Home of the world’s largest building and largest mall. Dubai has it’s own water park, indoor skiing and more malls than you can throw a stone at. No seriously, there must be like 30 malls in the city. I’ve gone to Dubai twice for work now, each time for about a month. While Dubai has few to no solely vegan restaurants, it was surprisingly easy to find vegan food here. The first time I did eat at a lot American chain restaurants as I was the only vegan amongst my colleagues, but my second trip I went a bit deeper and discovered there are a lot more vegan options besides picking the one veganizable thing of the menu at a big chain restaurant in Dubai! I’ve included both, so you’re prepared whether you have free reign or have to make the most of business meals like I did.
Not a place that was ever on my travel to-do list, I definitely enjoyed my visit and some of the interesting activities we took part in, including a Desert Safari and a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi (see below).
Last Updated: October 29th, 2016
My Vegan Dubai – start here for info about how to be vegan in Dubai and vegan dining updates.
Dubai Vegan Guide Facebook – I recommend scrolling down and reading the comments of this Facebook page, as that’s where I found a lot of hidden vegan gems. They were also nice enough to post a shoutout for me to connect with other vegans in Dubai during my trip.
Where to Buy Nutritional Yeast (Organic Foods and Cafe)
Check out my friend Kristin’s video of her whirlwind 24 hours in Dubai, where she tried out a lot of vegan food in the city.
Where to Stay
I super highly recommend looking on Booking.com for an affordable place to stay. You can get really great deals on both hotels and hostels, often hotels for hostel prices (I’ve gotten hotels with breakfast for 25€ per night!). They also have free cancellation on most bookings if your plans aren’t solid yet!
Desert Palm Per Aquum – This is the only hotel in Dubai showing up on the Veggie Hotels list. It looks fancy as shit, so probably not your budget option (if anything in Dubai is a budget option), but if you’re looking for luxury, check this out. It seems to also be a retreat center. Veggie Hotels says “vegan on request”. Looks freaking gorgeous.
Click here for a direct link to their Dubai page. You kinda need to take a taxi to get anywhere in Dubai, but good areas to look for are Jumeirah, Dubai Marina or Deira (not far from the airport). Be aware that nearish Sharjah is actually another Emirate and taxis from there will charge you an added taxi fee to cross into Dubai. I have been inside the Novotel in Dubai and it’s quite nice, for work I usually was placed in the Premier Inn Hotel in Silicon Oasis. It’s a bit out there and basic, but clean, usually had soymilk for oatmeal in the morning and cheaper.
For more info, check out Definitely Dubai, the tourism portal for the city.
Dubai Souks (Deira, both sides of the Creek)
The traditional souks have loads of spices and other nic-nacs to look at. According to Dubaicity.com, “Souks are the Arabic Markets where all kinds of goods are bought sold and exchanged. Traditionally, dhows from the far east, China, Ceylon and India would discharge their cargoes, and the goods would be haggled over in the souks adjacent to the docks. Over the years,t he items on sale have changed dramatically from spices, silks and perfumes to include electronic goods and the latest kitsch consumer trends.
Although Dubai’s Souks aren’t as fascinating as others in the Arab world, such as Marrakesh in Morocco or Mutrah in Oman, they are worth a visit for their bustling atmosphere, the eclectic variety of goods and the traditional way of doing business.”
The souks open 07:00 – 12:00, close, and re-open again between 17:00 – 19:00 every day except Friday, when they only open in the afternoon. Thursday and Friday evening are the busiest times as this is the weekend for many people.
Ripe’s Friday Foodie Market in Safa Park
This is a hot spot for all the names in the vegan food scene in Dubai. Here you’ll find Moti Roti, Sweet Connection Gluten-free bakery and Coco Yogo. There is also a big stand of veggies farmer’s market style, performers and art and crafts to buy. There’s also a whole kids sand art section if you’re going with little ones.
If you’re following me on instagram, you’ve seen me RAVE about my love of Coco Yogo. Coconut takes second place after my love of chocolate and my love of chocolate is already pretty big. Coco Yogo makes just a few products, but they do them well and they are damn good. So nice to have some vegan dessert options besides fruit in Dubai as well! This vegan mini strawberry cheesecake below was epically good. I think it was raw too! I tried the strawberry, mango and date & orange flavors. The tartness of the strawberry was my favorite. I personally discovered I don’t love date flavored things, but if that’s your thing I’m sure you’d love it. The cheesecake part is just so well done. Perfect texture, a bit tart, not too sweet, creamy deliciousness.
They also do several flavors of coconut ice cream that are amazing and they sell stone ground coconut butter, which they turned into treats and let me try (twice!). They also sell various sized tubs of coconut yogurt, which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but I’m not a big yogurt person in general. I could absolutely see using it for cooking, etc. though and it’s great to have an option besides yet another soy product.
At the time of writing Coco Yogo didn’t have a shop yet, but you can find them at the Ripe Friday Foodie Market!
Sweet Connection – The Gluten Free Kitchen (Mercato Mall)
After finding this place online during my first visit, I put it at the top of my to-do list for the next time! According to their website, they have some vegan options including bread, biscotti, carrot loaf, brownies and vanilla loaf. From their description, “Sweet Connection is the only 100% commercial Gluten Free Kitchen in Dubai. We bake for people who are gluten intolerant or who have the Celiac disease. We also bake for people who have allergies to ingredients such as dairy, eggs etc. and for those who choose to go on a gluten free diet for its numerous health benefits. At Sweet Connection each product is prepared by hand using fresh, all-natural ingredients with no preservatives, artificial flavours, trans- fats, or additives.” You can download their menu online, which has pictures of their offerings and is clearly labeled.
You can also find Sweet Connection at the Ripe Friday Foodie Market and the people working the stand will happily explain which items are vegan. The ingredients are also listed clearly on the labels. The first time I went they had vegan and gluten-free cookies, biscotti and a doughnut.
I’m not gluten-free, but I’ve been experimenting with more gluten-free foods lately. I am sometimes skeptical, but damn were the Chocolate Coconut Cookies good. Great crumbly, melt in your mouth texture, I loved it, and need to recreate them somehow. I bought these cookies twice and ate them all. A bit on the pricey side, I imagine because the ingredients are expensive, but this is another great option for some vegan desserts!
The Sweet Connection Gluten-free Kitchen stand in the Mercato Mall. Fanciest mall ever by the way.
Ingredients for the cookies: white rice flour, tapioca starch, sorghum, coconut oil, brown sugar, vanilla, canola oil, dairy free chocolate, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, salt.
Comptoir102 (102 Beach Rd, Jumeirah 1) – healthy cafe with vegan options, reader recommended.
Life’n One (Jumeirah beach road Street 27-b Community 332 Villa 5/1b) – wellness center and vegan cafe, urban retreat, yoga. Reader recommended.
Tom and Serg (Al Joud Center, Al Quoz Area near Ace Hardware on Sheikh Zayed Road)
http://www.tomandserg.com/ (full menu on website)
I was recommended this place and told this is where the good coffee and hipsters hangout. They often go hand in hand, don’t they?! Now Dubai just needs some hotel bar to stock some craft beer and we’re set. I didn’t make it here until the very end of my trip, but if I go back it will be my escape from the malls and planned-community rut one can fall into in Dubai (or is it just me?).
This is an Australian coffee place, huge, tons of seating on two floors, little in-house library and free wifi I managed to access without a Dubai number (lots of places require confirming a local Dubai number to get the password). It is not especially vegan friendly, though there are a couple good-looking veganizable salads on the menu, but they offer coconut milk as a dairy-free option for coffee, which I was pretty psyched about. Unfortunately they were out of the coconut milk when I visited, but they had almond milk instead, so I was happy about that. A good place to chill out and read the newspaper or get some work done. Very busy during brunch.
Wild & The Moon – vegan juice delivers, order on their website, full raw vegan menu. Reader recommended.
Maria Bonita Taco Shop (Jumeirah and Green Community)
This was my favorite Mexican place that I went to. It’s super laid-back and is near the beach, so has the beachside chilled out feel. There is even a parrot outside in the front greeting people, although I worry about the number of tortilla chips the little creature is being fed by small children every day, haha. Nothing is labeled vegan on the menu, but if you explain to them what you can’t eat and ask them to leave out the cheese and sour cream there are plenty of things easily veganizable and about 5 different types of tacos listed on the menu. They also have a shop where you can buy tamales, homemade flour or corn tortillas, chips, pinto beans, black beans, adobo chilies, etc.
Cactus Cantina (Wafi Mall)
Okay first of all, this mall is INSANE. It is so fancy and set up to look like the Egyptian Pyramids and there are “traditional” Souks indoors downstairs for all your shopping needs (we got 100000 scarves and I got an awesome lamp). Totally over the top. Anyway, we went to Cactus Cantina twice and it was one of the better Mexican restaurants we went to in Dubai. The first time I had them veganize some veggie tacos and the second time I got a big taco salad without cheese and with extra refried beans, delicious. Expensive, but delicious. They also have alcohol because they’re affiliated with a hotel.
I ordered the veggie tacos without the cheese. Ignore the cheese on top of the refried beans, I scooped that off. These came with rice, refried beans, salsa, salad and guacamole. So good!
Like a lot of Mexican restaurants in Dubai, they make the guacamole right in front of you. I could eat pounds of the stuff!
77 Veggie Boutique (Jumeirah Lakes Towers)
Didn’t make it here myself, but discovered it while researching places to eat. Vegetarian cafe with vegan options. Very lowfat lose weight focused, but still an option if you’re looking for a light meal with vegan options and coffee.
Al Shorafaa (Le Solarium, Silicon Oasis)
This is a fast-food lunch time style Pakistani restaurant. Cheap, greasy and delicious. Not a vegan establishment, but they have plenty of dishes that were just vegetables and rice and delicious spices. I went here 3 times, highly recommended.
Vegetable BiryaniAloo Ghobi, Pakistani style. This was my favorite.I believe the chef made this special for us and all I know what that they called it the “vegetarian eggplant dish”. There are whole mini little eggplants in there. So good.
Bestro (top floor of the Galeries Lafayette in the Dubai Mall)
Dubai’s first and only all-vegan and raw restaurant and mini shop. I loved this place and went four times. Popular with the lunch crowd, they have 3-4 changing main entrees a day and raw vegan desserts, plus they sell lots of superfoods and kale chips, etc. in their little shop. Very friendly knowledegable customer service and yummy nut milk drinks and smoothies!
Raw Chocolate Fondant with Coconut Cream Filling
Cairo Cafe (Street #8, Behind Lamcy Plaza Mall)
This is a little hole-in-the-wall place I found recommended on the Dubai Vegan Guide Facebook page for their koshari, an accidentally vegan Egyptian street food dish. Order the vegetarian version (there is also one with meat) and you’re good to go. I had never had koshari before, but it’s basically three types of pasta, tossed with lentils, rice and fried shallots with a few tomato and garlic sauces to put on top. It was yummy, cheap and definitely filled any carb craving I could have imagined!
Govinda’s (Rolla Road, Bur Dubai behind Regent Plaza, opposite Imperial Suites)
Didn’t make it here myself either, but I’ve been to Govinda’s in other cities so wanted to include it here as a good option. They offer simple and flavorful Indian-style meals, with very affordable prices. Check out my review of Govinda Veggie Corner in Budapest of you’d like to get more of an idea of what Govinda’s offers!
Ping Pong Dim Sum (Dubai Mall)
Another great recommendation, this is a dim sum restaurant I would have otherwise walked right past. They have a paper check list and you just check off the dim sum you’d like then they bring it over. They also have lots of yummy mocktails. I got a pina colada drink made from pineapple juice and coconut milk. The vegetarian options are very clearly labeled and as it’s dim sum, pretty much every vegetarian option is also vegan as there is no dairy involved, but if you’re questioning, just ask the waiter. Dim Sum is basically a variety of different asian dumplings and little dishes you can choose from, fried, steamed, etc. Very yummy!
Fried Veggie Dim Sum with Mango Sauce
Spice Craft (Jumeirah Lakes Towers)
All-vegetarian Indian food restaurant. I didn’t make it here this time, but it looks pretty yummy!
ZPizza (Dubai Marina, Park Island Apartments, Tower R, Unit G10, Al Sufouh Street)
Apparently this is an American chain, but I had never heard of it! This place has Daiya vegan cheese imported from America and apparently they are the only place that does! They also usually have vegan cake! You can also buy Daiya there to take home, albeit for a somewhat hefty price since it’s imported. Unfortunately after a long trek through the sun, I arrived at ZPizza to find out they ran out of vegan cheese that day and were waiting for more to be shipped from America. Bummer! They are also at the Ripe Friday Foodie Market!
Restaurant Chains: Veganized
Benihana Restaurant (Al Bustan Rotana and two other locations)
This is another one of those American chains in Dubai. Benihana is a chain of Hibachi grills, the kind where they make all the food in front of you and throw around a bunch of knives for your entertainment. They are admittedly not very vegan friendly at all and quite expensive, but I went there with my colleagues for our final dinner, so I made the best of it.
I modified one of the noodle dishes on the menu to order it without meat. Since the meal comes as a package deal with lots of other stuff I also had to order it without soup (they have no vegan soups) and without the shrimp appetizer. The miso soup is not vegan. This was yummy, but for how expensive it was not really worth it given the limited vegan options (luckily I wasn’t paying).
At the end they make fried rice for everyone. They happily gave me mine before adding the egg, but make sure you explain to them what you can and cannot eat at the beginning so they can be sure to put aside a special portion for you.
California Pizza Kitchen (Mirdif City Center)
Another American chain in Dubai. I was actually surprised that there were several vegan options on the menu. No desserts sadly, but many things to choose from for appetizers and entrees. Some pictures below. They also have a vegan salad with peppers and avocado and a red pepper soup I got the first time I went and they have some pasta dishes that are vegan or easily veganizable.
Leila Restaurant (Mirdif City Center)
This is a Lebanese chain restaurant with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Read my detailed review here. They describe themselves as, “authentic Lebanese cuisine with a twist of today’s trends.”
P.F. Chang’s (Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall, Mirdiff City Center)
Somehow my first time going to P.F. Chang’s was not in America, but in Dubai. We never had one where I lived growing up, but this place is delicious and we went 4-5 times while we were in Dubai. They have a vegetarian section of the menu and the dishes don’t come with egg, so it was pretty easy to be vegan here.
To the left is the Coconut Curry Vegetables. To the right: Stir-fried Eggplant. The Ma Po Tofu (not pictured) was also divine. There were also some days I really just wanted vegetables with all my resaturant-eating. If this is you, try out a side of Spicy Greenbeans.
This is the main grocery store chain and there is tons of stuff here, loads of American and British brands as well. Here’s the spice section inside the store, crazy!:
Holland and Barrett UAE
This is a British chain in Dubai. From the outside it looks like they just sell vitamins, but I scored a pretty good vegan haul from this shop, including mock duck, rooibos espresso, vegan vitamins, some quick cooking steel-cut oats/coarse oats and vegan chocolate caramels. I went to the one in the Dubai mall and they also had a little smoothie cafe. They have lots of grains, vegan chocolate, nuts, energy bars, teas, etc. Even a little Easter chocolate dairy-free variety pack!
Organic Foods & Cafe (Sheikh Zayad Road and other locations)
Organic shop and big cafe with lots of vegan and gluten-free options. Think Whole Foods. They are apparently the only certified organic outlet in the Middle East and the largest supplier of organic products in the world! Cafe open until 10pm, last order at 9:15pm.
Standard grocery store with some of the standard vegan brands and fresh veggie things.
Normal grocery store, but they stock lots of vegan products including Tofutti sour cream and cream cheese and Frys faux meats in the freezer section.
This was recommended to me by several people as THE grocery store for vegan products. Apparently they stock tempeh, seitan and all that good stuff. I didn’t get a chance to make it here and I didn’t have a kitchen, but please go and let me know how it is!
Al Quoz Area – Less luxurious area where supposedly all the art galleries hang out. Near one of the Organic Foods and Cafe locations and Tom and Serg hipster Australian cafe. I was recommended to go to the Courtyard Cafe and told it was super peaceful, didn’t make it this time though.
Al Sekal Ave – Around the corner from Al Quoz is this area, which is a block of warehouses turned into galleries. There’s a “flexible and free community workspace” (according to their website) there called Shelter, a co-working-esque space that apparently has the fastest internet in the city and is a hotspot for entrepreneurship in the city with workshops for those looking to start their own business.
Blue Planet Green People – has an evening farmer’s and crafter’s market at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers
Sikka Art Fair – This is a yearly art fair and festival that usually happens for a couple weeks in March. It was highly recommended to me, but it had already passed by the time I arrived in Dubai.
Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding – According to their website, “Expatriates and UAE nationals are neighbours; however they can also be strangers. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, saw the need to reach out and educate expatriates in the traditions and customs of the UAE. His vision led to the creation of The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in 1998.” On my to-do list for next time!
Looking for a good day trip? Try a visit to Abu Dhabi and go on a tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, 3rd largest mosque in the world after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. They offer free tours. Make sure you’re dressed conservatively with your legs, shoulders and hair covered. A couple good pashminas do the trick. I learned very quickly that I had no clothing that wasn’t form fitting or past my knees, so I had to take a little shopping trip to buy a long skirt, learn from my mistake!
Want more Dubai posts?! Check out the Post by Location page under the “United Arab Emirates” for more!