Why is Portugal a Veg-Friendly Destination?
Despite being located in a Mediterranean area, known for its mostly plant-based diet, Portugal is traditionally a country of people who enjoy eating meat and fish. This is greatly reflected in the country’s traditional cuisine, from the north to the south, and it can be sometimes challenging to find authentic regional dishes that do not contain one of these foods. Some years ago, Portugal was considered to be a difficult country for vegetarian or vegan people, but this reality has changed enormously for the better with the massive tourist explosion that has taken place all over the territory in recent years. Cafes, shops, markets and veg-friendly restaurants keep opening everywhere, and especially in the most visited areas of the country, which are Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve. Stay with us and find out why Portugal is a veg-friendly tourist destination not to be missed!
The veg-friendly options outside of the main tourist hubs
Let us start with the most challenging situations: it is true that those who follow a strictly vegetarian diet might not find in the traditional Portuguese cuisine a wide variety of dishes adapted to their choice, especially if traveling through rural areas in the countryside, far from the tourist centers. But in almost every restaurant, there will be a soup of the day, which with a bit of luck will be a vegetable soup. Starters such as bread, olive oil and olives are usually placed on the table, and even in restaurants where there is no vegetarian option, vegan people will not starve, as it is common for main dishes to be accompanied by salad, rice and french fries. Depending on the area of the country, you can also find some specialties that combine perfectly with a vegan diet. For example, in the Lousã area, in the center of the country, cornbread migas, cooked in olive oil and garlic, and traditionally accompanied by greens and beans, is a famous and delicious 100% vegetarian dish. And in the Alentejo, a traditional tomato soup (without egg) or a simple açorda will probably induce very good memories!
For ovo-lacto vegetarians the options are even more diverse, starting with cheese starters, passing through desserts and culminating with the wide range of cakes, pastries, pies and toasts of the traditional Portuguese pastries (pastelarias).
The unstoppable development of the veg-friendly world in Portugal
If it is true that, slowly and steadily, the Portuguese veggie revolution is starting to reach some of the most remote areas of the country, it is even more so in the large cities of Lisbon and Porto, as well as in the sunny Algarve. According to the HappyCow platform, Portugal has currently 245 vegetarian restaurants and/or cafés, of which 108 are vegan. If we add to the list the restaurants that offer vegetarian options on their menu, the number of veg-friendly restaurants across the country exceeds 1000! From sophisticated signature cuisine restaurants, to innovative concepts of sustainable practices such as zero waste, not to mention national chains specializing in veggie buffets, the options are incredibly vast and suitable to all tastes.
Some of these restaurants offer international dishes, while others specialize in traditional Portuguese food adapted for vegetarians and/or vegans. In recent years, the latest have multiplied and it is now quite common to find 100% veggie versions of typical dishes such as francesinha, feijoada or some “bacalhau” – without bacalhau.
A wide diversity of veg-friendly options at supermarkets in Portugal
As we have seen, in large urban centers and tourist areas it is quite easy to find cafes and restaurants that offer appropriate and delicious food for those who choose a vegetarian or vegan diet. But is this offer equally abundant and diverse when it comes to supermarkets? We have good news! The largest portuguese and international supermarket chains spread across all over the country, offer nowadays many plant-based food options, and often, at very affordable prices compared to other European countries. The offer ranges from numerous options of vegetable milks, soy, almond or coconut yogurts, tofu, tempeh, seitan, spreads and dips, and plant-based versions of foods that traditionally contain animal products, such as pizzas, sausages and vegetable burgers. The Celeiro stores, located in many cities in the country and which also have a website for online shopping, offer for example, a list with over 2000 vegan products available!
Local food markets are also an excellent option when making the most essential purchases, especially for those tourists who have a kitchen in their accommodation and prefer to cook their meals at home. Fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as typical regional products are easily found in this type of daily or weekly markets.
Where to sleep?
For those of you who intend to have a 100% veg-friendly experience in Portugal, including when it comes to choose an appropriate accommodation, there are many options of guesthouses and Bed & Breakfasts. From north to south (and even on the islands!), there are many places offering entirely vegetarian and/or vegan meals. Examples of this are:
- Vale de Torre (Rio de Moinhos): a vegetarian B&B located on top of a small hill in a valley overlooking a stream that flows into the Vez River. It offers different types of accommodation: a rural country house, a studio with mountain views and multiple bell tents.
- Vale de Moses (Amieira): located at the foothills of the Serra da Estrela, this accommodation facilitates yoga classes and retreats and offers guests vegetarian, vegan and allergy-friendly meals.
- Omassim (Ericeira): is a guesthouse, yoga center and surf school located near Ericeira. The owners prepare vegetarian and vegan meals using fresh local produce, upon prior reservation.
- TerrAzoia (Colares): this agritourism accommodation located in the Quinta do Rio Touro valley, immersed in the protected area of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, was created about 30 years ago and organizes retreats and workshops. The meals served are all vegetarian and/or vegan.
- Vegans by the Sea (Santiago do Cacém): accommodation in the National Ecological Reserve of Costa Alentejana next to Lagoa de Santo André. There is a shop on site that sells vegan food and meals.
- Lost Valley of Ramila (Ramila): located in the Serra de São Mamede, in Alentejo, this little paradise offers different types of accommodation (apartments, mill, cottage) and vegetarian meals to its guests.
- Casa Vale da Lama (Odiáxere): agritourism and permaculture on a 42-hectare farm, near the beaches of Lagos, in the Algarve. It offers 9 rooms and a vegetarian restaurant to serve its customers on stays, courses and retreats.
- Joe’s Place (Pico, Azores): accommodation available between April and October, when vegetarian hosts serve veggie meals. 100% vegan meals are possible if ordered in advance.
Where to shop veg-friendly?
And when it comes to shopping, does Portugal offer options for people who choose to buy clothing, footwear, hygiene and cosmetics items which are 100% vegan and cruelty-free? Of course yes! The offer of both physical boutiques and online shops selling these ethically produced goods is fastly increasing too! We have the examples of Couve and Sapato Verde stores in Lisbon, Corkor in Barreiro and Casa Brava in Loulé.
Portuguese apps especially designed for veg-friendly people
Nothing more practical than an app that shows us in a few clicks how to get to the place we want to go, right? This is now also true for the veg-friendly universe in Portugal! Today, there are at least three web applications created with the aim of improving the experience of vegetarians and vegans who live in or visit our country. They are:
- Veg and Go! (Porto): this is an app that offers a very complete map with information on different vegetarian and vegan places in the city of Porto. There are already more than 50 veg-friendly restaurants only in this city!
- Vegan Way (Lisbon): is a printed guide to a vegan lifestyle – which excludes any product of animal origin – focused on the Lisbon area. It includes physical spaces, as well as online stores and services.
- Veond: is a vegan app with discounts, experiences, products, last-minute offers, recipes and content for a more ethical life, respectful towards all species and the planet. From the north to the south of the country!
We hope this article has been helpful to you and we wish you great discoveries and experiences in veg-friendly Portugal!