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Buenos Aires is the steak capital of the world, so we were a little worried about how we’d get on as vegetarians. Our fears were quickly eased on our first day when Simon sniffed out a local bakery and came back with a pile of sugary doughnuts, sticky medialunas and dulce de leche filled pastries – all for just 7 pesos (about £1).
OK, so it may not make a nutritious, healthy meal but it was gooood.
Things got even better in the coming days as we discovered some wonderful Buenos Aires vegetarian restaurants and some tasty Argentine snacks. These are our top food choices in Buenos Aires for vegetarians or for those just looking for a break from great slabs of beef.
1) Empanadas – These popular Argentine savoury pastries are one of our favourite snacks here. Although meat fillings are most common it’s easy to find queso & cebolla (cheese & onion) versions. Great for a quick and cheap meal.
2) Alfajores – The classic sweet snack is the Alfajor – two round biscuits filled with copious amounts of dulce de leche (see below). There are many variations, most commonly a chocolate coating, but I prefer the simple version. Foodie travel bloggers Uncornered Market recommended the Cachafaz brand to us and we weren’t disappointed.
3) Dulce de Leche – You can’t avoid this caramel spread or ‘jam’ – it is everywhere. You’ll find it in every dessert, every factura (sweet pastry), even at breakfast to be spread on bread. Supermarkets dedicate whole aisles to it and heladerias (ice-cream parlours) have entire dulce de leche menus with variations on the flavour.
4) Helado – Italy is always going to win the ice-cream first prize but Argentina does a good job of imitating their creamy gelato. The helado here is positively addictive and it doesn’t help that there are so many flavours to try. Choose a cone or give in and get a half kilo tub. Our local haunt is Emede in Recoleta, but the best heladeria we found was Jauja which served many unusual and all-natural flavours.
5) Pizza – The strong Italian influence continues with the many pizzerias found throughout the city. It’s a vegetarian staple and a good option for a cheap meal. The pizza isn’t quite like in Italy (or even New York) and we generally found the bases too thick and the toppings too heavy on the cheese, but it is possible to find some good pizza.
6) Ravioli – Another thank you to the Italians is needed here. One vegetarian option that is always on the menu is pasta. Often this is homemade and our favourite is ravioli stuffed with pumpkin or spinach and ricotta. The ravioli at Sette Bacco were delicious, but you can also find tasty and cheap fresh ravioli at the Coto supermarket (thanks to Uncornered Market again for this tip), or at one of the many fresh pasta shops.
7) Medialunas – The Argentines obviously have a sweet tooth, as there are panaderias (bakeries) on every street packed with impossible to resist pastries and cakes. Medialunas (sticky croissants) are a cheap choice for breakfast or as a late afternoon snack when you are waiting desperately for dinner – they don’t eat until 10pm here.
8 ) Bread – With this many bakeries in town there is no excuse not to buy fresh bread. Bread is served in every restaurant before your meal, often accompanied by a garlic mayonnaise or other dip. Artemisia restaurant has the most delicious bread of all – in fact it’s worth going just to try the range of homemade breads served with their tasty garlicky humous.
9) Salad – After spending your time in Buenos Aires eating all of the above, believe us you’ll be in need of a good salad. Unsurprisingly the vegetarian restaurants are the best places to go for inventive salads with quality ingredients – Artemisia and Bio are both good options.
10) Armenian Mezze – This may seem like a strange addition but Palermo has a small but vibrant Armenian community producing delicious food that makes a wonderful change to pizza and pasta. The Middle Eastern influenced mezze at Sarkis restaurant almost made us cry with joy. There’s a huge vegetarian selection of flavour-packed dishes including mashed red peppers with walnuts, grilled aubergine in herbs and it’s the only place in the city we’ve found feta cheese. Mmm, heaven…
Read more about our favourite vegetarian restaurants in Buenos Aires.