The traditional Jamaican diet is centered around meat, poultry and fish but there is a growing subculture of vegans and vegetarians across the island. Many persons choose to become vegan for health, environmental and ethical reasons, but others are driven by religious reasons. Seventh Day Adventists and Rastafarians are two such religious groups in Jamaica which adhere to a vegan diet. Whatever the persuasion, vegan restaurants have sprang up in response to the growing market for vegan cuisine in Jamaica. Here are nine eateries which cater to vegans in Kingston & St. Andrew, Jamaica. Some are strictly vegan while others are omnivorous with vegan-friendly options.
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Vegan Eateries in Kingston to Try
- Ibo Spice
- Pretty Close 876
- The Cheffing Don
- Chilitos JaMexican
- Mi Hungry Now
- New Leaf Vegetarian Cuisine
- Veganly Vegetarian Café
- Tamarind Restaurant
1. Ibo Spice
Jamaica is the birthplace of Rastafari, an Afrocentric religion which began in the 1930s. Rastafarians are easily recognized by wearing their hair in rope-like strands called locs and they also follow a strict diet known as the ital diet. Ital means vital for health, and the diet consists of fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes, no added sodium, processed foods or meat. The ital diet is considered to be a major key to living a long and healthy life. Ibo Spice is a Rastafarian restaurant and craft shop located on Orange Street in Down Town Kingston. The mission of Ibo Spice is to “eat what we grow, and grow what we eat.” As a result, food served in Ibo Spice is either sourced from a small garden behind the restaurant, or from vendors at the nearby market. The menu changes slightly each day but often features bulgur, plantains, steamed vegetables, turn cornmeal (polenta), ital stew and natural juices. Ibo Spice is very much a cultural and spiritual experience, as it is a vegan restaurant.
2. Pretty Close 876
Pretty Close 876 is an eco-friendly riverside restaurant in Gordon Town, about fifteen minutes from Papine by car. Its owner Ramo (Omar) sources vegetables from his farm which surrounds the river. Pretty Close 876 has a seasonal menu but staples include ripe plantains, boiled green bananas, breadfruit, steamed callaloo (Jamaican spinach), pumpkin, ital stew, ackee and fish. The food is prepared outdoors over natural woodfire and tastes just like country style mama’s cooking. Dine with the lovely view and soothing sounds of the river in the background at Pretty Close 876. There’s also the option of hiking to waterfalls located near to this restaurant. Pretty Close 876 can easily become a full day of adventure.
3. The Cheffing Don
The Cheffing Don is a vegan restaurant located at 121 1/2 Constant Spring Road and features a Jamaican seasonal menu. Popular dishes include okra and broad beans, curry chickpeas, sweet and sour tofu, pumpkin talkari, ackee and lentils served with sides of plantain, turmeric rice, bulgur and bammies (savoury cassava cakes). Mix and match different items from the menu for a full experience. Delivery & takeout option available.
This brightly coloured shop is painted in the Rasta colours of red, green and gold and cannot be missed when driving along Gordon Town Road. Shantyman is an ital restaurant located curbside next to the right turn off to Skyline Drive, minutes after leaving Papine. Their menu features ackee, tofu, bean stew, pumpkin soup, plantains, potato and rice and peas. Try their natural juices and roots drinks reputed to prevent and treat a variety of illnesses. Hold a reason with Shantyman and stay for the food.
5. Chilitos JaMexican
I admire this restaurant’s track record of constantly reinventing and keeping up with the times. Chilitos is a trendy fusion restaurant popular with the college and bohemian crowds, located at 88 Hope Road. Chilitos serves traditional Mexican food such as tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, chimichangas and burritos with a Jamaican twist. They cater to a carnivorous crowd with their jerk chicken, beef and pork fillings, but also have comprehensive vegan offerings of ackee and plantain, chipotle cauliflower and black beans. However, remind waitstaff to leave off non-vegan fixings like mayo from your order as my vegan friend had this oversight happen to her recently. Delivery & takeout option available.
6. Mi Hungry Now
Mi Hungry Now in Marketplace takes healthy food up a notch by only serving raw vegan food. That’s right. All dishes in this restaurant are prepared without heat or fire. Their menu features salads, wraps, shakes, juices and vegan desserts. The stars of the show, however, are the nyam-burger and pleaza. Nyam-burgers are done to order and feature onion rings, lettuce, tomatoes and sweet pepper, along with your choice of either mushroom, ackee, nut cheese, plantain or avocado, sandwiched between two tasty walnut buns. The pleaza is a raw food pizza made with a savoury crust of seeds and grains, topped with nut cheese, onions, pineapple, tomatoes, sweet pepper, lettuce and olive oil. Mi Hungry Now also has branches in Mandeville and Ocho Rios. Delivery & takeout option available.
7. New Leaf Vegetarian Cuisine
New Leaf Vegetarian Cuisine in Lane Plaza, Liguanea is a simple restaurant which caters to the vegetarian lunch crowd between the hours of 11am and 6pm, Mondays to Saturdays. Their menu changes daily but staple dishes include curried chick peas and roti, salads, wraps, soups and bean stews. Keep an eye out for their tasty less frequent offerings such as the sweet potato and veggie mince casserole, as well as the ackee bammy pizza. My favourite thing from them is their oversized doubles, a Trinidadian staple consisting of two fried flatbreads, curried chickpeas and cucumber relish with sweet tamarind, pepper and chadon beni sauces. Takeout option available.
8. Veganly Vegetarian Café
Veganly Vegetarian Café is a new restaurant on the Kingston vegan scene and is located in Seymour Park Business Complex on Old Hope Road, across from Kidz Klinik. Their menu changes daily but frequently offers bean stews, soup, vegan patties, tofu, stir-fry veggies, plantains, quinoa and mashed potatoes. Mix and match options from the daily menu and take home a vegan plantain or apple tart if you have a sweet tooth. This restaurant caters to the lunch crowd with 11am to 5pm opening hours on Mondays to Fridays, and closing one hour earlier on Saturdays. Delivery & takeout option available.
9. Tamarind Restaurant
Tamarind Indian Cuisine is located in Orchid Village Plaza, Liguanea and caters to vegetarians and omnivores alike. In fact, it’s impossible to miss the vegetarian offerings as the menu is arranged with vegetable starters and entrees before the non-vegetable courses. Enjoy a variety of curries, kebabs, paneers and masalas. The star of the vegan show at Tamarind is the samosas. However, notify waitstaff that you’re vegan because some of the sauces and fixings may contain cheese or butter. Also, check out Tamarind’s sister restaurant in Marketplace: Saffron Indian Cuisine. Delivery & takeout option available.
I hope this list proves useful for my vegan foodie readers living in or visiting Kingston. It’s often said that Jamaica isn’t a vegan-friendly country, and while I’m not vegan, I believe everyone’s unique food needs and desires should be met when visiting my city. If you’ve dined at any of these spots or would like to, please leave a comment below. Pin or bookmark this article for future reference and share it with your vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian friends. Don’t forget to subscribe for new adventures.
Honorary mention goes to @shibumija run by our very own Miss Jamaica World 2021 Khalia Hall. She runs a vegan food delivery service on Thursdays and Fridays with her unique shibumis (homemade veggie balls made from a unique legume mix) served with a delicious list of revolving sides including samosas, veggie spring rolls, bulgur salad and potato mash. I hope she opens a vegan restaurant in Kingston one day.
‘Til next time.