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Vegetarian Santiago: best spots for leaf-eaters

South America draws food-lovers from across the globe, but it’s best known for its carnivorous delicacies rather than its meat-free options. That shouldn’t put off vegans and vegetarians, though. Despite preconceptions, the continent has a huge range of restaurants catering to green lifestyles, and Santiago is no exception.

Chile’s capital has diverse culinary offerings, a glorious fusion shaped by indigenous culture and influence from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Today, the city’s bustling markets provide restaurateurs with dazzling selection of ingredients for a varied selection of plant-based dishes – you just need to know where to look. Here we round up the best of Santiago’s vegetarian and vegan options, from superfood salads to supersized veggie burgers.

A stone bowl sits full of vegetarian ceviche containing avocado, tomatoes, kelp, onion and corn chips at El Huerto. Santiago, Chile.
Try the kelp ceviche at El Huerto @ Lucy Lovell / Lonely Planet

El Huerto

Situated on a picturesque leafy street, El Huerto is a hit with tourists and locals alike for its ingenious take on veggie food. Try the seaweed ceviche – made with dried kelp from the local market – which is a delicious riff on its seafood counterpart. Stick around for dessert, such as vegan cashew nut cheesecake with red fruit coulis, and vegan fruit tart with seeds and dairy-free ice cream.

Location: Orrego Luco 054

Cafe Forestal

Cafe Forestal is a cute city center cafe, easily spotted thanks to the bunting strung across the trees. Coffee fans will be happy at this tiny rockabilly hangout, where top quality roasts are served al fresco in the sunshine, with a selection of milk alternatives on hand. Vegan lunch options include the A.P.V burger (a handy initialism to know, which stands for apta para veganos – suitable for vegans), a juicy vegan hamburger with tomato, avocado, lettuce and vegan mayo on sourdough ciabatta.

Location: Av. Ismael Valdes Vergara 490

A toast spread with avocado and topped with small seeds, with a small cup of orange juice in the background. Santiago, Chile.
Avocado toast is always a good choice at Colmado © Lucy Lovell / Lonely Planet

Colmado Coffee & Bar

There’s a more extensive list of vegan options at Colmado Coffee & Bar, which you’ll find hidden in a pretty courtyard just off one of the most buzzing foodie streets. This bohemian hideout offers a wallet-friendly breakfast deal, which includes sourdough bread topped with avocado or hummus, freshly squeezed orange juice and a coffee of your choice (with almond or coconut milk). Visit a little later and enjoy tempting line up of booze, including negronis, espresso martinis and craft beers.

Location: Merced 346

Vegan Bunker

Don’t be fooled by the name – this isn’t a subterranean shelter, but vegans may well want to hideout at this 100 percent plant-based eatery. The sunny diner offers a menu full of animal-friendly comfort food. Between homemade burger buns you’ll find everything from barbecued tofu with palm heart and grilled onions to soya-marinated seitan with tomato and avocado. And if that doesn’t tempt you, the huge selection of vegan cakes definitely will.

Location: Fresia 529

A plate with french toast topped with bananas and blueberries, with a cup of coffee in the background. Santiago, Chile.
Don't miss the veggie-friendly french toast at Original Green Roasters © Lucy Lovell / Lonely Planet

Original Green Roasters

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so set yourself up for success with the generous portions at brunch and coffee specialists Original Green Roasters. Hearty breakfasts include chunky French toast, cascading with blueberries, bananas, and a lake of maple sauce. Vegan options are on the menu too – like a bumper portion of avocado and tomato on toast. There’s also a selection of milk alternatives for the a coffee fix that’s animal-friendly.

Location: Rancagua 040

Vegetarian-friendly street food

It’s not just specialist restaurants that serve plant-based dishes – street food in Chile is well worth exploring too. Sopaipilla is a type of pumpkin patty that's deep fried and then served with generous portions of spicy salsa and garlic sauce. In the Santiago city center, look for the stall near the Central Market, which has been serving sopaipilla to hungry commuters for over 20 years. When the temperature rises, seek out stall holders that sell a refreshing cup of mote con huesillos. This vegan dessert combines cooked wheat and fruit in delicious ice-cold peach juice, the perfect way to cool off on a sunny day.

An open-air dining room with wooden chairs and tables. A lavender and aloe plant are in the foreground. Santiago, Chile.
Enjoy an atmospheric meal at La Fraternal © Lucy Lovell / Lonely Planet

La Fraternal

Travel a little further out of town and there’s a huge range of veggie and vegan restaurants to explore. Open since 2011, La Fraternal is on the more relaxed, bohemian end of the scale. There’s an open-air restaurant, festooned with bunting and surrounded by fresh herbs, as well as regular yoga classes and a health food shop (stocked with delicious Chilean kombucha). Here, they serve organic and healthy dishes, the majority of which are veggie and vegan. Sourdough pizzas come with a choice of milk or nut-based cheese, while raw salads offer a more healthy hit. Their tempting dessert bar offers more raw options, including an indulgent pomegranate and coconut tart.

Location: Holanda 3362

Quinoa Restaurante

The trendy barrio of Vitacura is home to a big crop of vegetarian restaurants, but Quinoa heads up the pack with a substantial all-day offering and stylish fit-out. Inside, there’s ample comfy seating and a charming courtyard, where diners tuck into a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Salads are hearty and filling – the red quinoa salad is packed full with carrots, olives, avocado, tomato and sauteed tofu. Bigger plates include burritos – with the option of being served vegan – which come served with guacamole, black beans and caramelized onions. Continue the health kick with a freshly pressed fruit juice, or dive into a bowl of vegan brownie made with 70 percent cacao.

Location: Calle Luis Pasteur 5393

The exterior of restaurant Jose Ramon; one window is surrounded by a wall of black and white murals of people eating food. Santiago, Chile.
Stop in at José Ramón for a delicious chickpea veggie burger © Lucy Lovell / Lonely Planet

José Ramón

Craft beer fans will love the bar at José Ramón, which also serves up a range of hearty sandwiches. This modern take on a traditional sanguchería is by no means a veggie restaurant, but meat-free options include the chickpea veggie burger, which comes on a fluffy bun with tomato, rocket, sweet peppers, and olive mayonnaise. Don’t miss out on the homemade sauces – our favourite is the fiery red chilli.

Location: José Ramón Gutiérrez 277

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