The Comprehensive Essential Spanish for the Traveling Veggie
A few quick essential Spanish words can really help you when eating out, asking street vendors questions, or reading labels in grocery stores.
Here’s the essential Spanish for the traveling veggie:
1. First, self-describe.
- Soy vegana. I am a vegan. (If a girl).
- Soy vegano. I am a vegan. (If a boy).
In Spanish, the ending, in this case, the -o or the -a, mark the gender of the noun or person. -a for girls. -0 for boys.
- Soy vegetariana. I am a vegetarian. (girl)
- Soy vegetariano. I am a vegetarian. (Boy)
2. Second, explicitly state what you don’t eat.
Most of the time, just stating I am a vegetarian or a vegan is not enough. I always explicitly state what I can’t eat. Most people from Spanish-speaking countries, like telling your grandma, don’t exactly understand the terms fully.
“No como _________” means “I don’t eat _______”
Depending on your form of vegetarianism or veganism, fill in the blanks.
- No como carne ni pollo ni cerdo ni pescado. Nada de un animal.
- I don’t eat beef, chicken, pig, nor fish. Nothing from an animal.
Common mistake or misconception: Saying “No como carne” does not mean “I don’t eat meat” like we would say in the US. “Carne” is only beef or from a cow. It is not a common phrase for all meat. You should say the full phrase.
- No como leche ni huevos ni queso ni mantequilla ni miel.
- I don’t eat milk, eggs, cheese, butter, or honey.
Obviously, depending on what it is I’m ordering, or the person’s comprehension of the term, I do not always list off every single item I don’t eat. Most of the time they get the idea from a few things. I might say,
- “Soy vegana. No como carne ni pollo ni pescado, huevos, queso. Nada de un animal”
- Beef, chicken, eggs, and cheese are the big ones. I generally throw in fish as well because most people will think as a veggie you eat fish.
3. Soups. Soups are particularly tricky. Most places will be using chicken broth as a base, unless you are at a specific veggie place or ask for a vegetarian meal when you let them know ahead of time (say at a hostal that has dinner included).
To ask about broth, “Es qué tipo de caldo? Es caldo de pollo?” –“What type of broth is it? Is it chicken broth?” I would probably go on to say I don’t eat…or say I’m a vegetarian.
4. Tip of the Trade: In particularly questionable things, using your vegan or veggie radar, you might say you have a serious allergy. Say you are worried they put milk in it, or you’re convinced they put eggs and are just saying there aren’t eggs to get you to buy it…
Pretend you have an allergy.
“Tengo alergia a _______” I have an allergy to _______.
5. ASKING at a restaurant, street vendor, etc.
- “Está hecho con huevos?” “Is it made with eggs?” Trade out for any word, leche, huevos, etc.
- “Cómo se hace? Qué contiene?” How do you make it? What does it contain?
- “Es con carne?” “Es con queso?” Is it with meat? Is it with cheese?
- “Qué contiene” What’s in it?
Asking for something without something…
- “Podría hacerlo sin queso?“
- “Podría hacerlo sin leche“
- Can you make it without cheese, without milk. Replace the word for whatever offending item is on the menu.
- For when ordering a plato at an almuerzo place with normal meat: “No como pollo. Podría darme un plato con frijoles y arroz o ensalada o algo?” I don’t eat chicken. Can you maybe give me a plate with beans and rice, or salad or something?
6. READING LABELS, MENUS, ETC. The Vegan Spanish-English Dictionary
- Pollo-Chicken (sometimes on labels-they’ll use gallina)
- pernil-leg of pork or ham. (They’ll say this is on sandwiches a lot).
- Manteca de cerdo -Lard or pig fat. (Manteca means fat. Be careful, if they ask if you want grasa or manteca, make sure you figure out what kind “Què tipo de manteca?”.)
- Grasa-Fat or lard. You can have grasa de vegetal or manteca de vegetal and it is vegan.
- Ceviche-raw fish
- Cuy-Guinea pig (for those of you traveling in Ecuador and Peru)
- Yema de huevo-egg yolk
- Suero de leche- Whey powder
- leche en polvo-milk powder