Staff Writer Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the senior content writer and operations manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests o…See full bio
A juicy, “beefy” patty sits atop a perfectly fluffy hamburger bun piled high with crispy onions, American “cheese”, tangy barbecue sauce, crisp lettuce, and fresh tomato slices. This savory burger is complemented by nearby buffalo wings, caramelized onion fries, and a peanut butter shake—culminating in a San Diego vegan dinner that could satisfy even the pickiest meat-eater, pescatarian, or vegetarian.
There are endless reasons to seek out San Diego’s best vegan food, from protecting the environment, to advocating for animal welfare, to living a healthier lifestyle. Today, the plant-based movement is stronger than ever, so it’s even easier to enjoy the robust flavors of California’s produce—and 2020’s vegan cuisine is a far cry from the unappetizing pile of carrots, unseasoned stir fry, or incomplete protein burger you may be picturing; there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy.
Check out our favorite vegan food in San Diego before you finalize your weekend plans, and get ready to cut your carbon footprint with these New Year’s resolution–approved eateries.
With five Southern California locations (Ocean Beach, Encinitas, Long Beach, Redlands, and San Diego State University), Plant Power Fast Food is changing the way we think about fast-casual dining. The eatery specializes in burgers, fries, and shakes, with additional options including breakfast foods, salads, wraps, and raw tacos.
In addition to featuring an entirely plant-based menu, this San Diego
vegan fast-food joint makes everything without GMOs or artificial ingredients and serves its items in biodegradable packaging—so it is an incredibly sustainable choice. Can’t make it to one of the Plant Power Fast Food locations? Check the weekly food-truck schedule to find the vegan fare on the streets.
What to order: “The Classic ‘Cheeseburger’ ” or buffalo wings, “Iconic Fries”, and a seasonal kombucha float.
Soulshine crafts healing food—solely using vegan, organic, and non-GMO ingredients—making it an ideal spot for lunch, brunch, and vegan breakfast in San Diego. Like the name implies, this Mission Beach eatery is designed to lift your spirits; from the colorful, art-filled walls to the savory and flavorful plant-based foods, Soulshine will leave you feeling rejuvenated.
What to order: Hot cacao, spiced lentil and quinoa tacos, and a turmeric juice shooter.
Native Foods may have been founded in Palm Springs back in 1994, but since then, it has become a hot spot for vegan food in San Diego (and beyond). With a from-scratch kitchen, fully plant-based menu (no dairy, animal products, or honey to be found here), and as many organic ingredients as possible, Native Foods offers up dozens of items you can feel good about eating.
Native Foods is one of the most versatile vegan restaurants in San Diego, so whether you’re in the mood for a jalapeño burger, a cauliflower chickpea Shawarma wrap, Thai chili brussels sprouts, or a taco salad, the eatery’s got you covered.
What to order: The Southern-fried, made-with-plants chicken “Soul Bowl”; a California burrito (you are in San Diego, after all); or the “Poppin’ Jalapeño Burger Combo” with a lavender lemonade.
Café Gratitude sources its nutrient-rich ingredients from local farmers and artisanal producers, which means the cuisine is typically more flavorful than other vegan and vegetarian restaurants in San Diego. And since the eatery supports sustainable and regenerative agriculture—along with environmentally friendly practices—you can enjoy every bite of your coconut calamari, black bean burger, and enchiladas without worrying about creating a negative impact.
What to order: Buffalo cauliflower, mushroom carnitas Mexican bowl, and passion fruit agua fresca.
When it comes to vegan brunch in San Diego, it doesn’t get much better than the drool-worthy concoctions at Donna Jean. The buttermilk biscuits and country gravy makes you wonder why you ever ate animal products, while the tofu scramble provides plenty of energy to explore Coronado. Come back later in the day to experience the comforts of focaccia rossa bread with garlic butter, handmade gnocchi, cast -iron mac and cheese, and “Thunder Kiss” pizza—they’ll rock your world.
What to order: Anything on the menu. The pasta and pizza are particularly delicious, but don’t overlook the prix fixe menus.
Evolution Fast Food is a must-try because it was the original San Diego vegan drive-thru. The eatery features a traditional fast -food menu, complete with burgers, salads, burritos, and sides, making it a great place to take the whole family. Though many spots may claim to be among the best vegetarian restaurants San Diego, Evolution is the place to be if you’re looking for guilt-free, plant-based versions of your favorite foods.
What to order: “The Chicken” sandwich with vegan ranch and buffalo sauce; “Loaded Fries” with cheddar, bacon, and ranch; and a cacao-strawberry shake.
Trilogy Sanctuary is a holistic wellness space with an incredible café in La Jolla. Whether you’re looking for a good yoga class, aerial teacher training, or quick smoothie, you’re bound to get more than you bargained for here.
The eatery is entirely organic, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and free of refined sugar, so your body is only getting what it needs. The award-winning cuisine covers everything from breakfast through dessert, so perusing the menu takes longer than you might expect.
What to order: The “Heavenly” smoothie, buffalo cauliflower wings or buffalo cauliflower tacos with a side of guacamole, and a jumbo peanut butter cup.
Did we miss your favorite vegan restaurants in San Diego? Let us know what to try in the comments below. And if you’re traveling to San Francisco, make sure to check out the Bay Area’s best vegan restaurants, too.
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