About ten million U.S. adults are vegan or vegetarian. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest lifestyle to adopt, as finding meatless options at restaurants and supermarkets can be a challenge. Plus, even though some experts say forgoing animal products could save you at least $750 per year, certain specialty foods can be expensive. Despite the cost, though, synthetic meat sales have received a bump this year because of meat shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some meat eaters who switched to vegetarian or vegan options out of necessity may decide to stay once they’ve had a taste.
Fortunately, many U.S. cities offer plentiful and inexpensive options for budget-conscious herbivores. To determine the best and cheapest places for a plant-based diet, WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 16 key indicators of vegan- and vegetarian-friendliness. We examined each city based on such metrics as the cost of groceries for vegetarians, the share of restaurants serving meatless options and salad shops per capita.
Read on for our findings and a full description of our methodology. If you’re considering a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, make sure to check out the Q&A with our panel of experts for transitioning advice and money-saving tips.
Most Vegetarian- & Vegan-Friendly Cities
(1 = Best)
|City||Total Score||‘Affordability’ Rank||‘Diversity, Accessibility & Quality’ Rank||‘Vegetarian Lifestyle’ Rank|
|2||Los Angeles, CA||57.31||38||15||9|
|3||San Francisco, CA||57.04||98||1||4|
|8||Fort Wayne, IN||51.48||4||76||34|
|13||San Diego, CA||49.87||65||7||56|
|18||St. Paul, MN||46.26||31||41||29|
|20||New York, NY||46.11||79||6||51|
|24||Long Beach, CA||45.82||78||37||16|
|31||Las Vegas, NV||44.07||36||14||88|
|38||Jersey City, NJ||43.23||25||91||24|
|44||Kansas City, MO||42.36||27||61||53|
|46||St. Louis, MO||41.84||55||26||60|
|50||Colorado Springs, CO||41.41||60||53||35|
|56||San Antonio, TX||40.15||12||67||82|
|67||San Jose, CA||38.79||97||35||14|
|68||Oklahoma City, OK||38.50||17||79||74|
|70||St. Petersburg, FL||38.27||86||48||27|
|72||Virginia Beach, VA||37.66||53||62||65|
|78||Corpus Christi, TX||36.78||2||93||93|
|82||Santa Ana, CA||36.68||90||78||13|
|83||Fort Worth, TX||36.38||33||87||59|
|87||Chula Vista, CA||35.20||70||81||31|
|88||New Orleans, LA||34.96||74||29||87|
|93||El Paso, TX||32.07||45||85||81|
|97||Baton Rouge, LA||30.66||75||64||90|
|99||North Las Vegas, NV||29.96||26||99||77|
|100||San Bernardino, CA||29.86||81||86||69|
Ask the Experts
Cutting meat from your diet requires commitment and, in some cases, extra cash. To help you switch successfully to a vegan or vegetarian diet while sticking to your budget, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What tips do you have for someone who wishes to adopt a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle while on a budget?
- Should government subsidize the purchase of fruits and vegetables by discounting the price for people using food stamps?
- What can parents do to encourage children to consume more veggies?
- What tips do you have for someone who wishes to become a vegetarian? How can the transition be made smoother?
- What will be the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, and what are some effective ways to maintain this lifestyle during these times?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the best cities for vegans and vegetarians in the U.S., WalletHub compared the 100 most populated cities across three key dimensions: 1) Affordability, 2) Diversity, Accessibility & Quality and 3) Vegetarian Lifestyle.
We evaluated those dimensions using 16 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for vegans and vegetarians. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we calculated the population size using the square root of the population in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. In constructing our sample, we considered only the “city proper” in each case and excluded surrounding cities in the metro area.
Affordability – Total Points: 33.33
- Cost of Groceries for Vegetarians: Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
Note: “Groceries” excludes all animal products, except dairy and eggs.
- Availability of Affordable, Highly Rated Restaurants Serving Vegan & Vegetarian Options: Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
Note: “Highly Rated” refers to a rating of at least 4.5 stars.
- Average Meal Cost: Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated using the following formula: Average Dollar Amount Spent on Food per Week by Food-Secure Individuals / 21 Meals (three meals per day X seven days per week).
Diversity, Accessibility & Quality – Total Points: 33.33
- Share of Restaurants Serving Vegetarian Options: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Share of Restaurants Serving Vegan Options: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Farmers Markets & CSA Programs per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: “CSA” refers to community-supported agriculture.
- Certified Organic Farms per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Juice & Smoothie Bars per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Salad Shops per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Vegetable Nurseries per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Community Gardens per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Access to Fresh Vegetarian Food*: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: “Fresh Vegetarian Food” refers to vegetable, melon, potato, sweet potato, fruit, tree-nut, berry and cow-milk production per capita.
- Vegetarian Cooking Classes per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Vegetarian Lifestyle – Total Points: 33.33
- Ranking on Grubhub’s List of Cities Most Likely to Order Vegetarian or Vegan: Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
Note: This metric was used as a proxy for the vegetarian population and is based on GrubHub’s data analysis of “more than 30,000 restaurants’ pickup and delivery orders” to determine where customers are most likely to order vegetarian or vegan options.
- Vegetable & Fruit Consumption: Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
Note: This metric measures the share of adults who consumed vegetables and fruits one or more times per day and was used as a proxy for the vegetarian population. A lower share of adults who consume fruits and vegetables daily indicates a lower probability of vegetarian prevalence.
- Vegan & Vegetarian Meetups per Capita*: Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Feeding America, Yelp, TripAdvisor, USDA Organic INTEGRITY Database, The Trust for Public Land, United States Department of Agriculture, GrubHub and Meetup.