How Difficult is it to Travel as a Vegetarian in Mauritius?

Short answer: not hard at all. We didn’t expect it to be this easy, but it’s really, really easy. Below is a list of some vegetarian dishes common to Mauritius. But first, let’s talk about why it’s so easy to find vegetarian food in Mauritius.

Why is it Easy to be a Vegetarian in Mauritius?

Hinduism and to a lesser extent Buddhism. The majority of people in Mauritius are of  (north and south) Indian descent. They practice many different religions, but many of them practice Hinduism. And though it’s not obligatory to have a vegetarian diet in Hinduism, many prefer it due to their interpretation of the religion. That is why most Mauritian businesses not only cater to vegetarians but also understand its principles and respect it.

The kind of vegetarianism most Hindus practice excludes meat, fish, and eggs, but includes dairy (and honey). When you’re a vegetarian who consumes dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and butter, this is called lacto-vegetarianism. That’s why the common meals that are vegetarian in Mauritius aren’t automatically vegan as well.

I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian, so sometimes there is a moment of confusion. One time we asked for an egg with our fried rice and the guy suggested we might as well put some chicken in it. But when we said egg is okay, chicken is not, he also understood that. And we also understand that some might interpret eggs as a sort of proto-meat.

Moreover, some Hindu diets exclude onion and garlic from their dishes. This is often referred to as ‘pure vegetarian’. It leans into Jain vegetarianism, which also excludes carrots and potatoes. These restaurants might be closed twice every month on a day called Ekadashi, which you can Google if you don’t follow the Hindu lunar calendar. On our Turkish Airlines flight to Mauritius, we pre-ordered the Vegetarian Jain Meal (VJML). I’m 99% sure it was also vegan.

13 vegetarian jain meal VJML aboard Turkish Airlines flight to Mauritius from Istanbul 2021

Jain meal aboard the flight from Istanbul (Turkey) to Mauritius

There are restaurants all over Mauritius that only serve pure vegetarian foods. My theory is that Jain/pure veg restaurants are also the best choices for vegans as it’s easy to ask for dishes that also exclude ghee, yogurt, paneer, and honey. The chefs are very conscious about what they put in.

All in all, being a vegetarian in Mauritius has been stupidly easy. Though we also speak French, at most places you can order in English without problems.

How to Order Vegetarian Food in Mauritius?

You can approach this in French or in English. The chances of communicating effectively are higher in French, but only if you can also understand the reply. I think it’s always easiest to ask “Vous-avez des plats végétariens?” The answer is usually “Of course.”

Some restaurants have menus with a whole vegetarian section. It’s easy to order from that by just pointing at what you want and mumbling it. In my (white) experience, people often point out that you’re ordering from the vegetarian section, thinking you’re making a mistake. That’s because many white people are big meat and fish-eaters and specifically come to Mauritius to indulge in seafood. You simply affirm that you are a vegetarian and this is certainly not a mistake.

Other restaurants have a daily changing menu and nothing on paper. They sometimes have a printed sign or a whiteboard with a list of dishes. If there’s nothing specifically saying ‘veg’, that doesn’t mean they can’t make it. Mauritian chefs are very accommodating to vegetarians and they’ll just chef something up if you ask if they have vegetarian food. It will usually be fried rice or fried noodles, though. They fry up a portion fresh, so you don’t need to worry that they simply picked out the meat pieces.

What Restaurants Have Vegetarian Food?

Pretty much all of them. Let’s start with the local Mauritian restaurants.

Out of local restaurants, there are two types: regular restaurants and snack places. So far, we haven’t found much of a difference except opening times, with the snack places closing before nightfall. Both have Mauritian classics such as mine frite and riz frite that can be vegetarianized. You can usually add egg to them like in the pictures below: left without egg, right with egg.

WITHOUT EGG fried noodles fried rice vegetarian in mauritius WITH EGG fried noodles fried rice mine frite riz frite mauritius

In our experience, snack places have a greater variety of vegetarian food. You can often have the vegetarian section of the buffet with a plate of white rice, or the same stuffing inside a farata (paratha), or roti/chapati. Snack places are also much cheaper than regular restaurants and you can pay as little as Rs. 50 for a massive plate of fried noodles.

Pradip Snack Mahébourg menu with vegetarian options

Out of regular restaurants, you have a variety of fanciness. Usually, you can see how fancy a place is by their tablecloths, but this isn’t a guarantee. The closer they are to the sea, the more fishy things they’ll have on the menu.

Nearly all regular restaurants serve the Mauritian classics. If it’s a restaurant that also caters to foreigners, they’ll also have things like French fries and (meaty/fishy) hamburgers. One restaurant in Mahébourg that does vegan hamburgers (beyond meat) is Le Bazilic. The only regular restaurant we’ve been to that didn’t have the classics is the restaurant La Glace Italiana in Souillac.

Pure vegetarian restaurants exist on a different plane. They can be fancy or more like a buffet. Or a fancy buffet. We haven’t visited enough of them to really know yet.

madhuban pure vegetarian restaurant in Mauritius surinam

Pure vegetarian restaurant Madhuban in Surinam, southern Mauritius

Street food places exist sporadically, usually around big markets. They often sell this mystery food which is a giant deep-fried papadom (?) with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce. In the picture below you can see we brought it home and put it on a plate. I asked if it’s vegetarian and it is. When it’s mango season, they also sell mango confit. That’s unripe mango pickled in a sauce of green chilies, vinegar, water, and salt.

Street food in Mauritius fried papadom with tamarind sauce chutney

I still have to analyze these businesses more, but there could be a third category: boulettes places. These are small restaurants that specialize in dumplings.

kim boulettes mahébourg vegetarian teokon

And finally, you might be eating at your guesthouse/hotel/Airbnb. The mother-in-law of our Airbnb host sometimes cooks for guests (for payment). We did this twice and both times it was amazing. She was quite surprised to hear we’re vegetarians but also thought it was kind of cool and rolled with it. Once we had briani (biryani) with a dessert of papadoms and sagoo. First we thought the papadoms belonged to the rice dish because that’s how Malaysia raised us, but she said no no no, here the salty papadom goes with the dessert. The second time we had homemade faratas with various dishes and fresh sweet mango in vegetable oil for dessert.

airbnb food mauritian briani with papadom and sagoo airbnb meal thali farata mauritius vegetarian food

List of Vegetarian/Vegan Dishes in Mauritius

The Two Mauritian Condiments: garlic sauce and green chili sauce

Pima Krazé piment écrasé Mauritius green chili hot sauce

Pima krazé: yummy but potentially dangerous!

The first meal we ate in Mauritius, two condiments arrived at the table. Marilyn explained that one is garlic sauce (sauce l’ail) and the other is green chili sauce. The garlic sauce is basically just finely chopped garlic in water. Fancy recipes also put in honey, which would make it not vegan. But most people just use garlic, water, salt, vinegar, sugar, and maybe chilies or herbs if they’re fancy. The green chili sauce (piment crasé/pima krazé/piment vert) contains green chilies, garlic, onion, salt, lime juice/vinegar, and oil. Sometimes it’s red, depending on the chosen chili.

You’ll see these two condiments on the sides of the pictures down below.

The Carby Classics

Know that you sometimes need to ask to make these dishes specifically vegetarian.

Riz frite

riz frite without egg

Fried rice is your first line of defense against feeling famished. If you start walking, the first restaurant you’ll pass probably has it. You can ask people to add egg to it, which will usually be scrambled in there. Sometimes, the fried rice comes with something that looks like pieces of meat. If you ask about it, they will tell you it’s ‘crispy’. Crispy is a versatile word that can mean mock meat. Mock meats are very popular in Mauritius as well as Malaysia to make vegetarian dishes more epic. Most mock meats are also vegan and most of them also don’t contain onion and garlic.

Mine frite

Fried noodles with garlic sauce mauritius chez Marilyn Pradip snack fried noodles mine frite fried noodles with egg

Fried noodles. What can go wrong? Only the picture on the left has it without an egg.

Vegans might wonder if the noodles contain eggs. I don’t know yet, but I’ve seen these noodles sold at the supermarket and I’ll find out. I would assume that they don’t have egg since there are many Hindu vegetarians who don’t eat that.

Mine bouillé

We haven’t tried this yet. Either it’s just the noodles boiled and not fried, or it’s like a noodle soup and comes in broth. The broth is a little tricky because it might not be vegetarian. We will order this one day, just not yet.

Bol renversé (magic bowl) with noodles/rice

bol renversé at les aigrettes snack mahébourg bol renversé magic bowl vegetarian chez marilyn

This dish exists on 90% of menus. They fill up the vegetables in sauce in the bottom of a (glass) bowl, then load it up with steamed rice or (fried) noodles. You have to lift the bowl yourself – try not to burn your fingers – and a steamy mound of food remains. The first picture is from Les Aigrettes Snack and the second from Chez Marilyn, both in Mahébourg.

Side note: once we had one (not pictured) that had a base sauce that tasted like ragoût. I don’t know if ragoût sauce is vegetarian or not, but I associate the flavor with the meaty dishes of my youth a lot.

Found at Snack Places

Pain fourré veg

Pradip Snack Mahébourg vegetarian in Mauritius pain veg vegetarien

Filled bread. They usually can stuff it with something vegetarian, usually vegetables and stews. They’ll offer to add green chilies to the sandwich, which you might want to decline. The bread can be hard to bite off, so if you have dental issues, maybe opt for the softer farata veg. Picture from Pradip Snack in Mahébourg.

Veg farata/roti/chapati

farata veg paratha parota stuffed with vegetarian filling in mauritius roti veg mauritius les aigrettes snack

A vegetarian wrap called farata, roti, or chapati stuffed with the vegetarian stew of the day. During our visit in December, it was often filled with a deliciously spiced pumpkin mash. If you ask “Vous-avez farata veg?” they might say no, but they actually have it with chapati instead. Farata contains ghee and is therefore not vegan. Chapati/roti can be made without ghee and therefore can be vegan.

The first picture is from Sabeka in Souillac. The second from Les Aigrettes Snack in Mahébourg.

Veg samoussa

vegetarian samoussa in mauritius and roti veg vegetarian samoussa in mauritius

In the pictures, they seem to play second fiddle, but we really do love ourselves some vegetarian samosas. They’re often a starter. Here’s a recipe.

Thali

madhuban pure vegetarian thali surinam mauritius

An Indian-style meal that sometimes comes on a very cool metal plate. Wherever they have thali, there’s also vegetarian thali. I don’t make the rules. This full meal comes with a drink and a dessert. It is always delicious. It can be spicy.

madhuban pure vegetarian restaurant alouda and dessert thali with rice snack at pradip snack mahébourg

The first two pictures are from Madhuban Pure Veg Snack in Surinam. The last picture is from Pradip Snack in Mahébourg.

Found at Regular Places

Panini veg/fromage (or baguette)

panini veg l'ajoupa mahébourg baguette veg l'ajoupa mahébourg

We almost never order the panini because it sounds so basic, but we had a vegetarian panini and vegetarian baguette on the same evening at l’Ajoupa in Mahébourg and it was so good. Comfort food. It had cheese.

Mixed salad

mixed salad la colombe not vegan Mixed salad Mauritius Mixed salad with fried noodles at l'ajoupa Mahébourg

With salade mix(te), it depends on the restaurant what it will be. Sometimes it’s a mix of veggies like carrot, cabbage, beetroot, and onion. Sometimes it’s cucumber, tomato, carrot, and lettuce. If you’re vegan, make sure to ask what kind of sauce they’re using or to leave the sauce out completely. Sometimes we had a yogurt-based sauce.

If you’re worried about eating uncooked stuff like salads because you once read somewhere that that gives you the runs, I’m sorry you believe that. The salads we ordered in Mauritius never gave us any trouble. We also drank the (filtered) tap water in Mauritius without problems. Not eating salads while traveling is no way to live.

Tofu in (black bean/sweet-sour) sauce

Tofu Teokon in black bean sauce la colombe restaurant Mahébourg mauritius

The local word for tofu is teokon. We haven’t seen tofu on the menu often, but when it’s there, we usually get it. This picture is from restaurant La Colombe in Mahébourg.

Chop suey with rice/curry paneer with rice/kofta with rice

chop suey and paneer curry in souillac mauritius vegetarian kofta with rice souillac

A few fancier restaurants make dishes with paneer, vegetarian kofta (potato-based), and vegetarian chop suey. Note that not all chop suey is vegetarian. These restaurants will often have a menu with a vegetarian section that will have these dishes. These photos are from restaurant Escale des Îles in Souillac.

Croquette veg

regular restaurant veggie tempura

Basically, it’s vegetable tempura. We ate this at Chez Marilyn in Mahébourg twice and loved it.

Dumplings

Boulettes chouchou (sawmai/nyouk yen)

boulettes chouchou vegetarian in mahébourg sawmai nyouk yen vegetarian in mauritius boulettes dumplings

These are steamed dumplings. They’re often filled with chouchou; a local squash-like veggie also known as chayote. Sometimes they’re called sawmai (shumai) or nyouk yen. If there’s a difference, I haven’t found it yet (sorry). When ordering boulettes, please make sure to ask if they’re really vegetarian, since something labeled as “boulettes fromage” might actually be fish and cheese balls.

boulettes fromage and chouchou in broth, not recommended

They also offer to put these dumplings in a broth. That’s something I don’t recommend because the broth is usually not vegetarian and often fish-based. See the picture above in the broth. These are mixed boulettes chouchou and boulettes fromage (cheese). Just eat them steamed and dry!

Foods that are not Mauritian (or French or Indian)

Think pizza, pasta, beyond meat burger, vegetarian burger with a regular patty, Thai green curry, pad Thai… You’ll know it when you see it. Most of these photos are from Le Bazilic in Mahébourg. The Italian food is from La Glace Italiana in Souillac. The simple vegetarian burger is from restaurant Le Phare in Mahébourg.

beyond meat burger vegan food in Mauritius le bazilic sweet potato fries western food vegetarian burger le phare

Pizza Pasta in Mauritius Souillac southern coast Pizza pasta in Mauritius Souillac

vegetarian curry le bazilic mauritius

pad thai le bazilic mauritius mahébourg vegetarian thai green curry christmas meal le bazilic mauritius

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