The kind of veganism most of us in the west are familiar with is the kind influenced by whiteness or the kind presented as some sort of pop culture punchline to steer clear from. However, this myth regarding the inaccessibility of veganism blatantly neglects the different class and/or cultural backgrounds present in plant-based eating movements and practices around the world. 

Not to mention, the elitism now within veganism also ignores how intersectional veganism can be a decolonizing force. Many non-Western and pre-colonial cuisines are rich in affordable, plant-based ingredients.

So here are 13 traditionally plant-based recipes from around the world that will knock your avocado toast out of the water. 

1. Liangpi (Northwestern China)

Liangpi in chili oil garnished in cilantro, served in a white bowl
[Image Description: Liangpi in chilli oil garnished in cilantro, served in a white bowl.] Via Wikimedia Commons.
Though liangpi (凉皮)directly translates to “cold skin,” you’ll find nothing but flavorful and zingy sauce in this heap of slippery, cool goodness. These endearingly amorphous and floppy noodles are typically dressed in a Sichuan peppercorn-spiked sauce and garnished with cilantro.

2. Curtido (El Salvador)

A Jar of curtido sits on a plastic tarp next to two sauce containers
[Image Description: A jar of curtido sits on a plastic tarp next to two sauce containers.] Via Wikipedia.
Sauerkraut, kimchi, and coleslaw lovers rejoice! Curtido is a springy Central American cabbage relish and an excellent addition to your arsenal of fermented cabbage recipes. This orangey slaw is typically served with pupusas but goes great with just about any starchy food in need of a fresh kick.  

3. Kelewele (Ghana)

A woman's hands present a platter of kelewele on a sheet of foil
[Image Description: A woman’s hands present a platter of kelewele on a sheet of foil.] Via Jessica Poku on Pinterest.
Fried plantains have an almost ubiquitous hold on many Caribbean, African, and Southeast Asian cuisines – take the Ghanaian kelewele. These ginger and cayenne spiced cubes of fried goodness are popular as a street snack or devoured over a dinner table. 

4. Hobak Juk (Korea)

Bowl of Orange pumpkin stew (hobak juk) with glutinous rice balls served in a metal bowl
[Image Description: Bowl of Orange pumpkin stew (hobak juk) with glutinous rice balls served in a metal bowl.] Via Maangchi.
This velvety smooth Korean pumpkin porridge is composed of two main ingredients: pumpkin (usually kabocha squash) and glutinous rice flour. For a special treat, you’ll find your orangey bowl of sun garnished with little sweet rice balls.

5. Ciambotta (Southern Italy)

A saucepan and wooden spatula in the process of cooking zucchini, tomato, and potato
[Image Description: A saucepan and wooden spatula in the process of cooking zucchini, tomato, and potato.] Via Karen and Brad Emerson on Flickr.
You’ll find this colorful vegetable stew enticing the senses at a Southern Italian get-together in the summer – though it’ll likely be referred to with one of its many different regional spellings. Main flavors include zucchini, tomato, and basil, so pair it with your favorite Italian carb and you’re good to go.

6. Turon (Philippines)

A close-up shot of Turon focused on its flaky lumpia wrapper
[Image Description: A close-up shot of Turon focused on its flaky lumpia wrapper.] Via Wikipedia.
Everyone goes weak-kneed at Filipino lumpia, but what of its sweeter, equally crispy but banana-filled delicacy? Turon is a brown-sugar coated treat similarly made with lumpia wrapper but may be filled with any tropical fruit from jackfruit to mango.

7. Misir Wat (Ethiopia)

A platter of Ethiopian food served on injera
[Image Description: A platter of Ethiopian food served on injera.] Via Dion Hinchcliffe on Flickr.
Ethiopian cuisine is well-known for its breadth of flavorful vegetarian and vegan stews and curries often arranged family-style on a bed of flat, teff-based injera bread. Misir wat is mainly composed of pulverized red lentils, traditionally bearing a berbere heat that might pulverize the taste palates of those with low spice tolerance. 

8. M’Hajeb (Algeria)

White plate full of mhajeb (stuffed Algerian flatbread)
[Image Description: A white plate full of mhajeb (stuffed Algerian flatbread).] Via Cuisine de foufa on Facebook.
So maybe you’ve whipped up some Algerian couscous (a national dish) or sampled a dolma off a party platter, but what of this crispy underdog of Algerian cuisine? M’hajeb, also known as m’semmen, is a peppery and tomato stuffed flatbread that pairs well with a refreshing cup of mint tea. 

9. Lablabi (Tunisia)

Bowl of chickpea lablabi
[Image Description: Bowl of chickpea lablabi.] Via Wikipedia.
From chickpea tuna wraps to chocolate hummus and even inventive usages of aquafaba, this versatile bean is a staple in any seasoned vegan’s pantry. For something different look towards lablabi, a Tunisian chickpea stew grounded in cumin and harissa flavors.



10. Ahu (Guam)

A metal pot full of purplish ahu, a guamanian coconut dessert
[Image Description: A metal pot full of purplish ahu, a Guamanian coconut dessert.] Via Guampedia.
If the words sweet coconut dumpling soup don’t yet spark mouthwatering temptation, just one sip of this sweet Guamanian dessert will have you running to boil more. Credit this warm treat’s thick and lumpy textures to young coconut and tapioca starch.

11. Che Chuoi (Vietnam)

Che chuoi dessert served in a glass parfait cup
[Image Description: Che chuoi dessert served in a glass parfait cup.] Via Huyzee Vu on Flickr.
The savory side of Vietnamese cuisine is chock full of plant-based dishes and flavorful to boot, but those looking for sugary relief can refer to the rich and fragrant che chuoi. Che chuoi is essentially stewed bananas and tapioca balls flavored with pandan; don’t let its creaminess fool you, this recipe is typically animal-free and coconut-based. 

12. Kousa Mahshi (Lebanon)

White platter of small kousa, zucchini, stuffed with red sauce
[Image Description: White platter of small kousa, zucchini, stuffed with red sauce.] Via Wikipedia.
Though sometimes stuffed with meat, the plant-based version of kousa mahshi makes ample use of the hollowed-out zucchini, or kousa, via a delicious tomato and rice filling. Find these savory summer squash logs served in a pool of garlicky tomato sauce, aesthetically garnished with parsley and mint. 

13. Kitsune Soba (Japan)

Bowl of kitsune soba topped with scallions
[Image description: Bowl of kitsune soba topped with scallions.] Via tasteatlas.
These Japanese buckwheat noodle dishes vary regionally, but the Kitsune soba is particularly vegan-friendly for its dashi stock and aburaage tofu topping. Its name originates from the ancient belief that kitsune, recurring fox spirits in Japanese folklore, indulge in sweetened thin slices of aburaage tofu. 

Once we know better, we must do better. Veganism is more than what western society has sold us. Rather, it’s a rich and cultured cuisine that spans back thousands of years. But don’t just take it from me, try some of these meals for yourself and you’ll see how expansive (and truly delicious) vegan and vegetarian meals can be!

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  • Shannon Zheng

    Shannon Zheng is a multidisciplinary artist and designer studying Art & Design and Philosophy at the University of Michigan. She is interested in channeling art as a form of intervention, whether it be through constructing visual narratives to promote social change or designing confrontationally through an activist lens.

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