Trying to find cheap vegan food in NYC that’s not dollar pizza or prepackaged indigestion?
It’s New York’s metaphorical needle in a haystack/back alley dumpster. The Big Apple bursts at the seams with the best of the best (for a premium) and the worst of the worst (for a slightly smaller premium).
Ask New Yorkers for a suggestion and watch as everyone clamors to opine on the best cheap eat and how it’s a better deal than everything else. Yet rarely will their choice reflect something that isn’t covered in cheese or stuffed with mystery meat that will semi-permanently anchor your stomach like the USS Intrepid in Hudson Harbor.
Now ask many vegan New Yorkers and you’ll learn how distorted their sense of “cheap” is. Something under $10 in Manhattan isn’t automatically a deal. Case in point: Blossom Du Jour’s $9 crap wraps are no bigger than a pack of playing cards (I’m not exaggerating).
A vegan in New York’s existence need not be spent in Whole Foods during the day and lurking inside questionably decorated, overpriced vegetarian bistros at night.
We’re here to show you there are alternatives – you just need to know where to look. Sam and I have a combined 10 plus years of scouring this concrete jungle for its plant friendly corners.
These are our favorite spots to get delicious cheap vegan food in NYC that meet our sole core criterion – the sweet intersection between the appropriate price for given quality.
$ = meal under $10
$$ = meal under $15
Looking for cheap vegan food in Brooklyn? Read our guide here.
Looking for cheap vegan food in Queens? These Queenies have got your back – read our guide here.
Vegan in the East Village
While there are vegan restaurants in the East Village, they’re not cheap. We usually go to veg-friendly spots for vegan food downtown.
$ Dunwell Doughnuts – all vegan
Don’t think you can find vegan donuts in Manhattan? Think again. Head right down the block from Dumpling Man for Dunwell’s latest location.
They had just opened their St. Mark’s location (there’s one in Bushwick) just before we left NYC for Spain. Their donuts are LEGIT. They also have amazing ice cream.
There’s no seating. If it’s nice out, you can do what we did on one of our last days in the city: get dumplings and donuts to go and walk to Tompkins Square Park for some great people watching.
Get: any donut flavor that tickles your fancy.
Note: other location in Bushwick
$ Superiority Burger – vegetarian
Like the space, the menu is small, but that’s great for us indecisive types. Everything is under $10, even the big version of the Superiority burger, which comes in at an easy $9. Most of the menu is vegan, though items are not labeled, which is a bit annoying the first time you go!
However, staff are happy to help and let you know the couple of items that are vegetarian only. Otherwise, you can get everything in a vegan version (including vegan cheese and sauce).
The burger itself is a perfect fast food style burger, with a soft, seedy bun and all the desired toppings. These aren’t meant to mimic meat, so expect very vegetable burgers. Get it with a side to round out a meal (the burnt broccoli salad is delicious) and take it to eat in Tompkins Square Park just down the street.
Our friend Ivy remarked that although the portions seemed small, they were surprisingly filling.
Pro tip: Check out their daily specials on social media if you’re deciding when to go. Monday evenings they offer their special tofu fried chicken – get it while it’s hot!
Get: the Superiority Burger made vegan, Burnt Broccoli Salad
$ Vanessa’s Dumpling House – omni, vegetarian options labeled
When hanging in lower Manhattan, Vanessa’s was always my pre-bar destination for some solid vegan Chinese food in NYC.
Most bars in New York do not serve food, let alone have vegan options (other than five dollar French fries). Usually, I ditched expensive evening meal events and met friends at the bar after. Over the years, I recruited many dinner dissenters and this became a ritual. Even on our last night in NYC, right before our going away party a few blocks down, we came to Vanessa’s, allies in tow.
When it comes to tasty and filling food, you’ll be cold-green-juice pressed for better-priced veggie options. You can get it greasy or you can get it steamed. There’s something for everyone here.
The experience at Vanessa’s is that of a typical Chinatown spot, including the staff’s general disdain for their customers. To their credit though, their menu takes everything up a notch. Virtually every section of food has a veggie option. I’ve never ordered the rice bowls, but I’ve tasted them, and for 5 -6 dollars you’ll be very happy.
Get: My go-to order is veggie dumplings, cold sesame noodles, and a plain sesame pancake. I’m a sucker for handmade noodles (check out my budget guide on Queens to see why).
Note: has locations in Chinatown, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn
$ Mamoun’s – omni, vegetarian options labeled, gluten-free options
An old guard of the cheap eats institution – this spot saved many a vegan in the East Village for years. The quick turnover and constant line ensure you’re getting some seriously fresh falafel. But of course, prices have risen, and I was less impressed each of the last few times I ate here.
Still, it’s nowhere near terrible, rather just a slight stumble from grace. For many it may be the freshest falafale they’ve had. Their St. Mark’s location recently moved a few doors down to a bigger, nicer space.
Get: The falafel sandwich, of course. Falafel plate is gluten-free without the pita, as are grape leaves. Careful with the hot sauce – mostly heat, little flavor. But the best budget falafel isn’t in Manhattan.
Note: other location in West Village (multiple locations throughout the tri-state area)
$ Dumpling Man – omni, vegan items labeled, gluten-free options
If you’re living in NYC and don’t know The Dumpling Man, then I don’t know you.
The veggie dumplings here are unrivaled (yes they are better quality than Vanessa’s and priced accordingly). You can literally see them made right before your vegan eyes.
Over the years of my patronage, I have witnessed two constants. First, the cashiers are always young, white, and speak Mandarin (presumably all NYU students). Second, the dumplings are made in the open, for curious eyes to see, by what I perceive as the foremost professionals in the art of dumpling making.
They are completely disinterested in you, focused instead on churning out handmade dumplings, one at a time, at an incredible speed we can physically witness but never fully comprehend. Take a front-row seat for the show or sit at the long counter with stools in the typically NYC tiny but long space.
Now onto the dumplings. The smoked tofu filling with shiitake mushrooms will provide the most savory and satisfying vegan dumpling you’ll ever sink your teeth into. The homemade wrapper is super soft and chewy. I prefer them steamed, as it allows the nuanced layering of flavor to shine. If you want the extra mileage (i.e. more filling), order those suckers seared – the extra oil does the trick. I know omnivores who frequently order these.
So grab an order, mix some vinegar and soy sauce with a tiny squirt of Sriracha (avoid the deluxe sauces – they overpower these delicate dumplings), and muster the courage to chopstick each loving lump into your gaping vegetabled mouth.
Get: the vegan dumplings. There’s a daily changing vegan AND gluten free option too.
$ S’Mac – omni, vegan items marked
S’Mac’s version of macaroni and cheese made vegan is coconut milk based, and you can taste it, which isn’t a bad thing. You can choose whatever you want to put inside it. Great place to go with omni friends.
Get: Their veganized mac and cheese with virtually any topping combination you see fit.
Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants near Union Square
Union Square and its surroundings are a strange mix of trashy cheap chains and exorbitantly expensive crap chains. Your best vegan budget bet? Avoid them all and check out our recommendations.
$$ Peacefood Cafe – all vegan, gluten-free options
Note: Two locations – we also went to the Upper West Side one. Definitely worth trying. See our review below.
$$ Beyond Sushi at 14th st – all vegan, gluten-free upon request
See review below – multiple locations
$$ Hotel Tortuga – omni, vegan items labeled, gluten-free options
The place is cozy, small, and doesn’t take reservations. Expect it to usually be full, as there isn’t much else like this in the area (just a block or two over is a place that has guacamole for $14) for this price and level of veganibility (nearly all items can be veganized).
They have an extensive vegetarian section on the menu and can veganize any item at your request with vegan sour cream and cheese for a buck extra. Also, unlimited, self-serve salsa – the best idea ever for me, and the worst profit margin for them. Plus, they have vegan chorizo – though don’t get overzealous (or your stomach will hate you).
Get: unlimited salsa and chips, any of the vegetarian burritos made vegan.
Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants in West Village
The West Village is pricey. Vegan restaurants in the West Village such as Delice and Sarrasin and Urban Vegan Kitchen are well above our price range (with $13 desserts, you can imagine the entree prices).
$$ By Chloe – all vegan, gluten-free options
Multiple locations, see SoHo review below.
Get: butternut squash burrito and a margarita (no happy hour though, sadly). Gluten-free tortilla for $1 more.
Taïm – vegetarian, items with dairy/eggs marked, gluten-free options
Multiple locations, see SoHo review below
$$ Benny’s Burritos – vegan section on menu with gluten-free options
Benny’s is a great vegan Mexican option in NYC. They have a separate vegan section on their menu with vegan burritos, tacos, and more. They even have vegan sour cream and cheese! It’s a lively, festive atmosphere where there always seems to be a birthday party going on. Great for a casual date, catching up with friends, or going in a group. Beware though that they do get packed on nights and weekends.
$ Mamoun’s – omni, vegetarian options labeled
Multiple locations, see East Village review above.
Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants in Greenwich Village
Also really expensive like most Manhattan neighborhoods, we recommend veering away from here if you’re looking for cheap vegan food in NYC. Although there is one place we can recommend on the periphery.
$$ Vish – vegetarian – everything is vegan but serves eggs
This new Israeli-run spot replaced Maoz and that’s a good thing. Vish is a massive upgrade. I’ve tried Maoz – it’s like if Subway started making falafels – not terrible food, but not terribly good either, and with a fake freshness to it in a sterile environment.
That’s not the story here at Vish.
The new gracious owners reeled us in with hummus samples that they proudly proclaimed was the best hummus ever. And to their credit, it’s definitely top tier. We’ve tried many a hummus, and I make hummus myself quite often, taking in tips from people from all the countries I meet that make hummus. Vish’s humus is definitely worth a try if you’ve never had freshly made hummus.
The best thing about this cheap vegan NYC food spot? We got full on splitting a salad hummus combo plate with an extra pita bread. Two people eating for under 15 bucks is possible here.
An assortment of toppings can go on your hummus plate, like chickpeas, tahini, “fava beans” (that looked just like black beans), mushrooms and guacamole. Though to be honest, this hummus holds its own and you really don’t need toppings. Nor should you ever put guacamole on hummus.
The staff is super friendly and our server made us feel quite welcome despite the fact that we walked up to the counter assuming this was self-service. There is a separate takeaway line.
Get: The hummus, duh.
Note: They’ve recently opened and gave us a lot of free stuff, so can’t guarantee that”ll be part of the regular service.
Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants near Penn Station and Chelsea
$$ The Cinnamon Snail – all vegan, gluten-free options
Not so tucked away in the boisterous Pennsy food hall sits the legendary Cinnamon Snail, one of the first and not exorbitantly expensive 100% organic vegan food establishments to get a die hard fan base that wasn’t exclusively vegan. There was nothing else quite like it back in 2010. Nowadays house-made vegan comfort food is all the rage.
They started out as a food truck which I frequented for many years. A kickstarter or two campaign later after battling exploitative food trucks vendor laws, they’ve finally got their first brick and mortar spot (truck still operates for events) . Considering your not so great vegan options and general terribleness of this area, this is a much welcome addition. A small army prepares your sandwiches and will churn out your order within 5 – 10 minutes, even if there’s a big line. Just make sure to decide what you want before ordering or you’ll piss off all the New Yorkers on their lunch break like the person in front of us did.
We are glad to report the food here is still top notch. I love their food, and the proprietor chef loves layering bold flavors. In the interest of differing opinions, however, the Sam finds it a bit too spicy at times. If this matters to you, order something that doesn’t have habanero or chipotle.
What should you get? The stars of the savory show are the sandwiches. The Korean Barbecue seitan sub will drip through your fingers. The Beast-mode Burger Deluxe will aggressively avalanche its way into your mouth. The toppings and names change now and then, but anything with their homemade seitan whether it’s chucked, chopped, or burgered, will amply satisfy.
They even have something for every type of vegan food lover. Totally Tofu? Seriously seitan? Tempestuously tempeh? They got you covered. Not into the faux meats? There’s always vegetable based option that’s not trying to imitate meats, too.
If there’s one gripe I have (it’s not taste) – it’s the user experience. The sandwich bread could be softer, and these real deal gluten-y French baguettes and Italian ciabattas are so damn chewy and piled high with saucy, flavor exploding chunks, that it’ll require your canine roots to tear apart. So expect your sandwich volcano to erupt at regular intervals, all over your hands and food tray.
You can’t go without trying a dessert – another fantastic option for vegan donuts in Manhattan and they always get creative with the combos. While I go for simply glazed, the donut with raspberry and cheese is great – super soft, perfectly sweet, and the cheese oh-so-creamy.
Make sure to try their signature pastry (hint: their name). One time we split it with a friend, who, with a first bite, incredulously exclaimed: “This is vegan?” You’ll think they put butter in it.
Get: any sandwiches and dessert – it’s all good. Gluten-free options here.
Note: has another location in the Financial District.
$$ Beyond Sushi at 14th st – all vegan, gluten-free upon request
See review below – multiple locations
$ Brooklyn Bagel – omni with vegan options, has a gluten-free bagel
Check out the Queens guide for the full rundown. Basically, great bagels, great vegan cream cheese – your best bet for an authentic New York Bagel with cream cheese made vegan.
Get: Anything, but our fav is toasted everything bagel with spinach tofu spread. Although a Cinnamon raisin with plain tofu spread is a classic.
Affordable Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants in Midtown, NYC
Where should you go if you’re a meandering vegan in Midtown? Believe it or not, there are vegan restaurants in Midtown Manhattan that aren’t exorbitantly expensive.
$$ Beyond Sushi at 56th st – all vegan, gluten-free upon request
Never has an establishment been so aptly named.
If you want to feel like you’re eating distinctly different yet decadent deluxe dragon style veggie rolls, look no further. With handcrafted maki rolls, sushi pieces, and other non-sushi items, these purveyors literally go beyond the conventional call of sushi. Expect a roll to be stuffed with many things, with lots of layers on top, and dollops of creamy sauces.
These spots are tiny, with just a few tables, but turnover is quick.
Get: the Spicy Mang and Mighty Mushroom – two signature rolls for 15 total.
Note: additional locations at Chelsea Market, Union Square, 37th st, Financial District
$ Marty’s V Burger – all vegan, gluten-free options
Now this is more of what vegans need in NYC. We had the pleasure of meeting Marty V himself, and we can report, the burgers and joint live up to their name – great vegan fast food.
You could get a combo deal, burger drink and fries for ten bucks, right off Lexington Ave and 27th – that’s just unheard of. Just down the street is Terri’s – delicious sandwiches that come solo for 12 – to put it in vegan perspective.
The regular burger is a mix of seitan rice and black beans but you’d never know, as this sum is greater than its parts. Expect a soft seeded bun, mayo, crisp lettuce, cheese – a very fast food style burger.
You can also try the Impossible burger for 5.50 more – great option since I don’t ever want to go back to the pretentious Momofuku bullshit bar (see end of this guide for our initial experience with the Impossible Burger).
Get: any combo as they’re all under 15, but the Classic Combo, a Marty V burger with fries and drink is a solid deal for 10. The awesomely textured and delicious Crabby patty can be made entirely gluten-free with a gluten-free bun. The wings are gluten-free as well!
$$ Terri – all vegan, gluten-free options
Terri brands itself as “vegan fast food.” Here you’ll find a great selection of tasty and indulgent sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Most feature well known vegan products, like Tofurky and Daiya.
Expect a clean, take-your-Manhattanite-lunch-break-here, atmosphere. Often Sam went here as a lunch treat when she worked in Midtown. Gluten-free breads and tortillas available.
Get: Bacon, Cheddar, Chicken Ranch or Thanksgiving sandwiches
Note: locations in Midtown East and Financial District
$ Ess-a-Bagel – omni with vegan options
A firmly established Bagelry slinging bagels in classic NYC style. They sport an array of 7 vegan tofu spreads, with extra non-typical ones like sun-dried tomato and olive.
Always expect a line, as this place is super popular, and their bagels are the star of the show. The wait won’t be long, as they are fully staffed and several people are toasting and schmearing bagels like it’s nobody’s business but theirs.
Get: A toasted bagel with vegan tofu spread, of course. They offer a plethora of other options, but you’re here for bagels.
$ Tal Bagels – omni with vegan options
See Upper East Side entry below.
Cheap Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants in SoHo
$$ By Chloe – all Vegan, lots of gluten-free options
Chloe Coscarelli was the first vegan chef to win a culinary competition on TV and now she’s taking New York (and the world) by storm, with four By Chloe locations, a bakery, and two more locations opening soon. By Chloe has a mean mac-n-cheese, yummy dessert, and some tasty burgers, but it can get insanely crowded (at least the Village location always was)!
Get: Mac and Cheese and a burger. The fries were a bit disappointing (think McDonald’s fries).
Note: locations near Flat Iron, in West Village, Rockefeller Center, Williamsburg
$ Taïm – Vegetarian, items with dairy/eggs marked, gluten-free options
Normally I wouldn’t consider a falafel sandwich that’s close to $8 to be budget, but considering the freshness and size of Taïm’s falafel sandwich, coupled with the fact that in SoHo there aren’t a ton of budget vegan options, I’m adding it to the list. Apparently, taïm means tasty/delicious in Hebrew, and tasty and delicious it is!
And if you don’t take our word for it, Zagat consistently includes Taïm in their top 50 best restaurants in NYC. So, yeah it’s that good.
Get: the tried and true falafel sandwich, quite possibly one of the best tasting ones in all of NYC.
Cheap Veg-Friendly and Vegan Restaurants in Lower East Side
Don’t think for a second that just because the wonderfully budget and vegan friendly East Village and the Lower East Side share the word East means they have anything else more in common. LES is expensive, despite it’s dingy exterior. Sam’s sister frequents Duane Reade Pharmacy for dinner – that’s how expensive. But a new recent addition is definitely worth your budget vegan eyes.
$$ Orchard Grocer – all vegan, gluten-free options
One of New York’s all vegan groceries, if not the first (please tell me if there’s another, as I haven’t found it). Orchard Grocer is an apt name, as it’s a tucked away, low key spot inspired by classic NYC delicatessens. They’re clearly aimed at veg-curious and vegan Lower East Side residents, parked right next to MooShoos, an all vegan shoe store.
If you’re looking for specialty vegan products that are hard to find, they got you covered. More than half of the products I couldn’t recognize and wanted to try.
If you’re looking for a New York deli experience made vegan, look no further. They have a great selection of sandwiches, with house made vegan deli meats in all sorts of flavored iterations. I was really missing my usual pre-vegan go-to, the Italian combo, and this did not disappoint. Arguably it’s better, as all the ingredients were way fresher than that prepacked Boar’s Head shit that is the default in every New York deli.
The breakfast sandwich is another New York staple that we’ve missed. Expect a chewy roll with melty sauce and cheese over sausage and tofu, and really hits all the marks with the NYC egg sandwich experience.
Also vegan soft serve ice cream! The flavors change, so check in ahead of time. We had pumpkin swirled with vanilla.
Get: any sandwich, any product really. But for a NYC experience, try the Italian combo and the breakfast sandwich.
$ Tal Bagels – omni with vegan Options
See Upper East Side Entry right below.
Cheap Veg-friendly and Vegan Restaurants in the Financial District
See entry above.
$$ Terri – all vegan, gluten-free options
See entry above.
$$ Beyond Sushi – all vegan, gluten-free upon request
See entry above.
Affordable Veg-friendly and Vegan Restaurants in the Upper East Side
Our best recommendation: take the 4,5,6 train directly to Marty V Burger. Anything in the UES that’s vegan will cost you more than a metro ticket plus Marty V combo and won’t be anywhere near as delicious…
..but if you have to stay.
$ Tal Bagels – omni with vegan options
Good fresh bagels with one clear advantage: open much later than other bagel spots. Not quite as good as Brooklyn Bagel or Ess-a-Bagel, but solid, nonetheless, and with three tofu cream cheese spreads: plain, scallion, and veggie. If you find yourself in the very expensive Upper East Side, a bagel and a beverage for 6 bucks will tide you over for a few hours.
Get: any bagel (those egg yolk yellow ones are not vegan), any vegan tofu based cream cheese.
Note: Has several locations.
Affordable Veg-friendly and Vegan Restaurants in the Upper West Side
While the Upper West Side is very different from its East side counterpart, it’s unfortunately very expensive as well. If we are sounding like a broken record, well, it’s true. That’s why you’re here reading our guide.
$$ Peacefood Cafe – all vegan, gluten-free options
Peacefood is both a vegan restaurant AND vegan bakery in Manhattan with two locations – one in the Upper West Side, one in Greenwich Village near Union Square. It’s a cozy and affordable spot that’s great for a date night or going with parents. Sam went with her dad and they were both thoroughly impressed. Seems to be a potentially recurring theme as another presumably NYU student took her father here as well and were seated at the table next to me the last time I ate here.
Their menu consists of salads, sandwiches, pizzas, focaccias, and a seasonal changing dinner menu as well as specials, that appeal to raw foodists, whole foodists, and vegan junk foodists alike. There’s expensive items but also cheaper items and one could easily have a filling meal for $15 and under as the menus offerings are truly myriad.
Their desserts are truly some of the best vegan desserts in NYC with a giant bakery menu that includes many gluten-free items! If you find it packed upon your arrival, take some baked goods with you.
Get: The cinnamon roll if they have it and the raspberry bars! It’s hard to recommend any one thing though. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the sandwiches, especially the Japanese pumpkin, and savory entrees like pot pie (pictured below).
Note: other location near Union Square
$ Two Boots – omni, vegan items marked
Two Boots is a great option for vegan pizza in the Upper West side. They’re not all vegan, but they have tons of locations, including areas where it’s hard to find cheap vegan eats. They usually have a few different types of vegan slices available, but you can call ahead and pre-order from a variety of different vegan pies if you know you’re going and you’re more than one person (or just a very hungry person).
If you’re looking to buy a pie, there are even more options. They have an entire vegan section, with several presets combos. They use Daiya cheese, and before you fret, just know we aren’t the biggest fans of it either, but somehow Two Boots still manages to make damn delicious vegan pizzas.
Get: V for Vegan slice, Vegan Mel Cooley Pie.
Note: Many locations (check website)
Back when we originally wrote this the Impossible Burger, part of a new wave of plant-based products meant to appeal to omnivores as a more environmentally sustainable alternative to meat, made its debut at the pretentious Momofuku Nishi restaurant (I still loathe that experience – burger was delicious though). Nowadays you can find this product at tons of locations, including local chain Bareburger (which also serves the Beyond Meat Burger). Check the locations on Impossible Food’s website here.
However, many of these places offering the burger are not budget friendly.
Where are the cheapest spots to try the Impossible-ness? What’s the best deal for an impossible burger in New York City?
Marty’s V Burger, for the win, offers both the Impossible and Beyond Meat Burger for an additional $5.50 as a substitute to any burger style. Honestly, it doesn’t get cheaper than this…
…Unless you go to White Castle for their $1.99 Impossible sliders featuring the aforementioned burger. Originally they debuted in New York but now have rolled out nationwide at the chain. So it’s not imperative that you try them in New York unless you won’t be by one ever again.
Whether you’re of the extremely budget conscious or just looking for some new spots for vegan food in Manhattan, the aforementioned list will propel your veggie arsenal to new heights. Of course, New York moves at an incredible pace, with new places opening and closing within even 6 months – make sure to check!
What new (or old) spots for cheap vegan food in NYC should we try next time we’re in town?
*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in January 2017 and has since been updated.