Through Being Cool, a beloved Toronto bakery recently closed its doors after six years of serving up a hearty selection of vegan pastries, donuts, and other sweet and savory delights. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but in 2013 the vegan scene in Toronto was only just starting to take off, and vegan fresh baked goods weren’t as easy to find. Companies like Sweets From the Earth offered some solace, but specialty items like donuts and croissants were hard to come by. TBC’s opening was a landmark moment for Toronto’s veganization. Though their Bloordale storefront was stylishly humble, their food, like all great vegan food, helped challenge the perception of plant-based cuisine and what could be accomplished without the use of typical animal ingredients like eggs and butter.
While their closure is sad news for many of us loyal fans, we can take some consolation from the vast number of vegan options that have appeared in the interim at bakeries around the city. There are, in fact, so many options that there is no way to make a complete list of where to find them. Most indie coffee shops like Jimmy’s, and Dark Horse carry a clearly marked selection of muffins, cookies, and brownies. Even Second Cup has Sweets From The Earth treats. But listed below are some of my personal favorites.
Bloomers (873 Bloor Street W)
Bloomers is the heir apparent to TBC’s baking crown. Their marvelous donuts, cookies, and cakes are some of the best in the city, vegan or otherwise. With their lunch and dinner menu, they also have the distinction of being one of the best vegan restaurants in the city. The Tempeh Reuben is out of this world and the bagels, baked in house, are the best bagels I’ve ever had. Their Ossington location is light-filled, with a substantial amount of seating and a laid back atmosphere. They also recently announced they are opening a second location on Queen West!
Bunners (244 Augusta, 3054 Dundas St. West, 1134 Dundas West)
The gluten-free powerhouse has also recently expanded, opening a third location near Dundas and Ossington. Though gluten-free baked goods have a reputation for being a bit dense and dry, Bunners desserts are moist and delicious. They have a good variety of cupcakes, plus cookies, muffins, and more. They even have soft serve ice cream!
Tori’s Bake Shop (2188 Queen East)
No trip to the Beaches is complete without a stop at Tori’s Bake Shop, a lovely little vegan cafe that offers both sweet and savory treats. Tori’s may not be as centrally located as some other places on this list, but being outside of the craziness of the downtown core is part of Tori’s appeal. Their outdoor seating, though minimal, is a dreamy spot to savor a donut or a brownie and latte. If you feel the need for some recreation afterward, Martin Good Trail, Glen Steward Park and of course the beach, are all only a short walk away. Unfortunately, a second location in the strange otherwise barren condo-land known as the Canary District didn’t last.
Copenhagen Vegan Cafe and Bakery (1312 Queen West)
Don’t be by the daunted by the chic high-tea design and chandelier filled interior of this Queen West Cafe – the staff are very down to earth, as is the food and the price point is very reasonable. In addition to their wide variety of pastries and cakes, they also have a sizeable lunch and weekend brunch menu. You’re unlikely to find vegan versions of their more unique offerings elsewhere in the city, so stock up on your danishes and frangipane while you’re there!
Cosmic Treats (207 Augusta Ave)
Kensington Market is the most vegan-friendly neighborhood in the city and the bakeries are no exception. Six of the places on this list are located in the area. Just wandering along Augusta Avenue is practically a smorgasbord of plant-based sweetness. Cosmic Treats is one of the many gems in the Market, and as its name suggests, their arsenal of desserts are out-of-this-world-delicious. Along with all the cheesecake, ice cream, and milkshakes you can handle, they have a full menu with classic comfort food, plus a lovely patio. Or if you prefer a greener setting to dine in, the recently remodeled Bellevue Square Park is right across the road.
Almond Butterfly (100 Harbord Street)
While not entirely vegan, this popular gluten-free cafe and bakeshop in the Harbord Village always has a good stock of options for herbivores. In addition to their cupcakes and cookies, they also have a few savory items including bagels and vegan cream cheese. A second location has recently opened on Dundas near Bathurst, which has more seating and bigger food menu. In all honesty, for gluten-free baked goods, I much prefer Almond Butterfly over Bunners.
Sweet Hart Kitchen (68 Wales Ave)
Tucked away from the bustle of the main Kensington Market strip, Sweet Hart Kitchen is a bit of hidden gem. In addition to being free of animal products, their baked goods are also made without gluten, refined sweeteners, palm oil, and artificial flavours/colours. Yet there clearly has been no sacrifice to flavour, texture, or richness in these cleaner alternatives. Everything tastes sweet and indulgent, without the gross sugar overload that plagues many baked goods.
Sorelle and Co. Bakery (161 Yorkville Ave)
Yorkville can be a bit much sometimes. You’ll see a lot of gross displays of wealth, even uglier posturing and some really bad plastic surgery. There’s no question that Sorelle, with its upscale location and high-end decor, draws a very specific type of clientele, but the prices, while a bit higher than average, are not outrageous. Their food and baked goods are undeniably tasty and quite nice to look at as well. Their products are also gluten, soy, and peanut-free.
Wanda’s Pie in The Sky (287 Augusta Ave)
There’s not usually a huge amount of vegan options at this venerable Kensington Market cafe, which I’ve always found odd since it is a vegetarian cafe, but it’s earned its place on this list for being so iconic, and for having a wonderful street-facing patio that is one of my favorite places to chill out with a coffee, cupcake and a good book. As the name implies, they also have plenty of pies, and there is always one or two vegan options among them.
Apiecalypse Now (735 Bloor St. West)
Toronto’s vegan junk-food champions may now be more known for their pizza, but in an earlier incarnation, Apiecalypse Now was a bakeshop in the Markham Village. They still sell a selection of baked goods at their Koreatown location, but you’ll have to get their early if you want a chance to grab one of their famed, decadent donuts – they don’t last for long!
Urban Herbivore (64 Oxford St, 384 Bloor St West, Eaton’s Centre)
Urban Herbivore has been around for a while and pre-dates most of the places on this list. I’m pretty sure it was the first vegan restaurant I ever went to. My early vegan years are especially indebted to Urban Herbivore and their delicious and hearty BBQ tofu sandwiches. They have a substantial offering of cookies, squares, cupcakes, and muffins, and there are several locations around the downtown.
Cock-A-Doodle Doo (830 Bloor Street West)
This unassuming gluten-free bakeshop in Bloorcourt is not entirely plant-based, but they have a good selection of sweet and savory vegan options. There is definitely something charming about the simple homey layout and the lack of artifice, and you can smell the bread being baked as soon as you step in the door.
Dipped Donuts (161 Baldwin Street)
The availability of fresh vegan donuts has exploded in the last year or so, with the arrival of several indie donut shops. Dipped Donuts has already accrued a dedicated fan base that routinely lines up at their small and inconspicuous Kensington Market takeaway window every morning. There isn’t a huge amount of vegan options, but there are always three or four plant-based flavours that are clearly marked. They also source their ingredients in the Market, which is pretty cool. Each round of donuts sells out quickly, so get there early to avoid a wait!
Glory Hole Donuts (1596 Queen St West, 1505 Gerrard St. East)
The popular Parkdale donutery (a new word that I think means artisanal donut shop) has expanded to a second location on a Gerrard East, which means even more opportunities to eat some soft, pillowy rings of fried dough. Though they don’t usually seem to have many vegan options, what they do have available is pretty stellar stuff.
Monster Donuts (Stackt Market 28 Bathurst St.)
Monster Donuts is a Hamilton-based shop that has thankfully extended its donut mastery into Toronto, with a pop-up location at the Stackt Market. Their available flavours vary from day to day but generally, at least fifty percent or more of their donuts are vegan. There are some really creative and original options here too, so make sure you grab one of everything. Stackt is a really cool urban design project that uses shipping containers to create a modular market space, and it has a few solid vegan options, including a Yamchops pop-up!
Kensington Natural Bakery and Cafe (460 Bloor Street)
If you’re looking for super affordable and hyper healthy gluten-free desserts, Kensington Natural Bakery is the place for you. Their products are sold in various independent grocery outlets around the city (i.e. Essence of Life in Kensington Market), but they also have a brick and mortar location in the Annex that is quite spacious. Not everything is vegan, but you’ll have no problem finding some plant-based treats.
Hype Foods (1060 Gerrard Street East)
Gerrard Street really seems to be booming lately, with a whole host of new trendy coffee joints and eateries, especially around Gerrard and Pape. Among them is Hype Foods, a fairly spacious and inviting, allergen conscious restaurant that also offers baked good, many of which are vegan-friendly. Ingredients are clearly listed for each product, and the staff are friendly and helpful.