Vegan in Holland

Vegan in Holland

In international vegan groups, I regularly see people asking about being vegan in the Netherlands. Since the internet apparently has no English guide to veganism in Holland, I decided to make one. I’m a born and bred Dutch woman, so I may not have the best perspective on problems foreign vegans face in this country, but I figure something is better than nothing.

This guide covers important Dutch terms and phrases, shopping for groceries and cosmetics at supermarkets, health food stores and online, finding food while travelling, and ways to meet other vegans. I’ll try to keep it updated as new options become available (this happens all the time!). If you have any tips or questions, I’d love to hear from you!

Handy terms and phrases

Most Dutch people speak English reasonably well, so you should be okay asking questions in shops and restaurants. They might not know what ‘vegan’ means, so you’ll have to explain in detail what you do and don’t eat. I’ve listed a few Dutch phrases and terms that will help you communicate and read ingredient labels.

Vegan stores

There is a growing number of veggie/vegan grocery stores in the Netherlands. The biggest are Vegabond in Amsterdam and Veggie4U in Den Haag. These stores stock all your vegan essentials and luxury products such as cheese and meat substitutes, chocolate, coffee creamer, ice cream, sauces and energy bars. If you are not near one of these stores, look at Happycow to find your local options for vegan specialty products, or check out the online order section at the bottom of the page.

Supermarkets

If you know what to look for, you’ll find that most Dutch supermarkets are relatively well stocked with vegan products, although they are usually not labelled as such. If worst comes to worst you can always survive on fruit, vegetables, beans and grains, but unless you are in a very rural area you’ll have plenty of other options.

Volunteers from the Dutch vegan society maintain a wiki with a list of vegan products that can be found in supermarkets and health food stores. The list is definitely not complete, but it will help you find (accidentally) vegan versions of most common products. I also have my own vegan product review website and these shortlists of vegan supermarket convenience foods and ‘junk food’.

Dairy alternatives

Almost every Dutch supermarket carries house brand and Alpro plant milks (flavors and unsweetened) and soy yogurt (even Aldi!). Most milks can be found in the shelf stable dairy section, while the yogurts and some ‘fresh’ milks are in the fridge with the perishable dairy. All Alpro products, including their margarine and meat analogues are vegan. Remia now has a vegan mayonnaise (Mayolijn, 100% plantaardig) that’s available in many supermarkets and Becel makes several margerines that are labeled vegan.

Meat analogues

Beware that many meat analogues contain eggs and/or milk. Thankfully, the vegan ones are often labeled ‘vegan’ or ‘100% plantaardig’. Vegafit and Sofine are completely vegan brands. For Vivera all the blue packages are vegan. Plain tofu and tempeh are also sold at many supermarkets ans Asian stores. You can find a wider assortment of veggie burgers, sausages and vegan cheese at health food stores.

Bread and spreads

Bread is a Dutch staple food. Most people eat simple sandwiches for lunch and/or breakfast and sometimes even for dinner. Finding vegan bread can be a bit of a hassle, since the ingredients aren’t always on the label and many breads contain e-numbers that can be of animal origin. However, many stores such as Albert Heijn, Dirk, Deen, Deka, Aldi and Lidl ensure that the e-numbers in their bread are plant-based. Check the vegan wiki for detailed information on vegan bread.

As for spreads, every store has a huge selection of peanut butters and jams. Lotus Speculoos (biscoff) spread is also vegan. Most supermarkets have hummus and some other tapenade type of spreads (check to make sure they’re vegan!). If you want a very Dutch experience get some margarine (or peanut butter) and a box of chocolate sprinkles (many of the dark varieties are vegan) and make yourself an authentic ‘boterham met hagelslag’ (sandwich with chocolate sprinkles).

Another typical Dutch food that is usually vegan is ‘ontbijtkoek’ (translates as ‘breakfast cake’) a type of soft dark brown gingerbread. Every supermarket carries a huge variety of these and most are vegan (watch out that they have no honey/honing). They come in large loaves and individually wrapped snack size slices. They can be eaten plain or spread with margarine.

Albert Heijn

The most omnipresent supermarket chain in the Netherlands is Albert Heijn, easy to recognize from the big blue AH sign above the entrance to their stores. It is rapidly becoming more vegan-friendly. The majority of their vegetarian products contain eggs or cheese, but they have vegan ones too. Some of their store brand products now carry a dark green V vegan label. They stock the Vegafit brand (black packaging), which is completely vegan and delicious. They also carry a decent selection of vegan dairy alternatives, hummus and other spreads, energy bars like Clif and Trek, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and a few vegan ready to eat meals. Their pre-baked pizza crusts with tomato sauce are also vegan.

Albert Heijns personal care products are not tested on animals, so it’s also a good place to shop for affordable vegan toiletries, just be sure to read the ingredient labels to see if the product is vegan.

Jumbo

Another vegan-friendly Dutch supermarket chain is Jumbo. They carry a large range of plant-based dairy and many of their store brand meat analogues are labeled vegan. They also stock Sofine and Vegetarische Slager (vegetarian butcher) meats. The latter are not all vegan, but their kipstukjes are (very realistic ‘chicken’). Vegan meat alternatives are usually labeled as such. Most of Jumbo’s Goudeerlijk bread is vegan. Many Jumbo supermarkets now stock Wilmersburger vegan cheese.

Health food stores

Most largish towns will have at least one and often multiple health food stores (Dutch: natuurwinkel). Some are independent businesses, but many are part of chains like Ekoplaza, Estafette and De Natuurwinkel. Their vegan-friendliness varies, but many can supply you with nutritional yeast (edelgist), tvp (sojabrokken), vegan cheese and bulk bags of nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. We have Holland & Barret stores which are very convenient for things like nutritional yeast and supplements, but they do not have a fridge with vegan products like they have in the UK.

Health food stores are also the easiest place to find cruelty free vegan cosmetics, toiletries and cleaning products. Look for brands like Lavera, Urtekram, Weleda, Yes to, Dr. Organic and Sodasan. Many of these products have the vegan sunflower label.

Ordering online

Although more and more vegan specialty products are available in supermarkets and health food stores, you may want to order some groceries online, especially if you are in a rural area away from any big cities.

Veggie4U and Vegan Mission cover all your vegan foodie needs, from cheese and sausages to coffee creamer and candy bars.

Do you like to make your own seitan? De Zuidmolen and De Hoop Klarenbeek miller’s webshops are good sources of vital wheat gluten (‘tarwegluten’ in Dutch). While you’re at it order some bulk baking supplies, nuts and dried fruit too.

Vega-Life stocks vegan shoes, bags, toys, candy, nutritional supplements, toiletries, dog and cat food. They also have a small IRL shop in the center of Amsterdam.

There are many places where you can buy vegan cosmetics, but Lush and ELF make it easy.

Saving money on groceries

Tokos (ethnic grocery stores)

If you are on a budget, the ethnic grocery store (‘toko’ in Dutch) is your friend. There are different types of tokos, Turkish, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese and combinations of these and they all stock different products. Generally though, they’ll have fruit, veg, legumes, nuts, seeds, spices and sauces from their respective regional cuisines in more variety and for lower prices than the supermarkets. The Asian shops often stock cheap tvp, tofu, tempeh and seitan (mock duck).

Markets

The Netherlands do not have true ‘farmer’s markets’ where farmers offer their own produce, but most towns have open air produce markets where you can find a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and nuts, often at much lower prices than in regular stores. The open air markets are usually held in specific streets or squares once or twice a week, but some are there every day. Google ‘markt + placename’ to find markets near you. Beware that they usually also have cheese, meat and fish stalls, so not all parts of the market are equally pleasing to a vegan’s eyes or nose!

On the road

Finding vegan food ‘on the road’ can be a bit of a hassle, especially in rural areas. Your best bet is to bring your own. I usually carry some snacks like dried fruit, nuts or a granola bar. If I’m going to be away for longer I’ll also pack some sandwiches or Clif bars.

If you do find yourself stranded without food, a supermarket is your best bet. Depending on my mood, I might get some bananas or grapes, energy bars, trail mix, aforementioned ‘ontbijtkoek’, cookies, crackers or crisps. If you are crazy like me you might want to carry a spork in your purse and eat soy yogurt and avocado in the park.

At train stations

Train stations are relatively good places to find vegan food. Depending on the size of the station, you may have several options to choose from. Some stations have a shawarma take-away that can make you a nice falafel stuffed pita with salad (hold the feta and garlic sauce) or a small AH To Go supermarket where they sell meal salads, hummus-falafel wraps or at the very least some fruit and crackers. The Kiosk shops stock vegan hummus sandwiches an wraps, bags of crisps, fruit and some cookies and candy if you know what to look for. At Starbucks you can get vegan milk in your drinks and they often have a few vegan food options. In a couple stations there are Julia pasta take away, where the whole wheat (volkoren) penne with tomato sauce is vegan if you order it without cheese. At the Smullers snackbar you van get French fries, vegan mayo (ask specifically, their regular mayo has egg), ketchup, satay sauce and a Dutch specialty called ‘bamihap’ which consist of a disc of spiced noodles and soy crumbles which is breaded and deepfried. Dutch snackbars almost always fry in vegetable oil, making fries a ‘safe’ food for vegans.

Amsterdam Central Station even has a small health food store in the middle tunnel. Here you can find vegan candies and cookies (Billy’s Farm e.a.), toiletries (Lavera) and a small selection of staples like nutritional yeast, protein powder, dried fruit, superfoods, grains and legumes. On the left side of the store there is a shelf with sweet and savory pastries. The coconut-macaroon (kokosmakroon), wakame rolls and samosas are vegan. Beware that the seitan and tempeh rolls contain butter (roomboter).

On the highway

At most gas stations you’ll find at least some fruit and potato chips (the naturel variety is usually vegan). If you’re lucky they may have hummus wraps or sandwiches by Qizini or Sandays. In the north part of the country there are a few vegan friendly highway restaurants by the Hajé chain. Here you’ll find several vegan options, including the delicious Dutch weedburger. Burger King is another good option. Their Veggie King burger is vegan if you ask them to leave off the BK sauce (can be substituted with ketchup). The fries, curly fries, onion rings, apple pie stick and delight salad are also vegan.

Sandwich places

Dutch sandwich places are often not very vegan friendly. Hummus and other plant-based toppings are still a bit of a rarity. If your luck is bad, you can get stuck with a sad veggie sandwich that holds only a few leaves of lettuce and a slice of tomato (hold the butter!). The Bagels & Beans chain that can be found in many cities and towns is a happy exception. Get yourself a wonderful soy latte, a hummus bagel or vegan burger and a piece of pecan pie.

Eating out

The menu in traditional Dutch restaurants usually consists of large pieces of meat or fish served with some vegetables and potatoes. The vegetarian option is often cheese- or egg-based. As a vegan, you’ll get stuck with some side dishes and a green salad. Many restaurants are willing or even excited to accommodate vegans if you let them know a couple of days in advance, but if you just show up and ask for a vegan meal, you may get disappointed.

For spontaneous eating out, if there is no vegan or vegetarian restaurant available in the vicinity (check HappyCow or the Dutch VegaMap), I like to pick an Italian restaurant and ask for a vegetable pizza without cheese. This is one of the easiest ways to get a vegan meal, since crust is usually vegan and there is not much else to worry about. If they have a traditional stone oven, cheeseless pizzas often turn out quite delicious. I ask them to put on some extra fresh basil or arugula (rucola in Dutch) and won’t feel that anything is ‘missing’.

Indian food is another favorite, but check that your dish does not contain dairy. Ask specifically about paneer/cheese, ghee/butter and cream. The same goes for Ethiopian cuisine. Many of their delicious lentil and veggie stews are vegan, but make sure they are not cooked in butter and do not contain cheese.

Chinese, Indonesian, Suriname and Thai restaurants are also good places to find vegan food. They hardly use any dairy, so the vegetarian dishes are often vegan as long as they don’t contain eggs. Also beware that these restaurants often have a shady definition of ‘vegetarian’, so check that no meat broth, shrimp paste (trassi) or fish sauce is used in your dish.

Take away

Many of the above places are good options for getting vegan take away too. I specifically want to mention Domino’s and New York pizza, which are both now offering vegan cheese on some of their pizza’s. Cigköftem is also a nice cheap option for vegan take away. Their main product (cigköfte/ cold bulgur nuggets) is vegan, but beware of their hot meatballs, which may contain real meat (but can also be vegan). I also like ordering vegetarian roti without the egg. In big cities you will find a lot of roti places.

Meeting other vegans

Being vegan in the Netherlands can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be! In every major city there are vegan potlucks and other events where you can meet fellow vegans. Dutch vegans are mostly organised on Facebook, so that’s a good place to start. This particular Facebook group was created specifically to help non-Dutch vegans find their way.

35 Reacties

grumpy op 16-11-2014 - 10:56

Er zijn sommige toppers als vegane spuitslagroom of speculois maar het is wek een beetje jammer dat er bij a oceral in holland ei en/of melk In zit.zelfs brood moet men dubbelchecken.zelf koken dan maar voiral broodbeleg.

Martine op 16-11-2014 - 11:17

Nou grumpy, je doet je naam wel eer aan zeg ;-) Ik vind dat het best meevalt hoeveel vegan producten er zijn, en het worden er ook steeds meer. Voor meer keuze broodbeleg en kant-en-klare producten zou je eens bij een biowinkel kunnen gaan kijken, maar ook bij de supermarkt is er best veel, als je maar goed zoekt. Voor broodbeleg is er bijvoorbeeld hummus, pindakaas en andere notenpasta's, avocado, jam, appelstroop, sommige (goedkope) chocopasta's, en inderdaad speculoos zoals je zelf zegt. Albert Heijn verkoopt tegenwoordig zelfs Tartex paté en Jumbo heeft Wilmersburger vegan kaas.

Caroline op 17-3-2015 - 16:09

Thanks for this very detailed article! :)

Anna op 27-3-2015 - 23:38

Really great information, thank you! We are a UK based scout group coming to Haarlem in July and two of our scouts are vegans. I wanted to find out how easy it would be to get hold of vegan food and you have helped so much. Thanks again!

Martine op 28-3-2015 - 8:10

You're welcome! I hope you have a lovely time here.

nazma op 19-10-2015 - 11:01

Super info, ook voor Nederlanders (lol) Er vielen me 2 dingen op 1. in het begin bij de vertaling mis ik vis. (later wordt t wel genoemd, maar ik valt me vaker op, geen vlees, eieren en zuivel) 2. Beagels&Beans heeft sinds (heel)kort nog 2 of 3 vegan burgers in t assortiment:) jeee 👍

Martine op 19-10-2015 - 11:33

Hoi Nazma, dankjewel voor de tips. Ik zal dit artikel binnenkort weer eens updaten.

Babet op 19-10-2015 - 12:21

Ik vind het heel goed dat je dit stuk hebt geschreven, maar vind het jammer dat je Vegabond, de enige 100 procent vegan levensmiddelenwinkel van Nederland niet hebt vermeld, notabene in de stad met de meeste expats...En natuurlijk Veggie4u in Den Haag en andere echt vegan initiatieven, zoals Hap in Den Bosch bijvoorbeeld. Op deze manier maak je reclame voor bijv Albert Heijn en Jumbo, terwijl je mede-vegan kleine ondernemers niet eens genoemd worden :-(

Martine op 19-10-2015 - 12:44

Hoi Babet, goeie opmerking. Toen ik deze post in 2013 schreef was Vegabond er nog niet (Veggie4U misschien wel?), maar ze zouden er zeker bij moeten staan nu. Ik zal binnenkort een grote update doen, en dan zet ik jullie erbij.

Babet op 22-10-2015 - 14:17

Oh ik had niet door dat hij al zo oud was, kwam hem net pas tegen toen Christine hem deelde op FB. Dacht dat je en net geschreven had, maar dat verklaart een hoop! My bad :) !

Martine op 22-10-2015 - 14:22

Geeft niet hoor, er staat ook geen datum bij... Ik heb nu in ieder geval een update gemaakt, en jullie staan mooi helemaal bovenaan.

Ingrid SangHee edwards op 3-3-2016 - 12:53

Thank you! This helped a lot!

Martine op 3-3-2016 - 14:36

Glad to be of help Ingrid!

rb op 8-8-2016 - 21:27

thank you!

Kaweesi Aloysius op 13-10-2016 - 9:15

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Wendy op 11-12-2016 - 6:07

Vegan Help ! I'm not sure if you speak English but if you do, I'm looking for a vegan Dutch cookbook recommdations that I might be able to find in Canada or on Amazon. I have to get a secret Santa gift for an 87 yr old senior Dutch lady living in Canada who I don't know. She has asked for vegan Dutch cookbooks or history books and I haven't been able to find anything !!! Do you have some book titles to recommend ? Thank you

EinyOh op 12-1-2017 - 12:01

Hi there, thanks for the info. I am going to a seminar in Amsterdam and one of the evenings is with a dinner at a very meaty place. I did see something on their menu called "VEGA BURGER". Couldnt work out from google translate if this is veggie or vegan Can you help_ thanks!

Martine op 12-1-2017 - 21:34

Hi EinyOh, a vega burger could be either vegetarian or vegan. Chances are it is vegetarian, but they may be able to make a change like leave the cheese off to make it vegan. Check that there is no egg in the patty though. If all else fails you could simply order a selection of side dishes like fries and a salad. Best of luck!

Efi op 17-2-2017 - 1:49

You should add to the list veggie4u.nl as well...

Martine op 17-2-2017 - 10:58

Hi Efi, it is already mentioned.

Dean op 30-1-2018 - 1:15

Thanks, this is so helpful! I work in Roermond & only know some phrases in Dutch. I’m not actually vegan yet but I’m trying to make better choices, with the hope of going vegan soon. All the info about Jumbo & AH was great!

Martine op 30-1-2018 - 10:42

That's great Dean! I should really update this post, because there are a lot of new options recently.

VBites Foods op 21-5-2018 - 15:16

Hello Vegetus! I would like to take this opportunity to introduce our company, VBites Foods. We are the world’s leading manufacturer of plant-based, meat-free, vegan meat substitutes. No other 100% vegan company comes close to us in size or product mix. Our mission is to deliver all of the taste and texture of meat, fish and dairy products, but without the harmful dietary, environmental, welfare and sustainability drawbacks of pastoral agriculture and fishing. I believe these values are some which you and your members may share with us and therefore I wonder if you have any opportunities for us to be a part of any registers or articles you may have, or if we can be introduced to your members in any other way? I would like to send you a copy of our company introduction pack that goes into more detail about our company and the products we have to offer, if you could provide me with an email address I will send this over to you. In the meantime If you have any questions please feel free to contact us or visit our website: www.vbites.com We look forward to speaking with you soon and hope there will be some opportunities for VBites to be a part of Vegetus in the near future! Best wishes, Rachel

Rachel op 25-5-2018 - 22:48

Thank you so much. I'm a vegan coming to the Netherlands for the first time next month with my husband and two children. We are self catering, so it's good to know what to look out for. I use Alpro all the time at home, so pleased that there'll be a familiar product there.

Martine op 28-5-2018 - 9:39

I hope you will have a great time Rachel!

Alison op 29-5-2018 - 14:02

This is great! Very thorough and encouraging. Myself and partner are planning a cycling tour next month and snacks and lunches (and maybe breakfasts) on the road seem daunting. As I say, "There's ALWAYS chips". Staying in hotels/B&Bs and so-on, would you recommend we bring a carton of dairy-free milk from a supermarket? Is cereal a common breakfast offer? Thanks again.

Martine op 29-5-2018 - 14:34

Hi Alison, that's great! You'll have a lovely time cycling through Holland. Eating on the road won't be much of a problem in my experience. Even the smallest supermarket has vegan bread and a variety of spreads like peanut butter, jelly and usually also hummus. For snacks I have some suggestions on my other website that can be found in most stores: https://gewoonvegan.nl/category/tussendoortjes/page/2/ Chips can be your last resort at a gas station or something. In hotels and B&B's, they may have soymilk or they may be able to get it for you if you ask. It won't hurt to carry some as backup though, if you have room in your bags. Cereal is pretty common, but it is not always vegan. Many granolas and cereals contain milk or honey. Dutch people are generally quite friendly and willing to help, so ask staff or even random strangers if you need help with something. Staying in hotels, what will you do for dinner? Outside the big cities, eating out as a vegan can be a bit of a challenge. Dinner would be my biggest hurdle on a tour like yours, not breakfast or lunch.

Clara op 20-7-2018 - 16:55

Thank you so much for all the info!! I just moved in here and really needed a post like this. Best wishes!

Martine op 23-7-2018 - 10:27

That's great to hear Cara. Enjoy your time in the Netherlands!

DEEPTI op 21-8-2018 - 9:58

Great information. I am a Vegan and best recommendation I can give is carry your own food. I am living in Netherlands for past 10 years and being vegan can be a challenge. At work I bring my own lunch. I am looking for a Facebook group (in english) where I can share and connect with vegan who are living in Netherlands.

Martine op 22-8-2018 - 11:35

Thank you DEEPTI! The group I usually recommend is 'Vegan Holland (English)'

Kate op 14-9-2018 - 15:55

Thank you Martine. This was what I have been searching for: Meeting other vegans. Being vegan in the Netherlands can be a lonely business..... This particular Facebook group was created specifically to help non-Dutch vegans find their way. I am a lonely vegan. I've been fine with that, but now we have little babies in our lives, I need to surround them a bit more with people who don't think eating plants is 'niet normaal' Thank you. Bless you! Kind regards Kate

Martine op 15-9-2018 - 16:17

Happy to help Kate! Maybe the group 'Vegan ouders & kids - ProVeg Bederland' will also help to meet other vegan parents and kids.

Shoelace op 22-9-2018 - 13:36

Thank you for this insight. I am planning to open a vegan cafe here in Holland, maybe Amsterdam or Assen. I would very much like your thoughts on this as I live in the UK and want to set up this new venture with exciting UK healthy foods for the NL. Thank you all

Martine op 24-9-2018 - 11:51

Hi Shoelace, Amsterdam or Assen is quite a big difference. In Amsterdam there are lots of vegans and vegan restaurants. In Assen there are almost no vegan restaurants, but also fewer vegans. I would recommend that you try to get in touch with local vegans and do some market research to see what would be a good location and format for your business.

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