People love to call Spain the land of jamón. Or something strongly implying that it’s not vegan-friendly. Just visit any forum, especially Facebook groups.
Valencia begs to differ. Spain’s third largest city boasts a dozen vegan restaurants, with lots of places with loads of options. Of course, you can’t try them all in a weekend, but you can narrow down the most unique, or most exemplative of local cuisine.
Traditional Valencian Food – Veganized!
Valencia is known for two main foods as it is the birthplace of both paella and the drink orxata (that’s Valencian spelling – horchata is Castellano). Make sure you don’t leave Valencia without trying both of these – as much as possible!
A sweet milky drink served cold. It’s made from xufa tubers (known as tiger nuts in the USA), not rice and cinnamon like horchata in Mexico. Orxata should not traditionally contain milk but you should probably always ask if it contains milk (lleva leche?) just to be safe. You’ll find it being sold everywhere – we ended up trying it on the beach from an organic stand.
We happened upon on this corner on the way to our house sit. This takeaway deli offered up three paellas each day and one is always vegan! Valencia is the origin of paella and while places frequently offer vegetable ones, there’s no guarantee they are vegan – always check what bouillon broth they use . This spot had a proud vegan-friendly stamp on its window and signs.
Paella is actually the name of the pan, and traditionally it’s cooked over a wood fire. For practical reasons, you can’t always expect that, but paella is prepared a particular way with key ingredients, so just any rice mixed with vegetables isn’t necessarily paella, like the tourist traps sprinkled throughout Spain would have you believe.
Veren actually spent a couple of New York City summers apprenticing under a paella master from Valencia. Each time, Ricardo would make two massive pans and one was always vegan. So Veren’s officially a paella snob.
Case in point: if proprietors rely on posters to show off their paella – skip it. If you can see a big paella pan proudly displaying its goodies – order on up.
With a ración at three euros, it’d be hard to beat this spot (intersection of Carrer Pere III el Gran and Carrer Dr. Sumsi – there’s no website).
They seal it in a nice to go container, and we ended up bringing four portions back to Madrid. Two of those went to our local Madrileño food critic Juan, and he much approved.
Los Manchegos – Traditional Spanish Pastry
A little off the beaten path, in the opposite direction of the tourist attractions, lays a little Valencian gem. You might be surprised to learn that pastries in Spain tend to contain pig lard – so they’re not vegetarian even if there’s no meat. So we’ve accepted long ago that we won’t be eating most Spanish pastries. Needless to say, we were very excited to find Los Manchegos and its wealth of vegan traditional Spanish pastries.
The employee at Los Manchegos was wearing a tee proudly proclaiming her veganism and she was happy to point out that there was a whole vegan section of a deli counter with several stuffed and unstuffed pastries. And yes, they taste as good as they look.
Valencia has 12 all vegan restaurants, which is quite impressive. Vegan Spain isn’t all about Madrid or Barcelona! (Though we can enthusiastically say that the vegan scene in Madrid is amazing).
This was our first meal in Valencia (besides our paella snack). After arriving at our house sit, we were hungry yet Spanish lunch hour was quickly drawing to a close. Nomït was close-by so we ducked in for a menú del día (lunch special).
The first course was a delicious and refreshing cherry tomato gazpacho, followed by herbed risotto. We were quite pleased.
The biggest treat though, was the postre, or dessert, which was quite grandiose for a menú. Usually there’s a smaller or simpler dessert offered, but this seemed straight from la carta (the main menu). House made cookie dough ice cream, with mango whipped cream, all drizzled with chocolate syrup. We’d definitely recommend coming just for this, but all was delicious.
We never really had a chance to try more, as our time in Valencia was short, but if the lunch menú is anything to go by, we’re sure it’s great. Report back in the comments if you’ve eaten here!
La Mandragora – Pay what you want vegan social solidarity
At La Mandragora, expect anything but convention. It’s technically a vegan gastronomy association and the first time you eat there you’ll need to register with your name and email at a computer on the counter.
Then you can order at the counter and help yourself to silverware. Two staff members handle all the service as the space quickly fills up with pierced and tattooed patrons. All are welcome though. We saw parents with children, groups of friends, and some solitary diners.
The food is delicious, presented in a restaurant fashion, and could rival any such establishment, despite the iconoclastic interior. Stickers in the bathroom explicitly state that Valencia is not Spain.
When you go to leave, drop whatever you think the meal was worth in the donation can at the counter. Keep in mind that the normal menú del día price is around 8-10 euros, 11-13 if you’re at a nicer place.
Last but especially not least, The Vurger may have been our favorite spot in Valencia. It’s Americana fast food meets Valencian hospitality, and it’s so good we came twice, despite only a weekend in town. They offer burgers, hot dogs, all the usual sides, and fantastic homemade desserts. They even have soft-serve ice cream – whaa! The Vurger was opened just this spring after a year as a food truck down by a drive-in at the beach.
Check out our profile on the place for more.
Vegan-Friendly Bars in Ruzafa
Ruzafa is one of the hip neighborhoods to go out for tapas and drinking in Valencia. We were lucky to be house sitting right in the area, so we headed out for a night of exploring the vegan-friendly spots.
La Tavernaire – All Vegan
As we walked up to the all-vegan La Tavernaire, the place was surrounded by a crowd happily drinking and smoking on the characteristic high tables stationed outside Spanish bars. There were no available spots, so we slipped inside and after chatting with the friendly bartender, ordered a couple of baby beers along with papas en mojo (a potato dish from the Canary Islands) and veggie moussaka, and sat down at one of the dark wooden tables by the bar. Unfortunately, we were a bit disappointed by the food, but the atmosphere was just as we like it – divey and punky. We recommend it for a drink and a hang but maybe not the food. We have heard they do a good vegan paella occasionally, so if you’re there when that happens, be sure to snatch it up and report back! Note: cash only.
Our second stop of the night was at El Deslunao. Walking in, it feels like a jazz bar, and indeed they do have jazz one night a week (pretty sure it’s a Tuesday). Everyone was sitting outside on the terrace so we were the only ones inside. We tried their chickpea croquetas which were delicious and unique. While the place is not all vegan, they have a number of vegan options on their menu and came recommended to us by other vegan bloggers.
This place was our third and unexpected stop. We had passed by earlier and saw the sign out front declaring vegan and gluten-free options. We went in to ask but the bartender said they were out of vegan montaditos (little sandwiches) since they’re in such high demand, but that she could make us more. She whipped up two fresh open-faced sandwiches complete with shredded zucchini, cherry tomatoes, a mustardy sauce, and crunchy dried onions to top it off. They also had vegan samosas and a cool atmosphere.
We loved Valencia. We felt it had just the right balance between tourism and caring for its own residents. Of course, we couldn’t do or try every vegan spot. Let us know if we missed something in the comments!
Guía Vegana de Valencia – Spanish language website
Unhealthy Vegan Guide to Valencia – For your junk food fix!
The Vurger: Vegan Fast Food and West Coast Americana in Valencia – our review of The Vurger!