When I first switched to a plant-based diet in 2017, I missed baked goods the most. My weekend rituals once revolved around tracking down the best donuts and pastries, but I struggled to find vegan equivalents when I ditched eggs and dairy. While locating bakeries with vegan options can be a trial, these 11 all have sweets that’ll please both the plant-based and omnivorous people in your life.
I simply can’t walk down Division Street in Wicker Park without stopping to look at the cakes on display at Alliance Bakery’s storefront. But, they have more than cakes— they offer breakfast pastries, cupcakes, and cookies too. Of all their vegan options, Alliance’s peanut-butter chocolate vegan cupcake steals the show. The thick swirl of salty and sweet peanut butter buttercream offsets the bittersweet chocolate base. Dusted with fine cocoa powder, it’s a fancy cupcake that actually delivers on flavor, too. Unfortunately, Alliance only has one vegan cupcake flavor, but here’s to hoping they expand soon.
Thankfully, it’s much easier to find a vegan cake around town now than it was a few years ago. However, I never imagined finding a vegan ice cream cake in Chicago until I learned about Bartleby’s. You can customize your very own cake, or you can order a dozen vegan chocolate chip cookies if you’re looking for something simpler. My recommendation? Their ginger-rum ice cream sandwich consists of a unique, tropical homemade ice cream between two chewy oatmeal cookies, which somehow channels both grandma’s house and the beach. The light rum flavor from the ice cream is the closest you can get to vacation via cookie, so it checks all my boxes. The only catch is that Bartleby’s is pre-order only, and their items come in multiples, making them ideal for sharing (or not).
Of all the vegan bakeries in Chicago, Bot Bakery might have the best variety while also being completely gluten-free. They do special order cakes, cupcakes, and cookies in addition to their storefront offerings, which they always keep interesting. Their sourdough cinnamon rolls are an inventive take on a classic, with the sourdough lending the traditionally sweet bread a slight tang. And their peanut butter sandwich cookies are also a must-try, especially if you grew up loving Nutter Butters. Because of COVID-19, they are currently pre-order only, and they require at least a four-day notice, but the wait is totally worth it.
This gluten-free bakery in Andersonville has every sweet you could ever want. Plus, many of their options happen to be vegan as well. You’ll see their packaged pastries for sale all over Chicago, but I recommend ordering some of their specialties for pick up at their storefront, where they have even more options. Their oatmeal cream pie is a decadent twist on a familiar Little Debbie favorite, while the ginger molasses cookie is the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. Since the start of the pandemic, Defloured has instituted a very efficient pick-up system, in which you must order at least 24 hours in advance and retrieve your goodies at their storefront at your designated time.
The ideal measure of fluffiness to cakey-ness in donuts is a fine line few can balance, but Do-Rite does so expertly. Their three constant vegan flavors are spiced maple chai, orange olive oil, and double chocolate. You can’t go wrong with any of these, but the chai flavor is the best cure for chilly weather, especially paired with a cup of coffee. The orange olive oil donut is my favorite, and while it may sound strange, the combination of olive with the citrus’ smooth acidity is mind-blowing. And the double chocolate donut? Well, as I like to say, chocolate is for whenever, and the richness of this donut never disappoints.
They call themselves the best churro in the Midwest, and while I’m not the authority on this, I can’t disagree with the people at Don Churro. As you would expect from the name, they specialize in churros, but what they lack in variety they make up for in perfect execution. Their vegan churro options are exceptional, having a standard churro and two filled varieties. The strawberry and guava-filled churros are fruity and sweet without overwhelming the already sugary pastry dough, which I think is worthy of a national holiday. With three churros to choose from, you might as well snag all three.
This charming café and bakery is located just off of 35th street in Bronzeville and has a full menu of breakfast items and regular bakery favorites, as well as three vegan options. Their vegan chocolate chip and shortbread cookies are a delightful treat to bring along with you down the street to Lake Michigan, but their vegan banana pudding jar is really the first thing you should try. Layered in an 8oz glass mason jar are banana bread, coconut whipped cream, banana pudding, and shortbread cookie pieces. The coconut cream is smooth, and the pudding layer is rich with a banana flavor that isn’t overwhelming. Dare I say, this dessert may even have the power to convert the strongest of banana haters.
If you recognize the play on words there, this bakery is for you. The purveyor of “sweet treats for the misfit soul” aims to make the most indulgent and delicious vegan desserts imaginable. Once a steadily growing vegan pop-up, Pie, Pie, My Darling now has a storefront bakery located in Humboldt Park. Every weekend after Pie Pie My Darling’s initial opening in 2019, a line of people formed down Chicago Ave waiting to get their hands on cosmic brownies, cookies, pies, and more. Cake jars - mason jars with layers of buttercream and cake pieces that didn’t make the final cut- are also a fan favorite for being downright delicious while cutting down food waste. Since the pandemic, they’ve switched to a pre-order-only system. Ordering from your couch may be more convenient than standing in line for an hour, but items sell out in minutes, so be prepared to camp in front of your laptop with your credit card number memorized.
West Town Bakery
If you want to impress vegans and omnivorous friends alike, head over to one of West Town Bakery’s many locations because they have something that will please just about anyone. This Chicago institution serves cakes, scones, muffins, donuts, and about a hundred other things, all of which they make from scratch in their bakery. If you’re looking for a morning treat, you can’t beat their vegan chocolate or banana nut muffins. Alternatively, West Town Bakery is one of the best places to find vegan cupcakes. Theirs are smooth without being too oily, which is sometimes insurmountable in vegan baking, given that oil often replaces eggs. While their flagship location is on Chicago Avenue in West Town, you can also find them in Wrigleyville. Their River North location in the Acme Hotel is temporarily closed, but they expect to open back up in the next few months.
Panadería Nuevo Leon
Looking for more than a basic vegan cookie? Me too. This Pilsen bakery offers more than 10 vegan options, many of which are classic pan dulce, or “sweetbreads.” While you may instantly recognize the pastel pink or cocoa-dusted conchas, Nuevo Leon has other classics you should try, starting with the abanico, or fan, made of palotiado, a flaky Mexican pastry. Sweet with a buttery crust, these are perfect for dipping into coffee. Another coffee-friendly treat is the marranito, a molasses “polvorón” or shortbread cookie shaped like a pig. And yes, much like animal crackers, these are still vegan despite their resemblance to the real thing. This cookie is a comforting blend of spicy and sweet, and the top is crackly in the most satisfying way. The cutest part? They mark the cookie with a little “v” so you know it’s vegan-friendly.
One of the best and most interesting vegan cakes I’ve ever had was the vegan concha cake from Pink Pastel, a micro-panadería operated by Aida Nava. The cake’s I-can’t-believe-it’s-vegan buttercream and fluffy cake layers are unbeatable, but what was really special were the three pink conchas that served as the cake toppers, which we all fought over. In addition to cakes, Pink Pastel offers conchas (sans cake), cookies, churros, and more. This place currently operates out of a private kitchen, so while there is no storefront, you can email Aida with inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.