8 Vegan-Friendly Sugar Shacks For Sap-Tapping Season In Quebec

At this time, only two are strictly all-vegetarian but most have several completely plant-based options.

Now that spring is just around the corner, it is sugar bushing time again.

With their heavy and homey tourtières and cretons, pancakes dripping in maple syrup and elaborate brunch spreads that leave you unbuckling your belts by noon, “cabane à sucres,” or sugar shacks, have been the backbone of Quebec and Maritimes gastronomy for generations.

But traditional sugar shacks have seen a decline in popularity with growing health and ethical concerns in recent years. Slower cuisine made in smaller and more personable establishments is winning over the weekend brunch crowd. All the while, vegetarianism and veganism has been on the rise over the last decade.

Despite false origin myths about passenger pigeons known as “tourtres” in French, tourtière is traditionally a meat pie made with minced pork, veal or beef and potatoes. Plant-based versions are often made of millet, soy, chickpeas or other beans along with mushrooms, potatoes and savoury spices.

The more innovative “cabanes” aware of these changes in demand are adapting by offering plant-based versions of the sugar shack classics. Many of these also focus on fresh, organic and locally-sourced ingredients or allergen-friendly options for those who have dietary restrictions.

Some, rare, alternative sugar shack venues actually offer all of these options. This means more people can take part in “sugaring off” season and sugar shack culture in general, filling a niche need for those who previously had to miss out on its joys.

Here are the eight sugar shacks in Quebec with all-vegan or vegan-friendly menus.

Credit: Cabane à Tuque Facebook
Cabane à Tuque (all-vegan)

Cabane à Tuque, open for a few years now in the woods of Mont-Tremblant, is all-vegan. The building itself is ecological. It is hempcrete-insulated, with adobe flooring, a masonry heater and a wall made from glass bottles.

Credit: Cabane à Tuque Facebook

As well, it uses a lot of its own homegrown veggies and spices to make its signature dishes like millet pie “tourtière” and soy-based cretons. When not their own vegetables, they are locally sourced. They also serve pork rinds, colloquially referred to as “oreilles de crisse,” French for “ears of Christ,” that are plant-based. Their vegan pork rind is made of squash that has been dehydrated, then rehydrated and dehydrated again.

Credit: Cabane à Tuque Facebook

There are also kimchi and tempeh eggs on the menu. Cabane à Tuque runs two meals a day – lunch and supper – from February to April. The best part is… it is all you can eat! You can make reservations on the Cabane à Tuque website.

Credit: Cabane a Tuque Facebook

If that’s not enough and you need more reasons to try this all-vegan sugar shack, how about the fact that you can eat maple syrup while you throw axes there?

La Pause Sylvestre (all-vegetarian)

La Pause Sylvestre, a sugar shack based out of a Dudswell log cabin in the Estrie region of Quebec, has been offering a vegetarian and vegan menu for 20 years now. Since 2001, the trailblazing “cabane à sucre” has offered its renowned millet pies and tofu and adzuki bean pies as a plant-based tourtière alternative. It is not entirely vegan, as there are real egg dishes, but it does not serve meat. It is a small place, a tiny little wood cabin, that seats up to 22 people, so making a reservation would be wise.

Domaine Labranche (many gluten-free vegan options)

Domaine Labranche, located in Saint-Isidore, a farming community south of Montreal, offers a gluten-free vegan menu along with its original omnivore menu. This sugar shack is over 100 years old and, still, recently started offering vegan items. Curried tofu, soy-based meatballs and lard-free fried potatoes are available. Vegan dessert is served with its gluten-free vegan take on “grands-pères aux sirop d’érable,” which is French for “maple syrup grandfathers.” This is a traditional Quebecois cake that is boiled in maple syrup. Reservations can be made on the Domaine Labranche website.

“Grands-pères aux sirop d’erable,” translates to “maple syrup grandfathers.” In traditional Quebec cuisine, it is a small dumpling-like cake that is boiled in maple syrup. Vegan versions would simply replace the milk in the ingredients with a non-dairy alternative.

Sucrerie du Domaine (many vegan options)

Sucrerie du Domaine, a traditionally omnivore sugar shack in Chertsey, Quebec, is now in its second year offering a vegan menu. The owner decided to expand its dishes to a plant-based public after listening to advice from customers. They had asked for vegan options so they could bring more of their friends with them. This sugar shack saw an increase of 30 per cent in sales during its first year offering a vegan menu. It includes vegan tourtière made of mushrooms and lentils, as well as vegan creton. Traditionally, creton is like a paté or meat spread. Details about the menu and reservations can be made on the Sucrerie du Domaine website.

Handfield Sugar Shack (some vegan options)

Handfield Sugar Shack is another primarily omnivore establishment, which celebrated its 50th birthday in 2018. It brought in its own meatless menu recently. Handfield is located in the Montéregie region of Quebec, south-east of Montreal, in a town called Saint-Marc-Sur-Richelieu. It has a little hotel and restaurant as well, so there are packages available for overnight stays at the “auberge,” French for “inn,” which include sugar shack menu meals. On its vegan sugar shack menu, it even altered some of the classic items on its menu like baked beans. Traditionally, Quebec baked beans include lard but they started making it without the controversial ingredient, making the dish accessible to a wider range of clients. Learn more about their menu and services at the Handfield Sugar Shack website.

Creton is like a paté. Traditionally, it would be a fatty pork-based mashed meat spread that sometimes includes any of the following: butter, milk, broth, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic and spices. Vegan versions are usually lentil- or seed-based.

Sugar Shack Les Sommets (many vegan options)

Sugar Shack Les Sommets at Mt. Saint-Sauveur (Avila) is not just a sugar shack – it is also a place to go tubing or skiing. Guests can pay $25 for a sugar shack meal and tubing package. There is a traditionally omnivore menu and a vegan menu. The vegetarian and vegan menu is available on weekend nights. This includes: turmeric tofu scramble, pea soup (without lard or ham,) maple syrup beans, veggie sausages, ham and bacon, potatoes and a buckwheat flat cake. The sugar shack opened for the 2020 season starting February 15. You can book your visit or read about their services at the Les Sommets website.

Val des Rosacées (some vegan options)

This Mirabel, Quebec sugar shack specializes in maple syrup and growing blueberries, raspberries and apples. It is part of a larger farm but the sugar shack aspect is open from February 29 until May 3 this year. It offers vegan alternatives as well as gluten-free options on demand, in addition to its staple omnivore “cabane” menu items. Reservation and menu details can be found on the Val des Rosacées website.

Credit: Érable Rouge Facebook

Érable Rouge (some vegan options)

Érable Rouge, a sugar shack in Saint-Valère, Quebec is another traditionally omnivore eatery with a recent vegetarian menu offered as alternatives. It is open every day but during the week it is only open during the evening for supper. Guests can also take advantage of its skating rink on its grounds. More details about its vegetarian or vegan menu can be found on its website, along with general information. Its website asks guests to contact them first with special dietary restrictions so they can make sure they have the right ingredients and have prepared enough items.

Credit: Érable Rouge Facebook

Some of the above sugar shacks use local or homegrown ingredients and others offer gluten-free meals. Some are mainly focused on the food while others have numerous outdoor activities for their visitors. Further, some of these sugar shacks are only open on weekends, while others only offer the plant-based menu on certain days, times or on demand.

A few of these sugar shacks specifically state that they require reservations to be made in advance and are likely to be booked up in the near future. So, it is a good idea to give them a call before just showing up.

Despite all their many differences, each of these sugar shacks have barrelfuls and bottlefuls of maple syrup on tap to wash down the meal.