Skip Navigation

Being Vegetarian in South America....Easy or Difficult?

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Being Vegetarian in South America....Easy or Difficult?

1. Posted by shpatel (Budding Member 9 posts) 10y

I'm sure its possible but will it be difficult to get vegetarian meals at restaurants. I'll be in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile for most of my visit.

2. Posted by solveig (Full Member 53 posts) 10y

I'm answering only for Brazil as I live here. Yes, it is difficult, but not impossible. What you have to realize is that brazilians in general do not understand the concept vegetaring and thus would include chicken, fish and even small amounts of beef in their definition of a vegetarian dish. Therefore, either go to a truely vegetarian restaurant - there are a few of them and mainly only in big cities, or you really have to make it clear to the waiter that you don't eat any kind of meat (including fish, chickenetc) or even animal products in small amounts. Even so it might be difficult for the waiter/chef to understand since the vegetarian-concept doesn't exist here and also brazilians are very easygoing so they would think that a little meat or gravy boiled on meat will for sure not harm you. If you are strictly vegetarian the best is to stick to dished (salad, etc) that you know are free of animal products.

cheers, Sol

3. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 10y

In Argentina it's no problem. Buenos Aires has such a wide scope of restaurants that you'll easily find something to your liking; in the rest of the country, most places frequented by travellers offer at least one or two no-meat options.

4. Posted by findemundo (Full Member 127 posts) 10y

You've heard about Brazil and Argentina - I'll throw in a word about Chile. As one of the most industrialized nations in South America, it also has one of the most varied diets. I successfully managed to travel the length (and what little width there is) of Chile eating a vegetarian diet. You'll find lots of veggie entres on most restaurant menus, and in Santiago, there are some exclusively vegetarian restaurants.

One word of caution. In English, we use the word meat for all animal flesh. In Spanish, the direct translation, "carne" generally refers to beef only. So, if you ask a waiter if a dish contains "carne," and he says no, it's possible it will come back with chicken. The best way to be sure you are getting a totally vegetarian dish is to ask if it contains "carne, pollo o puerco."

I know you aren't headed to Bolivia, but it's interesting to note that when you get well off the Gringo Trail, the concept of "vegetarianism" is completely foreign. And in Argentina, not to eat the beef, especially if it's been prepared at a local's house, is to risk serious offense.

5. Posted by snatterand (Travel Guru 454 posts) 10y

I have to say that even though it's possible to find vegetarian dishes in most places, I got extremely fed up with eating cheese, only cheese and nothing but cheese! I spent 8 months travelling most of the countries in South America, and my choices were pizza, empanadas (stuffed fried pastry, they come in lots of versions but I went for the cheese option) or pan de queso (literally "cheese bread"). Lucky for me, I eat fish too, but I didn't always feel like eating fish and the fish wasn't always very good (I got sick from fish once). So, after 6 months or so I ended up eating chicken every now and then. I think I had to, my whole body told me to eat something else than CHEESE!!!

But it all depends on how long you'll be gone. It's defenitely possible to survive, and I have to add that there's some awesome Italian food in Argentina. I mean, the pizza isn't just pizza, it's good pizza. And you can have good salads and pasta too. Just remember - as everyone above allready said - to explain that you want it "sin carne, jamón y pollo".

Qué significa "puerco"?

//Susanna

6. Posted by numero1 (Respected Member 295 posts) 10y

Being a vegetarian in Argentina es muy deficil. And the vegetarian options in eating places there are never the best options on the menu. I'm not a ham eater myself, and I used to get particularly annoyed when I'd order a pizza sin jamón, and it would turn up con jamón I lost count of the number of times this was done to me in Argentina.

7. Posted by chilmont (First Time Poster 1 posts) 10y

puerco literally means = pig

8. Posted by findemundo (Full Member 127 posts) 10y

A few replies to Susanna. Puerco is pig, but can be used as pork also, which I used to make sure I included ham, bacon, pork chops, etc :)

I'm impressed you ate so much cheese. I'm from Wisconsin, USA, know for our cheese (yes, I'm a cheesehead:) and while I'm open to eating just about anything once (heart of palm grubs, anyone?) for the most part, South American cheese stinks, and not in the nice blue cheese sort of way. Mind you, I didn't get to Bariloche, which I hear has a nice Swiss Colony that makes great cheese and chocolate (not at the same time).

Along my 11.5 months of traveling, I too at chicken once in a great while (hey, in Bolivia there are two main dishes, rice & chicken AND chicken & rice). But in all honesty, sometimes there was nothing else in the local market. I called it a detour from my normal eating habits and never regretted it.

9. Posted by snatterand (Travel Guru 454 posts) 10y

Quoting findemundo

I'm impressed you ate so much cheese. I'm from Wisconsin, USA, know for our cheese (yes, I'm a cheesehead:) and while I'm open to eating just about anything once (heart of palm grubs, anyone?) for the most part, South American cheese stinks, and not in the nice blue cheese sort of way.

Well, I didn't find it stinking, it was more like it didn't have any taste at all. All over Argentina you can have "Roquefort" cheese, which is what they call any blue cheese (not just real Roquefort), and which is quite alright. I got tired of that too, though! In Tafi del Valle, however, there is a yearly "Cheese Festival" that is world famous all over northern Argentina, and the cheese there is actually quite nice. Comes in different flavours, such as pepper, chili etc.

Quoting findemundo

Mind you, I didn't get to Bariloche, which I hear has a nice Swiss Colony that makes great cheese and chocolate (not at the same time).

Oh my god that choclate is crazy good!

//Susanna

Post 10 was removed by a moderator