Is it Hard to Be a Vegan in Taiwan?
Absolutely not! Being vegan in Taipei (or anywhere else in Taiwan) is a breeze. You’ll have many more vegan options than in nearby countries such as South Korea, Japan or mainland China.
Taiwan can arguably compete with India for the title of best country in the world for vegetarians. And for vegans, I'd say Taiwan is even better than India.
Taiwan has the strictest laws in the world when it comes to labeling vegan and vegetarian food. And, unlike in mainland China, there's actually a word for "vegan" in the local language that most locals will understand.
In addition to various religious traditions that encourage vegetarianism and veganism, there's also an animal-rights-based vegan movement and a large number of fully vegan restaurants. If you add up the HappyCow listings for Taipei and New Taipei City, there are 99 vegan restaurants in the whole metropolitan area!
Not to mention the hundreds of vegetarian restaurants, which are on pretty much every street in Taipei. With so many options, it’s difficult to know which ones to choose!
Since I really wanted to experience the local cuisine as much as possible, I mostly ate at local restaurants that serve Taiwanese dishes. I didn’t realize until I started writing this guide that all the restaurants I visited were vegetarian restaurants.
This is partly because the fully vegan restaurants often serve a more Westernized cuisine rather than local Taiwanese food. When I return to Taipei and have more time to explore, I definitely want to try some of those vegan restaurants.
At the end of this article, I’ll mention a few of these vegan places in Taipei that are high on my list. But for now, let’s start off with some of the best vegetarian restaurants in Taipei where you can taste authentic vegan Taiwanese food.
Vegetarian Restaurants in Taipei
Xiu Yuan Su Shi (修圓素食)
This place is very conveniently located near Taipei Main Station. It’s a no-frills eatery with very budget-friendly prices and fills up quickly with locals. Be prepared to share a table with people you don’t know.
Ask for the English menu, although if you don’t look Asian they’ll probably bring it to you anyway. Most things are vegan, but it’s best to ask to be sure.
Portions are not huge, but quite fair for the price, and it means you get to try a couple of different dishes. I recommend the sesame noodles (麻將面), the savory sticky rice cake (素米糕) and the flat rice noodles with curry soup (咖喱燴板條).
MeiMen Garden (梅門防空洞)
The English name for this place is Meimen Garden, but the actual translation of the Chinese name is "air raid shelter". Which is exactly what this underground space used to be, although you'd never know it now.
It’s actually a very peaceful and nicely decorated vegetarian restaurant, albeit without any windows. Most menu items are vegan, and the few dishes that contain dairy are clearly marked.
On Fridays it’s open all night, with a reduced menu from 10 pm to 6 am. Since most restaurants in Taipei close quite early, this is a rare option for late-night food in Taiwan.
I was happy to see dan zai mian (擔仔麵) on the menu, as I’d heard about this famous Taiwanese dish and was hoping to find it veganized.
Originating as a street food popular in Tainan, dan zai mian is named after the bamboo shoulder pole and baskets that street food vendors would use to peddle their wares. Normally it contains shrimp, eggs and meat, but at MeiMen Garden you try it in a vegan version.
This was probably my favorite of the vegetarian restaurants in Taipei that we visited. It’s the only vegetarian restaurant in Taipei that gets a mention in the Michelin guide.
By my standards it seemed like a pretty fancy place, but Michelen calls it a “simple restaurant”. Can you tell I don’t eat at Michelin-starred restaurants very often? In any case, the prices are actually pretty reasonable given the quality of the food and the experience.
Serenity is billed as a “vegetarian Sichuanese” restaurant, and the kitchen is run by two chefs. One chef specializes in vegetarian cooking, and the other specializes in Sichuanese cuisine.
I have to say that the dishes here did not really resemble the dishes I’ve eaten in Sichuan. The spice level has been toned waaaayyyy down for the Taiwanese palate. Nevertheless, everything we ordered was delicious!
My favorite was the “three cups monkey head mushrooms”. Three cups is a classic Taiwanese dish and refers to the three ingredients in the sauce: sesame oil, Chinese rice wine and soy sauce.
It’s most commonly made with chicken, but in this case the stars of the show were these funky mushrooms, which I guess kind of do look like monkey heads!
Most dishes here are vegan, and those that aren’t are clearly marked. By the way, transliteration of the Chinese name is Xiang He, and you might see it written this way on some websites. But in English it’s called Serenity.
Fruitful Food (果然匯)
Dining at an all-you-can-eat buffet (自助餐) is a quintessential Taiwanese experience. There are several large vegetarian buffets in Taipei, but this one is the most vegan friendly, as everything is clearly labeled.
Located on the 12th floor of a department store, it’s a huge restaurant with seating for more than 300 people. And yet it’s so popular that it still fills up. While on the expensive side, it’s worth doing at least once for the experience.
The selection of dishes is vast and includes both Western, Taiwanese and other Asian dishes. These change every day, though, so you never know exactly what you’re going to get.
Even so, there are sure to be plenty of vegan main dishes, and at least a few dessert options. They even have vegan ice cream.
So Free Pizza (柴燒窯烤比薩)
This vegetarian pizza chain uses a wood-fired oven and offers vegan cheese. I’ve read old reviews saying that anyone who orders the vegan cheese here is required to buy the entire block of cheese and take it away with them.
Thankfully, that is no longer the case. Still, the pizza is just OK. Portions are pretty small, and the dough doesn’t have the fluffy texture that I would expect from a wood-fired oven.
Vegan Street Food in Taipei
Taipei is one of the best cities in the world for street food. The food at its night markets is legendary, and people will sometimes queue for more than an hour at the most popular stalls.
While you’re bound to find at least a few vegan street food options at any of Taipei’s night markets, your best bet is to catch the roving veggie night market when it rolls into town.
Vegetarian Night Market
A dozen or so vegetarian street food vendors travel together around the island, creating a little vegetarian haven within one of the larger night markets.
I happened to catch the market in Tamsui, which is a bit far from the center of Taipei but totally worth the trip! Check the vegetarian night market Facebook page for the latest schedule.
Not all vendors are there every night, but here are the types of foods you can find at the market:
Tang Bao (湯包) - soup-filled buns
Grilled Mochi (麻糬) - sticky rice cakes served warm on a stick
Mushyaki (寶菇燒) - takoyaki, a Japanese snack, made with king oyster mushrooms instead of octopus
Ma La Chou Doufu (麻辣臭豆腐) - stinky tofu in a spicy soup
There are also a couple of stalls selling non-Asian dishes, like quesadillas and veggie burgers. Actually, the veggie burgers at the Gardenburger Food Truck are wildly popular, but I chose not to wait in line for them.
Not everything at the vegetarian night market is vegan, but at most stalls the vegan options are clearly marked.
Other Night Markets in Taipei
If the vegetarian night market isn’t in town when you’re there, it’s still worth checking out one of Taipei’s many other night markets. You’re bound to find a few vegan items, and you may even come across a fully vegetarian stall.
These days, more and more night market vendors are advertising their vegan dishes. Check out this article for a run-down of the vegan options available at Shilin Night Market, the largest and most famous night market in Taipei.
And even if you don’t enter any of Taipei’s night markets, you will still come across some scattered food stalls if you wander around popular areas like Ximending at night. Like these yummy sweet potato balls (地瓜球) pictured above, crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside.
Daytime Street Food in Taipei
You don’t have to wait until after dark to enjoy Taipei’s delicious street food. In fact, you can even have it for breakfast!
Vegan Breakfast in Taipei
Look around Buddhist temples for vegetarian food stalls. If you go to Longshan Temple for the 8 am chanting session (which I highly recommend), you can have breakfast afterwards at the stalls that are set up outside.
Of course, the foods being sold at this hour may not be what you’re used to eating for breakfast. Common options are Dong Fen (冬粉), which are vermicelli noodles made from mung beans, and You Fan (油飯), which is sticky rice with sesame oil.
You tiao (油條) fried breadsticks with soy milk (豆漿) is another very typical Taiwanese breakfast. Though not a street food stall, Yong He Soy Milk is probably the most famous place in town to try this classic, naturally vegan breakfast in Taipei.
Top Royal Vegetarian (上頂皇家素食水煎包水餃)
This is my favorite street food stall in Taipei. They make vegetarian dumplings (水餃) and pan-fried buns (水煎包) with a variety of fillings, and all of them are delicious.
The buns are fried and then steamed, so they are fluffy yet crunchy on the outside. Every time we went, all the options were vegan, but it’s best to check just in case.
We had a bit of trouble finding it the first time, because the pin on Google maps is a bit off. It’s actually on the same street as Xiu Yuan Su Shi (修圓素食), just a couple of doors down.
Since it’s so close to the train station, you might want to stop here to pick up some snacks before you catch a train. Just remember that they’re only open until 7 pm.
The Taichung Second Market is another great place to find street food in the daytime. Read all about it in my perfect Taichung itinerary!
A Word About Mock Meats in Taiwan
Despite the strict laws on labeling vegetarian and vegan food in Taiwan, there still seems to be some confusion when it comes to mock meat.
The good news is that mock meats sold in supermarkets will certainly be labeled as vegan, lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian or lacto-ovo vegetarian. But the bad news is that this may not be the case in restaurants.
Some vegetarian restaurants in Taipei, when labeling the vegan items on their menus, don’t seem to consider that there might be eggs or dairy in their mock meats.
And apparently, lots of mock meat in Taiwan does contain eggs or dairy. Some local vegans choose not to eat any mock meats in vegetarian restaurants (in vegan restaurants there should be no worries).
Personally, I know there are going to be occasional mistakes when I’m traveling, so I just try to do my best and not get too hung up on the small details. If a restaurant staff member tells me that an item is vegan, I will usually take their word for it.
But each of us has our own line in the sand, so now that you know the situation you can decide where to draw yours. For a more extensive explanation of the fake meat issue in Taiwan, see Jesse Duffield’s book mentioned at the end of this article.
Vegan Bakeries in Taipei
Yiihotang bakery (一禾堂)
While we didn’t make it to any of Taipei’s fully vegan restaurants for a meal, we did stop in at this fully vegan bakery. It’s full of all kinds of sweet and savory treats, including traditional Taiwanese pastries as well as some Western and fusion options.
Pineapple cakes are a famous Taiwanese treat and a popular gift to take back home after a visit to Taiwan. At Yiihotang, you can purchase gift pineapple cakes individually or in gift boxes, all vegan of course. Another traditional pastry that’s been veganized here is the salted egg pastry filled with red bean paste.
Yiihotang has multiple locations in Songshan, Da’an and Xinyi districts. We went to the one in Da’an, which is right next door to Flourish, a popular vegan restaurant run by the same company.
And the Yiihotang shops aren’t the only vegan bakeries in Taipei, either. Others that come highly recommended are Hip Pun, Green Bakery and Vegan Heaven.
Vegan Milky Drinks in Taipei
Dairy products might not be used that often in Taiwanese dishes, but when it comes to drinks it’s a different story.
This is the home of bubble tea, after all, which has reached iconic status. One legislator has even proposed adding an image of bubble tea to the cover of Taiwanese passports.
NUTTEA Nut Mylk Tea (堅果奶 · 茶)
I’m not big on cold drinks of any kind, and I’m not certain that I’d ever even tasted bubble milk tea (珍珠奶茶) before my trip to Taiwan. But I certainly wanted to try it while I was there.
So I stopped in at NUTTEA, which I’d heard made non-dairy versions of Taiwan’s popular milk-based drinks. Which is true, but for some reason they don’t offer bubble tea.
Their specialty is their famous nut cream, which is used as a topping on many of their drinks. It’s made from a blend of five different nut milks and is apparently quite thick and, uh, creamy.
But I was stubborn about wanting to try bubble tea, so I ordered the closest thing available, which was their Brown Sugar Jelly Nut Mylk Tea. The brown sugar jelly is cylindrical, not round like a tapioca pearl.
It was fine, but I probably should have ordered one of the drinks with nut cream instead. Only later did I find out about two other drink shops that do offer vegan bubble tea.
These are Nutsmilk (堅果奶,吧), which is all vegan, and Milk Shop (迷客夏), which serves dairy but also offers bubble tea with soy milk. Both are near the main train station. My advice is to go to NUTTEA for a nut cream drink and to one of these other two places for bubble tea.
Xing Ren Cha (杏仁茶 )
While this traditional drink looks like it would contain milk, it’s actually made from almonds and so is naturally vegan. Even though the name means “almond tea”, there’s no tea in it. The main ingredients are almond flour, sticky rice and sugar, and various spices and seeds are also sometimes added.
You can find xing ren cha sold at food stalls around the city. The kind, elderly woman who runs the stall outside Longshan Temple has been there for 30-something years. She claims that her xing ren cha will cure coughs and other ailments. But she also says to watch out for less scrupulous sellers who use chemicals to imitate the taste of almond.
More Taipei Vegan Restaurants
With so many to choose from, there are lots of great vegan restaurants in Taipei that I didn’t make it to on this trip. Here are a few that will definitely be high on my list next time I visit:
This restaurant specializes in lu wei (鹵味), which is a common type of street food in Taiwan but it’s normally not very vegan friendly. You choose your own ingredients (noodles, vegetables, mock meats, etc.), and these are braised for you in a briny sauce with various spices.
The food here is mostly Western and includes pasta, pizza with vegan cheese, and cupcakes. Reported to be a good place to work from if you’re the digital nomad type. My friends Paul and Caryl from Vegan Food Quest ate here and really enjoyed the pizza and the mushrooms with melted vegan cheese.
Run by the same owners as Yiihotang bakery, one branch of which is just next door to this restaurant. I had a look at the menu when I passed by, and it was a mix of Asian and Western dishes. It seemed a bit pricey, but Flourish gets great reviews so I’ll definitely give it a try next time.
Ooh Cha Cha
This American-owned establishment was one of the first Western vegan cafés to open in Taipei, and it now has two locations. The original location is in Zhongzheng district near the Guting station, and the newer branch is near the Technology Building Station and is known as Ooh Cha Cha Tech.
Near the Taipower Building MRT station, this place apparently has the best falafel in Taipei, if that’s what you’re craving.
Things change quickly in the food industry, and some of the previously popular vegan Taipei restaurants have since closed, including About Animals and NAKEDFOOD. Before you head to a restaurant, check its status on Google maps or, even better, send them a message to make sure they’re still open.
More Info on Vegan Taipei Food
I could go on and on about all the vegan restaurants in Taipei that I want to visit on my next trip. But instead I’ll leave you with a couple of resources by people who have spent more time in Taipei than I have.
The first is this very comprehensive blog post on I Travel for Vegan Food. I really like this blog. It only covers a few destinations so far (Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Australia), but all the guides are quite helpful and well-researched.
And the second resource is the ebook Taiwan: A Travel Guide for Vegans by Jesse Duffield. Jesse has lived in Taiwan for several years and knows the vegan scene there inside and out.
Rather than a long list of restaurants (which you can find easily on HappyCow), this book is not just a restaurant directory but also an actual guidebook. More than 400 pages long, it goes into great detail about Taiwan’s sights and attractions and gives insightful cultural background info.
It’s currently heavily discounted during the COVID-19 pandemic, so I recommend grabbing a copy now on Amazon.
Speaking Mandarin in Taiwan
While English is more widely spoken in Taiwan than in China, knowing a bit of the local language is still definitely a big help. There are many languages spoken in Taiwan, but Mandarin is the lingua franca and is understood by just about everyone.
If you want to learn some super useful words and phrases in Mandarin, including phrases for ordering vegan food, check out my list of 100+ useful Mandarin words and phrases.
uTalk is great for learning phrases for just about any situation you may find yourself in while traveling in Taiwan. And you can also use it as an electronic phrasebook to quickly look up the phrase you need at any given moment.
Click on the image below to get a 20% discount on Mandarin or any other language pack!
ChinesePod, on the other hand, offers more than 4,000 lessons at all levels, taking you all the way from newbie to advanced. The dialogues in the lessons are really entertaining, and you will learn so much about Chinese and Taiwanese culture in addition to the language.
Best of all, you can access a lot of the content for free just by signing up for a free account.
Vegan Taipei Map
In the vegan Taipei map below, you'll find all the restaurants and eateries mentioned in this article. To save the map to your account in Google Maps, just click on the star next to the title.