Veg Eats: Medellín, Colombia
In my humble opinion, Medellín, Colombia is arguably one of the most vegan and vegetarian-friendly cities in South America. Attracting a large group of digital nomads and expats, the city has nourished both a creative gastronomic scene and trendy health food movement.
The streets of El Poblado are lined with hip coffee shops, modern international restaurants and stylish local restaurants.... Including a plethora of hip vegan restaurants and vegetarian menus at practically every other restaurant.
Even regular grocery stores, like Carulla, have aisles of non-dairy milks and soy meats.
Overall, it is VERY easy to eat vegan and vegetarian in this city. In fact the only difficult thing about it will be choosing which veg-friendly restaurants to go to!
So without further ado, here’s my ultimate vegan/vegetarian hit list for the City of Eternal Spring:
Quite possibly the best all vegan fine dining experience in Medellín. Housed in a large, trendy wooden space, Justo presents a fully-vegan menu with internationally-inspired eats. If you eat here, I promise you’ll be ordering something you’ve never eaten before. Their vegan cheese is house-made and really delicious. Eat here to feel like a fancy veg head!
Pro Tip: Dishes are pricey compared to the rest of Medellín's restaurants, so go with a group and order multiple dishes to share.
A truly fabulous lunch and dinner spot, Verdeo offers a succulent-filled oasis from the city with a large, diverse menu of vegetarian but vegan-friendly international dishes. With plastic animals scattered on every table and a long, a passionate mission statement on the menu, it is clear that the owner, Felipe, is a true animal-lover and environmentalist. Eat here and you won't walk away hungry.
Pro Tip: Come for their $12,000 COL (about $4 USD) lunch to get the best value. You’ll get a unique soup, large entree, fresh fruit drink and small dessert for less than the cost of one of their normal dishes.
A charming lunch spot tucked away on the busy street of Carrera 35, Marietta’s is a small fully-vegan restaurant with a small but mighty menu and excellent lunch special. It seems to slip through the cracks on a lot of vegan hit lists for Medellín, but I highly recommend it! Eat here if you're wanting to feel extra healthy.
Pro Tip: Take advantage of their $15,000 COL (about $5 USD) three-course lunch special. Instead of including just one main entree, they typically offer 3-4 tasty side dishes.
The ultimate vegan fast food spot in El Poblado, Lenteja Express centers their menu around its famous lentil-based veggie burger but also offers hot dogs, quesadillas and empanadas. It’s perfect for simple, fast casual dining experience. Eat here if you in a burger mood.
Pro Tip: Don't be shy and ask for as many special house-made sauces that you can possibly handle.
5. Veg Station
Offering a variety of veggie burgers and local Colombian dishes, Veggie Station is small but mighty vegan restaurant nestled on the busy street of Calle 10. They’re open for both lunch and dinner. Note that it's name is incorrectly but adorably listed on Google Maps as "Comida Hecho Con Amor" aka "Food Made With Love." Eat here especially if you're craving vegan versions of traditional Colombian dishes.
Pro Tip: Despite being in the mountains, Veg Station's vegan version of Costal Colombian Rice dish may be the best in the country!
6. Dharma Cafe
Located near the colorful, grafitti-filled streets of Carerra 43b, Dharma Cafe is a charming cafe that is very popular among locals for lunch. Dishes are simple, hardy but undeniably delicious. Their lunch menu changes daily, so no two meals will be alike. Eat here if you want to eat with the locals.
Pro Tip: Be sure to check out the community board with flyers for health-oriented local events and workshops.
A new addition to the El Poblado area, Sharbet’s is tucked away inside a decor store but is guaranteed to offer you a truly unique ice cream experience. With mostly vegan offerings (and a few vegetarian flavors made with greek yogurt,) Sharbet’s sells “healthy” ice cream and sorbet made with unexpected combinations of fruits AND vegetables. Eat here if you want a healthy indulgence!
Pro Tip: Ask the server if you can try every single flavor- you won’t regret it. My favorite was the Colombia Power (made with mango, banana, carrots, spinach and chalupa fruit) and the Brain Fuel (made with grapes, beets, strawberries and raspberries.) Here's a menu list.
7. Cafe Zorba
With arguably the overall best pizza in town, Cafe Zorba is a haven for both vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters. This place is almost always featured on veg restaurant guides of Medellín. Their unusual pizza menu offers a few vegan pies made with vegan nut-milk cheese. Their hummus is rumored to be the best in Medellín. Come here for date night vibes!
Pro Tip: Come for dinner on a night when Cafe Zorba has live music- you’ll have to pay an extra $5,000 pesos (about $1.68 USD) on your bill but the music is well-worth it.
8. Bao Bei
Currently one of the trendiest restaurants in El Poblado, Bao Bei is the type of restaurant people line up 30 minutes for before it opens. Why? It offers some of the best asian-fusion dishes in town and is also unusually tiny. Despite it’s mostly meat-filled menu, Bao Bei has just a few well-crafted vegan dishes that you’ve likely never had at any asian restaurant before. Eat here if you want to feel hip and in-the-know!
A Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant, Kabuki offers an upscale dining experience with quite possibly the best customer service in Medellín. Although not advertised as a vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurant, the menu offers a truly decadent, delicious vegan sushi platter and the chef is willing to make off menu vegan dishes. Eat here if you're craving incredible custom service.
Pro Tip: Ask the waiter for the classic Peruvian-Chinese dish, Chifa made with only veggies (egg is optional) and a side order of their cilantro sauce (request no cream if you’d like it to be vegan.) The flavor combination of the rice and sauce will blow your mind.
Here are a few vegan-friendly and vegetarian-friendly restaurants I did not end up visiting but wish I had:
Betty’s Bowls: great for açaí and smoothie bowls
Victoria Regia: the more veg-friendly sister restaurant of Alambique
Eden Bistro: another veg-friendly asian spot
Vegarden: a good veg option in the Laureles neighborhood
Naturalia Cafe: another Laureles spot with a great lunch special
Tabún: a Turkish/Middle Eastern fusion restaurant with lots of small veg-friendly plates.
Did I miss any awesome veg-friendly restaurants in Medellín? Let me know (via email firstname.lastname@example.org OR instagram @vegaroundtheworld) so that I can update my list.