The days when being a vegetarian in Lisbon meant a limp salad are long gone. The Portuguese capital has come on in culinary leaps and bounds recently, with an excitingly varied, rapidly growing crop of vegan and vegetarian picks, many adding a pinch of spice to their organic, season-driven, plant-based menus.
As the focus on farm-to-fork eating and whole foods continues to rise, vegetarianism is bigger than ever in Lisbon, with all but the most traditional of places offering at least a couple of meat-free alternatives. Cool new vegan cafés and vegetarian restaurants are popping up all over the city at a rate of knots, serving everything from Israeli street food for pocket-money prices to Indian dosas with curry and creative riffs on sushi. Read on for our absolute faves.
Restaurant, Japanese, Sushi, Vegan, Vegetarian
Can vegan sushi really be a thing? If Legumi is anything to judge by, you’d better believe it. The brainchild of chef-owner Leonardo Lattari, this coolly minimalist, whitewashed, plant-dotted space elevates seasonal, market-fresh vegetables to new heights in seaweed salads and beautifully fresh maki and sushi – all artfully presented on colourful crockery. The €22 (£19) tasting menu is the way to go. Afterwards, check out the pop-up views of Lisbon from the nearby Miradouro Senhora do Monte.
Take a mother and three daughters who are passionate about plant-based, seasonal, organic whole foods and you get this cute-as-a-button, boho-flavoured café up near Parque Eduardo VII. White walls, crackle-glaze tiles and bubble-like lights create the backdrop for imaginative takes on vegan food, along the lines of tempeh kofta with three-coloured hummus, baba ganoush, fermented cashew yoghurt and corn flatbread. Or go for health-kick breakfast and brunch options like the ‘no-egg omelette’ and the black chia porridge, with a red velvet latte laced with cacao, beetroot and reishi mushroom.
This bright, lilac-walled bistro is tucked behind the graceful ruins of Convento do Carmo in Lisbon’s shop-crammed Chiado district. The generous buffet is wholly vegan and great value at €8.50 (£7.30) for lunch, €10.50 (£9) for dinner. Dishes are all freshly prepared and big on flavour, swinging from the likes of red bean feijoada (stew), dal and black grain curry to salads, soups, quiches and couscous. Fresh-pressed juices, desserts and gluten-free options are also available.
On a plaza in the beating heart of downtown Lisbon, with views of the Castelo de São Jorge up on the hillside, Eight keeps the look bright and Scandi. This means white walls, lots of bare, blond wood and dashes of hygge in sofas and potted ferns. It’s a chill spot for digging into ultra-healthy plant-based food: smoothie bowls topped with fresh fruit and granola, super bowls tanked with veggies and hummus, tempeh burgers, tacos and toasts (try the almond ricotta with mushrooms and parsley). Or go for the fresh juices, detox shots and spice-laced lattes.
The botany in the name soon becomes evident when you step into this vintage-cool, green-walled café down by the river, where lush fern patterns dance across the walls and plants trail from hanging baskets. Snag a bistro table or a cushioned nook for a highly original spin on vegetarian and vegan grub. You might go for gyozas (pan-fried dumplings), or perhaps specials like orzotto (pearl barley risotto) with lime zest, asparagus and pesto, or turmeric-bread jackfruit sandwich with smoked tempeh. Desserts tempt, too, especially the mango-passionfruit cheesecake.
The bar-packed lanes of Lisbon’s Bairro Alto neighbourhood are where you’ll find this slick number, fitted out with cheek-by-jowl tables, caramel banquettes and filament bulbs. The vegan, gluten-free buffet is good value and changes regularly, offering the likes of Brazilian-style feijão (bean stew), polenta with mushrooms, roasted root vegetables with pesto and Moroccan tagines, prepared largely with organic ingredients. Drinks and desserts are extra. Da Terra also runs cookery classes (see the website for details).
Craving a little spice? Bemvindo (welcome) to this hip little bubble of Indian warmth in Lisbon’s Baixa district, where ochre banquettes sit below a living wall of climbers and creepers. The name is a play on ‘vegan’ and ‘Ganapati’, the elephant-headed Hindu god otherwise known as Ganesh. The menu is inspired by Ayurveda and features the likes of masala dosas (rice pancakes with vegetable-lentil curry), onion bhajis with tamarind and plum chutney, and mango, coconut and toasted pea-sprout salad. The flavours are as refreshing as the prices, with mains coming in at around €9 (£7.75).
In a sloping cobbled backstreet of Lisbon’s Chiado district, Ao 26 is an appealing conversion of a historic townhouse, with arches, cosy nooks and quirky portraits hanging on the walls. The cheerful staff bring vegan soul food to the table: think crispy tofu burgers with sweet potato fries and dense, moist chocolate cake with red fruits. Or go healthier with the likes of quinoa with roasted beetroot and pumpkin salad topped with hummus. Prices hover around mid-range, with mains at the €15 (£13) mark.
Restaurant, Hole in the Wall, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
Blink and you’ll miss this hole-in-the-wall crêpe and juice bar also in the Chiado neighbourhood, run by friendly owners Malte and Sofia. It’s a sunny-walled, easygoing, wallet-friendly pick for perfectly thin, crisp crêpes made with vegan batter, with fillings from fruit and granola to the savoury house special, Alma, with guacamole, cherry tomatoes, mixed nuts and kale. They whip up great overnight oats and cold-pressed juices, too, and stock a range of organic beer, wine and coffee. Gluten-free options are available.
Hidden away in Lisbon’s indie-cool Santa Catarina neighbourhood, this hip enclave, with street art on the walls and vegetarian Israeli street food on the menu, keeps the good vibes coming. After a far-reaching city view from the nearby miradouro, slide over here for mezze, falafel, sabih (pitta stuffed with aubergine and hard-boiled eggs) and shakshuka (poached eggs in a spicy tomato, chilli and garlic sauce). It’s all cheap and utterly delicious, but be prepared to queue at busy times – it’s worth it.