We cycled through Germany on our 2016 tour and were amazed by the sheer amount of vegan produce available. While the UK had only just begun to add vegan alternatives to their shelves: the odd oat milk here, a vegan quorn product there, every supermarket in Germany seemed to have a dedicated vegan section with everything you could possibly want. Three years later and with veganism increasingly normalised in the UK, we couldn’t imagine what we’d find in Germany.
After a month and a half cycling through vegan-phobic France (powered mainly by baguettes), I was getting more and more excited about hitting the border. We’d been to the German town of Wiel-Am-Rhein before. It sits at the tri-point border between Basel in Switzerland and Saint-Louis, France. I pictured the huge supermarket, set into a shopping centre on the German side of the river. It would have cheaper German prices, and (finally some proper vegan options. Our last day cycling in France was defined by the frantic quickening of our pedals as we closed in on our feast.
We were not disappointed. Here’s what we ate (and oh boy were we hungry):
Our staple breakfast remained the same: porridge with nuts and apple. Porridge is cheaper in Germany and easier to find. In many ways, German food culture is more similar to the UK than France was.
We were joined by our friend Irma for a week or so in Germany, and she introduced us to the delights of pancakes, made in her beautiful nonstick pan (and to the delights of spilling half a bag of flour into the bottom of a pannier bag…) We coated them in chocolate and hazelnut spread, which was easy to find everywhere. We even started to be picky about which brand we would buy! (DM was always a good one)
With baguettes out of the picture, we faced the grim prospect of hard, dense german bread, and the quality of our lunch bread quickly descended to cheap white, american-style, sandwich bread (which resembled cardboard, but which was very very cheap).
But then, we found the perfect snack…behold, the pretzel or brezel ! This was not always vegan – but most bakers we asked understood what we were asking and were able to check. Many of the supermarket bakeries also had vegan pretzels, with the ingredients clearly listed on the label.
With pretzels filling a baguette shaped hole for our morning snack, we now had to find something to fill our sandwiches with. Both of us were sick of the chickpea mush we’d eaten nearly every day in France. Luckily German Supermarkets are full of delicious sandwich fillings.
Tofu was super cheap in Germany and there were loads of flavours to choose from. We were a big fan of smoked tofu, which we cut into slices and put into sandwiches thick with peanut butter and sriracha.
Another favourite combo was tofu. vegan mayo, rocket and mustard sandwiches. Sometimes we’d also include saurkraut, which can be found in little tubs in the fresh section of supermarkets.
Occasionally we would treat ourselves to Laugenbroetchen or pretzel bread rolls which were amazing with cheeze and gherkins and mustard. Basically, pretzel bread makes everything taste a million times better.
We also ate a large amount of our staple from last tour: the vegan sandwich pate which seems ubiquitous in German supermarkets. I’d recommend the mushroom one – you can get them cheap from Aldi or Lidl.
For dinner we kept to our usual tomato based food stuffs and salty chili potatoes. Food, in general, seemed cheaper in Germany, but like many places the cheapest veg was the local seasonal stuff. Courgettes won cheapest veg once again!
All vegan milks were easy to find.
DM – a pharmacy sort of like Boots, but with a large organic/vegan food section. We often bought cheap smoked tofu from here because they did packs that didn’t need to be refrigerated. There are DMs everywhere. On our first tour they did vacuum packed packets of tofu tortelli, but we couldn’t find them this time (R.I.P). Also a good place to find dehydrated soya mince!
Edeka – If we are going to compare German supermarkets to British ones then Edeka would be Tesco (or maybe Sainsburys). Its a bit more expensive, but there is a lot of choice and a hella lot of vegan options. Good when you need something specific, bad if you need to watch your bank balance.
Lidl and Aldi are everywhere in Germany (being originally German) and are even better than their British counterparts. Loads of vegan alternatives are easily available and veg, grains, bread and any other staple are so much cheaper here. These were the shops we visited most.
Netto is another budget supermarket but usually they have less vegan options. So when given a choice we would stick to Lidl or Aldi.
Best Vegan Junk
Ultimate German Sandwich – Exhausted and resting in a hotel in Weil Am Rhein, we picked up the ingredients for possibly the best sandwich in the world (apart from our Christmas sandwich, which deserves a blog post itself). Picture this: Pretzel bread, mayo on one side, wholegrain mustard on the other, saukraut, sliced pickle, three different vegan ‘meat’ slices, vegan cheese slices. Basically heaven. I would travel back to Germany just to eat this.
Paprika Crisps – Our new staple crisp. Some brands do contain milk, so it’s important to check the packet. I’ve noticed paprika crisps appearing in the UK recently, which is honestly a long time coming.
Katjes Sweets – These are the best veggie jelly sweets I have ever eaten. Our favourites were the Wunder-land unicorn sweets and the Jelly bears. Some of these might not be completely vegan, only veggie, so again, read the labels. (n.b. I’m not even sure the Wunder-land ones are vegan and I have to say we ate them anyway as a sugar rush on hard rides. They definitely don’t contain milk or egg or gelatine, but there may have been a beeswax derivative or similar in them? Either way, I’m not going to judge myself for eating them on tour, but I don’t want to sell them as vegan when they might not be.) Lili was also super into the Trolli sour dinosaur sweets which are labelled vegan.
Flutschfingers – A lolly which seemed to be available everywhere and was pretty good, if an entirely weird (and sexy?) shape – lime, strawberry and orange flavour. It translates as ‘Slippery Finger’ apparently.
Munich: There is so much to choose from in Munich, so we struggled with only two days in the city. One of the best places we went was Erbils– an all vegan kebab shop which served towering plates of doner ‘meat’ with salad (washed down with our favourite watermelon Fritz-cola).
Then there was the ice cream and waffles place, Eiscafe Eismeer, where we had waffles and sorbet piled with fresh fruit and chocolate sauce. Followed by a trip to a delicious vietnamese restaurant Chi Thu were we ate steaming bowlfuls of Pho. Lastly we went to a really good all vegan place, but we were so sleep deprived after many many hours of Flixbus travel that I can’t remember it’s name or where it was. The food, evidenced by this picture, was great though!
Basically, I need at least two weeks to even begin to explore Munich’s vegan scene (so i recommend taking some time there).
Ulm: In Ulm we ate at Cigköftem, a vegan kebab and falafel shop which sold cheap wraps and specialised in a spicy bulgar wheat paste which was absolutely delicious. We also stayed at a hostel, which had a vegan Ulm guidebook. Sadly, we were too tired to try more!
What about beer? Most people wouldnt want to travel through southern Germany without drinking beer (unless, like me, you don’t like the stuff). Luckily, due to beer purity laws, nearly all german beer is naturally vegan! And if you don’t like the stuff, you can always enjoy a glass of riesling in the biergarten…
When we first cycled through Germany we made the mistake of buying bread rolls which turned out to be pastry. But other than making mistakes you might make in any country (especially if the language barrier is significant enough to stop you from asking if something is vegan), there are few pitfalls in Germany.
Vegan food, in restaurants and in supermarkets, is usually well marked with ‘vegane’, ‘veganer’ or another similar conjugation which crucially contains ‘vegan’ at the beginning. On top of this, it’s EU law to highlight any allergens (like in the UK), so if you’re unsure, you can check the back of the packet for milch (milk), ei (egg), honig (honey) etc.
If there are any mistakes to make in Germany it’s the assumption that everything vegetarian will also automatically be vegan. There is so much on offer, it would be easy to become complacent.
The McVegan (Best Unexpected Discovery)
There are a lot of vegans who would argue that eating at a chain which causes harm to animals is wrong, regardless of whether there is a vegan option or not. One could also argue that consumption is never ethical under capitalism and we make the best choices we can. There is also the argument that restricting veganism to healthy, organic, local food, or even simply food made in completely vegan environments ignores human structural inequalities, such as class, race, gender and religion, which might make a fast food restaurant the easiest and lesser of two evils for many. Regardless of your opinion, our most unexpected vegan discovery in Germany was the McVegan from McDonalds.
The McVegan is simply a vegan version of a Big Mac. It contains a soy based patty, gherkins, lettuce and ketchup in a sesame bun. It tastes like it sounds. If, like me, you havent been to a McDonalds in years, they now have these easy to use computer systems which allow you to customise your burger and order things to be brought to your table. At one point this left me with two towering double McVegans with triple gherkins, but the less said about that the better.
Overall, the burger is a really good option for days when you’re stuck on a tour. When you’re hungry and nowhere near a supermarket, or when you need wifi for free, or when its a Sunday and you forgot to get food the day before and now all the shops are closed. It’s also a good option for when you just really fancy a towering double pattied, triple gherkined monster of a burger, which is a perfectly acceptable reason to eat, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.