I will admit I was a bit hesitant about how my vegan requirements would fare in South Africa’s meat loving culture (especially in Durban, vegan food is on the rise in Cape Town), however it went a lot better than expected and I thought I’d share my experiences for anyone who’s planning on visiting or for those who are there now.
While there were a handful of vegan recommendations through HappyCow and other websites, most were located further from the area where I lived and because I was there with my family (who aren’t vegan), going out of our way to eat at vegan restaurants everyday wasn’t really an option. Therefore this is not so much a vegan guide to Durban as I’ve missed most of the popular vegan spots, but more a personal account on how I ate at places that weren’t vegan or even vegetarian but had options that I could order and often tailor.
Also, contrary to the Asian stereotype my family aren’t big food tourists so most of the places listed were chosen out of convenience (apart from one or two) or just places we used to go to, and therefore are on the more casual dining side. I also want to apologise for the quality of some of the photos, lesson learnt don’t rely on your iPhone camera if you want nice photos.
- Ask your server what is in the dish. Maybe it is the tipping culture that provides incentive for better service compared to my experience in Asia but servers in SA are very willing to help and accommodate to your needs.
- Say ‘strict vegetarian’ or vegetarian without milk or eggs instead of vegan. Not everyone is familiar with the term “vegan”. Use your common sense as well, things like falafels, vegetarian patties, salad dressings, salads (feta), and soups usually contain dairy or eggs (but ask because sometimes they don’t!!).
- Ask if you can swap a non-vegan component to something that is. Get your money’s worth!! Normally you’re swapping out cheese and that’s a lot more expensive than vegetables so there shouldn’t be a problem. Swap for avo, hummus, etc.
- If you can, find the menu of where you’re going beforehand. Zomato is your best friend, they collect menus of most places online so you can do your research. Find out what you can eat so you can prepare yourself if there aren’t that many options.
Woolworths Food Market, La Lucia & Gateway
Going to Woolies after school with my mom and eating at the Food Market was something I always used to do when I was little. It has a casual atmosphere with good quality food (think M&S in the UK or Ben’s in Malaysia) and is next to the supermarket so you can do your groceries after.
Recommend: Salad Sandwich (R47) – Avocado, cucumber, crispy onion, spicy feta (swap for tomato or olives), hummus and pickled carrots.
Dishes are labeled Vegetarian and Dairy-free but not specifically vegan. Accommodating to alterations requests.
Menu | Woolworths in Gateway 8:30am – 7pm, or La Lucia Mall 9am-6pm (times vary)
Falafel Fundi, Morningside
If you know me, you know how much I love falafels (good ones not those dry excuses you get from the supermarket). This is one of the cafes I planned to travel a bit to get to and it lived up to the hype. They serve a really simple menu with quality food (think food truck/street food) and they also do events and some markets on the weekends.
Recommend: Falafel Roti (R40) or Mediterranean Platter (R60) – falafel, cabbage, aubergine, cucumber, tomato and cauliflower all with tahini sauce, hummus, spicy salsa and roti.
They’re pretty much the same just the Roti is presented in a wrap style and the Platter is deconstructed. Portion sizes are big so come hungry or order to share.
All vegan except for omelettes and schnitzel.
Menu | 161 Gordon Road, Morningside. 9am – 7pm closed Sunday
Kauai, La Lucia & Gateway
A healthy fast food chain that serves breakfast, wraps, salad bowls and fresh juices. Most dishes have chicken but there is the option to take it out and pay R22 less. Convenient if you’re on the go and you need something quick!
Recommend: Thai Crunch Wrap or Salad without Chicken (RM58) – cashews, broccoli, carrot, red pepper, cabbage, mint, sesame seeds, pickled ginger, house greens and a Thai peanut dressing.
Dressing is vegan, the cashier was lovely and showed me the allergens menu.
Option to omit chicken, food allergens menu available.
Menu | La Lucia Mall 7:30am – 6pm, Gateway Wavehouse, 8am – 7pm & Food Court on movie floor, 10am – 8:30pm (times vary)
Food Lover’s Market Cafe, La Lucia
A sunny cafe serving brunch and lunch with a similar concept to Woolies being connected to a fresh food supermarket, but more casual. They also have a sushi bar with mostly avo/cucumber sushi if you’re vegans (although I didn’t try any myself).
Recommend: Mediterranean Veg Tramezzini (mozzarella swapped for avo) with Salad (half portion R45) – balsamic roasted veg with sun-dried tomato, olive and pesto tapenade (swapped for mushrooms) and avo toasted in pita bread.
I originally eyed up the falafel or chickpea patties but was told by my server both were not vegan. She was kind enough to recommend the tramezzinis swapping out the mozzarella for something else. I realise tramezzinis in South Africa seem to be different to the standard trazzemino, so just to clarify it was more like a panini (or panino) with pita rather than bread.
Option to omit cheese, accommodating to alterations.
Menu unavailable | Food Lover’s Market, La Lucia Mall. 7:30AM – 6PM (times vary)
Col’Caccio Pizzeria, Gateway
I nearly fell off my chair when I saw vegan margherita with dairy-free cheese listed in the menu (from a selection of 12 vegetarian pizzas)! While I personally wouldn’t buy processed vegan cheese substitutes, I’ve seen a rise of dairy-free cheese being offered at pizza restaurants on Instagram so I thought I’d give it a go myself.
Recommend: Ortigiano with Dairy-free Cheese (R140) – artichokes, asparagus, olives, green pepper, mushroom and dairy-free cheese.
Note, dairy-free cheese is an additional RM30. It is not heavily cheesy flavoured but has the gooey cheese texture although lighter and doesn’t stretch.
Dairy-free cheese available with a big vegetarian selection.
Menu | Shop G320, Gateway. 11am – 10:30pm
Ile Maurice, Umhlanga
An intimate Mauritian restaurant in Umhlanga Rocks that was one of our favourites when we lived there and ending up still being a favourite this time round. They serve fresh, authentic food with top quality, attentive service. Be sure to make reservations especially if you’re going on the weekend as the it tends to get busy.
Recommend: Curry De Légumes en Saison (R150) – seasonal vegetable curry Mauritian style with basmati rice and lentils.
Our server checked with the kitchen and assured me this dish was entirely free of any dairy or eggs. She also was helpful enough to let me know the cucumber, tomato and chilli chutneys were also all vegan.
Vegetarian and vegan options.
Menu | 9 McCausland Crescent, Umhlanga Rocks 4320. 12pm – 2:30pm, 6:30pm – 9:30pm
The Morning Trade, Morningside
On every Sunday morning at The Plant with stalls selling fresh food, drinks, produce and flowers. You’ll also be able to enjoy the colourful murals that cover the converted warehouses along the Station Drive Precinct, all part of “Durban’s first urban renewal and creative district.” Expect super friendly vendors who are always up for a chat!
Out of about 10-12 stalls, 2 were completely vegan!! South Africa was proving me wrong once again. One was Falafel Fundi (see Brunch & Lunch) who was only serving vegan that day, and another all vegan bakery, Divine Simplicity, that had a selection of cakes and other treats. I nearly fainted when I saw the tiramisu, a favourite I’ve been craving since going vegan! Vendors seem to change but I’ve seen other vegan options being advertised. I’m so thrilled places like this are proudly advertising themselves as vegan and growing in the community!
The Morning Trade | 5 Station Drive (The Plant), Durban 4001. Sunday, 8am – 1pm
Litchi Orchard Farmer’s Market, Ballito
Surrounded by the beautiful backdrop of the litchi orchard, the farmer’s market happens every second Saturday of the month and is bustling with stalls ranging from food to vintage clothing and handmade goods. The orchard itself also has a few restaurants and shops and the overall atmosphere is animated with live music performances and families coming together to enjoy the local produce – a perfect way to start off your weekend! There is also a night market on the last Friday of every month, which although I didn’t make it to I’ve heard great things about.
Although I didn’t eat a meal, I bought myself a little G&T sorbet from the little artisan ice cream shop, Scoop Hand Made Ice Cream that would please any gin lover, it literally tasted like a frozen G&T!
If you’re lucky enough to make it for litchi season (Dec-beginning Jan) you’ll also be able to buy 2kg bags of litchis picked straight from the orchard for R60, which I used to make my Litchi, Rooibos, Peach & Mint Ice Lollies!
The Litchi Orchard Farmer’s Market | The Litchi Orchard Seaforth Dr, Umhlali, 4390 | Second Saturday of the Month, 9am – 1pm
Obviously there are more places to go and more food to try out but as a last minute trip, planning was not done as well as it could have been. I’ve tried (and definitely failed) at making this list as concise as possible but please feel free to share any personal favourites for vegan food around Durban in the comment section below. I’d love to explore more when I’m back next! xxx