Eating as a Vegan in Belgium

When traveling to Belgium the first foods that usually come to mind are the delicious chocolates, fries, waffles and allll the delicious Belgian beer. Well beer isn’t technically a food group by itself but it does kind of qualify as one in Belgium! I lived in Belgium for two years in the city of Leuven while I completed my Master’s in Anthropology. Leuven is a gorgeous, old city located just outside the capital of Brussels. My experience as a vegan in Belgium will always hold a very special place in my heart because I also came into my own while living as a vegan in Belgium. I moved to Belgium as a new vegetarian and so naturally made the transition to veganism while living in my little student apartment and cooking for J and I in our tiny triangle apartment in Belgium.

eating as a vegan

This is a post from my Vegan European Travel series where I talk about…

While living in Belgium and discovering the environment around me as a vegan, I did pick up quite a few tips about living and traveling as a a vegan in Belgium, particularly, around navigating menus, restaurants and cultural food-related “norms”  in the land of delicious chocolate and beer! Here goes.

eating as a vegan
Eating at vegan (and non-vegan) restaurants in Belgium   

I’ve eaten at all kinds of vegan and non-vegan restaurants in Belgium and always try out new places when I return to visit J’s family and our friends. Eating at non-vegan restaurants in Belgium is also pretty simple with a few of the following tips to keep in mind.

Traditional Belgian fare is pretty meat-centric and typically not-so vegan in my experience – so at restaurants that cater to the more traditional Belgian food (i.e. steak, meat-based stews, etc.), I would recommend to check to see what vegan options are available before being seated. Checking the menu online or calling in advance are generally good ideas when eating at non vegan restaurants in Belgium to see if there are veggie-friendly dishes available. Generally, there will be at least one vegan friendly option on the menu.

One thing that surprised me in Belgium when eating out is that it is not as common to ask for modifications to the menu like it is in North America. So the chefs, in some places, might or might not make vegan modifications for you if there are not any veggie-friendly options already on the menu. Don’t be afraid to speak up and politely ask for modifications – like pasta without the cheese – but know that not all restaurants will be open to making changes to what is on the menu like they often do in Canada and the States.

When eating out, I typically find the option that is most likely to be vegan on the menu and ask the waiter if it can be made without any animal products (like butter, animal fats, fish or eggs) for me. Almost all the restaurants I’ve dined at in Belgium have been pleased to make these vegan accommodations for me.. or even create something off the menu when there isn’t any vegan fare is listed. Here’s a shot of a lovely “off-the-menu” saffron rice and veggie dish the chef specially prepared for me at one of our favourite spots in Leuven for my post-graduation celebration lunch!

eating as a vegan

Another time when dining with family in Bruges, the chef prepared a lovely curry for me with rice. The daughter of the family-owned restaurant came out and said that the chef was so excited to prepare their first ever vegan meal at their restaurant. The meal was so delicious and beautifully presented, the chef said he’d consider making it a permanent item on their menu! #veganwin

So you see, that with the right approach, many restaurants are able to make vegan accommodations – even when there is not something animal product free on the menu!

There are also more and more veggie-friendly options popping up on menus everywhere. This past Christmas we went out with my in laws for dinner and I was so happily surprised by the vegetarian section of the menu in a traditional Belgian resto in Ghent! Check out those amazing tofu kebabs on rice. Yum!

eating as a vegan

And… when in doubt, there is usually always a vegetarian pasta meal at almost every Belgian restaurant. If the pasta does have eggs, ask if the chef would be happy to prepare it for you on rice.

eating as a vegan

At non-traditional Belgian restaurants, there are often many veggie-friendly options to choose from. Veggie sushi, thin crust roasted vegetable pizza and tapas are all fun vegan options to try when seeking out dining options.

eating as a vegan

eating as a vegan

Seek out the vegan spots!

And of course, seek out allll the vegan restaurants when traveling as a vegan in Belgium! They are literally so many fun and tasty places to choose from during your travels. More and more vegan restaurants are popping up all over Belgium. Two new restaurants even opened up where I was living right before I finished my program in Leuven.

Or make something at home… 

Belgian grocery stores – particularly the local organic shops have so many cool vegan options to choose from. Vegan croquettes, realllly good vegan cheese (bottom left) and even vegan tortellini! If you have a chance, try out some of the vegan products sold in Belgian grocery stores – they won’t disappoint. I may or may not have stocked up on the Monterey Jack Cheese and Tortellini to take home with me to Canada!

eating as a vegan

eating as a vegan

Vegan Fries?

You cannot be in Belgium and not notice the infamous “frites” shops. These fry shops, specialize in… Fries (lol) and tons of… well… fried fare. Fries are naturally vegan, yes, but note that most fry shops (and often restaurants as well) use cow or pig  fat to fry their food. I always double check that restaurants have indeed used veggie based oil to cook your food! My recommendation would be to seek out vegetarian Frites shops if you are looking to indulge in the Belgian tradition of fries and mayonnaise. We went to the new Loving Hut burger spot in Leuven and tried some veggie versions of Belgian favourites – like bitterballen (creamy fried vegetable balls).

eating as a vegan

eating as a vegan

Beer, beer, beer!

You can’t go to Belgium and not indulge in at least one of the thousands of local and  artisanal Belgian beers (unless you don’t drink of course and in that case stick to the chocolate). From what I have researched, almost all Belgian beer is vegan and made without any animal products – you can always double check with a quick google search to be certain. One of my favorite things to do in Belgium is to sip on a flavorful beer over a pre-dinner apéritif. My favorite beer of all time is Hoegaarden. And if you are in Leuven, I’d recommend stopping by “The Capital” – a spot with literally thousands upon thousands of beers to try from. 

eating as a vegan

Vegan chocolate?

Well chocolate is vegan…. both yes and no. Much of the dark chocolate sold in Belgium is made without any dairy products whatsoever. And the dark chocolate is darn amazing. I ate my fair share of dark chocolate while living in Belgium – believe you-me! I joke with J that he stole my heart through the delicious chocolate and beer Belgium has to offer. When we started dating, Jeroen used to bring me a piece of chocolate everyday. That’s love, lol!

The vegetarian capital of Belgium – Ghent

I couldn’t write this post without mentioning the famous medieval city of Ghent in Belgium. Ghent is simply such a beautiful and vegan friendly city. They even have a city wide meat-free day every Thursday. There are tons of hip and tasty vegetarian places to choose from when visiting this cozy and welcoming city and many restaurants have at least one vegan option on their menu. In the Summer, they have the vegan food festival – I’d love to get there one of these years!

eating as a vegan

And guys I would love to know – have you been to Belgium – or live in Belgium?!? I would love to know your thoughts, tips and tricks about being a vegan (or vegetarian!) in Belgium in the comments below! Bon voyage!

eating as a vegan

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  1. Beautiful post, Ceara!
    I moved to Belgium, last year, and have been a tad upset with the selection of vegetarian/vegan meat and cheese. I’ve yet to even find vegan cheese at my Delhaize! Would you be able to share where you purchased your vegan goodies; while in Belgium? My sister and I would really appreciate it!
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts 😀

    1. Hi Josh, there are many varieties of vegan cheese here in Belgium, delhaize and colruyt have them. You just have to search around to find it

  2. Loved this post! We’re vegan and from Belgium, so it’s always nice to find new places to eat. We love to discover new vegan hot spots all over Europe. You can read all about them on our blog or on our instagram.

  3. Hi,
    No offense, those dishes look very bad:( They merely look like something is scraped from left overs.
    Who goes to a restaurant and asks for modifications? I sincerely hope this all fuzz about diets goes pass.
    If you can´t eat straight from the menu, please stay home or find a place that is vegetarian-minded and already planned
    for vegetarians.

    1. Many people go to restaurants and ask about modifying the meal; whether it’s for a food allergen or simply because they don’t want certain ingredients in their meal. From what Ceara has written, it seems like the chefs have been more than open to accommodating her dietary needs..one was even happy to make their first vegan meal! It’s better to ask, than order a meal and pick away bits you didn’t want.

    2. This is not a fad so it isn’t about to pass. Many people who eat out need changes to what is on the menu regardless if they are vegan/vegetarian or not, there can be many other reasons

  4. I live in Belgium, fairly close to Leuven, and Loving hut and Greenway are y go-to spots! The food there is just delicious! But I do think that the Loving hut restaurant has better food than the veganerie (with the burgers and stuff) but that’s just my opinion! Antwerp is also a great city for vegan eats, so is Brussels. I really loved this blogpost! Seeing Belgium like this really makes me happy 🙂

    1. Hi Hannah! Thank you for stopping by! I am happy you enjoyed the blog post! What are your favorite spots in Antwerp and Brussels? My boyfriend is Belgian so we go back when we can and I love to try new vegan spots when I go!! 🙂

    1. I am glad you found the tips useful, Wendy!

      So many great places to veggie-friendly visit in Ghent! I need to go back and experience more of them! 🙂

  5. Hi Ceara!

    My husband and I are currently living in Leuven completing Master’s Degrees as well! AND we are vegans. AND we are also from Canada… so this post totally freaked me out haha.
    We have found it pretty easy to eat outl. It looks like you frequented Loving Hut a lot… we LOVE loving hut. Greenway is delicious as well, but since we are poor students we tend to make our own meals at home. We think its great how Europe emphasizes local, organic food and we oggle our way around the friday and saturday markets. THE BREAD. You forgot to mention the bread haha. Gosh, do the Belgians ever know how to make bread. I was never big on it until we moved here..

    Peace and love!

    1. Hi Megan!

      That is so cool and what a coincidence! I lived in Leuven for two years and would have loved to meet fellow vegan Canadians living abroad in Belgium! 🙂

      I also made most of my meals at home when I was living in Belgium (still do!). I love the vegan fare there, the weekend markets and the Loving Hut – yum! I make sure to stop at the new Loving Hut Burger Shop whenever I visit (my partner is Belgian so we fly back to visit!). And oh my goodness, yes, the bread is AMAZING!!

      All the best to you and your husband and thank you for stopping by!


  6. Hi Ceara! I enjoyed reading this as a not-yet-quite-vegan looking for inspiration AND living in Belgium (quite close to Leuven, actually😃) I don’t have enough experience to recommend other places or offer tips, but a friend of mine writes a blog(in French) about living in Belgium as a vegan family (with two little kids!).


    P.S. I just tried your banana loaf recipe and it’s delicious😊 Thank you!

  7. Such cool ideas for eating out…wherever you are! Never would’ve thought to just ask for a bed of rice instead of pasta. Great options! And I love it when chefs get excited to try something new and different.

  8. Ohhh I didn’t know they had Wilmersburger cheese in Belgium too! I haven’t tried their tortellini yet but I definitely will. Great post! Fun to see that there’s a loving hut there too. The bitterballen look so yummy, I’ve seen them a couple of times now but never got around to try them.

    Thank you for these wonderful tips, I’ll definitely be saving this post in case I’ll visit Belgium soon.

  9. What a great post! I live in Brussels and even though it is a big city it is not always the best place for vegetarians. There seem to be so many more vegetarian/vegan options in Flanders. I didn’t know there is a Loving Hut in Leuven and will definitely go and try it! If you are in Brussels I would highly recommend Soul Restaurant and the many international restaurants – there are amazing Lebanese, Indian or Moroccan places that have great veggie-friendly options.

    Love your ‘vegan travel’ series, looking forward to the next instalments 🙂

  10. Hi there! This post was so recognisable and fun to read! I grew up in a little town in Belgium, but I live in the beautiful city of Antwerp now. Have you been there already? I love it and – like you say – living vegan in Belgium is a pleasure…. The last years, so many vegan restaurants, shops and other places are poppig up! I also studied in Leuven for 4 years (before going vegan, I agree that it is an adorable city… And oh yes, beer is definitely a food group 😀

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