For vegetarians with wanderlust, global travel can be an international web of temptation, surprise, and disappointment. And learning to say ‘I’m a vegetarian’ in the local language is an essential skill. In case you were wondering, it’s ‘main
Here are my top 10 countries that offer endless joy for travelers who want to forgo meat, but not flavour.
Often the cuisine of choice for vegetarians no matter where they are in the world, Italian food easily lands on this list. From simple classics like a slice of margherita pizza to decadent black truffle tagliatelle, the Italians have made it super simple to travel through their country. A simple “sono vegetariano” will yield delicious grilled or sautéed vegetable concoctions, risottos, salads, and pasta dishes found in rural trattorias and truck stops, hip urban cafés and fancy ristorantes. Something I love about Italy is that every region has its own distinct, traditional dishes which have been crafted over millennia. So just remember: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Fun fact: Italy reports the highest rate of vegetarianism among all EU countries!
Much of the country strictly adheres to the traditions of the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia, which calls for meat-free Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as long periods of vegetarian fasting. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many of the most popular traditional Ethiopian dishes are vegetarian or entirely vegan. Some of my favourite dishes include the delicious wat, a thick stew made of vegetables and served on top of a sourdough flatbread called injera. Another great thing about Ethiopian cuisine is it’s a delight to eat, you get to use your hands!
Being a vegetarian traveller in Israel is a breeze, especially if you love dips, spreads, and salads. Which…who doesn’t?! Israeli cuisine is influenced by Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Levantine ingredients and flavours which has created a rich and diverse food culture. The country is also home to an abundance of fresh, local fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables all year round. One of my go-to’s: hummus. This delicious anytime-anywhere dip is ubiquitous throughout the country, accompanying many dishes, or served along
Few countries can boast the variety of vegetarian food available in the United States. Sure popular belief may limit ‘American cuisine’ to steaks and fast food burgers, but as a vegetarian you have so much more to choose from. Whether you’re visiting favourite destinations like Los Angeles and New York, or living out your American fantasy with a cross-country roadtrip, you can find it all. Enjoy vegan BBQ wings and brisket at BBQ Revolution in Austin, Texas. Savour the spicy flavours of vegan Mexican at Gracias Madre in San Francisco. Or pop into Brooklyn’s Champs Diner for classic American staples like a biscuits and gravy breakfast. Believe it or not, there’s even a vegan strip club in Portland, Oregon. Even many of the ubiquitous fast food chains offer delicious bounties, including Taco Bell, Fatburger, In-n-Out, Chipotle, and many others.
The Rastafarian religious principle of Ital means only foods that are “natural and clean” may be eaten. Therefore, most Rastafarians are unlikely to eat meat of any kind. Even those that do eat small amounts of fish tend to maintain a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables. The Ital diet is also rich in juices of all sorts. And let’s face it: you can put jerk sauce on just about anything and it’ll be delicious!
A foodie paradise, with its huge range of culinary influences from China, India, and Singapore, as well as restaurants and food courts featuring just about every world cuisine you can think of. With so much choice, vegetarian options are easy to find. In fact, veg-friendly site HappyCow.net lists nearly 1,400 vegetarian restaurants around the country. So seek out one of the many restaurants that serve “mock” interpretations of fish and meat dishes, but all made with vegetable products. Or simply stick to meat-free satays and stir-fries, southern Indian thalis, and aromatic coconut-milk Nonya dishes. With so many options at your fingertips, your only problem will
Much of Latin America is known for their meat-centric cuisine and Brazil is no different. However, it’s also well-known for another ingredient: beans! Used in combination with other ubiquitous Latin American ingredients such as tomatoes, chillies, corn, avocados, potatoes, rice and cheese, the humble bean is truly elevated. Brazil is the best place to go for variations on this theme. For lunchtime dining there are popular, all-you-can-eat canteen-style vegetarian buffet restaurants in every city, as well as a good choice of laid-back and friendly vegetarian cafés. Major destinations like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are home to thriving vegetarian and vegan dining scenes.
Not many countries conjure up the same sort of images of a foodie paradise as Thailand does. Ubiquitous, and mind-bogglingly tasty, the Thais are doing food right. Due to religious principles and dietary restrictions, mainly for Buddhists, there are a ton of vegetarian joints found throughout the country. The word ‘chay’ means vegetarian, so keep a lookout for it on menus and signs. The quintessential dish to try in Thailand is pad thai. It’s typically made with meat, but tofu is also quite common. However, it’s often made with egg and fish sauce so be sure to ask. And if you like tofu, you’re in luck. If you don’t, you probably will after spending time in the country. The most tofu, and the best tofu, I’ve eaten was here. Tofu soups, sandwiches,
Hungarians are known for their love of meat and although Hungarian cuisine is definitely meat-centric, you can find incredible vegetarian options in most large cities. In fact, Budapest offers a treasure trove of excellent vegetarian and vegan restaurants and cafés. In most every pub, you’ll be able to order snacks such as nachos or chips, and several popular restaurants offer the more traditional Goulash, but made with seitan instead of meat. Hungary is also home to several ethnic restaurants, meaning it’s easy to find Middle Eastern shops selling veggie gyros and loads of hummus.
Ah, India — the holy grail of vegetarian cuisine. India is home to more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined! As India is home to some of the most flavourful and diverse food on the planet, I can’t say that I’m surprised. Whether you’re travelling in the northern state of Rajasthan or Kerala in the south, you’ll be spoilt for choices as a vegetarian traveller. Some of the best dishes are spicy veggie options like aloo gobi and chana masala or a smooth lentil dal. Indian staples like naan bread and crepe-like dosas are delicious and strictly vegetarian.
Even the Golden Arches (aka. McDonald’s) is packed with veg options, including the McAloo Tiki and Veggie Maharaja Mac. What’s more, all packaged foods sold in India will have a green mark if they’re vegetarian and a brown mark if they aren’t. So even if you can’t read the language, your potential for accidentally eating meat is low. No matter what you choose, you’ll be enjoying the best and naturally plant-based component of Indian food: its spices!
So there you have it! Travel the globe and eat to your heart’s content. However, even if vegetarian dishes might be less commonplace in a country you want to visit, this is no reason not to travel there. Vegetarian meals are always possible, and even if you end up eating sandwiches for lunch three days in a row, the experiences you enjoy while travelling make it worth it.
Have I missed anywhere? Let me know in the comment section below or book your foodie tour to one of the destinations above.