“Help! I’m a vegetarian in Argentina and I may throw myself off La Boca’s Transbordador bridge if I have to eat another ensalada mixta.”
If you’re a non-meateater in one of the most carnivorous countries in the world, you know what I am talking about. There are good days (falafel from Sarkis) and bad days (when you ravenously create make-shift chimichurri sandwiches from the parrilla bread basket).
Should you believe all those other travel articles and guidebook sidebars crowing about the vegetarian variety in today’s Buenos Aires? Well, to a certain extent, yes. See our vegetarian guide to Buenos Aires restaurants, below.
Over the years, there has been a definite trend for places aimed at those who don’t eat meat, or at least not every day. However, most of the best places seem to be within the same few blocks of Palermo. If you’re planning on going to an area where there is less footfall from foreigners, we hope you like cheese empanadas.
Vegetarian pizza at Buenos Aires Verde.
Survival Tips for Vegetarians in Argentina
1. “No como carne.” Beware of saying simply, “I don’t eat meat.” Your message is clearer if you say, “Soy vegetariano/a”. Why? Because in Argentina carne is often a synonym for beef. Take, for example, flights with Aerolineas Argentinas, when stewardesses come round offering passengers two choices for their meal: pollo o carne, chicken or meat (ie beef).
2. Beware of supermarket vegetarian food. More Argentinians are cutting down on the meat in their diet, but it’s almost as if they want to make themselves suffer in the process by sacrificing all flavour. Soya milanesas? You might as well chew on some deep-fried cardboard. Please Argentina, for the love of the McCartneys (and we know how much you love Sir Paul), please sort this out.
3. Got an asado invite and need a quick-fix so you won’t go hungry? Try this: roasted red peppers, halved, lined with cheese, and with an egg cracked in the middle. If you crave some grilled halloumi (and are feeling ambitious), you could follow chef Dan Perlman’s example, and make your own with this recommended recipe.
4. Ah, that dreaded ensalada mixta. There’s nothing wrong with good old lettuce, tomato and onion, but some variety wouldn’t got a miss. Fortunately, plentiful salads are served in some places, such as SmartDeli (for a quick take-away lunch, featuring ‘super-food’ ingredients) and Miranda (for plates overflowing with mixed leaves and roasted veggies, albeit at rather inflated prices).
4. Can you be a vegan in Buenos Aires? Or a strict, non-cheese-eating vegetarian? This is an even tougher task. But travelling vegan DeMane Davis was surprised to find it wasn’t as bad as she feared. “There are more vegan restaurants than in Boston. I ate incredibly well every single day and by well I mean – feasted.” Try the city’s first vegan fast-food joint, Picnic.
The Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Buenos Aires
Arevalito, Palermo Hollywood
It may have changed its name and lost its larger workshop-style premises circa 2008, but this cosy (ie tiny) establishment still churns out good homecooking. A hand-scrawled, ever-changing menu ensures it keeps its personal touch.
Clientele: ‘Hollywood’ hipsters hanging out on the pavement tables, often with their equally on-trend dogs.
Signature dishes: A rotating cast of fresh salads and tarts, plus excellent homemade breads.
Buenos Aires Verde, Palermo Hollywood
Excellent little restaurant that serves hearty and flavoursome home-cooking to prove you don’t have to go hungry as a veggie. We’re sad to hear that its sister restaurant in Almagro – La Huella – is having to close in August because of new plans for the arts centre that hosts it, but here’s hoping they bring the delicious, cheese-crusted pastel de papa over here to the original branch.
Clientele: Veggies with perfectly active tastebuds (no cardboard milanesas here).
Signature dishes: Creamy quinoa risotto, vegan pizza, veggie curry.
Buenos Aires Verde in Palermo Hollywodo.
Kensho, Palermo Hollywood
Specialising in raw and organic food, Kensho began as a closed-door restaurant before moving to these chic new premises in 2010. One meal here feels like a full-body detox.
Clientele: People who can define macrobiotic and biodynamic wine without Googling first.
Signature dishes: Mushroom ceviche and plenty of cashew-nut cheese.
Casa Felix, Colegiales
Creative and high-quality tasting menus in this in-home restaurant that specialises in vegetarian and pescatarian cuisine.
Clientele: Not necessarily non-carnivores, just food lovers working the closed-door restaurant circuit.
Signature dishes: Mushroom and pumpkin seed empanadas; wild leek humita. Most dishes served with herbs and leaves from the backgarden.
Artemisia, Palermo Hollywood
So popular, they opened two branches. Both have a lovely pantry-style décor. Food is sometimes excellent, sometimes a little so-so.
Clientele: Palermo’s Sunday brunch crowd (even if it’s not Sunday, or brunch time).
Signature dish: polenta lasagna.
HierbaBuena, San Telmo
Adorably cute café that makes a great lunch spot. Serves fish and chicken dishes too.
Clientele: Expats hoping the fruit-filled smoothies will counterbalance their Quilmes intake.
Signature dishes: Excellent salads. And see also the weekend brunch, including their take on eggs Florentine.
Do you find it a challenge being a vegetarian in Argentina? We’d love to hear your thoughts. And as we mourn the closure of Siempre Verde in Barrio Chino, we’d particularly like your tips on good veggie places that don’t have Palermo prices.
Latest posts by Vicky Baker (see all)
- The Real Tango Experience in Argentina - May 1, 2013
- In Case You Haven’t Heard, the Pope is from Argentina - March 20, 2013
- Argentinian Culture Around the World - January 8, 2013