The very best restaurants in Beijing for enjoying a meat-free meal

Chinese Meals:

Nearly every Chinese restaurant offers vegetarian options. Chinese meals are designed to have one meat dish and several vegetarian dishes of differing properties. One bitter, one sweet, one bold and one cleansing. Ideally, you'll also have a staple like rice of noodles with your meal. Thus, you can still have a group meal as a vegetarian without having to order your own platter. Check out Dao or the Golden Cat Dumpling City for vegetarian meals that will suit even a picky group of diners.


Beijing's cafes are happy to offer vegetarian options, especially for lunch. Le Cafe Igosso, Cafe Samba and Made in China all offer great little vegetarian options for lunch or a light dinner. The great thing about cafes is their propensity to offer healthy options plus a little bit of a more relaxed vibe. You'll find sandwiches, soups, and appetizers all free of meat at any of these delightful cafes.

International Cuisine:

Cheff Too, an American eatery, has a few healthy vegetarian options on the menu that will make you smile. If you need a taste of the homeland without compromising and chowing down on a burger, then this little restaurant. For a taste of Mexico, hit Peter's Tex Mex for a delicious vegetarian burrito or taco. Or Nuage, a Vietnamese restaurant, offers delicious cuisine with some vegetarian options, plus a great view of the lake. Or take a stroll down fusion lane with a dip of the vegetarian options at The Courtyard or La Taverne. Finally, the vegetarian sushi rolls at Hatsune will drive you up a wall. Don't miss out on the best dining in the city just because you're avoiding meat. These options, and others, are happy to cater to your moral choice to avoid the flesh of other animals.


Fresh sashimi and long sushi rolls are the favorite fare at this modern Japanese restaurant. Highly recommended is the 119 Roll, with bright red tuna topped with a divine spicy-sweet sauce. Hatsune offers an inexpensive fixed price lunch on weekdays and a lunch buffet at weekends.

Local Expert tip: The veggie rolls are to die for.

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Nicely decorated eatery with a definite Texan-Mexican theme. Burritos, fajitas, tacos and enchiladas compete with grilled chicken, burgers, barbecue and fries. Pleasant family atmosphere. There's a second branch at Hairun International Condominium, near the Holiday Inn Lido (5135 8187).

Local Expert tip: The bean burritos are especially delicious!

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Beijingers love "jiaozi" (dumplings), and they come here in throngs for the choice of no less than 30 different fillings at this simple yet delightful courtyard diner. From traditional pork, fish, lamb and beef to pumpkin and eggplant, some dumplings are spiced with dill, fennel and chives.

Local Expert tip: You can't hit Beijing without trying the jiaozi, and this place has one of the widest arrays of dumplings in Beijing.

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La Taverne

If you are looking for a modest French bistro, cozy and inexpensive, then La Taverne will be the one. Dishes are generally not as rich and creamy as at other French restaurants in Beijing. Recommendations include the pan-fried sea bass, the fondue, and the cold cuts and cheeses. Reasonably priced wine is also on the menu.

Local Expert tip: Sit outside for a more delightful, authentic Beijing experience.

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An open-kitchen restaurant specializing in Beijing cuisine, located inside one of the city's major hotels. All the local street food is served here, except that it's guaranteed fresh and elegantly presented. Try some of the small dishes as appetizers - oder dou zhi (fermented bean puree), ma doufu (mashed soybean), and zhajiang mian (wheat noodles with black bean mince). Peking duck and Beggar's chicken are the pick of the entrees.

Local Expert tip: An affordable local favorite, avoid the lunch rush as that's when the locals and expats swarm the place daily.

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This Vietnamese restaurant is a bit overpriced, but nevertheless an excellent location for a full night on the town, with a dancehall-cum-jazz club downstairs. The rooftop offers beautiful views over Houhai Lake whereas the first floor can be quite raucous at times. The Vietnamese dishes themselves are exquisite, but portions are small. Try the grilled "la lop" leaf beef and the seafood salad.

Local Expert tip: Sit on the rooftop for a beautiful view of the lake.

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Chef Too Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Chef Too

A modest diner gaining repute in Beijing for its steaks, which are some of the best in the capital. Try the filet mignon or the pork chops. Salads are fresh and the desserts are homemade. Chef Too does a great Sunday brunch too and is popular with expats.

Local Expert tip: Try the Sunday brunch!

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One of Beijing's best-known and most exquisite restaurants, The Courtyard is often described as specializing in fusion cuisine; however a more apt title would be "East meets West" cuisine. The menu features treats such as jumbo shrimp with lemongrass-caramel glace, foie gras brûlée, cashew crusted lamb chops, and sea bass with pickled bell peppers. There's also an excellent selection of wine available. The Courtyard is ideally located at the east gate of the Forbidden City and offers diners a precious view. As you would expect, the interior of the restaurant is elegant, the walls decked with contemporary Chinese art. There's also a cigar room and a small basement art gallery.

Local Expert tip: In summer, sit outside where the patio gives you full advantage of the venue's charm.

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Chaoyang East District
Le Cafe Igosso

After so many rice dishes in Beijing, you might find yourself with an aching for pasta. This cute little Italian is located at an ugly junction, but is lovely inside. You are invited to sip a cocktail or a martini in the second floor bar while browsing the menu. Both the chef and the owner are Japanese, so seafood dishes are delicious. Try the seafood pesto salad and either the seabream or beef carpaccio. The mustard roast duck is excellent as are the pasta specials. A modest selection of wine is available. On weekends, this small restaurant has live jazz music.

Local Expert tip: A great retreat for seafood or brunch on weekends.

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Ever heard of Taoist cuisine? Well, apparently, the Zhengyi school of Taoism in Sichuan province created vegetarian dishes for longevity and virility. Now they have brought the mystic recipes to Beijing. Set inside an old archway, you'll find a Taoist prayer hall where set meals are served (150 CNY). The meal includes fresh dumplings, red bean rolls, medicinal herbs and ... liver and pork dishes!

Local Expert tip: A romantic, delightful cafe with a Taoist vibe. Arrive early for dinner and bring a date!

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Meet Lauren Johnson

Lauren has been living in Asia for the past five years. She holds a master's degree in Asian history. Lauren spends her free time reading, writing and traveling and visiting zoos in every city possible.