Being Vegetarian in Israel

Being vegetarian in Israel is no problem. Kosher food rules mean that for many vegetarians, Israel is an easy country to maintain their diet whilst enjoying their food as there is a high proportion of restaurants which serve no meat whatsoever. In addition, those restaurants which do serve meat will almost always offer vegetarian options, and Israeli street food is especially vegetarian friendly. So vegetarians, read on, and any fears you might have about being a vegetarian in Israel will be allayed. We are also pleased to offer a vegan food tour of Tel Aviv for those who want to get to know the city’s vegan roots and best spots.

Kosher-Vegetarian in Israel

Kosher food laws stipulate that meat and dairy products must not be mixed. The result is that kosher restaurants either serve meat or dairy products. Fish is considered to be neither meat or dairy (it is grouped with what’s termed ‘parev’) and so is served at both, but other than that, pretty well everything else dairy restaurants in Israel will serve, should be suitable for a vegetarian.

Aubergine hummus, a twist on the traditional. By nicasaurusrex, on Flickr
Aubergine hummus, a twist on the traditional. By nicasaurusrex, on Flickr

It is estimated that around one-third of restaurants in Israel are kosher, meaning that a very high proportion of restaurants in Israel are almost effectively vegetarian restaurants. Those which are kosher are either supervised or non-supervised – from the perspective of vegetarianism, this is irrelevant. Those restaurants which are kosher but serve meat will usually have some option for vegetarian diners, although because no milk can be used, the consequence is that it is likely to be limited.

Vegetarian in Non-Kosher Restaurants

Restaurants in Israel which are non-kosher will, like restaurants in most of the western world, serve a fusion of foods including a selection of vegetarian dishes. Israelis are health conscious and many keep a vegetarian diet, with salads being universally popular regardless (they are serious dishes in Israel!) In addition, Jews who only eat kosher meat, but would eat non-meat products in a non-kosher restaurant constitute a reasonable market share, and many meat restaurants will serve products catering to them (for instance, high quality tofu burgers).

Israel does have a number of specifically vegetarian restaurants as well as restaurants serving just hummus which are by-virtue of that fact, vegetarian.

Vegetarian Street Food in Israel

The most popular Israeli street food is falafel and hummus – two vegetarian favorites around the world. It is cheap, tasty, and available everywhere. In addition, bourekas, pastries filled with savory fillings (cheese, mushrooms, potato, spinach) are incredibly popular and available at most bakeries, and these are vegetarian.

To explore what Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market has to offer – also for vegetarians – we recommend joining this food tour.

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