People often ask me what the hardest thing about being vegan is. I don't know about the absolute hardest, but I would say that one of the toughest things is not knowing where you can get a quick lunch when you're out and about. If you don't know where to look, finding a tasty (let alone nutritious) lunch can be a test.
Luckily for you, we've compiled a list of our personal favourite vegan-friendly spots. We're aware that not everything on our list may be available where you are, so we've made sure to share with you our favourite lunch spots that have a wider reach. Let's start things off with fast food chains and coffee shops that we love.
(Obviously, with a bit of planning, the simple way around this puzzle is to pack a lunch from home. And we have a couple of recipes on our blog that would be perfect for exactly this, such as the Summer Salad or our Mexican Salad. Although these are a good option, I know full well it's not realistic to always be equipped for every eventuality!)
Our first choice is... Leon. Leon has a great range to choose from. Before this post, I tried their Plant Burger with a side of Baked Fries, which I loved. Our choice this time around was one of their Hot Boxes, the Lentil Masala at £4.75. “A rich coconut curry spiced with cumin, ginger & mustard seeds. The LEON dahling.” We got this because of our love for curries. It does taste its best hot from the oven, so if you are buying it to take away, make sure you get wherever you are going quickly! What's great about this Hot Box is that it's packed with protein. Although it tasted great, the ratio of masala topping to rice was a bit rice heavy, I would have liked a larger helping of the Masala. Since putting this post together we've tried their meatless meatballs which we thoroughly enjoyed too! If you are looking for a hot meal, any of the LEON options are a great choice.
Leon doesn't only offer savoury lunches, they're also a great place for sweet treats! At a price of £2.75, We decided on the Peanut Butter Jelly Brownie simply because we love chocolate brownies. I really liked the texture of the brownie, it held together well and wasn't too dry. It was sweet and chocolatey, without being over sweet which is a plus! The PB&J topping was tasty, however, it didn't totally shine through, often being overshadowed by the brownie's flavour. I would say that this is the perfect accompaniment for a cup of tea or coffee.
Our second choice come from Pret-a-manger! I know, not exactly original, but if you are familiar with Pret, you will know that there are plenty of options to choose from. There are salads, wraps, sandwiches and their delicious chocolate cookies to name only a few! What we think is particularly good about Pret is their Veggie Pret initiative that has proven incredibly popular. Three of their stores here in London (and one soon to open in Manchester) have turned green, now only serving vegetarian options with a larger selection of vegan choices too! Since all of Pret's food is made fresh, I often find that to get the best choice it's useful to get there before the big lunch rush around 12.30. At £4.50 what we picked up the Sweet Potato Falafel & Smashed Beets Veggie Box. Much like Leon's offerings, this too is full of protein! I love the taste of the smashed beetroot hummus with the brown and black rice. They worked so well together as an earthy yet sweet base for the rest of the veggies. And topped with the tangy green dressing, the whole dish is boosted up a notch. I found the falafel was a little dry, however, if you are looking for something filling and healthy, I would still totally recommend this box!
Another place we love is Costa. We decided on Costa because it is the largest coffee chain in the UK with the highest number of stores, which hopefully makes it easy to find. In most locations, you'll be able to find vegan soups and wraps. Instead of one of these, we decided on starting with a little treat. We had read about Costa's Vegan Sticky Toffee and Pecan Cookie but had never tried it. It looked so delicious online, with its soft toffee centre! And boy did it live up to our expectations! If you have a sweet tooth of any kind I wouldn't hesitate recommending this to you. At £1.85, the cookie is beautifully soft and the toffee centre is sticky and sweet. Out of all of the vegan cookies that I've tried, I would say this is the best one if you are looking for a dessert.
We couldn't visit all of the chains and cafes for this post, so here is a list of a few of the places we also recommend: Starbucks, Itsu (I am a big fan of the miso soup and the veg gyoza), Wasabi, Yo Sushi, Bagel Co, Cornish Pasty Co, and Eat.
If you are more of a fan of the traditional sandwich and a packet of crisps, then another place to find a great convenient lunch is the supermarket. On our trip, we popped over to Waitrose. We had a good look around and found plenty of choices. We ended up going with the Vegan Ploughman's for £2.60. This is the first time we have seen vegan cheese in a supermarket sandwich, so points go to Waitrose for this! What I found so surprising was how "normal" it felt to have this for lunch. I may be slightly biased, but I totally forgot that I was eating vegan cheese. I would definitely get this again.
Another thing that we found in Waitrose was vegan Sushi! For £2.70 it was super fresh and delicious. I'd totally recommend this if you were looking for something a little lighter.
There are plenty of other supermarkets that offer a good range of vegan lunches. One of my favourites is the £3 meal deal at Tesco with their falafel wrap. As well as this Tesco offers the entire Wicked range. If you are looking for something sweet then I would look for Co-Op's bakery section custard doughnuts. Other places include M&S, Sainsbury's and Boots.
If all of this fails, then here are a few general supermarket/corner shop tips:
Both fresh and dried fruits are a good option as a snack
Nuts are a good source of protein and fats
It's never hard to find a packet of ready salted crisps, and most corner shops and supermarkets also stock hummus!
If you've found the hummus but don't want to eat crisps, then carrot sticks or celery sticks are a healthier alternative.
There are more and more options for vegan protein or cereal bars, such as Naked bars.
Happy Cow is a great website dedicated to helping people find the best vegan and vegetarian food.
Eating out and about for vegans has definitely become easier and easier over the last few years with so many new options becoming available. And it's certainly promising to see companies investing in the vegan movement. I am no longer worried when I leave the house without a plan for lunch, as I always know there is something right around the corner.
If you’ve found our tips helpful, or you’ve tried any of these lunches, we’d love to know! Leave us a comment below, or find us on social media.