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Durham's Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants

Options for vegan and vegetarian food in Durham are in high supply, so read up to find your new favorite meatless dish.

Posted By Matt Lardie on Jun 19, 2024

Let’s start with a confession – I am neither vegetarian nor vegan. I adore a nice piece of fried chicken, I get down with offal and weird cuts of meat and I’ve been known to eat burgers for three or four days in a row. However, even I, a true-blue omnivore and food writer who often describes himself as “a human garbage disposal who will eat anything,” appreciate a well-crafted meatless meal more often than not these days. I also feel the pain of my vegetarian and vegan friends who, when dining out, are forced to choose from bland salads, pasta with plain red sauce or a plate of “roasted seasonal vegetables” as their meal options.

Luckily, here in Durham we have a plethora of options for those who require – or just desire – a meat-free meal. Some of the best bites I’ve had in the Bull City have had nary a bit of bacon or dab of dairy. Whether you are a lifelong vegan or just participating in Meatless Mondays, you can rest assured that you will have plenty to choose from – in fact, the following restaurants are just the tip of the iceberg. Start with my recommendations, then feel free to branch out and explore. North Carolina might be the spiritual home of pulled pork, but Durham’s dining scene is more than just meat.

Restaurants with Great Vegan and Vegetarian Options

Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas

112 W. Main St.

Ok, so a Latin American restaurant might not be the first place you think of when looking for vegan and vegetarian options, but trust me. Not only does Luna have a decent amount of vegan offerings on their menu, but their Vegan Chili-Braised Jackfruit Grain Bowl might just be one of my favorite lunch options in town. Packed with quinoa, rice, black beans, kale, a trio of sauces and salsas, and topped with crunchy pepitas and little flavor bombs of chili jackfruit, it’s one of the most flavorful and healthy bites you’ll find in Durham.


910 W. Main St.

Let’s leave Latin America, cross the Atlantic Ocean, and trek across Africa (in our minds) before stopping in Ethiopia for our next meal. Goorsha has been a Durham mainstay for years, and Ethiopian cuisine has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. Don’t let the lack of meat fool you – dishes like Timatim Fitfit (a tomato, onion and jalapeno dish) and Azifa (a lentil dish) are absolutely bursting with flavor. There’s a whole vegan section of the menu, and when you scoop it all up with some injera flatbread you’ve got yourself a memorable culinary adventure right here in the Bull City.

The Refectory Cafe

2726 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.

Where do you go when you want to eat something that’s both meat-free and familiar? Well, I go to The Refectory Cafe where I can enjoy classic dishes like Piccata (done here with cauliflower), roasted brussels sprouts, veggie lasagna and more. The menu leans a bit Italian-American, but there are nods to classic American and Asian cuisine as well, and plenty of meatless options to choose from.

Two women sit at across from each other sharing a meal at the Refectory Cafe in Durham.

Get yourself a tasty vegetarian plate at The Refectory Cafe. Photo: Jessie Gladdek

Heavenly Buffaloes

1807 W Markham Ave.

If you are a fan of chicken wings but want to skip the whole chicken part of the equation, Heavenly Buffaloes has you covered. They offer vegan wings with the bonus of having virtually their entire sauce and rub menu be vegan/vegetarian as well. This is a great option for a quick snack that can satisfy everyone!

Lime & Lemon Indian Grill

811 9th St.

I’m a huge fan of Indian cuisine and Lime & Lemon happens to be one of my favorite spots for Indian food in town. Luckily for those who don’t eat meat, the menu offers dozens of different vegan and vegetarian options. Some of my favorites include the Gobi Manchurian (a classic fried cauliflower dish), the South Indian Vegetable Korma, and the Dal Tadka, a lentil dish that I could probably eat every single day.

Lime & Lemon offers a host of vegan and vegetarian options on their menu. Photo: Discover Durham

Mike D’s BBQ

455 S. Driver St.

Now, surely a classic Southern barbecue joint can’t be vegetarian-friendly, right? Wrong! At East Durham’s Mike D’s all of the sides are vegetarian, and there are enough of them to make quite a meal. My favorite combo is ordering the mac ‘n cheese, the collard greens and the smoked beans. Trust me when I tell you that there isn’t a better bean dish in town!

Mike D stands outside of Mike D's BBQ smokehouse.

It's hard to beat the amazing sides at Mike D's. Photo: Discover Durham


737 9th St.

One of my favorite places to meet up with friends for small plates and conversation is Juju on 9th Street. Not only are their Asian-fusion dishes unique and delicious, but they have a great selection of vegetarian bites that won’t even have you missing the meat. I’m a sucker for bread of any kind, and their Bing Bread with sour cream butter, chives and flaky Maldon sea salt is the perfect starter. The Leek Fried Rice (with a perfectly poached egg) and Garlic Ramen Noodles are also great choices, and the Sweet Chili Cucumbers are a must.

Blue Corn Cafe

716 9th St.

Also on 9th Street, Blue Corn Cafe has been a Durham staple for years. The Latin/Cuban fusion menu has a ton of veg-heavy choices (besides just chips and guac, which in my opinion does count as a meal). The Black Bean and Sweet Potato stew is vegan and just a bowl of pure comfort, and the Stuffed Poblanos are sure to fill you up. For a quick easy meal I recommend getting the Spinach and Cheese Empanadas with an Avocado and Tomato salad on the side.


No, there isn’t a Durham restaurant just called “Pizza”, but it happens to be one of my favorite foods and there are plenty of vegetarian and even vegan options to be found around town. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Devil’s Pizzeria on 9th Street has an entire vegan pizza section of their menu.
  • Over in East Durham, Sofia’s Pizza (probably my favorite overall pizzeria in town) has a Vegetarian Pizza with kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and caramelized onions that is to die for.
  • Pizzeria Toro’s Yukon Gold Potato White Pizza with bagna cauda and pecorino is a dream.
  • The Urban Shroom at Pie Pushers (a mushroom pie with fresh herbs and garlic, mozz, pecorino, arugula, and big drizzle of Alabama-style white BBQ sauce) is a must.

Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants

Pure Soul

4125 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.

Out running errands and need to stop for a quick bite? Pure Soul has you covered. It’s fast-casual, it’s delicious and it’s all vegan! You’ve got soybean-based pulled “pork”, a hot honey fried Kind Chkn sandwich, vegan Soul rolls and more. The Soul Bowl is its take on a classic Southern meal, with Hoppin’ John, vegan cornbread, avocado and yellow rice. This is the sort of place where you’ll find something for the kids as well as the grandparents, and trust me when I say no one will even care that the meat isn’t there. It’s that good. (Plus they cater, so if you need a meatless option for parties or work functions, Pure Soul has you covered!)

Potted plants hang over picnic tables on the patio at Pure Soul.

Savor the awesome, vegan flavors at Pure Soul. Photo: Pure Soul / Discover Durham

Banu Vegan

2534 S Roxboro St.

Banu describes their menu as “conscious comfort food,” and they aren’t wrong. In the mood for a burger? The black bean-based patty comes on a bun or a wrap with onions, peppers, and a tangy, garlicky aioli. Banu’s version of a chicken sandwich comes with air-fried oyster mushrooms on a pretzel bun with vegan bacon, lettuce, onion, tomato and more of that delicious garlic aioli. The Cajun fries are a popular side, and the pulled jackfruit sandwich will satisfy anyone looking for a taste of classic Southern barbecue.

Pure Vegan Cafe

2812 Erwin Rd.

If variety is what you’re after in your vegan meal then definitely check out Pure Vegan. The menu skews both Southern and Indian – think savory Uttapam, Indian-style pancakes topped with veggies and served with coconut chutney and a side of vegetable stew, as well as a Chik’n and Waffles dish that hits all the right brunchy notes. There’s a vegan hot dog and vegan Chik’n vindaloo, a whole slew of vegan burgers and a jackfruit biryani.

A spread of tasty vegan dishes like mac n' cheese and chicken and waffles lay on a table at Pure Vegan Cafe.

Pure Vegan Cafe will satisfy anyone who seeks a quality, meatless meal. Photo: Discover Durham

This list only begins to scratch the surface of all the options vegetarians, vegans, and those who are just looking to eat a little less meat will be able to find in the Bull City. From fast-casual joints to James Beard-nominated eateries, it seems like practically every restaurant in Durham has begun to ensure that vegans and vegetarians have more than just a side salad and a baked potato to curb their hunger, and to quote Martha Stewart, “That is a very good thing, indeed.”

About the Author

Matt Lardie - Freelance Food, Wine & Travel Writer
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On a never-ending quest for the stories behind what we eat and drink. From biscuits to bibimbap, Bordeaux to beer, Matt's thoroughly obsessed with sharing tales of edible traditions from across the globe.