Vegan in Ukraine

One evening I spent with a table full of locals, including a variety of dietary preferences, trying to think of a Ukrainian dish that was ordinarily vegan. The criteria being that you could walk into any Ukrainian restaurant and order it without modification. Nobody could come up with anything. The closest we got was borsch without meat - nobody was sure how common it would be, but seemed fairly confident you can request it without. And you need to make sure they leave it to you to add sour cream, and don't dollop it on for you. Someone said they were sure in some places varenyky (dumplings) must be vegan, but I understood the traditional recipe for the dough to involve both eggs and sour cream.

Nonetheless, there were a handful of lovely vegan cafes in Odes and Lviv, so I did not starve to death.

Vegano Hooligano (Odesa)

There are two branches, though I only visited the one closest to the train station. The food is healthy Asian-inspired-fusion. A variety of soups, wraps, burgers, salad bowls and cakes, featuring lots of tofu. Also an extensive drinks and breakfast menu. I ate in a couple of times and took food to go on the train. There's an English menu, and one of the waiters was very friendly and happy to speak English. There's power and wifi, and plenty of seating, and they take card.

Close up of the contents of a tortilla wrap stuffed with green veggies and beans, with another one in the background A wooden table with a black bowl containing smoothie, nuts and seeds, beside a hot chocolate in a tall glass Two halves of a tortilla wrap on a black tray, on a table beside a purple smoothie in a glass and an espresso in a white cup and saucer A cluster of white crockery; a teapot, plate with a chocolate brownie and a teacup with gold liquid, from above A pink shop front with 'Vegano Hooligano' on a sign, with a glass door down some concrete steps

Zelen (Odesa)

A vegetarian cafe near the train station... which was not open during the hours on happycow.

True (Odesa)

A fancy feeling place, pescatarian, with everything well labelled and an emphasis on health. Lots of raw dishes, and many of those containing honey can be veganised.

I took the waitress's recommendation and ate a very delicious mushroom steak with lentils. It was a pretty big portion. Also latte with hazelnut milk.

Restaurant interior with a big window to the left; wodden tables and plastic seats with a few people towards the back of the room; lights and flowers hanging from the ceiling and flowers on the tables White ceramic dish with large slices of cooked mushroom beside a pile of lentils and flaxseeds, with green sprouts scattered on top Ceramic coffee cup with creamy foam in the top, two black sugar packets crisscrossed, standing on a place setting and menus

Agrus (Lviv)

A vegan (except for occasional honey) bakery 30 seconds from my hostel. I had breakfast here several times and afternoon snacks too. There is a lot of space, power and wifi, and they also sell various eco products like bags. On one occasion I also took a pie to go for lunch later. A welcoming atmosphere, and the food is very good quality.

From above, a long dish with a spoon, brown sugar cubes and star shaped cookies, next to a cup containing coffee Long white dish with lots of lettuce, two round pieces of bread spread with cashew cheese, topped with tomato, sprouts and lettuce, all scattered with black sesame seeds Colourful paper breakfast and summer menus Colourful paper menus for tarts, soups, salads and desserts Colourful paper menu for pastries, ice cream, juices and smoothies Inside a cafe painted blue with wooden tables, white seats and a counter with jars on A cardboard box with a pie inside; the pie has a cheesy filling, a fork sticking in and tomato slices on top A tall glass containing golden tea and lemon slices next to an apricot popsicle covered in chopped nuts An empty table with a glass of grapefruit juice to the right A bowl with slices of bananas and plums and some granola buried underneath, next to a jar of coconut yoghurt

Omnomnom (Lviv)

All vegan with a nice vibe in the evening, and extensive menu. I regret that I only went once. I ate a burger; it was good, but I should have ordered fries too. The burger had pickles including pickled ginger which was fantastic; and an omnivore at the table revealed he hadn't realised the cheese is vegan. The hotdogs look amazing.

Close up side view of a burger tower; bread with spinach, patty, thick slice of vegan cheese, pickles and salad Flasky pastry tart on a white plate with a fork. The tart is full of pear and drizzled with shiny caramel sauce Restaurant interior with white painted or bare brick walls, neon lights and shelves of drinks behind the counter Top view of a foamy coffee drink, next to a napkin and sugar packets Two shelves of a glass cabinet containing pies and flapjacks on plates, and mango chia pudding in glasses

I also tried peanut milk for the first time here! In a flat white. Great. Pear tart with caramel sauce was a delicious dessert.

Dogs Like Ducks (Lviv)

A small hotdog place with power and wifi but fairly minimal seating. A very friendly atmosphere. Also great hotdogs! They're quite small; I ate one which included beans as a topping. Good for more of a snack than a full meal I think, but only 55 UAH (about 1.50EUR) each. They also have some healthy raw cakes, homemade lemonade and milkshakes, and a few vegan groceries for sale.

A blackboard saying 'coffee, lemonades, 107% vegan' A white and brick wall with a shelf and high stools, and a green painted sign saying '107% vegan dogs' A wooden table with a glass of milkshake and a small chocolatey cake on cardboard tray Close up of a smal hotdog in a bun, smothered with beans and spring onion, in brown paper Round chocolate cake in a paper wrapper, with a spiral of frosting

Green (Lviv)

A fairly large restaurant with more of an upscale vibe and no wifi. They have a really varied menu, all vegetarian with vegan labelled. Fortunately I went with a large group so I got to sample several things. For myself I chose the most unusual dish on the menu; a foamy sponge ball with cashew cheese and vegetables in the center, with salty bubbly not-caviar on top.

They have interesting fruit cocktails, which can be requested without honey or sugar, as well as some fantastic raw desserts.

A glass containing red fruity liquid with bits floating in it on the right, on the edge of a table From above, a round dish with corn chips around the edge and a small ball of hummus in the middle The torso of a woman in a red check shirt is visible behind a large cocktail glass full of something creamy and an icecream sundae with chocolate and wafers A white plate with a bed of lettuce, curls of carrot, and a brown sponge ball with tiny orange jelly balls of fake caviar A large pizza with seitan, tomato, vegan cheese, scattered greens A table with dishes of tasty food and people tucking in

They have a large range of groceries to buy in the entrance as well.

Little Green (Lviv)

Owned by the same people as Green, but with a completely different menu and vibe. Still no wifi though. Thai noodles and soup are good options, and they have several pitas with seitan and tofu.

A plastic bowl containing soup full of vegetables and sesame seeds, with a glass bottle of apple juice in the background

Marusia (Lviv)

This is cheap fast food, Ukrainian style. Lots of kinds of dumplings, including a hummus filled one which is ostensibly vegan. Not quite traditional, but at least I got to try varenyky. Pretty good, well seasoned with paprika and very filling.

A paper menu with dumplings, salad, borsch and drinks Menu and shelf behind a counter, with drinks and boxes, all in Ukranian A paper tray with oily brown dumplings, paprika, and a dollop of hummus on top

Other stuff

Lviv and Odesa are both absolutely bursting with cute coffee shops, stands, and windows. None of them have plant milk on the menu, but most of them carry soya, almond and even hazelnut if you ask for it. Probably best to learn the Ukrainian (in Lviv) and Russian (in Odesa) words for these to be on the safe side.

Ukraine is pretty damn good at bread, so dropping into a bakery for some interesting rye or fruity loaf can be a good snack option. Many bakeries also offer coffee and wifi.

A reflecty glass window with wooden shelves of fresh bread An espresso cup in the foreground on the right, with an out of focus bakery in the background White coffee cup with half-drunk Americano on a dark wooden table From above, a paper cup with coffee, almond milk and ice cubes, over a sunny pavement A plastic cup with brown bubbly foamy liquid

I tried kвас (kvass), a traditional drink made from fermented rye bread (non-alcoholic). It's sweetened to varying degrees with fruit or sugar. I had some handy locals in Lviv to directy me to a place where it wouldn't be too sweet. Apparently we don't trust the old ladies selling it from sketchy barrels on the side of Castle Hill. It tastes like across between coca cola and beer.. but like in a good way. In any case it was very refreshing on a hot day.

What else did I do in Ukraine?

🏷 ukraine vegan food travel