Between its perfect weather year-round, countless attractions, beautiful beaches, and foodie scene, there’s a lot to love about San Diego. After living in the city for five years, I can easily say my favorite aspect about San Diego is the amount of healthy food options around the city.
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And the amount of food options that cater to all diets, including vegan eateries in almost every popular neighborhood in the city. I’d go so far as to say that San Diego has one of the most vegan-friendly foodie scenes in California, maybe just slightly behind Los Angeles.
There are a lot of things to do in San Diego, but the best way to really enjoy the city is through your stomach. If you’re looking for the best vegan restaurants in San Diego, these are my favorite 10 vegan spots in the city. Since there are so many options, I focused on restaurants that are only 100% vegan, instead of vegetarian with vegan options.
And, because I couldn’t fit all of the best vegan restaurants in San Diego in one post (there are that many), I included a bonus section with additional vegan eateries that are worth a visit. These are the 10 best vegan restaurants in San Diego where you can eat your plant-based heart out.
Vegan Restaurants in San Diego: Cafe Gratitude San Diego
The OG vegan restaurant in California, Cafe Gratitude is a chain that started in Berkeley and expanded to multiple cities in California once people tried their delicious food. Although I’ve always grown up with vegan food, having had a vegan mother, Cafe Gratitude is the first restaurant that really showed me how diverse and mouthwatering vegan food could be.
Cafe Gratitude is especially fond of using cashews for cheese and in desserts, which is my weakness when it comes to vegan food. The menu tends to change with the season, but it’s always 100% vegan and 100% organic. Make sure to try any of their dishes that include cashew cheese (I especially love their vegan Mexican dishes), and don’t miss out on one of their raw desserts.
Vegan San Diego: Plant Power Fast Food
Vegan food has come a long way in the past decade. A good example of this is the amount of vegan ‘fast food’ places that are popping up in California. You might not think the words “healthy” and “fast food” could be in the same sentence, but vegan fast food eateries have changed the game, offering healthy meals on the go. I used to only be able to find sit-down vegan restaurants that would take ages to prepare the food (sorry Cafe Gratitude, I’m looking at you).
Now, there are plenty of options for counter-service and fast vegan food when you’re short on time. There are a few fast food vegan places in San Diego, but the one I would recommend visiting first is Plant Power Fast Food. Plant Power Fast Food has become a popular Southern California chain, so they have quite a few locations, including two in San Diego. I’d recommend going to their Ocean Beach location, which is right near the beach and located in a unique bohemian neighborhood of San Diego.
The menu offers the usual American fast food options, such as burgers, wraps, and frozen desserts, but it’s a lot healthier and 100% vegan. It’s one of the best vegan restaurants in San Diego and all over California. Make sure to try The Iconic Burger or The Holy Guacamole (if you like more of a spice kick) and their organic sodas or vegan old fashioned milkshakes.
The Purple Mint Vegan Bistro
A family-run vegan restaurant in San Diego, The Purple Mint Vegan Bistro serves up Vietnamese and Pan-Asian dishes that are flavorful, delicious, and filling. Plus, the service is friendly and welcoming. Their Mission Valley location isn’t anything to write home about, located in an unsuspecting shopping strip, but the food more than makes up for the ambiance.
If you’re in the mood for vegan curry, pho, banh mi sandwiches, or a number of other comfort Asian dishes, this place has a wide selection of delicious Asian food that comes in big portions. Oh, and really good Thai iced tea if you’re looking for a caffeine kick. Make sure to try their vegan pho, Eggplant & Tofu Delight, or their “Prawns” in Garlic Noodles.
Vegan Cafe and Yoga: Trilogy Sanctuary
I love a good healthy vegan cafe and yoga studio combo, and San Diego has a great one called Trilogy Sanctuary. The cafe is located in La Jolla, already one of the most stunning neighborhoods in San Diego. It’s also a rooftop cafe so you can soak up all those sparkling ocean views and San Diego sunshine while filling your body with good ol’ vegan nutrition.
This is where you can practice your down dog then sit down to a heaping Acai bowl or filling smoothie after practice – basically my favorite way to spend a Sunday.
Their menu is 100% vegan, organic, gluten-free, soy free, and doesn’t include any refined sugar. They also offer aerial yoga classes (in addition to traditional yoga) if you’re feeling adventurous in your practice. Make sure to try their traditional Acai bowl and falafel tacos.
One of the most famous vegan restaurants in San Diego, some say Donna Jean has become too hyped up, but I think it’s worth visiting at least once for some tasty home-cooked vegan food. It has became hyped up for a reason, after all (hint: the food is all kinds of gooey delicious).
Donna Jean serves up plant-based vegan homestyle comfort food, so they’re not the healthiest vegan spot on this list. But, if you’re looking for flavor and guilty pleasure vegan dishes, this is the place to come. It’s one of the best vegan restaurants in San Diego for its tasty cuisine.
This place is a good option for brunch on Saturday or Sunday, especially since they have a sunny patio and herb garden to make yourself at home. Make sure to try their Skillet Cooked Mac N Cheese and Nashville Hot Shrooms, or one of their vegan pizzas.
Veganic Thai Cafe
Another good option for vegan Asian food in San Diego, Veganic Thai Cafe has all your favorite Thai dishes made with 100% vegan ingredients.Portions are big and the ambiance is colorful, welcoming, and warm. The restaurant is located in Hillcrest, the LGBT neighborhood of San Diego and another good area to explore.
And if you’re looking for a good vegan restaurant for date night, this is probably the most romantic vegan restaurant on the list due to its ambiance and good service. Make sure to try their drunken noodles, yellow curry, or pumpkin curry.
Vegan Tacos SD
Can you even say you’ve been to San Diego if you haven’t tried any tacos? Speaking from a local perspective, I’m going to say no. It’s probably not surprising with how close the Mexican border is, but San Diego has some of the best tacos in the US. And, although those greasy whole-in-the-wall taquerias throughout the city aren’t the most vegan-friendly, there’s now a vegan taco truck that has taken the San Diego vegan foodie scene by storm.
Vegan Tacos SD has made it possible for vegans to gorge on heavenly tacos without having to worry about cross-contamination or mediocre vegan options at a traditional taqueria. Make sure to try their Ensenada and Asada Tacos. You can usually find the truck at 3030 Grape Street or in the Target parking lot across the street.
If you’re looking for a unique vegan experience in San Diego, don’t miss out on Kindred, an eccentric bar in Golden Hill that features death metal music and a fully vegan menu. Probably the best thing about this place, besides the vegan options, is the decor and overall atmosphere. Think punk, a little edgy, but still classy in its own way.
Kindred also has a solid cocktail menu that is full of creative options if you’re into craft cocktails. It’s the ideal vegan place for a nice evening out with drinks, small bites to eat, and a good dose of death metal. What a combo!
Keep in mind this place gets packed since it’s a popular bar in a trendy neighborhood. Parking can be a nightmare, so I’d recommend getting here via share-ride to avoid the limited parking. Also, food is notorious for being slow so be mentally prepared to wait.
I’d recommend heading here when you have plenty of time and don’t mind enjoying one or two of their specialty cocktails as you wait for the food to come out. For drinks, make sure to try The Chromostring and for food, the Memphis BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich.
If you’re looking for raw vegan food in San Diego, Peace Pies is one of the best raw food cafes in the city. All of their food is not only raw, but vegan, gluten-free, and soy free. Their location in Ocean Beach is the perfect casual vegan cafe to grab a healthy lunch at before checking out the hippie neighborhood that surrounds it.
If you’re just looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, they have a large selection of vegan desserts in the form of pie and other goodies. Their lunch options include wraps, salads, pizzas, and other entrees.
In addition to their tasty food, they have a zero waste policy, which means they compost all of their food scraps and have eco-friendly packaging. Win-win! Make sure to try their Horchata Smoothie, Mystical Mushroom Quesadilla, or San Diego Caesar.
Starry Lane Bakery
Although there are quite a few bakeries, donut shops, and ice cream parlors in San Diego that offer vegan options, Starry Lane Bakery is the only place I’ve found that offers 100% vegan desserts. And, might I add, really good vegan desserts.
The great thing about this bakery is that it’s good for anyone who is sensitive to food allergens, since they make all of their desserts without the top 10 most common allergens. This includes gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish, mustard, and sesame. None of those ingredients are even allowed in the building.
Make sure to try any of their cupcakes (they’re all good) or their cinnamon rolls for the perfect amount of sugar rush. Starry Lane Bakery is one of the best vegan restaurants in San Diego for their delicious, allergen free baked goods.
Other Honorable Mentions that are Worth a Visit
100% Vegan Restaurants
- Evolution Fast Food
- The Modern Vegan
- Green Door Cafe
- Natural Delights Juice Bar
- Spoiled Vegans Cafe
- World Beat Cafe
- Loving Hut
- Soulshine Vegan Cafe
Vegetarian Restaurants with Vegan Options
- Plumeria Vegetarian
- Native Foods
- Sipz – vegan sushi!
All Diet Restaurants Known for Their Vegan Options
- True Food Kitchen
- Ranchos Cocina
As you can see, there are plenty of vegan options in San Diego. You could truly spend a whole week in the city trying a different vegan restaurant for every meal and still have places you didn’t get to. Just make sure to bring some good walking shoes, so you can work off all that good vegan food you’ll be eating around San Diego.
If you’re looking for vegan guides for other cities in the USA, we’ve got you covered. Here’s where you’ll find the best vegan food in Tempe, Arizona; a vegan dining guide for Buffalo, New York; the best vegan food in Nashville, Tennessee; and all the vegan food in Portland, Maine.
Suggestions for Activities in San Diego
Don’t worry, it’s easy to do with all the beautiful coastal and beach walks around San Diego. There are so many great things to do in San Diego between your meals. You can take a kayaking tour of the 7 caves. Spotting whales and dolphins off the coast of San Diego could be the highlight of your trip. And if you’re looking for a way to get around town, the Hop On Hop Off bus is always insightful and practical.
This is all to say that if you’re vegan and planning a trip to California, don’t miss out on the vegan foodie scene in San Diego (it’s only a two hour drive from LA). My favorite aspect about the many vegan restaurants in San Diego is how diverse, healthy, and inclusive they are for all diets. So, whether you choose to grab some vegan tacos or a delectable vegan cupcake from a 100% vegan bakery on your way to the beach, you’ll never be left without dairy-free options in this easy-going seaside city. Happy eating!
Mimi McFadden is a travel blogger, avid yogi, and paneer enthusiast. Originally from California, she has been slow traveling the world since 2013. After living abroad for five years in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Greece, and Portugal she has finally found a home in San Francisco, California. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog, The Atlas Heart.