Don’t feel conﬁned to your kitchen. There are lots of great places out there that can make you a delicious cruelty-free meal.
Most cafes and restaurants offer options without animal products and the few that don't are generally happy to cater for different dietary needs even if these options do not appear on the menu. Call ahead or ask the wait staff about what the kitchen can make you. It's teeming with chefs, after all! Make sure you’re clear about what you do or don’t eat, just in case they’re unsure.
If you’re invited to eat out with friends, pipe up and make suggestions of your own. Ask a friend for recommendations, or check out these lists of animal-friendly restaurants on the Vegetarian Society and Happy Cow websites.
Once you start you’ll be surprised at just how many options there are, and before long you’ll know all the best places to eat. Like moving to a new city, a new diet opens up lots of opportunities to try new things.
Let your tastebuds travel the world without leaving New Zealand! Global cuisine has lots of delicious meat-free meals, just dive in, and find out what the world has to offer.
The traditional Chinese diet is largely plant-based, and so you’ll have no trouble finding lots of options at many Chinese restaurants. Start with spring rolls, veggie dumplings, sesame noodles, or salads with ginger dressing. For mains, there are usually lots of stir fries, fried rice (just hold the egg), and various noodle dishes. You can also ask that the meat be replaced with tofu. Look out for ho fun noodles (made with rice instead of egg). Watch out for fish sauce, which can often be swapped for soy.
With 40% of the country living meat-free, it's no wonder that Indian food has the most variety in animal-friendly cuisine, especially at southern and vegetarian Indian restaurants where you'll find the most options. Mix and match a handful of sides for an authentic experience. Or order curries, dhal, dosa (rice and lentil crepes), sambar (hot-sour lentil stew), or uttapham (think pizza). Don't forget the chutney! Be aware that some may have curd (yoghurt) or ghee (clarified butter) in them, so just ask to be sure. Check that your chapatti hasn't been brushed with butter. Skip the naan (often made with yoghurt or buttermilk in the dough). Instead opt for rice or tandoori roti (flatbread), which can almost always be made dairy-free.
Most famous for sushi, Japan offers a surprising number of options. Try maki (or futomaki, a thicker roll with more than two ingredients) rolls made with cucumber, pickles, avocado, shitake, kumura or even mango. Sushi is garnished with pickled ginger slices and wasabi (Japanese horseradish). In addition to sushi, soup is a good choice - especially miso. Steer clear of dashi (a Japanese soup stock which contains fish extract called bonito). Try tofu or vegetable dishes, but be aware that often bonito is liberally sprinkled on dishes, so just ask that this be left off. Watch out for fish sauce and egg in noodles, sauces and batters.
Thai food is teeming tofu and greens, which make for delicious options. Try a red or green curry with tofu and veggies. The fragrant massaman curry pastes of the far south omit shellfish. Or order a pad Thai (stir fried noodles) without egg, tom yum soup or delicious and fresh Thai salad. When in doubt, just ask for it without eggs and with soy instead of fish sauce. If noodles are made with eggs, you can always swap them out for rice noodles.
Delights like tofu and tempeh (a close relative of tofu) are Indonesian staples. Tempeh is made with whole ground soy beans which are pressed and fermented. It is often deep-fried into crisp chips and served with chilli sauce. Try fried rice dishes and stir fries. Keep an eye out for shrimp paste, egg and fish sauce.
Burritos, tacos, nachos, black bean soup, fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas … There are so many yummy options at Mexican restaurants. Watch out for lard in the beans and hold off on the cheese and sour cream. Don’t worry, if you can substitute the meat for beans (because they are cooked in lard), swap the meat for potato or kumara. Be sure to add lots of veggies, salsa and guacamole!
Middle Eastern cuisine is full of possibilities. Try ordering several small sharing plates to experiment. For a protein packed meal, match a pulse dish, like hummus (chickpea spread) with tabouleh (tomatoes, parsley, mint, bulgur and onion) or kisir (wheat, chopped herbs and walnuts). Or try delicious falafel (deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas). Smoky eggplant baba ganoush, stuffed vine leaves are also favourites. Watch out for dairy or eggs in some of the sauces - often you can just replace those with hummus or tahini (creamy sesame seed paste)! If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, traditional Turkish baklava is often made with syrup rather than honey and Turkish delight is also usually free from animal products (but it’s worth checking).
Italian food has a rich culinary tradition of cooking without meat. Pasta and risotto don’t have to be cheesy and buttery. Southern Italian restaurants will offer the most options where fine olive oil rather than cheese will finish a dish. When pasta is homemade, check to see if it is made without eggs. Dried pasta (made from durum wheat) is always a safe bet. Good quality pizza bases are dairy-free and most pizza places let you customise your own substituting extra toppings and sauce for the cheese. Some places now offer dairy-free cheese, too!
Takeaways can be a quick and easy way to eat on the go.
- Pizza – Create your own veggie pizza with all your favourite toppings (just ask them to leave out the cheese). Some places like Hell Pizza even has dairy-free cheese!
- Burgers – Grab a veggie burger with chips. Burger Fuel has three great options.
- Sandwiches – Most cafés can make you a yummy veggie sandwich, bagel or focaccia. Ask for the veggie patty or veggie delight at Subway.
- Sushi – Most sushi place offers veggie options. St. Pierre’s is happy to make you a fresh one and welcomes special requests!
- Pie – Z Energy has a famous Mexican vegan pie that is available across New Zealand.
- Veggie Wraps or Falafel – Filled with lots of salad, veggies, tahini and hummus
- Fish ‘n’ Chips (minus the fish, of course) – Just check that the chips aren’t cooked in animal fat.
If you’re invited to a friend’s for a meal, make sure they know in advance what you eat. It can be helpful to offer suggestions of what they could cook for you, or even take along a dish so everyone can try it! Check out our recipes section for yummy ideas on how to impress your friends.