From savory crispy king mushroom strips smothered in Thai black pepper sauce to buttery croissants without the butter, vegan food has captured a larger share of the market than ever before and its popularity continues to grow. A broader audience is interested in mindful and meatless eating, whether driven by care for animal welfare, their health, or the environment, and the vegetarian and vegan restaurants of San Diego are delivering the taste and talent to keep up with demand. Here are 20 spots to find satisfying meatless meals.Read More
San Diego's Essential Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants
Find 20 fantastic meatless menus
Eris Vegan Food Co.
Eve in Encinitas has closed but its crew has reassembled under a new name and is operating out of the Living Tea Kombucha tap room where they serve a menu of vegan burgers, tacos, and pizza. Those nostalgic for their former restaurant can find comfort in the familiar Havana Affair bowl with coconut rice, stewed black beans, plantains, and mojo sauce.
Founded by San Diego power couple Jessica and Davin Waite, this Oceanside spot offers dishes built on vegetables that still satisfy even the staunchest omnivore. Start with dishes like the lion’s mane mushroom “crab cakes” or a kale salad topped with pastrami-spice marinated beets. But be sure to save room for entrees like the shepherd’s pie which, even meatless, is one of the best versions in San Diego.
Sabor A Vida Cafe & Deli
Mexico City natives Mario and Veronica Cabrera bring vegan favorites to their corner of a Vista strip mall. Starting at 8 a.m., find organic coffee and filling vegan breakfast offerings like their Morning Glory breakfast burrito, beetroot hummus toast with micro greens, or arguably the best vegan chilaquiles in San Diego.
Phatties Vegan Mexican Restaurant
This gem in Escondido specializes in foods from Queretaro, Mexico. The pambazo — a torta lathered in red chili salsa, grilled, and then stuffed with soyrizo con papas, shredded lettuce, avocado, and red onions — is a particular standout. In 2023, the Phatties family also reopened their beloved food truck so check Instagram for its calendar.
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Complex spices thread throughout each of Kanta Jina’s dishes at this Miramar spot. Thalis change daily but might include seasonal curries like corn methi malai (fenugreek and corn curry) and achari aloo gobi (spiced cauliflower). The generous chaat menu (Indian street food and snacks) ranges from samosas smothered in chutney to vada pav, a potato patty sandwich with cilantro, garlic, and tamarind.
Green Door Cafe
Tucked between storefronts, a long hall leads into the cozy covered patio at this La Jolla cafe where chef Martin Hall whips organic vegetables into soups and sandwiches that showcase seasonality, from the popular Bombay burger to the loaded Full Tank spicy hummus sandwich. Even the side salad accompanying most dishes is boldly crafted, with dressed cabbage, delicate pea tendrils, and a scattering of roasted fennel, sesame, and sunflower seeds.
San Diego Vegan Market
This fully vegan market offers hundreds of verified vegan items–many that cannot be found at most other markets–along with a variety of ready-to-eat foods. Near the door find a cooler of grab-and-go sandwiches and deli salads by Veg’n Out, or order fresh-pressed organic juice, smoothies, and acai bowls. The space holds a full kitchen where Mandy Corny of The Radical Beet serves social justice-minded hot dishes like the Chix-Fil-Gay, a deep-fried tofu sandwich smothered in “gay sauce” and Not Your Land Nachos.
Though Maya’s Cookies is renowned nationwide, local folks are lucky enough to purchase these stellar treats directly from the bakery. Favorites include the Chocolate Chip S’mores and Brown Sugar Butterscotch which are available individually or as boxed sets. The bakery also offers Oatly soft-serve ice cream with an array of toppings that include a mini chocolate chip cookie.
If your local coffee shop serves vegan pastries, there is a good chance they come from the kitchen of Vanessa Corrales. The talented baker turns out trays of fresh, seasonal creations, from mango blackberry kouign twists to classic chocolate or almond stuffed croissants.
Gorilla Eats Sushi
Lumi alum Justin Ramirez produces a stunning array of vegan sushi from his College Area ghost kitchen. Though there is no dining in, pick-up or delivery is seamless. The menu ranges from classic rolls with avocado or shiitake mushrooms to intricate creations like the Ritz with “shrimp” tempura topped with a hyper-realistic “smoked salmon”, spicy mayo, and thin slices of lemon.
Owners and siblings Napatr and Katiya follow their own muse at this University Heights favorite, where the menu fuses the complexity of Thai flavors with international favorites, resulting in dishes like the Drunken Angel, spicy serrano and garlic-sauced angel hair pasta with tofu and fresh peppercorn, as well as popcorn cauliflower with cashew ranch and Buffalo sauce, and spicy salt and pepper king mushroom strips.
When the daughter of Pimwara “Patty” Thongchua, owner of the Thai Joint, went vegetarian, she created this spot that serves meat- and fish sauce-free creations. Plumeria’s menu is filled with all the familiar Thai dishes, from pad thai to Panang, veganized (except for one vegetarian appetizer). The mock duck larb is a standout starter, with lime and soy sauce-soaked seitan tossed with onions, chilies, cilantro, and a dusting of roasted rice powder.
There’s no such thing as too many tacos, especially vegan ones. Expanded from Las Vegas in 2022, this North Park hotspot serves house-made seitan al pastor and mushrooms asada tacos folded into corn tortillas. The menu also offers flautas, burritos, and quesadillas plus margaritas (or aguas frescas) to top off a meal.
Underdog Food Truck
A steady presence at a North Park gas station, this popular food truck serves affordable and filling vegan street food, including classic, jalapeno, and Korean (studded with chopped fries and panko and rolled in sugar) corndogs along with unique burgers smothered in chili cheese or kimchi with pickled jalapenos.
Thanh Tinh Chay
This instantly-popular vegan and fully gluten-free spot in Little Saigon prepares many Vietnamese dishes that are rarely found without meat. Here, traditional-style bún huế comes beefless and steamed bánh bèo cakes are topped with crispy root vegetables and tofu. The menu focuses on organic produce, made-from-scratch mock meats, and a generous menu of banh mis all served on house-baked gluten-free bread.
Hazel & Jade Bakery
After a flood shut down the bakery for six months, it finally reopened in March 2023. The fully remodeled Hillcrest bakery turns out top-quality vegan versions of classic pastries, from almond croissants to chocolate brioche knots. If you spot the croissant muffin, crowned with caramelized sugar and seasonal fruit, be sure to order it.
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Scratch-made sauces and seasonal vegetables fill the menu of chef Roy Elam’s restaurant. Crushed California tomatoes and local Scratch House cheese are featured on pizzas, the centerpiece of the menu. Not to be missed are the seasonal pastas, like hand-rolled strozzapreti with broccolini and white wine garlic cream, or the Really Good Salad with pickled raisins, shaved carrots, radishes, and toasted pistachios.
This cocktail den was recently named one of the best bars in America by Esquire Magazine. Step through an unmarked door and into an immersive world where you linger inside a crashed intergalactic spaceship cracked open into an alien landscape. Pull up to the bar, which serves fantastical tiki drinks, or get a table under the perpetual night sky and indulge in all-vegan “earth food” that explores unexpected cultural fusions.
One of San Diego’s oldest vegetarian restaurants went fully vegan during the winter of 2020. Centered in the heart of Balboa Park, it offers an array of vegetable-based soul food via dishes like Jamaican veggie patties filled with spicy cabbage or jerk tofu or Louisiana Creole gumbo with collard greens and salad.
The recently-revamped menu adds more shareable dishes, like the hexagon of black marble holding BBQ yuba, shawarma-style Impossible, and house-made classic seitan skewers and torched carrots with cannellini pate. Cocktails (or mocktails) are a must. Both offer curious creations with titillating ingredients like their pineapple turmeric shrub and ktult plum tincture.