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Ten of the Best Veggie-Friendly Restaurants in Rio de Janeiro



Vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Rio have seen a surge in popularity over the last couple of years. Catering to body-conscious, health-conscious and eco-conscious locals and visitors, veggie eating establishments can now be found across the city, and range from simple lunch spots to chic bistro-style restaurants. And while the city has long held a reputation as a meat-lover's paradise, there are actually some long-standing restaurants that have been favorites with veggies and vegans for decades. Top spots include Green - providing tasty meat-free lunches downtown for well over 30 years, and enduringly popular Leblon hangout Vegetariana Social Clube. Many vegetarian restaurants are located downtown, and as such tend to be lunch-only, as they cater to local workers. More chic options can be found in the touristic heartland of the Zona Sul (Rio's picturesque South Zone), and while not all are entirely vegetarian, there are lots of veggie options here. The health conscious, body-worshipping types that frequent the beaches of Rio are increasingly demanding wholesome alternatives to the standard meat, rice and beans diet of many Brazilians, and as such there are many wholefood restaurants, with a largely vegetarian offering, cropping up across the city.


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Creative organic vegan dishes are on the menu at this spick and span little Botafogo eatery, which also offers home-made vegan ice cream and other treats. There are two set menus each day - one of which is always gluten-free - with some daily options varying according to which locally-sourced vegetables are at their best that day. There are other staples, which crop up on a revolving weekly basis on the menu, with a firm favourite being a savory tofu roll with a chickpea - 'pastry'. It's a little off the tourist track in residential Botafogo, but just a short walk from the metro and well worth seeking out.

Read more about Gringo Cafe →




Located just a few steps from Catete Palace, with its pleasant gardens and interesting museum, this unassuming spot is the only place in Rio to sample food from Macau - a region of Southern China settled by the Portuguese. The result is an interesting hybrid of culinary traditions from both countries, with a splash of Brazilian influence thrown in for good measure. Along with a decent lunchtime buffet that features staples such as rice, beans and cassava as well as oriental favorites such as spring rolls and wonton, there's an a-la-carte menu that sees dishes such as tofu with ginger and spring onion sitting happily alongside Caldo Verde (traditional Portuguese soup made with greens, potato and sausage) and mains that range from stir-fried noodles and vegetables to Brazilian feijoada. To wash it down, you might want to try a Portuguese cherry or bitteralmond liqueur, or stick to Brazilian tradition with a caiprinha.

Recommended for Vegetarian because: The vegetarian dishes on the menu here are some of the most interesting in Rio.

Lucy's expert tip: Overlooked by tourists, this intimate little restaurant is a good place to ditch the crowds at lunchtime

Read more about Fat Choi →


The name - which translates as 'cauliflower' in English, may not sound hugely appetising for meat lovers, but this upmarket buffet restaurant is a real find for fussy eaters and groups with diverse culinary wants and needs - it offers over 20 different salads daily, along with sushi, freshly-prepared pasta dishes and sizzling steaks at the meat grill. A firm favourite with the well-to-do local residents, it makes a great option for lunch after a visit to the famous botanical gardens that give this attractive neighborhood its name. There's a decent selection of wines by the bottle or glass, too.

Read more about Couve Flor →


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Cultivar Brazil
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


This little gem of a lunchspot at the heart of Santa Teresa is a real treasure trove of tastiness for anybody with an aversion to gluten or a preference for natural, organic ingredients. Alongside a range of wholemeal sweet and savory tarts and pies and some yummy sandwiches, there are gluten-free cakes, tarts (try the palm-heart and yogurt) and a mini-store stocked with a range of pastas, biscuits and other goodies to take away. In addition, Cultivar Brazil serves unarguably the best Pao de Queijo (little cheese breads made with manioc flour), here made with organic ingredients. It´s worth waiting until a batch comes fresh out of the oven - these little golden beauties are at their best served piping hot;

Recommended for Vegetarian because: Cultivar Brazil makes eating organic, meat-free food feel like a treat rather than chore.

Lucy's expert tip: You won't see a local enter here without ordering Acai, Pao de Queijo, or both. Order these treats yourself and you'll understand why.

Read more about Cultivar Brazil →




Located a few blocks from Ipanema beach and right next door to the strip of backpacker lodgings dubbed 'Hostel Alley', this health food store, buffet restaurant and snack bar offers a huge range of wholesome ingredients for self caterers as well as a range of eat-in dishes that are every bit as tasty as they are nutritious. While there is plenty of choice here for vegetarians, New Natural is not entirely meat-free, with low-fat chicken and fish putting in a few appearances on the menu. The buffet operates on a pay-by-weight system, and prices here, while on the high side, are reasonable for the neighborhood. There's an air conditioned lounge upstairs and a couple of sidewalk tables and chairs, making New Natural a favourite spot among backpackers looking for a quick, healthy lunch.

Recommended for Vegetarian because: The largely-veggie buffet at New Natural is top spot for a meat-free lunch or dinner.

Lucy's expert tip: Don't feel like a sit-down meal? There's a range of takeaway snacks too, among which the oven baked, wholemeal pasties are stand outs. The palmito (palm heart) with soft cheese version is addictively good.

Read more about New Natural →




This downtown vegetarian lunch spot is slightly hidden above a backstreet store, but it's well worth seeking out. A popular choice with local workers - whether veggie or just looking for a healthy and budget-friendly lunch. Each day there's a set meal - including a soup, main, drink and healthy dessert, while the buffet also offers a staggering array of tempting healthy options - including colorful salads, wholegrain rice, lentils and beans in various incarnations, and even meat-free versions of classic Brazilian dishes such as feijoada. It's not entirely vegan - cheese and eggs get a look in, but there are plenty of vegan options.

Recommended for Vegetarian because: Restaurante Green is one of Rio's most established vegetarian restaurants, and has built up a loyal clientele among health-conscious locals.

Lucy's expert tip: Come here hungry - the meals may be meat-free, but they're filling, and there are a lot of tempting buffet options.

Read more about Green →




Indian food is hard to come by in Rio, so this this little lunch spot downtown is a welcome addition to the city's gastronomic scene. The dishes are less than authentically 'Indian' - there's a vegan version of the classic Brazilian dish feijoda on offer each week - but are Indian-inspired. Each day there are two set menus - at least one of which is usually vegan - comprising a small starter and main, and a choice of hot and cold Indian teas. The first floor restaurant is reached via a stairwell strewn with rose petals, and on entering, a waft of incense alerts you to the fact that this is not your standard Brazilian restaurant. Sitar music (sometimes live) adds to the 'Indian' theme, and veggies and vegans will appreciate the opportunity to tuck in with gusto. Portions are large, and prices are reasonable.

Recommended for Vegetarian because: A pleasant ambiance, tasty and filling veggie food, and vegan options make this a winner with meat-free visitors to Rio.

Lucy's expert tip: If you've ever wondered what an Indian-inspired, vegan version of the classic Brazilian feijoada tastes like, come here on a Friday lunch time to find out.

Read more about Veggie Govinda →


Creative organic vegan dishes are on the menu at this spick and span little Botafogo eatery, which also offers home-made vegan ice cream and other treats. There are two set menus each day - one of which is always gluten-free - with some daily options varying according to which locally-sourced vegetables are at their best that day. There are other staples, which crop up on a revolving weekly basis on the menu, with a firm favourite being a savory tofu roll with a chickpea - 'pastry'. It's a little off the tourist track in residential Botafogo, but just a short walk from the metro and well worth seeking out.

Read more about Vegan Vegan →


This cozy little spot is renowned as one of Rio's best vegetarian joints, and has a plum location close to the train stations for rides up to the Christ statue. Along with delicious fresh juices and meat-free sandwiches and snacks, Prana has a daily set lunch menu, usually with a vegan and gluten free option. The dishes - such as a mushroom 'bobo' (creamy stew made with coconut and, usually, shrimp) are typically served with fried collard greens and wholegrain rice, alongside inventive sides such as baked green banana with an almond crust. Prices are extremely fair, considering the quality, attention to detail and the location in prime tourist territory.

Read more about Prana →


Whether you're a staunch vegetarian, a health-food enthusiast or even a carnivore who has tucked into one steak too many, this cosy corner restaurant in Leblon is just the ticket. Healthfood and organic eating is a growing sector of Rio's dining scene, but this Leblon favorite was one of the first to open, and is still unarguably one of the best. At lunch, diners can load their plates high at a wholefood buffet including soups, salads, beans, rice, soya dishes and a range of healthy pies and pastries for a set price, while a-la-carte options are available in the evening. The vegan version of 'feijaoda', the usually-meaty national dish, made here with smoked tofu, is legendary.

Read more about Vegetariano Social Clube →


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Meet Lucy Bryson

Lucy is a British freelance writer living in Rio de Janeiro since 2007. While there are some things she misses about her home country, the lure of year-round sunshine has proved too powerful to resist.

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