We’ve learned a few things about eating vegan tapas in Madrid after moving there in 2016.
The vegan scene in Madrid is bursting from the seams with incredible vegan Spanish food (over 40 all-vegan places). You just couldn’t possibly try them all in one visit, so we aim to help those planning a visit, and those newly transplanted, to the Spanish capital.
The scene here is getting so big, that even top publications that have no business with veganism are looking to cash in on the vegan fervor. And worse, they provide shitty, embarrassingly sparse and dishonest “vegan guides”. According to some of these publications on the front page of googling “vegan tapas in Madrid”, your vegan options are but a handful of places (of which half are vegetarian). These “guides” offer nothing helpful nor substantial, with vapid, uninspired, overly positive opinions of places that they clearly never tried.
We are here to set the score straight – Madrid has one of the best, and one of our favorite vegan scenes out of many major European cities – click to see our list here of the most vegan-friendly cities in Europe – see how Madrid keeps climbing the ranks!
Not only that, this is a vegan guide for the vegan-curious and vegans, written by vegans, who actually have lived in and explored the vegan scene in Madrid since 2016. We want nothing more than for you to have an amazing vegan experience in Madrid.
By the way, in case you’re looking for the best of the not just tapas but everything vegan there is to know, plus neighborhood tips, and more, check out our book, The Madrid Vegan Guidebook.
Those interested in the Spanish evening tradition of going out for tapas and want our personal recommendations on the best spots to get vegan tapas in Madrid, read on.
A Brief Tapas Primer – What You Should Know about Spanish Tapas
Going out for tapas means getting free food with your drink.
No, you didn’t read that wrong.
Many international “Spanish” places (especially in America) have missed one of the biggest draws of tapas – the free tapita (mini tapa) that comes with your drink, often called an aperitivo.
With every drink you buy, whether it’s a caña (a half pint of beer), a glass of wine, or cocktail, you’ll usually receive a light snack. Lunch is the biggest meal in Spain, so dinner is a smaller, more shared, para picar (pick at) affair.
The Spanish drinking culture isn’t about slamming it back until falling face down into a sewer drain (all the sloppy drunks you’ll see will likely be other visitors). They like to eat while they drink, which helps mediate alcohol intake. So going out for tapas refers to not only going out for food but drinks as well. However, each person does not get their own entree – it’s about ordering the sharing plates called raciones.
General Tapa Rules of Conduct
A general rule of thumb is this: order your drinks first and wait for aperitivos. If they come, have a couple more drinks and each subsequent aperitivo will likely upgrade in quality. If nothing comes, then get ready order a ración or two depending on the size of your entourage. Sometimes you’ll get aperitivos after you order.
Even in the most generous scenario, you will find it difficult to fill up on these aperitivos alone in Madrid (for massive free tapas you’ll have to go to the city of Granada and eat the generously-sized free vegan tapas there). You may want more than just small plates of olives and chips (the usual accidentally veggie tapas in Madrid).
Raciones are larger sharing plates that you can order. These may be anywhere from 4 – 12 euros, depending on the quality and quantity of food. While patatas bravas (fried potato chunks smothered in red pepper sauce) are cheap and plentiful, croquetas (ovoid-shaped breadcrumb covered fried creaminess) can cost a euro a piece.
Also know that for great vegan tapas in Madrid, stick to the vegan places. Don’t expect nonvegan spots to offer you anything beyond the aforementioned olives and chips.
And for more tips to navigate the vegan scene in Spain…Click Here for Our Top Ten Tips for Eating Vegan in Spain.
People generally start going out for tapas at 9 pm. However, you might want to go about half an hour earlier to get a head start. We suggest you do this – unless you like extremely crowded places with no seats. Some of these spots are small bars and get crowded quickly. Others are restaurants that you should probably reserve in advance.
Either way, nothing is open earlier than 8 pm on weekdays. On weekends some tapas restaurants may have already been open since lunchtime, and many places close on Sunday and Monday nights, so double-check hours, if they even have them posted (often bars don’t, but restaurants usually do). Expect places to close around 11 pm, 12 am.
How We Decide Who Wins Best Vegan Tapas in Madrid
Our sole criterion is simply this: appropriate price for the given quality of raciones. We don’t care how delicious the ración is if it costs nearly twice as much and is half the size of what other places serve. Bonus points if the place gives aperitivos with your drinks regardless of ordering raciones.
Of course, we have been to many more than what is featured in this article, but alas, not everyone can be the best, or the word would lose all meaning. Here our priority is the best 100% vegan places, as overwhelmingly the best vegan food is at the exclusively vegan spots. We don’t include nonvegan places that only have one or two solid dishes. We include those nonvegan places that offer a wide selection worth noting or provide an ambiance and experience worth going to that maybe other vegan places don’t have (especially true for the bars).
The following restaurants and bars are the ones we like the best, tend to frequent, impress even omnivore friends without fail, and can honestly recommend for vegan tapas in Madrid.
Price Guide: Compared to expensive NYC (or eating out in the U.S. in general), Madrid is much more affordable for a night out of eating and drinking.
A person can eat and drink for:
€ = 10 and under
€€ = 15 and under
€€€ = 15 and up
Also, GF = significant gluten free options.
Best Vegan Tapas in Madrid
There’s an impressive variety of great vegan tapas in Madrid so we are going to categorize them by themes so that you, dear reader, can decide whether you want something traditionally local, something international, or something in between.
Vegan Spanish Tapas
If you’re looking for a no-frills experience serving typical Spanish tapas made vegan, this section is for you! The following spots deliver vegan Spanish tapas in the bar/restaurant hybrid setting that is traditional of Spain.
B13 has been around some time and subsequently developed a hardcore following. The most vegan of vegans come here to feel like being vegan is just normal.
The food at B13 is housemade, rich, and indulgent. This is Spanish bar food veganized: bocadillos (sandwiches), tortilla española (potato omelet), or chorizo (smoked paprika sausage), and more typical favorites. While they do offer salads, the real stars of the show are the generously greasy grubs.
We always get a pincho de tortilla española (a piece of “Spanish omelet”), any of the hamburguesas (hamburger) or sandwiches, like the bocadillo de calamares (calamari sub sandwich) and bocadillo chorizo (chorizo sandwich). You can also get the calamari as a side that, of course, still comes with bread (everything comes with bread in Spain).
Patatas bravas, a very typical bar food of fried and peeled golden potato chunks, are generously topped with mayo and salsa brava (creamy red pepper sauce), while the homemade albóndigas (meatballs) are covered in tomato sauce and rest on a queen-sized bed of french fries. Virtually all the faux meats are expertly prepared. An impressive example: pollo al ajillo is garlicky “chicken” sauteed with olive oil and mushrooms ( ridiculously tender, chewy, and well seasoned).
Hearty portions, cheap prices, and high patronage means you should come early to fill up your belly and not plan to run a marathon until next morning.
Can’t Miss Tapas: pincho de tortilla (pictured above), ración de calamares, pollo al ajillo, la hamburguesa linda or anything else as we love the whole menu.
Note: despite this being a very “bar” style restaurant, including a bar where you order, it’s just too popular to accommodate standing room, so expect a line when you get there, even if you’re early and to have to grab a table, or your food to-go.
To sum this place up: Traditional Spanish tapas made vegan – but with a slight twist! Expect unconventional sauces and ingredients to create their veganized versions of Spanish bar staples.
This restaurant found its early beginnings as a blog and now all the recipes are available for you to try in real life. The usual Spanish bar tapas appear here, yet made with unconventional ingredients. Croquetas made with apple and eggplant. Tortilla formed with a calabaza (squash) base. Even the Vegatas, what they call their vegan bocatas (a baguette sandwich), are slathered in rich sauces. This is not typical of the mouth parching cured ham sandwiches that are the norm in Spain (meaning a sandwich does not come with dressing or sauce, lettuce, tomato, onions, or cheese, unless otherwise noted – literally salty dried meat and bread is the standard sandwich).
If you need more shareable plates than sandwiches, there are many appetizer style versions of the sandwiches and plates on offer. There’s even a taco tasting menu for two to three persons where you receive all the prepared ingredients, and stuff the tacos yourself.
Can’t Miss Tapas: pincho de tortilla, anything chorizo, las croquetas
They’ve got all the Spanish classics here: croquetas, tortilla, patatas bravas, cachopo (a dish from the region of Asturias), fideos (thin noodle dish), and more. Hakuna Matata also has a variety of internationally inspired dishes, like pizza, a few Moroccan dishes, and different desserts.
They used to be located quite far out of the center, but we’re happy to report that they have since moved much closer to the action, to the neighborhood of Chamberi.
Can’t Miss Tapas: patatas bravas, hamburguesa, escalopes, croquetas de seta. Don’t leave here without trying their Vegamisú (vegan tiramisu).
We love this small no-frills kitchen and counter spot. Recently it has become entirely vegan, and it’s always been mostly vegan. It’s a great chance to hang in the indoor market, the Mercado San Fernando in the barrio of Lavapies, where you’ll see crowds of locals and their children luxuriously lounging and chatting it up while patiently picking at their plates of tapas.
We heartily recommend the generous slab of lasaña (lasagna) and any tosta del díá (bread with toppings of the day). The miniburguer (sliders for 2.20 euros) with mayo, lettuce, and tomato have a soft bun and chewy homemade patty. You may want to order two. Their albóndigas de mijo (meatballs) are solid too. Just take a gander at the glass case counter and go for whatever looks delicious as daily specials are a typical part of the experience.
Can’t Miss Tapas: lasaña, miniburguer, tostas
Note: hours subject to Mercado’s schedule. The market gets crowded, so come early, or don’t expect a table to eat your tapas on.
Distrito Vegano €€, GF
This is a can’t miss spot we talk more about below, but know they have the best vegan tortilla and croquetas, but the rest of the menu veers away from typical Spanish bar food.
Loukanikos € – vegetarian
This socialist bar has damn good croquetas, patatas bravas (no mayo though sadly), salmorejo and other great Spanish classics, but one mostly comes here for the vibe – see more below.
Internationally Inspired Vegan Tapas in Madrid
Expect these places to mostly serve food heavily inspired by a variety of outside influences, yet still retaining some elements of Spanish cuisine. That means rarely spicy, seasoned with pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika), and drizzled with Spanish olive oil. This isn’t a bad thing, just something to be aware of. A lot of these places still have many classic Spanish dishes too!
Distrito Vegano €€, GF
We love it here and are regulars. Distrito Vegano is a cozy, alternative space adorned with locally made art that changes every month or so. They know their food is great and are reluctant to share any recipes – which we respect (except Sam, who still keeps prodding). Everything is made from scratch and they are always trying out new things, like currywurst and red velvet cupcakes. So expect a mix of new and traditional offerings influenced by food outside of Spain. Their prices fit neatly in between not the cheapest but definitely not the most expensive.
If you come here, you must get their award-winning croquetones – bigger than normal croquetas. Honestly, they’re the best in town and in a league of their own. Don’t just take our word for it – they won an award during the annual Tapapies festival. At the most recent festival, they won the audience award yet again! A vegan winner in a nonvegan food contest? That should tell you something. Unless only vegans were voting. Hmmm…
If you’re looking for a sharing plate, the Mexican style nachos are what you wish most vegan nachos were. We have vegetarian friends who attest to this – even one from Texas! They’re the only authentic vegan Mexican nachos in town and the best we’ve had in general. Distrito Vegano’s nachos come generously drizzled with melted cheese and black beans, a big scoop of guacamole, and pico de gallo salsa, among other creamy toppings.
If you go on a Saturday, they may still have their weekly tortilla española, also the best in town. Now they are sporting more varieties, like chorizo and spinach, and even one stuffed with cheese. A recently vegan Spanish friend of ours liked the tortilla so much, that after eating it for the first round of tapas, ordered it again for the last round of tapas (we had many rounds in between).
Nowadays, they’ve even upped the vegan meat tapas game by offering a classic dish from Galicia (an autonomous region in Spain with its own language and culture), a bar dish made vegan that we have yet to see anywhere else, called lacón a la Gallega. Smoked pieces of faux chicken rest on a full plated bed of roasted golden potatoes, generously coated in Pimentón de La Vera, a special Spanish smoked paprika made exclusively in La Vera valley. It’s sort of like eating big chunks of dark meat chicken, provided by a vegan meat company in Spain called Huera.
If you’re looking for lighter, healthier fare, they do sport a couple of salads, and housemade veggie burgers that will definitely please. But c’mon, are you really coming all the way to Spain to have salads?
Can’t Miss Tapas: pincho de tortilla (best in Madrid, Saturdays only), nachos, croquetones, lacón a la Gallega
Note: Small space – get reservations – it’s too popular for walk-ins. Croquetas may run out. If it’s full, no problem, just head around the block to their new sister restaurant, La Tia Carlota – see right below.
La Tia Carlota €€, GF
This new spot is the sister restaurant to Distrito Vegano. It’s even more internationally themed, with Spanish foods only represented in a couple of dishes, with the rest spanning several continents. We had the honor of being invited to try their entire menu, and there wasn’t a dish we didn’t love. For full details, click here for the full restaurant review.
Can’t Miss Tapas: tartar marinero and fondue are regular menu items despite the often-changing menu, but everything here is next-level and there’s no one else doing what they’re doing here.
This is Peruvian comfort food made vegan – lots of fried faux meats with sides of mayo. To quote a vegan friend “I’m Peruvian – of course I like mayo.” So get ready for mayo. I used to eat a lot of Peruvian food back in my non-vegan days, and this place is pure nostalgia for me. But even my friends who hadn’t had Peruvian food before loved this place. It’s doing so well, they’re opening another location.
Can’t Miss Tapas: all the staples of papas a la huancaína (potatoes in a creamy cheese sauce), lomo saltado (Chinese inspired stir fry of faux meat, veggies, and french fries), ají de gallina (garlicky sauce with chicken), papa rellena (stuffed potato). Also the fried “fish” filets called jalea pescado and a dessert of chocolate sauce covered brownie with hazelnut ice cream called muerte por chocolate (death by chocolate).
Punto Vegano €€
This is a bakery cafe during the day but you wouldn’t guess that if you only came here after sunset. At night, it’s dimly lit, there’s no standing bar room (this is key), and has just a few tables. There’s not a lot of seating, and you should probably reserve – especially if it’s a date.
They have very traditional vegan tapas along with some surprises, like their ravioli, a housemade specialty that even comes in a fried version as well.
Can’t Miss Tapas: croquetas, patatas bravas, raviolis fritos (fried ravioli!). Try any sponge cake but also their cookies that will have you can’t believing it’s not made with butter.
Note: Only open Thursday-Sunday.
Organic Whole Foods Plant-Based Tapas
At these places the focus is on more health-oriented, whole foods, plant-based, organic tapas. However, as noted above, you should still expect Spanish culinary sensibilities, like seasoning with pimentón, no spiciness, and generous amounts of quality Spanish olive oil. As vegans, we are more familiar with uncommon diets, so as a warning: avoiding oil and fried food in Spain will be difficult.
That being said, these are more gourmet-ish, fancier tapas than the other places. Also La Tia Carlota (see entry above) could easily fit in here, depending on what you order, as they source organic ingredients whenever possible. The following places are 100% ecológico (organic).
Often what people expect for tapas is a rowdier, plates flying, drinks pouring, affair. And for the most part, this is true. If you’re looking for a sit-down restaurant for either a date night, a “nicer” place to take your parents, or just prefer a quieter atmosphere, then any of the following places will be ideal.
Vega €€, GF
The quality of the tapas is quite good if it is within your price range. While this is our favorite place for the menú del dia, the tapas are just as excellent. Since it’s consistently great food, we can’t imagine someone not enjoying themselves here, and frequently hear stories of very satisfied friends among all the rave reviews.
Memorable tapas, in particular, are the focaccia de romero con queso ahumado (rosemary flatbread with smoked cheese), loaded with veggies. This cheese would fool omnivores. Also, the patatas asadas (roasted potatoes) with barbecue sauce and house sauce are perfectly cooked and paired. They also now serve Heura, a vegan faux-chicken produced in Barcelona.
Can’t Miss Tapas: focaccia de romero, patatas asadas, any salad as they’re quite impressive in dressing and ingredient combos
Note: This place gets packed quickly, so make reservations (night only). However, if you can’t make it, try their newly opened sister restaurant a short walk away, which we describe below.
Vega Álamo €€, GF
The newly opened sister restaurant to one of our fave vegan restaurants in Madrid and it’s now the second vegan restaurant to sport a terrace. Come here if you can’t make it to the original Vega, or if this menu sounds more appealing.
We recommend: almost anything here, like Vega. We still prefer the original Vega, but it’s very likely a lot of you will equally, if not more, enjoy their new sister restaurant. Of course, if you can’t decide, their mushroom croquetas are a great choice.
La Encomienda €€, GF
With a similar situation to Vega, their tapas come pricey but in even smaller portions. So why are we recommending them? They’re one of the few places that gives generously portioned housemade aperitivos with every new round of drinks – not olives, chips, or those awful rock-hard breadsticks that 90% of bars serve. There’s no set menu for the free tapas, but frequently they are snack-sized portions of roasted veggies like squash and tomato, and whole grains like quinoa and couscous, well seasoned and quite tasty. With a very uniquely chic ambiance that no other vegan bars or restaurants have, you’ll feel especially stylish sipping that organic wine while nibbling couscous.
Our recommendation is to come here for their excellent drink selection, including carrot wine! They also serve organic wines and locally brewed beers. They pair so nicely with the delicious aperitivos that they send out with them. That being said, the raciones they do have are delicious. Like memorable delicious. They’re just too damn small for us.
This bothers us, but it may well be perfect for you. We know button mushrooms are not a luxury item, but hey, maybe that’s the true cost for organic tapas. Other tapas we can recommend are the tagín and the tacos.
Again, delicious raciones, just there are cheaper places we prefer and similarly priced with bigger portions.
Can’t Miss Tapas: champiñones, tagín, tacos
Viva Chapata €€
When they served meat, we used to recommend Viva Chapata as a place to take your omnivore friends. While we’re super happy that they’ve since gone vegan, it’s hard to recommend this spot over other way better vegan restaurants just steps away. Viva Chapata has a cool bar interior, but it’s stubbornly part of the old vegan-friendly vanguard, with a menu that we don’t think has changed in a decade. We’re grateful they’ve helped pave the way, but it doesn’t make the Tofutti shreds any less terrible. Also, it’s surprisingly a bit overpriced for what you get.
We advise sitting at the bar with a couple of friends max, as this place gets packed quickly, and they charge 10% extra for inside table seating (grrr). The best raciones here are the tortilla and the croquetas, but they’re more expensive than most vegan places, and just not as good. The tortilla quality varies widely, as once with friends we shared the last piece from one pie, and the first from the next, and one was clearly better than the other. It’s also oddly served with tomato sauce.
We personally recommend coming here for their selection of delicious cakes to round out a night of tapas. You need to try their phenomenal avocado-based chocolate cake – you’d never guess made with that fruit. So best to come after you’ve had a good fill of tapas, or only looking to snack.
Can’t Miss Tapas: honestly, just the tarta chocolate because all their other options just can’t keep up with the great vegan food elsewhere.
Best Vegetarian Tapas in Madrid with Vegan options
Why go to vegetarian places that rarely offer (if at all) satisfying replacements for dairy and egg? Often they don’t, and you pay the same as everyone else as you request key ingredients withheld. As vegans, it’s not only easier but more satisfying to eat at the vegan spots.
We recommend learning some fundamentals about eating vegan in Spain.Click Here for Our Top Ten Tips for Eating Vegan in Spain.
That aside, there are exceptions, and that’s these mostly vegan vegetarian spots.
This is a great spot for bar-style vegetarian tapas in Madrid. There’s a strong socialist vibe and decor. Maybe taking a cue from Distrito Vegano (mentioned earlier), on our latest visit they exhibited a series of photographs by a local artist of recent riots around the world. When we first went here, there was a 1940’s style pro-labor poster and another one with a sarcastic list of “public enemies” who were simply radical leftists. The bar is named after a famous Greek riot dog.
This place recently went full vegetarian (after having just one lone meat option on the menu) and has a new menu with all vegan options clearly marked. No free tapas with drinks but you can always ask for olives. Come here for their hard-to-beat sweet spot of cheap raciones and hearty portions in a dive vibe that attracts an international crowd.
They have exemplary patatas bravas – golden and crisp, slathered in the signature brava sauce. Their croquetas de champiñones y puerro (mushroom and leek croquettes) just may be the best with their crunchy outside, and soft, smooth, and mushroomy inside. Stick to the aforementioned dishes, as anything that veers away from the typical bar food is just not their forte (skip the dips). They also serve some bottled craft beers, including a proudly vegan one called Veer with an aardvark on the label.
Can’t Miss Tapas: hamburguesa lenteja con patatas fritas (lentil burger with fries), patatas bravas, croquetas de champiñones y puerro, salmorejo (a cold and creamy Andalusian style tomato soup).
Note: Cash only. Come early. Gets unbearably crowded very quickly, especially in the winter and weekends.
Best Places with Vegan Options
Need recommendations on where to go with omnivore friends who aren’t interested in vegan food? There are some solid options in Madrid, but understand outright – the vegan and omnivore sphere have little overlap.
It’s important to learn the key basics about eating vegan in Spain.Click Here for Our Top Ten Tips for Eating Vegan in Spain.
Do not expect non-vegan places to have satisfying nor intentionally vegan options. In all honesty, the more difficult task of navigating the vegan scene in Madrid requires a guidebook.
One may think that the only authentic Spanish experience is a non-vegan one, but that’d go contrary to many vegan Madrileños typical night out.
Tapas are definitely one of our favorite Spanish meal traditions. However, you’re only experiencing half the vegan food Madrid picture if you haven’t tried los menús del día, Spain’s best-kept food secret that’s isn’t a really a secret, but goes surprisingly unnoticed by most visitors to Spain.
Further Madrid Resources:
The Alternative Traveler’s Madrid Vegan Guidebook: Our comprehensive guidebook detailing all the vegan things you’d ever need to know, like the who has the best traditional Spanish dishes made vegan, the top vegan restaurants that you can’t miss and even impress omnivores, your best options grouped by neighborhood, if you must go to a nonvegan place – which is the best not just for your friend but for you as well, and much more!
Ultimate Vegan Guide to Madrid: Our massive guide compiling of all of the vegan restaurants, cafes, and places with vegan options near the center of Madrid.
Places for Vegan Menu del dia in Madrid: Where to have the best vegan lunch specials – our favorite, better-than-tapas, Spanish tradition!
Main Sights in Madrid Free and Cheap: The low down on how to visit Madrid’s main sights on a budget.
Have you had vegan tapas in Madrid? Anything you can recommend that we haven’t tried?
*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in April 2017 and has since been updated tremendously.