Dietary restrictions can be intimidating when traveling in another country. It can be especially worrisome if you’re walking long distances and really need healthy food and meals to keep up your strength. While Spain is a meat loving country, there are many options for a vegetarian in Spain.
Personally, I’ve been an off again on-again vegetarian for many years, and 3 of those years I lived in Spain. While in the US I was a junk-food vegetarian, but in Spain the abundance of delicious beans, salads and fruit really helped with my lifestyle.
Excellent vegetarian options on the Camino can be found in local cafes and restaurants. Your meal isn’t cooked until your order it, and many times the cook doesn’t mind personalizing options. For example, if you have a large salad, it will come with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, eggs, olives and tuna. You can ask for the tuna to be left off if you don’t eat fish. Another popular dish is grilled vegetables and meat, but I would always just ask for double vegetables and no meat. I would say in Spanish “No como carne…” and the restaurant could normally accommodate. Now soups, stews and other dishes are normally flavored with sausage or boiled meat, so you would have to be careful with those. If you see “lentejas” lentils on the menu, know that will be flavored with chorizo. If you’re not too strict, you can pick out the chorizo, but the beans will be cooked with it. There are also lots of cheese, eggs, olives, peppers, bread and fruit. A good option could be the menu del dia, or menu peregrino. This is 3 different plates, an appetizer, main and dessert. The first dish can be salad, second eggs or grilled vegetables, and dessert is fresh fruit or yogurt.
Fried mushrooms are delicious (championes), garbanzo beans, and my all time favorite Spanish food- tortilla de patata! I literally used to by a tortilla sandwich (bocadillo de tortilla) every single day at a small street kiosk when I lived and worked in Spain. Que Bueno!
Gluten-free options can be more challenging. The supermarket, Mercadona, has tons of gluten-free options, but restaurants can be tricky. In Spanish, when you say “Soy celiaco” hopefully restaurants can advise you what’s suitable to eat. Normally food is very straight forward. Meats, fish, and vegetables are cooked without breading (a la plancha). Chicken, pork, croquettas, all have breading, so be careful. In supermarkets there will be a large label saying if it’s gluten-free, but not all packaded foods have ingredients listed like they do in the states.
You can also bring your own food into Spain. There is no customs or border patrol that asks about food, so it’s no problem bringing your own snacks in.
Good luck travelers! Buen Camino.