The Best Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants in Chengdu, China

Sichuan province is known globally for its intense, spicy dishes, many of which are meat-free
Sichuan province is known globally for its intense, spicy dishes, many of which are meat-free | © LEJEANVRE Philippe / Alamy Stock Photo
Megan Eaves

As you might expect of the capital of China’s most widely exported provincial cuisine – Sichuan – Chengdu is a city known for its food. Though vegetarian food has been traditionally tough to hunt down in China, Chengdu is home to some excellent vegetarian and vegan restaurants and some traditionally plant-based dishes that shouldn’t be missed.

Sometimes you have to dig a little, or get creative, to find vegetarian food in Sichuan’s capital city of Chengdu. But when you start looking, you’ll find heaps of great restaurants that serve a wide range of dishes for anyone opting to go meat-free. Though often these places aren’t branded specifically as ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’, the outcome is the same. A solid truth is that China consumes an astonishing range of vegetables and meat-free proteins as part of its daily repertoire, and finding incredibly flavourful veggie dishes here is an easy pleasure.

The prevalence of tofu in Chinese food is a boon for veggies

That said, strict vegans may have more difficulty, as food is often flavoured with fish sauce or may have hidden ingredients lurking – especially meat included for flavouring in vegetable dishes – so it’s important to ask questions and consider carrying a phrasebook to help restaurant staff understand your dietary requirements.

Here are some of the best vegetarian and vegan food options in Chengdu, from dedicated plant-based restaurants to delicious meat-free Chengdu staple dishes you shouldn’t miss.

1. Zaozishu Vegetarian Restaurant for traditional Chengdu dishes

Restaurant, Chinese, Vegetarian

Zaozishu is is an excellent vegetarian restaurant with a central location and simple modern decor. Its menu comprises a range of meatless versions of Chinese favourites, so this is a great place for vegetarians to sample some local staples, like mapo doufu (spicy tofu), and more typically meaty dishes from across China, including Peking “duck” made from tofu.

2. Dongzi Kouzhang Lao'er Liangfen for veggie cold noodles

Restaurant, Chinese

One traditional Chengdu dish that’s also naturally vegetarian is liang fen. These cold mung-bean noodles in chilli and vinegar sauce are a classic dish eaten to stave off the hot Sichuan summers. Dongzi Kouzhang (also known as Zhang Liangfen), just across from Wenshu Monastery, is a little open-air shop with a few plastic stools, and the liang fen are pretty much the only thing on the menu.

3. Wenshuyuan Suzhai for Buddhist temple food

Restaurant, Chinese

To sample traditional Buddhist fare, head to the restaurant attached to Wenshu Monastery. The two-storey location has two dining options: either a buffet earlier in the day, or a vegetarian hotpot offering for dinner. All of the food is drawn from traditional vegetarian Buddhist temple recipes – expect options like stuffed lotus root, lion’s head mushrooms and Kung Pao faux-chicken. Hotpot options include a number of meat substitutes.

4. Xilai Yibin Ranmian for “Burning” Noodles

Restaurant, Chinese

“Burning Noodles” is a dish hailing from the city of Yibin, south of Chengdu in Sichuan province. Perfect for vegetarians, the dish consists of boiled noodles (sometimes wheat) tossed in a spicy, salty sauce of ya cai (preserved vegetables), chopped roasted peanuts, green onion, chilli oil, sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce and Sichuan pepper, sometimes with a sprinkling of mushrooms too. This relaxed little restaurant serves its namesake noodles alongside other (non-vegetarian) dishes 24/7.

5. Zenyue Vegetarian for elegant, soy-free dishes

Restaurant, Chinese, Vegetarian

Zenyue offers plant-based food served in a serene, upmarket dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows, evoking a minimalist, Japanese-style Buddhist atmosphere. The dishes are all extremely thoughtful and avoid using soy as a substitute, so everything focuses on flavour combinations and a delicate balance of fruits, vegetables and grains. Think mushroom osmanthus rice soup, blueberry pumpkin quinoa cups, bamboo fungus and soaked-radish fried rice, washed down with chilled tangerine Pu’er tea. There is a set menu and a buffet offering, and everything is completely seasonal.

6. Mike’s Pizza Kitchen for veggie pizzas, pastas and sandwiches

Pizzeria, Italian

To stray away from traditional Sichuan cuisine, Mike’s Pizza Kitchen offers a heap of vegetarian options ranging from pizzas to sandwiches and pasta. Run by the eponymous expat – Canadian, by way of Las Vegas – the pizzas here are authentic and can be fully customised to accommodate vegetarian diets. It also has Italian wines and local craft beer on offer, all served in a small, contemporary dining room or delivered to your door.

7. Yu Su Ge for a vegan buffet feast

Restaurant, Chinese, Vegan

This absolutely massive restaurant seats 150 people and serves an incredibly long buffet. The menu consists entirely of vegan Chinese dishes, and there’s a huge variety of tastes and flavours. Expect to find stir-fried vegetables, noodles, a variety of rice, fresh fruit and soups.

8. Su Shan Mian for vegan dumplings and noodles

Restaurant, Chinese, Vegan

Vegan dumplings and wontons are the signature offering at this tiny restaurant with just two tables and a line of low bar stools along one wall inside, as well as a scattering of low tables and stools outside and in the wooden entryway. You order from picture menus at the counter, and everything is completely vegan, with the most popular options being spicy dumplings and wontons. There are also vegetable and rice dishes on offer.

9. Qingshui Hehua for vegan mapo tofu

Restaurant, Vegan, Chinese

The name of this vegetarian restaurant means ‘Clear Water Lotus’, and its offerings are equally elegant. Located on the corner southeast of Wenshu Monastery, it caters to visitors and monastics alike. This is a great place to try vegan versions of Chengdu’s most famous dishes: mapo tofu and dan dan noodles, both of which are ordinarily made with pork mince. Other options include stir-fried tofu, matcha noodles and vegan yogurt. You might also find “vegan chicken feet” being sold in the packaged food shop on the ground floor.

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