A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Upon starting my new academic, personal and cultural life in the Netherlands I subsequently decided to try out a new way of life. Veganism had featured in my social media, among my friends back home and even was starting to make a rise in the South African restaurants and grocery stores. I had never considered it much then but decided that this new experience at Leiden University was the perfect opportunity to test the waters of a plant-based diet.
Since turning vegan, I have found that not only is it vastly easier than I ever expected it to be. But also, the Netherlands is one of the most vegan-friendly countries in Europe. There are a large number of restaurants, stores, cafes and markets that make being vegan extremely convenient (and sometimes cheaper than eating animal-products).
However, starting my plant-based journey was daunting: I had no idea the options available to me. Therefore, I have created my six top tips for being a vegan in the Netherlands.
Supermarkets like Albert Heijn and Jumbo have special areas for vegan meat alternatives such as burgers, tofu, tempeh and falafels. One of the best brands for meat alternatives is De Vegetarische Slager which makes plant-based products that taste and have an identical texture to animal-products.
There are also plant-based yoghurts, milks, ice-cream and cheeses in these supermarkets. One of the highest rated, and my personal favourite, brand is Alpro. Alpro makes the most diverse ranges of non-dairy products. From non-dairy caramel ice-cream and chocolate pudding to barista style almond milk, Alpro is guaranteed to cater to all your dairy cravings.
Evidence of the vena-friendly culture is the large variety of plant-based in milks in cafés around the Netherlands. In almost every café in the Netherlands you will find a variety on plant-based milks. Some useful terminology before entering the café world is:
One of the best cafés for vegans is Coffee Company. They feature a wild variety of plant-based milks as well as some delicious vegan baked goods.
Leiden University itself is very vegan-friendly. In the cafeterias on campus you will always find at least one vegan hot meal and a variety of vegan yoghurts, puddings and milks. These are very useful for on-the-go meals and snacks.
Almost every city in the Netherlands has a fresh fruit market. These are extremely useful for plant-based diets as they give you access to fresh vegetables, fruit and legumes of great quality and, importantly, that do not break the student budget.
The Hague Haagse Markt has provided me with a full week of groceries for under 15 euros. It is open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The Leiden Street Market provides the same quality and accessibility on Wednesdays and Sundays.
If sustainability and organic products are essential to your plant-based diet do not fear, there are many eco-friendly, “biologisch” supermarkets in the Netherlands. These include Ekoplaza, Marqt and Madal Bal.
However, be careful in these supermarkets. Their products may be temptingly plant-based and nutritious, but they come at a price. These stores are often higher priced than basic supermarkets and the food markets.
There are an ever-increasing number of restaurants with vegan options. These are great because it prevents your plant-based diet from interrupting your social life – you can still go out with friends without fearing that you won’t be able to eat a thing.
Some of my favourite places include:
For more information on vegan food guides Stichting Vreemde Vogels has extremely useful maps and tips on being vegan in the Netherlands.
Although it can be daunting to eat and live differently from the rest of the population in a new place, it is extremely rewarding and easy to do. Hopefully these tips will help you transition smoothly into your plant-based Dutch experience.