Where To Find The Best Plant-Based Food In Lisbon, Portugal

If you're a plant-based eater who loves to travel, there are some destinations you just assume will be harder to navigate than others. For me, Portugal was one of them. Surely going even a day without meat, fish or dairy —not to mention a few of the egg custard pastries, the pastéis de nata, this nation is so known for — would prove problematic? Yet I'm happy to report that capital city Lisbon has a thriving vegan food scene, and the number of plant-based options here took me entirely by surprise. From exclusive restaurants that cater to everyone to humble-but-delicious veggie buffets, here's where to find the best plant-based food in Lisbon.

Jardim das Cerejas 

Buffet lunches are enormously popular with locals, and vegans don't have to miss out. The best plant-based buffet is at Jardim das Cerejas, in the very heart of Lisbon. At peak times you may have to wait for a table, but it's definitely worth it: for just €7.50 (about $9 US), this colorful all-you-can-eat is a bargain. All the dishes are vegan, from the hot (curries, lasagnas, stir-fries, rice) to the starters, salads and soups. This is homemade food at its best — hearty, comforting and healthy — and many dishes are Indian and Mediterranean inspired. There are also several plant-based versions of Portuguese classics; the bolo de bolacha (traditional Portuguese cake made from cookies and cream) is divine.

Local–Your Healthy Kitchen

Eating well has never been so hot, and things are no different in Lisbon. The most popular new joint in town is Local–Your Healthy Kitchen, a restaurant so in demand it's opened two branches in six months, and the one at Chiado Palace is ideal for a healthy lunch to offset those jugs of sangria. While not exclusively plant-based, the vegan (and gluten-free) options here are excellent, and all dishes are free from refined sugar and anything processed. Mains include tofu red curry with wholewheat rice and spinach, lentils with hummus and harissa roasted veg, and beautiful bowls of quinoa, eggplant, zucchini, chickpeas, almonds and pomegranate.

Be sure to leave room for vegan dessert: the apple and date pie is wonderfully sticky and sweet, but the blackberry cheesecake is heavenly.

Clube de Journalistas

Long beloved by journalists and diplomats, the Clube de Jornalistas is ranked as one of Lisbon's best restaurants, and thankfully vegans won't have to pass on a night at this gem of a restaurant. Located in a 17th-century mansion in the city's Lapa neighbourhood, this building is packed with history and old-world charm, and though it's open to all the old air of exclusivity prevails — from the inconspicuous green door to the glasses of champagne you're handed on arrival.

The restaurant happily caters for vegans — just tell the server on arrival and they'll talk you through your options. The menu is small but the food delicious and beautifully presented. Highlights for me were the melt-in-your-mouth eggplant, velvety vegetable soup, and sweet, juicy barbecued pineapple dusted with sugar. With Lisbon's iconic tiled walls gleaming under candlelight, Clube de Journalistas will definitely be one of the most memorable meals of your trip.

Sama Sama Crepe and Juice Bar

Everyone loves a crêpe – but the ones from eco-friendly Sama Sama Crêpe and Juice Bar are next level. Made with vegan batter (a gluten-free option is also available), the crêpes are made to order right in front of you, and they're so good there's usually a line snaking out the front to get them. Sama Sama are a fine example of how vegan cheese should be used: on the outside of the crêpe it's cooked til crisp; inside it's melted and gooey.

There are sweet and savoury options available, and while they all feel indulgent they're plant-based and relatively healthy. Choose from fillings like guacamole, sun-dried tomato, scrambled tofu, crispy kale, chilli beans or sweet potato, and a variety of vegan cheeses (halloumi and feta!). Afterwards, grab yourself a refreshing cold-pressed juice. There's barely any seating so walk around the corner to Praça Europa and find yourself a place to stop and enjoy.

Ao 26 Vegan Food Project

Located in trendy Chiado, Ao 26 Vegan Food Project is one of the most popular fully vegan restaurants in Lisbon. Though it's only been open two years, it's already carved out a stellar reputation for itself, so if you want to come for dinner you're advised to book ahead. Ao 26 Vegan Food Project serves a variety of plant-powered dishes: from pumpkin, sweet potato and turmeric soup to tofu and vegetable curry or even a succulent seitan steak with herb butter and sweet potato fries, there's something for everyone. Desserts are rich, sticky and incredibly more-ish.

Selene Nelson is a UK-based food and travel writer. Follow her foodie adventures here.