Omitting all animal products from our diets is still a relatively new concept to many, so travelling as a vegan can be challenging. Traditional French cuisine heavily features meat and dairy, and you’d be forgiven for believing that being a vegan in France is difficult. However, plant-based diets are growing in popularity in France, with around 5% of citizens now living as vegans or vegetarians.
There’s been a surge in vegan restaurants and cafes in France during recent years, and the availability of plant-based proteins is on the rise. All this is making it easier than ever before to eat vegan in France. So, if you’re planning a trip to this scenic and culturally rich country, here are some top tips to help you eat vegan in France.
What is being a vegan in France like?
Being a vegan in France is easiest in larger cities, with Paris, Lyon, and Bordeaux known as the most vegan-friendly destinations. Paris has some renowned plant-based eateries, including VG Pâtisserie, which produces delicious vegan versions of classic French pastries and cakes, and is particularly well-known for its macarons.
For a quintessentially French experience, head to Jay & Joy, a deli that produces artisanal vegan cheeses that emulate the flavours and textures of the nation’s most beloved cheeses, such as brie and camembert. Le Potager du Marais specialises in vegan versions of classic French dishes such as onion soup and seitan bourguignon, making it a great choice for a savoury meal.
It can be harder to eat vegan in small French towns and rural areas where attitudes surrounding food are more traditional. While young people tend to be more open to veganism, or might already be practicing a vegan diet, older generations tend to believe that eating meat and dairy is essential for good health.
Despite this, perceptions of plant-based meat alternatives in France are generally good, with many considering them to be healthy and good for the planet. Health and environmental awareness seem to be important factors in driving veganism here, perhaps more so than ethical concerns about animal welfare.
Cook for yourself
If you have cooking facilities, a great way to eat vegan in France is to simply prepare your own food. France is renowned for its fresh produce, and you can find daily or weekly farmers markets in almost every city, town and village, where you can purchase high quality fruits and vegetables. Large supermarkets like Monoprix are your best option for stocking up on plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
Do your research before you go out to eat
It’s common for restaurants to list their menus online via their website or social media pages. If you can’t find menus online, look for reviews for clues as to what type of food restaurants serve. Many restaurants in France change their menu daily or weekly depending on what is available, but all restaurants in France are required to post their menus outside, so you can always check what’s available before going in. You can find reviews via Google business profiles or on the likes of TripAdvisor and Yelp. There are also a number of apps to help you find good vegan eateries when you’re on the go.
HappyCow maintains a huge database of vegan restaurants all over the world, and it includes reviews and ratings from vegan diners. Foodsaurus translates food labels into your native language, which can make it easy to identify vegan products when you’re shopping for groceries.
Don’t just stick to classic French cuisine
France has a huge variety of fantastic restaurants serving international cuisines and fusion food. When you look outside of classic French cuisine you may have an easier time finding vegan dishes, especially those that are recognisable to you. Some of the best cuisines for vegans in France to try include Ethiopian, Lebanese, and Algerian. Just make sure that you check with your server that there aren’t any meat or dairy products in the sauces or stocks.
Sometimes it can be easier to find vegan options at international chain restaurants rather than local independent businesses. Chains have familiar options, and they often list their ingredients and nutritional information online. This is ideal if you’re in a hurry and want to grab something that is safely vegan without needing to research beforehand.
Learn some key phrases to explain that you’re vegan
It’s important to know how to communicate your dietary requirements for situations where you’re unsure of the ingredients in a dish. The French word for vegan is végétalien(ne), so you could say, “Je suis végétalien(ne).” (Végétalien for men, végétalienne for women.)
You can also learn how to list the things you don’t eat, such as, “Je ne mange pas de produits animaux,” (I do not eat animal products) or “Je ne mange pas de miel, oeufs, ou laitage” (I do not eat honey, eggs, or dairy). It’s helpful to learn the French words for common animal by-products so you can check ingredient lists when shopping.
Enjoy your visit
As a whole, France is a beautiful and exciting place to visit, so don’t let your dietary requirements put you off from exploring the historical and cultural thrills of this country. With a little online help, and with veganism growing in popularity across the world, eating as a vegan in France is more than achievable.