I couldn’t be more happy with our decision to try Veganuary this year. Being a vegetarian for quite some time, it seemed like the natural next step to take and January created the perfect opportunity for that. There was only one “but”. At the end of January, we were going to Lisbon the capital of Portugal.
Portugal, famous for beautiful beaches, historic cities, colourful tiles – azulejos, Port wine and…Christiano Ronaldo, is also a country obsessed with meat and seafood. The Portuguese love fish in any form, especially cod and sardines, as well as octopus, mussels, Iberico ham and don’t even mention “the meat craziness” sandwich called Francesinha.
But when I heard that the times when being a vegan in Lisbon meant surviving on a limp salad are long gone, I was relieved. And indeed, the number of vegan restaurants and the quality of vegan food in Lisbon is incredible. Most of the time, we didn’t even manage to take any pictures of the food, because instead of eating, we were simply destroying what was on our plates.
During our 3 day trip to the capital of Portugal, we visited quite a few vegan restaurants, cafés and bars. The fact that it rained for the first day and a half, forced us to visit even more than we normally would. But waiting for the rain to pass with a delicious vegan pastel de nata is not the worst thing in the world. And thanks to that, we’re now able to write this delicious guide to the 7 best vegan restaurants in Lisbon!
The Botanical Den
A tiny little bar, hidden away in the north part of Barrio Alto. They’ve only been open a few months, but the Italian and Portuguese owners have already given it some great interior decoration (imagine walls of plants and old school gin memorabilia) and they were incredibly welcoming.
The menu is super simple: vegan fast food. Choose from a Beyond Meat burger or hot dog with a side of french fry-like crisps. These burgers were really well put together: loads of mayo, mustard and ketchup, salad and caramelised onions inside a tasty bun.
They were excellent value at €6.50 and you could pair them with beer, cider or one of their fine choices of vegan cocktails. It was too hard to resist a Caipirinha and an Old Fashioned.
If you’ve never had Beyond Meat, this would be a great place to try it.
This place impressed us so much that we went twice.
Just remember that for now, they’re cash only but they’re working on that.
The Food Temple
One of the original vegan restaurants in Lisbon based in the upcoming district of Mouraria. This place isn’t huge and in peak times it may be worth trying to book a table. The atmosphere is warm and friendly with a completely open kitchen where you can see the guys and gals prepare and cook your meals. Decorated with flyers, nepalese prayer flags and the classic Portuguese tiles, it has a hippy, homely feel.
The menu is small, but changes every night. They have a great selection of craft beers, wines and spirits.
We took the opportunity to sample some local craft beers from the 8a Colina brewery.
The menu had a choice of soup, 3 tapas sized dishes, a main and several desserts. The jovial and enthusiastic guys working there recommended sampling everything, but as we weren’t in the mood for soup we took the 3 tapas and main and were presented with a feast for the eyes and bellies.
The first of the 3 tapas was a herby, homemade hummus, a smoked aubergine paste with a generous kick of chili and croutons, followed by an unbelievably creamy vegetable lasagne and lastly a mushroom shepherd’s pie which was good, but not as great as the first two.
While we were already getting full at this point, the chili con carne arrived. A wonderful mix of tomatoes, kidney beans and several kinds of mushrooms, served with basmati rice and covered in mango sauce, that was just the right side of spicy, sweet and rich.
By that time there was no room left in our bellies to try one of the desserts, but next time, for sure.
Only one small quibble is that the tapas dishes that were heated weren’t really all that hot and could have used a few more minutes in the oven.
The Food Temple is another cash only restaurant.
Princesa Do Castelo
Continuing the trend of small yet cosy restaurants, Princesa Do Castelo, located in a popular neighbourhood Alfama, in the vicinity of the famous Castelo de Sao Jorge has a selection of homemade, vegan, sattvic, gluten-free and kosher options.
The inside of this place had a fairytale vibe, hinted at by the giant, comically-sized toadstool hanging from the ceiling. The choice wasn’t huge, but what we did have was excellent, filling and perfect for lunch time on a rainy Friday.
We shared a delicious white bean and quinoa soup, and a lovely thick veggie burger, made of chickpeas and beans, slathered in a sweet chutney. Accompanying the beast of a burger were perfectly cooked, skin-on roast potatoes and a small salad in a balsamic vinegar dressing. They also had some 8a craft beers, fresh juices and hot drinks.
Somehow we both managed to have space for their vegan pastéis de nata which weren’t our favourite in Lisbon, but were still a great find.
AO 26 – Vegan Food Project
Our first tip for this place is book ahead (do it by phone) as it gets very busy and is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for high quality vegan food in Lisbon.
These guys present a whole host of classic Portuguese dishes as vegan versions. To drink you can choose from craft beers, organic wines and juices.
We started with a Couvert, fresh bread, olive oil, olives and lupin beans, quickly followed by their take on the famous pastéis de bacalhau. Normally a fried cod ball, this version was filled with a light mix of potato, onion and garlic and served with generous dollops of remoulade.
And for the main course we were both instantly drawn to the same item on the menu, Francesinha. Last year we visited Porto and while Aga had a vegetarian version I had the original meat packed one, but now I couldn’t wait to see how AO 26 had made it vegan.
A quick explanation, Francesinha is a triple decker sandwich, filled with different meat products, then topped with melted cheese and finally surrounded by a spicy tomato and beer sauce. It’s something you have to try and this one matched the flavours and textures of the meat version.
Needless to say we had no room left to sample from their selection of desserts, but they did look delicious.
AO 26, while casual and friendly is definitely on the pricier side of Lisbon’s food scene, but the food is definitely worth treating yourself to.
The Therapist LX Factory
LX factory is a huge industrial complex halfway between Lisbon centre and the Belém tower and is definitely a must visit place. It has a wide selection of bars and cafés and we chose Therapist for breakfast as they had a large choice of vegan breakfast, brunch and health food dishes.
To be honest, this was the one location we regretted visiting. While the staff were pleasant, it wasn’t the best service and the food portions were pretty small.
The Peanut butter pancakes, topped with apple slices and cinnamon were not only gluten free but also delicious. While the spectacular looking pink hummus bruschetta was topped with savoury granola and salad greens it was a little flavourless. The smoothie was tasty and refreshing, but the oat milk flat whites we had were pretty awful compared to some of the other places we tried.
PASTEL DE NATA
Now comes the most important part, where do you go for the best Vegan pastéis de nata in Lisbon?
After visiting Porto, we didn’t expect there would be any chance of having vegan versions of the traditional custard tarts, but we actually found three places and all three were great alternatives. We couldn’t tell the difference between not-vegan and vegan pastéis de nata.
Prinscesa Do Castelo – I mentioned before, they don’t have many and I’m not sure they have them all the time, but if you’re in the area or want a dessert, be sure to ask the guys.
Zarzuela – Aga’s favourite comes from an old school café near the infamous Pink Street that serves a huge selection of vegan and gluten free pastries. They even serve a variety of vegan or gluten free main dishes throughout the day (cash only).
Pastelaria Batalha – My favourite came from a small modern bakery in the heart of Chiado. They had a plentiful supply of the vegan versions which were happily washed down with orange juice and a Bica (espresso).
We didn’t visit as many coffee places as we normally do on a trip, but both The Mill, and Copenhagen Coffee Lab produced really tasty oat milk flat whites that helped get us through the busy days.
As you can see, even if you’re vegan, you won’t leave Lisbon hungry. All the vegan restaurants in Lisbon we visited offered a varied selection of delicious vegan food, snacks and drinks. The fact that they’re all independent (not a chain), means that you’re investing in supporting the local culture and honestly adds to the culinary experience.