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How to survive as a vegan in France (yes, it’s possible!)

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How to survive as a vegan in France (yes, it’s possible!)

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I recently returned from an amazing three month solo road trip in France! It was an incredible experience but it posed quite a challenge for a vegan like myself; and trust me, I’ve navigated some seriously un-vegan-friendly destinations (looking at you, rural South Korea!) but France presented its own unique set of hurdles.

In my ultimate vegan guide to France, I’ve got you covered with everything you need to know. From navigating the culture and mastering useful French phrases to discovering accidentally vegan dishes and insider food shopping tips, I’ve done the detective work so you don’t have to.

Plus, I’ll share my top restaurant finds, ranging from budget-friendly wholefood joints to swanky Michelin-starred establishments.

Allons-y!

Why this vegan guide to France?

After spending three months driving around the entirety of France (well…almost), I’ve experienced the joys and challenges of being a vegan traveller firsthand. My guide is packed with real-life insights, tips and recommendations that you won’t find in generic travel guides.

As a vegan digital nomad on a tight budget but with a passion for indulgence, I’ve embarked on a culinary adventure across France, exploring dining establishments that cater to a wide range of budgets. Whether you’re a frugal traveller seeking wallet-friendly options or someone who loves to splurge on unforgettable dining experiences, my guide has got you covered.

Alice is making a funny face as she takes a selfie halfway up the stairs built into the cliffside at La Roque-Gageac, France
Plus, I hope that my travel guide is as entertaining as it is informative!

Useful vegan phrases in French

I’m vegan

Je suis vegan (m) /e (f)

I do not eat…

Je ne mange pas de…

…meat viande

…fishpoisson

…eggsœuf

…anchovies anchois

…dairy products produits laitiers

Excuse me, do you have any vegan options?

Excusez-moi, avez vous des plats vegans?

Without the cheese, please

Sans le fromage, s’il te plaît

Yes/no.

Oui/non

An intro to French cuisine

French cuisine is renowned for its sophistication and culinary traditions. It encompasses a wide range of flavours and techniques that are revered by chefs and taught in cooking schools all around the world.

Whilst French cuisine is often associated with meat-based dishes and the generous use of butter, there is a wealth of plant-based meals that have been overshadowed over time. Many of these forgotten dishes can be found in the vibrant and diverse culinary traditions of the Provençal region.

Provençal cuisine, rooted in the bountiful produce of the Mediterranean, offers a treasure trove of accidentally vegan dishes. This region is known for its use of fresh vegetables, herbs and aromatic ingredients like garlic and olive oil. From ratatouille (stewed veg) to socca (chickpea pancake) and pissaladière (savoury onion tart), there are numerous dishes that don’t rely on animal products.

Nowadays, it can be difficult to find these dishes without the addition of grated cheese or added seafood. This is why the vegan French phrases will come in handy!

A slice of easily veganised caramelised onion pizza, an almost accidentally vegan dish from Provence, France.
Provençal caramelised onion pizza - sans les anchois!

You’ll also be glad to know that the French baguette is accidentally vegan…it’s just so darn hard to find a vegan croissant anywhere (except in Lyon)!

A vegan tiramisu pastry and plant-based pain au chocolat on a plate with a fork. There is a plant milk cappuccino behind it. You can just make out that Alice is sitting on a cafe terrace on the streets of Lyon, France
Zoï Kitchen (in Lyon) sell the ultimate vegan pastries...well worth the climb!

Attitudes to vegan diets in France

The French are known for their appreciation of good food; their deep-rooted attachment to culinary traditions may have initially slowed the adoption of veganism.

However, in general, France is witnessing a gradually developing vegan scene, which is evident in various cities, including Annecy.

I’d say the motivation behind the rise of veganism in France is primarily health-driven rather than centred around animal ethics. Nevertheless, regardless of the underlying motives, the result is an increasing availability of vegan options and a reduction in animal suffering, so I’m not complaining!

A plate of food that looks pretty but lacked any flavour or seasoning. It's quinoa and veg with a bit of tasteless falafel
I'd love to say that this tasted as good as it looked but it was incredibly bland and unseasoned. Unfortunately, many restaurants didn't pour the same love, care and attention into their vegan options compared to their normal fare. One of the many disappointing plant-based dishes I ate in France. But at least there were some options!

Eating out as a vegan in France

Eating out as a vegan in France can be both a rewarding and challenging experience.

When dining at non-vegan restaurants, it’s essential to communicate your dietary preferences clearly to the waiting staff. Whilst some establishments may have dedicated vegan options on their menu or may be happy to modify dishes, others can be less accommodating.

I recommend calling in advance or writing a note via the online booking system to alert the establishment of your dietary requirements. In fact, this is exactly what I did when booking a table at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Ardeche, and to my surprise, they went above and beyond to accommodate my vegan preferences.

It’s quite uncommon for a renowned French fine dining establishment, deeply rooted in its culinary traditions, to deviate from its usual offerings. However, the restaurant’s chef and staff were incredibly accommodating and crafted an entire vegan tasting menu exclusively for me. This level of customisation and attention to my dietary needs was truly exceptional and a testament to their commitment to providing a memorable dining experience for all guests, regardless of their dietary preferences.

Other experiences were less positive, however, so if you’d like to be extra sure that you’re going to be served something decent, make sure you check out Happy Cow. Or, eat at one of my recommended vegan-friendly restaurants in France!

Here are just two of the standout dishes I ate at Auberge de Montfleury:

A vegan dish from the exclusive vegan tasting menu they created for my visit at Michelin star restaurant Auberge de Montfleury in the Ardeche region of France. It's a green plate with some endives and shallots and caramelised onions. There's black garlic and truffle ketchup dotted around the plate
Endives and shallots with mustard onion garlic dressing, wild herbs and a black garlic, truffle and raw cacao bean jam
A bowl of parnsip sorbet in a puddle of fresh cress soup with edible flowers and parsnip crisps
Parsnip cream in a bowl of cold cress soup, decorated with edible flowers and parsnip crisps

Accidentally vegan foods in France

Top tip: Look out for Provençal food! The availability of accidentally vegan food in France is quite limited. However, there are a few options to explore within Provençal cuisine, originating from the region of Provence, that are either already vegan or can be easily adapted. These dishes often showcase an abundance of vegetables and occasionally incorporate haricot beans. Whilst I didn’t come across many during my road trip through France, it’s worth keeping an eye out for them!

Look out for food from the Provençal region

A bowl of Pistou soup, a Provencal dish that's traditionally vegan. The bowl is on a laid table with wine glasses and a bottle of natural vegan wine. There's a pepper grinder and in the background, you can see the bushes and trees that make up the gites of the moulin in Beynat
A bowl of Pistou soup, a Provençal dish made for me by my Airbnb hosts!

Here are some accidentally vegan dishes to look out for:

  • Ratatouille
  • Tian
  • Pistou soup: This delightful cold sauce is made with a base of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil (similar to pesto!) and often includes beans and vegetables (although modern recipes may include hard cheeses, so be cautious).
  • Croissants: While most croissants are traditionally made with butter, some supermarket brands use sunflower oil instead. Look for labels that indicate “huile de tournesol” instead of “lait” and “beurre.” Additionally, Nice is known for its vegan-friendly cafes that offer plant-based croissants.
  • Provençal onion pizza: This cheeseless pizza is typically served with anchovies, but you can request their exclusion.
  • French baguette
  • And of course…salad!

Discover the accidentally vegan foods

French baguettes
Ratatouille
Provençal onion pizza

Shopping for vegan food in France

Several supermarket chains offer a range of vegan products in France.

I LOVE the fresh fruit and vegetable selection you get in Grand Frais stores but the specialised vegan ingredients are a bit limited.

Carrefours, E. Leclercs and Intermarchés were probably the best for plant-based milks and cheeses. You can also find some other vegan options in the bio/healthy food aisles, as well as a few delightful surprises scattered throughout other sections of the stores.

For those seeking more specialised vegan ingredients, bio shops or organic markets are the places to go. These establishments offer a wide variety of products, such as tofu, seitan, tempeh, lentils, nutritional yeast (nooch) and even vegan chocolate!

Biocoop and La Vie Claire are two recommended shops worth exploring for your vegan shopping needs.

The tempeh and tofu are pasteurised though 🙁 if you’re lucky enough to be travelling to the Dordogne, then I seriously recommend KEALA; their fermented food products are amazing and 100% fresh and microbiologically active!

Exquisite tempeh made fresh in the Dordogne region of France - thanks Anthony! (KEALA)

A vegan food tour of France

My top vegan-friendly restaurant finds

Whilst I may not have had the opportunity to explore every corner of France, I did dine at some absolute gems in various regions of this picturesque country. I’m delighted to share these special places with you, in case you find yourself in those areas!

If you’ve had any stonkingly good vegan food somewhere that you think deserves a mention, please do let us know in the comments below.

A view of the inside of Végétarien Les Mijoteuses, a vegetarian cafe in Dijon. There is a group of friends sat in the middle of the room, looking at the specials menu

I had initially set my sights on securing a reservation at Betterave, a vegetarian restaurant renowned for its delicious tasting menu with vegan options. Regrettably, they were fully booked, so I ventured over to Restaurant Végétarien Les Mijoteuses instead. 

Although I felt a tinge of disappointment for missing out on a fine dining experience in Dijon, my appetite was far from unsatisfied. Restaurant Végétarien Les Mijoteuses is a vibrant community eatery; the food is incredibly comforting and the atmosphere is warm and inviting!

A crispy pizza with lots of vegetables and tomato sauce. It's on a table with a glass of wine. You can just see Alice's mum with her pizza in the background

I am so sick of dried-out “vegan” pizzas with a few shrivelled-up pieces of red pepper and a couple of half-dead mushrooms…thankfully, this is not what I was served in Pizzeria Lou Brasier in the beautiful redbrick village of Collonges-la-Rouge!

I enjoyed a delicious crispy-based pizza loaded with olives, garlic, sundrenched tomatoes, caramelised onions, mushrooms, diced peppers, herbs and tinned potatoes (which were surprisingly good and melted in the mouth) and plenty of seasoned tomato sauce. No gloopy coconut-based vegan cheese in sight and I was grateful for it.

Avocado on toast with salad and balsamic vinegar. There is a basket of bread on the table and a bottle of sparkling water. The background is a beautiful garden with a stone wall and wooden gate. It's a beautiful day with blue skies and sunshine

Les Courtines is not a vegan or even vegetarian restaurant but they went above and beyond to ensure I got a vegan meal when I scoured La Roque-Gageac for plant-based options.

I wasn’t just served avocado on toast either, it was perfectly balanced guacamole, well-seasoned and covered in plenty of juicy tomatoes. To ensure I really left satisfied and with a full belly, I was also given a salad with lashings of balsamic vinegar and an additional basket of freshly made bread.

Super friendly staff and a beautifully tranquil garden setting. Couldn’t ask for more.

A collage of some of the dishes I got at Auberge de Montfleury, as part of a vegan tasting menu they made especially for me. It's Michelin starred fine dining food with wine/alcohol pairings.

As mentioned earlier, my dining experience at Auberge de Montfleury, under the guidance of Angèle Faure and her team, was exceptional. Despite being a traditional establishment, they went above and beyond to create an entire vegan tasting menu for me during my visit in April.

In addition to a phone call after my online booking, they also confirmed what I could and couldn’t eat upon my arrival to ensure that I felt welcome and well-catered for.

The flavours presented in the dishes were truly exquisite, showcasing the chefs’ skills in cooking and harmoniously blending plant-based ingredients. Whilst it may not have reached the same level as renowned vegan fine dining establishments like Gauthier Soho, I was impressed with what they came up with in a relatively short period of time. To further elevate their offerings, they could explore more culinary techniques with alternative protein sources.

They also have a great range of natural wines and the most amazing seawater cognac. 

A selection of dishes and some pictures of the exterior and interior of the Laksa 100% vegan restaurant in Lyon

After receiving news that I had been accepted to do a PhD on the subject of cultivated meat, I bought myself tickets to the opera in Lyon to celebrate! To make the occasion even more special, the wonderful team at Laksa graciously allowed me early access to their restaurant and promptly served me a delightful surprise vegan tasting menu so that I could make it to the Opera House in time.

The dishes presented a beautiful array of textures, colours and flavours, showcasing the culinary expertise of the Laksa team. Among the highlights was their faux gras, crafted from creamy cashew nuts, which simply melted in my mouth. The accompanying tangy pickles and sweet jams provided the perfect balance of flavours; though I must admit, I could have happily eaten slabs of the faux gras without any accompaniments.

Whilst there was room for improvement, I had a truly memorable experience at Laksa and would certainly recommend it to everyone visiting Lyon.

The outside area of Le Trait d'Union in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, France. There are eclectic garden chairs and tables with fairy lights and a converted barn that houses the vegan-friendly cafe/restaurant
Photo credit: le-trait-dunion-24.com

Le Trait d’Union is a young, vibrant and eclectic community cafe, wine bar, restaurant and local produce shop. They hold regular music events, concerts, gourmet markets and open-air cinemas.

They also usually have a vegan option on their menu and, if not, are happy to make something to suit your dietary requirements. 

Vegan accommodation in France

Prefer to stay in 100% vegan accommodation?

You’re in luck because France has a few different vegan hotels and B&Bs to choose from! Alternatively, check out how I travelled around France FOR FREE by reading my Trusted Housesitters review.

Make sure you check out our full vegan hotel guide for more plant-based accommodation options around the world.

I’d love to hear about your experiences as a vegan in France! Got any restaurant suggestions? Know any places to avoid? Or want to share your best vegan French travel story? I look forward to hearing about them in the comments below!

Alice Johnson

Alice Johnson

Writer, scientist, amateur mycologist | I write stuff for a living. Mainly about vegan things, science, fungi, and travel. Find out more at Alice's Cerebrum

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