The Easiest and Most Challenging Cuisines for a Vegan Diet

August 10, 2016

Maybe you’re not a vegan because although it seems like an okay idea, you think it will be hard. Or maybe you don’t think vegan food will taste very good. Or maybe because you are worried that you won’t be able to go out to dinner with friends anymore or even properly enjoy home delivery. But fear not, I have written this guide–and I foresee it being helpful to A) Vegans who don’t plan too much but like to go out to dinner and order delivery (like me) B) People who are toying with the idea of veganism (trying it a few days a week etc), and are curious C) People who are interested in food, ingredients, and health.

As you explore the vegan diet you will find several things:

1. Asian food is generally very vegan-friendly. It’s not a coincidence that the longest life expectancies in the world are found in Asian countries. You are what you eat.2. You can always order a salad with your favorite vegetables as garnishes. It will be unique to each place you go, and your body will thank you for it.

2. You can always order a salad with your favorite vegetables as garnishes. It will be unique to each place you go, and your body will thank you for it.

3. Being proud of what you eat. Making thoughtful choices is the best thing for yourself and the world.

4. The best way to avoid heart disease: Avoid animal products.

Easy:

Indian
Hindus believe in minimizing harm to beings on this earth, and therefore are vegetarians. Because of this, Indian food is off the charts easy when it comes to ordering vegan food. Of course, there are dishes with cheese, but these can be avoided.

Suggestion: Daal Saag (spinach and lentils) with rice and garlic naan. So delicious. No animals harmed.
*Northern Indian food is another story.

Thai

The Easiest and Most Challenging Cuisines for a Vegan Diet
Thai food is basically a vegan party. Or can be. It’s just as good, if not even better, without any meat, and so easy to ask them not to add egg–In fact sometimes they ask you! Just be sure to ask if the sauce for your dish is made with fish sauce. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a bad Thai food experience.

Suggestions: Pad Thai, Pad See Ewe, Red Curry, Green Curry, Yellow Curry, Tea Leaf Salad.

The Easiest and Most Challenging Cuisines for a Vegan Diet

Vietnamese

The Easiest and Most Challenging Cuisines for a Vegan Diet

Another wonderful cuisine brimming with food that is super vegan-friendly. The noodle dishes are excellent (a bit more garlic-y than Thai food, if you’ve never tried it) and all can be made without meat.

Suggestion: Pho. Vegetable soup with tofu, noodles, and lots of vegetables. Tip: add the spouts, lemon, and leaves.

Japanese
Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world due to their low-fat diet and high-quality ingredients. There is no denying that there is quite a bit of seafood (and, of course, horse and dog meat), but it is really easy to eat great food at Japanese restaurants and stick to a vegan diet.

Suggestions: So many. Avocado rolls, veggie tempura rolls, veggie dragon rolls, cucumber rolls, inari, seaweed salad, agedashi tofu, miso soup, pan noodles, soba noodle. So delicious.

Israeli/Lebanese
Everyone I know who has traveled to this part of the world tells me that everyone there is thin and healthy looking. They also tell me that the unhealthiest food around was a falafel (fried chickpeas), and they saw salad everywhere.

Suggestion: HUMMUS and pita. Tabouli, tahini, eggplant, Israeli salad, mushroom. And more hummus.

Ethiopian
As many Africans will tell you, Africans love the meat in their dishes. That being said, every Ethiopian restaurant I have ever been to offers vegetarian dishes, and the vegetarian entrees do not have dairy. If you have never tried Ethiopian food, I highly recommend it. Apart from being delicious, the experience is very different from a western dining experience. You eat with your hands and use a spongy type of bread to eat the entrees.

Suggestion: Kantisha (mushroom), Okra, Spinach, or Alicha. All great and made of vegetables.

Burmese

The Easiest and Most Challenging Cuisines for a Vegan Diet

Yet another Asian culture with an easy entrance for vegans. Basically anything vegan will be absolutely delicious.

Suggestion: Vegetarian Noodles (cold noodles with vegetables and lots of nice flavor) or Tomato Curry.

Medium:

Italian
Italian food has a degree of difficulty of Medium. There are Italian dishes that are far from vegan-friendly, but there is also a multitude of dishes to be easily enjoyed by hungry vegans.

Suggestion: Any kind of pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, penne, rigatoni, farfelle) with any of the following sauces: marinara, spicy red wine, arrabbiata, neopolitan, primavera, or pesto (be careful with pesto, however–they often add cheese, but it is SO easy to make pesto without cheese. Ask!). Or pizza without the cheese and with extra vegetables. And add some Italian wine to your order. Wine is vegan 🙂

Deli

The Easiest and Most Challenging Cuisines for a Vegan Diet
This honestly depends on the Deli. Some delis only stock meat and 5-day old lettuce. Hopefully, you will happen upon a great deli with a multitude of fresh choices.

Suggestion: Make it interesting by changing up different kinds of bread and flavors. For example: A toasted dutch crunch roll with lettuce, tomato, spinach, avocado, peppers, cucumbers, mustard, and vinaigrette.

The Easiest and Most Challenging Cuisines for a Vegan Diet

Challenging:

Mexican
As a born and raised Californian, I feel your pain when it comes to veganism and Mexican food. That being said, I love Mexican food and eat it all the time while maintaining a vegan lifestyle. So the good news is, it is still possible to thrive while eating Mexican food, and be healthier while at it. So you can eat more of it. Traditional Mexican cuisine often involves flavoring beans with animal lard, so just be sure to ask how the beans (and other side dishes) are prepared.

Suggestion: A giant burrito with rice, beans, spicy salsa, pico de gallo and extra guacamole. Or, nachos with everything minus the meat, cheese, and sour cream–You are still left with all of the good stuff: Rice, refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, and extra guacamole. Just get extra guacamole on everything and you’ll be okay, I promise.

Greek
Half of my family is Greek, and I therefore grew up watching a lamb roast on a spit once per year (which is part of the reason I am now a vegan, but that’s another story). Greek can be difficult, but can be done. Greek food is very much about flavor, so just be sure that what you are eating has flavor, generally in the form of lemon and garlic

Suggestion: Greek salad without the feta, spanakorizo (rice and spinach, basically), karpouzi (watermelon) with honey, dolmatis (stuffed grape leaves), fakes (lentil soup–so healthy) or pita with kalamata olives and tomatoes. Just don’t eat any baby animals. Not good. And not necessary.

French
I will not hide the truth from you: French food is a challenge due to the meat and cheese. But again, still doable.

Suggestion: At any French restaurant in the US you can generally find at least one dish that is vegetables with lots of great seasoning and flavor. You can also generally find a vegetable they prepare specially, such as summer squash, and it is easy to request that they not add any butter or cheese. You will find that although it does not include these products, it is still delicious, and all the healthier for it. There are also great salads, great bread, great wine. Eat well, and no one gets hurt 😉

What are Your Favorite Cuisines for a Vegan Diet? 

Also by Anastasia: Benefits of Inversions: Plus 4 Poses to Get You Started

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Photos: Anastasia Bailey

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Anastasia is a creative writer, yogi, and self-proclaimed animal rescuer living in San Francisco. She has a Master's Degree in Literature and Film, and her passions include reading fiction, exploring California, and jumping in the Pacific Ocean. Follow Anastasia on Instagram @anastasiaartemisbailey.

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