Is Travel in Argentina a Vegetarian’s Dilemma or Delight?

Argentina is famous for asado – barbecues with beef, pork, chorizo and chicken. But what does that mean for vegetarians who travel to Argentina?

Fruit for sale at a market in Argentina Photo © Getty Images/Rindawati Dyah Kusumawardani / EyeEm

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 traveler in Argentina to do? Go hungry? 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 if you’re hoping to make it through that tango lesson. We’ve done a little research to see how vegetarian travelers can get by in a country where meat takes center stage.

Chow Down in the Capital

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

Explore the Local Markets

Beyond Buenos Aires in smaller towns, vegetarian friendly restaurants will be harder to find, as vegetarianism is still very much a foreign concept. Menu options may be 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

Be Specific

Make sure you are clear about your dietary habits to you Argentinean friends and waiters. “No carne” in Spanish simply means “no beef” – not “no meat”, which just may land you a dish of chicken, pork or fish instead.

The Vegetarian’s Quick Spanish Reference Guide

  • No carne = No beef
  • No pollo = No chicken
  • No pescado = No fish
  • No mariscos = No seafood
  • No jamón = No ham

Thank the Italians

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.

A gaucho man cooks ribs on a grill
Gaucho barbecueing ribs on a ranch in Argentina. Photo credit: Getty Images/Keren Su

Are you a vegetarian on the road? Share your vegetarian-friendly travel tips in the comments below.

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  • Denise said

    Hi! Im from argentina and a vegetarian, and I want you to know that right now in almost all restaurants you have a veg option.

  • papaguena said

    Hi!<br>I agree that in Buenos Aires you have a choise, but down in Patagonia its not easy.In some restaurants the waiters would start laughing when i said i was a vegetarian! I spent weeks on over coocked spaghetti and frozen fruit.

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