Jade and Kev from Two Tall Travellers share their guide to vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Beijing.
Beijing is a vast city, with an estimated 20 million-plus people living here. Restaurants, markets and shops are all rushing to cater to everyone’s different tastes, beliefs and budgets. China might not be world-renowned for its vegetarian and vegan scenes, but Beijing has some incredible meat-free options that are easy to come by. In recent years, there has been an explosion of fabulous vegetarian and vegan food options in the city that’s affordable, accessible and delicious! We’ve put together this guide to visiting Beijing as a meat-free traveller so that you can enjoy some of the best cuisines in the world – cruelty-free!
Tips for travelling Beijing as a vegetarian or vegan
It can be notoriously tricky to navigate around the world as a vegetarian or vegan traveller. However, these insider tips can help you be more comfortable exploring new places without worrying about how you’ll find your next balanced meal!
Use Happy Cow
A great way to find the best veggie food in Beijing is to download the Happy Cow app. As well as dedicated vegetarian restaurants, it’s got great listings of places that serve vegetarian and vegan dishes. One limitation is that the map markers are sometimes wrong. Do a little research on the place you want to visit or read the reviews. It’s likely someone else will have given detailed instructions on how to get there.
Write down key phrases
One thing to note is that eating meat in China is usually just standard practice for many people. Despite their Buddhist history, a lot of Chinese people don’t understand why you wouldn’t eat meat, and especially the concept of veganism. If you tell a waiter in a regular restaurant that you don’t want meat in your soup, the chances are that you’ll get a meat-free soup – but cooked in a beef broth. Not eating meat tends only to mean the physical meat pieces, so you do have to be careful and clarify what you want.
The best way to be clear on this is to learn some key phrases in Chinese so that you can communicate better with the staff in a restaurant. If you’re only visiting China for a short while, then it’s unlikely that you’ll get to grips with the language. Speaking as someone who has lived here for three years – it’s hard! Before you go, print out some mini flashcards and have them handy for when you go out to eat.
Here are some essential phrases to know:
I am vegetarian – 我是素食者 (wǒ shì sùshí zhě)
I do not eat meat – 我不吃肉 (wǒ bù chī ròu)
I am vegan – 我是纯素食者 (wǒ shì chún sùshí zhě)
I do not eat dairy products – 我不吃乳制品 (wǒ bù chī rǔ zhìpǐn)
I don’t eat fish – 我不吃魚 (wǒ bù chī yú)
Cook for yourself
If you’re staying in a hostel or apartment with a kitchen, you might fancy cooking for yourself a few times during your trip. We all know this is an excellent way to save money usually, but costs can add up if you’re only selecting meat- or dairy-free products in China. However, if you are staying for an extended period, it could work out cheaper. Import stores like April Gourmet (Green Leaf Supermarket on Google Maps!) or Jenny Lou’s have plenty of options for you. You can find things like soy milk, tofu and tinned lentils in these supermarkets. Carrefour is also a good choice for foreign foods.
Go to a local market for your fruit and veg. It’ll be cheaper, and you can take your own reusable carrier bags. In supermarkets, they tend to use a lot of unnecessary single-use plastic, so take a few more steps to be environmentally friendly!
Visit a Buddhist restaurant
Some Chinese restaurants in Beijing are devoted to serving vegetarian and vegan food for religious reasons. Interestingly, these places are also unlikely to cook with onion or garlic, as strict Buddhists don’t eat these. You may find dishes taste a little different from what you are expecting, but you may well discover your new favourite dish.
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Veggie friendly, vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Beijing
Some excellent restaurants in Beijing cater to vegetarians and vegans. You can find food from all over the world as well as top local cuisine. Here are a few of our favourite places with the best meat- and dairy-free options!
Click in the top right corner of the title bar for the restaurant list.
Make sure you’re hungry if you’re coming here! Vege Tiger offers a fantastic and completely vegan all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s a chain restaurant, but we recommend the main one in Qian’men as the other branches don’t have the buffet option.
Try the pumpkin soup, the deep-fried mushroom and definitely the sweet and sour ‘chicken’! It costs 68 RMB per person, so you get your money’s worth here! There are a couple of desserts to try too, plus fresh fruit and a small salad bar. Most of the dishes have descriptions in English, which helps a lot!
Vege Tiger opens for lunch and dinner service (11.30 – 2 pm and 5.30 – 8 pm) but its best to avoid visiting near closing time as the choice of food may be limited.
They also have WiFi, which is handy if you haven’t bought a local sim card!
One of Beijing’s newest vegan joints, they’ve got plenty of burgers and hotdogs to satisfy your bbq cravings! Their actual store recently closed down, but they have managed to join forces with Bruno Caffe, who now sell Root Pop’s menu options.
Grab a milkshake or just a sandwich if you need a quick lunch. Their ‘Animal Style’ burgers are really popular too!
Hopefully Root Pop can find a location for their own restaurant soon.
For all you Mexican food lovers out there, Avocado Tree is a great option. They have lots of branches in Beijing so you can visit wherever you’re staying.
Their menu isn’t entirely meat-free, but you can build your own burritos and rice bowls to avoid ingredients that you don’t want.
The guacamole is chunky, and the coconut lattes are smooth.
They also serve vegan avocado gelato for only 22RMB! It’s super creamy and not too sweet, perfect for a hot day in Beijing!
Ye Bo Zhai
Another great Chinese restaurant located in the quiet and charming Wudaoying Hutong (an area of traditional alleyways known as hutong) that serves delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes. If you’re visiting the Lama Temple, Ye Bo Zhai is only a few hundred metres away. It’s the perfect place to stop for dinner after your sightseeing.
Lunchtimes can be very quiet as they have a limited menu during the day, and the peaceful atmosphere is a lovely change from the craziness of Beijing!
The dishes are all veggie-friendly, and they also serve wine here. The menu has pictures and good English translations, plus there are English speaking staff members, so you don’t have to worry about communication.
There’s no English name to the restaurant but once you’re in Wudaoying Hutong, keep an eye on the building numbers – Ye Bo Zhai is number 40.
The Veggie Table
The Veggie Table is another great hutong find, but this time it’s selling a variety of international food. It’s particularly well-known for its Moroccan inspired dishes – the falafel is fantastic! – but they also serve pizza, pasta and a few desserts too.
Come here if you want to escape the loud tourist places, grab a magazine or book and relax on one of the corner sofas.
They are also one of the few places in Beijing that serve ice-cold water – the Chinese tradition of only drinking hot or room temperature water is difficult to avoid, so be grateful when you see ice!
More vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Beijing
Here are a few other great recommendations if you’re stuck on where to eat in Beijing
Side Street – Indian owned restaurants serving full flavour dishes which include plenty of meat-free ones.
Arrow Factory Brewing – homely pub atmosphere with a couple of fantastic vegan burgers!
Moka Bros – If you’re into the health food scene, visit Moka Bros and grab a fresh fruit smoothie or a tasty veggie rice bowl.
Gung Ho! – Here’s the place to come if you’re craving a decent vegan pizza!
Vegetarian Dumpling – Serves other dishes as well as dumplings but a great place to start if you want authentic Chinese food!
Jade and Kev are on a mission to travel and work around the world! From the busy city life of Beijing to a remote outback town in Australia, they’ve started to pack some unusual job experiences under their belt! They’ve recently moved back to China and are in their third year of teaching English there.
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