It’s commonplace to see non-vegetarians turn their noses up on anything vegetarian. Vegetarian food gets a bad rap for being “too boring” and “uninspired” or “lacking flavour”. But these self-declared gastronomical experts don’t know the variety and diversity they’re missing out on.
This list of delectable vegetarian dishes from around the world will prove the veggie-haters wrong and have their meat-loving hearts step out of their comfort zone.
Best vegetarian dishes from around the world
Gamjajeon is a Korean-style savoury potato pancake, usually made with a few additions like chives, scallions or chilli peppers for a kick. Regardless, the potato is always the star ingredient. The pan-fried pancake is crispy, a little bit chewy on the inside, and is perfect for a rainy day.
Another Korean delicacy usually served on special occasions is Japchae or stir-fried glass noodles a.k.a Korean vermicelli. Simple, delicious, and easy to play around with, japchae is also gluten-free. The crunch of the vegetables with the springy texture of the noodles makes this dish a family favourite. Just throw in some tofu for protein, and you’ve got yourself a nutritious and delicious meal.
Gallo Pinto, or the Spotted Rooster, is a Costa Rican dish of dark beans and rice (hence the name). Typically served for breakfast with some tortilla and a good cup of joe, Gallo Pinto is filling and makes for a great start to the day. The rice is paired with Salsa Lizano, a tan coloured Costa Rican condiment that’s slightly sweet and spicy. It’s just the right flavour you need to add to the very humble rice and beans.
Tartiflette au Reblochon
There’s just something about chilly winters that make us crave comfort foods more than usual. The Tartiflette au Reblochon is a traditional and cheesy gratin dish from France that fits the bill for indulgent and cosy food. While bacon or lard tends to be used in some recipes, the vegetarian version with mushroom as a substitute is just as good. Get your most comfy pants on and let the potatoes and cheese work their magic on you.
There are so many ways rice can be made exciting at home, and the Indonesians have a recipe that’s very easy to make. Nasi Goreng is essentially fried rice with vegetables but what sets it apart is its sauce—Kecap Manis. The sweet soy sauce has a syrup-like texture and is used in virtually every Indonesian meal. While traditionally, shrimp paste and meat is added to the dish, they are not the central elements. Thus, the Nasi Goreng can be made vegetarian by adding in more vegetables and serving it with a side of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes.
Egypt’s national dish (or what it’s popularly considered to be) just so happens to be a vegetarian one that has a long history that dates back to the early 19th century. Kushari is a medley of spicy flavours and various textures and is made using Egyptian staples i.e. rice, chickpeas and lentils. There’s a lot that goes into making this dish but the result, topped with a spicy tomato sauce and fried onions, is so worth it.
Delicacies that taste good either as a savoury snack or a dessert hold a special place in our hearts. Pampoenkoekies are pumpkin fritters that melt in the mouth and are a South African staple. As a dessert, they’re eaten with caramel sauce or are prepared with salt to serve as appetizers. These light and bite-sized treats are fluffy and easy to become obsessed with.
From Israel comes this delicious and nourishing breakfast dish, Shakshuka, which means mixture. It’s a simple yet bold medley of tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, garlic and spices like paprika, cumin, and red chilli powder. To make it a fuller meal, serve it with some warm pita or challah and a bright cucumber salad.
Creamy and rich, Frijoles Negros is a signature Cuban dish, either made on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Usually eaten with white rice, the dish requires time but one bite and you’re going to be hooked. The hero of the dish, black beans, are made with garlic, onion, and bell peppers and are typically topped with avocados. Black beans are high in fibre and iron and the meal is also gluten-free.
There’s so much more that can be done with lentils beyond basic Indian daal. Although delicious, lentils can be very fun to experiment with. Mujaddara is a Middle Eastern, budget-friendly dish of layered lentils and rice. It’s a one-pot recipe, which makes it even more appealing. Crispy caramelised onions and any creamy, spicy sauce you have at home add depth to the flavour profile. Serve with greek yoghurt or hummus and enjoy.
If you’re craving Italian but you’re bored of pesto pasta, then the Caponata is definitely what you’re looking for. With roasted aubergine as a base, there are many variations of the dish but tomatoes, onions, and celery are common elements. Salty, sweet, and tangy, the dish works well for the times when your fridge is looking a little bare. Some cook the vegetables on the stovetop while others prefer to bake them, either way, ingredients like olives, capers, raisins, red wine vinegar and white wine all combine to make a rich sauce. Store it and serve it over toast, or toss it with some grains like farro and enjoy!
This crispy bread from Himachal Pradesh is the perfect evening snack. Stuffed with roasted nuts, green peas and cottage cheese, Sidu pairs well with some spicy mint chutney. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, ghee (clarified butter) also makes for a good dipping sauce.
Goan food is deeply imbued with the Portuguese culture and Bebinca is an Indo-Portugese classic.—a layered cake made of coconut-flavoured batter. Because it takes a lot of time and patience, the cake is usually served at Christmas, Easter and weddings. Called the queen of Goan desserts, Bebinca, also called bibik, is available at most bakeries but if you’re up to the challenge, make it at home and it may just be even more delicious.