While traditional Panamanian dishes are mainly based on meat, poultry and lots of fresh seafood, the little country’s vegetarian gastronomic scene is growing. Alongside popular dishes such as ropa vieja (stewed beef with vegetables and chilli), sancocho (chicken soup with yucca) and the typical arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), specialty and traditional restaurants are now elaborating delicious options for those who do not wish to consume animal produce. Here is a list of Panama City’s best vegetarian restaurants.
El Jardin Vegetariano
Restaurant, Asian, Vegetarian, Vegan, Chinese, South American, $$$
Located in the mall of Via Veneto, El Jardin Vegetariano is a pioneer in the city when it comes to vegetarian cuisine. Owned by a Taiwanese family, this vegetarian restaurant features Asian-Panamanian cuisine with a menu of over 20 dishes including mixed vegetables, soups, plantains, soy meats, rice, salads and freshly pressed juice. El Jardin Vegetariano offers great quality for price, with one scoop of food costing around 70 cents.
Located in the Chinese neighbourhood of El Dorado, La Casa Vegetariana offers vegetarian dishes blending Chinese and Panamanian flavours that will leave vegetable-lovers ecstatic. As a really low cost option, this vegetarian restaurants will finally prove wrong the belief that healthy food must always be expensive. Soya ham, breaded aubergines, vegetarian sushi and vegetable ‘meatballs’ are just a few of the unusual dishes that you’ll discover at La Casa Vegetariana. A complementary soup is offered with every meal.
Delicious vegan fast-food at a reasonable price. Located in the Avenida Manuel Espinosa Batista close to the campus of the Universidad Interamericana, this small vegetarian and vegan restaurant has a social mission to bring affordable, cruelty-free food to Panama City. A full-menu with a drink will cost approximately $7. New dishes are presented everyday, the pakora-like fritters and soy dishes are a must-try and the vegan tiramisu is to die for! Though water and tea are free, nothing beats a freshly-squeezed papaya, mango or passionfruit juice when munching in the tropics.
While these restaurants stand out as being strictly vegetarian, a few more places deserve to be mentioned for they offer a healthy vegetarian/vegan alternative for all, including meat-eaters, as well as a great atmosphere. Hip Cuisine is a vegan-friendly Latin American fusion restaurant featuring nutritious healthy food, cold pressed juices and smoothies. The open grill and salad bar allows customers to see the food being prepared. Foods are sourced from local organic growers to deliver a never-frozen menu based exclusively on fresh products.
Located in the charming neighbourhood of Casco Viejo, made of colourful houses and tiny cobblestone streets, Veggie Moon is the perfect location for an intimate dinner. With its rustic, white painted wood interiors, mosaic floors and candelabra, the restaurant has preserved a taste of Panama’s colonial architecture, creating the ideal setting to enjoy a wide selection of vegetarian dishes, pastas and luxurious wines, alongside a few options for meat-eaters.