So you're planning a trip to Lebanon! Or at least thinking about it? And maybe you're feeling a bit worried about what you're going to be able to eat there as a vegan. From experience, I can tell you that it's pretty easy! There are actually several traditional dishes that are "accidentally vegan" or super easy to "veganize". Let's start by going over some of my favorite dishes that you'll find at nearly every restaurant, and that also happen to be vegan!
Home-cooked meal in Lebanon, including hummus and tabouli
Let's start off simple with hummus! A favorite among vegans and non-vegans worldwide, did you know that the word "hummus" actually means "chickpeas" in Arabic? The dip is originally called "hummus bi-tahīnah" (hummus with tahini), but has been shorted to simply "hummus" over the years. Typically served with pita bread, this dish makes a great appetizer or snack, and is often served at the beginning of meals.
Typically eaten at breakfast, this flatbread is typically topped with za'atar, but can have other toppings. Za'atar is a spice mixture that is also made with sesame seeds and olive oil. While the original version is vegan, be aware that cheese is also a common topping. Manousheh is one of my favorite dishes, even when I'm at home in the US I often eat it.
Also spelled "tabbouleh", this is a salad dish that typically contains a mix of herbs, tomatoes, bulgar and lemon juice. This is a great healthy side dish or appetizer option. Everywhere you go, this dish will taste slightly different because it depends on how much of each ingredient is used. This dish is one of my favorites, especially when I feel like I've been eating a bit too much fried food.
This dish is another salad, it typically contains lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, peppers, green onion, herbs and fried crunchy pieces of pita bread. Fattoush is also typically eaten as a side dish and can taste a bit different depending on how exactly its made.
Similar to hummus, baba ganoush (also spelled "ghanoush") is a dip that is typically eaten with pita bread (or in my case, french fries). Instead of chickpeas, this dip is made of roasted eggplants. The flavor is a bit smoky and it often contains a large amount of garlic as well. If you're getting bored of hummus, or just looking to try something a little different, I highly recommend trying baba ganoush!
Another dish that is popular worldwide is falafel! Falafel is considered a Middle Eastern fast food, as it is a mixture made of beans and spices that is deep fried. It can be eaten on its own or in a sandwich, which is how most people choose to eat it. Just be aware that sometimes it can be served with a sauce that contains dairy, so opt for either hummus, plain tahini or tahini mixed with lemon juice.
The term "batata harra" translates to "spicy potatoes". Although typically, the dish isn't too spicy. It contains roasted potato chunks with herbs, lemon juice and olive oil. Sometimes it may also contain peppers and/or hotter spices. Again, this is another dish that varies a little bit depending on the person making it. But if you're a potato lover like myself, you'll enjoy it every time.
These are savory stuffed pies that are typically shaped in a triangle. While sometimes stuffed with meat or cheese, they are often stuffed with spinach instead. These pies are typically eaten at room temperature and as a side to a meal. While they may not seem very special, trust me it's easy to eat many of these!
So now that we've gone over some of my favorite Lebanese dishes that are vegan, I wanted to chat about vegan restaurants for a moment! So far I have only tried two fully vegan restaurants in Lebanon. I will write a little about them below and then come back to update this blog post later on when I have tried more. Nearly all restaurants I went to had some, if not all, of the items I've listed above.
Orenda is located in the main city of Beirut and describes itself as a "hidden plant-based gem". This restaurant is a bit hidden, and took us a little while to find. They have cute pastel decor and an adorable outdoor garden area. The food was delicious and high-quality, but the prices are a bit steep. As a New Yorker, I'm used to high prices at restaurants, and the prices at Orenda were comparable to the prices in NYC. This restaurant had a relaxed but high-end feel.
Vibes at Orenda
Have you ever heard of a vegan restaurant that was open 24/7? Well now you have because Luna's Kitchen is! This restaurant is located in Beirut, on the ground floor of a very colorful apartment building called "Luna's Village". Imagine having a whole vegan restaurant in your apartment building? What a dream!
The prices at Luna's are a lot more reasonable, and more comparable to other Lebanese restaurant prices. The dishes were mainly "veganized" versions of dishes that typically contain meat, using mainly soy-based meat substitutes. I also loved the creative decor, which seems to cater to a young-adult audience. According to their Instagram, Luna's Village also hosts themed events, if this is something you are interested in checking out. Out of the two vegan restaurants I've visited so far, this one was my favorite.
Food at Luna's Kitchen
I haven't done an extensive amount of grocery shopping in Lebanon yet, but I was able to find some vegan options here and there. As to be expected, there were usually more options available at larger chain stores and in the city. The vegan options were not nearly as plentiful as they are at my local Trader Joe's or Whole Foods in NYC, but I have posted a few photos of my finds below.
Oat Milk by Bjorg
Vegan mayonnaise by Puidor
Vegan protein bars by Mak Bar and Grapeful
Thank you for reading! I will try my best to continue to add to this blog post and keep it updated. Please visit my blog for more vegan tips and guides.