Fruit and vegetables at a market stall in Competa, Spain

A Vegetarian Guide to Spain

By Molly Sears-Piccavey

Although Spain is renowned for its food, vegetarians and vegans can find it hard to find "meat-free" food in supermarkets and on restaurant menus.

This guide provides some ideas for Spanish visitors seeking an alternative to the of meat and fish dishes which are inherent in traditional Spanish cuisine.

Vegetarian Choices in Spain

In Spain vegetarians are now generally well catered for in most tourist areas. The concept of veganism is somewhat alien in Spanish culture, so usually asking for vegetarian food will reduce the risk chances of being served up animal produce. Further questioning of restaurant staff or reading of food labels is advisable for vegans to prevent being served dairy produce.

In Spain many sweet products contain gelatine (gelatine) and sweet pastries and cakes often contain lard (mantequilla de cerdo) - in particular look out for these in December and January as they are typical Christmas treats. Cheese often contains rennet (cuajo), so vegans should check the cheese labels in supermarkets.

There is an impressive range of local vegetable produce sold at many local Spanish markets and in supermarkets, so if you are self-catering there should be plenty of choice.

When eating out pizza, vegetable paellas and tortillas are always a staple option for vegetarians. Vegans can ask for mixed salads (ensalada mixta) with nuts (nueces).

Here are a few useful Spanish phrases that vegetarians and vegans should memorise especially when eating out.

  • Vegetariano (pronounced "Begetariano") - Vegetarian
  • Sin carne - without meat
  • Sin pescado - without fish

The following is a guide to some of the main Spanish cities with suggestions of vegetarian restaurants.

Almeria

Almeria Cathedral

The city of Almeria in south eastern Spain is located in the warmest and driest region of the country. Almeria has a Moorish history which is evident in the food.

Tapas culture and locally sourced seafood from the Costa Almeria coastline are the most popular foods on offer. However, if you search around there are still plenty of choices for vegetarians. The Almeria region is also known as the greenhouse of Europe, as vast quantities of quality fruit and vegetables are grown in huge greenhouses particularly in El Ejido for export across Europe.

  • El Candil at Plaza Urrutia Almeria offers vegetarian tapas and food.
  • Sabor a Vida on Calle Poeta Paco Aquino 5 is vegan and vegetarian. Many of the options are organic food and produce.
  • Aloe on Avenida Madre Maria Aznar 140, Almeria is a full vegetarian restaurant with some vegan options

Seville

Seville is the capital city of Andalucia has a traditional southern Spanish cuisine meaning vegetarian and vegan options can be difficult to locate. Ask in bars and restaurants and usually they are happy to prepare something or have a few dishes on their menu.

Some of the best genuine vegetarian places in Seville are:

  • Alameda Rock on Calle Credito 20 Alameda de Hercules Seville offers vegetarian and vegan tapas. This rock themed bar is also music venue.
  • Veganitessen at Calle Pastor y Landero (Arenal Market) has vegetarian and vegan food to take away. A lovely bakery and shop it has a good selection covering most needs for vegans.
  • Gaia is vegan restaurant and shop which serves excellent food and has been operating for over 20 years. Gaia is a popular hub for organic food lovers including vegans and vegetarians.

Costa del Sol

Malaga and the Costa del Sol have plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. Funegirola and Torremolinos have plenty of ex-pats so most people in these towns speak English. Some of the best places to try are in Malaga city and Fuengirola.

Costa del Sol salad
  • Restaurante Vegetariano Vegetalia in Fuengirola.
  • The Tropical Hut at Fuengirola port has vegetarian food on offer.
  • Elemi vegetarian cafe in Estepona is opposite the bullring and opens from midday. Locally grown produce is used wherever possible in the wraps, salads and hot dishes.
  • Siete Ramas in Coin is both a Restaurant and shop.
  • Canadu is a centrally located vegetarian restaurant at Plaza Merced in Malaga.
  • El Vegetariano de la Alcazabilla on Calle Alcazabilla in Malaga city.
  • La Galerna on Pedralejo beach has delicious Fresh juices, milk shakes and great salads. Not a strictly vegetarian place but they have a selection of non-meat options.

Granada

Granada is a vibrant student city and has plenty of different options for vegetarians and vegans. Below are some of the best places in the old town and main tapas areas.

    Casa Lopez Correa, Granada
  • Raices on Avenida de Pablo Picasso is a true vegetarian restaurant with a large selection of tofu, salads and vegan options.
  • Casa Lopez Correa in the Realejo district at Calle Molinos. This restaurant does an excellent vegetarian curry and offers other delicious non-meat options. Vegetarian tapas is also available on the menu.
  • Manila on Calle San Martias at Plaza de las Descalzas has some vegan and vegetarian tapas.
  • Babel World Fusion on the busy Calle Elvira has a huge selection. Abundant salads and interesting dishes include both vegan and vegetarian choices.
  • Al Laurel on Calle Laurel de las tablas. This newbie below the Cathedral has a great selection of organic food and tapas. The menu del dia (menu of the day) is great value too (weekday lunchtimes).
  • Fresco on Gran Via is a self-service buffet with soups, pizzas and a large salad bar. Lunchtime menu is € 10 for all you can eat style buffet.
  • Paprika on Cuesta de Abarqueros has a separate vegetarian menu with tofu and seitan options.
  • El Botanico on Calle Malaga has a vegetarian tapas selection, as well as great salads and a vegetarian noodle wok.

Barcelona

In Barcelona is one of Spain's most cosmopolitan cities and there are vegetarian options on most menus. There are also plenty of specialist veggie venues. Maoz Falafel on Las Ramblas offers "create your own" veggie and vegan falafels.

  • Self Naturista is a classic vegetarian restaurant. Trading since 1986 at Santa Anna 11, off Portal del Angel, its great value for money and has a wide selection of dishes.
  • Amaltea on Calle Diputacion 164 is a true vegetarian with a good value daily menu. (Metro Urgell).
  • La Granja which is close the Plaza Molina is a buffet style vegetarian restaurant located at Calle Sant Eusebi 64.

Madrid

The Spanish capital Madrid has plenty of non-meat options in the restaurants but there are some real gems of specialist places for vegans and strict vegetarians.

Vegetarian tapas
  • Maoz on Calle Mayor is a vegetarian fast food place for a quick cheap option.
  • El Granero de Lavapies has a good value healthy lunch menu for € 11.
  • La Galette on Calle Conde de Aranda, and at Barbara de Braganza is the most established vegetarian in the Spanish capital. Macrobiotic food and vegeburgers are on the menu as well as aubergine based dishes.
  • El Vergel is a shop and restaurant with interesting vegetarian dishes.
  • El Ecocentro is a large store and cafeteria/restaurant. One of the smartest vegetarian places in the city.
  • Hierbabuena has an innovative vegetarian menu and also serves organically produced cava. Centrally located on the Calle de Bordadores in the city centre.

Valencia

There are plenty of options for vegetarians in Valencia, head to the Old Town district (Ciutat Vella) for some of the best.

  • La Tastolletes on Salvador Giner, 64 has a Creative vegetarian menu, asian style restaurant.
  • Casa Salud which is Vegan buffet at Conde Altea 44, Valencia - good price vs quality. Takeaways are also available.

Cordoba

Cordoba has several specialist places for vegetarians and vegans. It can be tricky to locate vegetarian dishes in more traditional restaurants in the city, but the popular dish of Aubergines in Honey is served almost everywhere in the city.

  • Organico is a specialist vegetarian restaurant on Plaza de la Almagra.
  • La Bicicleta bar on Calle Cardenal Gonzalez has Vegan and Vegetarian tapas. They also have some delicious fresh vegetable and fruit juices too.
  • Astronauta on Calle Diario De Cordoba has a large selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes to choose from.
  • Ay Carmela on the Plaza de la Corredera has some options for vegetarians.