i'm not vegan.
but i like to eat healthy. and while vegan does not equal healthy, i've found that many vegan restaurants are dedicated to health and transparent ingredients.
it's especially tough to know exactly what's in the food when i don't understand the language. let's just say i've accidentally eaten beef intestines due to the language barrier.
at least at a vegan restaurant, the most exotic thing i'll eat is a jackfruit.
Medellín is very friendly for vegan eaters. in particular, the La Florida region was brimming with vegan spots. i took advantage of this and all restaurants in this post are in the La Florida region (and actually, all are within a 5 minute walk of each other).
7. DDC (Desarrolladores De Café)
price: $5 USD/entree
DDC (Desarrolladores De Café) is a cute cafe tucked away on a side street in La Florida. they have an interesting retro diner + new-age hipster look going on. there are refurbished industrial-sized metallic coffee machines but also digital nomads sitting yogi style on their wooden bleachers.
i was attracted by their Google Review rating of 5.0 stars. the coffee is very tasty and my grilled veggie bowl was cooked fresh on the spot.
my lunch gets 10/10 for healthiness but there was something off with the taste. i'm not sure how to describe it but either the sauce or tofu tasted a bit rancid.
6. Lenteja Express
price: $4 USD/entree
this is an unassuming semi fast-food tiny food joint with nice people and decent food. they specialize in vegan hamburgers, hot dogs and wraps.
it's also a fast-food dining atmosphere: there are around 10 small tables with half of the seating on the patio.
i was on the lookout for an organic, veggie-ful, detox meal so it wasn't for me. i'd consider this spot to be ideal for real vegans to get a quick, cheap bite or snack.
5. Veg Station
price: $3.50 USD / lunch set
Veg Station is a go-to lunch spot for vegan travelers on a budget. they have a soup, a platter of protein + rice + veggies, and a fruit juice -- all for 13,000 COP (or $3.50 USD as of March 2020).
food is basic, fresh and not doused with salt or oil. there are no complex spices like some of the fine-dining options on this list but i think it's the perfect spot for a healthy, light and simple lunch.
4. Restaurante Justo
price: $11 USD/entree
Restaurante Justo is beautifully decorated on an open-air platform with lush greenery. the space is shared by a grocery store that sells organic, locally sourced products.
this was the only spot i could find in La Florida that offered a freshly pressed green juice without sugar or an overload of fruit to make it "taste better". call me crazy, but i actually like drinking pressed kale and spinach with a squeeze of lemon.
as for food, everything tasted fantastic but i personally didn't love that many dishes sneaked in some fried ingredients and extra oil. for instance, my salad had onion rings on it and my grilled veggie platter (while beautifully plated) was brimming with oil.
i visit vegan restaurants to eat clean -- not to avoid meat -- so while it was tasty enough to visit twice, it wasn't my ideal meal.
price: $6 USD/entree
i'm always on the search for a tasty chickpea burger. i discovered chickpea patties last year, found a recipe online, spun up a family-sized batch, and ate my weak creation for an entire week.
and i'm still not sick of them.
the chickpea burger here is fantastic. they add some curry spice, pickles for some texture, and an aioli sauce. yum.
went here twice and ordered the same thing. they also have salad and grain bowls and some interesting appetizers. it's casual dining so i was able to work on my laptop for a working lunch.
one ding was that the juices have added sugar in them.
2. Betty's Bowls
price: $4 USD/entree
i went to Betty's Bowls 4 times during our 10 day stint in Medellín. a big factor for my loyalty was that it was next door to our Airbnb. but it was also very tasty and clean food.
their smoothie bowls do not have added sugar or honey (or at least, i was able to order without them) and is purely a mix of fruit. they also pile a generous serving of fruits on top, and the end result resembles a piece of artwork.
Betty's Bowls also serves toasts (savory and sweet), but i think their star attraction is their smoothie bowls.
the staff is young and friendly and try to get to know their customers. the shop is located in between two popular hostels and you'll find a lot of Westerners hanging out here.
finally, the bowls are very affordable for the backpack traveler at $4 USD per smoothie bowl.
price: $11 USD/entree
there are 2 finer dining restaurants on this list and they are Kai and Justo. by "finer" dining, i mean you might need a reservation during peak dinner time and the atmosphere is nice enough that you pay a small premium for it.
note, entrees are still around $12 so affordable in comparison to a comparable vegan spot in the US.
Kai was completely packed when i showed up at 8:45pm on a weekday. i ended up sharing a table with someone else -- but we had a great conversation and it was an interesting experience to get to know a complete stranger 1:1 over 1+ hours.
Kai is delicious and i was sad to only be able to try one dish. every dish is prepared very carefully. while there are chips and fried food on the menu, most of Kai's entrees are clean, fresh ingredients with minimal oiliness.
i liked that the chefs primarily relied on herbs, spices, and other natural ingredients to flavor their dishes.
and that's all! after a couple months touring South America with a meat lover of a husband, i was pleasantly surprised at all the vegan options in Medellín.
a vegan will not go hungry in Medellín.