Sampling global cuisine is one of the best ways to enrich your travel experience. For many travelers, tasting the local flavors — the discovery of a new and exciting dish previously unknown — is one of the most memorable and enjoyable aspects of travel (just see our features on Copenhagen and Berlin for proof!). Unfortunately, animal-based meals are the norm throughout most of the world, and trying to find a solid vegan option with an added language barrier can be a frustrating experience. However, in most countries, it’s absolutely possible to find a delicious meat-free meal unique to a country’s culture. If you’re a wanderer who loves to immerse yourself in an authentic travel experience, these traditional vegan dishes from amazing countries around the world are sure to fill your belly and spark your sense of adventure.
Middle East (and everywhere else): Falafel
Falafel is a widely-recognized dish that’s been around so long that no one actually knows its origin, though many believe it came from Egypt. While it’s a popular staple throughout much of the Middle East, its popularity has reached most major cities around the globe. No matter where your adventure takes you, it’s likely that you’ll be a short walk away from a delicious falafel stand to keep you full and energized.
Want to enjoy them at home? Here’s a tasty recipe for baked, oil-free falafel.
Hummus is a delicious vegan staple that’s frequently enjoyed in Israel by locals and visitors alike. If you visit Israel, you are sure to find this naturally vegan dish made from chickpeas at almost any restaurant, and for good reason. The best part is that in Israel, hummus is eaten as a meal, rather than as a snack or topping. Finally, people who get us.
For a twist on classic hummus, try this Spicy Cranberry Hummus–or peruse our hummus archives (#hummusarchives).
While India is well known as a vegetarian haven, the large amounts of dairy used in traditional Indian cuisine can make it surprisingly difficult for a plant-based eater to find options. Luckily, several of the country’s most-loved dishes are totally vegan, one of the most popular being dal. Dal is a simple but incredibly flavorful dish made from lentils, making it a filling and nutrient-dense meal for a vegan traveler. And with a variety of versions made from red, green, or yellow lentils, you can enjoy it frequently without getting bored. See this simple recipe for classic Indian dal.
While feta and grilled meats may get much of the attention, plenty of traditional Greek dishes are completely plant-based. Dolmathakia is one of the more notable and is sure to be featured on the menu of basically every restaurant in the country. These rolls of deliciousness are made of grape leaves stuffed with rice and fresh herbs. They are perfectly refreshing and an excellent addition to any vegan meal in Greece.
We’re obsessed with these stuffed grape leaves!
At first glance, France would seem to be a near-impossible country to enjoy as a vegan. However, incredible and delicious dishes such as ratatouille prove that plant-based dishes exist everywhere. Ratatouille is a hearty, nutrient-dense stew made from tomatoes, vegetable, and tons of mouth-watering spices. This classic French staple is the perfect meal to enjoy with a fresh baguette!
Cozy up with this French Lentil Ratatouille
Morocco: Vegetable Tajine
This North African country features plenty of traditional plant-based choices for the vegan traveler. An incredibly popular and delicious option is vegetable tajine, a flavorful dish that’s filled with healthy vegetables and satisfying spices. The food is named after the earthenware pot in which it is traditionally cooked, and locals have been enjoying it for generations. It is frequently eaten with rice or couscous and is a cheap and easy way to refuel after a day of exploring. Try it for yourself here!
It’s no secret that there’s plenty of dairy and meat in traditional Italian cooking, but it’s also relatively easy to find amazing plant-based dishes in the beautiful country. If you’re heading south to Sicily, Caponata is a classic staple made from eggplant seasoned with vinegar, capers, and sweet and sour sauce that can easily be enjoyed as a main course. Add some bruschetta and a glass of wine and you’ll be feasting like a true Italian!
Enjoy it at home: Eggplant Caponata
Indonesia: Sayur Asem
Tourist hotspots like Bali and Ubud are brimming with delicious vegan fare, but if you’re seeking a traditional Indonesian dish, look no further than Sayur Asem, a classic soup that can be found at food stalls, five-star restaurants, and everywhere in between. This delicious dish is filled with fresh vegetables and a tart tamarind sauce and is sure to delight your taste buds and immerse you in the culture. Here’s a yummy recipe for Sayur Asem.
Japan: Zaru Soba
Classic Japanese cuisine features a fair amount of animal products like beef and seafood, but it’s definitely possible to find some fantastic vegan options. Zaru Soba, which translates to “cold soba noodles,” is a wildly popular summer dish in Japan. This light, refreshing, and wonderfully simple recipe can be enjoyed with a side of soy sauce and a delicious cup of green tea. For a variation of soba noodles and green tea, try our matcha tea soba noodles.
What are your favorite vegan dishes that you’ve discovered on your travels? Share them with us in the comments!
Also by Ashley: What Backpacking Through 13 Countries Taught Me About Minimalism
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Photo: Unsplash, Peaceful Dumpling, Jennifer Kurdyla, Lauren Sacerdote