Meat invariably dominates most meals. On that front, Bolivia is no exception to other South American countries. But I heard that vegetarian and even vegan options are on the rise. How much it’s really been risen already and how easy it is to maintain a 100% plant based diet I will find out during my trip through one of the most diverse and underestimated nations of the continent.
I started in Copacabana on the beautiful Lake Titicaca and on Isla del Sol. The surrounding was breathtakingly stunning, and so were the sunsets, treks and vistas over the enormous lake. But since this is a vegan Foodblog and I decided only to report on pure vegetarian or vegan restaurants I’m sorry to say that you’ll be better off finding an accomodation with a kitchen.
So the culinary journey began in La Paz. And it started with a blast: I treated myself with an extremely top notch, super high class restaurant: Ali Pacha (Calle Colón, esq. Potosi 1306). Actually, I started this blog for two reasons: Firstly, inform other likeminded travelers about meat free restaurants worldwide. And secondly, to push the vegan movement by giving little plant based restaurants a bit of support and positive press.
Ali Pacha doesn’t need this though. They are big without my blog: they received international recognition in three different categories at the 2017 World Luxury Restaurant Awards: South American Cuisine Global Winner, Best Cocktail Menu Continent Winner and Gourmet Vegan Cuisine Continent Winner. The head chef and founder Sebastian Quiroga enjoyed an international classical training in London and Denmark before watching the 2005 documentary „Earthlings“ after which he decided to provide a meat-free and high-quality cuisine in which (obviously) flavor comes first. His concept is simple: give a flavorful, 100% Bolivian gourmet experience, without using any animal products.
Ali Pacha is (for me, at least!) a restaurant where you don’t eat every day (or when you are starving, that is). In fact, I have to say that I’ve never dined in such an exquisite place before. So it was about time: I ordered a lavish 7-courses dinner! And each course was accompanied by the explanation of the very attentive waiter who made your mouth water by his outline of what was so finely decorated on your plate. The taste and the presentation definitely reflected the overall quality of the whole experience. Undoubtedly, when visiting Ali Pacha, the passion for gastronomy stands out and can be appreciated in the care and consideration put into each detail.
No surprise that the music at the vegetarian restaurant NamasTé (Zoilo Flores 1334) was strikingly tasteful: The owner Paul Jove (a.k.a. Pituko) is an enthusiastic DJ and avid fan of electronic music and he plays his music on weekends at a variety of venues across La Paz. His sister, an animal rights lobbyist and activist, influenced him to a point where he himself began fighting for animal rights, changed to a vegetarian diet in 2011, started offering vegan options in his restaurant in 2012 and reducing dairy products across the menu. The pillars of NamasTé today are creativity, family cooperation and heightened awareness. An easy example for that is that everything’s prepared fresh’n from scratch, proudly using a pink Bolivian salt plus natural and local ingredients & spices. Paul told me that his intention since the very start 11 years ago has been to keep prices affordable so that everybody can enjoy veg food. Hence, sometimes there are discounts for locals and of course the real carrot is the super bargain set menu. That way, he hopes his restaurant to become a place for transition for some to turn vegetarian/vegan. What a noble philosophy, isn’t it?!
Café Vida (Calle Sagarnaga 213) serves organic, fresh, (mostly) gluten free and most importantly 100% vegan food! It was opened 2 years ago by a Swiss with Peruvian roots but she sold it to Ninneth, a 22 years old Bolivian that kept most of the convincing concept of this pleasant place, i.e. the very tasteful interior design, the use of high quality ingredients and the well chosen assortment of cold pressed and organic smoothies, sweets & desserts (banana bread, yum!), various bowls and snacks like the sandwich with figs. Try the lunch deal, it is such a bargain! Another plus: The service was fast and extremely friendly. What a tranquil oasis in the busy streets of La Paz!
If you want it fast and hot (…) Go Green (Sanches Lima 497) might be just the place for you. It serves decent vegetarian & vegan fast food, because sometimes it’s just gotta be greasy after all that quinoa, right!? This might please your fast food hunger: Four kinds of hamburgers (you can personalize your burger: sauce, (vegan) cheese, sides etc.), vegan nuggets and paninis (Italian, Mexican or Morrocan), perfect fries, four different salads and -drumroll – vegan icecream, cake and brownies. Goes down well with one of those local beers from a small brewery.
Here is an excellent and slightly different lunch option: Flor de Loto Buffet Vegetariano
(Calle Pedro Salazar Casi esq. Presbitero Medina Nro. 599). From Monday to Saturday a buffet style business lunch is on offer: you choose between 12 different options (only one contained milk, the rest was vegan, yay!), fill up your plate and let it be weighed at the counter. There is a salad bar as well, a daily soup and some deserts (mostly vegan as well). In the adjacent shop you get muesli, dry fruits, cereals, different sublements, some cosmetic, fresh veggies, cafe & tea, Gluten-Free biscuits, hummus and other vegan spreads, marmalade, oils, bread…you get the idea. All organic, natural and mostly fair trade. Govinda, who has never eaten meat in her whole life (!!!) opened the shop in 2017 and it’s flourishing! So her mother Mariana, who is a vegetarian for 38 years (!!!), didn’t think twice, followed in her daughter’s footsteps and started the restaurant. It’s a successful family business with a clever concept; go girls, go!
Armonia (Av. Ecuador 2286) offers an almuerzo buffet in a rustic and cozy „home“ (you’ll understand once you get there…) from Monday to Saturday (12:00-14:30pm) for ridiculous Bs. 32! When I spoke with Pedro, the owner from Lichtenstein, it became clear that the dedicated organic approach is the centerpiece of this restaurant. That’s why they grow their own veggies and typical Bolivian ingredients at an ecological farm nearby Achocalla (16km from La Paz). Here, no pesticides or other chemicals are being used but excellent self-made compost. No monocultures exploit the earth, but biodiversity is created. 43 different veggies flourish in Achacolla, part of which are being used for the restaurant, but some are also for sale: in „surprise bolsas“, bags full of bio veggies, always filled differently. The customer doesnt know what’s in it but one thing is for sure: it’s always seasonal, ecological and grown with 💚!
Lupito, 100% vegan, opened 8 month ago in the somewhat fancy and bohemian neighborhood in Zona Sur (Calle José María Zalles #N23) attracts only few tourist. Mostly, their customers are local business people, the minority of whom are actually vegan (or vegetarian for that matter). Only 20 % are vegan guesses Paula, one of the two owners. But they keep coming due to the quality of the food! It’s a pure success story: only shortly after opening the first place they had to move into a bigger one with tasteful interior. Paula & Luisa offer a daily changing menu (it’s even different at lunchtime and dinner). Their overall aim is to protect the animals and create a cruel-free alternative to ordinary meat based food. How convenient: Paula’s mom owns a bakery and is responsible for some tempting vegan cakes you can enjoy at Lupito in a very pleasant atmosphere! Talk to the girls if you have the chance, they are as sweet as their brownies! Even though I turned up outside business hours, the all girl team (!) went out of their way and kindly prepared something for me. What a service!
In my opinion, there is no reason staying in Oruro other than splitting up a long stretch from Uyuni to Cochabamba or La Paz (or vice versa). That’s exactly what I did and after a long bus ride I went to Govinda (Calle Junin/Calle Solvia Galvarro), one of the very few meat-free choices in town. It’s a basic vegetarian place that offers mainly fast food like burgers, pasta, pizza and Empanadas. Most of the dishes here contain cheese, but if you ask, they’ll prepare something without. The fruity soy milk drinks were the best and go down well with the vegan Apple Pie. All in all, nothing to write home about, really. Actually, I should have gone to the other veg place in town, Vegetariano El Huerto (Calle 1 de Novembre/Calle Velasco Galvarro) but I desperately wanted to leave, so I didn’t have time for that.
Finally in Cochabamba my expectations were high. The city is said to be a culinary hotspot. And it didn’t disappoint! First, I went to Menta (Calle España 356) which is quite a looker: the room is spacious and has a modern and somewhat sophisticated/stylish interior design. Posters of famous vegans frame the white stonewalls and big groups can sit on high chairs on the long table in the center. Famous for their juicy burgers and sandwiches, you’ll also get a half-day special menu, a variation of salads, pizza, eggplant lasagna, veggie tacos and more. All the dishes are either vegan or vegetarian but can easily be veganized. Try some of their fusion fruit juices, there are so good (No bombillo poor favor“ means „No straw please!“, a sentence I regularly use in Bolivia to avoid unnecessary plastic rubbish). There are two other branches with the same name, one in Calle 16 de Julio 814 (Zona Central), the other in C. Man Cesped 464.
Ágape (Oquendo, Casi Calama) has been around for 3 years already, Alberto, one of the staff members told me. They are rooted in the Christian belief of the Aventist Church. Apparently, one of the pillars of this religion is vegetarian nutrition. On Sundays you can join a fruit juice therapy that is supposed to help you cleansing and healing your body. Other than that, you’ll get a bargain almuerzo that doesn’t disappoint, including salad from a buffet, a soup and a main dish on cute heart-shaped plates. It’s open from 9:00-4pm.
Gopal (Oquendo, Casi Calma) is around for 25 years already (!) and 100% vegan. There are another 2 Gopal „branches“ and still they are growing and even consider to open a fourth one. In this simple Hare Krishna themed eatery you’ll get the good ol‘ almuerzo with a variety of 20 different Ensenadas plus soup and main dish from Monday to Saturday (11:30-2:00pm). Their philosophy is that nutrition is medicine (hence the salads) and want to show people how to eat well and healthy without meat.
After having experienced this, I wanted to try out the „mothership“ Gopal (España 250, casi Ecuador). So I visited the very first Gopal restaurant with which everything started in 1988. It’s been in family hands since the 4th generation now and the owner Jaquelin told me that the family has always owned restaurants, but they initially used to serve meat. Only when a Hare Krishna believer invited her to a conference (which takes place every Sunday) and showed her how to cook without meat, Jaquelin and her mother began to get excited about the totally different world that opened up for her. The music, the meditation and the new way of regarding food for which no living creature had to die fascinated her and ever since then she is glad having changed to a happy and healthy life (she has been vegetarian for 30 years and vegan for 5!). Passionate Jaquelin is very aware and knowledgable of the nutritional value of a balanced vegan diet and its benefits. Consequently her whole family lives a plant based vegetarian lifestyle. The restaurant treats you every day from 11:30-2pm with a Buffet style meal with several yummy choices of salad plus soups and a choice of two different mains.
Fresh & Tasty (Av. America este 982) is totally vegan and gluten free. Opened only four month ago the team is still rearranging bits and pieces, foremost the terrace which, once ready, will provide a nice outside sitting area. Up for a vegan Breakfast? At Fresh & Tasty you’ll be spoiled with vegan pancakes, cereals with almond/soy/quinoa milk and more. Or an almuerzo at lunchtime with a salad buffet, soup, a fruit drink, 2 different mains and a dessert. Friendly Chef Rossana lived 15 years in the US and also received her training there. She explained her philosophy which is to match the high culinary standard of Cochabamba but purely plant based. And she totally succeeds in creating a delish and healthy alternative that deserves attention, even in Cochabamba, a city with a famous culinary scene. Alex and Richard, the trained chefs in her team, cook with passion and of course meet the high hygienic standards. Future projects include cooking classes with kids to educate and promote a healthy lifestyle.
It would be disappointing if the biggest city of Bolivia, Santa Cruz, didn’t have some vegan restaurants as well.
Casa Vegana (Av. San Martin), open Tuesday to Sunday 11:00- 4:00pm, was the first I visited. First active in an animal rights movement together with friends from the vegan bakery „Coconela„, „Fast & Vegan“ and others (hey, there’s a scene out there!!), the idea of opening a purely vegan restaurant arose and was quickly put into action. Today, you’ll enjoy paninis, burgers (named after famous vegans: Lisa Simpson, Mike Tyson, Paul McCartney…), Fajitas, wraps, Pasta, Tacos and some mouth watering desserts in a pleasant and modern surrounding. Not to forget the exotic drinks, for example with Copoazú, an Amazonian fruit full of Antioxidantes and proteins and with a texture similar to cacao. I loved the super friendly and fast service.
Since 1989 Captain Vegetariano (Calle Quijaro 115) provides a healthy version of Bolivian classics. It’s influenced by the Aventist Church (think posters, flyers, paintings and so on) and the philosophy of the restaurant is based on two influential books a) „Medicina Natural Al Alcance de Todos“ by Manuel Lezaeta Acharan b) „Consejos sobre el regimen alimenticio“ by Elena G. de White. So if you want to find out more, feel free to research. I was more interested in the food, so I enjoyed an almuerzo (big portions!) and came back for dinner as it is one of the few restaurants open late (till 8 pm). It’s nearly vegan and if there’s milk or egg involved in one or the other dish, it’s obvious so you can choose something else. When I visited, everything was vegan. There are also heaps of supplements, bread, Quinua and other ingredients for sale.
A simple vegetarian option is Vegetarian Center (Calle Aroma 64). Here, you can help yourself on the big buffet (though nomen est omen: it’s mainly vegetarian: lots of eggs or milk involved). You pay by the weight of your plate. I liked the olives and the fresh salads!
VegeLin (Calle Fray Francisco del Pilar 143) is strictly vegan. Careful, Happy Cow users: There has been a change of owner and on the website you’ll still find the old name and it says that it’d be vegetarian. But Lin from Taiwan took over and veganized it! Whoop whoop! Herself turned vegan because of the many cruel documentaries she watched in the past. Consequently only yummy plant based food is available at VegeLin. There is a huge buffet counter with a lot of different things to choose from. The variety really impressed me, it must be so much work! Lin is super friendly and bending over backwards to ensure you leave the restaurant happy. You pay by weight of your plate but the soup is for free! Total recommendation!
Samaipata is the gateway to the Amboro national park with excellent hiking opportunities. Before heading out into the cloud forest make sure to get your energy level up!
The best place for that is Café Tango (Calle Arze) which is vegetarian and most of the dishes are even vegan. You’ll get creamy soups, salads, Indian dishes, Nachos, Arepas, curry, pasta and quinoa. Also, try the vegan Joghurt, tea from a huge selection (including some medicinal plants like Moringa, Wira Wira or Cardo Santo) and the vegan/organic hot chocolate and coffee. They have some prime integral bread to take away for one of those hikes onto the park, cause that’s what you are here for, right?! Breakfast seems to be nice here as well. Plus, if you need anything for your travel kitchen, you can stock up on any spices, herbs, teas, self made dried fruits, cereals you can think of, all from the surrounding area. It’s a nice little shop/restaurant with lots of artisan homemade article with love to detail. The owner Sol lived 14 years in the jungle on an organic/vegetarian permaculture farm where she produced hibiscus wine and pesto among other delicacies, learned a lot about medicinal plants, natural healing and coexisting in a natural environment in general. Sol also taught about healthy/raw/veg food and even wrote a book called „Altar vibration alimentation evolutiva“. Today in Samaipata lots of locals appreciate Sol’s advice and find out about detox, weight loss and different cures through nutrition and Sol is happy to educate and help.
To be continued…check in regularly (or simply FOLLOW) to find out more about vegan restaurants worldwide and keep updated, there’s definitely more to come!