Which Cuisine is Most Vegan-Friendly
Summer is here, and travel is resuming, which means we finally have the opportunity to visit different places and try delicious food. Even if you’re not traveling, it’s nice to shake things up a little and try different cuisines and recipes from time to time. So, which cuisine is most vegan-friendly?
The only diet or cuisine, if you will, that’s 100 percent vegan is the vegan diet itself. However, there are cuisines that lean more toward plant-based foods than they do toward animal protein.
Veganism is progressing all around the world, so there are many countries that are openly embracing vegan food. As a vegan traveler, you naturally get more excited about places that offer more food options you can eat.
Top 10 Most Vegan-Friendly Cuisines from Around the World
This top 10 list features some of the most vegan-friendly cuisines on the globe. Now, this isn’t a definitive ranking but just a round-up of cuisines with more plant-based influence. Mind you, many of these also heavily utilize meat, eggs, and dairy. However, there are alternatives and vegan options, making such cuisines vegan-friendly.
Ethiopia is a country located in the Horn of Africa (East Africa). While Ethiopians do eat meat, their cuisine involves a lot of vegan dishes that are solely made with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
The flavors of Ethiopia are unique, as you’ll taste some spices you’ve probably never had before in your life. The whole experience is very different from any other culture. For one, they eat with their hands and use Injera bread as a spoon or fork. Injera is a soft flatbread made from teff flour and is a standard part of the meal in Ethiopian culture.
You’ll also see that a lot of the dishes are soups or stews that you eat with this bread. Some of the vegan stews include Misir Wot, which is a lentil soup, and Atakilt Wat, which is a stew of veggies.
Ethiopia is a diverse country with many tribes and religions. That has some influence too on the cuisine.
There are Ethiopian restaurants all over the US, so you don’t even have to travel to Ethiopia to try some of that amazing food. The menus often have the original names, but you can read the main ingredients to choose something you’d like.
Since Ethiopians fast regularly, there’s also a thing called a fasting platter at many restaurants. That’s a good option if you want to try a little bit of everything. Just make sure to ask if it’s vegan or perhaps request them to make it vegan.
For years now, the Mediterranean diet has managed to grab the title of the healthiest diet in the world. It’s not vegan but is definitely vegan-friendly with heavy use of vegetables in every meal.
But where does the Mediterranean diet come from? Well, the name originates from the Mediterranean Sea that separates Europe and Northern Africa. So this diet is what people living in the lands on the shores or islands in the sea follow. You’ll find Mediterranean food in countries like Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Spain.
One of the reasons why it’s considered so healthy is that it’s very well-balanced in terms of nutrition. It also keeps carbs and fats low by using whole grains and healthy fats. Research also indicates that the Mediterranean diet is also heart-healthy.
What about the flavors? Don’t expect bold, over-the-top flavors, as this cuisine focuses more on the natural flavor and texture of the ingredients. You’ll see a lot of salads, roasted veggies, and hummus. Olive is also used generously in many appetizers and entrees.
3. South Indian
Indian cuisine, as a whole, is vegan-friendly, but it wouldn’t be fair to generalize it as one cuisine. India is a huge country with so much culture that it could take years to explore every province and city. Of all the different cuisines in India, South Indian cuisine is the most vegan-friendly and tasty.
South Indians do eat a lot of fish and sometimes chicken as well. However, most dishes are vegetarian. Some of the quintessential Indian dishes and snacks like dosa, sambar, and idli have their roots in southern India.
Rice is eaten in almost every meal, much like in Southeast Asia. One ingredient that sets it apart from the cuisines in northern India is coconut. Many curries use coconut milk with lots of local spices. Therefore, the food can be quite spicy.
My favorite South Indian dish is the banana leaf rice platter. The rice and the many curries are served on a big banana leaf. You can have the rice with bhaji (veggie curry), daal (lentils), pickled veggies, and crackers. Surprisingly, this is more popular in Malaysia, where there’s a significant population of South Indian descent.
You know a country’s cuisine is vegan-friendly when its capital ranks as the most vegan-friendly city in the world. Israeli cuisine has always had a strong reliance on whole foods like vegetables, grains, and fruits. While meat is part of both kosher and halal diets, its consumption is slowly phasing out in major cities in the country.
Of course, vegans love their falafel, hummus, and baba ganoush, which is super prevalent in Israel as it is in the rest of the Middle East. Then you have the vegan shakshouka and fattoush salad. Basbousa is commonly vegan and available in many Israeli bakeries. It’s a sweet cake made with semolina.
Even those recipes that utilize meat, you can easily find vegan alternatives in many restaurants in the country. Their cuisine was naturally more vegan leaning, but with the rising growth of veganism, especially with the younger population, the influence is even stronger now.
Lebanese cuisine may be famous for its shish kebabs, but it’s fairly vegan-friendly with plenty of plant-based recipes. It’s somewhat similar to Israeli food and Syrian food, but authentic Lebanese food is very tasty. There’s a lot of emphasis on fresh ingredients, which take the flavor profile up a notch.
A lot of salads and soups in this Middle eastern cuisine are inherently vegan. You’ll find many variations of lentil soup in this country. Tabbouleh is the most popular salad in Lebanese cooking. It has a lot of greens with tomatoes.
Kibbeh is also very common in Levantine cooking, which includes Lebanese cuisine as well. Kibbeh is actually made from ground meat, but you can easily substitute it with plant-based meat or another alternative like pumpkin.
If you’re traveling to Lebanon, you’ll find many vegan restaurants in the bustling metropolis of Beirut. These restaurants provide a plant-based take on the most traditional Lebanese dishes.
If you’ve ever had Khow Suey, you’d know how flavorful Burmese cuisine is. It’s perhaps the most underrated Southeast Asian cuisine, as most of the limelight often goes on Thai and Indonesian food.
Burmese food is a little different from its neighboring countries and their food culture. Although rice and curries are dominant, the flavor profile and textures are a little different. This is because Burmese food is inspired by not one but many cultures, like Indian, Chinese, and Thai.
The most famous Khow Suey is typically made with egg noodles and chicken or beef. However, you can make it with rice noodles and tofu or even just veggies. Shan noodles are another popular dish that can be vegan or vegetarian.
Salads make an important part of the meal in Myanmar, so you’ll find many salad options at restaurants and even with street vendors. The unique thing about salads in Myanmar is that even they use a lot of noodles.
The unique salad you can try is tea leave salad, which, you guessed it, is made of tea leaves. It doesn’t use raw tea leaves but fermented leaves, which pack a very unique yet powerful flavor. This tea base is topped with fresh veggies, nuts, and even beans like mung beans.
For desserts, Burmese sticky rice cakes are the usual go-to. You can find these everywhere with street vendors.
7. Southern Italian
It’s a shame that Italian restaurants in the US focus too much on meat and dairy-packed dishes when in reality, many Italian cuisines, especially Southern Italian are more plant-based. Fresh vegetables and herbs are very important for Italians, and they use them in a lot of their dishes.
This diet is a mix of northern Italian pasta-rich foods and a Mediterranean diet with plant-based richness. Some of the common fully plant-based dishes include Minestra, Pasta e Faggioli, and Ciambotta. Minestra is made of cabbage, white beans, and leafy greens. Pasta e Faggioli is a delish mix of pasta and beans. Ciambotta is a veggie stew.
Also, contrary to what you’ll find in Italian restaurants, Southern Italian cuisine isn’t very big on cheese. That makes it even healthier and good for even those who may be lactose intolerant.
It’s not hard to find good vegan Mexican food in the US, but when you actually visit Mexico, you’ll find out how vegan-friendly it really is. With beans, guacamole, salsa, and brown rice, Mexico knows how to put flavor on the table using the healthiest of ingredients.
In major Mexican cities, there’s a rise in veganism. People are making traditional Mexican food more plant-based. So if you go to Mexico City or any of the popular tourist destinations within the country, you won’t have trouble finding good, tasty vegan food.
Corn is an important staple in Mexican cuisine, so you’ll find tons of recipes where the hero is corn. Corn is often used with beans to make the dish more protein-rich.
Most traditional Mexican dishes are very well-rounded when it comes to nutrients. You get a little bit of everything, including carbs, fat, and protein, in one meal.
You probably won’t link German cuisine with veganism, given the sheer variety of sausages found in this particular cuisine. However, German food culture is going through a kind of renaissance as the vegan diet is on the rise, especially in major German cities.
Before Tel Aviv, Berlin ranked as the most vegan-friendly city in the world. It still holds the second spot as it continues to grow in the number of vegans, as well as restaurants and markets.
With over six million vegetarians in the most populated country in Europe, it’s safe to say that the cuisine is gradually leaning more towards healthier options.
But what about traditional German food? Are there any vegan dishes? Well, there are quite a few!
Spargel has to be the most popular plant-based dish in Germany. It’s full of vegetables and has a soup-like consistency. There’s so much demand for this dish in spring and summer that some of the ingredients have to be imported.
Thai cuisine is a little tricky for vegans to traverse, as even the food that seems vegan may not be vegan (yes, they use a lot of fish sauce). That said, Thai cuisine uses a lot of fresh produce.
Pad thai can be made with tofu or just veggies. Then there are different kinds of vegetable fried rice. And of course, the famous papaya salad is all vegetarian. Even the recipes that use meat can be vegan, especially if you’re in bigger cities like Bangkok or Chiang Mai. For instance, the vegan alternative of chicken satay is tofu satay.
Much like India, Thailand is also pretty diverse, with varying cuisines in different parts of the country. You’ll find a lot of curries in the south, especially using coconut as coconuts are abundant on the shores and on the islands.
Now that you know which cuisine is most vegan-friendly, you can book your next vegan vacation or try out the cuisine locally at restaurants in your city.
It’s good to try food and drinks from different cultures. Eating the same stuff over and over again can be boring. Plus, you can discover new flavors and ingredients and use them at home in your own way. So here’s to traveling and discovering more delicious plant-based foods!