Shanghai's Top 5 Vegetarian Eateries | Culinary Backstreets
Sign up with email


Already a member? Log in.

Trouble logging in?

Not a member? Sign up!

Strict vegetarians in Shanghai face a double-edged sword when it comes to staying meat-free. On the one hand, the country’s large Buddhist population means they are in good company. It is estimated that the total number of vegetarians in China reached about 50 million last year. However, while tofu dishes can be found on just about every Chinese menu, that doesn’t mean that the dishes are strictly meat-free. To vegetarians’ dismay, pork and meat-based broths are often used to give the soy-based dishes more flavor, and special requests (even simple ones like “no meat”) are not usually complied with (or understood).

Traditionally, meat is often sliced in very thin strips (肉丝, ròu sī) and used to flavor vegetable and tofu dishes, as opposed to being the star ingredient. China’s plant-based eating approach has long been praised by nutritionists and was shown to increase longevity and minimize cancers and other diseases, as documented in the much-lauded book The China Study. The researchers looked at changes in eating habits over time, analyzing 367 variables in 65 different counties in China with data from 6,500 adults, which showed thousands of “statistically significant associations between lifestyle, diet, and disease variables” that correlated with lower levels of cancer and disease for traditional plant-based diet adherents as compared to meat-heavy “Western diets.”

Whether you’re looking for a healthier diet, a meatless Monday dining option or a bowl of delicious meat-free noodles, here are our top picks for keeping veg.

Lucky Zen, photo by UnTour Shanghai

Lucky Zen
You’ll often be dining shoulder to shoulder with monks from the local temple, just around the corner. Don’t miss their tea infusions.

Wei Xiang Zhai, photo by UnTour Shanghai

Wei Xiang Zhai
These sesame-peanut noodles are the best in town and will leave you circling the block and coming back for more. At 9 RMB per bowl, they don’t break the bank, either!


Lanzhou lamian, photo by UnTour Shanghai

Lanzhou La Mian
With picture menus and Halal preparation practices, rest assured you won’t find pork mixed in your dish. The freshly pulled noodles offer a base for a variety of stir-fried veggie topping options.

Wu Guan Tang, photo by UnTour Shanghai

Wu Guan Tang
This Buddhist restaurant strives to showcase the essential flavor of the vegetables it serves – many of which are grown on the roof of the building – and the simple preparations change according to the season.

Lillian's egg tarts, photo by UnTour Shanghai

Lillian Cake Shop
Time for dessert! A trip to Shanghai isn’t complete without a stop at the famous Lillian’s Cake Shop for egg tarts. These dim sum classics are always warm out of the oven, with the flakiest crust imaginable.

  • December 5, 2012 Ji Xiang Cao – Lucky Zen (0)
    From a country that maintains a “national strategic pork reserve” – vast bunkers of […] Posted in Shanghai
  • Cha’sNovember 9, 2017 Cha’s (0)
    Hong Kong native and Cha’s owner Charlie Lau became a restaurateur because of a […] Posted in Shanghai
  • December 24, 2012 Best Bites of 2012: Shanghai (0)
    Editor’s note: This post is the first installment of “Best Bites of 2012,” a roundup of […] Posted in Shanghai

Published on August 05, 2014

Related stories

December 5, 2012

Ji Xiang Cao – Lucky Zen: Keeping Pork at Bay

Shanghai | By Kyle Long
By Kyle Long
ShanghaiFrom a country that maintains a “national strategic pork reserve” – vast bunkers of frozen meat that can be released when the price of the commodity gets too high – one might not expect to find an impressive number of traditional vegetarian restaurants, but you’d be surprised. While exact numbers are hard to pin down…
November 9, 2017

Cha’s: The Diner from Hong Kong

Shanghai | By Jamie Barys
By Jamie Barys
ShanghaiHong Kong native and Cha’s owner Charlie Lau became a restaurateur because of a hankering. A movie producer by day, Lau came to Shanghai with Ang Lee to film Lust/Caution, and was disappointed that Shanghai lacked a proper Hong Kongese cha canting, a casual all-day eatery that serves traditional Cantonese food alongside milk teas and…
December 24, 2012

Best Bites of 2012: Shanghai

Shanghai | By Jamie Barys and Kyle Long
By Jamie Barys and Kyle Long
ShanghaiEditor’s note: This post is the first installment of “Best Bites of 2012,” a roundup of our top culinary experiences over the last year. Stay tuned throughout this week for “Best Bites” from all of the cities Culinary Backstreets covers. Hai Di Lao We’re usually loathe to mention a restaurant that has locations all around…
Select your currency
USD United States (US) dollar
EUR Euro