Kigali is one of the best cities in Africa to be vegetarian and vegan.* Staples like plant-based milks and tofu are readily available, most cafés and restaurants also have at least two delicious vegetarian options, and the local cuisine is workable to veg*n diets.
Veg*n inclusiveness, together with a lack of high-quality animal products, means there are also now quite a lot of us in the city.
However, whilst I’ve lived happily in Kigali as a mostly-vegan vegetarian for many years, it did take trial and error to master restaurant selection and grocery shopping. To give you a headstart, I’ve shortlisted the best veg*n-friendly cafés, restaurants and shops and listed the most common veg*n staples and where to find them, both in and out of Kigali.
*Note: throughout this guide, we’ll be using ‘veg*n’ as shorthand for ‘vegetarian and vegan’ – just to keep it concise!
Vegan and Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants and Cafes
There are a lot of veg*n friendly restaurants and cafes in Kigali. Wherever you decide to go out, you’re likely to find at least one veg*n option on the menu.
However, some places are definitely better than others when it comes to the quantity and quality of options. I’ve shortlisted the top 10 here, including fine dining, week-day lunches and quick coffees.
First, though, a quick honourable mention to Indian and Italian cuisine, which I have left off my list as there are plenty of good veg*n options regardless of the spot or city.
This popular and stylish restaurant in Kimihurura has a great selection of delicious veg*n options on all their brunch, lunch and dinner menus, including vegetarian and vegan burger options. Book in advance for Fridays and Saturdays.
The name of this lively, high-end hot spot in Rugando doesn’t make it an obvious choice for veg*ns, but I recently discovered they have vegetarian options on their main menu as well as a dedicated vegan menu including a vegan mushroom steak. Book in advance for Fridays and Saturdays.
Cheerful and popular, The Hut in Rugando serves a range of cuisines including Rwandan, Thai, Indian and Italian each with numerous veg*n options.
A casual-dining spot in Kimihurura, Borneo serves authentic Indonesian food with an excellent selection of veg*n options on both their lunch buffet and evening menu. It’s a great spot for tofu and tempeh, which you can also take away uncooked for use at home (see more below).
Asian Kitchen, a small roadside restaurant in Remera, hosts a dedicated veg*n menu with a good selection of classic and delicious Asian cuisine.
Our editor, Conor, spent years living in Thailand and raves about Asian Kitchen’s authentic Thai cuisine, which is just as good as you’ll find in Bangkok or Chiang Mai.
This cozy Ethiopian restaurant nestled in Rugando is great for veg*ns. Not only is injera (Ethiopian flatbread) naturally vegan and gluten-free, so are many of the wats (dishes). Meals are usually shared, though, so it’s best to go with other veg*ns.
Turambe is the perfect spot for a healthy, hearty, and fast veg*n lunch. Tucked behind the American Embassy in Kacyiru, Turambe serves a great range of salads, soups, and sandwiches. Coffees are also available with soy milk.
A dedicated veg*an lunch spot in Kigali, Afia Organics serves a range of unique dishes including waffles, pancakes, plant-based burgers, and macaroni cheese.
This well-known and well-located Kenyan cafe chain has multiple veg*n options at all times of the day, including veg*n burritos and burgers. Even better, they now offer coffee with soy milk. They have two branches in Kigali: Kigali Heights and Remera.
Inzora Rooftop Cafe
Last but not least, Inzora Rooftop Cafe not only serves up stunning views but good, vegetarian food too. Whilst the menu is limited to a couple of options, it includes the famous and vegetarian grilled cheese sandwich. Coffees can be made with vegan milks, including their specially made macadamia and cashew nut milk.
Rwandan Cuisine for Vegetarians and Vegans
Rwandan cuisine, largely served buffet style, typically contains options from all food groups including a lot of starch (potatoes, cassava, and rice), together with beans, meats, vegetables, and salads.
The buffet-style means it’s easy to mix and match, and is therefore workable to veg*n diets. It just might not be the most exciting meal you’ve ever had (but we’re quite used to that as Veg*ns).
Grocery Shopping for Vegans and Vegetarians
Right, just before you grab your (hopefully reusable) shopping bag, bear in mind:
- Veg*n staples in Kigali are like most staples in the city: spread out.
- We are not blessed (or burdened, depending on your veg*n opinion) with state-of-the-art meat replacements, like the ‘beyond-meat burgers’ – yet. Ones that come close are rare and pricey.
- Vegetarian staples are easier to find than vegan ones, with vegan replacements for things like butter and cheese appearing only rarely if ever.
Soy and almond milks from the well-known Alpro brand are available at Sawa City supermarkets as well as smaller, higher-end grocery stores. Belgium’s Everyday supermarket brand is available at any Simba supermarket. They can be expensive, unfortunately, but keep an eye out for frequent sales or multi-buy deals.
Tofu and Tempeh
Tofu in Kigali is sold in 1-kilogram blocks stored in plastic bags. You can find it at a handful of small stores including Borneo Restaurant, Patel Grocery store and Go Green, all in Kimihurura. Tempeh is harder to find but available for pre-order at Borneo Restaurant.
Lentils, Beans & Chickpeas
Lentils are easy to find and stocked at major supermarkets and smaller stores in a variety of colours. Chickpeas can be found tinned in the same places. Locally grown beans are available everywhere including the markets, but the famous, veg*n go-to black bean is harder to find: I have so far only found it sold dried in Kimironko market (available for delivery via Vuba Vuba).
Can I call myself a veg*n if I don’t mention vegetables? Whilst vegetables are available in any market, grocery store, or supermarket. However, for plant and planet-loving veg*ns, I recommend Pride Farms: Pride Farms grow and deliver veg that is 100% organic and delivered in reusable, plastic-free packaging, making it healthier for you, for soil, and for our planet as a whole.
Kigali is lucky enough to have the regions’ best mushroom farm, Kigali Farms. Their high-quality button, cremini, portobello, and oyster mushrooms can be found at any major supermarket or grocery store in both fresh and tinned form.
Surviving as a veg*n and avoiding a meal of chips outside of Kigali is, just about, possible. Whilst there are certainly fewer options, there are a few ‘go-to’ veg*n friendly spots around the country. These are:
When it comes to tourist destinations – primarily the national parks – the quantity and quality of options depends on your accommodation. Higher-end hotels and lodges provide often delicious veg*n options whilst lower-end accommodation can provide a decent rice, pasta, or pizza dish.
Outside of accommodation, most restaurants will at least be able to provide a meat-free Rwandan dish with beans and rice, even if not on a menu.
Getting product updates or finding good restaurants is being made a whole lot easier by Rwanda’s online communities. Aside from our own Living in Kigali Facebook group, the Kigali Vegan/Vegetarians Facebook group is a great resource for veg*n menu and product sightings.
Whether you are a vegetarian or vegan living or visiting Kigali, you can eat well. The quality and availability of options mean even non-veg*ns are choosing to eat and cook veg*n options regularly.
Let us know what you eat next!