After 39 days of walking across Spain on the medieval pilgrimage route known as the Camino de Santiago, I'm here to tell you that being vegan on the Camino de Santiago is a lot easier than you might think.
When I searched for information about vegan food on the Camino de Santiago before starting my journey, I didn’t find much, and what I did find was fairly negative. I read things like: “The Camino is not a foodie trip for those of us that don't eat meat, so don't get your dietary hopes up”.
Before my Camino, I had already traveled in Spain enough to know that I wouldn’t have trouble finding vegan food there, but the abundance of vegan food that I did encounter exceeded even my expectations.
And yet, I know that not everyone experiences the same vegan abundance on their Camino.
Exhibit A: the person who wrote the sentence quoted above.
Exhibit B: the vegans and vegetarians who I met personally on the Camino.
Many of them had gone back to eating animal products that they wouldn’t normally eat, because they didn’t think they had any other options.
This saddens me deeply, both for the animals who were harmed and for these people who wanted to live in alignment with their own values but didn’t have the knowledge or resources that would enable them to do so.
And that’s why I’m sharing with you my top six tips for eating vegan on the Camino de Santiago. In fact, I have much more to share with you on this topic, and I will be releasing lots more resources for vegetarian and vegan pilgrims in the future.
But with the pilgrimage season in full swing right now, I just couldn’t stand the thought of more veg*n pilgrims setting out on their Camino unprepared.
I could write a whole book on the subject of being vegan on the Camino. But for now, here are my best tips for fully enjoying your Camino experience without compromising your values.
I explain these tips in some detail in this video, or if you just want the highlights you can read those below.
UPDATE 2021: Since our first pilgrimage on the Camino Francés in 2017, Nick and I have made it a tradition to walk a different route of the Camino de Santiago each year.
In 2018 we walked the Camino Primitivo, in 2019 we walked the Camino de Madrid, in September 2020 we walked the Caminho Portuguêse from Lisbon to Santiago, and in 2021 we walked our longest Camino thus far, which lasted 60 days.
It was a combination of four routes, and our favorite parts were the Caminho Nascente through eastern Portugal and the Camiño da Geira e dos Arrieiros through northern Portugal and Galicia.
We have stuck to a fully vegan diet on all our caminos. The Francés definitely has the most options, while our long and very remote Camino in 2021 was the trickiest. Nevertheless, it was still our favorite Camino of all time.
Click the links above to find out more about each of these routes and what they have to offer. And if you want to know what the Camino is all about and why we love it so much, check out our blog and podcast all about the Camino, called the Spirit of the Camino!
6 Tips for Eating Vegan on the Camino de Santiago
1. Learn a Few Key Spanish Words and Phrases
When walking the Camino de Santiago, you will meet many Spaniards who speak little to no English, especially in smaller towns and villages. The language barrier is often the biggest stumbling block facing vegetarians and vegans on the Camino de Santiago.
But don’t worry! You don’t have to be fluent in Spanish to effectively communicate your needs.
I’ve created a cheat sheet with some simple Spanish phrases that you can use to order a vegan meal in restaurants and pilgrims’ hostels (albergues). It even includes the Spanish names of common dishes served on the Camino that are already vegan or easily veganizable. Just sign up below to download your vegan Camino de Santiago cheat sheet for free.
2. Get to Know Spanish Cuisine
After the language barrier, the next biggest hurdle facing vegetarians and vegans on the Camino de Santiago is not knowing what dishes to look for on the restaurant menus.
There are a surprising number of traditional Spanish dishes that are naturally vegan. But since vegetarian and vegan options are not usually marked as such on menus, you could easily overlook these dishes, not realizing that they don’t contain animal products.
But don’t worry; I’ve got you covered there too! My ultimate vegan guide to Spain gives a thorough rundown of vegan food in Spain, including dishes that are commonly served in towns and villages on the Camino de Santiago.
3. Veganize the Pilgrim’s Menu
A pilgrim’s menu is a set menu consisting of a first course, second course, dessert, bread and drink. You will see it offered everywhere on the Camino de Santiago. It usually costs about 10 euros, which is much cheaper than ordering all these items individually.
Since the second course is always a meat or fish dish, many vegans and vegetarians on the Camino de Santiago assume that they can’t take advantage of the pilgrim’s menu. But this is not true!
In order to veganize the pilgrim’s menu, all you need to do is to ask for two first courses instead of a second course, and then ask for fresh fruit for dessert. The dishes on offer vary, of course, but a number of the most common first course dishes are vegan or can easily be veganized.
These are listed in both Spanish and English on my vegan Camino de Santiago cheat sheet, so don’t forget to grab your free copy!
4. Order Paella, Not Pizza
Many bars and cafés in small towns and villages do not have the capacity to cook fresh, homemade food in large quantities. So instead, they serve pre-prepared dishes.
These are easy to spot, as the bars and cafés all have the same cardboard cutout signs outside advertising the same paella, pizza and pasta dishes.
The pre-made pizza and pasta dishes are never vegan. And, since they are not made to order, it’s not possible to veganize them.
The selection of paellas, however, is made by a company called Paellador and always includes a paella de verduras (vegetable paella) that is totally vegan. It’s not as good as homemade paella, of course, but it’s still pretty tasty!
The allergen information posted on the company website confirms that it may contain traces of eggs and milk, but that these are not ingredients used in the paella de verduras.
The paella de verduras from Paellador is widely available all along the Camino de Santiago and is a good fall-back vegan option if you can’t find anything else.
5. Seek Out Vegetarian Restaurants and Albergues
Having checked HappyCow before starting out on the Camino de Santiago, I knew that I would find vegetarian restaurants in the larger cities like Logroño, Burgos and León. I was looking forward to feasting in these towns, and I figured that my veggie meals there would be a rare treat.
What I didn’t realize was that there are also vegetarian restaurants and vegetarian albergues in many smaller towns and villages on the Camino de Santiago! This is especially true along the final 330-kilometer stretch from León to Santiago.
My favorites include Albergue Verde, El Beso, and El Serbal y La Luna, but there are plenty more. It was in these vegetarian albergues more than anywhere else that I truly felt the spirit of the Camino, and I highly recommend them to veg and non-veg pilgrims alike.
Check out this handy map created by Mejor Camino, which lists vegan-friendly restaurants and albergues, as well as organic and health food stores, all along the Camino Francés:
Keep in mind, though, that the Camino is constantly changing. Mostly for the better, as more and more vegan options continue to pop up. Although in 2020 and 2021 some restaurants, bars and albergues had to close, either temporarily or permanently. It's best to call the albergues the day before your arrival to make sure they're open.
6. Pack Your Own Vegan Trail Snacks
While I was on the Camino, in the evenings I usually ordered dinner at restaurants or albergues. During my walking time in the mornings and early afternoons, however, I mostly self-catered by eating picnic foods and other snacks that I carried with me.
I enjoyed being able to stop to eat wherever and whenever I wanted, rather than being dependent on the cafés and bars I might come across on the way.
Picnic foods such as bread, tomatoes and avocados are available pretty much everywhere on the Camino. I often supplemented this with vegetarian patés that I bought in health food stores, but the ubiquitous extra virgin olive oil works just as well.
There are also many vegan trail snacks that are sold in supermarkets and small grocery stores in virtually every village on the Camino de Santiago. Some easy-to-find vegan snack foods include: nuts, fresh or dried fruit, trail mix, granola bars, rice cakes, digestive biscuits (cookies), and dark chocolate bars.
Wendy! Great info here! This article and video will benefit so many future pilgrims (including myself.) Congratulations on the journey and thank you for sharing it with us! 🙂
Thanks so much, Libby! I’m thrilled to hear that you are planning to do the pilgrimage. I know it will be an incredible experience for you.
So grateful. Walking in September. this will be a massive help. thanks wendy
That’s wonderful, Belinda! I know it will be an amazing experience for you. I hope to publish some more resources on the Camino before September, but feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Buen camino!
Hi Wendy! Great video with solid info! Was so glad to have met you. Happy trails!
Hi Paul! It was great meeting you too. I’m glad that you enjoyed the video! I hope the Camino was a wonderful experience for you.
Congrats on completing the Camino! That’s so awesome. 🙂 Great tips here, especially the paella. So useful for future vegans on the camino!
Thanks, Caitlin! I think I only ate the Paellador paella three times in the end, but it’s good to know that it’s a reliable fallback option. I know it’s not gourmet, but I still thought it was pretty tasty!
Great article and useful tips, Wendy. Unfortunately, according to the nutrition and allergen information for the paella de verduras on the Paellador website, it is NOT vegan. It contains milk, as well as traces of eggs, seafood, and something else that I couldn’t translate. I really wanted to believe that it was vegan for my upcoming Camino de Fisterra, I even had it twice when visiting Spain last year, but alas.
Thank you for that info. I’m personally not concerned by “May contain traces of…” statements, as this just means it was made in a factory that processes those ingredients. But if milk is listed as an actual ingredient, then that is worrying. And also extremely annoying, as it’s so unnecessary! I will try to contact the company for clarification.
On a happier note, I just finished walking the Camino de Madrid today, from Madrid to Sahagún in 14 days, and my impression is that vegan items are becoming more widely available in Spanish supermarkets. The Camino de Madrid is not very representative of other Caminos, as much of it passes through tiny, dying villages with just 200 to 300 inhabitants, and the options in these places are very limited. But when we did pass through larger towns of, say a few thousand people, we were able to find soy yogurt, hummus and other items that I do not recall seeing before.
A great overview! My husband and I did the Camino De Santiago in June last year (a great time to go weatherwise, but crazy numbers as it was a quasi holy year) and were worried about vegan options, rereading the scant info on the internet like you did!
But to be honest we usually ate like kings! Mainly by staying in albergues with kitchens (where we’d prepare dins like potao salad or pasta then carry leftovers in jars the next day), purchasing the plentiful and delicious fruit and veg and gorging on the insanely delicious dark chocolate varieties esp at the start of the way! There was always freshly baked ciabatta for sandwiches and espresso for a pick me up:) Often times other pilgrims would stop and enquire after our bean paste (we’d rinse and mash a jar, mix in some EVOO and seasoning then take that with us), avo and tomato delicacies, bemoaning the oftentimes greasy pilgrim lunch/dinner sets.. It’s both possible, cheap and easy with a little bit of prep.
Like you we also sought out opportunities of luxury at veg friendly albergues and whilst we didn’t really enjoy our time at El Beso, I’d like to add https://m.facebook.com/adareliegos/?ref=content_filter to your list. A very tiny town with a super lovely albergue host who made our delicious three course meal himself and joined us for great conversation. This cute town also boasts a quirky bar run by an extremely enthusiastic guy who generously offered us ham as apperitivo (which we politely declined in Spanish as vegans)- then cheese (another polite decline) then cheerfully presented a giant container of plump olives (rejoicing all round!).
If you do write a book or would like more opinions from other pilgriming vegans we’d love to help you out:) Thanks for a stroll down Camino memory lane:)
Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m so glad to hear that you also ate well as vegans on the Camino. The Albergue de Ada looks great! We didn’t stay in Reliegos; instead we stayed in nearby El Burgo Ranero and had a couple of wonderful vegan meals at a veg-friendly restaurant called La Costa del Adobe. I’ll be sure to check out Reliegos the next time. And thank you so much for your offer to help with the book research! I’ve got other projects on my plate at the moment, so it will be awhile before I can get to it, but eventually, I will be in touch!
Thanks so much for your advice! I am vegan, but i am also allergic to onions. Do you think it is possible for me to do the camino? i know most soups/paella/etc. have onions. thanks!!
I’m sure it would still be possible; you would just have to ask about onions each time you ate out to be sure. But I guess that’s something that you do already. I’m really not sure how prevalent onions are in Spanish food, as it’s not something I’ve ever had to think about before. But if worse came to worst, you could always prepare all your own meals. Lots of pilgrim’s hostels have kitchen facilities you can use, and for your midday meal you could just eat picnic foods like bread, tomatoes, avocados, nuts, fruit, etc. (that’s what I did for lunch most days). By the way, the Spanish word for onion is “cebolla” (pronounced “seboya”). For more language tips you can download the free cheat sheet linked in this post. Let me know if you need anything else!
Hello! We have an ecological and vegetarian food center in Sarria (Lugo), on the road to Santiago. We offer vegan and vegetarian meals, juices, smoothies, vegetarian breakfasts and we also have a store with fresh and packaged products. Besides, we have massages, yoga, meditation, foot reflexology and other activities. Our contact information are: Ecoespazo Vitriol Calle Diego Pazos 18, 27600, Sarria (Lugo) Phone: 982886616/604004112 firstname.lastname@example.org A hug and a good way!
That’s great to know! Thanks for sharing. I will be sure to stop by the next time I pass through Sarria 🙂
Hi, I Just wanted to let you know there’s a vegan food (better said, soup) which is healty, cheap, delicious, that will fill your stomach while energizing you and that you can find easily in mostly all supermarkets around Spain. It’s perfect for summer, (it’s a cold soup), but you can drink it anytime really.
It’s called Gazpacho. Made with tomatoe, pepper, onion,garlic and olive oil.
Now a company has made mini bottles for 1€. But you can find it any place from any brand and it will taste the same. It’s a southern Spain (Andalucía) typical dish, so probably you won’t get served this meal in a typycal northern restaurant or food House.
There’s another versión called Salmorejo that has Bread, so it’s more creamy than Gazpacho. Sometimes “salmorejo” (the more creamy one” is served with eggs and ham on the top, but the ones that are ready to drink on the supermarkets don’t usually have those animal ingredients.
This food is perfect, and with some prepared hummus and Bread it’s a full healty, tasty, cheap meal that can save you a lot of times. Give It a try!
Yes, great suggestion! You’re right that gazpacho is sold in pretty much all supermarkets in Spain. It’s very easy to prepare too; all you do is pour it into a bowl. Or you can even drink it straight out of the carton, which I have done once or twice on Camino. 🙂
Thank you Wendy! My husband and I will be meeting a friend in Irun, Spain next year and walk to Santiago. I am glad to have found your video. This will be my fourth Camino, second Camino as a vegan. I struggled in 2014 but your 6 tips gives me hope that with some research and prep I won’t have any problem.
Hi Nancy! So you will be walking the Camino del Norte then? I haven’t done that one yet, but since walking the Francés and making that video in 2017 I have now walked a total of four Caminos, all as a vegan. Spain is becoming more vegan friendly all the time, and I absolutely agree that with a bit of research and planning you won’t have any problem. By the way, my husband and I recently started a new blog and podcast about the Camino that I think you would enjoy. It’s called Spirit of the Camino. Bueno Camino!
I would like the survival Spanish cheat sheet but unfortunately when I put my email in to sign up to the mailing list, the website does not work and I never received the cheat sheet. Can you send it to this email address please?
I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble accessing the cheat sheet. I just tested the forms on the website, and they appear to be working properly. Sometimes the emails are mistakenly filtered to the spam filter, so please check there if you haven’t already. In the meantime, I will email the cheat sheet to you again shortly.
Thank you so much to take the time for us vegans. Starting my research for spring 2023.
I don’t want to plan too much but happy to read I can do it . I have been a vegetarian then vegan for 55 years and there is no way I’m changing. Thanks again
Yes, absolutely you can do it! Which route are you planning to walk? The Camino Francés? If so, I think you’ll find that the options along the route have increased quite a bit since I wrote this post a few years ago. And Spanish supermarkets have become much more vegan-friendly lately, so self-catering is a breeze too. I particularly like the Froiz and Gadis supermarket chains, which are found all over Galicia. They carry items like hummus, tofu, vegan cream cheese, and even vegan tuna. Buen Camino!
Thank you so much for this info, especially for the map! Now I’m more confident about the vegan food on my very first pilgrimage way.
Have a blessed day!
That’s wonderful to hear that you feel more confident, Olga! I posted this article a few years ago, and since then the vegan options on the Camino (and elsewhere in Europe) have continued to grow. I’m sure the pilgrimage will be a very fulfilling and enriching experience for you. Buen Camino!