People often say that Paris is one of the worst cities in Europe for vegetarians, and, from my experience, there is some truth to this. Most French meals are based around a main meat dish, and while there is an increasing number of veggie restaurants in the City of Lights, the majority still have little beyond salad to offer non-meat-eaters. That said, there are plenty of ways to survive in Paris without meat, fish, or foul.
If you’re traveling on a budget, you may get a lot of your food at supermarkets. Parisian supermarkets have a surprisingly large selection of vegetarian food items, and I don’t mean just lettuce and carrots. True, you’ll be hard-pressed to find pre-made sandwiches that don’t have meat on them, but if you make your own, you can do quite well.
Most French cheeses contain rennet derived from calf stomachs, making them non-vegetarian. However, certain cheeses, including St Moret (cream cheese), Boursin, and those made by Vache qui rit (Laughing Cow, the makers of Babybell) are suitable for vegetarians. An increasing number of French supermarkets have also started stocking cheddar imported from England, which is almost always vegeterian (check the label for présure animale) if you are concerned.
Many supermarkets also carry pre-made deli items made by the brand “Pierre Martinet”. These include taboule made with bulgur wheat, lentil salad, and shredded carrot salad. All of these are vegan by default. Finally, health food chain Naturalia carries a lot of different items for vegetarians, ranging from veggie-burgers (that need cooking) to ready-made spinach puffs.
If you want to dine out in Paris, you may have trouble in traditional French restaurants (especially if rennet is an issue or if you don’t eat eggs), but should have no problem overall. There are many Lebanese and a few Israeli eateries in Paris (including the famous l’As du Falafel in the Marais) that sell everything from falafel sandwiches to vegan stuffed grape leaves with hummus. There are also plenty of North African restaurants, many of which do vegetarian couscous. And vegetarian travelers know that wherever they are in the world, there will always be at least one Indian restaurant, which is guaranteed to have plenty of veggie options. There are lots of South Indian restaurants just north of the Gare du Nord, and for typical North Indian (and Bangladeshi) cuisine, head to the famous Passage Brady, an arcade of good value Indian restaurants. The cheese naan in these places is delicious and generally made with Laughing Cow cheese.
Paris is also home to a growing number of veggie restaurants. One of my favorites is Green Garden (20, Rue Nationale, 13th Arrondissement), a vegetarian Chinese restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. This Buddhist-owned restaurant has simple décor and a casual environment, but the vegetarian and vegan fake meat is amazing and the service is friendly. Another favorite is Le Potager du Marias (22 rue Rambuteau, 3rd Arrondissement) a veggie organic spot with lots of delicious vegetarian takes on French classics. Both restaurants have English menus.
A few good words to know
- Oeufs- eggs
- Frommage- cheese
- Poulet- chicken
- Viande- meat
- Poisson- fish
- Presure- rennet
- Végétarien- vegeterian
- Végétalien- vegan
- Biologique- organic