Cooler temperatures and shorter days have us craving comfort food — those warm, hearty, classic dishes that really stick to our ribs. Since today is World Vegetarian Day — and the first day of Vegetarian Month — here are ten great vegan comfort-food dishes in Denver to combat the short days and chilly nights of fall. These plant-based dishes prove you don’t need meat or dairy to have a super-satisfying meal.
Big Rig at Watercourse Foods
837 East 17th Avenue
The menu at Denver's most well-known vegan restaurant almost entirely comprises comfort food, from nachos and wings to burgers and a Buffalo tempeh sandwich. But for the ultimate in Southern comfort, order the Big Rig, the restaurant’s take on chicken fried steak. A hearty slab of country-fried seitan smothered in savory gravy is served alongside scrambled tofu and a down-home biscuit.
Enchiladas at Tarasco’s New Latino Cuisine
470 South Federal Boulevard
Tarasco’s is one of the city's top destinations for authentic Mexican cooking with a focus on the food of Michoacán, but the eatery is also known to Denver's vegan community as a hidden gem for meatless dishes. Vegan options are clearly marked on the menu, including two types of enchiladas that warm the soul, even when you ditch the cheese. Enchiladas de champiñones are loaded with grilled mushrooms, cabbage and red guajillo and green tomatillo salsas, while the enchiladas de calabacitas get their flavor from grilled zucchini and tomatillo sauce.
Pumpkin Pasta at City, O’ City
206 East 13th Avenue
With burgers, pizza and plenty of other little gems (like the fried ravioli with pesto dipping sauce), it’s easy to find comfort in whatever form you're craving it at City, O’ City. But the pumpkin curry pasta is the quintessential fall food, made with penne pasta, roasted asparagus, cauliflower and zucchini, all tossed in a creamy pumpkin-curry sauce and finished with chives and yogurt. You won't even think about pumpkin-spice lattes once you've had a taste of this satisfying dish.
Chili Cheese Fries at Meta Burger
7950 East Mississippi Avenue
Meta Burger is a completely vegan fast-food spot with an affordable, simple menu of burgers, hot dogs, sides and shakes. The chili cheese fries might be listed as a side, but they could take the place of a meal any day. Waffle-cut fries are loaded with homemade Coney Island-style chili and a nacho cheese sauce. The creamy sauce is made from cashews and veggies, and the chili is made from an organic, non-GMO soy product.
Mac-n-Cheese at Sputnik
3 South Broadway
Sputnik offers an entire vegan menu with everyone's favorites: corn dogs, fried pickle chips, Cubanos and Philly cheesesteaks reinvented for those who don't eat meat. But the creamy mac-n-cheese is a must here. The faux-cheese sauce is actually made from puréed veggies, including carrots, potatoes, peppers and celery, along with turmeric and spices. Rich and creamy, this mac stands up surprisingly well to the non-vegan standard, making it a Denver classic for the plant-based community.
Vegetarian Ramen at Uncle
2215 West 32nd Avenue
Uncle steams it up on chilly days with a variety of ramen bowls and other traditional noodle dishes made with a fresh twist. The base for the shop's veggie ramen is a vegan miso broth, and it also contains mushrooms, arugula, scallions and watermelon radish. Skip the soft-cooked egg and add fried tofu to make it extra-comforting, or add a "spicy bomb" of miso pepper paste to really bring the heat.
Breakfast Burrito at Snooze A.M. Eatery
700 Colorado Boulevard (and other locations)
Snooze is Denver's favorite breakfast spot — and that goes for vegans, too. The Colorado-based chain offers tofu that can be swapped in for eggs on many dishes, and Soyrizo can be added for a spicy protein boost. Snooze's breakfast burrito, when ordered vegan, comes packed with seasoned tofu, hash browns and house black beans, and topped with pico de gallo and choice of green chile or ranchero sauce.
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Korean BBQ Veggie Wings at Vital Root
3915 Tennyson St.
Vital Root is known for fresh and better-for-you dishes, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some classic comfort foods made healthy. To name a few: risotto, fries and a queso dip made with cashews, Soyrizo and cilantro. The Korean BBQ veggie "wings," made with deep-fried smoked broccoli and cauliflower and topped with sesame seeds, check all the right crunch, salty and spicy boxes, while a side of goddess ranch dressing cools the heat.
The Vegan Cheeseburger at Yard House
1555 Court Place (and other locations)
Yard House had a huge draft beer list along with an eclectic menu for all. The vegan burger is a satisfying sandwich indeed, starting with a Gardein-brand patty (made with red quinoa, kale and shiitake mushrooms) and topped with vegan mozzarella, avocado, tomato, arugula, onion and miso. The beer bar also uses Gardein chicken in a variety of dishes, if you're looking for something beyond a burger, sink your teeth into Chinese orange chicken, BBQ chicken pizza, wings, and sesame chicken and noodles.
Vegan Pizza at Hops & Pie
3920 Tennyson Street
Pizza is everyone’s favorite comfort food — and nothing goes better with pizza than beer. Hops & Pie, as the name clearly indicates, specializes in both, with an extensive tap list and vegan pizza options that aren’t an afterthought. The hearty dough and sauce can be topped with vegan cheese, house-smoked tofu, and a spicy, flavorful housemade vegan Sicilian sausage. Load up on all the veggies, too, including roasted garlic cloves, sun-dried tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, pineapple, caramelized onions, jalapeño, arugula and more.