces of vegetables will surely get your taste buds going. Paella is cooked using olive oil in a shallow pan on an open fire.
Tortilla de Patata – There is no tortilla in this dish even if the name seems to suggest so. Tortilla de Patata is actually a Spanish potato omelette. Being an omelette, there are eggs in this dish. So, order the Tortilla de Patata only if you eat eggs. Sometimes, this omelette also has onions in it. Many restaurants serve Tortilla de Patata for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Gazpacho – Gazpacho is a famous Andalusian cold soup. It is made using tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and garlic. All the vegetables are blended raw and made into a refreshing soup. A cool glass of Gazpacho is often served as a refreshing drink during the summers. Gazpacho is a healthy soup made of vegetarian ingredients.
Espinacas con Garbanzos – Garbanzos are chickpeas and espinacas means spinach. This dish varies from place to place but it generally has garbanzos in a spinach stew. The dish can either have a lot of garbanzos in some spinach sauce or it can have a spinach stew with few pieces of garbanzos. You can find this dish as a side or as a soup.
Berenjenas Fritas (or Berenjenas Con Miel) – This dish consists of thinly cut slices of eggplant that are fried until they turn crispy. The eggplant slices are then covered in bitter honey or local honey. Berenjenas Con Miel is very popular in Malaga.
4) Eat at these restaurants
La Riera – Local Catalan and Spanish food in vegetarian format. This restaurant isn’t far from the famous Nou Camp football ground. The food here is so good that even non-vegetarians eat here. This one is a must-visit for vegetarians and vegans.
CactusCat Bar – About a 5-minute walk from the Museum of Contemporary Art is CactusCar Bar. It is a vegan gastrobar with a menu that changes every month. This restaurant has international as well as local Spanish and Catalan dishes. The menu has mains, smoothies, desserts, and all-day brunch items.
Teresa Carles – This restaurant is one of the most well-known when it comes to vegetarian food in Barcelona. If you are looking for Catalan vegetarian dishes, then try the Catalan Cannellone and the Catalan cheesecake here.
Viva Burger – Yes, we know that you are in Spain and you should be eating Spanish food. But, this burger joint is 100% animal-free and it receives rave reviews. The different burgers on the menu are labelled after various countries like Japanese burger, Greek burger, Chinese burger, Arab burger, and so on. Besides burger, you can also get wraps, salads, and desserts.
Yerbabuena – You can try the Andalusian gazpacho, Catalan-style salad, vegetarian paella, cannelloni, and desserts. This restaurant is quite close to Plaza Mayor. The portions are quite large and the menu has a wide variety. Plenty of vegetarian and vegan food available here.
Vega – This place has an all-vegetarian menu. The soy burrata, the pumpkin soup, and a classic Spanish black rice dish all get positive reviews. Dessert dishes like panna cotta and lime cheesecake with tiramisu are also great options to end a meal at Vega.
El Paladar – If you like tapas, then this place is the best for vegetarian tapas in Seville. They have three different menus, a non-vegetarian one, a vegetarian one, and a vegan one. The falafel pitta, croquettas, and the vegetarian lasagna are the top dishes to try at El Paladar.
La Bartola – A tapas bar with lots of vegetarian items on the menu. In fact, all the vegetarian items are clearly marked on the menu with a green dot. Not all dishes are Spanish. You can get a few Asian dishes as well like Thai rice and vegetable tempura sushi.
Bon Lloc – This happens to be the first vegetarian restaurant in Mallorca. Lunch at Bon Lloc consists of a 4-course meal. Dinner is à la carte and has plenty of interesting options like hummus, beet root ravioli, tagliatelle pasta, the Korean ssamjang, and velvet burger. In the dessert menu, the hazelnut bomb receives high praise.
Sabores de Sandra – If you want the feel of being invited to a local’s home and eating local food, then Sabores de Sandra is the place to go to. As the name suggests, Sandra, the owner offers a reasonably good menu full of vegan items that will taste like homemade food.
Fal&Feel – As the name suggests, this place is about falafels. You can opt for a pita roll or a bowl full of falafels. Lots of vegetarian food here.
5) Indian food to the rescue
Indian food has a variety of vegan and vegetarian options. So, you cannot go wrong with Indian food when you are on the lookout for something vegetarian. For those who have had enough of tapas or other Spanish/European food, Indian food presents a great alternative as well. Luckily, there are quite a few top-rated Indian restaurants across Spain. South Indian food is a bit of a rarity in Spain. Most places serve classic north Indian fare with a good number of vegetarian/vegan options.
Veg World India – This Indian restaurant in Barcelona has been rated as one of the best in Spain and even Europe. The menu has lots of north Indian staples and you can even order dosas and idlis. Interesting items on the dessert menu include a mango kulfi and a rose kulfi.
Kathmandu Tandoori House – One of Madrid’s top-rated Nepali restaurants which also happens to serve Indian dishes. You can enjoy finger foods like pakoras and samosas. Those who like soups have a couple of vegetarian options to choose from. Besides the usual north Indian curries, you can also go for mushroom bhaji and mushroom mutter (peas) if you like mushrooms. The prices here are somewhat reasonable.
Taj Mahal Sevilla – When you are tired of eating tapas in Seville, head over to Taj Mahal. It offers all the well-known north Indian dishes. Whether you are craving naan, curries, or biryani, there is something tasty and vegetarian available here.
Agra Tandoori Indian Restaurant – If you are heading to the beaches of Mallorca and want to eat some vegetarian Indian food, then head over to Agra Tandoori. The restaurant serves some highly-rated north Indian fare. You can go for the usual paneer dishes or try something different with the veg pasanda. Dal, biryani, and naan make it a complete meal.
Tripadvisor list of Indian restaurants in Barcelona
Tripadvisor list of Indian restaurants in Madrid
Tripadvisor list of Indian restaurants in Seville
Tripadvisor list of Indian restaurants in Mallorca
6) Other types of cuisines
Since you are in Europe, you can always find a good pizza. There are too many great pizza places spread out all across Spain to be listed here. A simple search on Tripadvisor or Google will give you pizzerias with good reviews. In Barcelona, the Pizzeria Da Nanni is pretty famous. They serve a Margherita pizza for only 3 euros.
Madrid is famous for the football club Real Madrid. Within walking distance of the Santiago Bernabeu is Malvon Empanadas, a joint famous for serving Argentinian empanadas. Most of the empanadas are non-vegetarian, but you can order either the Caprese or the Cebolla y Queso. Both of these are cheese-filled and vegetarian.
Mid-eastern delicacies like hummus and zaatar are also vegetarian and they can be enjoyed at Teddy’s, a Lebanese joint in Barcelona. You can also get vegetarian subway sandwiches at the global chain Subway. They have outlets across Spain.
7) Visit 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. If you have access to a kitchen, then you can cook a can of beans and eat it with some rice. Check out the outlets of Mercadona, Lidl, and Carrefour. They should have local food, packaged foods, and imported food items on their shelves. You can also visit any neighborhood convenience store and find quite a few vegetarian items.
8) Other planning resources
Happy Cow Spain – Find plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants here to plan your meals