After almost 3 years traveling around South America, I am MORE than used to receiving a lot of negative comments.
When you’re a woman and you announce your plans to go to South America – ALONE – the most common warning you’ll hear is that “it’s not safe”.
When you’re a vegetarian and you announce your plans to go to South America – and continue not eating meat – the most common warning you’ll hear is that “there’s nothing to eat for vegetarians”.
I disagree with both warnings (vehemently), but I can most easily disprove the second in Quito, Ecuador.
While Ecuador’s cuisine is often overlooked in favor of neighboring Peru (especially Lima), it’s a mistake, especially for vegetarians. There’s an emphasis on the traditional staples of potatoes and corn, along with lots of local veggies and endless delicious soups to try.
In general, I found Ecuadorian food to be hearty, filling, and nutritious, like South American soul food. I was absolutely spoiled for vegetarian choice in Quito, and not just at vegetarian specialty restaurants, though it did take a bit of trial-and-error and looking around.
To save you some time and trouble so you can skip straight to the tasty bits, here are my top choices for vegetarian gastronomy in Quito….
My Favorite Vegetarian Restaurants in Quito
While Hotel Carlota offers a variety of dishes (mostly including meat), I was very impressed by their vegetarian offerings. I was even more impressed when the chef himself came out to talk to me about my vegetarianism, and prepared me a special 3 course tasting menu of vegetarianized Ecuadorian and fusion dishes!
It was without a doubt one of the best meals of my life, and I didn’t feel like I was “missing out” just because I was vegetarian. The first course cevi chocho (a cold soup) was hearty in itself, followed by a vegan main dish of stuffed peppers and a variety of potatoes, and finished by the most delicious and unique dessert of my life — chocolate ravioli!
When visiting Hotel Carlota, don’t hesitate to mention to your server that you are vegetarian and ask for some recommendations.
El Maple is one of my favorite restaurants, anywhere, ever (and that’s saying a lot, because I LOOOOVE to eat). The entire menu is vegetarian and vegan, meaning it is absolutely impossible to make a meat mishap, even if Spanish isn’t your forte.
The cute and colorful restaurant offers a wide variety of vegetarianized versions of local specialties (including ceviche and the traditional potato soup), in addition to international dishes. It also serves up Fanesca, an Ecuadorian specialty soup that is apparently only available around Easter season.
Everything I tried was delicious, fresh-tasting, full of vegetables, and in a huge portion.
Casa Gangotena‘s restaurant provides serious old world elegance. I felt like a princess the entire time I was there!
Luckily, you can be a cruelty-free princess and dine on some delicious meatless meals. Their signature three course lunch menu (rotating daily) has a vegetarian option for each, and you certainly won’t be disappointed!
I’m not going to lie, their traditional potato soup is SO good that I came back again to order it… twice!
The breakfast is also one of the best I’ve had, anywhere, with lots of options for vegetarians.
Cuchara de San Marcos
This little gem is entirely vegetarian and vegan, and also offers cooking classes (at super cheap prices). You’ll be able to find vegetarianized versions of Ecuadorian specialties that would otherwise be off-limits to those that avoid meat.
The restaurant is especially skilled at “comfort food”, which makes sense as the head chef is a grandmother! I also love that the restaurant is run by the head chef’s three daughters. Serious girl power!
Regardless which dish you choose, there’s an emphasis on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.
This third generation family restaurant is perfectly located in Centro Historico’s center square, right next to the church. It’s a prime place for people watching (or dog watching, in my case).
The restaurant sports a simple menu of mostly sandwiches which also all come with side salads, including a tasty vegetarian option. For the sandwich (included salad) and a water, the total was just $4!
If you’re looking to get your drink on, there’s also red and white wine and craft beers available, in addition to juices.
Top Tips for An Awesome Vegetarian Experience in Quito
Do try the all-vegetarian restaurants…
Because they are absolutely delicious!
I love trying a taste of what the locals like to eat, but it can be super hard to find a vegetarian version, especially if it isn’t haute cuisine and is more simple, local fare. Going to an all-vegetarian restaurant will let you try some revamped versions of authentic favorites that you probably wouldn’t be able to find a vegetarian version of otherwise.
(Cuchara de San Marcos and El Maple (mentioned above) are two of my favorites, both easily located in La Mariscal.)
…but don’t avoid “regular” restaurants.
I was surprised to find that most restaurants in Quito do offer a vegetarian option (though in some cases, it may just be a sandwich or spaghetti). If you’re worried about your options, try calling or emailing ahead, or checking for a menu on the website or Tripadvisor.
Inform the waiter you are vegetarian.
In my experiences in Quito, the waiter was almost always familiar with vegetarians and could knowledgeably offer me some options. Once, at Hotel Carlota, the chef himself even came out to talk to me about my food preferences and style of vegetarianism (I’m lacto-ovo). THAT was impressive and made me feel extra comfortable and excited.
Try a cooking class!
Last but not least, you should definitely check out any one of the many cooking classes in Quito (double check that they’re vegetarian friendly) so you can bring your new knowledge home and share it in the best way possible – with food!
If you can’t find a class that is vegetarian-friendly, try Cuchara de San Marcos. Email them here to find out their latest offerings and reserve yourself a spot in advance.
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