When I heard people talk about the food in South Korea I always heard two words mentioned: chicken and kimchi. Not sure how vegan-friendly South Korea would be, we were pleasantly surprised. Whilst we found it harder to just stumble across vegan food in restaurants or in the street as it is in China and Japan after a bit of research we enjoyed some delicious food including vegan ‘chicken’ and vegan kimchi! This article contains our favourite restaurants in Seoul and Busan.
In the heart and soul (sorry it had to be done) of South Korea there were plenty of options in the capital city. We tried out the hip and traditional. Here were our favourite three.
The traditional option –오세계향 Ose Gye Hyang
This restaurant was amazing as it allowed us to try vegan versions of traditional Korean foods. It is situated in a really central location just two minutes from Anguk. I loved the atmosphere as you sat knelt on the floor at wooden tables. All of the food was delicious and I particularly loved the fake chicken. The kimchi was also incredible and we could be certain there was no hidden fish sauce. We went twice during our stay in Seoul. It’s a little bit hard to find as it is down a side street. Also bear in mind it closes fairly early and when we arrived at half past 8 (due to close at 9) we pretty much begged her to serve us.
The hip option – Vegetus
If you are in the mood for Western vegan food this is your place. Friendly and modern with loads of yummy vegan and gluten-free options. Alex and I opted for the Burrito bowl and the creamy mushroom pasta for our mains and shared a muffin with ice cream for dessert. The portions were great and it tasted amazing! We had just hiked up to the TV tower and back down so we felt we deserved this decadent treat. It isn’t in the most central location but we combined it with our hike to the Seoul TV tower on our way to the military museum (this is a long walk…) but it’s worth the detour.
The cheap option – 발우공양 Balwoo Gongyang
This is a bit of an unusual choice as it is located on the second floor of a Seventh Day Adventist Church. What’s great about it is that it is an all you can eat vegan buffet and we were treated like kings! I don’t think tourists tend to go there so the owner was very excited when we arrived and talked us through the entire menu urging us to try everything. We definitely stocked up and again it was really yummy. Nothing mind-blowing but very good value for money. It is around the corner from the Jogyesa temple, close to Anguk metro station and not far from the two palaces so again its in a very central location.
The best-vegan-burger-in-the-world option?! – 무무 버거 MooMoo Burger
When we looked on HappyCow there were not many options in Busan. As luck would have it one option was around the corner from our hotel. We arrived at 9pm as he was closing (this seems to be a bit of a trend…) but he made us one burger. I wasn’t overly hungry but once I saw Alex’s face as he bit in, I knew I had to try a bit. MooMoo Burger tasted so good I doubted it was vegan. The mock meat was too meaty, the fake cheese too cheesy. I don’t believe I have ever regretted not joining Alex in a meal more in my life. We ended up going 4 times (we stayed only 3 nights…) and even planned our day around going there for lunch. We also made friends with the owner who was a really cool guy. His milkshakes were also delicious. I think I would go back to Busan just to have his burger again.
South Korea had some delicious vegan food. We did struggle to just get simple vegan food at times but with a bit of planning we just had to work out what would be in the areas we were visiting beforehand.
For more inspiration on what to do during your stay in South Korea check out this day trip to North Korea or if you are very short on time see what things there are to do on a 10-hour Seoul layover.
Tell us if you have been to any other vegan places you would recommend!