Is there anywhere better in the world for vegans than LA? The city sprawls and as it does, the LA vegan scene sprawls along with it — there are literally hundreds of options. In this post, we identify the best vegan sandwiches, Mexican food, brunch, ice cream, and baked goods that LA has to offer. Read on for vegan yums.
This is a guest post by Kris Rothstein, a vegan food fanatic who travels the world sampling the best plant-based eats from all over.
I have eaten at more than 100 vegan restaurants and vendors in Los Angeles (it’s true! I have the list to prove it), so on this topic I know what I’m talking about.
I usually take a jaunt to sunny southern California a couple of times a year to visit some human and feline friends, and eating is always near the top of my to-do list. I think I’ve found the very best vegan food LA has to offer — and this is a city with more vegan options than anywhere else I’ve been.
There is an incredible creativity and diversity to the LA vegan food scene, as people veganize their family recipes — Cuban, Mexican, southern soul food — and offer new spins on vegan Thai (so much vegan Thai!), Japanese, and Ethiopian.
Many of the locations are far flung (LA is huuuuge) but…
I guarantee that each location I mention is worth the journey.
Though there are plenty of amazing vegan restaurants in LA, lots of the best and most innovative cuisine is street food. There are weekly vegan street fairs across the city and almost always vegan treats to be had on the street on York Boulevard in Highland Park.
Follow the vendors you are interested in on Instagram before you go to find out where they will be when you get there. It kinda feels like being in on a secret underground dining scene.
LA’s Top Three Vegan Meals
The Wild Chive
Long Beach pop-up opening permanent location in early 2020
Master chef Soozee Nguyen is taking her time to develop a beautiful creation. She’s been popping up as The Wild Chive for the last three years, including a long stint at the Sunday farmers market at Long Beach Marina. Finally, a permanent location is coming, which means you’ll be able to eat at The Wild Chive on a day of the week that isn’t Sunday!
Despite the long drive to Long Beach, I visit the Wild Chive religiously on every visit to California. It is simply one of the best food experiences of all time. You can count on everything to be scrumptious, inventive, and made with the best ingredients and the utmost care.
Diners drool over the Korean BBQ banh mi tacos and the famous Monte Cristo sandwich with vegan ham and cheese (sometimes served with waffles as the bread. What?!?). Wild Chive usually cleans up anytime there is a best Los Angeles vegan brunch award.
Don’t miss: Breakfast in Bread — soft scrambled tofu, hickory bacon, sausage, cheddar, mayo, and arugula on a freshly-baked potato bun.
Sensational vegan Mexican pop-up
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For a long time I ate some pretty good tacos and burritos at non-vegan cafes and stands around LA. But once the Los Angeles vegan Mexican food revolution started a few years ago, there was no going back.
Make no mistake, visiting Vegatinos will be one of the highlights of your trip to Los Angeles.
The owners are earnest and incredibly friendly and they are always innovating and asking for feedback. I’ve tried eggplant, jackfruit, and soy curl variations in both burrito and taco form and they are all so tasty that I don’t know how to pick a favourite.
The menu is really flexible so that you will get exactly what you want — everything packed in one burrito or a few tacos on their own to really sample each flawlessly-seasoned filling.
Don’t miss: Al’s Special Burrito — three proteins (chickin, al pastor, jackfruit) stuffed into one flour tortilla served with beans, non-GMO rice, pico de gallo, cabbage, and chipotle mayo. Every bite is a joy.
Exceptional pop-up doing wonders with seitan
My first meal here was merely very good, but after eating the BBQ Pulled Soy Sandwich, I have become an evangelist for Clean South. It’s not quite as easy to find their pop-up any more, but do make an effort because the wings, especially the honee BBQ wings, are utterly superb.
These folks are passionate about seitan and they get the consistency just right. If they aren’t popping up, you can buy Clean South meal packs, featuring wings, mac and cheese, and potato salad, at around a dozen stores in town. A great picnic option.
My fave: The BBQ Pulled Soy Sandwich — slaw, ranch, pretzel bun. Perfection.
Best Pop-Up Vegan Restaurants in LA
Pop-up with transformational vegan mac and cheese
I am not one of those people who craves vegan mac and cheese. I rarely try it and the few times I do, I am usually a little disappointed. Despite this lack of interest, I tried an Avocadamama sample at a vegan food fair and I am so glad I did!
This comfort food is utterly delicious.
It’s extra saucy and creamy but as light as mac and cheese can be — I think that’s the key. There is a wide variety of tastes and textures in the range: chef Taylor Solomon offers Buffalo Cauliflower Mac, Chicken & Waffle Mac, and Shredded BBQ Jackfruit Mac. Plus her enthusiasm is completely infectious.
This is my top mac and cheese experience in the world.
My fave: Curry mac and cheese with broccoli and peas.
Love Amaro Vegan Pizzeria
Pop-up serving perfect vegan pizzas
Vegan pizza is popping up just about everywhere. Mobile pizza ovens seem to be easier to obtain these days, so the quality at most shops, pop-ups, and trucks is excellent. I have rarely had a crust that wasn’t the right combo of soft and crisp plus charred and fluffy. And the toppings! So much homemade sausage and amazing sauces and vegetables done a million ways.
So it means a lot when I say that Love Amaro is among the top three pizzas I have enjoyed anywhere.
And the founder, Jesse Amaro, is so nice!
Each pizza is relatively small, but the personal size is perfect because it means you can try more than one or have room for a slice of dessert pizza! There is also careful attention to aesthetics here, which turns out a beautiful product. After sharing two pizzas, I honestly wanted to go back and start all over again (but I needed to go get a burrito, so I didn’t).
My fave: Pesto, pumpkin seeds, and avocado. It works!
Pop-up with incredible vegan sandwiches
There are a lot of vegan fried chicken sandwich shops opening up. I have drooled over many photos, but the best-tasting version I’ve had in LA is at Veggie Fam. And trust me when I say I have shopped around. Veggie Fam is also famous for their irresistible waffle fries, burgers, and cauliflower wings. The menu is smallish but simplicity is key.
You can usually find them three to four days a week around LA, including the weekly Vegan Sunday market in North Hollywood.
My fave: The Fried Chick’N Sandwich — insane dense seitan patty with delicate spicing, along with slaw, pickles and a light sesame seed bun.
Best Vegan Sandwiches in LA
The Reuben at Flore Vegan
Long-standing vegan cafe in Silverlake
This has been my go-to sandwich for a decade. I had never eaten any kind of Reuben sandwich (vegan or otherwise) until I ordered one at Flore.
With layers of cashew cheese, tempeh (sliced thin), sauerkraut and tofu cheese on rye, it’s unpretentious and succeeds in creating a perfect balance where other sandwiches try too hard.
Flore is a fixture in the hip Silver Lake neighborhood. It is sometimes accused of snooty servers or hipster chic, but I have always had absolutely excellent service, and I find the atmosphere intensely welcoming.
It’s a perfect combo of healthy old-school veganism (juices, salads full of sprouts and kale) with comfort foods like the meatloaf sandwich and the tender tempeh tu-no melt, which I also love.
The Almond Tuna Melt at Real Food Daily
Vegan restaurant in Pasadena, West Hollywood, & LAX T4
Almond tuna, melted pepper jack cheese, tomato, chipotle aioli, sourdough bread. Solid and satisfying, this sandwich is a new spin on mock tuna, eschewing the more common chickpea or soy versions to excellent effect. It’s a little lighter than beans or soy and the flavor is a subtler, but also more complex.
Everything at Real Food Daily is organic and you can tell that focus is on serving food that is clean and healthy.
New Orleans Poboy at Krimsey’s Cajun Kitchen
Vegan soul food cafe in North Hollywood
I don’t have a lot of experience with vegan cajun food, but when I saw a photo of this sandwich, I knew I had to start here.
Seasoned and battered hearts of palm served on toasted poboy bread, dressed with mayo, shredded lettuce, fresh-sliced tomatoes, crunchy dill pickles, and creamy spicy homemade sauce.
This is their number one seller and for good reason. Also, Krimsey’s is totally adorable; I love the decor of blue walls, reclaimed and vintage furniture, and accents.
Krimsey, the owner and chef, is Louisiana born, and she is passionate about bringing plant-based cajun and vegan soul food to the people of California.
I also recommend their Louisiana cornbread — fresh corn, a little sweet, very moist.
Best Vegan Sandwich at an Omnivorous Restaurant
Sandwich chain all over LA
Started in 2003, Mendocino Farms is still a family business, albeit a big one. Sometimes I feel guilty for loving this trendy establishment, an empire of several dozen locations.
But, I have eaten some unbelievably delicious vegan sandwiches here, several lost to history as the menu changes.
One of these was a samosa dosa, with coconut curried cauliflower mash, garbanzo beans, potatoes, braised jackfruit, tamarind-mint chutney, spinach, and tzatziki wrapped in a tortilla. So succulent and just a hint of curry spice. Ask about it! Maybe they’ll bring it back.
If not, there are always three vegan sandwiches on the menu and there is a good chance that wherever you venture in LA, you will be near a Mendocino Farms location.
My fave: Smokehouse Tempeh Sandwich — BBQ house-smoked organic tempeh, mustard pickle slaw, tomatoes, pickled red onions, vegan aioli on toasted ciabatta. This is the new version of the BBQ Tempeh Picnic Sandwich. I loved this and was sad to see it change but the new one is pretty close.
Spoke Bicycle Cafe
Cycle-friendly cafe in Frogtown
Charming cafe which is geared (ha ha) towards cyclists and is directly on the LA River bike path. Spoke is in Frogtown, a cool little nook of LA, cut off from the rest of the city by freeways, which gives it a semi-rural feel. The menu is vegan-friendly and everything is clearly marked. The seating is rustic and outdoors, but plentiful and covered to protect from sun (or infrequent rain).
For breakfast choose from items like granola, tofu scramble, or a variety of toasts. Lunch includes a veggie burger, big salads, and a tempeh or mushroom BLT.
My fave: Breakfast Bun — soft-scrambled tofu, tempeh, vegan cheese, caramelized onions, and a special sauce on a griddled soft bun. This sandwich won the best savoury item award at Vegan Street Fair a year or two back, up against hundreds of other vendors, so it is legit.
Best Vegan Mexican in Los Angeles
Sensational vegan Mexican pop-up
Vegatinos is one of my must-eat destinations in Los Angeles. I got a hot tip a few years ago from one of my fave pop-up chefs about a new Mexican food tent. In a town of excellent vegan burritos, Vegatinos had taken things to a new level, he told me.
I started with a plate full of tacos (so I could sample more variety) and was an immediate convert.
But then I tried the burritos. Oh the burritos!
Take your pick of fillings — jackfruit carnitas, soy curl al pastor, and TVP asada, among others. They are always offering something new! Wrapped in a soft flour tortilla and absolutely packed with flavors and crunchy veg, this is savoury heaven.
They are also committed activists, running a scholarship fund for undocumented college students in Southern California, so your burrito adventure will help a student get a higher education.
My fave: Al’s Special Burrito, which lets you try more fillings. But if I had to choose just one, it would be al pastor.
Another amazing LA vegan pop-up
Pioneers who will never let you down, Cena are slinging tacos and burritos somewhere almost every day of the week — Taco Tuesday and Fiesta Friday in Highland Park, and downtown LA at Smorgasburg and the Hollwyood Farmers market on Sundays, plus lots of other special events.
The perpetual line of people is your sign that you’ve come to the right place for a delicious meal.
Choose a burrito, tacos or the guacamole-topped nacho boat. Add the vegan meats you want, including pollo asada, carnitas, barbacoa, carne asada and other specials. Then sauce it up by adding guacamole or choosing from the free salsa bar. The corn tortillas are handmade and pressed right in front of you — meaning they are nothing like store-bought tortillas.
My fave: I love combining the al pastor (delicious pineapple accent) and the pollo asada (mesquite taste).
Flavorful vegan pop-up & restaurant in Upland
I was lucky enough to catch this pop-up at a St Patrick’s Day vegan food festival at Cosmic Brewery (they have vegan food every Friday evening if you happen to be near Torrance). With so many vendors I followed online all in one place it was hard to choose, but I chose Mexvegana and I was not disappointed.
Tacos, burritos, and tamales are all on offer, with options for seitan, chorizo, or jackfruit fillings along with beans and all the usual snazzy toppings. The description doesn’t do justice to the surprising flavors and the general deliciousness.
They now have a restaurant in Upland (northeast of LA) called Madre Tierra, if you feel like making a bit of a trek.
My fave: Huaraches — chipotle jackfruit , beans, cashew cream and vegan cotija Mexican cheese. It’s sort of like a Mexican pizza, with the toppings served on flat masa dough. I’ve never had anything quite like it before or since.
Bonus Shout Out
Plant Food for People were one of the very first vegan Mexican operations in LA and one of the first two places I tried. It was also the first place I ate jackfruit tacos.
The options are pretty simple but the jackfruit taco topped with chipotle mayo and coleslaw is all you need. You can also get the same filling in a torta, which is a Mexican sandwich.
Plant Food for People can be hard to track down as they’re not always reliable about locations and times, but they are pioneers and they make a great taco.
Best Vegan Breakfast and Brunch
All three of these restaurants excel at other things, and appear elsewhere in this post, but they are also my fave vegan brunch spots in LA!
LA is SO GREAT at vegan brunch, it was hard to choose just a few. But if you want a delicious brunch, these three will deliver.
Long-standing vegan cafe in Silverlake
Brunch at Flore means some of the best chicken and waffles (with really crispy seitan chicken atop potatoes and a banana waffle), blueberry buckwheat pancakes for the gluten-free, and an appealing array of scrambles, omelets, burritos, with lots of raw, gluten-free and nut-free options.
The shakes and smoothies look so good — there is a huge glass case full of fresh produce just waiting to be blended or juiced — but I am usually too full of carbs to order one.
Finally, Flore also has a dessert case full of vegan cake. Again, I am always bursting to the brim with sandwiches, but if you save room, then try a chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, a raw key lime pie, or lemon cupcake.
My fave: Biscuits and gravy with homemade nut sausage. Not my number one biscuits and gravy in the entire world, but probably the best in LA. To be honest, I can rarely resist getting the Reuben sandwich even at brunch!
Real Food Daily
Vegan restaurant in Pasadena, West Hollywood, & LAX T4
At Real Food Daily, all the brunch mainstays are represented, like Huevos Rancheros, waffles and seitan, breakfast burritos, breakfast pizza, and butterscotch pancakes. Each is presented with a little twist of some kind.
The ingredients are top-notch, the food is always super attractive, and I enjoy both the bright, airy West Hollywood location and eating outside at the Pasadena branch. Real Food Daily is the epitome of California vegan cuisine, approachable but a little fancy, colourful, healthy, and tasty. It’s one of my picks for the best vegan restaurants in LA.
My fave: California Scramble — tofu scramble, fresh tomatoes, avocado, tempeh bacon, and cashew cheese. Served with toast and hash browns or fruit. This one has never let me down. The first tempeh bacon I ate, years ago, and still one of the best.
The Wild Chive
Long Beach pop-up opening permanent location in early 2020
The Wild Chive meals remain solidly on my list of best meals eaten in my life!
Eating at The Wild Chive seems almost sinful and decadent, but there are no signs of extra salt or fat adding artificial flavor boosts. Instead, the flavor explosions come from well-curated ingredients and new combinations.
The brunch is always bold and delicious, whether you go sweet (gooey stuffed chocolate french toast with strawberries and coconut whip) or savoury (chicken cordon bleu grilled cheese).
I have been to the weekly brunch pop-up many times, so I can vouch for how great it is. I can only imagine that the full restaurant, set to open early in 2020, will have lots of new menu items which I can’t wait to try.
My fave: As noted above, I am in love with the Breakfast in Bread sandwich. I can also highly recommend the last brunch special I ate, the BLT Grilled Cheese. It has tons of avocado, roasted tomato, roasted garlic aioli, and arugula on grilled potato Texas toast. Needless to say, the flavors and textures complement each other perfectly. Ultimate sandwich satisfaction.
Best Vegan Ice Cream in LA
Organic vegan ice cream in Glendale & Echo Park
Is it frozen yogurt? Ice cream? Soft serve? I’m not sure and I don’t care because Yoga-urt serves the best damn frozen dessert I’ve ever eaten. It’s made from a handcrafted almond cashew base, with freshly made almond milk and probiotics.
Magically, those ingredients create a creamy, smooth, silky, not-too-soft delight that tastes best right around the edges where it’s starting to melt. The whole time I’m eating my bowl of sweet goodness I’m thinking “I wish this could last forever!”
Lots of toppings are available including fresh fruit, Charlie’s brownie bites, nuts and seeds, ginger turmeric granola, and graham crackers. They also make soft serve pies and ice cream sandwiches! The flavors rotate (with a few standards always available) so consider trying something new — I once tried Ganesha’s Sweet Greens which was a mix of dark leafy greens, sweet fruits, and mint — and it was amazing.
My fave: Peanut Butter Prana — YUM! I got a swirl the first time but now I just stick with the peanut butter. Best vegan ice cream ever.
Magpies Soft Serve
From-scratch vegan soft serve in Silverlake & Tarzana
At first I was dubious, since this shop is not exclusively vegan. With so many vegan options in LA, why go anywhere non-vegan? But I was persuaded by vegan blogger Quarrygirl to give Magpies a try and am I ever grateful.
Magpies has eight flavors at any one time and now 75% of them are vegan. They sometimes sound strange — banana bread, blueberry lavender, horchata, blue corn tortilla — but they are incredibly smooth and the flavor combos are just right.
There are lots of culinary accessories to sprinkle on top, including homemade vegan honeycomb. I usually like to enjoy my ice cream without distractions, but I make an exception for this honeycomb.
Also, they create ice cream pies, which are amazing works of art (although I like the ice cream so much I actually don’t want a crust or decadent topping). Everything is made from scratch. It’s a little softer and lighter than Yoga-urt but just about as delicious.
My fave: Corn Almond! Yes, you read that right. Who knew that corn almond ice cream would become my favorite flavor?
Adorable vegan ice cream shop in Hollywood
If your preference is for traditional style ice cream, then look for further than Cocobella Creamery, an adorable scoop shop in Hollywood with a TON of flavors. Their classic recipe uses coconut milk as a base, but they are now making some flavors with oat milk.
And watch out for some seriously insane sundaes: the Sunny Monkey features brownie, sunbutter cup and chocolate chip cookie dough ice creams, and is topped with hot fudge, whipped cream, toasted almonds, and sliced bananas.
My fave: Snickerdoodle — cinnamon sugar cookie dough with swirls of salted caramel, made with oat milk.
Best Vegan Donuts and Cake in LA
Mind-blowing vegan donuts in Highland Park
Perhaps it is sacrilege, but I am not generally a donut lover. That goes out the window in LA, where I am tempted by just about everything on the menu of the iconic Donut Friend.
You can go simple here — try a plain cake or raised donut, a solo sauce or some sprinkles. But why not take advantage of the best darn vegan donut options, possibly in the entire world?
So what do you actually get?
The best vegan raised donut, light as air in a wild array of decadent options: stuffed with peanut butter or whipped cream or fruit, drizzled with chocolate or lemon glaze, and accessorized with white chocolate chips, crushed oreos, or chocolate covered pretzels.
There are sauces, spices, nuts, and ice cream, too. Anything goes, but you’d do well to choose one of the house creations, carefully crafted from years of experimentation.
I love the rock and roll aesthetic and donut names like, Green Teagan And Sara, Hüsker Blü, Fudgegazi, and X-Ray Speculoos.
My fave: X-Ray Speculoos—cookie butter inside a raised donut, with chocolate glaze and sea salt on top.
Your Vegan Friend
Mexican vegan pop-up with the best pan dulce
Guess what? Mexican sweet breads (pan dulce) are amazing! Your Vegan Friend makes the best in Los Angeles.
This baker is super busy around LA, appearing regularly at food fairs, pop-ups, and festivals, and sometimes providing treats for other people’s stalls. Conchas (they look like pastel seashells) and elotes (shaped like corn!) are some of the more common baked goods that I have tried, but I’ve been told there are literally hundreds of varieties.
Other pan dulce can be dry or oily, but Your Vegan Friend’s cakes are light and sweet and delectable without overdoing it. They have lots of new recipes all the time — coffee cake, smores bars, guava cheez pastries — you can always find something new.
My fave: The gansito — a moist cake filled with strawberry and cream, dipped in gooey chocolate.
About the Author
When she is at home in Vancouver, BC, Kris Rothstein can be found cycling, hiking, and snowshoeing over the local terrain. She volunteers at an urban farm to get her hands on the very freshest produce and is obsessed with summer fruit! When she’s on the road she can be found traversing the green Welsh hillsides, making traditional English cider, and eating tasty sandwiches all the way up and down the west coast of North America.
We hope you found this vegan guide to Los Angeles useful (and possibly drooled a little bit during the reading process). Enjoy your trip and if you find any other foods you think belong on this list, let us know!
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen