Madrid’s vegan scene is positively exploding and it’s exciting to be here while it’s happening. This article has been literally months in the making as we’ve eaten our way around Madrid to put together a fully comprehensive vegan guide to Madrid. This is the first of many articles on the vegan scene in Madrid, so stay tuned! We plan on featuring each of these restaurants with spotlight articles of their own, as well as a tapas guide, and guides to eating the most traditional Spanish food in vegan form.
Fun fact: There are 19 all vegan eateries in Madrid and this doubles if you include vegetarian restaurants.
What is a Menú del día?
Menús are a price fixed meal consisting of 3-4 courses, including a drink and dessert. “Price fixed meals!” you exclaim, “What’s a budget alternative traveler have to do with this bougie business?” You may be surprised to learn that what’s usually a luxury elsewhere is an affordable and uniquely Spanish tradition.
How it Works
The primero (first) usually consists of a soup or salad. The segundo (second) tends to be a slightly larger and more filling. Sometimes these are called principales, which means the main courses, preceded by an aperitivo, (think cup, not bowl, of soup). Then you’ll usually have a choice of dessert OR coffee. Coffee is usually 1.50 to 2 bucks so you can always just order one additionally if it doesn’t come with the fixed menú price. The number of choices can vary. Sometimes there may be one primero and three segundo options, or maybe two choices for each. Oh and this all comes with bread (!).
These plates add up, stomach space wise. At first, we expected to be hungry afterward because each of the plates are smaller visually than American sized gut buster platters. Virtually every time we get to our last sip of coffee or bit of dessert, we find ourselves pleasantly satisfied and full.
To optimize your menú experience, here are a few additional constants to keep in mind:
- Menú del día refers to the daily lunch special. For their regular offerings, ask for la carta.
- The price will be cheaper than if you ordered the equivalent amount of food outside of the menú
- The dishes aren’t usually available outside of the special, so don’t expect find them (or what we had) on other days unless otherwise noted.
- You may need to reserve earlier that day or the day before. Most of these places are very small and fill up quickly.
- Lunch goes down between 1:30 – 3:30pm. This is in bold because pretty much every time we talk to people visiting, they’ve fallen victim to finding themselves hangry with no open places to eat! While some places may open at 1, many may open later despite the posted time (if it’s even posted).
- You will always have to request the bill when you want to pay and leave. It’s seen as extremely rude to bring the bill to someone who hasn’t asked for it – a far cry from dining out in the U.S. when they bring you the bill before you’re even finished sometimes!
There’s virtually no exception to these rules – go anytime earlier and expect a closed door, extra closed in your face. Go late, and while you may see patrons with plates, the kitchen is effectively closed. If you order outside the menú from the carta (the regular menu), expect a longer wait for your food.
Best Organic Bang For Your Buck
Both of these spots offer an aperitivo, a very small first course, and principal, a significantly larger main course. Two main courses become cheaper (per course) than just one. All organic.
The aperitivo is a given and you are charged according to one principal at 7.80, or two at 11.80. There was a selection of three when we went, so of course we tried them all.
They had a delicious homemade limonada, which tasted like lemonade mixed with tamarind juice. The portions here were generous and delicious. The aperitivo was some of the best onion soup we’ve had.
Regarding the principales, the Greek salad was excellent despite our bias against ordering salad out. The chunks of vegan feta had us both questioning their dairy-free-ness. The cocido (typical Madrid stew) was chockful of mushrooms of at least three kinds and the staple garbanzo beans with peels coming off – indicative of fresh, not canned, beans.
The veggie burger (see main feature photo) with beet ketchup had a moist, not too crumbly texture with melted cheese on top. To finish it off, we got a chocolate chip brownie cake with a dollop of cream.
Consensus: cost effective for maximum quantity, thoughtful food pairings, homemade drinks, extra artisanal bread. You cannot reserve for lunch, so come early if you want to get a table. Most of the menú del día was gluten free and half the items on their regular carta are gluten free.
La Encomienda is located on a street of the same name, on the edge of La Latina and Lavapiés. It’s a pretty big place but it does fill up!
The aperitivo was root vegetable and leek soup, very fresh and creamy.
The principales: We tried them all. The stir-fried tofu and broccoli over whole grain rice was delicious and well executed, but something we easily make at home, so we wouldn’t order again. The star of the show was a roasted eggplant stuffed with crumbly bready filling and melted goatly cheese on top.
The shitake mushroom cocido was super rich and savory.
The desserts were fresh fruit salad and a plantain cobbler, perfectly baked, super soft and not overly sweet.
Consensus: Great food, has the principal special where one principal is 7.50, two becomes 11. Comes with dessert and a beverage. Reservations not needed, it’s a pretty big space.
High Raw and Organic
For those looking to experience lighter, all organic, and high raw (crudivegano) with the possibility for a dish that is all raw.
This was the first place we went upon our arrival in Madrid last September. We were blown away by the presentation, prices (compared to the U.S.), and quality of the food. Located in the super cute neighborhood of Las Letras, this place is a popular spot – and for good reason.
Everything is super fresh and homemade with a focus on healthy, local, fresh, and organic food. When we went, they had a beet salad with tomatoes, a ravioli (in photo above) and lentil burger with taro.
All staff were women – female power! There is a high raw element to the dishes here and the presentation feels akin to a fine dining restaurant. You’ll leave here feeling satisfied and super healthy, highly recommended for the health oriented crowd. Their bread is baked in-house, which isn’t typical and an extra impressive step.
Consensus: Really small – reserve or come early. Menú is 13.50 euros and comes with 1st, 2nd, a homemade kombucha-like drink, and dessert, tea, or coffee. Very accommodating for gluten free options.
High raw element with all organic ingredients (even the wine)! It’s in Mercado Antón Martín, which is a typical Spanish-style indoor market with different stalls selling bulk foods like olives, produce, etc. Mercados like this one also have a number of small restaurants and tapas bars inside. A uniquely Spanish atmosphere to have a delicious menú del día.
We went at the beginning of fall, so they were still serving gazpacho (summer tomato soup). We also got a mixed green salad with creamy cashew dressing, quinoa with roasted veggies, and raw zucchini rolls.
Dessert plates – pannacotta style vanilla dessert with a flan consistency, great texture and fresh flavor.
Consensus: Small, either come early or you can call and make a reservation. Literally four-five tables and a small bar. Menu for 9 euros and includes 1st, 2nd, and drink. Add 2.50 to get a dessert!
Great Options Slightly Off Center
If you find yourself wandering off towards the edge of the main tourist center, consider these delicious options.
This tucked away spot resides near the Bilbao metro. Llantén is one of our favorite restaurants in Madrid. Everything is always super homemade, savory, and decadent. There were two menú options to choose from when we went.
We shared all our plates. Primeros were a creamy broccoli soup and an artichoke with sundried tomato salad drizzled with balsamic reduction. Segundos were an amazing gravy doused seitan steak with potato half pipes and flaky crust empanadas stuffed with crumbled meat and pea filling with a sour cream dollop.
Desserts were a pannacotta style chocolate with chocolate sauce and a caramel tasting one with coconut cream sauce. Both were good, but not the same level as the savory dishes.
Consensus: Indulgent and rich, expect a savory knockout. Menú includes a 1st, 2nd plate, dessert, and infused water (no alcoholic beverage included). Reservations not needed as it’s a little off-center.
Cookaloozka is a Latin American-Mediterranean spot near Conde de Casal, on the eastern side of Retiro Park. It’s in a residential area, so not a place you’d likely be wandering around normally, but if you’re by the park and hungry, Cookaloozka is a solid option.
First plate: a rich squash soup, garnished with avocado chunks and olive oil. A bit aperitivo-sized for a plate.
Second plate was a toasted bread bowl topped with chickpeas and artichoke heart chunks in a gravy, sitting on top of mesclun lettuce with mustard vinaigrette. Dessert was a pumpkin cinnamon pie slice with a great crust.
Consensus: quality food, but lacks heartiness – portions were quite small. Reservations not needed as it’s a little off-center. Lots of gluten free options.
The Most Economic
Hands down the cheapest menú.
At this very feminist punk bar in the heart of Lavapiés, you get one option and you better like it. La Oveja Negra is known for its attitude, complete with decals of hand-drawn vaginas on the walls.
Primer plato: Lentil soup, big portion, fresh snappy olive oil, sprinkling of chives. Segundo was a lasagna-esque dish with leeks. For dessert you have your choice of coffee, tea or yogurt.
Consensus: Cheapest menú at 8 euros (1st, 2nd, drink + coffee), but not the most filling. Still delicious and a good option! Reservations not needed.
Asian Inspired Menús
If you’ve had your fill of traditional Spanish dishes, give these spots a try.
You may have heard of this one because Loving Hut is part of an international franchise of vegan restaurants. This has been the only place where we opted out of the menú because when we went because the options weren’t of much interest to us. This can happen with menús! Instead, we shared a pincho de tortilla, a traditional Spanish potato omelette made vegan, and each had our own main plates, which were quite good.
With the exception of the gummy seitan balls, their faux meats were on point (vegan prawns)! Our food took way longer than everyone else as we did not order the menú – this is not a complaint and the server did inform us of it. Menús allow expedited service, so whenever possible, go for it.
However, we do plan a revisit and will update when we have a proper menú here!
Consensus: based on our lunch plates, we’re definitely coming back for a menú. Menú is 10.50 and includes 1st, 2nd, alcoholic drink, and coffee or tea. Gluten free options marked.
Healthy Lovers (incidentally across the street from Loving Hut) is a newcomer to Madrid’s vegan scene as it just opened in February. This is the real deal Chinese food, not a Spanish-ized version. We stuffed ourselves silly. Healthy Lovers stands out because they have 4 options to choose from for both first and second plates, so there is sure to be something you’ll like!
The plate of sauteed veggies were perfectly cooked. The stir fry noodles with mushroom and bok choy were exactly what we hoped for. The big and most welcome surprise was the massive scallion pancake, which came with handmade dumplings. If you’re not the adventurous type, be wary of the Chinese fruit desserts. While we enjoyed the lychee, the other fruit we don’t exactly miss. The ham and pineapple salad was a very Spanish option and we enjoyed it, but next time we’d choose something else.
Consensus: Great Chinese food that reminded us of what we used to eat in NYC. Lovely people. Reservation not necessary as it is a big space. It comes with first, second, and drink, with dessert or coffee.
We love this place and highly recommend the regular carta (separate article coming soon). It’s a great fallback in case none of your first options worked out, so in this article we will focus on the menú. It is quite possible that when you do try to go out for a menú, everything is full, and/or your timing was off. Here’s where Chilling Café comes in because they serve food – including a 4-course brunch menú for 12,95 – all day.
First course was a broccoli soup. It’s what you would expect, garnished with toasted bread chunks. Second course was a tricolor spiral pasta with a tomato lentil sauce. Good, but nothing outstanding.
The dessert was a blueberry rice pudding, which was the most interesting, with chewy rice kernels, creamy and slightly sweet.
We think they are still figuring out their menú (we heard they are now offering a veggie burger menú, which is great because we’ve had their burgers and they are delicious). Everything else on their carta is impressive, especially the baos, which remind us of being back home.
Consensus: Serves food all day, including brunch – practically unheard of in Spain. Reservations not necessary. Amazing coffee.
Restaurants with a Plate of the Day
These places serve a truncated version of the menú del día called a plato del día – usually around 6-8 euros. Of course, you can add on wine and dessert to make it a menú, but it won’t always be as economical.
They usually offer an aperitivo for a couple more euros, so if you combine with the plato del día, you’ve got yourself a menú.
The housemade raviolis (available Thursdays and Sundays) are made with super soft fresh dough and stuffed with a spinach filling. They had the richness of a cheese ravioli without mock cheese filling, topped with a tomato sauce and a generous helping of Spanish olive oil. The raviolis were served with a house made “parmigiano cheese” on the side that turns magical once sprinkled on top.
For dessert, we shared a piece of squash bread/cake with chocolate and vanilla icing.
Consensus: Great ravioli in a lovely setting. They’re only open Thursdays – Sundays, so keep that in mind! 8 euros for the plato del día.
We love this place and come here often. It’s a family run spot located in artsy Lavapiés that has a variety of homemade dishes, and they’re always experimenting with offering new things. Every month or so they have rotating art on walls from a local artist. Each day of the week they offer a different plate.
Our favorite plato del día so far is Wednesday’s cocido Madrileño (this is last week to get it – it’s a winter dish!). Ask anyone what a typical dish from Madrid is and they will likely answer, “cocido Madrileño.” We’ve taken many friends here to try it! But you really can’t go wrong with anything here.
Their desserts are also out of this world, so leave room to try whatever they have out. We tried the apple cake with cream icing and chocolate mousse layers. This cake was so moist, we could’ve eaten it over a dehumidifier.
Consensus: Delicious, homemade food. It’s small, so reserve in advance for lunch.
Has an Outside Terrace
Walk around Madrid’s streets and you’ll inevitably see people dining outside on terrazas (terraces). Eating outside is a pleasure, but you’ll pay a 10% upcharge for it – this is standard wherever you go.
Viva Burger is the only vegan place that has a terrace, so take advantage of it! They have two menú del día options, a Viva Burger menú and an international menú focusing on a different country each day. Their website has the current month’s offerings.
When we went, the international option was Egyptian. The primero was a beet hummus and an orange hummus, with various vegetable and pita dippers. Second was some sort of tomato-ey tabbouleh textured dish minus the parsley and mint, topped with cheese.
We also tried the Viva Burger menú. The burger was very veggie burger, with pieces of apple and other visibly identifiable fruits and veggies. The burger was super delicious and it also came with potato wedges, a soup or salad. Hands down the best non-mock meat vegetable burger in Madrid.
The dessert that came with the menú wasn’t too exciting so we opted for their coffee, in which they use a delicious coconut milk blend – really like a dessert itself.
Consensus: everything super homemade, best veggie burger, great coffee, all with terrace seating. The menu is 11,50 and includes 1st, 2nd, drink, dessert or coffee.
We can’t say it enough – to experience food in Spain, you need to experience a menú. You’ve likely heard of tapas – though tapas that exist in the U.S. are a bastardized form of what tapas actually should be (overpriced, under-portioned, not Spanish at all). Spaniards have an intensely strong food culture – meals out are almost always casera (made in house). Eating a menú del día is not only economical but something that Spaniards easily do a few times a week. To get the most out of the experience, a little planning goes a long way, especially with a lot of these places that are small and quite popular.
Whenever we’re forced to leave Spain, the menú del día is the first thing we’re going to miss.
If you’re visiting Madrid, be sure to also check out our Guide to Visiting Madrid’s Main Sights (for free and cheap of course)!
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