If you’re vegetarian or vegan traveler, you probably know that it’s not always easy to eat your way around the world. You’d like to taste the colorful world of spices and flavors, but you have to be smart in navigating your way to find the right dishes for your diet. The world can be riddled with meat, lard, fish sauce and cheese… and on foot, wheeling through language barriers, your tastebud world can feel like a small place. I feel you.
But fear not, while my last 27 Must Try Foods from Around the Globe post included some veggie dishes, this post is for the hell-yeah vegetarian foodie.
Here’s 14 must try vegetarian dishes around the world recommended by travel bloggers, foodies and expats. It’ll bring color back into your palate and hope back into your stomach!
14 Must Try Vegetarian Dishes around the World
China: You tiao
Chinese people are real meat lovers and they will probably never understand the concept of veganism or vegetarianism. However, China is a very diverse country when it comes to food so everyone can find something healthy, spicy, oily or stodgy. In my opinion, the best vegeterian dish you can’t afford to miss in China is you tiao. They are deep fried breadsticks of dough usually eaten as a snack or breakfast. They are lightly salted, very soft and extremely delicious, served as an accompaniment for rice congee or soy milk. If you feel like eating something sweet, you can dip you tiao in chocolate sauce or peanut butter – it tastes so good!
– Agness Walewinder, e-Tramping , Twitter @
Costa Rica: Gallo Pinto
Gallo Pinto is a traditional Costa Rican breakfast of rice and black beans, scrambled eggs, and a small tortilla. In some sodas (local eateries) gallo pinto comes with fried banana too, which off-sets the usually slightly salted rice. If there’s no banana, you can opt for a cup of chan seeds in sweet water instead.
At the farmer’s markets, many locals like to scoop out the flesh of a ripe avocado to go with it. This staple is not only vegetarian, but it’s filling, delicious, healthy and cheap. A gallo pinto will usually set you back only 1000 colones ($1.80). Eating gallo pinto at local sodas and markets is one of my favourite ways to live well for less here in Costa Rica.
If you’re vegan and don’t eat eggs, then yes! You can say “sin huevos” (without eggs), and you can add on some extra avocado and fried banana 🙂
– Charlie Marchant, Charlie On Travel, Twitter @CharlieonTravel
Ecuador: Bolon de Verde
Many vegetarians are afraid to visit South America because they are worried that it’s all meat-based food. However, meat can be a luxury and so many traditional dishes have always been vegetarian, especially in Ecuador where the classic ceviche is also found with vegetarian options. For those looking for something more satisfying look for a bolon de verde, a large ball of fried plantain, stuffed with fresh cheese. It’s typically eaten for breakfast and is filling enough to curb your hunger until lunch. Get this simple bolon de verde recipe here.
– Ayngelina Brogan, Bacon is Magic, Twitter @Ayngelina
Ethiopia: Yetsom Beyaynetu
An Ethiopian meal is all about eating a variety of different dishes, each of them placed on top of a bed of injera (the staple starch, a spongy pancake made from teff flour). Go to any Ethiopian restaurant and order a mahaberawi, and you’ll receive a mixed platter of the freshly prepared dishes of that day. Normally the mix can include things like shiro wat (chickpea flour curry), misir wat (lentils stew), key wat (beef stew), salata (tomato salad), and any number of other dishes. Eating a Yetsom Beyaynetu is a great way to sample a variety of Ethiopian dishes in a single meal. Read Mark’s Ethiopian Food Guide for more.
– Mark Weins, Migrationology . Twitter @migrationology
France: Tartiflette au Reblochon
I’ve recently spent a lot of time in France since I received a French long term tourist visa. Having family there was been helpful with the process and I’ve had the pleasure of spending lots of time with them enjoying meals. One of my favorite veggie dishes that they prepare is potatoes and reblochon cheese – called tartiflette au reblochon. It’s a simple dish with potatoes, reblochon cheese, onions, white wine and spices. It’s very common in the kitchen of my cousins as well as in many French restaurants. Just be sure you verify it doesn’t come with ham or bacon before ordering as some people add this to the recipe.
– Auston Matta, Two Bad Tourists, Twitter @twobadtourists
India : Masala Dosa
India has got to be the best travel destination in the world for vegetarians! Here, you won’t struggle to find complete meals made without animal sourced ingredients, although many others will include milk, cream or butter. From North to South, East to West India displays an incredible variety of gastronomic examples, that go along with the cultural diversity found all over the country.
Masala dosa is one of my favorite foods in India and, like many of the most beloved dishes in the country, happens to be vegetarian. This South Indian specialty is somehow similar to a crepe but made with fermented rice and black lentils batter. Curried potatoes and peas hide on the inside (that is the “masala”) and it is served with an array of dips: chutneys (tomato and coconut are the standard ones) and sambar (a spicy stewy preparation that can be used as dip and also spooned directly into your mouth).
Masala dosa is a tasty veggie treat (suitable even for vegans in fact!), very fulfilling and, as you can easy, a lot of fun to eat too!
– Zara Quiroga, Backpack ME, Twitter @piggybackrideAZ
Indonesia: Gado gado
Gado-gado is easily one of the best vegetarian dishes in Indonesia for two reasons: 1) it can be found nearly everywhere and 2) it can be made spicy as you like it and still taste great, something that isn’t true for all veggie dishes. It is a mix of potatoes, carrots, green beans, kangkung (water spinach), lontong cubes (boiled white rice cakes), hard-boiled egg, tofu (plus tomatoes and sprouts if you’re lucky!) and topped with peanut sauce.
Served on top of it (or alongside if take-way) are krupuk (fried crispy crackers) which are great for munching in between bites or using to scoop up the excess sauce and veggies. As far as the level of spiciest is concerned, ask for it “pedas” or “dengan cabe” (pronounced “cha-bay”) if you want it spicy.
– Derek Freal, The HoliDaze Twitter @the_HoliDaze
Italy: Pesto trofie
The whole of Italy is known for its pasta, but what about the sauces that accompany it? Pesto is a popular sauce that originated from Liguria in Northern Italy. Crushing together basil, garlic, salt, and parmesan cheese, and then mixing in a hearty dose of olive oil make it. Every time I visit Liguria I make it my mission to enjoy at least one huge bowl of pasta al pesto. The great thing about trying pesto in its home region is that here they make special types of pasta to go well with it. I personally like trofie, which a short and thin twisted pasta. It is made by rolling a long string of pasta across the back of the other hand, and then chopping the string into smaller pieces. The texture given thanks to the twisting helps the thin pesto sauce attach itself to the pasta.
– Cyra Alcock. gastronomicnomad Twitter @gastronomicnomad
UPDATE: Parmesan cheese contains calf rennet, an enzyme that helps milk separate into curds and whey. This is not always commonly known, especially if you are lacto-ovo or lacto-vegetarian and allow dairy into your diet. Imported cheeses do contain calf rennet as an EU standard in order to be call itself Parmesan (or Parmigiano-Reggiano). They must have three ingredients: milk, salt and calf rennet. A cheese that is vegetarian should list : vegetable rennet or microbial rennet.
Nepal: Dal Bhat & Vegetable Momos
Dal Bhat is the classic dish served up in Nepal. It’s yellow lentil soup and boiled rice and is the staple of the Nepalese population. Easy, quick and inexpensive to make, but oh-so-tasty to eat. This is the Nepalese staple, but you’ll also find it popular in India and Bangladesh. It’s quite filling. If you’re trekking, these are one of the foods your guides and sherpas might eat and I suggest you try it too. If you have a large appetite, order a plate of vegetable momos (dumplings) to go with it. Although keep in mind, a servings of dumplings usually comes in 6-8 pieces. Often momos are made from scratch and fresh each day. You’ve never had anything taste so and for such an inexpensive price. Eating these mouthfuls of happiness is one of my top things to do in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Watch my video on cooking dal bhat.
– Christine Kaaloa, GRRRLTRAVELER, Twitter @grrrltraveler
Read 11 Best Momos in Kathmandu (and how to find them!)
Saudi Arabia : Grape leaves dolma, hummus, baba ghanoush, fattoush & tabouleh
For a country well known for loving kabsa and being a meat eating culture there are, however, many vegetarian side options, because of it’s location in the Middle East. With so many delicious options it’s difficult to choose just one vegetarian dish that represents this part of the world. With that I choose grape leaves dolma, hummus, baba ghanoush, fattoush and tabouleh.
First up the grape leaves dolma, these simple and yet tangy wraps are easily found at food gatherings and are meant to be shared among guests. They consist simply of rice, spices and veggies soaked in a lemony sauce. Along side the dolma is the hummus and baba ghanoush. Hummus with it’s creamy texture is comprised of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, juice of a lemon, garlic and salt. Baba ghanoush is made up of rich, smokey flavors consists of eggplant (aubergines), tahini and garlic. Both of these must be enjoyed with fatir, Saudi’s flat bread.
The easiest and most delicious way to get your greens in here is to eat the fattoush and tabouleh. Fattoush is a colorful salad with a punch because of the lemon and sumac dressing. The tabouleh is loaded with tomatoes, parsley, mint and onions drizzled with olive oil.
A popular favorite in Saudi Arabia and served in every restaurant is the Saudi Champagne, albeit non alcoholic. Consisting of sparkling water, apples, oranges and mint it is sure to keep you cool and refreshed in the desert.
– Wendy Deaton, English Teacher and expat in Saudi Arabia
South Korea : Doenjang Jigae
Doenjang Jigae is one of the Korean national dishes that happens to be vegetarian. Jigae is a term for stews and while most Doenjang Jigae happens to be more brothy in substance, it’s still filed under that category. It’s a soybean paste broth that is delicious, light and perfect for winter and any occasion. It’s a bit like a medium thick miso soup in consistency and taste. Tofu, mushrooms and bean sprouts are added ingredients to give it body and occasionally, seafood is added too, so you’ll need to find out before you order. Warning: some people (even Koreans) say it smells bad, like “dirty or wet socks” (but they haven’t tried Taipei’s stinky tofu, apparently). Ironically, I have a sensitive nose to smells, my first impression of it was not so strong or shocking. The taste is so savory, the smell won’t matter. You can find these easily in kimbap restaurants.
– Christine Kaaloa, GRRRLTRAVELER, Twitter @grrrltraveler
Spain : Salmorejo (cold soup)
It was in Madrid when we fell in love with “Salmorejo”which is to date one of our favorite Spanish vegetarian dishes ever. It is something incredibly simple to make by using only a few ingredients, but we can guarantee you that the end result is incredibly tasty. This chilled creamy tomato and bread soup is in fact something very special, richer than the more well known gazpacho. Something that you really cannot avoid is scooping up all the last drops with the help of some crusty bread – that’s just how delicious it is! We had Salmorejo without the classic Spanish ham on top and only with a little drizzle of some gorgeous extra virgin olive oil which made it even more appetizing. Salmorejo is definitely something to try if visiting Spain, especially in the hot summer days.
– Dale & Franca at AngloItalian FollowUs, Twitter @
Thailand: Tam Ponlamai (vegetarian version)
Depending on ones strictness, Thailand can be a tricky place for vegetarians, mainly due to the fish sauce that’s frequently used in cooking. To get pure vegetarian food, it’s best to stick to a vegan only restaurant. One of my favorites is Chamlong’s Asoke, an all vegan food court, where you’ll find a lady who dishes up a delicious plate of tam ponlamai, or Thai fruit salad. A mix of fruit, usually guava, rose apple, dragon fruit, and watermelon, are diced up, then dressed in chilies, lime juice, peanuts, and soy sauce. The result is a wonderful contrast of sweet, salty, and spicy, that’s ultimately refreshing. Check out Mark’s Vegetarian Thai Food Guide if you’re planning a trip to Thailand.
– Mark Wiens, Migrationology. Twitter @migrationology
Vinegret is a salad, made of beetroots, potatoes, carrots, chopped onions, as well as sauerkraut and brined pickles. It was extremely popular in the Soviet Union and nowadays it is widely spread in all eastern European countries. Usually, it is the cheapest salad in the restaurant menu, so it’s a perfect option for budget travelers. In case you go to Ukraine, you definitely shouldn’t miss it.
– Nastia and Illia, Crazzzy Travel, Twitter @crazzzytravel
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