We get it. We reluctantly and somewhat regrettably left off the vegan falafel sandwich from Haji-Baba in Tempe… and the standout Buffalo Chkn Sandwich from Trash Panda Vegan in South Phoenix… and the mac skillet from Pomegranate Café in Chandler. Heck, we’re mad at ourselves. But we've got to stop somewhere.
So think of this vegan list less as definitive and more as delicious, a lineup to get you started on your meat-free eating odyssey across Phoenix. But for you, it's certainly not a place to stop.
Vegan Combination Platter at Authentic EthioAfrican Kitchen & Bar
1740 East McDowell Road
602-252-2286 Authentic EthioAfrican has steadily grown since it opened 10 years ago, expanding from a 650-square-foot, two-table takeout joint to a 50-seat restaurant with a wrap-around bar, handcrafted seating, and Ethiopian-inspired artwork.
Owned by husband and wife Anduale Hassan and Elsabet Tirune, what hasn’t changed at the restaurant is the genuine service and traditional Ethiopian cooking, recipes that have been refined and handed down for generations.
Order the vegan combination platter and sop up the fragrant sides with bottomless injera, a spongy crepe-like pancake made with teff flour. The bread is topped with tasty wonders including meser wot, spicy red lentils fragranced with Ethiopian spices, fossolia, a green bean and carrot stew, keyser beet and potato salad, shiro wot chickpeas, and gomen collard greens spiced with ginger. This is a fest best enjoyed with friends.
Carne Asada Nachos at Verdura
5555 North Seventh Street
602-283-5168 The carne asada nachos at Verdura don’t hold back. The plate comes piled high with chipotle black beans, pico de gallo, a smattering of sliced jalapenos and olives, guacamole, gooey queso sauce, and a crema drizzle, plus the house-made seitan “carne asada.”
These rich, tender morsels deliver a juicy, charred, and smoky flavor. It all comes atop heaps of homemade tortilla chips that somehow manage to keep their crunch despite the torrent of toppings, probably because they come out fresh from the fryer, all hot and blistery. These loaded lovelies are listed under “sharables” on the menu, but there's no shame in keeping them all to yourself.
Jackfruit Fries at Welcome Diner
929 East Pierce Street
602-495-1111 If there was such a thing as a perfect bite, the jackfruit fries from Welcome Diner would come pretty close. It starts with the presentation. A generous basket of shoestring fries – the crispy-edged kind with skins intact – are piled with meaty morsels of jackfruit that are beer-braised and spiced just right with hints of cumin and cinnamon.
Then on goes cabbage slaw, a slightly sweet, slightly sour topper that adds the perfect amount of crunch and color. Finally, a mustard-based Carolina barbecue sauce balances it all out. The whole thing is just four seemingly simple ingredients. But when combined into one mouthful, you get a hit of crunchy and creamy plus savory and satisfying, a total taste bud ignitor that sings with flavor and feast appeal. Oh, and it just happens to be vegan.
Cauliflower Tacos at The Coronado PHX
2245 North 12th Street
602-767-8133 There’s a reason The Coronado never plans on taking the cauliflower tacos off their all-vegan menu. Patrons would revolt.
By far the most popular and praised dish, these hand helds tick all the boxes of what makes a great taco. Corn tortillas are crisped up on the grill. Generous florets of cauliflower are coated in masa and beer-batter and deep-fried until creamy on the inside with a crispy outer crust, before they’re dressed up with crunchy pepitas, vibrant strips of spinach, creamy avocado dressing, and wedges of lime. All together it’s a totally composed dish with a comforting vibe.
Big Wac at Green New American Vegetarian
2022 North Seventh Street
2240 North Scottsdale Road, Tempe
480-941-9003 The aptly named Big Wac is by far the most popular item on Green’s menu, and for good reason.
A total look-alike to the Golden Arches’ double-decker, this one comes with two hand-packed, plant-based patties made with a combo of Beyond Meat and textured soy protein. They so closely mimic McDonald’s, if you close your eyes, you wouldn’t know the difference.
Add the toasted sesame bun, shredded lettuce, diced white onions, pickles, melty vegan cheese, and Big Wac sauce, a vegan spin on Thousand Island dressing, and you’ve got a two-handed beast that far surpasses the OG. Yes, you want fries with that.
Vegan Dalai Lama Pizza at La Grande Orange Grocery & Pizzeria
4410 North 40th Street
602-840-7777 Who needs pepperoni on their pizza – or even dairy cheese – when you’ve got the Dalai Lama at La Grande Orange.
This pie comes loaded with piles of plump roasted tomatoes, yellow peppers, Brussels sprouts, and oodles of crispy kale. Every bite is enhanced by a signature sourdough that imparts a tangy chew and ensures no crusts will be left behind.
But the real standout here is the house-made cashew cheese, a secret recipe that turns the whole pie into an ooey, gooey indulgence. Insider tip: You can also sub vegan cheese on the veg-forward Rocket Man and Mother Earth pizzas.
Al Pastor Tacos at Earth Plant Based Cuisine
1325 Grand Avenue
480-465-2110 When the craving for tacos hits, head to Earth, a family-owned and operated all-vegan Mexican restaurant on Grand Avenue. But what to order?
There are the Crazy “Shrimp” Tacos with beer-battered vegan shrimp topped with pickled onions and Baja sauce, carnitas tacos with grilled, marinated baby bella mushrooms and avocado salsa, and oozy-yet-crispy quesabirria tacos with house-made wheat protein, melty cheese, and dipping sauce, all made on freshly pressed corn tortillas.
But if we had to pick a favorite, it would have to be the al pastor tacos with tender seitan meat marinated in adobo sauce paired with diced onion, caramelized chunks of grilled pineapple and creamy avocado salsa. Absolutely wash it down with a house-made agua fresca or horchata.
Buffalo Cauliflower at Vegan & Vine
502 East Thunderbird Road
602-296-7638 The newly opened Vegan & Vine in North Phoenix serves a full roster of vegan brunch, lunch, and dinner items – chilaquiles with fire roasted salsa and tofu scramble, a cobb salad with a southwest spin, portabella burger with truffle aioli and arugula, and house cut French fries – plus a host of vegan wines.
But the must-order item here is the buffalo cauliflower. A whole head of the stuff is battered in flour, coconut milk, and vinegar, for a vegan spin on buttermilk, then flash fried to crispy perfection, and tossed in buffalo sauce for a spicy finish. The hefty chunks are plated with creamy house ranch, crumbly gorgonzola, and celery strips for an indulgent helping that’ll test even big appetites.
Vegan Pho at Pho Noodles
3417 North Seventh Avenue
602-254-6374 When you want to slurp noodles with your meat-eating friends, head to Pho Noodles, a Vietnamese standout with steaming bowls of pho and perhaps the fastest service in Phoenix.
The majority of the menu includes meat, but the vegan phở chay is so flavorful. Lacy rice noodles, vibrant vegetables, chunks of tofu, crunchy bean sprouts, sliced jalapeno, and fresh herbs float in a heady broth layered with spices and simmered for hours. It could turn anyone vegetarian. Start with the gỏi cuốn chay or tofu spring rolls, meat-free packets of fresh vegetables and Vietnamese herbs rolled tight in rice paper, or the tofu rang muối, crispy fried tofu bites coated in pepper and salt, for a vegan feast.