Vegan in Chile: Mission Impossible?
Can I go to Chile? What will I eat there? Should I carry all my food? 10 pounds of TVP and protein bars anyone?
Eating vegetarian, let alone vegan, in Chile sounds like quite the unfeasible task, an insurmountable 50 mile ultramarathon on zero sleep. Yet, what is the actual reality in Chile on the ground? Is it possible to be vegan here?
A resounding YES.
Having lived in the heart of Chile now for well over 2 months, I can confidently say that a “vegan in Chile” is not some absurd joke, and life here isn’t just bread and meat. As a major exporter, and a long skinny country with all different climates, Chile is a huge grower of an astounding number of fruits and veggies that pop up in markets and supermarkets in beautiful colors and quantities. With a little creativity, being vegan in Chile can be delicious, fun, and more than a little interesting.
Of course, the first thing to do, is check out HappyCow. While not comprehensive, and a bit outdated, especially outside of Santiago, it’s a great first start to planning where you want to eat!
If you’re in Santiago, you can easily hit up specialty stores (as listed on HappyCow). They’ve got a bunch of the normal goods. Tofu, soymilk, TVP, hamburgers and other kinds of meat replacements. Santiago, as the capital and largest city, also of course has the best veg restaurants in Chile. Keep your eyes out for people selling soy meat sandwiches on the streets! I always saw one man up near La Moneda on O’Higgins, he sold ’em at 500 pesos (a dollar more or less), and it came with tomato, lettuce and palta (avocado). Pretty delicious. Also, pretty cool that he can sell them on the street like that. While we don’t have very many street vendors (excluding food trucks if you count those), I don’t know quite how well a man selling soy sandwiches on the street would do back in the States.
As you head out of Santiago, of course it is going to get a bit more complicated, but not impossible! So keep that veggie powered smile still smiling!
If, upon cross referencing your travel itinerary to that of HappyCow, you realize that there are no veggie options in your city or location, do not worry! First, in typical vegan fashion, look or ask for ethnic food choices. I’ve found that most cities have either falafel, sushi, Indian food (Govinda’s is a good chain in several cities), and/or Mexican (though be warned, Mexican food is notoriously sketchy in Chile). Again, you may have to ask for something without cheese or without fish, but it’s definitely a good bet you’ll be able to find something or make something work at an ethnic restaurant.
If you find yourself at a nonvegan friendly restaurant, and we’re talking unfriendly unfriendly. Ask for the salad without whatever meat or fish they’re offering. Outside of a “caesar salad”, they’ll leave the dressing to you and bring a little carafe with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to dress the salad as you like. Normally you’ll get some palta, tomate, maybe some corn or green beans. With the bread to start, you’ll at least not starve! To ask about vegan food, checkout the Vegan Passport.
Like most vegan adventures, things are going to be profoundly easier if you have access to a kitchen-making hostels a great choice while traveling in country. There are tons of great fresh fruits and vegetables all around Chile, beans, tvp, soymilk are all here. See my post on my top tips for a happy vegan Chilean life.