The Gili Islands have a great food scene, including western restaurants and Indonesia eateries. The best Gili Islands restaurants offer plenty of choice for vegans, vegetarians and other mindful eaters, too.
As with almost any island destination, most Gili Islands restaurants are focussed on offering fresh fish and seafood. If you want to eat a grilled animal that was recently ripped from the sea, the Gili Islands will not let you down.
But there’s good news for those of us who would rather eat food that wasn’t swimming yesterday — some of the best restaurants on the Gili Islands cater to vegans and vegetarians. Gluten free is a little harder to come by, but it’s definitely a growing trend.
This is part three of our Mindful Travel Guide to the Gili Islands. Don’t miss our picks of the best things to do in the Gili Islands for mindful travellers and the best hotels on the Gili Islands for every budget.
We had amazing meals on the Gili Islands! These are our picks for…
The Best Gili Islands Restaurants for Mindful Eaters
Best Gili Trawangan Restaurants for Vegans and Vegetarians
Of the three Gili Islands, the restaurants in Gili Trawangan offer the most choice and the best quality of food. Gili Trawangan is a foodie destination, with both Indonesian and Western restaurants pulling out all the stops.
Though there are endless places to get grilled fish of all varieties, our focus is on the vegan and vegetarian restaurants on Gili Trawangan.
The number-one rated restaurant on TripAdvisor on Gili Trawangan, Pituq is all-vegan and all-delicious. I felt truly sorry for the people who sat down and then refused to eat there because they didn’t serve meat (we saw this happen a couple of times). More for us, suckers!
This is the best food we’d eaten in months of travel. We can highly recommend the jackfruit curry and the laksa but everything we tried on Pituq’s menu (on our frequent return visits) was great. It’s just a bonus that the staff are friendly, funny, and efficient.
On a quiet stretch of beach on the north end of the island, Karma Kayak offers a varied tapas menu that made a filling vegan lunch for us.
We had tofu skewers, green beans in tomato sauce, amazing fries, and a few more dishes. Highly recommended, both for the food and the unbeatable location.
This friendly cafe has tables right on the buzziest section of the beach, so it’s a great place to watch the backpacker parade go by. We both loved our meals at Banyan Tree.
Stephen had the jackfruit pulled pork sandwich…
Leave plenty of time if you decide to eat at Banyan Tree; our food took an excruciatingly long time to be served.
With its chalkboard menu and rustic wooden decor, Kayu Cafe reminds me of the independent cafes that are dotted around British Columbia, Canada. The emphasis is on healthy and fresh food with options for raw, vegan, and organic eaters. This breakfast bowl was yummy.
Best Gili Meno Restaurants for Vegans and Vegetarians
Being the smallest and least developed of the three Gili Islands, Gili Meno has the least to offer food-wise. But there are still a couple of places to get your vegan and vegetarian food fix on Gili Meno.
Ya Ya Warung
This Indonesia eatery offers tasty budget dishes, many of which are, or can be, vegan. Try gado gado (without the egg), olah-olah, or just order fried vegetables with a side of fried tofu and tempeh. Delicious and easy on the wallet.
Adeng Adeng Restaurant
Another casual eatery, serving Indonesian and Asian fusion food. The menu doesn’t feature many options for vegetarians but they will gladly substitute tempeh or tofu for any of the meats in their curries.
Best Gili Air Restaurants for Vegans and Vegetarians
While Gili Air has almost as many barbecue seafood joints as Gili T, it doesn’t offer as much in the way of new age hippie vegetarian and vegan food. You’ll find a few mindful dishes on most menus but these were our three favourite places to eat.
We were lucky enough to choose a villa right across from the charming Pachamama. They serve delicious fresh bowls — both sweet and savoury — plus a range of tasty raw desserts.
The food here is easily as good as the food served in the trendiest vegan cafes in Los Angeles.
Le Sate Bar
If you’re longing to try some local flavours with a western twist, Le Sate Bar is a great choice. They serve combos of grilled foods on skewers with spicy Indonesia sate sauce on the side. They even have a vegetarian plate, which comes with veggies, tempeh, tofu, and corn, all barbecued on their open grill.
Warning: The veggies probably come into contact with the same part of the grill where meat is cooked. Deal with it.
Rated as the best local food on the island, Warung Bambu specializes in martabak — their version is a decidedly meaty affair. But, they also have gado gado and a couple of other local veggie dishes that we didn’t see anywhere else in Indonesia. Bambu won’t win any awards for atmosphere, it’s dim and not particularly clean, but the food is great.
What is Mindful Eating and Why is it Important?
Food is so much more than just fuel for your body. It’s culture, it’s family, it’s life. When we sit down for a meal together, whether at home with our family or in a restaurant crowded with strangers, we are sharing one of the most essential parts of life.
That’s why we try to eat mindfully.
We’re not perfect — sometimes we scarf down a takeaway sandwich before rushing to catch the bus, or take mindless bite after bite while watching Netflix. Heck, I’m writing this while eating breakfast!
But usually, meal time is a time when we sit down, put down our iPhones and pay attention to our food and the people around us. Eating with awareness can elevate food from a chore into an amazing travel experience.
Six tips for mindful eating while you travel.
- Choose small independently owned restaurants. People who open their own restaurants usually do so out of a love for food – and that love is passed on to their customers.
There’s nothing wrong with using TripAdvisor to get recommendations but don’t follow it blindly. Sometimes the top-rated restaurants are just the ones that are most conveniently located for tourists.
Try to order indigenous meals. Are you having a big slab of Australian beef in Vietnam? Why not try something made with local ingredients instead?
Put down devices and focus on food. Inhale the scent. Notice the texture of the food as you chew. Try to identify the spices that have been used? Notice how the food makes you feel. Full disclosure: When I travel alone, I usually read a book on my phone while I’m eating but I still make time to chew and taste my food.
Drink local. You can get imported beers and wines everywhere but is it worth the cost to the planet to transport a bottle of wine halfway around the world? Instead, try the local beers and wines. If they’re not available, you can always try the local distilled tipple.
Try the local specialities. One of the great pleasures in travelling is getting to explore your destination through the food the locals eat. No, you don’t have to munch on crickets, barbecued rats and chicken feet (but you can if you want) but at least give yourself a chance to sample the local specialities.
Don’t over-order. Food waste is a huge problem – some reports suggest that we waste enough food to feed all the undernourished people in the world. It’s tempting to try a little bit of everything when you’re travelling but don’t order more than you need. Instead, save those dollars for your next trip or donate them to an organization that fights famine.
A note on vegetarian and vegan eating.
We choose to be vegetarian 100% of the time and vegan as much as we can manage it (which is about 98% of the time). This limits our ability to immerse ourselves in the culture of food. We can’t just pick a street stall at random and sit down. We can’t try all the local specialities.
While I sometimes feel like I’m missing out, I believe that eating mindfully is about the greater good. The meat industry is bad for animals and for people. It adds unnecessary pollution into the air and water and uses resources that could be better allocated. Poor communities are most badly affected by pollution, overfishing, drought, and famine.
So while I might miss out on eating Cambodian fish amok or a German bratwurst, I’m willing to forgo those experiences to help save the planetand the people on it.
Where to Stay on the Gili Islands
There is a huge selection of hostels, hotels, homestays, and resorts on the Gili Islands. You can get decent (but not great) accommodation on the Gili Islands starting at $10 per night. If you spend around $100 per night, you can get a luxury villa in one of the islands most sought-after resorts.
Here are our picks of the best Gili Islands hotels in every price range →