Looking for the best that vegan New York City has to offer? You’re so lucky — NYC might just have the best vegan food in the world! In this post, you’ll find our picks of the best vegan pizza, ice cream, sandwiches, breakfasts and brunches that New York has to offer. Read on to plan your New York vegan itinerary!
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.
In the 12 years since I last visited New York City, the vegan food scene has evolved by leaps and bounds. Old haunts have closed and countless new ones are going strong. I finally got tired of just drooling over Instagram photos from the hundreds of NYC vegan restaurants, so I booked my ticket.
After that, I had five months to do my research and prep.
Yes, I curated my vegan New York culinary destinations for five months, checking and re-checking menus, photos and reviews.
For me, this research was serious business, so you can trust that I have chosen the very best spots to eat vegan food in New York City. One or two were not quite as extraordinary as I had hoped, but most of them exceeded my already VERY HIGH expectations.
New York boasts almost every type of vegan cuisine you can imagine (gourmet Korean, conceptual food art, Ethiopian stew), but I focused on my passions — vegan pizza, sandwiches, brunches, and ice cream — and sought out the very best in each category.
So, if you’re heading to New York and you don’t have five months to plan, take a shortcut by using my guide to the best of…
Vegan New York City
My Top 3 Vegan Meals in NYC
Innovative East Village vegetarian eatery
This was a late addition to my list, maybe because of the secrecy and the fluctuating menu. If you just read the Superiority Burger menu board you won’t really know the delicious depths that await you at this tiny East Village eatery.
Chef Brooks Headley follows his passions, which means he is inspired by dally specials he finds at the market and will also engage in lengthy experiments to get things just right. One such experiment resulted in Superiority Burger Focaccia Fridays.
Headley learned his focaccia recipe from the master baker of Bread and Salt and then practiced for a year before selling to the public.
The photos online look incredibly tempting, but I was not prepared for the most delicious focaccia I have ever eaten. It is like a moist yet crisp thick pizza crust and is topped with imaginative combos of ingredients.
I had one slice with koginut squash, zucchini, and mint and another with butterball potato, escarole, and artichoke.
Wow oh wow.
I also ate the off-menu Yuba Verde sandwich which was unbelievably delicious. Superiority Burger makes this with a very thin bun, which means you get more filling and less bread, just the way I like it.
Yuba (the thin dried tofu skin that forms when boiling soy milk, which I now MUST get my hands on) is paired with broccoli rabe, what I thought was crispy shallots but might have been fried chickpeas, and a succulent sauce.
The food was amazing but I also love the intimate space, the friendly staff and the feeling that you are stepping into a secret location only for those in the know.
Don’t miss: Focaccia Friday Feast. It starts at 5pm, is limited, and always sells out. The toppings are different every week but experienced patrons simply abandon themselves to the chef and eat whatever he and his staff produce. I saw more than one group order all five slices to try.
Whether you go for a classic tomato topping or something innovative like corn and basil, do not miss this bread. Truly superior.
Chickpea and Olive
Amazing vegan sandwiches in Williamsburg
Don’t let the name lull you into thinking Chickpea and Olive is a falafel restaurant. As much as I love both chickpeas and olives, the name doesn’t convey the fabulous vegan comfort food sandwiches made by these wizards.
They believe in making every vegan dish as delicious as humanly possible, so we are on the same page!
Next time I will try the ChK’N Fried Tofu Sandwich (lettuce, tomato, fresh herb buttermilk ranch, with bbq sauce) although the beet burger looks amazing as well.
I ate: The Pulled BBQ Jackfruit sandwich with Carolina slaw, bread & butter pickles, fried shallots, and horseradish aioli, on a potato bun.
This was the BEST jackfruit I have ever eaten, delicately shaved. There are some citrus hints that combine with the sweetness of the bbq sauce and the crunch of the pickles to create the best mouth medley. And the slaw is made from really tiny pieces of a wider-than-normal variety of veg, which makes it soooo tender.
Brooklyn vegan cafe with amazing sandwiches
In the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, Hartbreakers is very much worth the journey. The decor is pink and yellow, with beaded curtains and a linoleum floor. It’s homey and nostalgic while also being super cute and welcoming.
They specialize in saucy, packed sandwiches which burst with flavour without being sloppy. They also have a following for their waffle fries and imaginative salads (chickpea salad, cous cous, artichoke).
I ate: The Picnic sandwich — a massive fried vegan chicken monster with seitan bacon, creamy slaw and mondo sauce on a sesame seed bun. (Plus I added some ranch!)
While I appreciate that some restaurants I have visited make tiny burgers so that I could fit in more variety, I also loved this gigantic meal. I ordered the tiny kale salad on the side to balance out the carbs! Great beet tahini dressing.
Best New York Vegan Breakfast and Brunch
Brooklyn vegan diner decadence
Open in one form or another for more than 10 years, Champs Diner is a pioneer of vegan comfort food in Brooklyn, with its massive breakfast menu, decadent milk shakes, and wide selection of sandwiches. It is small and popular and I got there early to procure a table.
It’s pretty hard to decide whether to go for breakfast/brunch or lunch/dinner here.
Once that decision is made, it’s hard to decide between items like chicken and waffles, the reuben sandwich, cookie dough pancakes or a Philly cheese steak. Or whether to try one of the many flavours of sundae or shake.
I wish I lived nearby!
I ate: I ordered the breakfast slam, because you get so many things in one meal: hashbrowns, tofu scramble, sausage, tempeh bacon, and a choice of french toast, pancakes or biscuit (obviously I choose biscuit, and ordered a side of gravy for good measure).
The portions are big too — I got two breakfasts out of this meal! Everything was great, with the tofu scramble being noteworthy for how light and tasty it was.
East Brooklyn cafe with house-made everything
My furthest stop east in Brooklyn, Toad Style is outside the limits of the Citibike program (my preferred way to get around NYC) but worth the extra 15 minutes on foot. After studying the menu, I knew I couldn’t miss out.
Aside from the bread, which is baked locally, they make every single ingredient from scratch — every sauce, every nut cheese, every burger patty. And that attention to detail is evident. Not only is everything vegan but it is also soy free. I’ve got no problem with soy but I love exploring alternatives.
The cafe itself is unassuming and super cute. I will be back for the California Burrito which includes fries, jackfruit and homemade nacho cheese.
I ate: The Breakfast bun — this bun is almost deceptively simple, encompassing a scramble, maple sausage, ketchup and hot sauce. But get this — the scramble is made of chickpeas!
It was so damn fluffy and delicious and piping hot. And the two sauces, one a little sweet, the other with a little zesty spice, worked so well together, providing perfect contrast to the scramble.
Brooklyn vegan cafe with amazing sandwiches
I know I already included Hartbreakers in my top 3 meals category, but you also need to know about their amazing breakfast and brunch options.
Three words. Good Morning Burrito.
While this concoction has long been on the menu, Hartbreakers has also very recently started serving a dedicated brunch menu, with items like a breakfast sandwich (with brined tofu, double cheese, bacon and hollandaise on a bagel), za’atar french toast, and loaded waffle fries.
The menu is ever-rotating so just try whatever magic they dream up.
I ate: The Good Morning Burrito — tofu scramble, cheddar cheese, merguez sausage, cilantro jalapeño aioli, waffle fries. Yum!
Best Vegan Pizza in NYC
Greenpoint omnivorous pizza joint with separate vegan menu
Pauli Gee’s may be an omnivorous establishment, but they are exceedingly vegan-friendly, with an extensive, separate vegan menu at their stylish Greenpoint restaurant, and a large vegan selection always available at their ready-to-eat slice shop a few blocks away.
Unlike most NYC food spots, Paulie Gee’s is roomy and housed in an old industrial building with lots of exposed brick. Low light and a bright, fiery pizza oven make the space intimate.
I ate: Following Quarrygirl’s advice, I ordered the vegan Regina and added the house-made vegan sausage. It’s a tangy sourdough crust, just the right thickness, fired to perfection. And every other element is in perfect balance.
The tomato sauce, the locally-made NUMU mozzarella (coconut– and soy–based, it’s one of the best vegan mozzas I’ve eaten), the basil and the tasty sausage. One of the best pizzas ever.
Vegan pizza in Brooklyn
An all-vegan pizza joint with two Brooklyn locations in Greenpoint (the one I visited) and Crown Heights, Screamers is the creation of the Champs Diner team.
The slice shop on Manhattan Ave was smaller than I expected, but it had 9 (nine!) vegan pies in the warming case, so there were a lot of choices to be made. You can also order a whole pie if you know exactly what you want and don’t need to save stomach space.
Screamers makes a thicker crust than some of my fave pizzas but it needs to be a bit more substantial to accommodate the generous toppings. The pizza is definitely not overloaded (which I hate) but makes a hearty meal and a great deal.
I ate: I was so excited that they had the exact pizza I most wanted to try, the Buffalo — tomato sauce, vegan cheese, buffalo cauliflower, almond ricotta, ranch drizzle. It’s super creamy and saucy.
Innovative East Village vegetarian eatery
Technically Superiority Burger serves focaccia with toppings, but that is close enough to classic pizza for me. My Superiority focaccia adventure was one of my best meals in NYC (see the full review above), so it definitely belongs in the best vegan pizza in New York category, too.
Best Vegan Sandwiches
A vegan Jewish-style deli in the heart of the Lower East Side, Orchard Grocer fits perfectly in the land of dill pickles and old tenement blocks. They stock lots of vegan grocery items as well as producing a pretty impressive list of sandwiches and extras from their tiny kitchen.
The Reuben sandwich comes out hot hot hot and packed with savoury seitan and cheese. But it was the bagel sandwich, called The Edith, that stole my heart.
I ate: The Edith — a bagel sandwich with house-made cashew cream cheese, carrot lox, capers, and chives. They do not skimp on any of the ingredients and the lox is tangy with a tender crunch.
I have had a few truly stellar carrot lox bagel sandwiches and this is easily up there with the best (which can be found at very fancy Crossroads Kitchen in West Hollywood).
Now with a permanent location inside the food market (the Pennsy) at Penn Station, Cinnamon Snail as an immensely popular food truck with a dedicated following. They make famous cinnamon buns but also donuts, burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
It’s possible that Cinnamon Snail might not be quite as good as it used to be. The portions are smaller and they don’t make their special vegan cakes and cookies anymore.
But they still make an unbelievable burger patty that doesn’t try to approximate any other taste. It is its own thing, succulent and bursting with flavour.
I actually ordered two burgers while I was there.
The first, the Gochujang burger, is served with homemade kimchi, pickled turnip, spicy Korean bbq sauce and arugula. Medium spiciness was just right.
Several people I know cite the spicy Beastmode Burger as their fave burger ever and it’s perhaps the most famous item here. It features an ancho chili seitan burger smothered in maple hickory bbq sauce with Jalapeno mac n cheese, arugula, smoked chili coconut bacon and chipotle mayo on a grilled pretzel bun.
(Side note: Cinnamon Snail were the first people I know of to put mac and cheese on a burger).
My fave: The Sage Seitan burger, which includes smoked chili coconut bacon and roasted garlic aioli, pretzel buns, pleasantly al dente baked ziti, and crunchy marinated kale. All burgers are on a soft, chewy, perfect pretzel bun.
Brooklyn vegan cafe with amazing sandwiches
It is so hard to decide what to order at this charming cafe, which is why Hartbreakers falls into my top 3 meals category (see above), as well as qualifying for best breakfasts and best sandwiches.
They offer several variations of a fried chicken sandwich, each with different toppings. The same goes for the house beet burger and there’s also a bbq sandwich featuring shredded chicken, slaw and pickles.
Vegan Ice Cream NYC
Seed and Mill
Vegan tahini soft serve in Chelsea Market
Huge thank you to Jason of @jason_vegan_nyc for alerting me to this vegan ice cream option which I probably would not have found otherwise!
Tahini plus soft serve ice cream: Seed and Mill are on board with two of my great loves.
Seed and Mill make three products only:
- Halva. Arranged in gorgeous cakes in their display case and coming in a huge range of flavours like cardamom, peanut butter, and white chocolate raspberry.
- Tahini. They source their sesame seeds from Ethiopia , roast them and then spin their magic.
- Ice cream. I was in heaven.
Seed and Mill is in Chelsea Market and while I didn’t have a chance to look around much it is a very happening, bustling locale where you will probably find more culinary treasures.
I ate: Tahini salted caramel ice cream (chocolate was another option) and topped with halva crumbles and tahini. It’s definitely in my top two vegan soft-serve experience ever, the other being at Yogu-urt in LA.
Vegan soft serve in Williamsburg
There are even more great soft serve options at Whipped. This one is made from another one of my favourite vegan ingredients, oat milk. No artificial flavours, colours or preservatives are used. Additional bonus — this business is minority and women-owned.
Choose from sauces like chocolate, coffee and mint and add sprinkles, cookies and pecans, if you like. This small stand is inside the North 3rd Street Market food hall in Williamsburg, which is exactly as hip and trendy as you might imagine. It’s a very comfortable and chill place to indulge in some oat ice cream while reading a free copy of The New York Times.
I ate: The traditional vanilla. Chocolate is also available as is a swirl. And as much as I was tempted by the toppings, especially the peanut butter sauce and the pretzels, I ate it au naturel (the ice cream, not me) and it was the perfect mix of lightness, sweetness and full of subtle flavour.
Innovative East Village vegetarian eatery
I know I already added Superiority Burger in my “best meals” and “best pizzas” category but I can’t leave them out of vegan ice cream!
What with all the sandwiches and the mind-blowing foccacia I had, I was not planning to splurge on the daily gelatos and sorbets made in-house. But the chef generously offered me a free sample after I praised the food and I couldn’t say no — who says no to free vegan ice cream?
Thank goodness I didn’t!
There is usually one vegan gelato and one sorbet and they might be unusual flavours like cardamom cake or anise with pistachio ripple. They also have some non-vegan options so make sure you specify.
I ate: Roasted blueberry gelato and tahini sorbet. The tahini was a no-brainer for me, a huge flavour hit, and the right mix of dense and airy. I don’t usually pick fruit flavours but the roasting brought out a deep intense flavour in the blueberries and the texture was creamy perfection.
Even though the scoops are tiny, this was exactly the right amount of ice cream, maybe because it was such a taste explosion.
Top 3 Wish List for My Next New York Trip
Alas, my time in NYC was limited so I didn’t get to try every morsel of tempting vegan food available. Here are my top 3 picks for future trips.
Jajaja Plantas Mexicana
Vegan Mexcian food with 3 locations
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Buffalo cauliflower tacos sound like my kind of brunch! These tacos from @jajajamexicana were the perfect amount of spicy with a different flavor in every bite. I know I’ve posted about them before, and I know I’ll post about them again. @jajajamexicana is the spot to visit in NYC! #buffalocauliflower #vegantacos #jajaja #vegan #veganeats #veganfood #nyc #vegannycfood #cauliflower #buffalocauli #veganaf #plantbased #plantsmakepeoplehappy #yummy #plantbasedeating #veganbrunch
Recently profiled in The New Yorker, which does not often write about vegan food, Jajaja Plantas Mexicana has a stylish, inventive menu of vegan Mexican and Latin food. It’s created using a slew of plant ingredients like hearts of palm, jackfruit, fermented beans, sweet potato, plantain, mushroom and coconut to great effect. The food is also beautiful and smothered in multi-colured sauces.
They have three locations: Lower East Side, West Village, and Williamsburg.
Next time I’m in town, I will definitely be visiting one of their three locations for some tacos, pupusas, or a burrito.
Want to try: Chorizo Burrito with cauliflower rice, fermented bean, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.
Adelina’s Fraschetta Romana
Authentic vegan Italian in Brooklyn
This is another Quarrygirl recommendation, which I’ve had on my to-eat list for years. A classy authentic Italian wine bar and restaurant, Adelina’s Fraschetta Romana focuses on a small menu of vegetable dishes like Tuscan beans with fennel and tomato and Roman style flatbread pizza.
It’s a little pricey but I’ve been told the food is completely worth it. They are into natural wine and whole ingredients and craft their own cashew mozzarella.
Want to try: The original pizza romana — just marinara sauce, mozzarella and fresh oregano.
Modern Love Brooklyn
Swanky vegan comfort food in Brooklyn
Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a goddess to many vegans. Her cookbooks have inspired vegan home cooking since Vegan with a Vengeance was published in 2005.
Her restaurant venture, Modern Love, is not a super high-end restaurant, but it’s on the pricier end of the spectrum and that’s probably why I put off my visit until next time. Most people love the meals (their vegan desserts and brunch get special praise) and the swanky vibe, but some say the food isn’t worth the higher price tag.
Nevertheless, I look forward to one day trying this confident comfort food taken to gourmet level!
Want to try: Seitan Shawarma — seared seitan, hummus, garlic lavash, coleslaw, cucumber salad, kalamata olives, pepperoncinis, za’atar, tzatziki.
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 New York City useful (and possibly drooled a little bit during the reading process). I (Jane) have never been to New York and so am deeply envious that you get to go and try all of this amazing food! Enjoy your trip and if you find any other foods you think belong on this list, let us know!
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J