Whether you’re a dedicated vegan who’s looking for more local spots to eat, a vegetarian who’s trying to eat vegan meals more regularly (that’s me!), or an omnivore with a vegan friend or relative in town, this list explores the ever-growing options for plant-based fare in Santa Fe. These are places whose menus offer specifically vegan options, so you don’t have to go to the trouble of omissions or substitutions.
Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Cafe
1620 St Michael’s, Santa Fe (plus three locations in Albuquerque)
Annapurna’s, a vegetarian staple in Santa Fe since 2005 (and in Albuquerque since 2002), is a solid choice for breakfast—one of the harder vegan meals to find. Their homemade chai with oat milk is among the best I’ve had—a perfect blend of spice and sweetness, and a delicious addition to any meal.
My cardamom pancakes arrived topped with coconut and thinly sliced almonds, an excellent combo. Made with rice milk and a blend of tapioca, arrowroot, and quinoa flour, these pancakes are not the traditional fluffy variety but they are full of flavor and—coming from someone who generally prefers savory to sweet breakfasts—not overly sweet. From the subtle notes of cardamom to the pure maple syrup and homemade vegan butter, the taste is more refined and complex than other pancakes loaded with processed syrup, fruit sauces, and whipped cream. Pair them with a vegan smoothie or lassi if you want some fruitiness with your breakfast!
The Ayurvedic tradition is one the founder of Annapurna, Yashoda Naidoo, grew up with, and it’s the driving force of the menu, which includes a helpful chart of the different doshas, or energies and elements connected to the body and food. I asked Naidoo about the intersection between the Ayurvedic tradition and plant-based diets. “Ayurvedic and plant-based diets go hand in hand,” she said. “Ayurveda is tied to nature and the planet. For me personally, it’s important to have the right combinations, so I work on those aspects of the menu. People are mostly looking for clean and green food, but the principles [of traditional Ayurvedic cuisine] are there.”
The New Baking Company
504 W Cordova
A new iteration of an old establishment, The New Baking Company offers a familiar menu of classic New Mexican comfort food, much of it with meat and dairy, but many options without. They’re known for popular breakfast items and offer not just one but a selection of vegan dishes for both breakfast and lunch.
I recommend the vegan bowl: a combination of potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and scallions, topped with your choice of chile (I went with Christmas and both the red and green are plenty hot!) and lightly grilled tofu. Order it with a flour tortilla instead of toast to have the option of making your own breakfast burrito. Either way, it makes for a filling and healthy breakfast. I enjoyed mine with a cup of fresh black coffee, sitting by the window in a corner of the bustling dining room.
Root 66 Cafe
Under the ownership of Jack Egber, Root 66 Cafe has been open for a year now, and is a welcome addition to the city, with its strictly vegan deli fare. Jack’s Magic Bakery is also part of the business and has great vegan dessert options.
Egber, the chef, baker, and co-owner, spent time cooking at a meditation retreat before joining Root 66 and loves creating vegan versions of traditionally non-vegan dishes and desserts. On the importance of a plant-based diet, he declared it “a very clean and kind way to live that comes with a plethora of benefits on a personal and global scale.”
I went there for a light lunch with a friend, sitting outside at a picnic table in the midday October sun. We ordered four Pit Stops—scoops of various deli salads—to try a bit of everything: tofu curry salad, “egg” salad, crab cake, and coleslaw. The curry blend is balanced with the sweetness of raisins, and emulates the flavor of a chicken curry but with a softer texture, while the silky tofu version of egg salad has the perfect slight crunch of celery. The crab cake (made with hearts of palm and chickpeas, and yes, Old Bay spice for all those nostalgic for the East Coast) has a crab-like texture without being too much like fake seafood, and the accompanying creamy lemon aioli added a nice tinge of citrus. The coleslaw is a light, simple blend of cabbage and carrots, dressed with vegan mayo (also used in the egg salad and aioli). For dessert, I had a peppermint patty: delightfully fresh minty-ness with a dark chocolate exterior for a perfect cleansing of the palate.
Ras Rody’s Jamaican Vegan Kitchen
1320 Agua Fria
If you haven’t been to Ras Rody’s food truck, you’re missing out on a filling and delicious vegan lunch platter for twelve bucks. The menu is subject to change, but there’s always a tasty variety—on the day I went, it was black bean stew, jerk jackfruit, curried chickpeas, lightly seasoned veggie protein (made from a dried organic soybean flour base), and Ital stew. The platter always comes with rice and a banana pancake, and you can request hot sauce (spice level: high). The dessert and juice changes from day to day—I got a refreshing cucumber lemon juice.
Ras Rody prepares the food himself, as he’s done since opening the truck over three years ago, using mostly fresh ingredients. The plant-based lifestyle is embedded in his Rastafarian beliefs; the Ital stew made of mixed veggies is a great example of this. Ital comes from the word vital, and refers to food only from the earth, not from the store. As I watched him prepare fresh banana pancakes, Rody emphasized the importance of a plant-based diet for Rastafarians. “[Part of] the true concept of Rastafarian[ism] is we don’t eat flesh or shed blood. It’s a way of life. I can’t talk for everyone, but I talk from the roots, the foundation.” His advice to vegans? Plant a garden and learn to cook. His advice to everyone: question why you eat what you do and be aware of what the food you consume does to the body and environment.
His truck is a great place for anyone to enjoy a healthy meal created with love for the community.
Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen
1512 Pacheco, Bldg B
Sweetwater has great offerings for brunch and lunch, but I wanted to go for dinner after spotting a vegan chile relleno on their menu. My mom—an omnivore with no interest in going vegetarian or vegan but who will eat anything that is well prepared—accompanied me for a plant-based meal on a bustling Saturday evening. We couldn’t resist starting with the garlic-and-herb-stuffed mushrooms, served with a cashew cream dipping sauce. A perfectly seasoned, light appetizer. Then came the rare vegan take on that New Mexico classic: at Sweetwater, the relleno is an open-faced poblano loaded with quinoa, black beans, zucchini, and mushrooms. Underneath the chile is a garlic-and-jalapeño tomato sauce and on top is a creamy cashew sauce (raw cashews pureed with garlic, oregano, and apple cider vinegar). The poblano was pretty mild at first, but as I made my way to the seeds at the top, the heat grew. The dish started out as a special but has now been on the menu many years due to its popularity, and I can see why. Although it’s hard to compete with the decadent cheesiness of the traditional dish, this is a unique, flavorful, and satisfying rendition. Sweetwater owner Soma Franks wrote via email that she always wanted the place to be an oasis for healthy eating, and that they try to accommodate a variety of dietary needs, including paleo and gluten free as well as vegetarian and vegan. She boasts a menu that has “evolved as a collaborative project with our kitchen staff” and features daily specials and new desserts (a vegan cheesecake is in the works).
The atmosphere is somewhere between fine dining and a cozy café; they have a wine list as well as three different types of mushroom tea lattes. There really is something for everyone.
Thai Café and Noodle Treats
3482 Zafarano, Ste A
I saved dinner at Thai Café for an evening of something I don’t often indulge in: takeout. I recommend this enduring restaurant (after eight years downtown, they’ve been at their southside location for four) if you’re looking for a quick meal and great Thai food. For vegans, Thai is an excellent choice; since coconut cream rather than dairy is often used, tofu is always a protein option, and as long as you steer clear of egg-based dishes, there’s no need to make substitutions.
For an appetizer, I recommend the fresh rolls: veggies and tofu wrapped in rice paper with a side of homemade sweet-and-sour sauce. Another fantastic starter is the som tum, or green papaya salad, a uniquely Thai dish (and Thai Café’s is made without fish sauce). For my entrée, I went with pad kee mow, or drunken noodle—a favorite of mine. Although theirs is made with thin rice noodles rather than the wide, thick noodles traditionally used in the dish, the flavors were on point. Green peppers, bamboo shoots, shredded cabbage and carrot, fresh basil, and the distinct Thai garlic chile sauce came together for a delectable and spicy (medium for a good kick, hot if you want your tongue to burn) meal. And don’t forget the thinly sliced, perfectly browned, sauteed tofu, as only Asian restaurants can prepare it. It all came together for a gratifying vegan feast!
Aria Chiodo originally hails from Taos, and after fifteen years in New York City, she is back in New Mexico, living in Santa Fe. In addition to food writing, she writes film and book reviews, personal and travel essays, and short stories.