Top tips for eating out as a vegan
In recent years, the popularity of veganism has experienced an unprecedented surge, reflecting a profound shift in global dietary choices and lifestyle preferences. Fueled by increasing awareness of environmental sustainability, animal welfare concerns and a growing emphasis on personal health, veganism has transcended its niche status to become a mainstream lifestyle choice.
The movement has gained momentum through social media platforms, documentaries and influential figures advocating for plant-based diets. Restaurants, supermarkets and food companies are responding to this demand by expanding their vegan offerings, making it easier for individuals to adopt and maintain a cruelty-free and sustainable lifestyle. As the world collectively seeks more ethical and sustainable alternatives, the ever-growing popularity of veganism appears to be a transformative force shaping the future of food culture.
Are plant-based diets restrictive? Will you feel hungry? Our expert team of nutritionists dispels the most common misconceptions about plant-based diets and provides '7 health benefits of a plant-based diet'.
As the popularity of veganism continues to soar, its impact on the dining landscape is becoming increasingly evident. Eating out as a vegan is now more accessible and enjoyable than ever, thanks to a rising demand for plant-based options. Restaurants, once limited in their vegan offerings, are now embracing the trend, recognising the importance of catering to diverse dietary preferences. However, it’s not always 100% straightforward and being able to eat out with ease is something a lot of us take for granted and may not even consider.
Researching vegan-friendly restaurants
It goes without saying that one of the best ways to ensure you’re satisfied with the food you’re served is by going to a specifically vegan restaurant or somewhere that advertises itself to be vegan-friendly.
There are some great ways to look for them. HappyCow brands itself as the #1 vegan platform and community that allows its users to seamlessly search for vegan, vegetarian or vegan-friendly restaurants in their area or any other area for that matter. The website is packed with reviews and houses a wonderful community of occasional vegan eaters, veggies and full-time vegans alike.
Another option for the most up-to-date recommendations with a sprinkle of virality is TikTok. One of the great benefits of TikTok is its ability to be used as a search engine. Some of the best vegan-friendly restaurants can be found by searching ‘vegan restaurant in (insert city name here)’. You’ll likely be presented with restaurants that don’t come up straight away with a Google search, allowing you to discover hidden gems and the most talked-about restaurants of the moment.
You may also find that some of the restaurants you’ve always enjoyed frequenting have vegan menus or options to offer. It’s always worth checking the websites of restaurants you’re interested in and this can be particularly helpful if you’re heading out with people who aren’t opting for vegan options.
Easily veganised cuisines
Something else to consider when looking for the best ways to enjoy vegan food is the different options different cuisines can offer. Various cuisines around the world offer a rich tapestry of inherently vegan dishes, showcasing the diversity and deliciousness of plant-based eating.
- Mediterranean cuisine: Mediterranean countries, like Greece and Lebanon, feature a plethora of vegan options like falafel, hummus, tabbouleh and stuffed grape leaves. You may be interested in trying our Mediterranean-inspired dishes: 'Beetroot Hummus (Ve)', 'Pumpkin Hummus (Ve)' and 'Chickpea and Coriander Falafel (Ve)'.
- Indian cuisine: India boasts an extensive array of vegan dishes due to its long-standing tradition of vegetarianism. Classics include chana masala, dal, vegetable biryani and a variety of flavorful curries like our 'Aubergine and Potato Massaman Curry'. You just have to ensure that you omit ghee from your order and request that they cook with oil instead.
- Asian cuisine: Many Asian cuisines, particularly in East and Southeast Asia, place a strong emphasis on plant-based ingredients. Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines, for instance, offer tofu and vegetable stir-fries, sushi rolls and rice or noodle dishes with plant-based proteins.
- Mexican cuisine: Mexican cuisine is rich in vegan options like guacamole, salsa, bean burritos, vegetable fajitas and corn-based dishes like tacos and tamales. Need some inspiration? Discover our Mexican-inspired recipes like 'Crispy Tortilla Salad Bowl' and 'Black Bean and Avocado Tacos'.
- Ethiopian cuisine: Injera, a sourdough flatbread, serves as the staple in Ethiopian cuisine, accompanying a variety of lentil and vegetable stews, creating a satisfying and plant-based meal.
- Middle Eastern cuisine Beyond falafel and hummus, Middle Eastern cuisine offers mujadara, a lentil and rice dish, as well as a range of grilled vegetables, salads and nut-based dishes.
- Italian cuisine: Italian cuisine offers numerous vegan options, including pasta with marinara, bruschetta and vegetable-centric antipasti. You may be interested in trying our 'Best Vegan Pizza' recipe and 'Healthy Bolognese' recipe.
- Caribbean cuisine: Some Caribbean dishes are inherently vegan, like rice and peas, callaloo and various fruit-based salsas.
- African cuisine: Apart from Ethiopian cuisine, various African countries feature vegan-friendly dishes like jollof rice, plantain-based dishes and flavorful stews with vegetables and legumes.
- South American cuisine: In countries like Peru and Bolivia, quinoa is a staple and many traditional dishes are plant-based, like vegetable-filled empanadas and quinoa salads.
Celebrating vegan-friendly restaurants
If you find yourself having had a positive experience at either a vegan restaurant or a vegan-friendly restaurant, don’t forget to leave a review. Reviews allow others to find these options and also show owners and staff appreciation for their diverse food offerings.
Dining in? Have a look at our wide range of delicious, free vegan recipes.
Navigating the menu
When dining out as a vegan, it's essential to be mindful of hidden non-vegan ingredients that may be present in dishes. Some common ingredients to watch out for include:
- Hidden animal fats: Some dishes may contain hidden animal fats, often used for cooking or flavouring. Look out for ingredients like lard, suet and clarified butter (ghee).
- Broth and stock: Soups, stews and sauces might use animal-based broths or stocks as a base. Check for chicken, beef or fish stock in these items.
- Dairy products: Be cautious of dairy-based ingredients, including milk, cream, cheese, butter and yoghurt. Even seemingly plant-based dishes like salads or vegetable sides might be topped with cheese and milk derivatives can pop up even where you least expect them. You may be interested in reading 'What is the best plant-based milk?' and 'Is oat milk good for diabetes?'.
- Eggs and egg products: Keep an eye out for eggs and egg-derived ingredients in both savoury and sweet dishes. This includes mayonnaise, custards and some pasta. Try our 'Easy Vegan Garlic Mayonnaise (Ve)'.
- Worcestershire sauce: This sauce often contains anchovies, making it non-vegan. Some dishes, like certain marinades or sauces, might use Worcestershire sauce, so it's worth inquiring about its inclusion.
Being aware of these hidden non-vegan ingredients and asking questions about the preparation of dishes can help ensure a truly plant-based dining experience when eating out. It's always a good idea to communicate your dietary preferences with the restaurant staff to ensure they can accommodate your needs.
It may also be of interest to you to find out more about how the restaurant cooks their food. Enquire with restaurant staff about the cooking surfaces and utensils used for vegan options. Additionally, ask about the shared use of fryers and whether vegan items are cooked in the same oil as animal products. Cross-contamination can occur during cooking, compromising the vegan status of a dish.
We know it can seem daunting to ask these questions, but the majority of the time, staff will be happy to accommodate however possible. As long as you’re kind and understanding in your questioning, there’s no reason to feel uncomfortable.
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