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Vegan Guide to Ella, Sri Lanka

Ella, Sri Lanka is a little gem in the middle of the highlands. Although the town itself is a bit touristy, the surrounding views, local food, and kind people explain why so many people are drawn here. Luckily, it is not only easy to eat vegan in Ella, Sri Lanka but SO tasty.

From amazing rice and curries to smoothie bowls and pizza, Ella has it all, even for us vegans! We’ve put together this list of our favorite vegan meals to help you plan your visit. Plus, there’s a map with everything included below!

 Nine Arch Bridge in Ella, Sri Lanka

Eating vegan in Sri Lanka can be pretty easy since most dishes are made without butter, egg, or milk, and many use coconut milk instead. Although it was a shock to some locals we met that we are vegan, it was easy to accommodate since we just asked for the dish without meat or egg.

In Ella, there are plenty of restaurants with the big V marked on their menu or specifically noted as vegan to make eating plant-based even easier. As a must-see on any Sri Lankan itinerary, here are the best places for eating vegan in Ella, Sri Lanka!

Table of Contents

    What to Order as a Vegan in Sri Lanka

    Breakfast

    Most breakfasts served in Sri Lanka are vegetarian. There were only two times in two months where we were served a sausage link on our plates for breakfast. However, often eggs are served or items that may include eggs like the sweet coconut pancakes.

    Fresh fruit plate - Vegan Breakfast in Ella

    Vegan Breakfast options include:

    Fresh fruit juices and fruit plates, String Hoppers + Dhal Curry, and Coconut Milk Rice. These are all very common and you will most likely always be served a fruit plate each morning if breakfast is included in your accommodation.

    Western-style breakfasts are also sometimes served and consist of white bread (sometimes toasted) served with jam and butter + an egg. Check with your accommodation the night before to make sure you’ll be able to eat what is served.

    Lunch + Dinner

    The national dish of course: Rice and Curry, sticking to Vegetable Curries and Sambals. There are so many different kinds of vegetable curries to try while visiting Sri Lanka! Dhal is the most popular, made with lentils, but eggplant and jackfruit curries are also common.

    Things to watch out for: butter/ghee and fish paste. Check with your host or restaurant servers to be sure these aren’t used to cook your dish. This can be difficult depending on where you are because of the language barrier. Most people understand “vegetarian”, however, sometimes asking about the smaller details and these ingredients can be harder. In Ella, it should be easy to ask since it is a touristy town.

    Other options besides rice and curry for lunch and dinner include Vadai (Sri Lankan Street Food), Fried Rice, Fried Noodles, and Vegetable Kottu (Ty’s favorite dish in Sri Lanka, pictured below right).

    Vegan Eating in Ella, Sri Lanka

    #1 Vegan in Ella Recommendation: Matey Hut

    What to order: Vegetable Rice and Curry + Fresh Fruit Juice

    Where is it: Located at the edge of Ella Town near the tunnel under the tracks (just a short walk from the station itself).

    Vegan Dinner at Matey Hut in Ella Sri Lanka

    If you don’t eat here, it’s truly a loss. With a LONG list of different vegetable curries, as well as other dishes like Kottu, AND cheap prices, Matey Hut is a must-visit for vegans in Ella, Sri Lanka.

    Go for the rice and curry: you get to choose 4 vegetable curries, served with rice and papadam (for 580 rupees), and there are so many options.

    We went there a few times and still didn’t get to try them all. But some of our favorites included: Manioc, Jackfruit, Eggplant, and Gotu Kola (herby coconut sambal).

    #2 Jade Green for Vegan Sri Lankan Food

    What to order: Vegetable Rice and Curry

    Where is it: Western side of Ella’s main street

    For a large tasty portion of curries or vegetable kottu right on the main street of Ella Town.

    We had lunch here one day and enjoyed our meal. They also have a sign that they offer cooking classes but were not doing so during our visit in February of 2022.

    Vegan Rice and Curry at Jade Green

    #3 Ellement Hiking Bar: Local + Western Food

    What to order: Vegetable Kottu, Salads, or Vegan Pizza from MozzarElla

    Where is it: Eastern side of Ella where the road to train station meets the main street

    We really liked the vibe of this restaurant and, even though it’s touristy, the prices aren’t bad on local dishes, especially compared to some other places in Ella. They have games to play, a bonfire, and their playlist during our visit was on point.

    They offer a mix of traditional Sri Lankan foods and western dishes. The juices we had were super refreshing!

    #4 MozzarElla – Vegan Pizza!

    What to order: Vegan Pizza

    Where is it: Eastern side of Ella where the road to train station meets the main street

    Sometimes, you just need a break from Rice and Curry. There’s no shame in that! Luckily, Ella has a few different options for this. At MozzarElla, you can get a vegan pizza right in Ella, Sri Lanka. We were served a cheeseless pizza loaded with vegetables and it was tasty!

    We didn’t exactly eat at MozzarElla, because we ordered our pizza from upstairs at the Ellement Hiking Bar with who they partner with.

    #5 Rainbow Cafe: Local + Western Food

    What to order: Choco Banana Smoothie Bowl, Ella Booster Smoothie Bowl, Gnocchi

    Where is it: Central area of the main street in Ella (across from Cafe Chill)

    After a long train (or bus) ride you might not want such a heavy meal on your stomach. Stopping at the Rainbow Cafe for a refreshing smoothie bowl was such a great choice! They have 4 different options and the two we tried were great.

    Vegan Smoothie Bowls at Rainbow Cafe in Ella, Sri Lanka

    The Rainbow Cafe offers a mix of local and western foods. Their prices are reasonable and the food was delicious! We ate here twice between two visits to Ella and enjoyed everything we had.

    It’s easy to identify the vegan options as they are marked on their menu.

    #6 Cafe Chill: Local + Western Food

    What to order: Vegan Lamprais, Blue Pea Flower Drink, Jackfruit Burger

    Where is it: Central area of the main street in Ella

    Cafe Chill

    Cafe Chill is the most popular place in town but besides the beautiful interior, the food is just alright. 

    The vibe and fun drinks are definitely a draw, but with so many other options, don’t stick with this one just because it’s popular.

    However, if you do stop here, try the Vegan Lamprais. It has been the only place so far we could find a vegan version of this local dish and it was pretty good!

    Other Vegan Options in Ella, Sri Lanka

    Cafe One Love – A variety of food options and smoothies can be made vegan. Located near the train station

    Nanda Restaurant – Fresh juices and vegan veggie rice and curry. Located between Matey Hut and the Train Station. Also offers cooking classes.

    Do you have any recommendations for us to add to this list? Please let us know in the comments!

    Where to Stay in Ella, Sri Lanka

    Vegan Breakfast in Ella

    Top choice: Guest Avendra Inn, not only is the room amazing but the meals were so tasty too. We had an incredible view from our patio. Even though it is about a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride from town or a 30ish minute walk along the tracks, it is so worth it to feel tucked away in nature.

    Plus, this is a great location for starting a sunrise hike to Ella Rock!

    Other options for staying in Ella that are budget-friendly with incredible views:

    • Royal Vantage – A wonderful view of Ella Rock + only a short walk to Ella Town, closest to Matey Hut.
    • Brilliant View Homestay – Another short walk to town along tracks with an incredible view of Little Rawana Falls from a private balcony (just don’t bother getting dinner here as it’s cheaper + tastier in town).

    What to do in Ella, Sri Lanka (Besides Eat)

    • Hike Ella Rock at Sunrise (guide coming soon!) – Such an incredible experience and worth it if you’re up for a good hike!
    • Visit the Nine Arch Bridge. Take the scenic route and walk the tracks from the train station to the bridge! It was surprisingly empty when we did this.
    • Take a cooking class! There are plenty of options for cooking classes in Ella, Sri Lanka. Most “vegetarian” classes are automatically vegan but check in advance!
    • Hike Little Adam’s Peak at sunset – a shorter hike that’s perfect for sunset
    • Mail a postcard back home – The first place in Sri Lanka we found postcards, check out the vintage style post cards at I Love Ceylon Gallery
    • Hop on a train to Nuwara Eliya or Kandy for amazing views of Tea Country
    View from Ella Rock at Sunrise

    How to Get to and from Ella

    By Bus:

    • We took the bus to Ella from Tangalle (and back). The buses will get CROWDED and we don’t mean with tourists. Heading to Tangalle, the ride was roughly 4 hours.
    • A warning about the buses in Sri Lanka: they can get crowded, they might be loud from music, and the drivers are a bit wild. However, if you can stomach the ride, it’s a cheap and quick (ish) way to get to and from Ella from other destinations.

    By Train:

    • The train ride from or to Kandy is beautiful. We’re sure you’ve heard all about it and it’s definitely worth it! (At least doing part of it). 2nd Class Reserve tickets are best and during the busy season, you will want to book those tickets a couple of days (or more) in advance. However, it is really easy to do right at the train station! No need to pay the extra fees for booking online.
    Taking the train in Ella, Sri Lanka

    Tips for Visiting Ella, Sri Lanka

    • The train tracks are walkable! Yes…some signs say it’s dangerous/not allowed, but everyone does it, including the locals. It’s the easiest way to get from some of the accommodations to the town, especially to avoid the steep hills.
    • Although Ella is a pretty touristy place, the nature surrounding the town is so peaceful. Make sure to plan some time to just sit back and enjoy the views from your balcony, listening to the birds sing and fly from tree to tree. Even on an exciting trip, it’s important to take some time to rest!
    • Negotiate with the tuktuk drivers! We never pay more than 50-75 rupees a KM unless there’s a steep hill or obstacle involved. Learn to enjoy the negotiating so you never overpay.

    Ella was one of our favorite destinations in Sri Lanka and we enjoyed the ease of eating vegan at so many places. Have any questions about visiting Ella? Feel free to drop your questions in the comments or send us a message! We’ll be happy to get back to you about it.

    Vegan in Ella, Sri Lanka. View of Ella Rock

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