Ethiopian food is one of the most flavorful and intimate cuisines in the world. For those who are unfamiliar, it features a rainbow of colorful spiced stews that are meant to be shared and eaten by hand using injera, a spongy flatbread made from fermented teff flour that excels at soaking up flavor. If that appeals to you, here are the best places to find vegan Ethiopian food in New York City.
Is Ethiopian food vegan-friendly?
Ethiopian is a very vegan-friendly cuisine that you should make time for, arguably, all the time, but especially if you’re ever in New York City, where there are a number of fantastic Ethiopian restaurants.
Dishes feature legumes, beets, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, and potatoes with onions, garlic, jalapeño, vibrant berbere spice, and more. In place of sautéed meat, chefs will use mushrooms, seitan, or tofu. If you’re new to Ethiopian food and you’re not convinced yet, keep reading—the food photos (and descriptions) will have you looking for your nearest Ethiopian eatery.
The best vegan Ethiopian food in NYC
If you’re ever craving Ethiopian flavors and happen to be in New York City, you’re in luck. Here are six restaurants where you can find fantastic vegan Ethiopian food.
1 Ras Plant Based
For a mixture of traditionally plant-based Ethiopian dishes and vegan meat-centric options, check out Ras, an organic farm-to-table restaurant in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood.
To try a little bit of everything, choose one of the restaurant’s two platters, which each feature a mixture of stewed and spiced legumes, flavor-packed vegetables, and either injera or rice. If you’re craving something meaty, choose from the menu’s dinner section, which offers spiced tofu, pea protein crumble, mushrooms, and seitan tibs—a sautéed meat dish made with a generous rub of homemade berbere spice blend.
Swing by for brunch to find a mixture of Ethiopian dishes such as firfir—a simmered dish featuring tomato, onion, spices, and shredded injera—or Western dishes like vegan French toast and macaroni and cheese.
Find it here
2 Bunna Cafe
This bustling all-vegan restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn started as a food truck years ago. This cozy establishment features wood finishes and low lighting at dinnertime that makes for an intimate date spot that’s also large enough to accommodate big groups of people.
As for the food itself, you’ll find sambusas (a savory, triangular Ethiopian pastry filled with lentils or peppers), shiro (spice-simmered chickpeas), gomen (steamed and spiced collard greens), mushroom tibs, and more. Platters can serve as few as two or up to nine people.
For dessert, there’s vegan baklava, made with crisp, flaky filo dough, pistachio, walnuts, and a coffee-infused sugar syrup made with demerara, a type of brown sugar with large, crunchy crystals.
Speaking of coffee, don’t skip it. Bunna Cafe serves it Ethiopian-style, meaning it’s fresh-roasted, ground in a mortar and pestle, and then brewed with cardamom and cloves. It has a thicker texture compared to drip coffee. You can catch a live Ethiopian coffee ceremony every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening at 5:30 pm.
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3 Makina Cafe Ethiopian-Eritrean Eatery
Located in Long Island City, Queens, and in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, Makina Cafe serves Ethiopian-Eritrean food out of a bright yellow food truck.
This means that it’s pick-up only, but it allows you to dine at a local park or enjoy a night in your apartment or hotel room. While it’s not completely vegan, the plant-based options are noted on the menu.
The Vegetarian Bowl comes with three options from the vegetable section, which includes mushrooms, lentils, and split peas in addition to spice-laden veggies. You choose from a base of injera or yellow basmati rice. For an appetizer, get the lentil sambusa.
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4 Bati Ethiopian Kitchen
Recently relocated to Fulton Street, Brooklyn, Bati Ethiopian Kitchen is a beloved establishment where you’ll find traditional, vegetable-forward dishes. The menu includes a 100-percent vegan menu with gomen, shiro, misser wot (stewed spiced lentils), and buticha (ground chickpeas in a blend of onions and peppers).
Combination platters can serve two, three, or four people, so it’s a good spot for close-knit dinners with friends and family. Pineapple juice, wine, and Ethiopian beer are also on the drink menu.
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This vegan-friendly Ethiopian restaurant has three locations to choose from: the East Village and the Upper West Side in Manhattan, or Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. For the plant-based options, just skip to the “vegetables” section of the menu.
Here, you’ll find a whole spectrum of vibrant, vegan-by-default Ethiopian dishes, from shiro to key sir alicha (spiced beets and carrots cooked with onions). Try the tofu tibs, which feature organic tofu cubes sautéed with tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños.
Order the vegetable sampler if you want to try a little bit of everything. The meal comes with five vegan dishes of your choosing, plus injera—always order extra.
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Vegan entrées are clearly marked in this omnivore Ethiopian restaurant in Morningside Heights, just blocks north of Columbia University. You can order a sampler platter—which comes with injera, of course—for one or for two.
Try the timtimo (red lentils stewed with berbere and ginger), alitcha (cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and collard greens baked with turmeric), and the tsebhi hamli (collard greens cooked with tomatoes and berbere). Afterward, enjoy the architecture of Columbia University or Morningside Park, which features winding paths, native plants, and a waterfall on a narrow strip of land that stretches for 13 blocks.
New York City’s vegan and vegan-friendly restaurant scene allows you to sample a diverse range of global cuisines. It’s well worth visiting for just the noshes if you’re the kind of person who loves to travel for vegan food.