Spain is most known for its jamón and more likely than not, if you mention the word "vegan" to a Spanish person you'll get a blank stare, head nod and an offer for an iceberg lettuce salad with corn, olives, and tuna. Yeah, there are even places that consider traditional ham lunchmeat as vegetarian friendly as it's not "real ham". Wait, wha?
But oh, isn't life funny? See, there are a few tapas that are vegan even though they are not labeled or advertised as such. These are the dishes you can find at any traditional mom & pop taberna. Spain, more specifically Madrid and Barcelona are becoming more vegan and vegetarian friendly; however, most of the restaurants are "hip" spots that proudly boast their "vegan, gluten-free, ecologically responsible, vegetarian, unicorn-safe" signs in the window and an unfortunate consequence is that it turns off most non-vegans. "It'll taste bad." "Why do I want fake meat when I can just eat real meat?" "It's too expensive!" Here's a loophole, friends.
I've recently gone back to eating a completely plant-based diet and as fun as it is to search through hundreds of restaurants for one or two vegan ones; I'd also like to know which tapas I can have at standard, more mainstream places. Surprisingly enough, my husband doesn't like playing "find something Danni can eat" in 40 degree weather! Go figure!
Pimientos de Padrón
These are mild, green peppers from the Padrón region of A Coruña, Galicia. They're tasty, and really easy to find. They are sautéed in olive oil then drizzled with rock salt afterwards. In a sea of ham and eggs, you'll thank your lucky stars for a splash of green, trust!
Gazpacho & Salmorejo
Gazpacho originally comes from Andalucía where it's hot AF like all the time, so yeah, a cold, fresh tomato soup makes perfect sense! It's usually served in a glass if it's done traditionally, or a bowl topped with fresh cucumber and diced green and red pepper. I may or may not drink it by the liter during July and August. No judgment!
Salmorejo is another cold tomato based soup; but it is made with bread, olive oil, and garlic. It's usually topped with boiled egg and bits of jamón because, Spain. So, if you prefer the creamy salmorejo to the lighter gazpacho, ask them to hold the egg and ham. You may get a few looks, but it's worth it.
Espinacas con Garbanzos
This is basically spinach and chickpeas. The key is fresh spinach, high-quality garlic and olive oil. Simple pleasures, friends. How are you feeling? More optimistic, I hope!
Berenjenas con Miel
Everyone loves eggplant, right! How about lightly battered eggplant with honey drizzled on top? Have I got your attention yet! This dish also originates from Andalucía, and fortunately for us, it's made its way throughout the peninsula.
Champiñones al Aljillo
Garlicy, salty, mushroomy goodness! Garlic and olive oil will become your best friend while living in Spain, real talk. This dish is also very easy to find, but I'd make sure that they don't add ham to it just in case! The experience is that much better without having to stop every 4 seconds to pick out a bacon bit!
Emergencies only: Patatas Bravas
If you find yourself in a vegan desert... you can always rely on the tried and true patatas bravas. They are diced potatoes served with a spicy (but, not really) sauce on the side. This is a risky choice as some times the potatoes are over or even under cooked. The sauce is usually not very spicy, at least by the hot sauce guzzler's palate. In short, it's pretty basic. That said, with the other options on the list, you should be set!
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Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful husband. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.