When I’m traveling by myself, being vegan is not a huge problem. I can always find stuff anywhere, Happy Cow is my best friend when I’m researching for vegan restaurants and I don’t mind traveling through the whole city just to find that one awesome vegan curry.
This time, I spent ten days in Portugal though with a group of teens, we had a few meals with locals and others where everyone just grabbed something quickly, and so that was a whole different challenge. Portugal is on the verge of changing when it comes to diet. A few years ago most restaurants didn’t even have a vegetarian option, tons of fish and meat, and even now there are some where you literally can’t find anything without fish in it. However, I was up to the challenge. I traveled to Porto, Lisbon and a few tiny towns and villages in between.
What you can eat in Portugal
First of all: I had prepared snacks at home that I brought, and to be honest – that’s a good advice to take for any vegan who is traveling. Bring nuts, protein bars and maybe crackers, just to have something to eat when you can’t find something quickly. Being hungry is the worst feeling in the world. Portugal is famous for its pastelarias where they sell all kinds of baked goods – they aren’t vegan 99% of the time.
Bread. Portugal has the best bread. You can always ask for olive oil with it, and I could live on that alone.
Tapas. Almost all restaurants have some great tapas! I just mentioned bread, but they also have delicious olives, tremoços (lupin beans), peanuts and chips.
Salad. You can almost always order a mixed salad. In Portugal it is common to just make the dressing yourself with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, which is perfect for vegans.
Soup. Often there’s a vegetable soup on the menu and if it’s not, chances are, they’ll still have some. It’s one of the most delicious Portuguese foods and a lot of people eat it as a starter. Just ask if it has dairy in it – I asked every time and it was always okay for me to eat.
Fruit. Fruit is cheap, fresh and there are tons of different kinds at the markets! Most restaurants also have a dessert option that is basically only fruit or a fruit salad. In the vineyards I also had the best fruit that I just picked up, so amazing.
Ask the server! Their hospitality is one of the things I love the most about Portuguese people and so when I asked in restaurants if they could prepare something for me, they were all so helpful and understanding. They asked what I could eat and what I couldn’t eat, and then they made the most delicious veggie, rice and potato combos that I’ve ever eaten.
Lastly and most importantly: wine! One of the best things about Portugal is their amazing wine and port wine, I could basically live on that alone.
Special thanks to thebrightmornings for answering my questions about being vegan in Portugal before I went!