Can I survive as a Vegetarian or Vegan in Spain?
When you are planning to go abroad as a vegetarian (or vegan) it is really important to think about your eating plans ahead of time, just in case you find yourself in a country like Spain where seafood and jamón are abundant. The question is: can you get by as a vegetarian (or more) living here for six+ months? Even though I have never personally tried it, my answer is yes! I traveled for two weeks with two vegetarians and a vegan and, while on occasion it was difficult, we managed to not only survive but eat a lot of good food too.
What I have found is that it is easier to find specialized products (for any diet) in larger cities than in small country towns. However, if you are crafty enough, you should be fine anywhere you go. Here are my top three tips:
1.) Take advantage of ‘normal’ Spanish food that is vegetarian: When I was traveling with my vegan friend, we were all veganish for two weeks. This meant lots of tostadas con tomate (a traditional Spanish breakfast, with garlic in Catalunya), olives, and pimientos al padrón (a link to see what they are and how to make them). If you are not vegan, you can also dive into Spanish tortilla and the abundant selection of cheeses available. In some regions, you will be able to find even more ‘normal’ Spanish food that fits your needs.
Warning: Just be careful when ordering something like vegetable paella or other stock-based dishes―the stocks could easily be chicken/other animal stock. Ask the waiter to clarify.
2.) Check out the grocery stores for lots of amazing options: For everything from snacks to meals, Spanish supermarkets have an amazing selection of vegetarian and vegan options without even trying (the Mediterranean climate means that the fruit and veg are fantastic). If you are on the go, stock up on sandwich fillings like tomatoes, lettuce, and avocados―easily under 2 euros a pound when in season―; boxed gazpacho; and fresh fruit to snack on. If you have a place to cook, you will have access to all you need to cook good basic food! This is also a great way to save money if you are on a budget!
Warning: Don’t go into Spanish supermarkets expecting them to have the same vegetarian and vegan ‘sausages’, ‘cheeses’, etc. that are available elsewhere. The options in this department are limited, so focus on fresh food.
3.) Try Happy Cow: This website/app helped my friends and I find delicious vegetarian or vegan restaurants all over Spain. Just pop in where you are and they will find options near you. I highly recommend this if you are traveling with people who love food, but are unable to try local fare because of the ingredients. Unsponsored and just sharing because it was so amazing, using Happy Cow we found the Bar Trasmiera in Santander and I was so happy to be able to share amazing vegan options of traditional Spanish foods with my friends.
Warning: Most places that subscribe to being for vegetarians and vegans can be slightly pricier than normal Spanish restaurants. Keep this in mind when you are on a budget and decide when to splurge!
P.S. Shout-out to my vegetarian and vegan friends―you always have me experimenting new types of foods and having awesome experiences in general! Thank you!