1 Veggie House’s Three Cups Sauce Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
The big puffballs known as lion’s mane mushrooms have one of the great textures of the plant kingdom. Seared, braised, or stir-fried, they absorb cooking juices but keep their meaty integrity and chew. Their flavor, however, has a bitter edge that can be off-putting. Not so at this vegetarian restaurant. The kitchen prepares inch-size chunks of the mushrooms in the style of Taiwanese Three Cups chicken, with plenty of soy sauce, cooking wine, and sesame oil. But there’s more: Tiny bits of cinnamon stick, fried ginger, and ginseng in the sauce make for such an evocative dance of flavors that the bitterness of the star ingredient becomes a background note. Nicely cooked chunks of zucchini, green beans, and ginkgo nuts keep your chopsticks busy. $15.95. 2109 S. China Pl., Chinatown — John Kessler
2 Skylark’s Sloppy Joe
Late-night bar menus are rarely vegan friendly, but this twist on the classic meat sandwich is made with crumbled soy protein, diced green peppers, and pickle chips that come together in a sweet sauce. It’ll hit the spot after a couple of drinks. $9. 2149 S. Halsted St., Pilsen — Nikki Roberts
3 Art of Dosa’s Masala Dosa
It’s about time someone in Chicago strictly devoted themselves to the beauty that is the dosa, a regional specialty from southern India that consists of a thin, crisp pancake stuffed with a variety of fillings. In 2019, Ravi Nagubadi did just that, opening his stall at Revival Food Hall with wraps based on his mother’s recipes. The best is the masala dosa: Nagubadi’s stellar version is extra crisp and wrapped around a traditional potato curry. On the side for dipping: creamy coconut chutney; sambar, a hearty lentil vegetable soup; and gunpowder, a spicy, bright orange condiment made with a ton of ground chiles. $12.50. 125 S. Clark St., Loop — Titus Ruscitti
4 Lyra’s Shaved Broccoli and Black-Eyed Peas
Ask the folks at this modern Greek spot to make the shareable salad vegan and they will swap out the honey in the dressing. Thanks to the sliced grapes and roasted almonds, which add nutty, sweet accents, it’s just as delicious this way. $17. 905 W. Fulton Market, West Loop — Audarshia Townsend
5 Liberation Kitchen’s Lemon-Poppy Seed Doughnut
There are enough vegan doughnuts around to declare a top one, and this sweet-tart offering takes the, um, cake. Texture is often problematic in this endeavor, but founder Dan Staackmann, who is also behind the meat alternative company Upton’s Naturals, toiled in his home kitchen until he had a vanilla cake that was fluffy with a crispy outer layer. The shiny white glaze enlists real lemon juice and a generous speckling of poppy seeds. While the absence of eggs and cream makes the doughnut cholesterol-free, don’t kid yourself into calling it healthy: It’s got all the flour, sugar, and oil of its conventional counterparts. You should still treat yourself with abandon, though, because the company donates half the cost of this particular flavor to a rotation of nonprofits. $3.25. 2054 W. Grand Ave., West Town — Carly Boers
6 Defloured’s Vegan Almond-Date Bar
Ever try a millionaire bar — shortbread, caramel, topcoat of chocolate? This version — moist almond base, date filling, bittersweet chocolate, maple syrup — tastes like a million bucks with a couple of extra zeros added. $4.50. 1477 W. Balmoral Ave., Andersonville — Peter Gianopulos
7 The Chicago Diner’s Cuban Sandwich
The housemade seitan is grilled, then layered with fried yucca chips, cheese, mustard, mayo, and pepperoncini on a ciabatta roll for a sandwich with an appealing range of textures. $15. 3411 N. Halsted St., Lake View East; 2333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Logan Square — N.R
8 Bloom Plant Based Kitchen’s Red Carrot Dumpling
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better showcase of veggies’ natural beauty. A crisp wrapper of dehydrated young coconut and red carrots envelops carrot-ginger kimchi like a trifold wallet and sports a foam made from ginger-spiked coconut milk. $13. 1559 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wicker Park — C.B.
9 Galit’s Tehina Hummus
Zach Engel’s Middle Eastern spot serves three kinds of hummus, but this one, ridiculously creamy and topped with sumac, mint, and olive oil, is its finest. It’s served with warm rounds of pita so soft you could nap on them. Part of a $78 tasting menu. 2429 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park — Amy Cavanaugh
10 Quesadilla La Reina del Sur’s Flor de Calabaza Quesadilla
The plant-based Mexican spot, which added a Pilsen location this year, offers 20 types of quesadillas. This one, stuffed with savory squash blossoms and cheese (ask for the vegan version), is the place to start. $11.75. 2237 N. Western Ave., Bucktown; 1519 W. 18th St., Pilsen — A.C.
11 Kitchen 17’s Oreo Cake
The definition of luscious, this dessert features layers of vegan chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, and crushed Oreos, finished with vanilla buttercream for an extra hit of richness. $7. 2554 W. Diversey Ave., Avondale — A.T.
12 Vaca’s Creamery’s Candy Bar Sundae
When Mariana Marinho and Dylan Sutcliff opened their walk-up window for vegan and gluten-free desserts, they wanted to make them just as delicious as their dairy-based counterparts. Success. Vaca’s offers oat milk soft serve in rotating flavors like lavender-blueberry and avocado-lime, but the sundaes are must-orders, particularly the best-selling Candy Bar. Based on a Snickers bar, it comes with your choice of soft serve (go with the chocolate-vanilla twist), which is drizzled with peanut butter and caramel, topped with a rich chocolate shell, and covered in peanuts. It’s sweet, it’s savory, and when you’re feeling hangry, it satisfies as much as a Snickers. $9.95. 1436 W. Blackhawk St., Noble Square — N.R.
13 Elephant + Vine’s Buffalo Cauli Wings
Covered in a spicy sauce and topped with sesame seeds, these wings are both crunchy and creamy. No chickens were harmed, of course — just cauliflower. You can also get them in barbecue and sweet chile flavors, but why would you? $8.95. 719 Church St., Evanston; 2315 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park — Chasity Cooper
14 Lula Cafe’s Tineka Sandwich
A spicy housemade Indonesian peanut butter sauce gets spread onto whole grain sourdough, then dressed with lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumber, and sprouts for a combo that’s creamy, crunchy, and the kind of thing you can’t stop eating. $13. 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd., Logan Square — T.R.
15 Demera Ethiopian Restaurant’s Vegetarian Messob
The name is a misnomer of sorts, since the dish is actually vegan. Pick any six of the nine flavorful options, but these two are musts: misir wot, spicy red lentils in a rich berbere sauce, and gomen, collard greens with garlic and ginger. It comes with injera bread. $33 (serves two). 4801 N. Broadway, Uptown — A.C.
16 Urban Vegan’s Orange Chicken
This place has cult status among plant eaters, and no dish shines more than this veganized take on a Chinese American staple. It’s made with chunks of soy chicken that are lightly battered and fried to a crisp, then tossed in a sweet, tangy sauce. $13.95. 1601 W. Montrose Ave., North Center — T.R.
17 Nhu Lan Bakery’s Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi
While pretty much anything would taste good in this crackly housemade baguette, this filling, accented with cilantro, cucumber, and pickled carrots and daikon, makes for as vibrant a veggie sandwich as you’ll find. $6.95. 2612 W. Lawrence Ave., Ravenswood; 4810 N. Sheridan Rd., Uptown — A.C.
18 Wazwan’s Mushroom Korma
The soul-warming curry, served over basmati rice, includes loads of mushrooms, from chanterelles to oysters, in a cashew-almond gravy seasoned with coriander, cumin, and black truffle. $20. 1742 W. Division St., Wicker Park — T.R.
19 Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat’s Philly Steak Egg Rolls
That satisfying crunch? You just can’t get it from a hoagie. Laricia Baker mixes a soy and pea protein crumble with peppers, onions, jalapeños, and cheese, then drizzles on a sweet hot sauce. $13.85. 1143 N. Wells St., Near North Side; 1368½ E. 53rd St., Hyde Park; 24 Orland Square Dr., Orland Park — N.R.
20 Fons’s Margherita Empanada
Featuring tomato-basil dough stuffed with mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, it’s delightful on its own and even better dipped in garlic sauce. $3.95 ($6.45 with sauce). 2566 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park; 32 E. Randolph St., Loop; 605 W. Lake St., West Loop — A.C.