The Vegetarian’s Survival Guide to Spain
Posted by Dreamer
How to survive - and thrive - as a vegetarian in Spain's markets, tapas bars, restaurants, and while traveling.
Vegetarianism can be an admittedly difficult feat in ham-loving Spain. The country has had an undeniably long, proud love affair with meat for as long as anyone can document or remember. (Just look in on any Museo del Jamón location for proof.)
But take heart. Spain today is an undoubtedly hip Western nation and good vegetarian fare is now a question of where you go and who you ask. Surviving, or dare we say it, even thriving, as a vegetarian in Spain can be easy enough once you know what to look for.
Here’s your vegetarian and vegan guide on navigating your way through Spain’s four main food environments:
As is probably the case back in your home country, any market or supermarket is a safe bet for everyday shopping if you keep your eyes open and you’re prepared to read the ingredient lists on the back of packages. However, if you’re looking to find tofu, soy, and wheat gluten in all their forms; milk alternatives; and other vegetarian foods, you’ll need to make your way to a health food store or an herbolario.
Health food stores
The health food stores in Spain generally carry a wide variety of organic, gourmet, and vegetarian items, both classic Spanish (such as jars of organic pisto) and international (such as sushi wraps and organic tiramisu). Soy, rice, and almond milk are easily available, as are a myriad of meat alternatives, including seitan, tofu, and soy crafted into hamburgers, kebabs, filets, and other faux creations. You might also be able to get your hands on delicacies such as Catalan butifarras made from soy.
Aside from health food stores and supermarkets, such as NaturaSì in Madrid, a number of vegetarian restaurants have health food stores on the premises or next door. Here’s a list of vegetarian restaurants and health food stores throughout Spain.
Though the selection can be extremely limited, most herbolarios have a dietética section where they sell vegetarian products such as almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, tofu, and a veggie burger or two alongside low sugar, wholewheat, and diet foods.
Going out for tapas is the quintessential Spanish experience you won’t ever want to miss. But before you despair upon finding that most tapas places have only one or two vegetarian tapas on offer, let this be an opportunity to participate in the grand tradition of the Spanish tapas crawl. Go ir de tapas and have a tapa or two at one place, then move on to the next, and so on until you’ve had your fill. Just follow your nose with our quick guide to vegetarian and vegan tapas.
Note: While these tapas are usually suitable for vegetarians or vegans, unless you have a chance to see the tapa in front of you, make sure you ask if it contains any meat or shellfish. One tapas place may put bits of ham in their cheese croquettes, and another won’t. One place might try to put ham strips on your pan con tomate, and another wouldn’t dream of it.
tortilla de patata = potato omelette, often containing onions
tortilla de pimientos = potato omelette with bell pepper
tabla de quesos = an assortment of cheeses
berenjena con miel = fried eggplant strips drizzled with honey
croquetas de patata = potato croquettes (breaded, deep-fried, and cylinder-shaped)
croquetas de queso = cheese croquettes (breaded, deep-fried, and cylinder-shaped)
patatas bravas = fried potatoes served with spicy tomato sauce and garlic mayonnaise
quiche de rocquefort = a Rocquefort cheese and egg mixture cooked in a light pastry shell
buñuelos de queso = cheese fritters
empanadas de queso = cheese-filled turnovers
aros de cebolla rebozados = batter-fried onions
montaditos = small roll sandwiches; bread choices include white and wheat; vegetarian filling choices include a variety of cheeses, omelettes, and sometimes vegetables
tosta = a tapa on a slice of bread; vegetarian choices include a variety of cheeses, omelettes, and sometimes vegetables
pisto manchego = zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, and onion stew
escalivada = grilled eggplant, onion, and bell pepper
aceitunas = olives
champiñones al ajillo = garlic-sauteed mushrooms
alcachofas al ajillo = garlic-sauteed artichokes
pimientos asados = roasted bell peppers
pan con tomate = bread rubbed with ripe tomato, olive oil, and salt or garlic
zarangollo = zucchini and onion stew