Eating Vegan in Israel – Isreali EASY!
When I last visited Israel in 2013/2014, veganism wasn’t super trendy and cool. Thus, you had your usual options: salad or cook at home. Or hummus, of course. However, the times have changed! In 2017, veganism is super popular in this tiny, little Middle Eastern country.
When I say Israel has caught onto the veganism thing, I mean it has REALLY caught on. It is currently considered the most vegan-friendly country in the world, coming in at an impressive 5% vegan population. Meanwhile, 7 years ago, only 2.6% of the population was vegan or vegetarian. With an astounding 400+ vegan-friendly restaurant options, a whole bunch of vegan festivals, rallies, and even vegan options in the army, maybe we can no longer call Israel the “Land of Milk and Honey”!?
Popular Israeli animal rights activist, restaurateur, and blogger, Ori Shavit (an interview with Ori) credits this transformation to activism and progressive Israeli cuisine. Sure, suggesting that the vegan food came before the popularity of veganism is quite a surprising claim, but it was more so the type of foods people were starting to eat, rather than an executive decision to cook cruelty-free.
Ori and many other converted vegans owe their lifestyle change to the most beloved and most hated vegan of all: Gary Yourofsky. If you’re not familiar, you can look him up and see link after link of inspired vegans who followed Yourofsky’s lead. His website even, dare I say, brags about his 13 arrests and removals from various countries due to “random acts of kindness and compassion.”
Basically, the man gives a MEAN lecture, and I mean that in the positive way. His gift of gab resulted in a whole new generation of veg-heads, particularly affecting those in Israel. Some say that his lectures led them to draw parallels between the murder of millions of non-human animals to the slaughter of humans by the Nazis in the 1940s. Some are highly offended and angered by this interpretation, others can’t help but feel ashamed for being “blind” for so long- a term that has become closely tied to the vegan movement. A friend recently pointed out that as soon as someone uses the phrase, “I was blind…” she knows they are vegan.
What does this mean for me during my month-long Israeli escape? Food. Lots of it. More than I’ve eaten in my entire life, and I don’t mind it one bit! Let me share with you some of my best food experiences….
VEGAN EATING IN ISRAEL:
Everyone knows Shuk HaCarmel, yes? Did you know Israel’s very first entirely vegan supermarket opened up right in the middle of it? Ahhh! It’s small and a little tough to find amidst the wilds of Carmel Market, but keep an eye out for lots of green, ask around, and eventually you’ll find it. I won’t say it’s the place for ALL your veggie needs, but they have frozen foods, canned, packaged, fresh, and most of your other basic needs. There’s also a market nearby that’s vegan-friendly. Just be aware that they do sell dairy and eggs, so don’t be disheartened if you come across this place first. The worker was excited to meet me and happy to tell me where to go! —– HaGal HaYorak Market —–
While you’re in the neighbourhood of the shuk, also drop by Hamitbahon. It’s a brunch lover’s paradise. It’s also one of the few places in the area open on Saturday morning. This is where I had a big, delicious brunch with a couple friends. Complete with beets, couscous with squash, salad, sweet potato latkes, and lentils; everything you need to get all your energy for the day. Not to mention the gorgeous presentation!
Now, please excuse me while I skip to dessert. Because I can and it’s very important! The good news is, there are many vegan sweets and treats for you to eat after lunch, before dinner, after dinner, or anytime at all!
Also right by Carmel Market is something really unique. If you’re curious about the Iranian pudding called muhallebi, you can get a soy version on Allenby. It’s a yogurt-like pudding with rose water. Then you choose a syrup and toppings. I went with lemon-cardamom with coconut and peanuts! Cheap, refreshing, and super sweet! A great way to calm the body down after a long, hot day. Muhallebi
As much as I enjoyed this dessert and the agave baklava (pictured below) and various cookies and cakes I tried, my favourite of all was the gelato. While there wasn’t any vegan unicorn gelato available, I did try lotus cookie, pistachio, hazelnut, cactus pear, coconut, and halva. I even had a side of a whole wheat, chocolate chip cookie. Heavenly. I can’t and won’t list every gelateria in Tel Aviv, but they ALL had vegan options.
There was also a Boutique Central, vegan-friendly bakery next to my gym… the cruelty was intolerable.
Don’t worry, I’m not done with the vegan food, there is plenty of it. Just in Florentine alone there are tons of vegan and vegan-friendly places to eat out. Florentina offers Mediterranean/Middle Eastern fare
24 Rupees has some decent Indian food. Not the best I’ve ever had, but we sat on the floor barefoot and ate with our hands. That fact won me over.
And then, of course, I had some great hummus, cauliflower, mushrooms, ful, pita, and salad by the sea in Ashkelon at Scubar
Don’t worry about hummus, you’ll get hummus. Pita, hummus, fries, falafel, and Israeli salad is a very traditional and popular meal. No need to feel like a cliche, because everyone bathes in, swims through, shaves with, drives over, paints their houses with, and eats enormous quantities of hummus. Let’s just say, everything is hummus. My friend told me she never went more than 2 days without hummus. At first, I thought she was crazy. A week later, I was craving hummus every single day. The addiction is real.
If you’re looking for something a little more casual and simple, there are even great options at the mall. In Dizengoff and Azrieli Center you can grab veggie sushi or sweet potato wonton soup.
Then there’s also the Original Pancake House in Herzliya for the familiar diner experience with less familiar pancakes. It’s right across from Cinema City, too. What a winning combination: movies and pancakes!
If nothing on this list made you smile, drool, or get excited to eat vegan in Israel, then put your mouth where your food is and cook something! Cooking is very important in Israel. Between the fresh ingredients, really intense oven set ups, and the crowded Shabbos meals, any host or house will probably cheer you on if you decide to cook something. If you’re not prepared, Israel is a whole pot roast of various cultures, everyone has their own traditional recipes to offer. They’re likely more than happy to teach you all about it. Just remember: hummus, tahini, and tomatoes. These 3 ingredients will make you very popular.
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