A Plant-based Guide to Amsterdam: Top Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants
I’ll preface this article by saying that the closest I’ve come to being vegetarian was doing Veganuary – once, a very long time ago. Despite being well aware of the environmental concerns, I am a confirmed omnivore. Not least because I’d find it very hard to be a foodie without eating absolutely everything. That said, I’m trying to become more flexitarian: eating less meat and more plants (especially at home) but never sacrificing flavour or pleasure. So bear in mind that these recommendations for vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Amsterdam are written in that context. Tastiness is top priority!
There are very few restaurants I’ll bike 7 km to get to in the freezing cold, and Betty’s is one of them. It’s on the Rijnstraat, which isn’t so far out of town if you live in the south, but if you’re coming from the north or west it’s a bit of a trek. Once you get there, however, you’ll be greeted by the friendly couple who run the place – the woman is the chef, her other half is front of house. There’s no menu – you simply let them know if there’s anything you don’t eat and wait to be surprised. On both occasions, the food I ate was a shareable feast made up of many different styles of cuisine, but all vegetarian and mostly vegan too. Think Middle Eastern mezze, spicy Indian dal, warm Italian salads, and the most indulgent desserts. It’s the kind of place where you want to order a bottle of wine, get comfy and stick around all evening.
Morris & Bella
Located the trendy Spaarndammerbuurt, Morris & Bella does what it calls in “slow fine dining”: offering a monthly-changing, seasonal menu made up of local Dutch produce served over four, five or six courses. The evening I dined there, I loved the starter of fresh peas and root vegetables with butter-bean purée and pea juice – it felt very clean, while still hitting the spot. My tussengerecht was cabbage rolls stuffed with carrot and leeks, and served with a curried lentil and mustard seed dressing – delicious even without any meat. And lovely wines, to boot.
Although there’s only one branch in Amsterdam, Saravana Bhavan is in fact a global chain of vegetarian Indian restaurants. The décor is bright and spartan, which means the ambience isn’t great. But the dosas are what you’re here for, and I’ve been raving about them ever since I first visited Saravana Bhavan several years ago. If you’ve never had a dosa before (or even if you have), this is the place to try one. A South Indian speciality, these enormous crepe-like discs are filled with everything from cheese to potatoes to lentils. One of those to yourself would probably fill you up till your next meal for just a few euros. But if you do have room left (I suggest sharing), order one of the thalis for a full gamut of veggie-tastic Indian flavours.
I’d biked past Golden Temple on the Utrechtsestraat dozens of times before I ever went in. It looks like a hippie place, and I guess in a way it is – you could well be eating your dinner on a sheepskin rug with a small dog curled up next to you. But the food is something even us meat-eating folk can get on board with. I really liked their Mexican tacos, filled with beans, sweet potato, guacamole and salsa – they were fresh, citrusy and brimming with flavour. But there are also Indian dishes like the tofu tikka masala, and Southeast Asian dishes like fresh spring rolls and coconut curries. Something to please everyone.
Best Vegan Food in Amsterdam
I actually went to Hearth, tucked behind OLVG Oost, in search of vegan sushi (more on that below). But when I arrived, I found lots more to tempt me – including some delicious cocktails and natural wines. First, try the red quinoa roll with aubergine, tofu, spring onions and wasabi mayo, or the green spirulina roll with avocado, black beans, chipotle mayo and sesame. Then move onto cauliflower tartare or broccoli gnocchi with cashew garlic cheese, paired with a biodynamic French blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s not fully fine dining, but it’s a cut above your average eetcafe.
SOIL Vegan Café
The one and only time I did Veganuary, I ate a lot of veggie burgers. They all tasted (and felt afterwards) like carbs upon carbs upon carbs. Thankfully, a lot has changed since then, and you can now find vegan burgers that genuinely hold their own (indeed, are preferable to) their meaty predecessors. One such example is the kimchi burger at SOIL Vegan Café: I was told the patty’s made from chickpeas, peas and soy protein, and I have no idea what they did to make it taste so good but it worked. Moreover, the brioche bun was the perfect size and texture, the kimchi was wonderfully spicy (you can see it fermenting away at the back of the café), and there was a hint of creaminess from some vegan cheesy mayo combo. My only complaint was that it was so juicy (I think from the kimchi) that I couldn’t eat it like a sandwich without taking a bath in it, so I resorted to a knife and fork. I visited SOIL on Javastraat, but they have another café in West as well.
Vegan Junk Food Bar
Hangover Days generally require one thing: junk food. (Oh, and a hair-of-the-dog drink.) Enter Vegan Junk Food Bar, which may be more sustainable than regular fast food but is certainly no healthier. We ordered three of the VJFB’s most popular items: the kapsalon, a burger and a portion of sweet potato fries. So far, so stodge. My hands-down favourite was the vegan kapsalon – literally translating as hairdresser (long story) and usually comprising a mountain of fries topped with kebab meat, cheese, mayo, hot sauce – you name it. This was pretty much the same messy deal, but with some kind of soy-based fake meat (that was actually delicious) and – well – god knows how they made the cheese and mayo, but it tasted more or less like cheese and mayo. There were also plenty of jalapenos, regular red chillies and general stuff to amp up the flavour levels an extra notch. I liked it just a little bit too much.
Vegan Sushi Bar
Possibly the biggest sushi trend in Amsterdam right now is vegan sushi – something I never thought I’d like but strangely do. And no one is making it better than the aptly named Vegan Sushi Bar. Two locations – in Oost and West respectively – offer up a menu of 10 meat-less and fish-less signature red rice rolls plus various other inari, maki, gunkan and side dishes. Try the flambé salmon for an extremely convincing vegan replica of sushi’s favourite fish, or the shrimp-less tempura for a roll that’s more guilty pleasure than vegan virtue. The gyoza are excellent too.