Welcome to Edinburgh, a city where ancient history and modern culture mingle on every street corner. Here, stunning architecture and iconic landmarks, such as the imposing Edinburgh Castle and the vibrant Royal Mile, coexist with contemporary arts festivals and a vibrant nightlife. Even better: the city has a thriving vegan scene and you’ll not only find vegan and vegetarian options on most restaurant menus, but you can find veggie versions of traditional dishes such as haggis, fish and chips, and much, much more.
Traditional Scottish Foods
You may be wondering what traditional Scottish foods should I eat while I’m in Edinburgh, and where can I find vegan and vegetarian alternatives? Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Whether it’s haggis or shortbread, we have plenty of suggestions on the best Scottish dishes and where to find plant-based versions of them.
Traditional Scottish Breakfast
The traditional Scottish breakfast, which is also affectionally known ‘the heart attack on a plate’ is a popular breakfast throughout Scotland. Similar breakfasts exist in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.
Like those breakfasts, the Scottish fry-up has all of the main essentials (bacon, sausages, fried eggs, baked beans, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, and buttered toast) but it also includes black pudding, lore sausage (also known as ‘square sausage’), tattie scones (potato scones), haggis, and sometimes white pudding.
The good news is that it’s very easy to find a vegetarian or vegan version of the Scottish breakfast around Edinburgh. You can also buy plant-based versions of most of the ingredients in most of the larger supermarkets, such as Tesco or Sainsbury’s.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Scotland’s notorious food, haggis. The traditional recipe is too horrific even for many meat eaters, but don’t worry: you’ll find vegetarian haggis on many restaurant menus, in the chippies, and in the supermarkets.
You biggest decision will be how you want to eat it. Most people opt to try haggis, neeps, and tatties (haggis, turnips, and potatoes) at one of Edinburgh’s many restaurants, but for a very Scottish experience, you could try a deep-fried haggis supper (haggis and chips).
Veggie haggis in Edinburgh
Fish & Chips
Fish and chips is a traditional British dish, and one that you’ll find in chippies all over Edinburgh. But did you know that you can now get vegan fish and chips? That’s right. Rather than use fish, most chippies use ingredients like aubergine, tofu, and seaweed to create a vegan alternative that tastes surprisingly like the real thing. If you want a truly Edinburgh version of this dish, opt for ‘brown sauce,’ which is what locals eat instead of vinegar.
The Macaroni pie, a unique fusion of Italian pasta and Scottish pie traditions, stands as a testament to culinary creativity. This dish, with its tender macaroni bathed in creamy cheese sauce, all encased within a golden, flaky pastry, is naturally vegetarian, making it a favourite among those eschewing meat.
While traditionally made with dairy-based cheese occasionally one might stumble upon a version made with vegan cheese. Of course, you could also make this at home yourself with vegan cheese as well.
Normally vegetarian but not vegan. Lazy Day Foods offers vegan shortbread, though.
Shortbread is a traditional Scottish biscuit that’s made from flour, sugar, and butter, meaning it’s usually vegetarian but not vegan. Thankfully, some Edinburgh shops offer vegan shortbread and it’s also possible to find vegan versions of other Scottish biscuits, like Empire Biscuits and Millionaire’s Shortbread.
Normally vegetarian but not vegan. The Kilted Fudge Company offers vegan tablet.
Scottish tablet is a traditional confection that stands as a testament to Scotland’s love for sweets. This fudge-like treat is distinctively grainy and melt-in-the-mouth, made from a simple yet indulgent combination of sugar, condensed milk, and butter. Often infused with a hint of vanilla or whisky, the tablet has a rich history, with recipes passed down through generations. Its dense, sugary texture, combined with its creamy flavor, makes it a beloved treat during celebrations, gatherings, or simply as a delightful accompaniment to a cup of tea.
Normally vegetarian rather than vegan.
Edinburgh Fog is more than just a dessert; it’s a sweet homage to the city’s storied past. The dish’s evocative name harks back to the Victorian-era Edinburgh, often cloaked in a thick, dark smog resulting from the countless coal fires, earning it the monikers “Auld Reekie” or “Old Smokie.” This atmospheric backdrop, lamented by figures like Robert Louis Stevenson in the 19th century, finds its culinary counterpart in this rich and layered dessert.
Drawing inspiration from the classic Eton mess trifle, Edinburgh Fog melds the crunch of ratafia biscuits or macaroons with the velvety smoothness of double cream, the nutty warmth of toasted almonds, and the spirited kick of whisky. While its inception was a creative means to repurpose leftover scones, today’s iterations often favor almond-flavored biscuits. And for those seeking a twist, the traditional whisky can be replaced with the honeyed richness of Drambuie liqueur.
This isn’t a common dish, but you will find one or two restaurants that serve it.
Normally vegetarian pizzas are used. It’s rare to find a vegan pizza being used.
Did you know that you can deep-fry pizza? According to the Scots you can. Deep-fried pizza or ‘Pizza Crunch’ is a popular dish at Scottish chippies, and it’s made by battering an inexpensive fresh or frozen oven-ready pizza. This does mean that these pizzas normally contain cheese, which is fine for vegetarians but not vegans. Thankfully, there are also a handful of chippies that offer deep-fried vegan pizzas.
Deep-Fried Mars Bar
Vegetarian, not vegan.
One iconic dish that Scotland has become known for is the deep-fried Mars bar. That’s right, it’s a Mars bar that has been deep-fried. Unfortunately, while Mars bars are vegetarian, they’re not vegan. However, many chippies allow you to bring anything and they will deep-fry it for you, so that means you could bring your own vegan chocolate.
Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants
Seeds for the Soul
Nestled in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town, “Seeds For The Soul” stands as a beacon for vegan enthusiasts and curious diners alike. With the bold proclamation “the future is vegan” adorning its walls, this bistro café is more than just a dining spot; it’s a statement of a sustainable and compassionate culinary future. The menu at Seeds For The Soul is a delightful tapestry of vegan delights, catering to a myriad of tastes. Morning visitors can indulge in a breakfast spread that ranges from delectable pancakes to a hearty vegan classic breakfast, complemented by bagels and buns. And if you’re in the mood for a liquid treat, their smoothies are a must-try, each one a burst of flavors and freshness.
As the day progresses, the classic menu takes center stage, offering a selection of bowls, wraps, and burgers. The side dishes, like the crispy gyoza and the tangy buffalo cauliflower, are perfect accompaniments, ensuring a well-rounded meal. For those seeking variety, Seeds For The Soul also boasts a seasonal menu, reflecting the freshest ingredients and flavors of the time. Beyond the food, the eatery offers a selection of alcoholic beverages, from wines and beers to unique boozy smoothie cocktails, making it a perfect spot for both casual lunches and evening gatherings. With its commitment to veganism, Seeds For The Soul is not just a restaurant; it’s a celebration of plant-based cuisine, offering a taste of the future right in the heart of Edinburgh.
From the bustling streets of London to the historic heart of Edinburgh, Sen Viet has carved a niche for itself as a pioneer in vegan Vietnamese cuisine. Originally making waves as London’s first 100% vegan Vietnamese restaurant, Sen Viet has expanded its horizons by opening a new establishment at 23 Brougham Place, The Meadows, in Edinburgh. This new location has quickly become a hotspot for the city’s discerning food enthusiasts, eager to sample authentic Vietnamese flavors crafted with a vegan twist.
Sen Viet’s menu is a delightful journey through Vietnam’s rich culinary landscape, offering plant-based renditions of classic dishes. Patrons can indulge in aromatic Phở, the hearty Bún Huế, or even savor vegan pancakes that capture the essence of traditional Vietnamese fare. The restaurant’s offerings extend to tofu summer rolls, vegetable spring rolls, stir-fried noodles and vegetables, and an array of desserts, ensuring a comprehensive dining experience. While Sen Viet predominantly champions vegan cuisine, they do offer a few non-vegan items, making it essential for diners to specify their preferences.
The Lucky Pig @ Paradise Palms
In the vibrant heart of Edinburgh’s University area, just off Bristo Square, lies Paradise Palms – a tropically themed bar that’s a feast for both the eyes and the palate. With its lively ambiance, you’ll often find patrons soaking up the atmosphere, seated on the pavement outside, enjoying their meals and drinks amidst the buzz of the city.
But Paradise Palms is more than just its tropical allure. It’s a haven for vegan and vegetarian “soul food” enthusiasts. From 4pm daily (and starting at 1pm on weekends), the bar serves up a delectable array of dishes, from hearty veggie burgers to crispy cauliflower wings. And for those looking to groove to some tunes, DJs take over the decks on Fridays and Saturdays, ensuring the vibe is always upbeat. The cocktail menu, inspired by tiki themes, complements the food perfectly, making it a go-to spot for both casual hangouts and late-night revelries. And if you’re visiting during the Fringe, the late-night cabaret is a must-experience.
But what truly sets Paradise Palms apart is its multifaceted identity. Not only is it a bar and eatery, but it also boasts its own record label, adding a unique musical dimension to its offerings. Moreover, it’s a record store and an event venue, making it a hub of culture and entertainment.
Nestled in the bustling Tollcross area of Edinburgh is Sora Lella, a beacon of vegan Italian gastronomy. Established in 2019, this eatery holds the distinction of being the city’s first 100% Roman vegan restaurant, seamlessly blending the rich culinary traditions of Rome with the principles of veganism. At Sora Lella, patrons are treated to a diverse menu that pays homage to the timeless flavors of Italy, all while ensuring every dish is plant-based.
At the heart of Sora Lella’s menu lies a curated selection of dishes that showcase the depth and versatility of vegan Italian cuisine. A standout is their Mezze Maniche alla Carbonara, a classic Roman dish reimagined with homemade vegan bacon, capturing the creamy essence of the traditional Carbonara while staying true to vegan principles. Equally enticing is the Penne Quattro Formaggi e Funghi, a delightful pasta dish that boasts a rich blend of four vegan cheeses, harmoniously paired with mushrooms to create a symphony of flavors.