When I first decided to visit Ukraine, I wondered if I’d be able to find good vegetarian food in Kiev.
You see, eight years earlier I had walked across the border from Romania into a small Ukrainian border town. Planning on visiting for a full day, I had to turn back early when I discovered that none of the local restaurants had any meatless food available.
Fortunately, a lot has changed since 2010, and Kiev isn’t a tiny Carpathian border town. I was impressed to find that Kiev has a burgeoning vegan and vegetarian dining scene, with dedicated plant-based restaurants popping up alongside well-established joints offering interesting plant-based dishes among their more omnivorous choices.
If you’re a vegetarian heading to Kiev, I think that you’ll also be impressed with the Ukrainian capital’s culinary choices. Check out my list of the best places to eat vegetarian food in Kiev (oh, and vegan food too!), and let me know in the comments if you end up visiting any of my recommendations!
Where to Find Vegetarian Food in Kiev
Without a doubt, Podil is the best neighborhood for vegetarian food in Kiev. This trendy district covers the area between Terasa Shevchenka, Poshtova Ploscha and the Dnieper River, with the streets around Kontraktova Ploshcha at its heart. The streets of Podil are packed with restaurants and you have to work hard to find one that doesn’t offer a vegetarian option. Many of the restaurants around Podil have English menus with the vegetarian and vegan dishes labeled very clearly, and there are also a number of 100% vegan and vegetarian restaurants throughout the neighborhood.
Kiev is a big city, though, and you won’t want to spend your entire trip in Podil (tempting as it may be!). There are also some good vegetarian options around Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Kiev’s main square. Restaurants along the main street are a bit pricier and tend to cater to tourists, but if you turn down a smaller street and walk a block or two then you should be able to find some interesting local restaurants with at least one meatless option.
Druzi Cafe has two locations in Kiev, including one on the ground floor of Dream House Hostel. Because I was staying at Dream House Hostel (it’s probably the best hostel in the city, after all…) I had a few meals at Druzi Cafe, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu at Druzi Cafe features a number of different vegetarian options, and some dishes can be made vegan-friendly too.
If you like gnocchi, you’ll be pleased to know that Ukraine has found a way to make them into a breakfast dish. Called “lazy dumplings”, these soft balls of dough are made from cottage cheese, potato and egg, and then topped with a big spoonful of sour cream, sauteed stone fruit and fresh tarragon.
The most popular vegetarian dish at Druzi Cafe was definitely the potato pancakes. Every traveler I talked to raved about them, and I even had a fellow traveler ask if he could buy my plate off me (he didn’t have time to order his own!). Made from grated potatoes, held together with eggs and laced with fresh herbs, the potato pancakes are served in a hot skillet with creamy mushroom sauce.
Puzata Hata is a chain of self-service cafeterias with locations all across Ukraine, including Kiev, Odessa, Lviv and Kharkiv. Inspired by a classic Soviet stolovaya, Puzata Hata invites its visitors to grab a tray and follow the food service path, beginning with salads and soups, moving on to main dishes, then there are side dishes, and pancakes usually come at the end. Leave a little bit of space on your tray for your beverage and some bread, then head to the cashier to pay. Portion sizes and prices are fixed, so it’s easy to know how much you’re spending. As a vegetarian, it’s almost impossible to pay more than 140 hryvnia ($5 USD).
I ate at Puzata Hata once in Lviv and once more in Kiev. This is my tray from Kiev: a bowl of cabbage salad, a plate of sauteed vegetables and a crepe filled with spinach and cheese. My beverage is compote, a sweet drink made from boiling dried fruits with some sugar and then straining the mixture into a glass.
(As a bonus, there is a currency exchange office inside the Puzata Hata at Kontraktova Ploshad!)
Hum:Hum is so cool that I’m surprised they even let me in. This little hummus restaurant has beautiful vintage-inspired furnishings inside and a menu that is very vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. If you’re looking for vegetarian food in Kiev, Hum:Hum should be your first stop.
As you can see, that’s some nice hummus! They have tons of different kinds (including options with roasted red peppers or beets) and every plate can be topped with extras like falafel, caramelized onions, diced tomatoes or pita bread. There are other dishes on the menu too, including some lovely breakfast plates.
Honey Cafe & Patisserie
This upscale cafe and bakery draw a major crowd, so be prepared to queue (or consider arriving outside of peak dining hours). The breakfast menu is impressive, with more than ten vegetarian options and four different vegan dishes (including coconut cream french toast, a mango smoothie bowl and avocado toast). I opted for the vegan avocado toast, which was topped with sprouts, Maldon sea salt, seeds and sundried tomatoes, and served with a salad of greens, carrots, chia seeds and goji berries. Honey Cafe also serves breakfast and lunch, and they have an entire “green” menu of plant-based options for these meals.
Of course, there is life beyond breakfast, lunch and dinner, so one afternoon I returned to Honey Cafe & Patisserie for an afternoon cake break (the German tradition of “kaffe und kuchen” is a vegetarian’s best friend!). Because I’m obsessed with pistachio I ordered their vibrant green pistachio cake and a cappuccino. This actually wasn’t my favorite cake, as I was surprised to find coconut in the crumble on the bottom. The coconut kind of overpowered the pistachio, and I probably would have preferred one of their perfect pistachio macarons.
The Podil East India Company
After almost two months of traveling in Eastern Europe I was so desperate for unique flavors that I would have happily eaten terrible Indian food. Fortunately I didn’t have to resort to bad Indian food, as Kiev is home to one of the best Indian restaurants I’ve ever visited: The Podil East India Company. Instead of featuring dishes exclusively from India, The Podil East India Company has a menu featuring dishes from across Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.
There are some bold flavors being served up here! I started with the restaurant’s Tamil Mixed Salad (from India), which was made from spinach, tomatoes, chickpeas, rice, peanuts and coconut in a dressing of fennel, coriander, cumin and mustard. Then, I had a plate of Rava Vada (also from India) – little semolina donuts served with a spicy sambar and cooling coconut chutney. After a few too many nights of partying I skipped their extensive cocktail menu, instead choosing a sweet lassi made from yogurt, cardamom, rose and pistachio.
The atmosphere in Podil East India Company is very intimate, with small tables spread across several floors. There’s enough dark wood and antique decor to make you feel as though you’re on board a spice trader’s ship in the 1800s.
The Blue Cup Coffee Shop
Finally, a restaurant beyond the borders of Podil! The Blue Cup Coffee Shop is one of Kiev’s trendiest coffee shops, thanks to their high-quality coffee drinks and interesting food menu. I couldn’t leave Ukraine without having at least one porridge breakfast, so I ordered a bowl of their oatmeal with banana and nuts (it came with some surprise berries!) and a cafe latte. If my memory serves me, I may have stayed for a second latte too!
The Blue Cup Coffee Shop is a great choice for vegetarian food in Kiev. At breakfast, vegetarian options include porridge, french toast and poached eggs on toast. At lunch and dinner they offer a tofu, hummus, zucchini and avocado sandwich, creamy corn soup with sun-dried tomatoes and a lemon couscous dish with avocado, egg, pesto and chia seeds.
Possibly Kiev’s most famous 100% vegan restaurant, KOLO has a small menu of homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps and desserts. The food is lovingly prepared by the women in the cafe, and you can enjoy it at one of their comfortable, cottage-inspired tables with views onto the facing street.
My dinner at KOLO started with one of their evening specials: a creamy red lentil soup with notes of paprika, garnished with black sesame seeds.
Next, I had a wrap from KOLO’s regular menu. It was bursting with barbecue flavor from the tangy sauce, and was filled with lettuce, tomatoes, apples, brown rice, microgreens and vegan sausage (which, for some reason, was called “Seattle sausage”?). The flavors here were great, and it was the perfect size for a light lunch or, with a first course, a proper dinner. On a return visit I would probably try one of their pasta dishes (like the spinach and nutmeg risotto) and then indulge in a raw vegan dessert.
I didn’t have my camera with me when I visited Momo, a fast-casual restaurant serving mostly pre-packaged foods that you can take away or eat in their dining area. It was only one block away from my hostel in Kiev (Dream House Hostel) and because the food was pre-packaged, it was really easy to grab a fast meal before the hostel’s evening walk tour (… or before their pub crawl!). I had a salad with greens, sweet potato, kidney beans and pumpkin seeds in a balsamic vinaigrette. Their fridges were full of vegetarian food including salads, sandwiches, wraps, yogurt bowls and energy balls, and they advertised fresh juices and smoothies made to order (they weren’t available during my visit, though).
OMG Ice Cream
Across the street from Puzata Hata and Momo is OMG Ice Cream, a tiny gelateria serving homemade ice cream in unique, seasonal flavors. Since I’m obsessed with pistachio ice cream I had to stop by for a scoop, and was surprised to discover the best ice cream I’ve found in Eastern Europe. Sit down at one of their sunny yellow tables or take your gelato to go.
Khachapuri & Wine
If you’ve read my posts about Tbilisi, the surrounding towns and Chiatura, Georgia, you’ll know that I love Georgian food. It would seem that Ukrainians also love Georgian food, as there are popular Georgian restaurants dotted across the entire country (I also ate at one in Vinnytsia).
Khachapuri & Wine is pretty Georgian restaurant in Kiev with large tables spread across a covered terrace. Their menu features all of Georgia’s most popular vegetarian dishes, including khachapuri (cheesy flatbread), lobio (bean stew) and eggplant rolls filled with garlicky walnut paste. Oh, and did I mention they serve Georgian wines?
Georgian food is designed to be shared, so bring along some other vegetarian friends or come with meat-eaters… just don’t let them take all your delicious vegetarian food!
McDonalds (Hear Me Out!)
I am adding McDonalds to this list for a very specific reason. If you’re planning to do a Chernobyl tour that departs from Kiev, it’s likely that you’ll need to meet at the central train station fairly early in the morning. I had actually planned a healthy breakfast for the morning of my departure, but someone in the hostel helped themselves to my (clearly-labeled!) yogurt and pastry during the night. I had to leave for the station on an empty stomach.
Fortunately, my Uber driver was quick and I reached the station with half an hour to spare. I noticed there was a McDonalds on the west side of the train station, so I popped in and grabbed a vegetarian breakfast – an Egg McMuffin, hash browns and orange juice. The price was more than 50% cheaper than the same order at a Canadian McDonalds, and there was pleasant outdoor seating on the spotless terrace.
Sure, there are better options for breakfast in Kiev, but if someone steals your breakfast from the hostel fridge and you have an 8:00 am departure to Chernobyl, know that there is an option at the train station!
Late, Late, Late Night Eats
Speaking of questionable options for vegetarian food in Kiev, there is a 24-hour kebab stand in Kontraktova Ploshad (with an attached all-night coffee shop). If you’re coming back to Dream House Hostel from one of Podil’s fantastic bars or nightclubs, it is possible to get a vegetarian falafel wrap here at 4:00 am. It won’t compare to the falafel and hummus at Hum:Hum, but it is your last defense against a hangover the next morning (well, besides the bottled water they sell at reception).
If you’re traveling on a budget, you might want to visit a local supermarket to stock up on self-catering essentials. The supermarket that I visited most often was this one, located across from Puzata Hata at Kontraktova Ploscha (and just down the street from Dream House Hostel, which does have a full kitchen available for guests). This particular supermarket was always packed with people shopping for inexpensive alcohol, fresh produce, bread, cheese and meat. It also had a small coffee shop and currency exchange office inside. Since you need to bring your own drinking water to Chernobyl, it’s convenient to stock up here the night before your departure.
On Being Vegetarian in Kiev
Overall, I was very pleased with the vegetarian food in Kiev, and across the entirety of Ukraine. Nearly every restaurant had a vegetarian option available, more than half of the restaurants I visited could provide an English menu, and most people were familiar with the concepts of vegetarianism and veganism. It’s quite easy to travel in Ukraine as a vegetarian or vegan, and plant-based budget travelers will be pleased to find that in a country that is already very inexpensive, choosing meatless meals can reduce expenses even further.
Did you eat amazing vegetarian food in Kiev? Comment below with the details!
Are you a vegetarian traveler? Check out my post about the best vegetarian food choices across Germany, from Berlin all the way to Baden-Baden.