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The Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego

The Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego

From sushi to happy hour, there’s a plant-based dish for every craving in California’s second-largest city

In San Diego, plant-based cuisine is more than just health food. California’s southernmost county is home to diverse communities where cultural influences have shaped the local culinary scene. Vegan restaurants in San Diego take cues from these global cooking styles, offering visitors everything from Mexican food and Cali-Baja fusion to sushi, pizza, and even burgers. There are also more farms in San Diego County than any other county in the United States, yielding a fresh bounty of produce like apples, strawberries, and avocados for chefs to highlight seasonally in new recipes.

The resulting plant-based dishes and drinks are endlessly creative in preparation and flavor, with dining options for every craving or meal. In between trips to the beach or touring museums at Balboa Park, make time to visit these eight restaurants where you can enjoy some of the best vegan food in San Diego. For more restaurants in the area, check out Dining in San Diego, Incredible San Diego Brunch Spots, and 15 Amazing Taco Shops.

Best Vegan Restaurant in San Diego for Sushi: The Yasai

The Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego, California, The Yasai

Location(s): Little Italy, Convoy
Reservations Recommended: Yes
Try: the Stressed Out roll

With a name that translates to “vegetable” in Japanese, The Yasai in San Diego sets high expectations for its vegan sushi. Dishes feature components prepared fresh daily, from the earthy forbidden rice paired with smoked tofu in the Stressed Out roll to the handcrafted ramen noodles served in house-made dashi, or soup stock. Every veggie receives a specialty treatment to evoke the diverse flavors and textures of raw fish, like miso-glazed shiitake or smoked-and-pickled jalapeno. A bento box is a great way for diners to sample a selection of popular menu items, including an omakase roll, nigiri, crispy vegan gyoza (dumplings), and curry-battered karaage, a type of Japanese fried chicken.

Best Vegan Restaurant in San Diego for Brunch: Kindred

The Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego, California, Kindred

Location(s): South Park
Reservations Recommended: No
Try: the B.F.S. breakfast sandwich

On a tree-lined street corner away from the downtown buzz, a gilded door and marble facade lead to an unconventional space where death metal and craft cocktails meet. At Kindred, the menu features metal-themed drinks like the gin-based Spinal Tap, served in a pink-wallpapered dining room illuminated by LED lights. The juxtaposition creates a lively atmosphere for enjoying a vegan brunch in San Diego—fare includes classic morning favorites that swap meat for elevated preparations of veggies, like the crispy maitake mushrooms on a rosemary biscuit or cauliflower hollandaise in a Benedict. The restaurant is open for walk-in dining only, so arrive early to avoid the inevitable brunch line. 

Best Vegan Restaurant in San Diego for Mexican Food: Tacotarian

The Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego, California, Tacotarian

Location(s): North Park
Reservations Recommended: No
Try: the “giant” taco with carne asada 

Tacotarian takes a more-is-more approach to plant-based cooking. With an expansive menu of taco platters, queso fundido, and burritos, this counter-service eatery has some of the most creative vegan Mexican food in San Diego. Visitors can build their own burritos or enchiladas, choosing from eight “meat” choices ranging from plant-based proteins like seitan to mushroom asada and chili-braised jackfruit barbacoa. The vegan fillings can also be enjoyed in 15 specialty tacos served à la carte, or in a 14-inch giant taco stuffed with french fries. It wouldn’t be a Mexican restaurant without a margarita, so try a flight of four tasting-sized samples—the tamarindo is a popular pick with a Tajin-coated rim and a little heat from chili powder.

Best Vegan Restaurant in San Diego for Fast Food: Evolution Fast Food

Location(s): Banker’s Hill
Reservations Recommended: No
Try: the Evo burger

Burgers and fresh-cut fries are the featured menu items at Evolution, the first restaurant to offer a drive-through window serving up vegan fast food in San Diego. Sandwiches like the soy Buffalo Chik’n are also available, but vegan visitors who want to sample a California classic need to try the Evo burger. With Thousand Island dressing, grilled onions, and cashew cheese, it’s the plant-based counterpart to In-N-Out—and goes great with a creamy carob date shake. Most items are made in-house or sourced locally, part of Evolution’s sustainability pledge that also includes use of biodegradable packaging.

Best Vegan Restaurant in San Diego for Baked Goods: Maya’s Cookies

The Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego, California, Maya's Cookies

Location(s): Mission Valley, San Marcos
Reservations Recommended: No
Try: the Famous “Everything” cookie

The Black-owned bakery based in San Diego makes soft and chewy vegan cookies that ship nationwide, but the only place you can get Maya’s Cookies straight from the oven is a small storefront in Grantville. Feed your inner cookie monster with around a dozen fresh-baked flavors that rotate daily. There are seasonal options like Chai Snickerdoodle, as well as the Famous “Everything” that features sticky marshmallows holding together mix-ins like chocolate chunks, pretzels, oats, and butterscotch chips. The vegan treats will hold up well in the freezer, so you can also stock up at the start of your trip and enjoy them on the plane ride home.

Best Vegan Restaurant in San Diego for Happy Hour: Mothership

The Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego, California, Mothership

Location(s): South Park
Reservations Recommended: Yes
Try: the Astro Zombie cocktail

Imagine if a tiki bar was shot up into space—that’s the vibe at Mothership, San Diego’s trendy craft cocktail den that uses plant-based ingredients for all of its bar-bites and drinks. The appetizer-portioned plates feature tofu, noodles, and rice garnished with bold flavors like pickled daikon and kimchi cream cheese. Sip on otherworldly drinks that range from the citrusy 151-proof rum-and-absinthe Astro Zombie to the Time Capsule punch bowl for two. Reservations are offered for 90-minute dining experiences and fill up quickly. Set an alarm for Tuesdays at 10 a.m. for your best chance at scoring a table for the upcoming week.

Best Vegan Restaurant in San Diego for Pizza: Donna Jean

The Best Vegan Restaurants in San Diego, California, Donna Jean

Location(s): Banker's Hill
Reservations Recommended: Yes
Try: the Widow pizza

A cozy spot for dinner, Donna Jean highlights California’s seasonal bounty through an array of comfort foods like handmade pastas and pizza. The rustic-style pies are made from cold-fermented whole wheat dough, which produces a blistered, airy crust layered with crushed tomatoes and veggie-forward toppings like pickled peppers and black kale. Don’t forget to order a side of truffle cream sauce and garlic butter for dipping your crust. If the sweet and savory pairing of garlic date puree on the Widow pizza won’t fly on date night, the mac and cheese made with nut-based gouda and cheddar is so rich and creamy you may forget there’s no dairy.

Best Vegan Restaurant in San Diego for Fusion Food: Grains

Location(s): University Heights
Reservations Recommended: No
Try: the Drunken Angel pasta

The menu at this neighborhood cafe takes taste buds on a tour from East to West, from Tokyo fries drizzled with wasabi cream to the Philly cheese sandwich with mushrooms. Fresh veggies and tofu star in each dish at Grains, many of which offer spicy, Asian-inspired flavors like Thai curry and black-pepper soy sauce. The Drunken Angel pasta is great for lunch or dinner, featuring a generous portion of stir-fried noodles tossed with ingredients like peppers, tomatoes, and basil. Enjoy your meal at a bistro table on the patio, where you can also sip on a glass of wine, beer, or hard kombucha.

While these standouts specialize in exclusively plant-based cuisine, there are dozens more restaurants offering vegan and vegetarian dishes on their menus. From food halls like Liberty Public Market to the county’s more than 150 breweries, options abound for sampling vegan food in San Diego. Whether you want to treat yourself to an indulgent brunch after a morning of relaxing yoga or celebrate a special occasion, there’s a culinary adventure to be had in the sunny Southern California destination—you just need to know where to look.

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