I managed to stay vegetarian and eat vegetarian or vegan dishes only while I was long-term traveling. Since being stuck at home, I’ve been reminiscing about the most delicious vegetarian dishes from around the world that I’ve had the privilege to enjoy.
I found that one of the best ways to is experience other cultures while not being able to travel is through the food. Whether it’s by visiting local restaurants or trying (and often failing) to make these best vegetarian food from around the world, in my home kitchen, this list makes me feel connected to my global experiences.
Writing this post made me even more eager to get back out there to travel again (and to go down the street here in Australia to get my weekly banh mi). I hope this list of best vegetarian dishes from around the world inspires you to plan your next trip too, to these countries with great vegetarian cuisine options.
Japan - Vegetarian Ramen
What has to be at the top of my list of most delicious vegetarian dishes in the world is the ramen from the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. Yes, it’s a ramen museum, but the highlight of visiting here is the lower level which is a recreation of old Japan. It houses half a dozen of Japan’s most famous ramen stores from around the country in one place! I had the vegetarian version of the Osama Ramen from Komurasaki, a ramen joint from Kumamoto in Southern Japan. Although the soy-based meat on top wasn’t anything to write home about, the broth, noodles, and other toppings made me one happy customer!
Check out the vegetarian options on the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum website here.
India - Paneer Butter Masala
India is vegetarian food heaven, and nearly impossible to pick just one dish from there to rein above all others. But if I could only eat one curry for the rest of my life it would be India’s Paneer Butter Masala, a vegetarian dish that was love at first bite. If I was numbering this post in order of vegetarian cuisines, not only would Indian food be at or near the top, but paneer butter masala would also hold a solid spot in the most delicious vegetarian dishes around the world. It can never, ever go wrong (except when I try and make it myself).
The curry base, or gravy, is made from butter, tomatoes, cashews, onions, garlic, and an array of Indian spices. It’s mixed with cubed paneer cheese and served with either rice or naan bread. It’s traditionally a North Indian dish but can be found in restaurants all over India. The gravy base is a mild flavor and isn’t traditionally spicy, making it a massively popular curry that’s great for lunch and dinner.
South Korea - Vegetarian Bibimbap
South Korea shocked me as being pretty vegetarian friendly country, with many vegan or vegetarian-only restaurants in Seoul and other large cities. The vegetarian bibimbap I had in Jeju after hiking Mt. Hallasan makes the list for one of the best vegetarian dishes around the world, while also being healthy and filling.
Bibimbap is a Korean rice bowl topped with seasoned sautéed vegetables, spicy sauces, and a fried egg. It’s often served with several different cold pickles and kimchi on the side, which you can mix in with the bowl or enjoy separately.
Thailand - Khao Soi and Som Tam
Thai street food is something to get passionate about on your next trip to Thailand, which is why I have two dishes listed. I couldn’t pick just one of these incredible vegetarian dishes without feeling guilty about leaving out the other! Everything from the classic Pad Thai, to soul-warming curries, to creepy crawlies on sticks, eating street food in Thailand will always be at the top of my list of Thailand travel tips (not the part with the bugs though).
Vegetarian food is surprisingly easy to come across in Thailand because of the influx of expats and backpackers who prefer a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
Here are two of my favorite vegetarian dishes from Thailand. Note: Both of these dishes are not traditionally vegetarian cuisine, so you’ll have to ask for them to be modified if the restaurant doesn’t already give you that option. Trust me, it’s incredibly worth it.
I’ve unashamedly been to Thailand six times during the course of my world travels – it feels like home to me. One thing I missed out on for five of those six visits though is trying Khao Soi, a Northern Thailand dish that is an egg-noodle soup dish on flavor steroids.
Its broth base is a thick, coconut and turmeric curry soup, and within it are chewy, yellow egg noodles topped with crisp noodles, cilantro, and sliced shallots. This gem of a dish is not easy to find outside of Northern Thailand and some parts of Myanmar, making it one of the elusive, best vegetarian dishes around the world.
Som Tam is a green papaya salad. The papaya is shredded while it is still unripe, so the resulting salad is something crunchy and refreshing. It’s often mixed with shredded carrots, sliced tomatoes, roasted peanuts, and green beans with a lime wedge. It combines every flavor profile under the sun, which Thai food is famous for: spicy, bitter, sweet, salty, and sour.
Coming in at $2-$3 USD per dish and being a perfect refresher from the Thai heat, papaya salad will always be one of my top vegetarian dishes from around the world.
Georgia - Khachapuri
When I set out to go hiking in Georgia, a European country located east of Turkey, I had no idea what to expect in terms of its vegetarian cuisine. I ended up completely blown away by what was genuinely some of the most delicious vegetarian food in the world. Although Khachapuri takes the crown, other delicious Georgian vegetarian cuisines include lobio (a bean stew, tastes 100x better than it sounds), and khinkali, which are Georgian dumplings filled with cheese, mushrooms, or some type of meat.
Georgian khachapuri is a national dish, recognizable by its boat-like shape, with a sea of melted cheese and butter on top and a runny egg cracked in the middle. Another version of khachapuri is more like a quesadilla, made in a circular shape with melted cheese in the middle.
The dough used to make khachapuri somehow has the texture of eating what feels like a cloud, it’s so soft and delicate. Even when staying in guesthouses in tiny villages on the hike between Mestia and Ushguli, the khachapuri was a soft, cheesy heaven on a plate. For traveling vego’s, be sure to check out Georgia for some of the most delicious vegetarian food from around the world.
Vietnam - Vegetarian Banh Mi
When I spent two weeks in Hanoi, Vietnam, I visited just about every banh mi shop in the city that offered a vegetarian banh mi option. When I still lived in Houston and even now in Brisbane I still seek out vegetarian banh mi as one of the best vegetarian dishes from around the world.
Banh mi is a staple Vietnamese street food dish, that sandwiches local Vietnamese ingredients and filling in a small French baguette. Traditionally served with pate and grilled pork, beef, or chicken, vegetarian versions have tofu or fried egg. Other toppings include chilis, cilantro, cucumber, and shredded carrot. My favorite vegetarian banh mi spot in Hanoi was Banh Mi 25, a shop popular with expats located in the city center.
Nepal - Dal Baht
Dal baht is the national dish of Nepal, often enjoyed for all three meals of the day by local Nepali people. Baht translates to rice, the base for the meal, and dal is the name of the lentil soup or gravy accompanying the rice. Different types of potato curry, sautéed greens, or pickles are also served with the rice and dal to make a full and colorful plate of food.
When hiking the Annapurna Circuit or in the Everest region, dal baht is an amazing, hearty dish to refuel. Ranging anywhere from $2-$10 USD, trekkers will always get their money’s worth when eating dal baht because refills of both the rice and dal are free!
Switzerland - Cheese Fondue
Could there be anything more joyful than sitting in a guesthouse in Switzerland surrounded by mountains, digging in to a steaming pot of melted cheese? Especially for cheese-lovers, fondue must be one of the best vegetarian dishes from around the world, although it had humble beginnings.
Fondue was born during the cold Swiss winters when poor families had nothing left to eat but stale bread, a block of cheese, and splash of wine. This ingenuity gave rise to one of Switzerland’s national dishes. You can even find DIY fondue kits in the supermarket! It’s the perfect, carb-heavy dish to have after burning calories hiking in the Alps.
Indonesia - Gado Gado
Indonesia is where tempeh originated from, an ingredient found in many delicious vegetarian foods around the world. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans that are pressed into a firm block, then often sliced back up and flavored with a peanut or curry sauce. It is incredibly nutritious and packed with protein, and is the star ingredient of Gado Gado, an Indonesian vegetarian dish.
Gado gado is a mish-mash of tempeh slices, fresh or blanched vegetables, potato, egg, and spices that is mixed together with a mild peanut sauce. Gado gado translates to ‘mix-mix’, and not only is it fun to say, but it’s also a nutritious vegetarian dish from around the world.
America - Hopdoddy’s Burgers
Next on my list of best vegetarian dishes from around the world takes me back home to America, home of the dirty burger and fries combo. There is no better burger, for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, than the ones at Hopdoddy Burger Bar, a restaurant chain originating in Austin, Texas but slowly expanding to places like Denver, Nashville, and L.A. To get a seat in one of the first Hopdoddy locations on South Congress Ave in Austin meant waiting hours in line, outdoors in the Texas heat. And people did it anyways!
The vegetarian burgers from Hopdoddy’s are supreme, with black bean patties and all the fixins’, including avocado, pesto, goat cheese, arugula, chipotle aioli, tomato and onion. Pair it with their famous hand-cut parmesan truffle fries or sweet potato fries and you’ll be in vegetarian food-coma heaven in no time.
Mexico - Street Tacos
You can’t ever go wrong with tacos… unless you add too much spicy sauce not knowing what it was. One of my favorite tacos when I was backpacking Mexico was in Tulum city center, at a large taquiera where most of its visitors were locals heading home after work. The prices were very budget backpacker-friendly at something like $2 USD for a plate of 3 traditional Mexican tacos, and they were selling like crazy.
The vegetarian tacos I had here were simple, a bit of grilled vegetables on hot corn tortillas, but the additional toppings I could select, including shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and a red and a green sauce, made the flavors come to life.
The mysterious green sauce turned out to be something with next level spice – something I wish I knew before putting it directly on all three of my tacos. Although I couldn’t even see my third taco through the water streaming out of my eyes, I went back the next night for more of this delicious vegetarian dish.
Belize - Fried Plantains
I wanted to add more best vegetarian dishes from Central or South America, but unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of luck with local vegetarian cuisines here. The dishes I encountered Latin American countries were rice, beans, and meat-heavy. Any suggestions for what I can try during my next trip, please leave them in the comments!
One food I did want to mention is fried plantains from Belize. Plantains are prevalent in many Central American countries, with Belize being no exception. These melt-in-your-mouth vegetarian snack or side dish were prevalent everywhere while I was backpacking Belize, and are basically a meal in itself!
During your next visit to Caye Caulker, be sure to have a taste of this Belizean staple vegetarian dish.
The Balkans - Borek
Borek, börek, or burek, depending on who you’re talking to, is a savory, flaky pastry dish filled with spinach and cheese for vegetarians, or some kind of meat filling for omnivores. It’s thought to be native to Turkey, but is common throughout bakeries in the Balkans. It’s what I survived off of during my six-weeks in the Balkans, which is why it makes by list of best vegetarian dishes from around the world.
Borek can be found in many shapes and sizes, but the most common one I had is a small snail-shape, just big enough to be a hand-held meal. The vegetarian version is filled with spinach or other seasonal greens and salty cheese. The flaky pastry that the filling is wrapped it makes it a messy dish to eat on the go, but a great one to feed crumbs to the local birds.
Belgium - Frites
French fries, freedom fries, whatever you want to call them, are seen as a ‘junk food’ or an accompaniment to a burger or sandwich in most countries. What I loved about Belgium is that their version, frites or frietjes, are a meal in and of themselves. I may or may not have had fries just about every day that I was in Belgium and loved every bite.
The best fries are found in frituurs, or deep-fried snack shops, around the country that specialize in fries as a main meal. In Belgium you can enjoy fries with a side of croquettes, bitterballen, or other deep-fried delicacies, with a dozen or more different sauces to choose from! (Hint: only order ketchup if you want to make it obvious you’re American.) My first frituur experience was at Frituur Ellen in Antwerp, a small corner shop I went back to more than once.
Australia - Lamington
I lived in Australia for over a year and a half during the COVID years before I tried my first lamington, and boy was I missing out! Lamingtons are popular sweet pastries that become popular around January 26th, which is when Australia Day is celebrated. To me, they didn’t look especially appetizing… like a cube of furry chocolate. I had no idea what to expect when I tried one on a whim a few months ago, but it changed my life.
In the middle of a lamington is an extremely soft, white sponge, which is covered in a thin layer of chocolate cream, then covered with desiccated coconut. It was again like eating a cloud, but this time a sweet, chocolate and coconut-y cloud with no one flavor overpowering the rest.
Hungary - Kürtőskalács (chimney cake)
I couldn’t make a list of best vegetarian dishes from around the world without including this epic desert that can be found in a number of Eastern European countries. If you’re wandering around countries like Hungary or Slovenia and get a whiff of something sweet baking, you might find yourself at a kürtőskalács shop.
Kürtőskalács have an iconic chimney or sometimes cone shape, which is covered in sugar and can be eaten as-is. But really, if you have this empty cake then why not fill it with ice cream, whipped cream, melted chocolate, fruits, or a combination of all four?!
Netherlands - Stroopwafel and Stroopwafel ice cream
Last on my list of best vegetarian dishes from around the world is more of an honorable mention. This dessert is from my dad’s home country, and needs to be on every vegetarian foodie’s radar, although it’s not technically a full meal.
Stroopwafel was a delicacy for me when I was growing up – a food I loved as a child but seemed to rarely appear in my house, even during special occasions. Stroopwafel is a well-known Dutch dish, thankfully vegetarian, and makes for a great tea-time snack or dessert. It translates literally to “syrup waffel”, and consists of thin, soft wafers sandwiching a layer of melty caramel filling.
Elevated to the next level is stroopwafel ice cream, a caramel and stroopwafel dough-flavored ice cream with bits of chewy stroopwafel mixed throughout. Though Italy takes the gelato cake, the Netherlands has sometime to be proud of with its Stroopwafel ice cream