Argentina - known the world over for its tango dancers, vibrant culture, and well - really, really good beef. And, let’s be honest, as a vegetarian, while the famous meat may not be so enticing, the country still absolutely is. So, what’s a veggie traveller in Argentina to do? Fast? Pack a suitcase full of energy bars? Stick to a strict liquid diet of Malbec wine?
Well, while the wine option doesn’t sound too bad, you’ll still have to fill your stomach with something first if you’re going to make it through that tango lesson. So, we’ve done a little research to see how vegetarian travellers have managed in a country where meat takes center stage.
Buenos Aires easily caters to the meat-free population. Vegetarian, vegan and even raw food restaurants and cafes are beginning to have a trendy presence around the city, enabling vegetarians to chow down and offering an optional reprieve from nightly steaks for their carnivorous friends.
“My meat-eating husband was in heaven and ate more meat than I thought was healthy for someone who lives mainly on an enforced vegetarian diet. I was very pleasantly surprised by the food selection. In the major cities and tourist places large restaurants actually had a selection of vegetarian dishes (something you don’t always get in the UK).” – Clare Mercer, Lonely Planet UK
Check out this great veggie restaurant in Buenos Aires: BIO Restaurant
Outside of Buenos Aires in some of the smaller towns, vegetarian friendly restaurants will be harder to find, as vegetarianism is still very much a foreign concept. Menu options may be more limited, but local fresh produce at the markets should make cooking an easy alternative.
“The quality of the produce, all grown in Argentina, was excellent, making for really tasty dishes and some of the South American ingredients, such as quinoa, were particularly veg-friendly. However, I eat fish and there were a few occasions in small restaurants in small towns/villages where trout was the only thing I could eat on the menu.” –Clare Mercer, Lonely Planet UK
Make sure you are clear about your dietary habits to you Argentinean friends and waiters. “No carne” in Spanish simply means “no beef”, not necessarily “no meat”, which just may land you a dish of chicken, pork or fish instead.
With the heavy Italian influence in Argentina, Italian cuisine is quite prevalent, and quite good. Pizzas and pasta dishes are readily available on menus, usually with good veg options. On the flip side, when the choices for vegetarians are frequently limited to pizza, pasta, cheese or empanadas, carbo-lovers rejoice while the rest scream for a fresh salad.
So, it must be asked - is Argentina a culinary dilemma or a delight for vegetarians? When choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, you are reducing your options, no matter your country. When travelling, vegetarianism may prove to be tricky and may require a bit more effort - and clearly Argentina is no exception.
If you don’t plan to let go of your lifestyle and live like a local, a nice meal is not as easy as a glass of red wine and a steak, and may take some planning, research, and flexibility. However, maintaining a healthy veg lifestyle in Argentina is not impossible or, for that matter, difficult. With the availability of fresh produce and Italian cuisine and the growing presence of vegetarian-friendly restaurants, a vegetarian will not go hungry in the land of asado.
For a global listing of vegetarian options, check out Happy Cow, where you can sort between 100% vegetarian, vegan or vegetarian-friendly restaurants. It also lists health food stores, so great it’s great for sourcing vittles for a picnic or self-catering holiday.
Fancy a quick snack? Argentina is world-famous for its asado barbecues. Photo courtesy of Flickr.com, by [Alaskan Dude].