Someone I met while travelling in Cuba told me “we are not here to eat” when I was complaining about the food, and lack of options…. and sadly for someone like me that likes food, its true… because travelling as a vegan in Cuba can be difficult.
But on a positive note, food it’s ridiculously cheap and they have the most delicious fruit.
Just keep in mind that restaurants aimed at tourists have prices in CUC. Restaurants aimed at Cubans also called peso restaurants, have prices in CUP. more about it here
The cheapest options are at street-side stores. They normally have sandwiches, pizza, rice with beans, pasta, natural fruit juice and coffee, but not all the options at the same time.
If you’re planning to travel to Cuba here is everything you need to know to travel on a budget
Where to eat
In Cuba, there are two types of places to eat like a local, the state-run restaurants and the particulares (private restaurant).
Being the particulares a bit more expensive than the state-run restaurants but not by much. It’s like instead of paying 1 dollar for your meal you will pay 2.
Cooking your own food it’s not an option here, but you can do what we did, that was adding fruit and/or veggies to your meals like avocado, mango, tomato and ask at the restaurants to cut it for you.
Fresh juices are amazing and very cheap. The best option is to have an empty water bottle with you and ask them to refill it with juice (1,2,3.. cups). This is very common between locals.
Being Vegan in Cuba
Being vegan in Cuba can be very hard when you are travelling on your own, on a budget and off the beaten path.
Both state-run restaurants and the particulares are not abundant and have a very limited offer of 1 to 2 dishes.
Eating at the casas particulares, is always an option as well. The hosts will happily cook something for you but will be no different from the things you can eat outside.
How to survive as a vegan in Cuba
Fresh fruit is by far one of the top foods you can eat in Cuba. The most common are guavas, papayas, pineapples, bananas, mangoes, avocados, mamoncillo and coconuts.
Carrying a knife is truly a lifesaver because you can just eat fruits and some veggies when you want.
The morning is the best time to buy seasonal fruit and vegetables. Cubans sell them on street carts near the road or on the markets.
Vegan options in Cuba
Here is a list of the most common ingredients/dishes, that you should know if you don’t speak Spanish. Knowing some basic Spanish its essential when travelling through non-tourist places.
- arroz (rice)
- ensalada (salad)
- frijoles (beans)
- arroz morro or moros y cristianos (black beans + rice)
- fruta (fruit)
- maduros (fried sweet plantains)
- tostones (fried green plantains)
- Yuca frita or cassava (a root vegetable)
- pan (bread)
- papas (potatoes)
- Batido (milkshake) *not vegan
- jugo natural (natural fruit juice)
- Cucurucho (desert with coconut and pineapple)
- Pasteles dulces (bakery)
- mani (peanuts)
Veganism in the big cities
More touristic places, like Havana, Trinidad or Viñales will have better options than the rest of the country because they have some touristic infrastructures and some vegan-friendly restaurants.
Cuba was one of the hardest countries to eat well as a vegan. You will definitely not going to starve but you will get fed up to eat the same food every day, especially if you are travelling like me for a long period of time.
I’ve read that the Vegan Movement is starting to appear in Cuba especially in Havana so things might change in the future.
photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha
Read – Part 1 for information about money and prices.
Read – Part 2 for information about transports, internet, scams, packing, entertainment and when to visit Havana.