With tofu being somewhat of a national dish in China,
it would seem that vegetarian food is all around. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, many restaurants find ways to sneak meat into just about everything. Ordering green beans? Here, have some pork with that. If you want real vegetarian food, you have to seek it out. The good news is that Shanghai
is on the forefront of the vegetarian movement in China. Here are the best meat-free restaurants in town.
Restaurant, Healthy, Soul Food, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
Comfort food and vegan are not words you often hear in conjunction, but thanks to cooked-wheat-gluten meat-alternative seitan, restaurants like Happy Buddha have stepped in to provide greasy goodness without the meat. Enjoy classic American dishes like BBQ sandwiches, cheese steak, and double layer nachos while sticking to your cruelty-free diet. Many dishes are vegan, and all are vegetarian. The restaurant, which is located inside of an old swimming pool-turned hip food court, even offers delicious vegetarian desserts like their oatmeal cream pie and genuine vegan ice cream.
Restaurant, Mediterranean, Vegetarian
doesn’t hide its desire to be a healthy restaurant. While it offers vegetarian alternatives to classic international favorites like pastas, sandwiches, and soups, its specialty is Mediterranean staples like hummus and falafel. The ingredients are fresh and the location is prime. Every Wednesday night from 6pm to 10pm, Organic Kitchen hosts a vegan buffet and on Sunday they offer up a RMB78 ($11) all-you-can-eat healthy brunch. Can’t beat that!
Restaurant, Asian, Gluten-free, Vegetarian
Located on Shanghai’s tourist-friendly Bund, Wujie is Shanghai’s best upscale vegetarian restaurant. The restaurant takes great pains to ensure their ingredients are ethically sourced. Owners work with small Yunnanese cooperatives to source wild southern mushrooms and with Heilongjiang farmers to obtain rice specially cultivated in rare seven-foot deep ‘black gold’ soil. All dishes are modern vegetarian takes on Asian flavors like yellow Thai curry and 18-spices tofu. Expect to spend at least RMB200 ($30) per person for a full meal.
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Founded by famed Shanghai restaurateur Kelley Lee, Sproutworks
is a healthy vegetarian buffet chain found in many prime locations around the city. Menu offerings rotate daily, with flavors ranging from Asian to Mediterranean. Prices are reasonable. For RMB50 ($7), you can get four side dishes of your choice. The restaurant offers a lot of grain salads and unique takes on vegetables as well as soups, salads, and proteins. You will also find a refrigerator full of green juices and coconut waters.
Pure and Whole
Restaurant, Healthy, Vegetarian
Winner of ‘Best Healthy Food’ at local expat magazine That’s Shanghai‘s 2015 food and drink awards, Pure and Whole has always been popular with vegetarians and carnivores alike. While not exclusively vegetarian, many of the menu items cater to a meat-free diet, like the veggie burger and jungle salad. Offerings here cover a wide range of flavors, so there’s almost certainly something that will delight your palate. Try Pure and Whole’s line of detox drinks and salads for an extra boost.