Oven roasted sweet potato, spicy chickpeas, vegan mayonnaise. Vegan, lactose free, gluten free
Hea Maa

Hea Maa

Cafe-restaurant in Pärnu

Estonia’s new-food revolution – vegan, gluten & lactose-free eating

Chocolate fondant with berry compote and oat milk ice cream. Lactose free and vegan 

Traditional Estonian cuisine is based on meat, fish and potatoes. Yet, in Estonia, there has been a rise in veganism and those following a vegan diet, culminating in the creation of the ESTONIAN VEGAN SOCIETY in 2012.

Vegan recipe ideas at Hea Maa

Throughout Estonia, there are various restaurants now offering vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free items on their menus. At Hea Maa, our head chef Virkko Vendla, crafted specific vegan, lactose and gluten-free foods from when he studied and worked in the UK, where he was exposed to an increase in vegan dietary requirements.


Oven roasted sweet potato, spicy chickpeas, vegan mayonnaise –  Chickpeas are high in protein, combined with sweet potato that is high in carbohydrate make this meal a nutritious and healthy option for vegans.

Chocolate fondant, berry compote, oat milk ice cream – Despite being made of chocolate, our chocolate fondant with oat milk ice cream contain no dairy products, yet the taste is no different. So, if you enjoy a sweet option and follow a vegan diet, then this dessert is for you!

Gluten & Lactose-free options

Our vegan options are all suitable for those with either a gluten or lactose intolerance. Yet, should you not be vegan but still require your foods to be lactose or gluten-free, then our menu has several options for you.

The majority of our starters and all our meat and fish main courses are gluten-free. If gluten-free customers do not wish to eat our scrumptious chocolate fondant, then our homemade ice-cream or sorbet is gluten and lactose-free.

For lactose-free customers we have the following starter and main course options:

  • Fish soup, quail egg, dill
  • Salted salmon, rocket salad, tomato, poppy seed dressing
  • Dark bread, smoked beef heart, parsley mayonnaise
  • Mutton cutlet, Beluga lentils, tomato sauce
  • Beef cheek, sweet potato puree, red wine jus

But why do people become vegan? What do they typically eat?

What is a vegan?

A vegan is a person who has decided not to eat meat, egg and milk products or any animal products per se like gelatin and honey. Vegan diets then, are full of nutritional vitamins and minerals due to the high plant intake that makes up for vegan foods.

But veganism is not only about nutrition, but it is also a way of avoiding animal products throughout society. Vegans avoid products that contain any animal ingredients or are of animal origin, like leather, fur, wool, silk and even beeswax. Vegans also avoid cosmetics and household products that either contain or have been tested on animals. Plus, vegans will not attend entertainment venues that exploit animals, like circuses of some zoos.

"Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

The Vegan Society

Why do people become vegan?

There are many reasons people follow a vegan diet:

Ethical reasons

Typically, most become vegan out of compassion for animals and disagreeing with eating them for human consumption.

Religious reasons

Some religious groups (Buddhists, Hindi, Seventh-day Adventists and so on) follow a strict no-meat diet, and thus veganism is a suitable and easier path to follow.

Environmental concerns

More apparent amongst the younger millennial generation is that they avoid eating meat due to environmental issues. Animal husbandry causes extensive damage to the environment, the aim here is to avoid contributing to deforestation or natural gas emissions caused by farming.

Health concerns like gluten and lactose intolerances

Lactose intolerance is the inability to break down a type of natural sugar called lactose, commonly found in dairy products, like milk and yoghurt.

A gluten intolerance It is characterised by adverse reactions to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance.

Because of these food intolerances to dairy and certain starchy foods; a vegan diet is ideal for those who need to eat either a gluten-free or lactose-free diet.

What do vegans eat?

A great deal – a vegan diet is richly diverse and comprises all kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans and pulses – all of which can be prepared in endless combinations.

From curries to cakes, pastries to pizzas, all favourite dishes can be suitable for a vegan diet as long as they’re made with plant-based ingredients:

  • Fruit & Vegetables (fresh, tinned, frozen or dried, leafy greens)
  • Protein-rich foods (beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, soya alternatives to milk and yoghurt, peanuts)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Starchy foods – (higher fibre choices – oats, sweet potato, wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta, amaranth and brown rice)
  • Calcium-rich foods (calcium-fortified foods like tofu, almond milk)
  • Oils (coconut oil, olive oil)

A common criticism of veganism – and a vegan diet in particular – is that vegans lack certain food groups in their diets, like proteins and fats. However, the tip here is to ensure that when preparing meals, vegans add in other groups that are rich in proteins and fats.For example, if preparing a vegetable-heavy meal; vegans should add tofu and lentils and cook the food in fat-heavy oils so that they maintain a balanced diet.Vegan diets are don’t have to be challenging, merely take a little time to think more about crafting new meals and recipes, as we have done at Hea Maa.

Whether you are gluten or lactose intolerant, or a vegan, there are options for you at Hea Maa cafe and restaurant in Pärnu. Hea Maa recognises that with the increase in vegan lifestyles, our menu should reflect this. As part of our commitment to healthy eating, most of our foods are gluten-free with several lactose-free options.

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