Why Taiwan is a Haven for Vegans
Taiwan, the land of stinky tofu, deep-fried sweet potato balls, and bubble tea. There is a LOT to love about this country, and the fact that it is fast becoming a haven for vegans is just the cherry on top of the cake!
Food aside, Taiwan is a beautiful country full of friendly people, amazing scenery, and fun cities. Definitely worth a visit!
First impressions of Taiwan would lead you to believe that the country will have little to offer for vegans. Walking through one of their many night markets will bombard you with all sorts of smells, predominantly that of fish and meat. Fermented, deep-fried, BBQ’d…you’ll see it all! There is no doubt that this country loves its animal products.
However, if you look a little harder, you’ll find a surprising number of vegan eateries and options.
To help you find the best food I have outlined traditional dishes that are easily found all over the country and given an overview of some of the best vegan eateries I’ve tried myself in the main cities.
*Most people spoke English in Taipei*
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Traditional Taiwanese Vegan Food
You’ll find night markets all over Taiwan and they’ll mostly serve the same food. They have a great buzzing atmosphere but be wary of the strong smells and animal products on show. Strolling through these night markets can lead you on quite the food adventure, even as a vegan.
Sweet Potato Balls
A firm favourite is the Sweet Potato Balls (地瓜球) which are sweet and chewy with a crispy outer. They may sound boring and healthy but they are actually deep-fried balls of deliciousness. You’ll find stalls selling these nearly everywhere. However, maybe not as often as Stinky Tofu…
Whenever most people think of Taiwanese food, they think of Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐). And it really is stinky. If you can tolerate the smell, then you must try this dish! Do be careful though because some Stinky Tofu food stalls will ferment their tofu with fish, so be sure to ask. There are many vegan-friendly Stinky Tofu stalls in Taipei, the capital city.
Salty Fried Mushrooms
An addictive street food found in Kaoshiung, the crispy fried mushrooms are extremely salty and have the option of chilli powder sprinkled on top. They were super tasty. Although I’d definitely advise eating these alongside a drink of water, as they may leave your mouth feeling very dry.
Vegan-Friendly Eateries in Taiwan
It is difficult to even begin writing down my favourite restaurants, just because there are so many! You really are spoilt for choice in this country, no matter where you are staying.
Vegan in Taipei
Taipei has a growing vegan scene that includes local vegan eateries, plant-based burger joints, Japanese vegan food and even some high-end plant-based food establishments. What’s more, there are still places that I haven’t explored and I’ve visited Taipei twice now!
A fully vegan bakery. Don’t panic like I did when I walked in, they really are 100% vegan despite the incredible range of baked pastries and goods that look scarily non-vegan. I double, triple, and quadruply checked. They also make great bubble tea, so make sure to sit down with your cake and admire all the awesome pastries around you.
Another vegan bakery – you really are spoilt for choice here!! You can order anything from cake to biscuits and brownies here.
Wait for it, another vegan bakery?! Yes, that’s right! Vegan Heaven is down a slightly unsuspecting street with an awesome view of Taipei 101. This bakery is a bit smaller and has fewer choices, but the cakes are really tasty and extremely pretty.
A fully vegan eatery. Pick your own ingredients including veg, fake meat, tofu, and noodles. They will cook to order. There are quite a few branches across the city so you will never go hungry! Most of the time they are able to speak English but don’t worry if they can’t, you won’t need to communicate much – just pass over your bag of ingredients and request which noodles you would like.
Fully vegan, trendy and with a modern atmosphere, you will find anything from burgers to meatballs at BaganHood. I recommend trying their vegan stinky tofu as you can guarantee there will be no fish sauce in here. They speak good English here and it feels like a popular spot for expats and tourists.
If you are looking for an affordable lunch with a more local feel, then you need to check out Taiwan Su. They offer great lunch sets that are sure to fill you up! Plus the owner is super friendly and speaks good English.
A bit more pricey than the others, but they offer awesome fully vegan Japanese set meals. Make sure to try their curry udon dish with tempura veg on the side. It can get very busy so you may find yourself queuing for a table in the evenings. They also have a few establishments across the city.
Vegan Bubble Tea
Hidden amongst a sea of bubble tea establishments, Nuts Milk is a real gem. Thanks to this place, you don’t have to miss out on bubble tea, a local delicacy. They use a blend of nuts to make their milk and will serve it in the traditional style with tapioca balls. Beware, it is quite filling and can be really quite sweet if you don’t ask otherwise!
Similar to Nuts Milk, NUTTEA has an awesome choice of nut mylks and teas. You may have seen the teas with cream cheese topping on them (true sacrilege for us Brits), well these guys make a vegan version. And it’s even more filling than bubble tea.
Vegan in Jiufen
Jiufen can be reached by a bus from Taipei and it is well worth visiting for the beautiful views. It is nestled in the hills and has a great view of the sea if it isn’t too foggy that day! You’ll see some great temples up here!
A vegan establishment with only a few dishes, you must try their ‘meatballs’
Lai Ah Po Taro Balls
Taro balls are a traditional dish that happens to be vegan. Find this establishment nestled amongst the old shops.
Vegan in Taichung
Taichung is a few hours high-speed train ride away from Taipei. If you have a lot of time in Taiwan, then it is worth exploring Taichung as well as it is less touristy and can be quite hip and trendy in certain local areas.
A vegetarian restaurant with many vegan options for food and drink. Get their Beyond Chicken with Orange Sauce – delicious! Some English is spoken by the staff.
Fully vegan restaurant with a little vegan shop inside. Lots of options including burgers and pasta.
A similar concept to Vege Creek with near enough the same ingredients and options, just a few more broth choices. Great for those looking for healthy noodle options.
Vegan in Tainan
Further south, this city is less vegan-friendly, but there are still plenty of options to keep you going.
The owner speaks English and is super friendly and talkative! I loved coming here to stock up on bread products and cakes, as well as some awesome local kombucha.
A very local establishment. More of a veggie buddhist feel. You must try their dumplings!
Guli Natural Vegan Restaurant
I didn’t get the opportunity to try this restaurant but it was recommended to me! Let us know if you get to try it.
Vegan in Kaoshiung
Kaoshiung is another large city with quite a few tourists whom you’ll mostly find around the port area. Because of this, the vegan options have a more Western feel.
Ye Shu Shu Shi
They have two establishments in the city. They offer vegan diner-style food, anything from hot dogs to ‘chicken’ nuggets. Try out their bubble tea! I relied heavily on this place, as Kaohsiung wasn’t the most vegan-friendly place.
Mottainai Plant-Based Whole Food Café
Unfortunately, this place was closed when I was in the area. But if you are exploring the pier area then this is nearby.
Tian Zhi Yu
Great place for traditional Asian foods including noodles, soups, and rice dishes.
It is safe to say that for the best selection of vegan food, Taipei is the place to be. Nevertheless, no matter which city you decide to visit, you won’t starve!
If you visit Taiwan and have your own favourite vegan establishments you’d like to add to our list, then please comment below!
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The younger of the two Vegan Sisters. She is the Founder of a vegan digital marketing agency. She also runs Edible Ethics vegan recipe hub.