Where to Find Vegan and Vegetarian Eats in Toronto

Upgrade your basic salad to these tasty globally-inspired options.

Founded in 1999, happycow.com is the most complete list of the world’s vegan and vegetarian restaurants, with 125,000 listings in 180 countries. In 2019, they named Toronto the 5th most vegan-friendly city in the world.

They offer a few reasons, but not least of them is the fact that there are, by their count, 318 vegan- and vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the city.

Ethiopians get vegans

Almost half of Ethiopians are vegans for about half the year, following the dietary rules of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church that has 180 days of fasting that forbids eating any animal-related foods.

In the middle of Tsome Hawariat, a month of fasting, the special at Selam is dinichi sikwari, or sweet potatoes prepared with berbere, a sort of Amharic masala of chilis, fenugreek, garlic, cinnamon and allspice (or whatever the cook feels like).  

Co-owner Ruth Hagos and her daughter, Sosuna Asefaw, recommend the six-option platter, a choice out of nine vegan options, served with/on injera, the Ethiopian staple flatbread.

Instructions on how to eat Ethiopian food or injera

Though I’m usually not a fan of ordering gluten-free options unless you’re celiac, the gluten-free option here is the more traditional injera made exclusively of teff, a tiny grain mostly grown in and around Ethiopia and Eritrea. It’s slightly vinegary, and in addition to being vegan and gluten-free, is also what you pick up your food with, eliminating the need for any plastic utensils.

Stealth vegetarians

Though vegan and vegetarian restaurants can seem a novelty, and spots like Planta and Bloomer’s are putting new spins on a cuisine that’s been unjustly accused of being bland, the fact is vegetarian and vegan restaurants have been thick on the ground here for generations; we’ve just been calling them Indian and Chinese

Places like Annalakshmi, Little India, Saravanaa Bhavan, Buddha, Simon’s Wok, Lotus, and scores of others that are either entirely v-v, or offer many, many options. Toronto’s v-v culinary scene is so robust, in fact, that it may be time to start getting a little more fine-grained about it.

Like, have you ever had Jain food?

Jain cuisine

Jainism is an ancient religion—many centuries older than Christianity and a few centuries older even than Buddhism by some accounts—that among many other things professes a sort of extreme veganism, going beyond the notion of no-food-with-faces to taking care not to harm insects, worms, and other creatures most of the rest of the world doesn’t think too much about. 

As a result, they not only eschew meat and dairy, but root vegetables because, among other concerns, harvesting them can be harmful to subterranean creatures and requires killing the entire plant.

Kavita Patel had a few Jain friends who have traditionally had quite a bit of trouble going out to restaurants in groups. So when she started Veggie Planet in Mississauga in 2017, she made sure to include Jain-friendly items on her menu, some of which have become her biggest sellers. Some of it is curiosity, but she has noticed many people looking for onion- and garlic-free food for health reasons.

If you want to order a good Jain lunch, Patel recommends her Jain fries, made from plantains, the Jain version of the naanza (an increasingly popular fusiony kind of pizza made with naan), and the kachori lentil burger.

Many Indian restaurants, like Udupi Palace in Little India, offer Jain versions of their dishes if you ask.

About the Author

Bert Archer lives in Toronto, writes about travel and cities and things that tourists like him like, and teaches food writing at George Brown College. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter, and read stories he’s written about places he doesn’t live in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, CNN, the BBC, and about a dozen others.

See it. Snap it. Share it. In every neighbourhood, around every corner, through every door there's something that begs to be discovered in Toronto.

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