It ain’t easy being a vegan on the Camino de Santiago! On the other hand, it isn’t impossible.
Dring my solo Caminos in 2016 and 2018, I was a vegetarian which completely went out of the window for both of my Caminos. The need for a constant supply of food for energy without always having a kitchen handy meant that I ate whatever I could get my hands on.
This year was different. I adopted a vegan diet in January 2019 and I was sticking to it, come what may.
You see, Spain and Portugal are a little behind when it comes to vegan products. Outside of the big cities, there are very few vegetarian restaurants so there’s little hope of finding a vegan place to eat at along the Way.
On the other hand, Spain and Portugal are blessed with fertile lands which means there is an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables to choose from.
With a little preparation, I managed to stay vegan for my Wild Camino Guided Journeys in these following way:-
As it is normal for Spanish people to share the food they eat, most restaurants and cafes offer a tapas or raciones menu where specific foods are offered by the plateful. For example, you will find you can order a portion of potatoes, vegetables, sauteed mushrooms, honey eggplants or asparagus as individual dishes and create your own meal.
Calde Verde is a Galician winter soup that is popular in both Spain and Portugal. A hearty mix of potatoes, green cabbage and collards, it is the perfect way to fuel up. Just make sure to ask for the non-meat version or you´ll end up with a surprise by way of pieces of sausage floating in your otherwise vegan dish.
Be careful when ordering salads. It is usual for egg or tuna to be added.
Also, even if a dish appears to be vegan, we always recommend you check to see if they used a meat-based broth when preparing.
Cafe Con Leche
If you, like me, enjoy a cafe con leche (coffee with milk), I’m afraid to say that cow’s milk is usually the only option provided by cafes and restaurants. Instead, I bought individual packets of soya milk from the supermarkets, Mini Precio in Portugal and Dia in Spain, and asked the cafe/restaurant to heat the milk for me. They were always happy to oblige.
Meeting Your Protein Needs
While there are plenty of options to fulfil your carb needs (rice, pasta or potatoes), the real challenge is to make sure you are eating enough protein. Some restaurants will offer chickpea stews or salads but I found that I had to plan ahead for my protein fix. I would buy packets of tofu or tins of pre-cooked chickpeas in the supermarkets along the way and add them to my meals. Also, I carried a small Tupperware dish with an all-in-one knife and fork to make my own little protein dishes, adding oil and vinegar that could be purchased in little bottles.
Happy Cow App
Again, while there are very few vegetarian restaurants and vegan places being non-existent in the towns and villages, you´ll find that the Happy Cow app is very handy in places such as Porto or Santiago, giving you a full list of eating options available on your doorstep.
If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask if any dishes contain meat products. Here’s a helpful list of phrases
Soy vegana/vegano – I’m vegan
No como carne – I don’t eat meat
No como pescado – I don’t eat fish
No como lacteos – I don’t eat dairy
No como huevos – I don’t eat eggs
Lleva carne? – Does this have meat?
Está hecho con mantequilla? – Is it prepared with butter?
So, it’s not impossible to experience the Camino as a vegan. Indeed, the more vegans that walk Camino and spread the word among locals, the more chance of vegan dishes appearing on the menu!
Need help arranging your Portuguese Camino de Santiago? Let us take care of the mundane leaving you to enjoy the magic on one of our Wild Camino Self-Guided Journeys. Click the link below for further information to start your Camino.
(c) Samantha Wilson 2019. All Rights Reserved.