Gran Canaria – How can a vegetarian survive in an island where pretty much all of the food available is either fresh fish or seafood? Let me tell you.
In Gran Canaria, an island known by its “desert-like” conditions, the first fact that you’ll need to embrace is that spices and sauces will be pretty much the way to go in a variety of hearty dishes – other than fresh fish and seafood these are the staples of the Canarian cuisine.
We visited the Gran Canaria in the beginning of May’17 – a period rather disturbing for both me and my sister as our oldest feline – Pingo (our Sweet Pingo) – left us after a brave and traumatic fight against cancer. It was a very dark period of our lives that ended in a not less dramatic away… 🙁
So after all of that, we decided to take some time off from the real world and got a cheap 5 day-deal to the sunny Gran Canaria, where we should also be able to visit our friend Mr. Pineda.
Thanks to our friend we were taken to all the most rural and less touristic places, where some vegetarian options were always served in the very traditional “tapas-style”.
What is in any case a must in the Canarian cuisine are papas arrugadas (papas, not patatas as in most other parts of Spain) which are small wrinkly roast potatoes eaten with the skin. Often paired with the actual emblem of the Canarian cuisine, the mojo-verde, the papas arrugadas become a delicacy – so simple and yet sooooo delicious! The mojo-verde (green sauce), consist basically in a lot of garlic, combined with olive oil, vinegar, salt and some herbs, spices and greens. In most Canarian restaurants mojo will also be served with bread.
Another typical veggie dish from Gran Canaria is gofio, which is a kind of compact mash that is either done of roasted cornmeal, barley or wheat.
Thanks to our friend Mr. Pineda, we visited the best places away from the crowds:
Restaurant La Vaqueria – Be aware that this is mainly a rural meat restaurant, so prepare yourself for the fact that pretty much everyone around you will be eating meat. However, in this place you can have the authentic Canarian experience which is an absolute must. The restaurant sets in a lovely casual atmosphere (almost “hipster-like”) and you’ll find a lot of vegetarian dishes – most of them will be side dishes presented in the traditional “tapas” way.
Restaurant Tagaror in Las Cuevas de Guayadeque – A restaurant in a wonderfully protected natural area of indescribable beauty. In this restaurant you can taste a variety of typical Canarian dishes and it will be quite easy to order a few vegetarian tapas. And again, the papas arrugadas are a definite must as well as the super healthy chickpeas Ropa Nueva.
Another place we visited, in a more touristic location, was an Indian restaurant, Misbah, with lovely vegetarian and a few gluten-free/vegan options, right on the beach in Meloneras. The service was great and we absolutely loved our dishes. The Hara hara kebab – which is in fact a vegetarian burger – it’s a healthy and delicious vegetarian dish made with spinach, potatoes and green peas that you must absolutely try. It is even suitable for toddlers and I am crazy to make them at home (stay tuned for the recipe) 😉
The above restaurants are not exclusively vegetarian, but serve vegetarian (and in some instances plant-based/vegan) options. If you want to play it safe always go for the following tapas:
- Papas arrugadas with mojo sauce
- Chickpeas Ropa Nueva,
- Calabacines a la Plancha (fried courgettes)
- and Buñuelos de Espinaca (or spinach croquettes)
The best thing to do in the Gran Canaria, is to go prepared to make your own food. If a kitchen is available, even better.
How to make your own meals on holiday?
It may seem a lot of work to have to think about food when you are away from home. However, this can be the best thing if you want to eat within a budget and if you don’t have enough healthy/vegetarian options on the doorstep (which was our situation). Luckily, we stayed at a fantastic place that had a really well-equipped kitchen and we could make some of our meals there, without having to spend a huge amount of money in restaurants.
One thing I believe to be useful is to buy these few basic ingredients and you’ll be pretty much ready to prepare a couple of different meals for at least 5 days.
So, in case you would like some ideas of what to buy when on holidays, here’s what we bought from a nearby grocery in the area of Maspalomas.
Our Shopping List (we tried to focus on whatever fruit & veg were in season)
- gluten-free porridge oats
- large can of chickpeas
- nectarines (which were in season)
- red peppers
- sweet corn
- local olives
- baby spinach and wild rocket
- fresh mushrooms
- olive oil (mini bottles)
- rye and spelt bread
- almond milk
- tahini / sesame paste
- raw unsalted nuts (almonds)
- sesame and pumpkin seeds
- black pepper
- chamomile tea
Holiday meal prep? Sure. Why not?
Want some ideas?
With the above shopping list we were able to make the following meals – which don’t require any special kitchen utensils other than a small pan, some basic cutlery and plates (we always had one meal out, which was usually dinner):
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4||Day 5|
|Breakfast||peachy porridge oats with banana||crunchy banana toast with seeds and cinnamon||peachy porridge oats with nuts and seeds||fruit salad with some nuts and seeds||porridge oats with banana and grilled grapes|
|Snacks||avotoast with tomatoes and more seeds||fruit and almonds||tahini, banana and cinnamon||avotoast with fruit and more seeds||fruit and nuts|
|Main meal||quinoa with spinach, mushroom, sweet corn and grilled red peppers||spinach and wild rocket salad with grapes, sweet corn, tomatoes in an avocado/lemon dressing||spinach, rocket, chickpea salad with grapes and tomatoes||quinoa with grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and seeds||last day: all together bowl – mix all the leftover ingredients|
Just a few more tips…
There are so many nice “smoothie” shops around the area of Maspalomas… So if you feel like you need something fresh and sweet try the smoothies shop on Maspalomas Town Market… They are fresh and made with your chosen fruits and veg 🙂
Also another great find was the local cactus fruit which we had never tried… It is apparently also known as “Prickly Pear” and we need to be quite careful and precise if we don’t want to be caught by one of its nasty thorns. Thanks to Mr. Pineda, we managed to eat this prickly fruit rather safely and enjoyed for the first time this exotic delicacy. Other than being extremely annoying with all its spiny ends/thorns, this cactus-succulent fruit is also a great source of Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and Amino Acids. So I guess this will be another “must-try” thing on your list of “to-do” things in Gran Canaria.
Vegetarian options at the airport:
The airport is quite small so don’t expect to find loads of options of healthy food. Soho cafe, was the only one with a single vegetarian / vegan option – the Hummus Salad (which was out of stock at 11 am).
So make sure you bring your food for the flight if you want to have something to eat.