Angie Weisgal is an International Student Ambassador for the University of Limerick. She is from the US and is here pursuing her MA in Journalism. Follow our blog for more student driven content about UL and Limerick.
Before coming to Limerick, my friend/pen pal (now my boyfriend of 2 years), told me that finding vegetarian food in Ireland will be tricky. I have been a vegetarian for over six years already and I didn’t think I would be able to eat meat again. I felt a bit worried that I would not be able to find foods I could eat. When I got here, I found that I had a hard time digesting dairy products, so I found that I had to cut dairy as much as I can out of my diet. But I didn’t have to go back to eating meat.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can definitely stay vegetarian while in Ireland. Vegan is a bit of a challenge, but it can be done. Here are some tips for veg(etari)an eating in all situations from your weekly shop to eating out, whether on campus or in the city.
Your Weekly Shop:
Food in Ireland is labelled very well, for the most part. It’s very clear to see what allergens are in something and it’s also clear to see what is vegetarian (not as easy for vegans, but some items are labelled vegan). That being said, it can be tricky to see where a food product is labelled suitable for vegetarians since where the logo is on a package isn’t standardised. You may also see logos of The Vegetarian Society and The Vegan Society on food packaging. You can trust this too. Both the Vegetarian Society and the Vegan Society have great resources on their websites about what items are vegetarian and vegan. While the two organisations are UK based, a lot of the same products are found in Ireland.
Here are some useful links to find vegetarian and vegan products:
The Vegetarian Society Approved Trademark: http://www.vegsocapproved.com/
Tesco’s Vegan Food Report: https://www.vegansociety.com/sites/default/files/Vegan%20Report%20Tesco%20Sept%202016.pdf
Aldi’s Guidance for Vegans: https://cdn.aldi-digital.co.uk/zVlOUBxheWNGH5ui1L@ltOKLqTs.pdf
Most students will probably shop at Aldi or Lidl, since they are near campus and are affordable. At both shops you’ll find veggie burgers (the spicy bean quarter pounder is vegan!), soy milk, hummus, and a good selection of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Supervalu, Dunnes, and Tesco all have “free from” and health foods sections and you can find some vegan foods there. For those specialty health foods, you can go to Dargan Health Foods at the Castletroy Shopping Centre (where the Supervalu and Odeon are), Eats of Eden in the city centre, and Nature’s Hand in the Crescent Shopping Centre.
Even at Spar (the campus shop) and Chawke’s (a nearby gas station) you can find soy milk and some vegan granola bars.
Brands of foods:
- Linda McCartney Foods make some good vegetarian products. Most of their products are not vegan
- Alpro make a lot of dairy substitutes and vegan snacks.
- Violife make vegan cheeses and vegan cream cheese
- Cauldron make tofu and falafel (both suitable for vegans)
- Nakd and Trek make vegan granola bars
- Dee’s make burgers and soups
- Meridian make nut butters, sauces, fruit spreads, and more
- Nando’s sauces are vegan.
- Quorn is found at a lot of grocery stores (I have not tried their foods since I am allergic to mushrooms) – Not Vegan
- Fry’s make vegetarian and vegan burgers
- Amy’s Kitchen make soups. Most have dairy in them, but their Rustic Italian Vegetable and Lentil soups are vegan.
- Nobo make vegan ice cream.
- Tesco have vegetarian and vegan products on their own private label
There’s some selection on campus for vegetarian food at the restaurants, but not very much. The Stables, Paddocks, and Eden restaurants on campus always have one vegetarian option on their menus. Spar has a sandwich counter where vegetarian sandwiches can be made. Subway has vegan options. As for other vegan options, you won’t find very much.
Packing a Lunch:
If you are a postgrad, you have access to the Postgrad Student Union, where there is a microwave. It’s handy for bringing leftovers and soup. If you can’t use a microwave, bring a sandwich, a salad, some vegetables and hummus, a cup of (soy) yoghurt, pack some fruit.
The UL Farmers Market – Every Tuesday on campus
Markets are great places to find vegetarian and vegan treats. On campus there is a farmer’s market every Tuesday. Every salad and dip at Quinoa and Kale is vegan. Tiwana Spice blends has some vegetarian options too. At the Limerick Milk Market there is a falafel stand – everything is vegetarian. In addition to ready meals, you can always find fresh produce at the Milk Market.
There are two vegetarian restaurants in Limerick: The Grove and Bubble Tea Paradise, and Canteen is vegan and vegetarian friendly. Most restaurants will mark items as vegetarian, but not so much for vegan items. As always, let your server know that you are a vegetarian or vegan and they can advise you.
A few things to be careful of is that parmesan cheese is not vegetarian because it contains animal rennet. Parmesan, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, is a protected designation of origin food. This means that in order for a cheese to be labelled Parmigiano-Reggiano, it needs to be produced in certain provinces in Italy and made in a certain way (which means it can’t be made with plant based rennet).
Other cheeses also can contain animal rennet. Just make sure that cheese that you purchase is made with plant based rennet. From time to time at restaurants, seafood dishes are incorrectly labelled vegetarian. Thai curries can contain fish in them, so ask about this when you order your food. If in doubt, ask!
Some frozen vegetables contain butter or fish sauce. Some curry sauces contain dairy or fish sauce. Also check for meat stocks in soups.