When you think of Puerto Rican cuisine, what comes to mind? A little churrasco? Some chueleta? A nice big plate of arroz con pollo perhaps? Yeah! Sounds…. Ummmmm…. Traditional! (and delicious!) 😉 But what about those who are nontraditional? What about those who ‘gasp’ don’t eat meat?! Well, allow me to set your little veg heads at ease. Finding vegan food in Puerto Rico is actually very easy and affordable (we should know)! 🙂
So yes, finding vegan food in Puerto Rico can be very manageable and affordable, but you need to know where to shop and you must plan ahead. As is the case in most places, whole food cooking is WAY cheaper than buying processed vegan foods. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think that’s more true of any place than Puerto Rico because of the import taxes and IVU on processed foods. Thankfully there are 4 Costco Wholesale stores in Bayamon, Carolina, and Caguas, so bulk fruit, vegetables, rice, soy/nut milks, beans, pastas, nuts, and seasonings are all within reach for those living in the Metro area or willing to make make the drive. Also, in Carolina, Condado, Caguas, Aguadilla, Guaynabo, and Hato Rey there are these small local grocery stores called Freshmart that can supply you with a limited variety of the more processed vegan foods for when you are craving the faux meats and cheeses, vegan snacks, sprouted bread, or if you need to stalk up on cruelty free body care products.
Besides those grocers there are also various smaller shops located throughout the island, many of which are listed on the Only Natural Inc. website and a nice variety of restaurants that offer meat free dishes can be found on HappyCow.net. A couple personal favorites of ours are P.F. Changs in Plaza las Americas (we just sub more veggies for all the meats) and a little local pizzeria called Peace and Loaf on Americo Miranda in San Juan. Both of these places also cater to gluten free which is a must for our family, thus our limited recommendations and experience with other local restaurants.
If you are looking to shop more locally, Puerto Rico also has a bunch of Farmers Markets affectionately called “La Placita” or “Plaza del Mercado” meaning “little markets” or “Market Plaza” all over the metro that have a beautiful selection of locally grown fruits, local cuisine (most contain animal though so ask for the ingredients lists), plants, artisan soaps and essential oils.
Of course if you come across a giant mango tree out in the middle of nowhere (not in someone’s yard unless you ask permission first! ;-)), you can also pick those! Talk about locally grown and freshly harvested (not to mention likely organic!)!
Also, since it’s warm year round, gardens tend to grow very well. I’ve tried it a few times in our tiny backyard and things usually sprout and grow quickly as long as you place them in the right amount of sunlight and give them just the right amount of water. 😉 However, don’t ask me for gardening tips because as it turns out, my thumb is more grey than green. I can get them to sprout but then I just slowly ease the plants into their death from that point forward. lol Many of my friends who are better horticulturists have had more success though. 😉
So remember, budget, plan ahead and be brave and check those places out and please let us know of any other places that you find that may cater to the Vegan/Vegetarian community! Finding vegan food in Puerto Rico is not hard, but the restaurant selection is scarce so let us know if you find one! Good luck!