I’m a vegetarian, and the enginerd usually keeps me company. Basically, when we eat out it means no red meat, no white meat, cut down dairy and eggs, and avoid gelatin as much as possible. And 100% No. Fuckin. Olives. (Olives are Satan’s tennis balls.)
Being a vegetarian in Taiwan is super easy and relaxed, thanks to the large Buddhist population of the island. Mock meats and vegetarian buffets play a significant part in the veggie scene. The term vegetarian is commonly known and respected, and most restaurants seem to mark veggie food on their menu. Reassuringly many restaurants also tell you they don’t have any vegetarian dishes, which highlights the fact they at least try to be honest about what’s in the food.
One common denominator for most restaurants in Taiwan is that they’re open for lunch from 11 to 14:00, and again from 16:30 or 17:00 till 20:00. Google Maps and Happy Cow are okay ish when it comes to finding vegetarian restaurants, but they don’t always find the smaller, local and usually very cheap places.
Before we start going through some of our favorite vegetarian joints, let’s start with some vocabulary you might need while looking for something to eat:
- 素 Su Vegetarian, plain. Look or ask for this and you’ll find meat free options and restaurants.
- 素食 Su Shi Vegetarian or vegetarian food. The word su or sushi may be found outside vegetarian restaurants or on the menus, often, but not always, coloured green. Su in general means plain, blunt, or simple, but in food vocabulary refers to vegetarian food.
- 吃素 Chi Su To be a vegetarian, literally to eat veggies or eat simple.
- 我吃素 Wo Chi Su I’m a vegetarian, gets you pretty far. Literally, I eat veggies.
- 全素 Quan Su This one is tricky since it may refer to a) vegan food or b) Buddhist vegetarian, lacking garlic and onions but possibly containing egg. Literal meaning: entirely veggie or entirely pure, simple.
- 蔬菜 Shu Cai Another term for vegetarian food, often used on menus to indicate a section where veggie foods are listed. May sometimes just refer to foods made with vegetables, but not necessary being vegetarian.
- 蛋奶素 Dan Nai Su Lacto-ovo vegetarian.
- 蛋素 Dan Su Ovo vegetarian.
- 奶素 Nai Su Lacto vegetarian.
- 含 Han Contains. This is used to indicate things your food may contain, such as dairy or eggs, eg 含奶 or 含蛋.
These terms aren’t always written in stone, and you may find locals telling you to use totally different terms, and then someone else telling you’re saying it right. Don’t worry, eventually someone will figure out what you want 😉
Now, let’s start our veggie tour with 15 restaurant we’ve tested for you:
KGB Kiwi Gourmet Burger. Vegetarian friendly. This place caters to students and other creatures who crave Western food and beer. Burgers, fries, salads, milkshakes, you name it. Anything can be made vegetarian, and a ton of food have vegan versions, too. The staff is super relaxed with teaching you Chinese and the one single time they messed up my order by making the patty a meat one, they profusely apologised and filled our stamp card. MRT will take you there, just get off at Taipower Building Station and Exit 3.
自然食古亭 Ooh Cha Cha. Vegans’ and little bunnies’ favorite. This hipster restaurant has like two seats, so it’s quite often full. However, they have ass kicking vegan burgers, health drinks (to cancel out the effects of all the salt and grease from Kiwi Burger) and salads. The dishes can be made low carb, and it’s really the most instagrammable place ever. And expensive. Take MRT and get off at Guting station Exit 2, Your man bun wearing best friend might find this place comfortable, although he probably knew of it before it was popular 😦 A side note: their metal straws might be environment friendly, but damn do they feel bad against your teeth.
水問蔬食餐坊, Shuiwenfood. A vegetarian sushi restaurant, which caters to vegans as well. This gem of Japanese food has everything I’ve ever wanted to try; food belt, pay per portion, sushi that I can eat without worries… The staff is awesome, and although their English skills are a bit limited, everything is written in English, too, and the plates rotating on the belt are colour coded to make things easier: Green means vegan, yellow has egg, food on the white plates has dairy, and red plates warn you they contain both. Each plate costs 32 TWD, less than one euro, so knock yourself out. We tend to destroy about 20 plus portions between the two of us. They have cakes, too!!!! Take MRT and get off at Xingtian Temple Station Exit 3 to get there.
Pizza Rock. Vegetarian friendly. If you’re craving pizza, but have seen the light and realised Pizza Hut and Domino’s are trash (a fact, not an opinion), try Pizza Rock. They have quite a few locations around Taiwan, of which we’ve tried two. There’s several veggie options, and the pizzas are seriously good. The staff is always nice, but food a bit pricey. The restaurants serve alcohol and desserts, and besides pizza, you can have a salad or a sandwich. Their BaDe branch is where we go the most, you can get there with MRT, get off at Taipei Arena station Exit 3 or 4. There’s some walking, so if you wish to get closer, take a bus and get off at Guanfu S. Rd. Entrance stop.
全國健康素食自助餐. This vegetarian buffet chain is a go-to place when you’re tight on budget but also hungry and tired of eating instant noodles. You walk in, grab a tray (or a box if takeout is what you had in mind), and collect whatever you wanna eat on it with tongs find next to the trays. You take your tray to the cashier, let them know if you wanna have rice, too, and they’ll charge you per weight (food not yours). With just a couple of Euros you can get your stomach full. You can find one of their locations near NTNU. Vegetarian buffets of this style are like super duper popular around Taiwan, and vary hugely in quality and taste of food. Most times the food contains eggs, but not dairy.
素食天地. This is another vegetarian buffet place, having two locations, one in Taipei and one in New Taipei City. We’ve only been to the former, and it was the first vegetarian buffet we tried in Taiwan ♥ It’s one of the more expensive veggie buffets, but the food is really good. However, if you’re looking for healthy stuff, opt for their fresher dishes, and avoid the fried stuff, which unfortunately covers like most of their dishes. Try the tofu cubes, you won’t be disappointed. The desserts are very local, some of them kick-in-the-nuts good, and some equally disgusting. Try it yourself! Take MRT and get off at Guting Exit 4, or take any of the numerous buses that go the National Taiwan Normal University Comprehensive Building stop. And say hi to the older gentleman who works the counter, he is the grampa we all wish we had 🙂 This place has been exempted from handing out receipts.
綜也蔬食 Vegan Ramen Shop. Not located in Taipei but Hsinchu, this place is 100% worth visiting. We were looking for food something else than a buffet, and found this place. I’ve never had proper ramen before, and was not disappointed. The engineer had the Curry Ramen, and I tried their Hot Ramen, medium spicy, and yes, I almost died. But it was so good, that having a red face and sweating all over was worth it. Eventually, the pain was gone and we left the place happy and full. This restaurant is very near Hsinchu train station, so next time you visit the city, try Vegan Ramen Shop.
若荷蔬食火鍋 Like Lotus Vegetarian Hot Pot. Now, hot pot is another Asian dish a vegetarian rarely gets to enjoy. In this expensive, but oh so good hot pot restaurant anyone can eat carefree. The dishes’ level of vegetarianism are clearly marked (in Chinese), and you can really eat your stomach full. You pay 450 TWD plus taxes per person, and get to choose two or more of the soup bases. They have a small buffet with ready made dishes you can eat while waiting for the soup base to boil. Tomato and pumpkin soup bases tested and approved by us. In the cold section they have a ton of uncooked delicacies you can pick and throw in you pot to cook. There’s also an ice cream buffet and yes, we were full. This is not fast food, though, so make sure you have at least two hours to enjoy. This place, like a lot of restaurants in Taiwan, is family friendly, just make sure your little ones’ finger won’t touch the gas flame. And never ever, under any circumstances, taste the red bean ice cream. It tastes bad. Like, bad. And this comes from a person who loves salmiakki… Just because we taste everything, you don’t have to 😦 Take your parents here when they visit (you know who you are and you heard me!). Take a bus or MRT to Zhongxiao Fuxing station Exit 4.
Rolling Cafe. Vegetarian friendly ish, this place caters to thirsty, tipsy and tired party goers in Ximen. They don’t have too many vegetarian options, but the few are clearly marked on the menu. Wouldn’t necessarily expect too much if I were a vegan. This place is really not for you if you’re on a tight budget, but since it’s one of the few places open late into the night, you may not have an option if you’re in Ximen. The staff is not the most enthusiastic, and the food is not of consistent quality. Quesadillas were tasteless and wet, but their fries are just super good. You can get there either by crawling from Red House or by MRT. Get off at Ximen Exit 6.
八德素食園. This semi expensive buffet offers a wide selection of vegetarian dishes. The staff is super nice but seem a bit uncomfortable serving foreigners. That is until you start speaking Chinese. Here you either pay for lunch set or usual buffet style per weight. The food is sometimes a bit cold, and there’s a nuking machine there where they heat it up for you. Yeah, not the best way to eat your dinner, but it always tastes good, anyway. You can get here by MRT, get off at Fuzhong Exit 2, or by taking a bus, get off at Jieshou Park stop.
明德素食園, Minder Vegetarian. This is, you guessed it, another buffet chain. What makes it special is that one their locations is at the Banqiao station, and won’t close after lunch. The food is good, and it is quite affordable, too. You can really good vermicelli here, and a ton of mock meats. Get off MRT at Banqiao and find the restaurant at Global Mall food court. You can find them in Hsinchu, as well, where they have a huge restaurant with an all you can eat buffet.
So Free Pizza. This vegetarian pizza chain has two locations, and at least their Ximen location kicks ass! First, a word of warning: I am still not 100% if their pizzas are vegan, or just vegetarian. They advertise vegan cheese, but I couldn’t find any proof that’s what they were using and I think there’s eggs somewhere. Well, for me it doesn’t make a huge difference, anyway. We’ve been coming back here, even knowing they have a cat who apparently owns the place, sleeping anywhere and jumping on tables. The pizzas are super good, but equally small, and we usually order three for two persons. Pizzas cost 185 TWD each, and take away is slightly cheaper, 175 TWD per pizza. They do not serve alcohol, and the drink selection is mainly teas. You can find them near MRT Ximen station Exit 6.
芽米日子 Yummy Vegan Home. We found this place after visiting the hot springs in Beitou. It is very, very hipster, and also super good. We had the falafel and burgers, and everything was just super tasty. The Love banana drink was really nice, too. A bit expensive, sure, but worth your money. The dishes were around 150-160 TWD each. The location is very convenient. But once again, the horrible metal straws!!! My teeth were crying! I thought you could get environment friendly straws made from bamboo, too..? Get off at MRT Xinbeitou station to experience this hipster joint.
樂子瑞安店 theDiner. This American style junk food joint serves all day breakfast and brunch near Da’an park. The mushroom content in their vegetarian dishes was a bit overwhelming, and I opted for the quinoa salad. The smoothies were super good, though. The staff was very nice, and you could get free refills on coffee and water. You can get there by MRT, get off Da’an Park station Exit 5, and enjoy a walk through the park.
二本餐廳 Herban Kitchen and Bar. If you’re sick and tired of vegetarian buffets, but don’t feel like having a burger, either, give Herban Kitchen and Bar a try. A friend of mine took me there once, and it was just amazing! The food is seriously good, but a bit expensive. It’s all vegetarian with vegan options, and they also serve alcohol. Yes, this would also be a very good place to show your hipster friend, and it is very Instagrammable, too. To get here, take MRT and get off at Zhongxiao Dunhua station Exit 7.
This list isn’t complete, and doesn’t cover even half of the vegetarian and vegan friendly places we’ve found around the island. However, we hope it’ll give you new ideas where to eat and how to survive as a vegetarian in Taiwan. Did you find it helpful or do you have a favorite vegetarian place in Taiwan, that wasn’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments 🙂
PS: As the winter has turned into spring and spring will soon give way to summer, I have once again migrated to north, and started my traditional summer job in a central hospital’s emergency room. The engineer is staying in Taipei to learn more Chinese and enjoy the cheap beer. Reunion will happen soon ♥
PPS: Don’t forget follow us on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/roadtoself_blog/ ♥