Vegan in Vancouver: How to live plant-based and cruelty-free in Canada’s greenest city

by Tess Morgan

Whether you’re newly vegetarian or a long-time vegan, avoiding animal products can seem a bit overwhelming at first. Fortunately, Vancouver Humane Society’s Emily Pickett knows just where to start. Emily works to promote awareness for issues affecting animals and encourages consumers to switch to meat-free alternatives.

“Vancouver is a hub for plant-based innovation, with Metro Vancouver-based businesses like Gardein, Daiya Foods, Veggemo and Vega leading the way in alternatives to animal-based products,” Pickett says. “This inventive spirit also inspires creativity in the local dining scene, with prominent restaurants and head chefs adding new and imaginative menu options on a regular basis.”

Check out her picks for where to find vegetarian eats and cruelty-free goods in Vancouver. [Photo credit: iStock.com/ehaurylik]

Vegan in Vancouver: How to live plant-based and cruelty-free in Canada’s greenest city

Comfort food

Looking for chili cheez fries? How about a classic mac n’ cheese with a dairy-free twist? Meet on Main in Mount Pleasant and sister restaurant Meet in Gastown both have your comfort food cravings sorted. Most menu items are vegan and gluten-free and are made with ingredients such as cashew-based nut cheese. There's also a large selection of local, vegan, craft wine and draught beers available. In Chinatown, newly opened Virtuous Pie serves up pizza and ice cream made with dairy-free alternatives. From the Kim Jack-Il pizza (topped with hoisin crema, cashew mozzarella, kimchi, gochujang braised jackfruit, roasted brocollini and scallions) to the coffee-and-doughnut ice cream cone, this alternative pizzeria puts a new spin on old favourites.

Global fare

If you’re partial to a taco or enchilada, Bandidas Taqueria is sure to be your new go-to. Try the Connie burrito stuffed with walnut ground (instead of ground beef), pinto beans, cheese, apple salsa, purple cabbage, roasted red pepper sauce, and sour cream. Other delicious options include a chocolate quinoa cake, chipotle tofu nachos, and brunch options complete with veggie sausage. With its laid-back vibe and delicious Mexican food, you’ll want to head here for your next animal-friendly fiesta. Chow down on all the Chinese food your heart desires at Po Kong Vegetarian. Authentic and holistic, the menu at this East Van mainstay provides a wealth of healthy, meat-free dishes such as a sizzling vegetarian “steak” with black pepper sauce and steamed bamboo pith vegetarian rolls, and has earned a loyal following for many years.

Upscale restaurants

Plant-based eatery Heirloom Vegetarian fits in nicely amidst the ritzy storefronts of South Granville. The casual-yet-classy restaurant offers both vegetarian and vegan menus and a list of craft cocktails, making it an acceptable venue for everything from a laid-back first date to a romantic anniversary dinner. Favourite menu items include the gomae salad (a wholesome mix of spinach, daikon, cucumber, carrot, braised Shitake mushroom, ginger beer tofu, toasted sesame seeds and wasabi lime dressing) and the hearty grilled veggie sausage and lentil ragu. If you’re in the mood for heirloom veggies doused in herb cashew dressing and paired with a nice Riesling, you might want to check out The Acorn. Owned by former punk musician Shira Blustein, this award-winning vegetarian restaurant serves up ambitious, artistic vegetarian fare made with local, seasonal produce. The restaurant also boasts a modern bar program with an extensive wine list and craft cocktails on deck.

Shopping

Vancouver’s only vegan shoe store sells footwear that’s nice in more ways than one. Nice Shoes on Fraser Street stocks everything from winter boots to summer sandals all made with completely guilt-free materials such as canvas, cork latex and polyurethane. Nice carries all styles of shoes for both women and men, as well as a selection of accessories such as bags and belts priced from $20 to $200+. Brands include Blundstone, Keds, Patagonia, Native Shoes and many more.

Meatless, vegan, cruelty-free and organic – Donald’s Market has it all. The Vancouver-based, independent grocer has been hailed as the best the city, carrying personal care products such as all natural, gluten-free soaps, as well as a host of meat-free food alternatives and healthy bulk goods for mindful consumers.

An annual springtime event attracting more than 200 local and international brands, Vancouver’s Veg Expo is the place to go for all things plant-based, sustainable or just plain innovative. The Expo takes place in May and features talks from vegan bloggers and chefs, as well as a wide range of exhibitors. Vendors from past shows include The Happy Herd animal sanctuary, wellness practitioners and all-natural beauty brands. And of course, you’ll find plenty of organic, vegan food options to enjoy.

Based on these recommendations, it’s easy to see that this West Coast city is abuzz with an animal-friendly philosophy. “Vancouver has made a name for itself as a vegan- and vegetarian-friendly city and for good reason; it has some incredible veg hot spots that are sure to please anyone and everyone,” Pickett says. “Being a multicultural and major city centre sets Vancouver’s dining scene up for a wide variety of options.”

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start exploring!

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