Central to any cultural exchange is experiencing your host country’s cuisine. But with the rise of plant-based diets, some travelers may be apprehensive about exploring new places, unsure if their diet will be able to be accommodated. It may be difficult for a vegan or vegetarian traveler to explain their lifestyle choices to someone from a culture that generally offers meat or egg-based dishes, and to do so without having that person feel offended or judged. It’s interesting to note, however, that many cultures’ cuisines have vegetable-based foodscapes and are, thus, suitable for vegans and vegetarians alike.
If you’re interested in learning about the destinations that are ideal for plant-based eaters, or any travelers looking to up their vegetable intake, this is the guide for you.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Vegetables are a staple of Israeli cuisine, making up many of the nation’s traditional dishes. The almighty chickpea, for instance, is the base for two Israeli classics, falafel and hummus. Other veggie-based options include Israeli salad with chopped tomatoes and cucumbers drizzled with olive oil, creamy eggplant baba ganoush, and tangy shakshuka (eggs cooked in tomato paste and served in a frying pan), all of which are widely enjoyed across Israel. Be careful though — hummus will never be the same after you taste it in the Middle East! While Israel is certainly veg-friendly, Tel Aviv is a veritable hotspot for falafel food stalls. Need a place to start? Check out Mifgash Hasoher in the city center. Ordering will be easy, as the restaurant features only two dishes (Israeli chopped salad and traditional falafel), sticking with what they’re best at. That said, there are plenty of foodie havens across the city, so be sure to explore to your heart’s — and stomach’s — content.
From dairy-free treats at the ChocoMuseum to cashew cream cheese and veggie burgers at the Shaman Restaurant, Cusco has a multitude of vegetarian options and interpretations of novel Peruvian cuisine. For example, a traditional dish called causa is made from layered yellow rice, potatoes, and seasonal vegetables, shaped together by geometric molds like pyramids and spheres. Empanadas, another Peruvian classic, are flaky, dumpling-like pastries that come in a variety of fillings, including many vegetarian options. Most Peruvian dishes are based around the nations’ staples of potato, yams, and rice, leaving lots of room for vegetarian interpretation in Cusco and throughout the South American country.
An acclaimed destination for yogi-travelers and wholesome eaters, the Indonesian island of Bali has become quite a remarkable locale for foodies as well. With tropical fruits like coconuts, avocados, rambutans, and mangoes available fresh from the source, this vegan paradise offers visitors the chance to try Western favorites with an Asian flare. But aside from legendary smoothie bowls, many Balinese dishes are suitable for plant-based eaters. In fact, since a majority of the island is of the Hindu faith, most locals follow a meatless diet. Thus, visiting vegans and vegetarians can enjoy traditional salads, curries, and stir-fries like nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), all while taking in the local culture and staying true to their personal food preferences or dietary restrictions. One of the most popular vegan restaurants in Bali, is Peloton Supershop, located in Canggu. This colorful establishment offers a broad range of vegan options, from traditional Indonesian food to açaí bowls and smoothies. Whatever you do, don’t depart before trying some mango sticky rice!
The second-largest city in Sweden, Gothenburg sits upon the Göta älv river on the country’s western coast. Due to its location, this windy city is comprised of Dutch-style canals that are lined with dozens of plant-based cafés and shops, all of which are filled with cruelty-free products. If you’re looking for a place to start, Open New Doors is a raw-food café with a rotating menu that changes daily. One thing remains the same, though: the quality of the vegetarian and vegan options, including pastas, sandwiches, cakes, and beer! Another Gothenburg favorite is Market, a plant-based fusion restaurant influenced by Korean, Mexican, and Swedish cuisine. With everything from fried avocados to kimchi fries, everyone is bound to find something to their liking!
Often called the food capital of Mexico, Oaxaca is best known for its mole — a thick, decadent sauce that is highly spiced and generally chilli- and chocolate-based. Though classically served with a meat pairing, mole can also be enjoyed in less traditional ways with beans, squash, or other vegetables. What’s more, Oaxaca boasts several different varieties of this signature sauce, including mole poblano (red), mole verde (green), mole negro (black), and mole amarillo (yellow). The chocolate and chilli concoctions differ based on the amount of each ingredient, plus other additives, so while many moles are made with a meat stock base, vegetarian versions are easy to find throughout the city — and they’re just as delicious! For renowned vegetarian mole in Oaxaca, La Casa del Tio Guero (located in the city’s historic city center) is an excellent option. There’s also an abundance of other traditional vegetable-based dishes, so if you’re visiting Oaxaca, don’t pass on the street food stalls, complete with pressed tortillas and farm fresh vegetables.
Santa Monica, California
Home to juice bars aplenty and avocado with every meal, Southern California is considered an accommodating region for plant-based eaters. Santa Monica, a coastal city just west of Los Angeles, is a particularly vegan- and vegetarian-friendly place to visit — and live, for that matter. The Californian oasis is a sun-lovers’ paradise, boasting sprawling beaches and easy city-access, so it’s no wonder that it offers endless vegetarian havens for its nature-lovers . In fact, in Santa Monica, you’ll find a green spin on just about every dish dishes — from fast food to Ethiopian to ramen. So, grab that wheatgrass smoothie, kick back, and enjoy the beachside views.
Whether for reasons of animal welfare, sustainability, or personal health, the trend of plant-based diets is on the rise. And while many cultures across the globe are expanding their dietary offerings with the growing trend, others have been following these diets for millenia. So, regardless of where you travel, there has never been a better time for foodies to experience culinary traditions while still honoring their personal eating habits. Bon Appétit!