Being Vegetarian in Moscow

Being vegetarian is hard. Being vegetarian in Moscow is especially hard.

(As a not-so-quick aside, since this is invariably the question that pops up after a slightly repulsed/shocked face and a “really?!”: “why?!” I’ve actually always been a vegetarian. Seriously. Always. My parents were both vegetarians when I was born and it just happened. No, they never refused to feed me meat, but as a little kid who understood exactly where beef came from, I wasn’t really interested in eating any animals. And no, I’ve never eaten meat. I mean, I probably have — just not that I know of.)

So. Yes, being a vegetarian has been quite the feat here in Moscow. Like any other major city, in recent years there has been some progress in terms of accepting and embracing a vegetarian diet. However vegetarianism is still not very common in Russia’s major cities and basically unheard of to a non-metropolitan Russian. A lot of interactions (particularly with older generations) have gone something like this video from Everything is Illuminated (affiliate link).

I’ve suffered through the pain of being the non-carnivorous weirdo for years so if you’re planning on being a vegetarian in Moscow, I totally feel your pain. To ease the transition, I’ve compiled a list of WHAT

Vegetarian Restaurants

Centrally located in Moscow, Jagganath’s main location is always packed full of people. (Maybe the lone 50 vegetarians of Moscow city?) There’s an eclectic mix of food on offer: some Indian, raw foods, and a lot of fresh produce. No alcohol, though. I feel they get the impression that vegetarianism=healthy… The food is good, if pretty pricey, and there’s a health food store attached with a pretty interesting range of products. One highlight is their outrageously overpriced Nature Valley Bars. Soy milk and other soy products can also be found at high, high prices.
Kuznetsky Most 11 (Metro Kuznetsky Most)

Aromass (Indian Restaurant)
While not strictly vegetarian, this place is AH-MAY-ZING and has lots of vegetarian options thanks to its Indian roots. The workers are all Indian – most speak excellent English (and Russian, to my intense envy) and, as an added bonus, are incredibly friendly compared to typical Russian service! The curries are delicious (I always go for the paneer butter masala) and the bread can be consumed by the basket-ful. It’s about a ten minute hike from the metro, but totally worth it!
Krzhizhanovskogo ul. 20/30, k. 1 (Metro Profsoyuznaya)

Avokado has two locations that offer vegetarian, vegan, and raw food. The food is pretty internationally inclined, but I’ve heard you can get some interesting “vegetarian-ized” Russian dishes there. Like vegan blini — though what’s the point without the butter?! The cafe is expensive but, hey, it’s Moscow. Why are you surprised?
Tverskaya Ulitsa 5/6 (Metro Okhotnyy Ryad)
Bul’var Chistoprudnyy, 12, bldg. 2 (Metro Chistye Prudy)

Being Vegetarian in Russia - Let's Love Local

Vegetarian Shops

Happy Vegan Shop
Happy Vegan is made up of both a physical shop and an online portion that offers delivery service. Offering delicious and healthy food for vegans and vegetarians, Happy Vegan has an amazing spread of items that you might not find elsewhere (specialty flours and grains, as well as vegan meat substitutes). Best of all, if you’re too lazy to cook, their cafe serves up vegan treats already made!
Sivtsev Vrazhek pereulok 19 (metro Smolenskaya, Arbatskaya)

Indian Spices
Aside from giving Moscow some much needed variety, the Indian Spices shops are a great place to pick up a few bits and pieces that are mostly unavailable elsewhere. Their shops have an amazing selection of spices as well as Indian snacks, oils, and much much more. Also, if you’re looking for organic/natural cosmetics or shower items, Indian Spices usually has a great selection.
Multiple location: most central @ ulitsa Sretenka 36/2 (metro Sukharevskaya)

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  • DAZHE KOLBASU??? Omg, the highlight of my day. I would literally die without Kolbasa. My body would shut down. In NYC I traveled 2 hrs each way to a Russian store that sold the proper kind. I actually feel sick if I go a day w/o meat. Tho not sure when that happened last.

    Ok, so I am blatantly non-vegetarian, but I always see Moscow and a very veggie-friendly place. Probably bc my sister just recently started to keep mostly veg (for ethical reasons) and my mom observes ALL the Orthodox fasts, so meat dishes are cooked primarily for me. In my house there are so many salads, and sauteed veggies, and kabachkovaya ikra, and meatless borscht, and potatoes with mushrooms and mushroom soup, etc etc etc. Plus all the kashas and breads and cheeses (if you’re not a vegan)!!! Oh, and all the sushi places!

    PS – I love animals, but that part of my brain shuts off when I eat. When I was 3 yo, the story goes, I saw a whole plucked chicken in my kitchen’s sink (chickens were sold whole back then – head and feet etc). I asked my mom why the chicken was naked – wont it get cold? And mom said that it’s getting ready for its bath…

    PPS – is the Russian a veg? Or do you guys cook separately?

    • There are a lot of decent Russian dishes without meat (I loooove non-caviar ikra!), but they aren’t usually at the forefront of most meals, sadly.

      And the Russian is only vegetarian when he’s too lazy to cook. Usually he’ll add something to what I make (chicken to veggie pasta or whatever), but a lot of time laziness wins out so he goes veg.

  • I’ve not got past the first pic… oooooh, cake porn at its finest 🙂

    • Amazing, right? A little bakery in my hometown did then and they tasted even better than they looked!

  • Ha ha, that video is hilarious! 🙂 I mean, poor you 😉

    • The first time I saw that movie was after I’d been in Russia for a while. Mostly I laughed, but I wept a little about what my life had become…

      • A little weep can do you good 😉

  • Azilie

    It’s exactly the same in Japan. I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat meat only a few times a week (just by preference, not health/ethical reasons), and I had friends who were vegetarians who chatted with me about this. In fact, the program through which I taught (the JET Program) had seminars about it, giving advice to vegetarian JETs — yes, you will be asked if you eat fish with the presumption that you can do this and still be vegetarian. Yes, there will still be fish broth in everything. No, there are virtually no meals you can order without meat, and probably they won’t know what to do if you ask them to hold the meat. (An exception: restaurants connected to Buddhist shrines where the food is prepared by monks. Eating this all the time would be like seeking out tea ceremonies instead of generic bottles of iced green tea.)

    I wished I could just tell them I was a vegetarian, though, because one of my coworkers’ favorite games seemed to be “Make the foreigner eat weird slimy/chewy things without knowing what it is.” Sadly I did not enjoy this game nearly as much as they did. :p

    Fortunately Japan too has wonderful desserts. (Hope this link works with the weird characters:
    Karafuneya Parfait Shop in Sanjo, Kyoto!)

    • Ah yes, I can’t even imagine navigating Japan with all that fish product. Lots of cultures don’t really consider fish “meat” which can be tricky.

      And that link did work and HOLY HELL those look SO GOOD.

  • Life without Taco Bell? I’m not sure if your Aunt Marie or I could handle that.

  • This post was great! People always ask me, “Isn’t it HARD not eating meat?” I always have to bite my tongue, because what I really want to tell them is the hardest part of being vegetarian is dealing with jerks!

    • Exactly! If I am not being a militant vegan/vegetarian and asking you pointed questions about eating meat, don’t hate. Or annoy me with inane questions.

  • I would be a terrible vegetarian! We try to eat a few meat-free dishes a week, purely because the boyfriend seems to think eating meat every day is bad for you, but I almost never choose the vegetarian option in restaurants because they usually involve vegetables that I don’t like. Vegetarian lasagne? Containss mushrooms. Some kind of vegetable bake thing? Will most likely contain one of the following: broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms (yuk, yuk and yuk!). Plus I actually like the taste of meat. Ooooh, I’m so evil 😉
    p.s. Yes, even as a child I knew beef came from cows, for example, but the way I see it, humans were designed to eat both meat AND plants. Most people at too much meat these days, but some meat is actually supposed to be in our diet. We don’t think lions are cruel for eating zebras or cry when an owl eats a poor defenseless little mouse. Even hedgehogs have been known to eat frogs. Just my opinion 🙂

    • I don’t know… My father, despite being an incredibly picky person (a vegetarian that doesn’t eat mushrooms?! Craziness), has survived for decades!

      As for me, my decision to stay vegetarian as an adult was/is not at all a biological one. Perhaps we were made to eat meat, but I’ve survived quite well without it.

      My non-meat philosophy is more ethical: if I couldn’t kill it myself, I won’t eat it. Slaughter a cow? No way. Rip a carrot murderously from the ground? No problem.

  • I can imagine it’s super hard to be a vegetarian anywhere but home anyway to start off with! I was a vegetarian for 3 years and it was a struggle enough in England to find things I could eat/substitute meat with because all of my family were meat eaters. But if I were to come and do that in a new country, it’d be so hard!

    Most of the time that I order food, I don’t even fully understand what I am ordering! Haha.

    • Haha yeah, I’m definitely wary of ordering things if I don’t know exactly what they are. Made that mistake a few too many times…

  • Strange. Russian cuisine contains a huge amount lean dishes.
    I have a few friends-vegetarians and they have no problems with the food.
    The most famous Russian recipe book (A Gift to Young Housewives – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Gift_to_Young_Housewives) contains about one-third the lean dishes.

    • I agree that there are theoretically a lot of options… However, in my humble anecdotal experience, going to a restaurant or a friend’s house for dinner is not easy.

  • I was just thinking how hard it would be to eat vegetarian in this town. I was talking to an expat about the lack of beef, and she mentioned how lots of people eat veal instead. I’m not a vegetarian, but even veal gives me pause…

  • Hahah I love it. ‘What about the sausage?’ Oh, the questions. Since we’ve moved away from the Texas/American resto scene, it’s been easier for us. Sometimes we make the weekly grocery list for dinners each night and find that there happens to be no meat dishes! It seems silly, but we’re always kinda proud. We’ve started substituting lentils for ground beef – like, in chilis and stuff. Sooo good! We’re always on the lookout for meet in the middle type foods – like, it makes us so full, we don’t even notice theres no meat (that’s weird. huh) so, if you have fave recipes….!

    • oh, and I definitely requested for Taco Bell…sorry about that!

  • Mm, good picks. I can also recommend Fresh on Bolshaya Dmitrovka.

  • I discovered your blog last month when I moved to Moscow, and I’m excited to try out your vegetarian recommendations! I am a pescatarian, which makes things easier, but I still love my veggies. You should definitely visit Кафе Сок (http://cafe-cok.ru/menu). Their pelmeni could (almost) convert a Russian to vegetarianism.

    • I’ve walked by this many times but never gone in. May have to after that stellar rec.

      Also, glad to see you comment here (I’m always after new Moscow blogs to stalk!)

  • Basil

    Hey, I am also a vegetarian and have lots of veggie friends from abroad who come to visit me and we often go to vegetarian places in Moscow. In fact there are more and more vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly cafes so don’t be scared to visit Moscow if you are vegetarian or vegan, you will not have to starve, I assure you 🙂
    Also follow this link http://www.vegelicacy.com/blog/7, it’s a review of vegetarian restaurants in Moscow.

  • dsad xxx

  • Paul

    Great post! I am planning to visit Moscow as a tourist and found this helpful and interesting. Is there an Iskcon temple there? They usually have great vegetarian food.

    • I see Hare Krishna people dancing around Arbat Street all the time, but never thought of that. Upon looking, there is a center here: ул. Куусинена, 19 а – right next to where I used to live! Unclear if they serve food in the center as it doesn’t seem to be a temple.

  • Zupełnie nie będą zdołali wnosić 5â € obcasy t, wypatruje jak na przykład moto także dostatecznie przeważająco węglowodanu.

  • Hi Polly!! on my way to Moscow tonight and i cant thank you enough for this post! I am pure veg you see 🙂

    • Awesome! Best of luck, have a ton of fun!

  • Kuldeep

    Hi Polly, thank you for your valuable suggestions. I am planning for Russia. I will thankful to you if you can tell me more about this in another cities of Russia.

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  • blondielox

    i’m russian, and a vegetarian. hoping to go vegan. it’s not true about all older people. after rolling her eyes my grandma was totally ok with it. my grandmother’s friend, who is 73 has been a vegetarian since she was a little girl, even during really hard times. i understand that Russians have always been fair game for grotesque stereotypes but come on we are not all evil cruel barbaric meat eating commies lol

    • Are you kidding? I’d love to chat about being a vegetarian as a Russian but I mean… really. Come on. You must know you’re talking about something I didn’t say or insinuate in any way.

      • blondielox

        perhaps i misunderstood, do forgive me. it’s just that i know myself and i know the people i had been around most of my life and they are pretty sympathetic towards animals and nature, and people’s choices in what they eat. it was my parents actually who taught me to respect nature at a really young age. so it’s not like Russians have some sort of paradigm that differs to others. perhaps this just hit a nerve, but on a positive note I think it is great that Russian people are actually embracing veganism. there are Russian celebrities now that are vegan, i have met people there who are vegan and while they do not judge me for being a vegetarian, do encourage me to end all suffering within my diet. hopefully there will be more and more vegetarian resturants and shops in the future in Russia.

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  • Nick Lagunoff

    My friend moved to Moscow and claims it’s hard to shop for supplies and vegetables especially at reasonable prices. i suggested to her that if there is an Indian community there to give it a try. If any of you have any suggestions please post them and I will pass them on. Places with addresses or directions will help. Thanks.