Eating Vegetarian in Buenos Aires, Latin America’s Meat Capital
When people wax poetic about the gastronomy in Buenos Aires, they’re talking about meat: carne asado, bodiola, choripán. Thanks to a large Italian population (approximately 25 million Argentinians are of at least partial Italian descent), there’s also plenty of gnocchi and pizza — but primarily, Porteños (a nickname for residents of Buenos Aires) eat animals. In 2016, Argentina came in third after Australia and the U.S. for highest meat consumption per capita. So if you’re vegetarian, vegan or just a person who chooses not to consume pork shoulder on a daily basis, Buenos Aires might seem like a daunting travel destination. What will I eat? What if there’s no point to this trip without Milanesa or beef empanadas?
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But you’re just operating under old assumptions. In recent years, there’s been a vegetarian boom in Buenos Aires. “I was a vegetarian when I first arrived in 2006, and it was extremely difficult to find delicious food,” Allie Lazar told The Daily Meal by email. She’s an American expat living in Buenos Aires and creator of the blog Pick Up the Fork. “When I would order at restaurants, even if I said I was a vegetarian, I would have to double-check that the dish didn't contain meat. Today, even though Argentina is still a carnivorous country, there are more vegetarian and vegan restaurants than ever, plus many great regular restaurants with vegetable-forward dishes that do not contain meat products. What’s changed is that the younger generation’s counterculture is rejecting the national identity and embracing vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. Plus, meat isn't as affordable as it used to be.”
These days, vegetarians traveling through Buenos Aires have endless options to keep them satiated between tango classes. (Oh, and good news: Malbec is naturally meatless.) Check out these veggie haunts the next time you find yourself in Buenos Aires.
La Reverde Parillita Vegana
Afraid of missing out on those asados? At La Reverde Parillita Vegana, you can eat like the locals. Or at least, you can look like you’re eating like the locals. The restaurant’s asado (barbecue) resembles the real thing, but it’s actually made from seitan.
If you don’t eat meat, you don’t have to miss out on Italian food, either. Pizza Vegana is exactly what it sounds like: a vegan pizzeria. Their slogan is just as on-the-nose as their name: “If you’re going to eat pizza, it should be vegan pizza.” They even make their own vegan cheese… out of potatoes! The best news is that Pizza Vegana is a chain, so wherever you go in the city, you won’t be far from a delicious slice.
BIO Solo Orgánico
One of the old-school vegetarian staples in Buenos Aires, BIO Solo Orgánico, opened in 2002 in the Palermo neighborhood and became the first certified organic restaurant in the country. Sip a biodynamic wine and order the quinoa risotto prepared with seasonal vegetables and brie. If you like the menu (you will), sign up for one of their on-site cooking classes.
Buenos Aires Verde
There is no vegetarian restaurant in Buenos Aires more highly regarded than Buenos Aires Verde. The owner and chef, Mauro Massimino, who also has his own cooking show, has elevated vegetarian food to high art with dishes that include vegan maki, grilled tofu tiradito and desserts so beautiful that they look like sculptures.
At Krishna Veggie, let the Hare Krishnas of Buenos Aires make you vegan samosas in their cozy cafe. You’ll be surrounded by paintings of Krishna with a view of the altar. Enjoy the incense and the good vibes while you sip their homemade ginger lemonade.
Yeite Café isn’t exclusively vegetarian, but the extensive vegetarian items on the menu, the tasteful minimalist decor, the soft music and the pastries concocted by famous pastry chef Pamela Villar make it a great lunch option. Try the tabbouleh, and don’t miss the cheesecake with orange and fig.
If you are the kind of vegetarian that needs an Asian food fix even when you’re traveling through Latin America — Hi! That’s me! — don’t miss Barrio China, the city’s little Chinatown. Shop at Casa China for a huge selection of vegan “meats” and a whole gluten-free aisle, cross the street to Tina & Co for a wealth of vegan cheeses, then make your way to a store called Tofu where you’ll find bins of tofu prepared in a variety of ways. If you have no intention of cooking on your vacation, pop over to Baohaus for vegetarian bao; the filling is smoked soy ham with shiitake.