When one thinks of food in New Orleans, they don’t usually associate the words “healthy” or “light.” Our duck-laden gumbos, andouille-studded jambalayas, and pork-stuffed po-boys have sure put us on the culinary map, but there’s a lighter side to NOLA that is making its presence much more known these days. With access to some of the most incredible produce in the country and local chefs who really know what they’re doing in the kitchen, vegetarian and vegan dining is becoming increasingly more popular.
New Orleans is certainly a food-loving town and I believe that connotation to be all-encompassing. We’re not just enthusiastic about gumbo and beignets, New Orleanians really do love all kinds of food. And as the health food movement continues to grow, local New Orleans chefs and cooks are making it easy for us to see vegetables and fruit as real indulgences, giving us even more reasons to put down the po-boy and reach for a salad.
Here are some New Orleans restaurants that are making veggies look (and taste!) oh, so good.
New Orleans Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants
Tropical-inspired Cafe Carmo on Julia Street has an incredible menu that boasts bright flavors and wholesome ingredients. Try their signature salad with white rice, pineapple, avocado, cucumber, raisins, shaved almonds and smoked vegan ham with a mango citrus vinaigrette. Another favorite is the Acaraje, a black-eyed pea fritter fried in nutritious red palm oil, then split open and stuffed with a paste of chilies, onions, tomatoes, cashews, peanuts, and coconut milk. For something a little more decadent, indulge in some Banquette bread, a crispy Armenian flatbread covered in melted Havarti cheese (vegan cheese also available) and sprinkled with scallions. Carmo completes their balanced menu with a nice list of beers and delicious cocktails, like one that combines bourbon, maple syrup and lemon then garnished with cinnamon sticks.
Satsuma or Surrey’s
For a satisfying New Orleans breakfast (hold the bacon, please) check out Satsuma in the Bywater or Uptown or Surrey’s, located closer to downtown and further Uptown on Magazine Street. They both specialize in fresh vegetable and fruit juices, and Satsuma also has wheatgrass shots. Surrey’s takes the guesswork out of ordering by placing asterisks next to the vegetarian and vegan options, such as the Bananas Foster French Toast, Huevos Rancheros, and Tofu Breakfast Platter. My personal favorite is the Costa Rican breakfast made up of rice, black beans, fried eggs, avocado, and pico de gallo with cheddar cheese. Satsuma features a similar Mexican Breakfast Scramble on their menu, swapping rice for fresh corn tortillas.
Delicious meets nutritious at Superfood Bar on Magazine Street, where owner Joseph Stone’s nutrient-packed vegan smoothies are tastier than you could have ever imagined. This teeny-tiny health food smoothie shop features salads and fresh juices for a more counter service New Orleans restaurant feel. I love their avocado and mango smoothie with added Vitamineral Green, a potent mineral powder, or the Banana Nut with bananas, local pecans, dates, cashews, and macadamia nuts. Salads include items like the “Superfood” with dark greens and beet ribbons tossed in a Jerusalem artichokes/Braggs Amino acid vinaigrette with avocado, a coconut cashew ranch dressing with coconut “bacon” and another one with beets and quinoa tossed in a pecan herb pesto. This place makes healthy food taste way more delicious than it should.
El Gato Negro
With three locations the Warehouse District, Lakeview, and the French Quarter, El Gato Negro makes eating vegetarian both convenient and delicious. Vegetarians go crazy for the Panela cheese stuffed Poblano Pepper appetizer with garlic, mushrooms and pico de gallo, topped with a cream sauce made from tequila, Cotija cheese and butter. Vegans will enjoy the simplicity of a perfectly ripe avocado slices dusted with special house seasoning and spritz of fresh lime. Hold the Cotija on the Acapulco salad of romaine lettuce, poblano peppers, sweet corn and Roma tomatoes to make it vegan or indulge in vegetable tacos with sautéed mushrooms and pinto beans. This Mexican restaurant also serves up over 50 different types of tequila and has specialty margaritas featuring flavors like cilantro, blackberry, and carrot and lime.
Lebanon’s Cafe or Mona’s Cafe
New Orleans Middle Eastern food is also a great vegetarian friendly option. The sautéed vegetable plate at Lebanon’s Cafe with an assortment of colorful, fresh vegetables sautéed in Mediterranean spices and baked in a skillet topped with feta cheese is a vegetarian’s dream. Lebanon’s Uptown and Mona’s Café in several locations throughout New Orleans have generous vegetarian options from falafel to tabouleh, hummus, baba ganuj, vegetarian grape leaves, salad, lentil soup and more.
The list of vegetarian and vegan friendly New Orleans restaurants goes on, and among our honorable mentions include Pizza Delicious, Nirvana, New Orleans food trucks, Dreamy Weenies and Feelings Café.