Last week saw the opening of Abu Dhabi's first Wild & The Moon branch and the soft launch of new environmentally-friendly cafe Sweet Greens, both catering to the capital's growing vegan community. Meanwhile, eateries across the emirate are adding more and more plant-based options to their menus. It's never been a better time to be vegan in Abu Dhabi.
So, in honour of that, here's our pick of 12 great vegan-friendly restaurants in the city...
Wild & The Moon
Just last week, this popular vegan cafe opened its first branch in Abu Dhabi, at the beautiful Cultural Foundation site. It's a go-to in Paris and Dubai for cold-pressed juices, smoothies and tasty, healthy vegan meals. "I'm so delighted to see more vegan businesses make their way to the capital from Dubai," says vegan blogger Nada El Barshoumi, also known as One Arab Vegan. "Diners in the capital are becoming increasingly more health conscious, and I'm sure Wild and The Moon will be welcomed by all, vegan or otherwise."
The new spot in the capital is open everyday from 9am to 9pm, expect on Fridays when it's open from 10am to 10pm.
Al Maha Arjaan by Rotana is home to a delightful cafe that serves meat-based and vegetarian dishes but also has a dedicated vegan menu that's worth its (Himalayan pink) salt. With nearly 30 dishes in its plant-based selection alone, this eatery has fast become a firm favourite for vegans in the capital. "Cafe 302 is definitely one of my go-to vegan-friendly spots in Abu Dhabi," says El Barshoumi. "The chef and staff are extremely knowledgeable and create plant-based dishes that are so full of flavour they’re bound to satisfy non-vegan diners too."
There are soups, salads, bowls, breakfast dishes, hefty mains and three types of burgers. Desserts include cherry and almond brownies, and a baked cinnamon pumpkin tart. "If you’re going to order one thing from Café 302, let it be the chunky black bean and portobello burger. I think it’s the best vegan burger in the capital."
This is one of Abu Dhabi's few all-vegan restaurants. Its dishes are also totally gluten-free. The eatery is based in Zayed Sports City, but you can order for delivery, as well as sign up to the company's meal plans that cater to a range of diets and lifestyles. On the regular a la carte menu, you'll find everything from salads and wraps to soups and snacks. We recommend the tofu tikka masala and cauliflower rice.
The popular Italian restaurant has a branch at The Galleria on Al Maryah Island. It also takes care of the capital's vegans with its special menu full of fantastic plant-based options. This includes pizza, pasta and risotto, as well as a number of desserts, such as the mouth-wateringly good chocolate and raspberry cake. It's nothing to feel guilty about.
The Raw Place
This home-grown Emirati brand is strictly for the healthy vegans (you won't find any chips here), as The Raw Place specialises in – you guessed it – raw plant-based creations. This includes lots and lots of organic cold-pressed juices. There are smoothies, bowls and plenty of nut milks on the menu, too. You can also sign up for detox and cleanse packages, from Dh272.
Guilt Free Cafe
Every day at Umm Al Emarat Park you'll find the Guilt Free Cafe serving up its fully vegan food from a truck. From breakfast bowls and topped toasts to pizza, sushi and poke, the selection is eclectic but exciting. For dessert you can tuck into a pistachio pancake, tropical donuts and even double chocolate waffles – to name just a few. Guilt Free food is also available to order through its online store.
Nolu's is a popular cafe, with branches in Al Bandar and The Galleria, which serves California-style food with an Afghan twist. It's got meat and dairy on the menu, but plenty of fodder for vegans, too (just look for the "VG" symbol). "For healthy, fuss-free vegan fare, Nolu’s is one of my favourite Abu Dhabi mainstays," says El Barshoumi. "They serve plenty of vegan dishes on their menu, including hearty soups and stews, salads and my personal favourite – the superfood bowls. They also offer cold-pressed juices, nut milks and a selection of vegan desserts at their grab-and-go counters." The menus differ slightly across the two branches.
It's a gourmet grocer, but also a cafe that has a captive vegan clientele in the capital. For breakfast, the vegan French toast or pancakes are particularly popular, as is the platter or burrito. As for lunch and dinner, plant-based diners can choose from a range of options that includes a pizza, calzone and mac and cheese. The best bit? You can then go and do some grocery shopping after you eat (because doing it when you're hungry is simply foolish).
The bright green "V" on the menu at this pan-Asian restaurant in Khalidiya means there's a vegan option of that dish available. And there's loads of them. From papaya salad to nori rolls and red curry to garlic tofu yakisoba, anyone eschewing meat and dairy will certainly not go hungry here. There's also a build-your-own poke or wok menu, as well as a selection of great desserts, including the classic sticky rice with mango and a more unusual berry smoothie bowl.
Vegans rejoiced when Britain-born Japanese food chain Wagamama opened its first Abu Dhabi branch last year. They were even happier when they realised it was bringing its brand-new plant-based menu with it. A great selection of dishes dedicated to vegan diners is now available across branches in the UAE, including the very popular yasai itame and spicy surendra's curry.
The Better Burger Co
This might be a delivery-only spot, but if you're based in and around Khalidiyah, then you're in luck, as this is Abu Dhabi's only fully vegan burger restaurant. There are six to choose from: the classic, chilli, California, Earth, barbecue and Mac Daddy. They all use Beyond Meat patties and have a range of toppings that make them stand out, from sweet pickles to guacamole and paprika potato chips. Get a side of classic or sweet potato fries and wash it all down with one of the eatery's fresh juices or an iced tea.
Head to Zomato for more information
While this is in no way a vegan restaurant, the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas spot does serve a mean vegan afternoon tea – and it's the only place, as far as we know, that does so in the capital. This includes scones in both plain and raisin varieties, as well as a bunch of sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks with alternative milks. It costs Dh199 and is available until about 5pm.
Why evangelist vegans need to stop making other vegans look silly
Lewis Hamilton's new chain of vegan burger restaurants will expand to the Middle East
7 vegan restaurants to try in the UAE