Despite claims of veganism being a new “trend,” it’s been around a lot longer than people realize. There is evidence of people avoiding animal products going back 2,000 years. Almond milk was more consumed than dairy milk in medieval England, for example. Beans have been used to create cheesy or creamy sauces well before vegan queso was around (as shown with the classic Southern Italian dish Pasta con crema di fave e cipolla). In 1806, some Europeans started to object to dairy and eggs on ethical grounds. Fast forward to today, and veganism has hit the mainstream as well as the diets of celebrities (which is why people think it’s new and meant for the wealthy). The truth is, there are still plenty of traditional cultural dishes from the around the world that are both accidentally and purposefully vegan. Here just a few:
Mango Chow from Trinidad
A Trinidadian delicacy, this dish is made of juicy green mangos, salt, shado beni (similar to cilantro), lime or vinegar, habanero peppers, shallots and garlic. It’s extremely hot, fresh, and tropical.
Acaraje from Brazil
This traditional street food is rooted in the African history of the region. It’s made of black eyed peas and coconut milk, then fried in the oil of local palm and spices. Served with hot sauce, traditional tomato vinaigrette, and other fillings, these fritters are extremely popular in the Bahia region. Grab some without the offering of shrimp (which is sometimes added), and get some Brazilian beans, rice, and lemon-dressed salad on the side (the foundations of every Brazilian meal). Grab some açai for dessert- another vegan dish from the country.
Ratatouille from France
A classically French dish, Ratatouille also happens to be vegan. Historically a peasant meal, it’s gained popularity over time and is now served in some of the finest restaurants in Paris! Served with another French classic that is accidentally vegan, baguettes, and this is a feast!
Kelewele from Ghana
Kelewele is a popular dish from this African country that comprises plantains fried in lemon, ginger, and hot spices. It can be eaten by itself, or alongside Hauso Koko with Koose (a fried spicy bean cake served with spiced millet porridge), or with rice and beans cooked in millet leaves.
Khanom Krok from Thailand
These are coconut pancakes made with jasmine rice, coconut milk, rice flour, shredded coconut, sugar, and salt. They are typically topped with green onions, sweet corn, or cooked taro cubes.
Dhal from Pakistan
This dhal is made with lentil, curry powder, intense spices, and very hot vegetable oil. It’s extremely popular and flavorful, and would be lovely eaten on a cold day.
Ceviche de Chochos from Ecuador
This is a traditional Ecuadorian ceviche that happens to not include seafood. Consisting of chochos (local beans), red onions, tomatoes, oranges (sometimes), lime juice, cilantro, oil, tomato sauce, and salt, it’s garnished with corn nuts, plantain chips, popcorn, Aji, or avocado. Serve it with rice and beans and it’s a meal!
Ciambotta from Italy
A summer vegetable stew from southern Italy (a hot spot for traditional, accidentally vegan dishes), this is amazing with a side of bruschetta, fave e cicoria (fava bean dip), ciceri e tria (pasta with chickpeas), roasted red pepper antipasto. The options are honestly endless from southern Italy.
Atakilt Wat from Ethiopia
Ethiopian traditional cuisine is filled with dishes that happen to be vegan, including this cabbage potato meal, the famous injera, gomen (essentially collard greens), fasolia (a green beans dish), and kik alicha (a pea stew). They are all filled with spices, flavor, and heat.
Gallo Pinto from Costa Rica
Essentially a rice and beans dish with peppers, onions, cilantro, and spices, this is a flavorful traditional meal. It’s accidentally vegan, colorful, and delicious! It’s also extremely popular in this coastal country.
Parippu curry from Sri Lanka
If you want something ridiculously flavorful and bright, this is your new best friend. Made of yellow mung lentils, coconut, turmeric, chilis, and other spices, this is best served over rice.
Gazpacho from Spain
Gazpacho is a cold soup made from tomatoes, olive oil, bell peppers, garlic, and toasted bread. This is a classic, historically beloved in the country.
Akara from Nigeria
These are a popular street food made of fried black eyes peas and peppers. It’s spicy, succulent, and savory.
Basooc Dolma from Armenia
These are stuffed grape leaves filled with nuts, dried fruits, lentils, and bulgar. Serve with lavash or Zhingyalov hats topped with green onions.
Guacamole from Mexico
This is a much beloved dish, and is best served with warm tortilla chips, or traditional rice and black beans with nopales.
Falafel from Egypt
Widely known all over the Middle East, this famous dish is often accompanied by other accidentally vegan dishes like flatbread, hummus, dates, grapes, roasted red peppers, stuffed grape leaves, cucumbers, and artichokes. Ful medames (fava bean stew) makes it even better.
Zaatar Manakeesh from Syria
One of the oldest dishes on record, this unleavened bread is made with sesame seeds, olive oil, and dried herbs. Served with Harra Bi Isbaou (a traditional lentil stew with pomegranate and lemon juice among other things), Batata Harra (lemon spicy potatoes), tabbouleh, and fattoush salad, and it’s golden.
Spinach Fatayer from Lebanon
These are delicious spinach pies made with pomegranate molasses, pine nuts, and tomato.
Aloo Gobi from India
There are countless dishes that we could talk about from this country, thanks to their dominant religions traditionally prioritizing animal welfare. Aloo Gobi is just one of them, and it’s widely popular around the world now too. Chana masala, and many others are all accidentally vegan cultural dishes from the country as well!
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Photo: Emily Iris Degn