Healthy Veggie Eats in Portugal and Spain

by Anjali @ The Picky Eater on June 28, 2010

Hi Everyone! I know it’s been a long time since I last posted – and that’s because I was traveling throughout Spain & Portugal for most of June! It was an amazing vacation in two beautiful countries. One of the things I was actually a little concerned about when we left was whether we’d find enough vegetarian and healthy food options on our trip. Now – I am all about indulging when you’re on vacation – but I like indulging in really flavorful, wholesome (and obviously vegetarian) food 🙂 This post is about our 16 day journey, and all the wonderful vegetarian and healthy eats we found along the way. Hope you enjoy and hope it’s helpful for any vegetarians traveling to Spain & Portugal (or non-vegetarians who are interested in some healthy options!)

Day 1: Heathrow Airport & Lisbon

Eating healthy is always a challenge, but even more so when you’re traveling internationally. On the way to Portugal, we had a layover in Heathrow. Airport food options are never great, especially when you have TGI Fridays at one end of the airport and random pre-made food options at the other end. But in Heathrow, they have a surprisingly good amount of healthy food options! I ended up getting my lunch at a place called “EAT” – which has freshly prepared salads & sandwiches, as well as a number of other healthy snacks (yogurt, fruit, etc). I picked up an edamame, sugar snap peas, green beans and spinach salad; and a cup of greek yogurt with just a small sprinkling of granola on top. Super healthy, filling and tasty! It took a little bit of scoping out the airport to find, but once I did it was well worth it!

Our first day in Lisbon was a similar food adventure. Luckily, breakfast was provided at the hotel – fresh fruit, all bran cereal, whole wheat toast with a bit of cheese & jam – great way to start the day! Since we’re vegetarian & also looking for healthy options, Lisbon was a bit of a challenge (as most restaurants are primarily meat with few veggie, let alone healthy options!). We were walking around for an hour, starving, when we came upon Ristorante Momenti Italiani Pizzeria (address: Bairro Alto, Rua Da Misericordia – 93, Lisbon). This was a great find, and had tons of veggie options! We had the minestrone soup (low in fat, lots of veggies); a side salad (again, fresh veggies to add to the meal), and shared a margherita pizza (super thin crust, little oil, and the cheese was a great way to add protein to our meal). We also shared a bottle of green wine – really refreshing and interesting (since it looks like white wine!). All in all, a great lunch. For dinner, we found this fantastic little 100% vegetarian restaurant – Jardim doSentidos. The food was GREAT! And the ambiance was awesome – we sat outside in a little courtyard – had a nice warm breeze in the evening – very relaxing! We ordered veggie kabobs and tofu steaks served with grilled vegetables. Wonderfully tasty and healthy! Then for dessert, we splurged on a banana split and red tea 🙂 All in all – a great first day finding healthy veggie eats in Lisbon!

Day 2 – Lisbon

Again, breakfast at the hotel – you really can’t go wrong – same as Day 1.

Lunch ended up being more like coffee, tea and pastries at this wonderful pastry shop in Belem, called Café Pastéis de Belém. I know, not the healthiest lunch – but definitely an experience and a wonderful find! And this place is famous for its pastries – so definitely worth trying 🙂

For dinner, we went to Terra Restaurante Natural – another all veggie restaurant in Lisbon – what are the odds!! It basically feels like eating an all veggie potluck at someone’s house – the restaurant is set up with seating in a beautiful garden out back; while inside is the all veggie buffet laid out in a kitchen like setting. We had amazing dishes like veggie chili, seasoned corn, veggie couscous with almonds, raisins, peppers and corn, veggie meatballs with sauce & spaghetti, veggie gourmet pizza, a bunch of different salads, falafel balls, and lots of other great dishes! Truly a find in Lisbon.

Day 3 – Porto

Veggie dishes in Porto were a bit more of a challenge to find than Lisbon, but we actually ended up coming across some good restaurants that had some decent veggie options for us. Our first day in Porto we ended up eating pizza at Casal – a very hip, trendy restaurant in the main part of town, with amazing desserts & crepes too! Dinner was at a restaurant called Giroflee – sort of an Italian / fusion type place. We had a really yummy cheese plate, a great Syrah wine, Mushroom ravioli in a cheese sauce, and a tofu steak marinated in an asian influenced, sesame sauce with roasted vegetables. It was a really great meal, but the portions were pretty small so we were still hungry after!

Day 4 – Porto

Today for lunch we ended up at Café Majestic. No doubt a touristy spot, but really good food nonetheless. I had a great sandwich – just typical vegetarian – multi grain bread, an amazing thinly sliced cheese, tomato, lettuce and shredded carrots. It felt really good to eat something nice and “normal” for lunch. My husband ordered a tomato & cheese omelette – which was pretty good but take note – the eggs in Portugal don’t taste like the eggs in the US – they actually look different too – the yolks are much more yellow – almost like a mustard color vs. the yolks in the US.

For dinner, we had two great veggie options – Sitar – an Indian restaurant across the river with the typical Indian fare – channa masala, veggie samosas, mixed veggie curry, saag paneer, etc. The second was a Thai place – Real Thai – with over 10 different vegetarian dishes – all good!  We chose Sitar for dinner, and kept Real Thai for lunch the next day. The food at Sitar was very tasty – but very very oily! However, at that point I was craving something other than bread and cheese so I didn’t mind it as much, and just tried to temper my portions accordingly.

We also did wine tasting at Sandman and Calem – amazing port wines (they don’t serve food but definitely check out the Port tasting at these two wineries!)

Day 5 – Porto & Barcelona

We started our day with lunch at Real Thai – I had a tofu & veggie stir fry and my husband had a veggie / tofu curry. Both were really good – not too spicy and TONS of veggies! It was a really well balanced meal and a good way to start the day. Then we visited

Then we visited Vinologia – a wonderful port wine tasting shop in the heart of Porto. The cool thing about this place is they serve you various dried fruits and chocolates to pair with the wines which makes the experience a lot more fun!

We headed to Barcelona in the evening, and while searching for a vegetarian restaurant, we came across The BioCenter. This place was AMAZING. It’s an organic, all vegetarian restaurant where the menu changes daily. The prix fixe on Fri & Sat is only 15 euros per person and includes 4 very filling, amazing courses! We had a pureed vegetable soup – very flavorful and warming; a seaweed, spinach, sunflower seeds, cucumber, carrot, and pepper salad with a mustard vinagarette; tofu and squash “balls” – baked in the oven and served with couscous & a curry sauce; and a seitan steak which my husband loved. For dessert, we had a baked apple and a vegan chocolate cake – delicious! They also make fresh juices here – which I’d highly recommend trying!

Day 6 – Barcelona

For lunch, we headed to this organic bakery called Artesia. We each had a freshly prepared sandwich with inventive ingredients – for me: a nut & raisin bread sandwich with tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives, fresh sheep cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. For him: a nut & raisin bread sandwich with goat cheese, spinach, caramelized onions and honey. Both were grilled in a Panini press and served hot – so good!

For dinner, we visited L’Hortet – another all vegetarian restaurant near our hotel. However, this place didn’t seem very tourist friendly – both of our waitresses got irritated with us for not being able to speak Spanish, and one ended up just refusing to serve us at the end because we weren’t Spanish. This was definitely more of a “local” veggie joint – and while the food was pretty good: We had a margherita pizza with a whole wheat crust, a wonderfully fresh salad with lots of veggies, and a tofu noodle stir fry; the service (or lack thereof) left us feeling dissatisfied with this restaurant. It was good in terms of getting veggie food, but if you care about ambiance, service and a general feeling of being welcome in a restaurant – I definitely wouldn’t recommend this place.

For dessert, we found a great gelato place – one of hundreds that line the streets of Barcelona. So good and refreshing on a hot summer night!

Day 7 – Barcelona

Today we went to the Picasso museum – and on the way back stumbled across a fresh, mostly vegetarian buffet called Fresc Co. It was an all you can eat salad bar that also had soups, pizzas, pastas and prepared dishes; along with free drinks, fresh fruit, dessert and tea/coffee! It was a great find and made for a healthy and light lunch.

For dinner we went to Bar Lobo – amazing tapas place with tons of veggie options! The ambiance in this restaurant is also amazing – it feels like someone’s loft but also has an upscale/elegant vibe. We had pita & hummus (which was freshly made with olive oil), patas bravas (potatoes sautéed with a yummy sauce), a veggie stir fry, and a flatbread with tomatoes, walnuts and cheese. They also had great wines, and served a house bread complementary that was whole grain, freshly baked, and really good!

Day 8 – Barcelona

Lunch today was on the go – we were doing a walking tour of the Gaudi sights, so we didn’t have time to find a good place to sit down and eat. We ended up at a Panini place and had asparagus, caramelized onions and manchego cheese paninis, which actually turned out to be really good!

For dinner, we visited our staple – The BioCenter – had their veggie soup again (which tasted different because each day the veggies they use are different!), a carrot and lemon smoothie, a tofu stir fry with whole grain cous cous, and a raw veggie lasagna – all really good!

Day 9 – Barcelona & Granada

Lunch in Barcelona at Artesia again – I had the 9 grain bread with sheep cheese, onions and honey – definitely good. One thing we learned is when we found a few restaurants that worked for us – we’d just go back and order something different on the menu. This is obviously not necessary if you’re not vegetarian but it really helped us!

Dinner in Granada – was more of a sustenance dinner… we were starving and it was 10pm – so we went to one of the more touristy eateries near our hotel. The dinner did turn out to be pretty good though – vegetable paella with lots of different veggies and a veggie pizza. Not the best, but I had stopped by the market and gotten an apple and cherries so that balanced our meal a little more.

Day 10 – Granada

Today we found a tiny smoothie & sandwich shop called Greens & Berries – we had a wonderful lunch there. I had a smoothie made with just berries, apples and bananas; my husband had one made with pineapples, oranges, coconut and banana – both were excellent. We also had sandwiches made fresh on whole grain bread, with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and arugula. Really tasty, healthy and filling!

For dinner, we went to Chile Grande Cantina Mexicana – probably the only Mexican restaurant in all of Granada – and happened to be SUPER veggie friendly! Their veggie “filling” is very hearty – a combination of pinto beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, peppers, bean sprouts and carrots. This is what came as the filling in the veggie enchiladas and soft tacos we ordered. Additionally, both dishes were served with vegetarian refried beans, lettuce, fresh pico de gallo, guacamole, sautéed corn and cheese. It ended up being a very healthy meal and a nice change from all the bread & cheese we’d been eating! This restaurant also has a great veggie burger that is made onsite – from beans and other veggie ingredients.

Day 11 – Granada

For lunch we just stopped by a cafe and ordered a small sandwich and tea. We walked around the town and found two other good vegetarian options: Raices – which is an all vegetarian restaurant and Restaurant Meknes – a Moroccan restaurant with tons of veggie options and wonderful teas! We wanted to go to Raices for dinner, but when we got there at 7:30 we found out they didn’t open until 9pm! (Take note – this happens a lot in Spain – restaurants will close from 4pm-8pm or 9pm and most grocery stores may be closed during this time too!) So since our Mexican restaurant was near Raices, we just ended up eating there instead because we were too hungry to wait until 9pm for dinner 🙂

Day 12 – Seville

For lunch we stopped by a roadside café, to just get something small to hold us over – we ended up sharing a vegetarian tortellini which (surprisingly) was very tasty! For dinner, we went to Habanita – a tapas style restaurant with a full vegetarian menu. We ordered a black bean, cheese and plantain dip, veggie nuggets with an interesting dipping sauce, and ratatouille. Overall it was a pretty good dinner.

Day 13 – Seville

After a walk through the city, Centro Ecologico Gaia was where we ended up for lunch. This place was also amazing and rivaled the Bio Center from Barcelona! We had a cream of vegetables soup (which was actually pureed vegetables – no cream added) and a tofu “steak” with two types of tofu and sautéed vegetables. We also had sweet veggie croquettes (walnuts, oats, cinnamon, etc) tasted kind of like churros / cinnamon sticks. Great wine, TONS of veggie options – it was hard to choose! They give a wonderful bread basket with whole grain breads to start. Everything is organic & locally sourced; they also have a huge health food store next door with lots of yummy eats. Open for lunch & dinner except Sundays.

Dinner was at Aladdin – a Mediterranean restaurant on Santa Maria Blanca. Their falafel is AMAZING, probably the best I’ve ever tasted. They also have a great Mediterranean style salad called the Aladdin (tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, olives & herbs with freshly cut cheese – into mini cubes – on top). No dressing, served with salt pepper & olive oil on the side. The owner is also really nice and they’re open on Sundays which is very helpful (because many restaurants are closed on Sundays too!).

Day 14 – Seville

We had lunch at this Italian place on Santa Maria Blanca called Ristorante Pizzeria Mario – they had tons of veggie options, it was all Italian which looked great. We ordered a margherita pizza and spinach/cheese ravioli. The food would have been excellent, but when it came out it looked like they dumped a cup of olive oil over both the pizza and the pasta! Needless to say, I didn’t eat much, it was just way too oily – kind of a disappointment especially since the food would have been really tasty without the oil.

Dinner was lower key, at Aladdin. Ordered falafel again – so good!

Day 15 – Madrid

Lunch at La Galette – super cute restaurant with a French vibe, the wait staff doesn’t speak English but the owner came out to serve us and take our order himself! He was AWESOME – super nice and friendly and not at all hostile to foreigners. The menu at La Galette is very inventive – they have a huge vegetarian menu – we ordered the lentil soup (amazing), apple croquettes – also very good but more like dessert, and a veggie “burger” which turned out to be very creative – a bundle of rice, lentils, shredded carrots, and zucchini, wrapped in a cooked large leaf of chard, and topped with melted cheese. It was actually very tasty and flavorful – served like two “patties” with no bun. Really creative! The sangria there was also really good – light and retained the flavor of the wine it was made with. They also serve you carrot sticks with a wonderful cream cheese blend and bread as a starter – overall it was an excellent meal.

Dinner at Yerba Buena – definitely the most “high flown” veg food we had the entire trip – dishes with paragraph descriptions, very creative, excellent presentation. We had jalapeno “poppers” and a vegetable puree soup to start which were both amazing. The restaurant also presented us with an “aperitif” – homemade guac & a green shot – I think it was made from spinach. Both were really tasty and very good. Our entrees weren’t as good as our appetizers. I ordered a wheat tortilla stuffed with veggies in a rice & cheese sauce, and my husband ordered a seitan / tofu curry – which ended up being more like  tofu pork chop. Both the entrees were ok but were extremely large portions and super filling (without being amazingly tasty). For dessert, we ordered a chocolate cup & digestive tea – both were excellent. With the check, we were served a box of candies/mints. All in all a pretty satisfying meal – I would recommend focusing on their appetizers and other small plates vs. the entrees.

Day 16 – Heathrow Airport (again)

On the trip back, I had a HUGE delay at Heathrow airport – I was sitting there for over 5 hours. In that time, I decided to stock up on a bunch of healthy eats before I boarded the plane – so I wouldn’t be left hungry and have to resort to plane food / plane snacks which are pretty high in calories & fat. I visited EAT again and picked up two small salads, a fruit cup, a vegetarian sandwich with cheese on whole wheat bread, and a greek yogurt. I also ordered tea to hold me over while I waited. The snacks / food worked wonderfully on the plane as a few small meals until I landed in SFO.

And that’s it! Now I’m back and will be blogging a lot more frequently than before 🙂 I wanted to share a couple of final tips before I end this post on how to eat healthily when you’re traveling:

  • Find a market that has fresh fruits and veggies. We found tons all across Spain & Portugal – they had these open air markets that were just amazing. We picked up fresh fruits there daily, and always had them on hand for a healthy snack or to add some extra fiber into our diet (if we happened to eat a little less “healthy” that day)
  • Walk! If you’re in a city where it’s easy to travel on foot – take advantage of it. You’ll burn off anything “extra” you eat and that’ll also allow you to indulge in the local delicacies more! It’s also a lot more fun to see foreign cities on foot – we had an awesome time exploring and really felt like we got the “feel” for each city we were in because we just walked everywhere.
  • Take a few energy bars and high fiber cereal to snack on – these make for great portable snacks and work as a meal replacement if you’re stuck somewhere and the only thing to eat is oily pizza or fast food.

With these tips, you’ll be all set for a trip with wonderful food, lots of activity and feeling great when you return (instead of feeling like you have to lose the 20 lbs you gained while you were on vacation!) I had an amazing time on my trip, and I hope these tips and suggestions were helpful to any of you traveling to the same cities! Happy eating 🙂

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Noelle June 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm

I have been to all the places you have listed here! Great eats! I will have to keep a record this as a vegan! I traveled as a non-vegan. Too bad you had no pics, but sounds good!

Reply

Anjali @ The Picky Eater July 1, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Thanks Noelle! In my future travel related posts I will definitely have pics! 🙂

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karen February 13, 2011 at 4:43 am

Hi!

We’re planning a trip to Portugal in early May and are a vegetarian family as well. We’re a little nervous about the food thing as our two little kids are *very* fussy, but hey it’s an adventure ;o) How did you travel between Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona etc? Did you drive, take the train or fly?

Thanks for this post – very helpful.

Reply

Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Hi Karen! We flew from Madrid to Lisbon, took the train from Lisbon to Porto, flew from Porto to Barcelona, flew from Barcelona to Granada, took the train from Granada to Seville, and the train from Seville to Madrid. I hope your trip goes well and you’re able to try some of these places – we truly loved them all!

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kate May 28, 2016 at 6:11 pm

We also recently traveled around Spain and Portugal. I did not particularly care for Porta. It is a fishing village with a very small ‘City center’. We stopped at a small but busy cafe for lunch. The staff ignored us and were abrupt when they did speak. Everything was in Spanish but fortunately a woman in line next to us spoke English and placed our order for us. I requested a slice of Mediteranian Pizza. When it arrived, it was the size of a USA small round pizza but with a raw egg plopped in the middle! Yuck! I cut around it, earing eating only the outside. I did survive. ?

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater June 1, 2016 at 8:09 pm

Sorry to hear you didn’t have a good experience in Porto Kate! We loved the food at the restaurants we were able to try, and the people we met were very nice, but everyone’s experience is different for sure. Hope you had a good time on the rest of your trip!

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karen February 13, 2011 at 4:45 am

Meant to also ask: Which hotels do you recommend in Lisbon and Porto that also have the breakfasts you mentioned?
thanks!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Hi Karen! In Lisbon we stayed at the Hotel Principe Real, and in Porto we stayed at the Pestana Porto Hotel. Hope that helps! 🙂

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yasser April 8, 2015 at 2:12 pm

hi, next time you are in lisbon you should try restaurante vegetariano psi . It is the highest rated all veg restaurant in trip advisor for lisbon . see the fb page for updates

Thanks and good work !

Reply

Anjali @ The Picky Eater April 9, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Oh great! Thanks for the rec – it looks like a delicious restaurant!

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