16 of the Best Vegetarian and Vegan Dishes from Around the World
Travel has shown me so many beautiful places but also has opened my eyes to what a huge problem the environment is currently facing. Aside from offsetting my carbon on flights I decided to start living a more sustainable lifestyle to better care for this planet that I love to explore. One of the ways in which I have started doing that is by starting to eat a fully vegetarian (and often vegan) diet. This doesn’t just save animal’s lives but it also saves huge amounts of water and pollution that go into raising livestock. I’m also lactose intolerant so I don’t eat much dairy either and I love eating vegan whenever possible. I put together this post so that I could share the love of these incredible vegetarian and vegan dishes from around the world with you!
If you’re like me, you love this planet with all your heart and you’re considering cutting some (or all) meat out of your diet to prove it, then this post is for you. It’s really not that hard to be vegetarian and it’s also not that hard to travel as one either. Plus with this list you will see you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for cutting back on meat. So check out this drool worthy list of some of the absolute best vegetarian and vegan dishes from around the world! Also, I want to say a big thank you to all the veggie loving, talented Female Travel Bloggers who contributed to this article.
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Vegetarian & Vegan Dishes from Around the World: Vegetarian Sopes in Lerma, Mexico
Location: Lerma, Mexico
Traveler: Me! (April from Just Leaving Footprints)
I spent my entire last summer living and teaching English in Lerma (a city on the outskirts of Mexico City) with my fiancé, Arturo. I can easily say that sopes (pronounced soh-pays) were easily one of my favorite meals there. They are normally served with meat but I opted for vegetarian ones instead. The bottom is made of masa which is a kind of thick corn flour. These ones pictured above were made with masa and nopales which are a kind of cactus popular in Mexican cuisine. On top was the perfect blend of smooth beans, fresh avocado, creamy goat cheese, pickled onions and spicy salsas. They’re a little messy to eat but always so worth it. If you’re ever in Mexico be sure to order some sopes and ask if they have vegetarian options (opciones vegetarianas).
You can find a similar recipe for vegetarian sopes here.
California Grilled Vegan Bowl in Bali, Indonesia
Location: Bali, Indonesia
Meal: California Grilled Vegan Bowl
Traveler: Sophie from The Wanderful Me
At Balifornia Republic, in the laid-back area of Canggu, Bali in Indonesia,I had the best vegan bowl ever. Filled with grilled tempeh, seasoned rice, creamy guacamole, fresh zucchini and tomatoes, and crispy lettuce, this Californian Grilled Vegan Bowl was one of the best things I ate in the beautiful country of Indonesia. And in the area of Canggu, it’s easy to find delicious vegetarian and vegan meals, so easy it’s hard to choose the best!
Compared to the party central area of Kuta and the resort-filled neighborhood of Seminyak, Canggu is home to laid-back surfers and the chillest vibe on the island of Bali, as well as a mecca of vegetarian and vegan cafes. Offering an array of smoothie bowls, vegan burgers, fresh salads, and more, Canggu is a haven for vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike.
You can find a similar grilled vegan bowl recipe here.
Bibimbap in Ulsan, South Korea
Location: Ulsan, South Korea
Traveler: Sarah from Unless We
Oh my goodness this is my favourite meal because you get to participate in creating the flavours by mixing! I love knowing exactly what I’m eating, which doesn’t come easily in Korea, and bibimbap allows for that. I also love the textures of the vegetables, the signature sesame flavor, and the little kick from the red pepper paste.
My friend, Yunah, and I had plans to meet up this week, and her parents are out of town so they left her with ingredients to cook for herself.
Bibimbap is super easy if you prepare it all ahead of time! ‘Bibim’ in Korea in to mix, and ‘bap’ is rice, or meal. So it’s basically mixed rice or mixed meal. You can add any veggie you want, although, in Korea there are specific varieties of veggies we can’t find easily or cook commonly in Canada. It’s also good to note that all the veggies have been sliced thinly and cooked beforehand. Raw veggies aren’t common in Korean cuisine.
Here we have cooked carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, onion and radish. They all have been tossed in sesame oil and salt while cooked. Yunah carefully placed her favourite veggies around her bowl, and added ‘gochujang’ or red pepper paste on top. The paste is spicy and salty, and personally it’s my favourite part. We added a mix of sesame oil and salt to the rice, and added an egg as the final topping! Next you mix it with your spoon for a while, et voila! You have bibimbap, the perfect vegetarian dish. Some people also add seaweed and sesame seeds, making it even more tasty.
Yunah had the ingredients prepared beforehand by her mom, who cooked and seasoned every one carefully. So all Yunah had to do was ask me what my favourite vegetables were, so she could add a little more of those.
You can find a similar bibimbap recipe here.
Golabki in Wroclaw, Poland
Location: Wroclaw, Poland
Meal: Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage)
Traveler: Ania from Ania Travels
Polish food is usually really heavy and full of meat, so when I found a healthier veggie restaurant I was ecstatic to try it. I was in Wroclaw, Poland and the restaurant is called Vega, right in the main square. The restaurant itself is divided into two levels, the upstairs has a cozy restaurant with waitress service and the bottom has more of a fast food/takeaway feed. The upstairs carries a full menu where the downstairs only has some of the options available. They served everything from Polish pierogi in different flavors, different soups, stuffed cabbage, veggie goulash, and other Polish favorites. I ended up getting the stuffed cabbage which is usually made with ground meat, rice and a tomato sauce. These were made with mushrooms and rice in a mushroom sauce. Boy was it delicious! The comparison was slightly different but the taste was just as good if not better. I was really excited to have some traditional Polish food that was veggie friendly for once.
You can find a similar vegetarian golabki recipe here.
Vegetarian & Vegan Dishes from Around the World: Vegetarian Paella in Madrid, Spain
Location: Madrid, Spain
Meal: Vegetarian Paella
Traveler: Kerry from The Petite Wanderer
By far, the best vegetarian dish I have come across is veggie Spanish paella. Although traditional paella is a rice, meat, and seafood dish, it is common to find a vegetarian-friendly version throughout Spain. Although I am not a vegetarian, I actually prefer vegetable paella to its traditional counterpart! Paella is a saffron-rice dish, which originated in Valencia. The dish is one of Spain’s most popular, as it is loved amongst tourists and locals alike. Be prepared to wait at least half an hour when you order it- as it can take up to two hours to cook this divine cuisine. Usually, you will never have to wait more than 45 minutes. Beware- some restaurants serve pre-made, frozen paella. Make sure to Google nearby restaurants that serve amazing paella. Typically, it is served in a huge cast iron dish, and some restaurants will only serve it if there are 2 or more people to share it!
You can find a similar vegetarian paella recipe here.
Tamil Thali in Chennai, India
Location: Chennai, India
Meal: Tamil Thali
Traveler: Neha from Nomadic Dreamz
This is a vegetarian Thali that I had in Chennai. It’s a typical Tamil Thali with various dry vegetable preparations, spicy curries, a lentil-based dish called sambhar, rice and pooris. And of course, pappadams. I finished it off with a dessert called “halwa”. One of my most memorable meals from my visit to Chennai!
You can find a similar vegetarian tamil thali recipe here.
Banana Flowers in Bengal, India
Location: Bengal, India
Meal: Mocha, or Banana Flowers
Traveler: Madhurima from Orange Wayfarer
In the southern peninsula, Indians are particularly tender with their love for bananas. Of course, the plantains grown on the rich soil taste amazingly sweet and provide an instant energy boost. However they are eaten in every form, even the flowers are not spared. In Bengal, we call Banana flowers, Mocha. Mocha is cooked with ginger paste and a handful of green gram, and coconut. A staple for the Hindu widows in past, who would shift to a vegetarian meal post the spouse’s death.
Mocha is otherwise flavored with prawns as well. However the best of banana flower dish is the one I tasted in Hampi. I was pleasantly surprised to discover this in Karnataka. Here, we got a banana as a desert at the end of the meal. Try the banana flower curry sometime in one of those old style eateries. It is a delicacy and is hardly cooked in regular restaurants.
You can find a similar banana flower recipe here.
Curry, Potato Masala and Veggie Stir Fry in Perth, Australia
Location: Perth, Australia
Meal: Curry, Potato Masala and Veggie Stir-Fry
Traveler: Helen from Destination > Differentville
It was a Saturday in November and as I sat on the shady balcony of Indian restaurant, Annalakshmi on the Swan in Perth, Australia – bright blue sky above me, boats flitting about on the river below, I couldn’t think of a place I’d rather be.
Curry is one of my favourite foods, and in front of me was a plate full. I had light, fluffy rice, a rich potato masala, crunchy vegetable stir-fry and a curry packed with perfectly plump cubes of aubergine. On the side was a bowl of rasam, a spicy broth designed to aid digestion that I can drink by the bucket-load. I could feel my system singing that it finally wasn’t eating chips and chocolate (a bit of a staple of my trip thus far). Happiness did not even come close.
But it’s not the gorgeous view or the healthy food that makes Annalakshmi on the Swan so memorable, it’s the beautiful idea behind it; eat what you need, pay what you can afford.
The restaurant is on the riverfront of the newly-restored Elizabeth Quay. With tourists flocking here daily and a million-dollar sunset view they could be charging $20, $30 even $40 dollars a dish – but that wouldn’t fit the ethos behind this amazing non-profit that has been helping vulnerable people in Perth with employment, affordable food and charitable help for over 25 years.
Instead, the principle belief of all Annalakshmi restaurants is that no-one should be deprived of a wholesome meal. As such, when you eat at any of their branches, you can choose as little, or as much, from the vegan buffet as you need and as you leave, you pay what your heart feels it was worth. They also say that because they cook their food with ‘selfless love and positive energy’ the food, whatever you eat doesn’t just feed hunger, but feeds the soul.
They’re right. I left with a full stomach, a full heart, a full soul – and, after handing over all the change I had left, an empty wallet! It was a good combination.
You can find a similar vegetarian masala recipe here.
Vegetarian & Vegan Dishes from Around the World: Vegan Salad in Pai, Thailand
Location: Pai, Thailand
Meal: Vegan Salad
Traveler: Kate from Plant Based Kate
In an unsuspecting setting, is a little place called The Link – ‘Food Farmacy’. It is a quaint little cafe situated on an organic farm on the outskirts of Pai. This is where I was lucky enough to have the best salad that I had in Thailand. In this beautiful salad was an abundance of fresh Thai herbs, corn, onion, cherry tomatoes, banana, fennel, mango, cabbage & beans among other things I didn’t know the name of. All home-grown, fresh organic ingredients! It was absolutely giant & came with with the most delicious salad dressing I have ever had, ever!! It was their signature dressing, so obviously they didn’t say what was in it on the menu, but it was exploding with flavours of coriander, chilli, peanut, garlic & lime. It gets better though, it was only 70 baht which is about $2 US.
Not only was this salad cheap & amazing, the setting was perfect (we were the only ones there), the owner who showed us around her orchard with pride was so passionate & kind & the love that goes into her food is incredible.
I love how going to strange places & scouting out vegan food can take you to the most special places which allow you to meet people who are just as passionate about plant-based food as you are. Such a fun adventure!
You can find a similar vegan Thai salad recipe here.
Burmese Bean Salad in Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Location: Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Meal: Burmese Bean Salad
Traveler: Tara from Nutrition Abroad
We first came across Burmese Bean Salad (lah peht tok) also known as Burmese Tea Leaf Salad, at the VN Guesthouse in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. Located close to the border with Burma, many laborers cross the border to find work in Thailand, including the cooks at VN. This simple salad, the national dish of Myanmar, includes shredded cabbage and carrots with slices of tomato and red onion. However this simple mixture gains it’s magic from garlic infused oil and fermented green tea leaves. Yes you heard that right, fermented tea leaves. This strange condiment not only gives you a healthy dose of pro-biotics and a decent caffeine kick, it is also incredibly tasty. More flavor and texture is added with a mixture of crispy fried beans (lima, split pea, etc) and peanuts, and a final kick from freshly chopped chili peppers. After tasting this dish, we decided we had to visit Burma for ourselves, and it opened our world to an incredibly diverse cuisine, and surprisingly vegetarian friendly.
You can find a similar bean salad recipe here. Just remember to omit the fish sauce.
Papaya Salad in Koh Lipe, Thailand
Location: Koh Lipe, Thailand
Meal: Papaya Salad
Traveler: Hannah from Getting Stamped
The best vegetarian meal I’ve ever had traveling is papaya salad (Som Tum ส้มตำ) at Sunrise Beach Restaurant in Koh Lipe, Thailand. I still remember the first time I had papaya salad, here I thought I was getting a sweet fruit salad but boy was I wrong but it’s okay because I fell in love with papaya salad. Unripe papaya is the main ingredient and it’s the perfect mix of sour, spicy, salty, and sweet. WARNING if you can’t handle spice say no chilis. I’ve had it all over Thailand but it’s the best at Sunrise Beach Restaurant with my toes in the sand looking out to the turquoise water.
You can find a similar papaya salad recipe here.
BBQ Portobello Burger in Kansas City, USA
Location: Kansas City, USA
Meal: BBQ Portobello Burger
Traveler: Sage from Everyday Wanderer
Home to more than 100 barbecue joints, Kansas City’s name has been synonymous with barbecue for more than a century. But if you don’t eat meat, it can be a challenge to find a vegetarian meal in a town nicknamed “The Barbecue Capital of the World.” Enter Joe’s Kansas City. Its Z-Man sandwich is world-famous, landing coveted spots on both Thrillist and Zagat lists. Fortunately for vegetarians, an alternative version of the Z-Man substitutes smoked beef brisket with a smoked portobello mushroom that is otherwise finished in the same fashion with smoked provolone cheese, a couple of onion rings, and a bit of barbecue sauce, all placed on a Kaiser roll.
“ What self-respecting BBQ joint would put a vegetarian sandwich on its menu? We would, that’s who.” Joe’s Kansas City Menu
Joe’s Kansas City now has three restaurants in Kansas City, with lines usually out the door at each location. When planning your visit, please note that Joe’s Kansas City is always closed on Sundays.
You can find a similar BBQ portobello burger recipe here.
Vegan Toasted ‘BLT’ Sandwich in Milwaukee, USA
Location: Milwaukee, USA
Meal: Vegan Toasted ‘BLT’
Traveler: Melissa from Veggie Lissa
Okay, this Toasted BLT sandwich may not look like much but in actuality it was the highlight of my time In Milwaukee. My friend and I visited in the middle of the day on a Tuesday and funnily enough there wasn’t much going on. But we decided to grab some lunch in the city and thought the Public Market looked like a pretty safe bet. This was one of the only vegan lunch options in there and thank goodness. The combination of Tempeh, avocado, vegenaise with crispy salad all in the warm toasted bread was insane. The Green Kitchen managed to transform our pretty mundane day into one to remember; my friend and I still randomly message saying, “OMG do you remember that sandwich?”.
You can find a similar veggie ‘BLT’ recipe here.
Vegetarian & Vegan Dishes from Around the World: Vegan ‘Chicken’ and Waffles in Las Vegas, USA
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Meal: Vegan ‘Chicken’ and Waffles
Travelers: Hayden and Aaron from The Vegan Voyagers
The chicken and waffles at Terrace Point Cafe at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas is one of our favorite meals in the whole country. The chicken is made out of Gardein and is super crispy, which pairs well with the fluffy waffles. It also comes with spicy syrup that really rounds out the entire delicious meal.
You can find a similar vegan chick’n and waffle recipe here.
Vegan Big Mac with ‘Bacon and Cheese’ Fries in Toronto, Canada
Location: Toronto, Canada
Meal: Vegan Big Mac with ‘Bacon Cheese’ Fries
Travelers: Hayden and Aaron from The Vegan Voyagers
The Big Mac from Doomies Home Cooking’ in Toronto, ON is the closest burger to a real Big Mac that we’ve ever come across. It’s on the ‘secret menu’, so you have to know to order it. It comes with 2 patties and is smothered in delicious sauce. It comes with French fries that you can upgrade to any of their special order fries, like these bacon cheese fries. Absolutely to die for!
You can find a similar vegan burger recipe here.
Vegan Poutine in Kelowna, Canada
Location: Kelowna, BC, Canada
Meal: Vegan Poutine
Traveler: Me! (April from Just Leaving Footprints)
As soon as I moved back to Kelowna I knew that I had to visit The Naked Cafe. I hadn’t been there before but I had heard that it was a really good vegan cafe. I visited a few times and one of my favorite meals was their vegan poutine. They have two poutines to choose from. One is pretty standard and the other is a ‘loaded’ poutine. For those of you who don’t know, poutine is a French Canadian dish typically consisting of french fries, cheese curds and gravy. It is really hard to find vegan poutine out there since two of the main ingredients are meat and cheese. This vegan poutine was so delicious! The Naked Cafe seasons their fries perfectly and on top they load up their poutine with vegan cheese, gravy and delicious bright veggies.
You can find a similar vegan poutine recipe here.
Other posts you may like:
- Vegetarian NYC: Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly Restaurants in NYC
- Sustainable Alternatives to Animal Tourism
- How to Order Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Spanish & Explain Other Dietary Restrictions