Over the last 5 years, veganism has surged in popularity, with many Brits now embracing the benefits of a diet free from animal products. Fortunately in the UK, it is now easy to eat out as a vegan, with popular chain restaurants such as Wagamama, Pizza Hut, and Zizzi offering an array of vegan options. Nevertheless, I did not expect to enjoy such variety across the Baltic Sea in Denmark and Sweden, countries traditionally known for fish and pork-heavy diets. As a vegan and a massive foodie, this concerned me. One of my favourite aspects of travelling is undoubtedly experiencing new cuisines. I stepped onto the plane at Manchester Airport fully ready to live off bread and supermarket hummus for the next 9 days, but was pleasantly surprised.
With 5.5% of Danes under the age of 34 considering themselves vegan or vegetarian, and many more adopting a flexitarian diet, veganism has certainly become mainstream in Copenhagen. As you walk and cycle around the city, you spot signs advertising vegetarian and vegan food on virtually every corner. It is not difficult to find options without prior research. On our first day in the city, we stumbled across MadenItaly whilst navigating our way through the hustle and bustle of Nyhavn. This small, homely, entirely vegan Italian restaurant provided much needed shelter from one of the day’s many rain showers, and I was both thrilled to discover the incredible selection of (relatively affordable) vegan pizza. If the unusual topping options (such as aubergine and fig) hadn’t already impressed me, the pizza base itself was a revelation, almost resembling focaccia in texture. I’d particularly recommend the ‘Hawaii’ (onion, homemade seitan, mint yogurt and pineapple) and the ‘Beetroot Pesto and Blue Cheese’. And yes, pineapple does belong on pizza - no question about it!
Vegan junk food is a huge trend in the UK, with vegan burger stands popping up at festivals and across cities. Whereas Scandinavians seem to be taking a slightly healthier approach. Poke bowls have become a trendy dish which champion both high nutritional value and taste. I was excited to find a place in the student quarter offering vegan alternatives. After a long morning walk, I wolfed down the comforting mixture of tofu, brown rice, and fresh veggies whilst enjoying the sense of hygge evoked by the traditional Danish decor. However, for those who are craving the intense salty and sweet flavours found in the classic Chinese takeaway, I would highly recommend the Veggie Heroes buffet. Definitely go on an empty stomach: the options range from fried soy ‘chicken’ balls, to tofu in ‘oyster’ sauce, soy ‘beef’ with leeks and many more. There is even a large selection of sushi to have on the side! You will want to try EVERYTHING.
The cultural diversity of vegan food in Denmark, from samosas and falafel to sushi and ramen, is one of the reasons why I loved it so much. Nonetheless, I could not go home without sampling some real danish cuisine, particularly the eponymous danish pastry. Luckily our hotel was close to a fully vegan bakery. Starting my mornings with a Kanelsneg and a walk along one of Copenhagen’s lakes was definitely a highlight of the trip. It made me feel like I was experiencing relaxed city life like a real dane! However, it was brunch on our final morning in the city that was the culinary highlight of the city break. A local recommendation took us to ‘Kalaset’: a funky restaurant with colourful 70s decor, serving a vibrant vegan brunch including falafel, scrambled tofu, celeriac steak, roasted carrot, peppers, potatoes, beetroot hummus, fresh fruit and a smoothie shot. They also do great coffee and a chilli chai latte if you are in need of an afternoon pick-me-up.
If you are vegan, vegetarian, or just a downright food fanatic, I urge you to visit Denmark and explore the culinary delights of Copenhagen. It may be expensive, but the food is unusual, exciting and most importantly incredibly tasty.
By Gracie Linthwaite