As a Mediterranean island once occupied by a number of foreign empires, and in close proximity to North Africa and Italy; Malta has developed one of the most unique culinary cultures in the world. Unfortunately, however, Maltese cuisine is not particularly vegetarian-friendly. Tuna and rabbit are both very traditional and highly prevalent in dishes. Restaurants and cafes have become better at catering to vegetarian tourists and the growing local vegan community than ever before, but finding a spot offering plenty of high quality vegetarian or vegan options is still difficult. Here’s a quick guide to help you along the way.
All across the island you’ll find pastizzerias offering the classic pastries for which Malta is famous. Out of these, vegetarians can enjoy the classic ‘cheese pastizzi’ (ricotta cheese filled pastry) or its mushy-pea filled counterpart. Similar to the pastizzi, but with a harder and less flaky pastry case, is the ‘qassatat’. These snacks come with numerous fillings, the most common vegetarian of which usually consists of ricotta and spinach. If you’re feeling like something sweeter, try Malta’s traditional ‘imqaret’ instead. This tasty and vegetarian pastry is filled with sweet dates. Equally traditional is the Qagħaq ta’ l-Għasel – a bagel-shaped ring of honey-flavored pastry with molasses filling.
This Maltese smoothie chain has a mostly vegetarian menu. Dr Juice offers a comprehensive menu of detox juices, healthy yogurt shakes and refreshing smoothies. All smoothies and milkshakes can be made with non-dairy milk. There are plenty of vegetarian food options, such as the avocado and feta wrap, or Middle Eastern hummus and falafel salads. There’s even a couple of vegan salads and sandwiches. So for a vegetarian or vegan takeaway lunch to enjoy down by the seaside, keep an eye out for the Dr Juice outlets in Sliema, St Julians, Valletta and Bugibba. To top things off – you can finish your meal by treating yourself to one of their raw and vegan cakes or protein bites.
Roots is a vegetarian food van which travels around the island in its mission to provide organic and delicious veggie meals for tourist and locals alike. The van serves up stir fries, crepes, polenta burgers, chickpea curries, quinoa salads, cakes and more! So keep an eye out for the light green van and its friendly chefs.
BREAKFAST & LUNCH
This is the island’s number one vegetarian haven; no meat is served at the Grassy Hopper. Ingredients are organic, fresh and hearty. Choose between eating at the cosy cafe in Valletta or in Gzira, with their impressive menu of vegan and vegetarian dishes ranging from noodles, salads, curries, soups and burgers. There’s always a special of the day, as well as the option to get some healthy pre-noon breakfast like chia pudding or vegan pancakes. Vegan cheese, chocolate, banana bread and carrot cake are also available here.
The Grassy Hopper is an absolute must for any vegetarians visiting the island. The big portions are very reasonably priced, and you’ll be able to find a number of uncommon health foods sold at the cafe. If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, try their wheat grass shot!
This Sliema cafe is an excellent place to stop by when you’re feeling like vegetarian sandwiches, baguettes or quiche. The cafe is located on the strand, just a few steps from the sea and close to all bus stops. If you’re looking for a place to grab some afternoon coffee and vegan cake, Mint is a great place for this too. Their vegan brownies deserve a special mention!
A reggae bar with great vibes, live music and amazing cocktails. The St Julian-based Juuls is open from 12pm each day, making it an amazing place to enjoy some food (from its predominantly vegan menu) in a friendly atmosphere. Try their stuffed peppers or pumpkin seed bread. As for cocktails – the strawberry mojito is a clear winner.
One of the island’s best restaurants, and a paradise for any lovers of Thai cuisine. The gorgeously decorated and atmospheric Blue Elephant is an excellent place to dine with friends, as the platters allow for sharing and the cocktails are divine. The menu offers an abundance of vegetarian options, including a much-recommended vegetarian platter which is comprised of several small dishes. Since the restaurant is inside the island’s five-star Hilton Hotel, it’s also in close proximity to St Julian’s nightlife. The Blue Elephant has become known as the go-to place for the hundreds of international poker players who flock to the island during the Battle of Malta tournament – so booking a table is recommended!.
Electro Lobster Project
This chic restaurant and bar has an avant-garde vibe, with a Mediterranean-inspired menu with Asian influences. There are number of vegetarian and vegan dishes on both the lunch and dinner menus. The venue also hosts the occasional vegan-themed event, so check out its online calendar for full details.
Located in the scenic town of Birgu, this large and family-friendly restaurant boasts a large meat-free menu with dishes from a large number of different cuisines ranging from Mexican to Greek. One of the best things about Tate is that there’s something on the menu for everyone. It’s also situated in one of the less touristy towns of Malta, offering you a glimpse into a more historic part of Malta. After your meal you can simply sit outside near the harbour and enjoy the fresh evening air with a cocktail in hand!
All in all, there are just about enough vegetarian and vegan eateries on the island to keep you satisfied during your visit, providing you know where to look!