If you partake in a vegan diet, the idea of traveling the world can feel a little daunting… Will you be able to find restaurants that cater to your meat-and-dairy-free diet? Will there be ingredients that you don’t know the words for snuck into your dishes? Will people understand what you mean when you try to explain what veganism is?
But while many cultures have rich meat-based diets, you might be surprised how widely available vegan cuisine is worldwide.
1. United Kingdom
The UK might not be known for having the most exotic cuisine in the world. Still, the vegan movement is powerful in the UK, with plenty of vegan restaurants popping up in places like London and Bristol and vegan options available almost anywhere you go. The Vegan Society was even founded in the UK, so you can feel confident that your needs will be catered to here.
In recent years, Australia’s vegan movement has grown exponentially, rivaling that of the UK and US! Not only are there an abundance of vegan restaurants and shops in most Australian cities, but almost all eateries will be happy to accommodate a meat-and-dairy-free diet.
A great idea when touring Australia as a vegan is to download one of the many vegan-friendly apps to help you find the perfect diners for your needs. Look for apps such as Is It Vegan?, Vegman, and FoodSwitch, and you’ll be sure to eat like a plant-based king or queen for your entire stay.
As we mentioned briefly, Greek cuisine might not be specifically vegan; however, they still have a rich vegan cuisine thanks to the fasting culture.
When the Greeks fast, this doesn’t mean they avoid food; it actually means they avoid animal products! And because the Greek fast so regularly, almost every eatery is prepared to handle a plant-based diet.
To ask for this menu, you’ll need to request nistisima – [?????????], pronounced nee-STEE-see-mah – food, as many people in Greece are still unfamiliar with the idea of veganism.
That said, nistisima food can include honey and some aquatic animals. Still, if you request nistisima food and explain that you don’t eat honey or seafood, you’ll probably be amazed by how many vegan-friendly meals are available!
The three major religions in India – Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism – all practice ahimsa, including non-violence to all living beings. Thanks to this non-violent practice, India actually has the highest percentage of vegetarians globally, so naturally there will be plenty of meat-free dishes on any menu.
That said, although vegetarians will be spoilt for choice, vegans will want to look out for dairy products such as paneer (cheese), curd, yogurt, and ghee (clarified butter). It’s best to ask about these ingredients specifically, as a dairy-free diet is not yet widespread in India.
If you want to make your travel super vegan-friendly, head to southern India, where cooking with coconut milk is used far more frequently than cow’s milk in cooking anyway.
China is another country with a religious-based ideal of non-violence towards all beings. Many eateries in China will provide a plethora of vegetarian and vegan dishes, even if they’re not labeled as such.
Chinese culture is packed full of plant-based dishes featuring specialties such as noodles, rice, and veggies. Tofu is also commonplace in Chinese cuisine, along with other mock-meat dishes made from seitan.
Vegans (and carnivores, for that matter!) should specifically look for Buddhist temples with vegetarian restaurants attached (commonplace) for delicious and authentic plant-based cuisine. You could even buy a tofu press and some cooking lessons to recreate these delicious dishes at home.
As the birthplace of meat-based dishes like lasagne and bolognaise, it might surprise you to hear that Italy has a rich history of authentic vegan cuisine – even before veganism really became a thing!
Sure, as a Western European country, you can expect modern vegan options to be widely available in Italy, but many traditional dishes are already vegan-friendly… Just watch out for the cheese!
A top tip when dining in Italy as a vegan is to stick to the antipasti (starters), primi (first courses), and contorni (side dishes) of the menu. The secondi (second course) options are much less likely to suit a vegan diet.
As a tourist in Turkey, you’ll probably find most restaurants advertising their meat-based dishes. However, most Turkish home cooking is actually far more plant-based and is generally cooked in olive oil rather than animal fats.
For the best options, look for ev yemekleri, which literally translates to home-cooking restaurants. These establishments tend to be family-run and sell authentic, plant-based cuisine at reasonable prices.
Turkish meze (a selection of small dishes a bit like tapas) is also frequently filled with vegan-friendly options. Strangely, the best places to find vegan-friendly meze is in seafood restaurants – where it’s totally acceptable to skip the seafood and just enjoy the meze!
Although many cultures don’t have a vegan diet per-say, there are plenty of countries and authentic cuisines that are naturally plant-based and suitable for a vegan diet.
Exploring the different options available and learning a few keywords and phrases in the native language will help you navigate the rich cuisines and cultures, no matter where you travel.