Whether you are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or lactose intolerant, traveling abroad with dietary restrictions can be a cause for stress.
One of the most common questions I get about my time living in Medellin, Colombia is how I navigate being a vegetarian abroad.
I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived in Medellin, how easy it was to be a vegetarian.
They fill markets with fresh fruits and vegetables, vegan and vegetarian restaurants, and there is an abundance of health food stores.
Bandeja Paisa and Local Colombian Foods
Bandeja Paisa is Antioquia’s most well-known dish. It is a hearty plate of rice, beans, avocado, salad, fried, arepa, plantain, egg, chorizo, ground beef and chicharron (fried pork). While traditionally, Bandeja Paisa is a very meat-heavy dish, it is one of my favorites because it can easily be made into both vegetarian and vegan options. For vegetarians, supplement with an egg or two for protein.
For a vegan option, add more salad, avocado, or plantain. I guarantee that regardless of your dietary preferences, you will feel full after eating this meal!
There are also plenty of other traditional Colombian foods that are vegetarian and vegan-friendly: empanadas filled with potato, arepas (a traditional corn pancake), and delicious soups.
Grocery Shopping in Medellin
Grocery shopping as a vegetarian in Medellin is also extremely accessible. The Plaza Minorista in the center of Medellin has rows upon rows of vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables and is one of the cheapest places in the cities to buy produce. Another one of my favorite markets is the Plaza de Mercado la America. Just like the Plaza
Minorista, La America offers a similar variety of fruits and vegetables and a small health food stand that sells in bulk.
Another one of my favorite Medellin markets in Medellin is the Mercado Campesino which you can find in different parks around the city.
Every Sunday in Poblado, locals from around the city sells their produce, honey, coffee, baked goods, and traditional Colombian foods at an open-air market in Parque Presidenta.
For other grocery items, I often shop at Salud Pan and Vita Integral, in Laureles.
Both offer foods in bulk, nut butter, vegan baking ingredients, gluten-free bread and pasta, vegetarian proteins, and much more!
Between shopping at the local markets and health food stores, I am able to get most of my groceries to cook inspiring, healthy vegetarian meals.
Eating Out in Medellin
Medellin is also booming with both vegetarian and vegan restaurants that offer full menus of delicious options. Most restaurants during the lunch hours offer something called “menu del dia” (the menu or plate of the day) which includes soup, juice, entrée and a small dessert. Nearly every neighborhood in Medellin and the greater metropolitan area (Bello, La Estrella, Itagui, and Sabaneta) all have vegetarian and vegan restaurant options. Some of my personal favorites in the city are;
Envigado – Prana, Cafe Tulsi
Laureles – Salud Pan
Belen – Espíritu Libre, Veg Garden
Centro – Govindas / Bhundi
Poblado – Veg Station, Cafe Zorba, Justo, Verdeo
Whether you are just passing through or a long-term resident, Medellin is a city that truly inspires through its beautiful variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and food scene.
Are you a vegetarian or dealing with food restrictions and traveling to Medellin? We’re happy to answer your questions.
by: Erin Colton-Enberg