Vegetarian Barcelona - what is it really like? Vegetarians in Barcelona can find their diet quite limited. Although you can rely on the excellent food markets for fresh fruit and vegetables, one of the several restaurants offering anything from a vegetarian option to being fully vegan that vegetarian Barcelona has to offer, or alternating your diet by trying one of the ethnic restaurants, like Chinese or Indian. There are also numerous Arabic food outlets serving falafel and other vegetarian dishes. If you eat fish but not meat, your life will be much easier - a menú del dia nearly always features a fish dish.
Some vegetarian Barcelona salads and vegetable dishes are strictly vegan - like espinacs a la Català and escalivada, but they're few and far between. Be careful when ordering any dish that may seem vegetarian, as often they are cooked in fish or meat stock. Be sure to ask if the dish contains any meat, fish, or ham (as in Spain, ham is often considered not to be meat!). Here is some useful Spanish to help you get by:
* - You must always bear in mind that many places won't understand exactly what you mean by this, so tell them you don't eat animal products.
Whilst you will often find that chefs in the UK are sufficiently aware of vegetarianism so that they cook vegetarian dishes away from meat and/or fish, I think it's fair to say this practice would be laughed at in most normal restaurants in Spain and Catalunya. Thus, you may well find a piece of ham on a veggie pizza, or a lump of tuna in a green salad. What you choose to do is up to you, you can send it back, or just remove the offending object yourself (you can pretty much guarantee the dish won't be prepared again, unless you really do kick up a fuss!).
Fruit and nuts are widely available though, there are several falafel stands in Barcelona, and horchata (orxata in Catalan) is a cold beverage found in many bars and cafés during the hot summer months. Unfortunately, cheese made without rennet (cuajo in spanish) is rare if not impossible to get hold of in Spain. Whilst many UK supermarkets now produce a large number of their cheeses with non-animal enzymes, I fear this practice will take many years to reach the Iberian peninsula. Even some specialist cheese shops I have visited (Tot i Formatge in Paseo del Born) have no idea what you're talking about when you ask for vegetarian cheese. Thus, when going to an Italian restaurant, you must either ask whether the cheese is vegetarian (Pizza Marzano at the top of the Rambla and next to the Forum site) are the only pizza restaurants I know of in Barcelona which use animal-free mozarella as standard, except of course the Bufalo mozarella, which indeed uses rennet. Alternatively, ask for yours without cheese (sin queso in Spanish, sense formatge, in Catalan).
For vegetarian and vegan shopping use the markets - where you can buy ready-cooked lentils and beans, and pasta - or look out for the Health Food Shops marked Dietética or Herbolari, which sell soya milk and desserts, vegetarian biscuits, burgers, hotdogs, Tofu, Seitan and so on (for more information, see our page on Meat Free Alternatives). Personally, I find that some of the vegetarian burgers in these places are very expensive for what they are and quite fankly, they are often pretty poor tasting. It is often far better to make your own. For some burger recipes and others, visit our vegetarian recipes page. If you have any recipes you wish to contribute, please send them to us via the Sincarne contact page.
Vegetarian Barcelona price ratings are based on a 3-course meal with dessert, drink and a coffee.