For people with eating limitations, vacation can be a mixed bag. However, it’s starting to get easier and easier to find vegan food throughout the world, and Florida is a great example of a vacation destination that is bursting with plant-based options!
I’m hoping that this post can inspire some of Florida’s vegan visitors (and residents) as well as make omnivores aware of how delicious vegan food in the Sunshine State can be, in hopes that they will consider reducing their meat consumption to help the environment.
Tips for Eating Vegan in Florida
If you are visiting Florida (or anywhere else in the world!), HappyCow is a great resource. I use the website when I am planning in advance, but I also splurged on the app for when I’m out and about and need to find something vegan near me.
For your trip to Disney, I highly recommend Vegan Disney World, which has a breakdown of everything vegan at the parks and hotels as well as blog posts about various experiences such as the festivals.
Other resources that I use to learn about good vegan food in Florida are the following Facebook groups: Veg Disney, Florida Vegans, Central Florida Vegans, and Orlando Vegans. There are also vegan groups for other cities and areas in Florida.
As luck would have it, Orlando was named the 3rd best vegan city in the US just as I was getting ready to move away. I was definitely sad to be leaving a city that had sooooo much good food that I had yet to try, but that’s not to say I hadn’t already tried a lot of it. I don’t think I’ve had a better year of vegan food than I did in 2017 as I dined all around the Orlando area, and here are a few of my favorites.
Market on South (full vegan)
My first visit here was just a stop to get an intense brownie/cookie dessert from the Valhalla bakery on my way somewhere else. I was soon back for brunch at Dixie Dharma, at which point my mind was blown by the concept of “sausage” gravy and biscuits (which is something I had never actually tried, even before becoming veg).
The small Market on South building contains not only Dixie Dharma and Valhalla, but also a little area where natural/local goods are sold. I can’t say I’ve looked too closely at that section, though, because why would you look anywhere other than this AMAZING DESSERT SELECTION?!
Valkyrie (full vegan)
This vegan donut place opened in the spring of 2017, as an expansion of Valhalla bakery, since they couldn’t keep up with the demand. These donuts are huge and delicious, and (as with many foods on this list) you’d never know they were vegan if they didn’t tell you. They have a new flavor list each day, but my personal favorite is fruity pebble!
Loving Hut (full vegan)
I had actually visited a Loving Hut in Fort Wayne, Indiana, shortly after I became vegetarian about 10 years ago. I knew it was an international chain, and I had always intended to visit more locations, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I finally made this happen in Orlando. The menu included mostly Asian dishes and was so good that even my omnivore dad enjoyed the “meat” dishes there. I went back several times after my first visit in May.
Ethos (full vegan)
Even though I fell in love with Ethos on my first visit in 2015, my second visit wasn’t until last year. And was very soon followed by my third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and twelfth visit. A summer tradition I developed in 2017 was spending my Saturday mornings with the bugs and plants in Mead Botanical Gardens and then going to Ethos when it opened at 9 for a pile of pancakes.
Near the end of the summer, after trying the sausage gravy and biscuits at Dixie Dharma, I tried the same dish at Ethos, and that became my go-to breakfast order.
I also tried many of their sandwiches, all of which were winners. Oh, and the milkshake. And the garlic knots.
Walt Disney World and Kissimmee
Gasparilla Island Grille at Grand Floridian Resort
Grand Floridian unveiled a vegan menu at their counter-service restaurant last year, and I quickly turned that into my after-school hangout during the summer when I wanted a Disney fix but needed to get my coursework done. I’d order one of the delicious vegan options and then spend the evening working on homework at one of the tables until it was time to walk back to my car, watching the fireworks from the beach as I left.
(One of my favorite Disney magic stories is when a Cast Member came by and asked me why I was doing work while at Disney, and when I explained I was a local who just wanted a dose of Disney while I did my education coursework, I was worried that she would tell me I had to leave. Instead, she praised me for being a teacher and brought out some vegan chips and a coffee for me, courtesy of Mickey Mouse.)
The tomato basil flatbread was delicious, as was the “chicken” sandwich. For breakfast, I enjoyed the tofu scramble and the avocado bagel.
Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness
Chef TJ’s vegan feast was so noteworthy that it got its own post. I won’t rehash the details here.
LeFou’s Brew and Mickey Pretzels at Magic Kingdom
On my trips to Universal Studios, I was always a bit disappointed that the butterbeer wasn’t vegan, but I heard early last year that LeFou’s Brew was Disney’s answer to butterbeer, and when I later found out that LeFou’s Brew was vegan, I knew I had to try it. I don’t usually drink cold sugary drinks, so I waited until a warm evening in May.
I arrived at Magic Kingdom on the day that the new firework show was debuting, and I headed straight to Gaston’s Tavern to order the drink (I ordered mine without the mango whipped cream on top, although that is vegan as well). Despite the name, it’s a non-alcoholic drink that is essentially an apple juice slushy with hints of toasted marshmallow flavor, which I thought tasted like butterscotch.
And because I’m a real adult, I also ordered a Mickey pretzel for my dinner while I was walking back to Main Street to take my place for the fireworks. That was the beginning of one of many 2017 summer traditions, this one involving eating Mickey pretzels and drinking LeFou’s Brew while watching the amazing firework show.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom
This event at Magic Kingdom has become an annual tradition for me, and I’m so glad that Disney makes it easy for vegans to join in on the trick-or-treating with vegan chocolate and cookies!
If you can get to Polynesian Resort in the morning (or if you have the pleasure of staying there), Tonga Toast is not to be missed. This dish can be ordered at the table-service restaurant there, or (for no reservation and a lower price) you can go to Captain Cook’s and place your order at the counter. This giant hunk of sourdough is stuffed with bananas, fried, and coated with cinnamon sugar, and it always satisfies my insatiable sweet tooth for the rest of the day.
In 2017, the Beyond Meat’s plant-based Beyond Burger became almost ubiquitous on Disney property. I first tried it when Port Orleans became the first location to offer it, and soon I had sampled it at many other places. Pictured below is the Art of Animation (or Pop Century, I forget) on the left, done up as a classic cheeseburger. On the right is the Liberty Inn’s interpretation as a BBQ burger at Epcot’s World Showcase.
Fresh Mediterranean Market at the Swan and Dolphin Resort
The only reason I can think of that I didn’t take a photo of the amazing vegan omelet here is because I ate it too fast. I did not think that a vegan omelet was within the realm of possibility, but this was made from pea protein and had so much flavor. The texture was slightly different from most omelets, but I really enjoyed it. There is a breakfast buffet at this restaurant, but the omelet is on the set menu.
Satu’li Canteen at Animal Kingdom
There was so much hype leading up the the Avatar-themed land of Pandora opening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in May, but I was most excited for a vegan tofu bowl that was going to be offered at the counter-service restaurant there. Even though I don’t usually like salads, this was hearty and delicious enough that it became another one of my summer traditions–after my last class each Thursday, I would head to Animal Kingdom and get a late lunch here.
I always got the romaine and quinoa as a base, chose the crispy chili tofu for my protein, and asked for the charred onion chimichurri sauce. It also came with a fresh veggie slaw on top, and I made sure to ask for no boba balls, which contained dairy.
Each spring and fall, there is sure to be at least one delicious item at either the Flower and Garden Festival or the Food and Wine Festival. The menu changes slightly each year, so my hope is that each year, Disney continues to offer more veg options, especially at Flower and Garden Festival, where there is emphasis on fresh local food.
Erin McKenna’s Bakery at Disney Springs (full vegan and gf)
I will be honest: some of the desserts at this vegan and gluten-free bakery are total flops. However, when you do find something that’s not noticeably gluten-free, it’s delicious. I always enjoyed the cupcake tops, which were nice and moist with really dense icing. You also can’t go wrong with a slice of the lemon tea cake, even if the texture is a little crumbly.
If anybody is staying in the Celebration area or somewhere on Irlo Bronson Highway and gets hit by a craving for some ice cream of the future, there is a Dippin’ Dots shop that carries the vegan rainbow flavor. My eco-tip is to bring your own spoon and let them know so that they don’t automatically put a plastic spoon in your ice cream.
2 hours away from Orlando is my favorite Florida paradise. I have spent so many sunrises and sunsets on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, and though the vegan scene isn’t quite as thriving as Orlando, I did have a few favorites in 2017.
This pizza place is locally owned and boasts a vegan menu as well as gluten-free options. I went there for my birthday meal and was not disappointed. The garlic knots, bruschetta, and margarita pizza were fantastic, and I would order each of those dishes again, without hesitation!
The islands are full of seafood places and are not great about carrying vegetarian options, let alone vegan ones. Since my last visit several years ago, though, Anna Maria Island’s Sandbar Restaurant started to carry a hummus trio platter, which was absolutely delicious. I am still dreaming of the spicy red pepper hummus. I recommend dining outside around sunset time. After eating, you can walk on the beach and dip your toes in the water.
New Garden Chinese
When I lived in Bradenton, this was my go-to takeaway option, and I always got the same thing. In 2017, I made a point of going back and dining in, ordering my usual General Tso’s tofu dish.
I only got food at 2 places during my quick trip to Coral Gables, but they were both so good that I simply had to mention them here!
This place was on my South Florida bucket list for over a year (I first heard about it right after my last visit to Miami in mid-2016), and it totally exceeded the hype I had built for it. The buffalo cauliflower empanada was delicious, although it paled in comparison to the AMAZING pizza roll that I still fantasize about.
The cupcakes and donuts were also good, particularly the butterbeer cupcake!
I’d been to the Orlando location before and was thrilled to discover on that first visit that they have a special vegan menu. The seasonal food that I ordered on this particular visit was butternut squash soup and a platter that came with broccoli, vegan paella, roasted potatoes, and kohlrabi steak (I’d never had kohlrabi, and it was AMAZING!).
Part of what made Orlando rank Number 3 in the listing of vegan cities was its cost of groceries for vegans. I certainly didn’t have trouble finding ingredients to make delicious food in my own kitchen. Here are some of my favorites from the year.
A lot of people think sushi involves dead fish, but I love to eat sushi stuffed with yummy veggies and dunked in a bucket of soy sauce. Even simple sushi with nothing more than asparagus can be delicious and so easy to make!
More and more vegan nacho cheese recipes are popping up online, and while I haven’t found the perfect one yet, I’ve still found a few tasty recipes. This one called for onions, carrots, potatoes, cashews, and a few seasonings. For extra protein, I make taco seasoning and use it to flavor some textured vegetable protein, which I add to my nachos along with fresh tomatoes.
Even though the Beyond Burger can be easily found throughout Disney property, it costs much less to make it yourself. I found the patties at Whole Foods and made it at home once. Topped with vegan cheese, it was delicious, but my apartment smelled so bad afterward (like real meat!) that I decided I would only buy it at restaurants in the future.
I buy package free groceries as much as possible, but when I do splurge on items with a little more packaging, it’s usually Gardein products. This was a meal that I made with their “turkey” cutlets and gravy. I served it with steamed asparagus, “parmesan”-crusted roasted potatoes, and rolls spread with roasted garlic.
Though I have seen stores that sell vegetarian corn dogs, I’ve never seen vegan corn dogs anywhere. After years of craving some, I finally took matters into my own hands, buying some vegan hot dogs and making the corn breading myself. Though these weren’t the prettiest things, these corn dog bites were delicious.
I was so proud of the first tomato soup I made from scratch. I’d bought a huge bag of tomatoes at the Celebration farmer’s market, and I used my immersion blender to make this concoction. Naturally, I had to serve it with some vegan grilled cheese. And naturally, I had be super extra about staging a photo of it!
I usually try to keep my meals simple, but every so often, I invest some time into a slightly more complicated recipe, as was the case with these vegan taquitos in which I combined ideas from a few different recipes to best suit my personal tastes.
(I would link to the recipes I use, except for I usually end up reading about 5 different recipes and then improvising something different that is a combination of the 5 or totally different from any of them.)
This peanut noodle salad is one of the only times that I actually do follow the recipe. It’s so delicious as it is, that there was no need for me to make any changes to it, except for the fact that I replace the linguine with Asian noodles such as soba or somen. I would often make a big batch on Sunday night and then I could pack it for lunch each day that week.
While the above recipes are delicious, my go-to recipe most of the time is a lentil curry. This meal is delicious, filling, nutritious, made from local and package-free ingredients, and dirt cheap. It costs less than $5 to make a big batch of it that I can serve with rice over the course of a week or two.
I hate to admit it, but I can be quite the picky eater. So I feel confident in saying that if I can come to enjoy eating veggies in abundance, then others can too. If you’re in Florida, I hope you’ll consider digging into some of the amazing veg cuisine this state has to offer!