The Healthy Vegan Guide to Shanghai was last updated December, 2019. Please check in with businesses before visiting to confirm they are still open.
You may not know this, but I lived in Shanghai for a large portion of my life–it was one of the countries my family moved overseas to when I was young. I wasn’t vegan until I moved away from Shanghai, but I go back to visit at least once or twice a year because one of my sisters and my parents still live there. Naturally, I’ve had to figure out the whole vegan thing and fortunately, it’s really not that hard! Over time, I’ve found my favourite spots that I always visit when I make a trip, so I’ll be sharing my musts with you today, including vegan and gluten-free food, yoga and fitness, and a couple fun things to do.
(Also, before we continue, I highly recommend downloading BonApp!, HappyCow and WeChat to your phone. BonApp! is kind of like Yelp for Shanghai, HappyCow is the same, but for specifically vegan restaurants and finally, WeChat is the most used chat app and you can do things like call a cab, pay for anything–it’s like a lifeline in China).
In Chinese cuisine, it’s not common to find dairy in traditional cooking, so the only real thing you need to look out for is meat. Although meat is in a lot of dishes, Chinese cuisine is very vegetable heavy and there are also some great varieties of veggies that aren’t as commonly found in the US. You can easily eat traditional Chinese food and stick to the tofu, veggies and rice or noodles, but as Shanghai develops, more and more specifically vegan friendly spots are opening as well.
As of 2019, I confirmed with my doctor that I am allergic to gluten, and therefore had to take my gluten intake seriously. Before that, I was sensitive, but could get away with small amounts of soy sauce, and sourdough breads. If you are allergic to gluten, be aware that although rice dishes are naturally gluten-free, soy sauce is used quite a lot in Chinese cooking. It’s not common to find liquid aminos or a soy sauce alternative used at restaurants, or served alongside your food, so you may want to keep that in mind.
E A T
Hunter Gatherer – A combination of some grocery items and a pick-your-own salad/bowl station. The salad bar is reminiscent of Sweetgreen or an American customizable salad restaurant, and it’s my go to when I’m just craving a good salad. The marketplace sells kombucha, fresh juices, some healthy grocery options and also Oatly milk. Not all vegan, but great vegan and gluten-free options.
QiMin Organic Hot Pot – This hotpot restaurant is not entirely vegan, but they have an abundance of vegetables and vegan options that make it a great place to eat with friends or family who may not be vegan. Everything is organic, and the veggie selection is really beautiful. They have a variety of mushrooms, tofu, noodles etc. and it’s a really fun dining experience too.
Godly / Gong De Lin – This is my family’s absolute favourite spot for Asian or Chinese food veganized in Shanghai. It’s incredibly affordable, and still quite local, so don’t expect service in English–it’s a no frills kind of spot with damn good food. I recommend ordering the dumplings in soup, stirfried noodles with tofu, carrots and mushroom, and the crispy duck (I know, it sounds weird and I never eat mock meat, but I do here!). I have not visited since developing my gluten allergy, however they do have a huge variety of stir fried Asian vegetables from woodear mushrooms to greens you’ve never seen in America.
Maruyama (vegan sushi) – Fairly new and very exciting–this all-vegan sushi/Japanese restaurant is a fun food experience. They offer sushi, but not your average veggie rolls and cucumber maki. Expect mock salmon, tuna, and eel (that’s surprisingly convincing). Prior to going vegan, I was never a raw fish fan myself, however I went with my omnivore Mum and sister who were impressed by the mock fish. We ordered 1 of each nigiri on the menu and standout favourites were the eel, cucumber + sea grape and squid. Their mock fish is made with konjac root and soy!
BMS Organics – Discovered on my most recent trip, this Malaysian chain is so vegan friendly it’s incredible. In fact, it’s very allergy friendly, which means there are numerous gluten-free options, as well as nut-free, and garlic/onion free dishes for those with allergies. Expect hearty grain bowls, curries and burgers and also nutritious salads, vibrant veg dishes and lots of colourful drinks. I loved this spot and it may have become my new favourite spot this trip. Also, it’s one of the few organic restaurants in Shanghai.
Green Vege Cafe – This all vegan restaurant serves some great western options if ever you feel like munching on vegan chicken nuggets or a burger. My sisters personally really love the vegan chicken nuggets, and my mum really loves the curry. Some gluten-free options.
Gwen’s Jiang – Formerly called D’Lish, Gwen’s Jiang means Gwen’s sauce in Chinese because she is all about flavour and sauce. This restaurant is actually best known for takeaway and lunch delivery, so the dining space is quite small and there is no tableware, everything is served in to go boxes, but it’s really great food. It’s primarily Asian food, and I recommend ordering the baby purple sweet potatoes (so cute and so delish), the housemade tofu, and the mushroom soup which is my family’s favourite. Location is rumored to be closing in the near future.
If Vegan – This is a cute restaurant with tons of dining space on the second floor with mostly Asian options. They have some great baked breads (chocolate bread is a must if it’s available when you’re there), and dishes like colourful dumplings. This spot isn’t in my top 5, but food is always good and the restaurant atmosphere is great. Limited gluten free options.
Pure & Whole – This restaurant offers primarily western options and is always a safe bet. It’s not the most exciting food, but if ever I’m in a pinch, I can always rely on Pure & Whole and since they have locations all over the city, if I ever have trouble deciding where to go, I usually just end up going there. They also offer a good selection of desserts! I like their patties and salads. This restaurant is mostly vegan, but beware of honey.
The Flow Cafe by V Cleanse – The Flow Cafe is a newer, health focused cafe offering smoothie bowls, juices and salads. Expect LA/Australian fresh food, avocado toasts and oh, a great view. This spot is always refreshing when I’m missing healthy and fresh vegan friendly food.
Maya – A Mexican restaurant with a full on vegan menu with so many options to choose from. Tacos & more 🙂 If you’re craving Mexican, this is your spot.
Ban Ban by Sproutworks – Ban Ban is a new-ish spot opened by the well known Sproutworks chain. I’m not a fan of Sproutworks myself BUT I do like this spot Ban Ban. They offer customizable bowls, everything clearly labelled vegan or not. Quick, delicious, healthy!
Tribe Organic – This healthy eatery offers bowls, salads, smoothies and juices made with organic ingredients. I find that the dishes can be hit or miss, but the tofu bowl is my personal favourite. I love this spot when I need something healthy, nutritious and reliable!
/ a little fancier…
M on the Bund / Glam – M on the Bund and Glam are restaurants located right across from each other on the Bund. It’s an upscale restaurant located right on the waterfront so if the weather is nice, I recommend grabbing a table on the outdoor patio and you’ll get that perfect iconic Shanghai view. Glam offers vegan desserts, and M on the Bund has a separate vegan & gluten free menu you should ask for. I recommend the cauliflower dish which was delicious. The food is western.
Fu He Hui 福和慧 – This michelin guide restaurant is among the top rated restaurants in Asia (yeah, not just Shanghai, but Asia!). It’s vegetarian, but is vegan friendly, and I recommend you call ahead. It’s a very upscale, beautiful restaurant with artful plating, and really really beautiful food. Perfect for a date, anniversary or special celebration, or just when you’re feeling fancy. Let servers know if you’re vegan beforehand, as it’s a vegetarian restaurant from what I remember.
Wu Jie – One more elegant, michelin guide, vegetarian restaurant. The Bund location is a great date spot, and this restaurant only offers set menus. Call ahead to make sure they can accommodate you as a vegan, but definitely pay a visit if you’re looking for something more upscale.
Kathleen’s Waitan – I was brought here mostly for the view (see photo with skyline at top of the post!), however I was surprised to learn that they actually have a few vegan menu items. All vegetarian items are marked on the menu, most of which can easily be made vegan. I ordered the veggie sushi roll (sans mayonaise), roasted pumpkin (this was insanely delicious and caramelized to perfection), and the asparagus, which came beautifully prepared. This is very much a special occasion restaurant, and good for mixed groups of eaters.
/ c a f e s + s n a c k s
Sze Fong Glutinous Rice Culture – This little stand offers mochi-wrapped fruit and some classics like sesame paste. What’s unique is that they offer fresh fruit wrapped in mochi, so big chunks of mango, banana, strawberry and dragonfruit. I recommend the mango, and the newest kiwi flavour!
House Press – This cold pressed juice company has it’s own location, but juices can be ordered to your home too. They have some great juice options that include TCM ingredients like red dates, and it’s quality juice done right! A hard to come by commodity in Shanghai.
Towards the end of 2019, House Press has opened a flagship cafe with a glitzy, sleek, white and silver interior. They have also added light bites to the menu, like a matcha bagel with red beans in it, superfood waffle (listed below) and some warm drinks like a delicious black sesame, walnut and herbal warm smoothie.
Lizzy’s All Natural – One of the first/only smoothie spots in Shanghai where you can find green smoothies, teas, smoothie bowls, superfoods and raw bliss balls. This little spot also offers protein powders, supplements, and snacks (kale chips are bomb!). There are a few locations, but I recommend the one located at the Anken Life complex.
Strictly Cookies – A cookie company (they deliver!) offering not only vegan cookies, but also vegan + GF cookies, though you may have to special order them. They make great American style cookies, and it is the only vegan + gf cookie that I know of in Shanghai!
LN Fortunate Coffee – I first tried this spot when I was in Hong Kong, as it’s a very popular chain. This Shanghai location opened in 2017 and they have mostly light snacks, including vegan desserts and a few dishes. Great for a quick or light bite, and very casual.
Tsujiri – A matcha focused chain that my sisters love. I was surprised to find that they had an Oat Milk Matcha drink item on the menu, which is an oat milk mixed with matcha, and a brown sugar syrup on the bottom. It’s delicious, and you could probably ask to have bubbles (or tapioca pearls) added to your drink. Since the vegan bubble tea shop I used to visit has closed, this is my new go to. I will say, the brown sugar syrup is really sweet, so I typically order without, but otherwise, the matcha is legit!
Tea Funny – A great place to order tea! My mum brought me here once to have a beautiful ceremonial matcha, which they bring to you with tools so you can make it yourself and follow the ceremonial procedure. Probably the best matcha I’ve had in Shanghai, although I had it straight with water, so I’m not sure whether non-dairy milks are available. Just come for the matcha!
O’Mills – Bakery slash cafe that has opened within the last year or so. My mum and her friends love the bread, but my best friend let me know they also have salads to stay, and zoodles! Occasionally, they offer a vegan friendly dessert, but please note this spot is not really a vegan spot. They have options, but not always. It’s a good idea to call or message them beforehand to make sure there’s something vegan on the menu before going.
Egg – This is an adorable, Western style brunchy coffee shop. I was drawn in by the menu selections which sounded good, and the gorgeous, bright interior. Although they do have vegan options, including some desserts, I would not recommend this spot because the food (and drinks) were so bad. I dined here with my parents and sister, who all ordered the standard, non vegan menu items, and we unfortunately all agreed that our dishes were not enjoyable. I ordered the matcha latte with the housemade cashew milk, and I’m not one to waste food but I had to leave the cup full because I couldn’t swallow. I also ordered the brown rice porridge, which turned out to be simply cooked brown rice with oat milk poured on top. With all that said, I’m including this on the list because despite my terrible experience (and many friends of mine who agree), it still seems to be highly rated on all the apps/websites. Just be warned! I personally would not go back, and it isn’t cheap either.
Daliah Vienna – A cute Austrian cafe opened in 2015, best known for its interior (there’s a slide, and a swing!), but also offers veggie options. I have only ever been for tea myself, but have heard that the food is just average. I’d recommend just going for the coffee and interior, or a place to hang and do some work.
/ o t h e r
Avocado Lady – It’s hard to describe the Avocado Lady, but she’s a hero amongst those in Shanghai looking for Western groceries, and affordable, high quality produce. She operates her little grocery stall alongside the street, as do many local Shanghai stalls, however you’ll find gems like Western cereals, frozen berries (otherwise very tough to find), nut butters, tahini, and other ingredients from outside Shanghai. As her name suggests, she also sells great avocados at a good price.
Tempeh Lady – I was connected with a woman who made and sold tempeh in Shanghai while on my hunt to find some. Although tofu is abundant in Shanghai, tempeh is… not so much. To order, I used to contact her via WeChat, and then arrange to pick up the tempeh at a cafe in Puxi. I don’t think she lives in Shanghai anymore, however I picked up the tempeh at Bali Bistro, an Indonesian restaurant in Shanghai, so if you’re looking, your best bet might be to ask them!
Just Egg – Just a random note, but the vegan Just Egg is now available and sold in China. You can find it online at FreshFresh, Tmall or JD sites, and supposedly it is carried at Hunter Gatherer as well.
S W E A T
F45 Training – A circuit and resistance based workout class from Australia, now with two locations (always packed) in Shanghai. Highly recommend for a full body, really really good workout. New members are offered a 2 week free trial.
Pure Yoga – A staple for yoga in Shanghai. Great classes, clean, modern facilities and really talented teachers.
Pure Fitness – Like the Equinox Gym of Shanghai. Part of the Pure family, this gym is absolutely beautiful, with the most up to date equipment and incredible fitness classes. I took a VR cycling class here that honestly blew my mind, and I was impressed by the facilities.
Orange Theory Shanghai – A heart monitor based workout class, in which you try to keep your heart rate in the “orange zone” AKA working hard. You switch between running, rowing and resistance circuits in this high intensity workout class. I’ve taken this class in the US in multiple states, and it’s always a great full body class that will leave you drenched in sweat afterwards.
Try some TCM treatments while in the homeland! Acupuncture, reflexology massages, cupping, etc.
Tianzifang – A little cluster of shops, restaurants, food stands and a great place to pick up some souvenirs.
These are my go to things to do while I’m in Shanghai, but definitely don’t forget to play tourist a little more and visit all the sights, too!
Love & dumplings,
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BY Remy • July 2, 2018
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Hi there, I’m Remy! Welcome to Veggiekins Blog, home to nourishing vegan + gluten-free recipes and tips to live your best balanced and holistic life. I’m a human on a mission to empower you to be well and be kind to your mind, body and soul with the healing power of plants.
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