I’m not really the kind of traveler who enjoys organized tours. Walking around for hours with a group of strangers while being lectured by a guide isn’t my idea of a good time. Then why did I end up taking a vegan food tour in Budapest? Because I was only visiting Hungary’s capital for a few days, wanted to eat as much vegan food as possible, and didn’t have a lot of time to do research on vegan restaurants in Budapest.
The only problem was that vegan food tours aren’t that easy to find in Budapest, despite the fact that there are loads of shops an restaurants there.
Needless to say, I was thrilled when Judit at Budapest 101, told me she could organize a strictly vegan private food tour for me.
So, one sunny afternoon Judit and I set off on foot to explore what vegan delights Budapest has to offer. It was exactly the kind of tour I was looking for. It felt more like exploring the city with a local friend than a guide. Judit’s company is fairly new but she has been a guide for years and knows the city inside and out. Although this was her first fully vegan tour, she did an exceptional job showing me not only great restaurants but also incredible coffee shops, health food stores, a local farmers market, a candy store with historic roots, and a beautiful ice cream shop.
Here are all of the great spots I visited on our Vegan Food Tour in Budapest, Hungary with Judit at Budapest101.
Cukorka Candy Shop
Our first stop on the tour was Cukorka, a shop that reminded me of the Candy Land scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This bright and cheerful shop makes handmade candy and lollipops on-site and has a history dating back to the 1930’s. The original founders are said to be the inventors of the Hungarian lollipop and today the owners still use same same guidelines to make candy as their great-grandparents. You can even see the process first-hand from the open kitchen.
So stop by, sample some of the colorful candy from the bowl by the register, and buy a couple of lollipops or a bag or two of Darth Vader candies.
Bio ABC Health Food Store
Since becoming vegan I’ve developed a deep love for good health food stores. Bio ABC is one I would visit daily if I lived in Budapest. They have all the typical items you see at a health food store like vitamins, grains, and nuts but they also have vegan versions of traditional Hungarian items like sausages and desserts. They also have Hungarian made products like vegan ice cream and poppy seed oil.
The staff here are extremely enthusiastic and helpful too. It’s a lovely little store to stop in and stock up on vegan groceries or for a takeaway dessert.
The problem I have with VegaCity is that there are too many tempting dishes to choose from. It’s like trying to figure out which present to open first on Christmas morning. I had such a hard time choosing that I let Judit decide what we should try and I wasn’t disappointed.
She chose a veganized version of a traditional Hungarian dish called Krumplis Teszta, which I can only describe as the best fucking idea anyone has ever had when it comes to savory dishes. It’s a baked casserole composed of potatoes, pasta, and paprika and is usually served with sour cream (ours came with sunflower seed “sour cream”). I LOVED this creamy, carb-loaded dish. I imagine every grandmother in Hungary probably has her own recipe for.
Hungarians might be as serious about poppy seeds as they are about paprika, so for dessert we had a raw vegan version of a traditional Strudel filled with the little black seeds called Makos Retes. The cake was tender and moist and the poppy seed filling was slightly sweet and bitter. Absolutely worth trying when you visit.
Belvárosi Piac Market aka Hold Street Market
The Great Market Hall was built in 1896 (officially opened in 1897), is spread out over 2,110 square meter, and has hundreds of stalls. You can find everything from fresh produce, pickled fruits and vegetables, and traditional Hungarian products like paprika and homemade horseradish (which I bought and is perfect slathered on vegan hot dogs).
A few tips from Judit when buying Hungarian paprika:
- The best and most authentic paprika usually comes in the least attractive and most plain packaging.
- There is sweet and spicy paprika. The spicy paprika is lighter in color because the pepper seeds and veins are included in the blend.
Hungarians love their mushrooms and even love foraging for them in the forest. Of course, this can be a deadly activity if you pick and eat the wrong mushrooms. Not wanting to lose any of their citizens to mushroom poisoning, the Hungarian government opened an office in the market where foragers can bring their finds to have them analyzed by an expert free of charge.
The basement level of the market is reserved for the more “stinky” items like fish and pickled items. We visited a stall with a myriad of pickled items to choose from including pickled baby watermelon! Of course I had to try one. It was probably the most sour things I’ve ever tried but I actually pretty enjoyable. I’d recommend anyone with adventurous taste buds give it a try.
The market has a fabulous thriving atmosphere and is a nice way to spend an afternoon shopping or just immersing yourself in local life.
Levendula Ice Cream Shop
Levendula Ice Cream Shop has a few locations around Budapest and one is conveniently located just a hop, skip, and a jump from the market. They have several vegan flavors like chocolate chili, watermelon, mint berry, and arugula strawberry. They even have vegan, gluten free cones! All the shops are decorated in lavender and have a basked adorned bicycle out front.
Mantra Specialty Coffee Minibar
Budapest has a long love affair with coffee that started in the 16th century with the Turkish occupation. By the 1900’s there were over 600 coffee houses in the city. Unfortunately, many of the nicer ones disappeared during communist times. Recently, however, trendy coffee shops focusing on various brew techniques have been popping up across Budapest. Like every good America, I enjoy drip coffee more than its espresso style cousin (apologies to my Italian friends) so these shops are a dream come true.
We visited a number of coffee shops on our tour but decided to have a few cups at Mantra Specialty Coffee Minibar. Kristian, the owner and barista, brewed three cups of the dark stuff for us using different techniques for each: Aeropress, Chemex, and a pour over. The differences in color and taste were subtle but nonetheless noticeable.
This guy really knows what he is doing when it comes to coffee. He uses high quality beans, prepares each cup with love and care, and even serves them in large bulbous glasses which, as with wine, makes it easier to enjoy the aroma.
Balaton Izlelo is a beautiful specialty shop that stocks Hungarian products made by small producers from the Lake Balaton region. They carry products like jams, oils, cookies, chili paste, truffle pesto, and more. The samples I tried all high quality and deliciously decadent. It took a tremendous amount of restraint not to destroy my budget in this store.
This all vegan restaurant was the last stop on the food tour and a great way to end the day! I couldn’t get enough of this place and went back three or four times after the tour.
What really made me a fan of this restaurant is that they have vegan fried cheese on the menu! It was everything fried cheese should be, ooeygooey, melty, crunchy, creamy, and salty. I had it every time I went to the restaurant and salivate just thinking of it.
They have a large standard menu a daily menu to choose from. This Sauteed Seitan with Savory Donuts in Carrot Soup isn’t the most appealing dish to look at but my god is it good!
For something a little lighter I tried the carrot soup with raw crackers, and a fresh apple and beetroot juice. It hit the spot and left enough room to enjoy dessert.
Napfényes Étterem has a huge dessert case! I tried the cherry coffee cake, vanilla cream cake, and another creamy vanilla cake topped with tangy raspberry jam. They were all insanely good so don’t hesitate to try
any all of them.
Looking for more vegan goodness in Budapest, check out this vegan guide from my friends at Indefinite Adventure.
DISCLAIMER: Judit at Budapest101 was kind enough to provide her tour to us free of charge. We are immensely grateful for her partnership. All thoughts and opinions are our own and formed without any prior agreement of a favorable review.