Many people will tell you that vegetarian dining in China can be a bit of a lottery, but vegetarians and vegans need not fear Chinese cuisine.

China has a long-established tradition of vegetarianism arising from Buddhist practices, and more and more people in China are choosing to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet for health reasons or because of environmental concerns. China produces a vast array of fresh vegetables—many of which you may never even have heard of!—and if you order judiciously you will be rewarded with some delicious, unique dishes.

More and more restaurants in China are accommodating of vegetarian meals and most will have a selection of vegetarian-friendly dishes on the menu. Before you order, simply use one of the phrases below to indicate to your waitress that you don’t eat meat. Western restaurants usually have a strong selection of vegetarian dishes.

If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan and would prefer to eat in a restaurant that doesn’t handle any meat, then you still have plenty of options. Most major cities have at least a couple of dedicated vegetarian restaurants; in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, you can check local expat media publications or international vegan and vegetarian restaurant listings on the Happy Cow website. Outside of major cities, the restaurants attached to Buddhist temples are a good first port of call for vegetarians; the quality varies but the food is guaranteed to be meat-free.

If you are traveling to China on one of our guided tours, then your agent and guide will help arrange your meals according to any dietary restrictions.

Useful phrases

  • I am vegetarian 我吃素 wŏ chīsù
  • I am vegan 我吃纯素 wŏ chī chúnsù
  • I don’t eat meat 我不吃任何肉类 wŏ bùchī rènhé ròulèi
  • I am allergic to… 我对…过敏 wŏ duì… guòmĭn
  • I can’t eat… 我不能吃… wŏ bùnéng chī…
  • What vegetarian dishes do you have? 你有什么素菜?nĭ yŏu shénme sùcài?
  • Does this dish have meat in it? 这个菜有肉吗?zhè gè cài yŏu ròu ma?
  • Can you make this dish without meat? 这个菜能不能不加肉?zhè gè cài néng bù néng bù jiā ròu?
  • Milk 牛奶 niúnǎi
  • Cheese奶酪 nǎilào
  • Butter 黄油 huángyóu
  • Eggs 鸡蛋 jīdàn
  • Honey 蜂蜜 fēngmì
  • Chicken stock 鸡汤 jītāng
  • Meat or fish stock 肉/鱼汤 ròu/yútāng
  • Lard 猪油 zhūyóu


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