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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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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