For plant-based eaters, finding food to eat abroad can be a difficult task. Luckily for us, there are some countries that have cuisines conducive to our herbivorous eating patterns. Here’s a list of the top 4 most vegetarian and vegan-friendly countries:
Israel is known for its mixture of Middle Eastern and Eastern European flavors and is notorious for its delicious falafel, hummus, shakshouka, pita bread, and Israeli salad, but did you know that Israel is also one of the easiest places to be a vegetarian or vegan? 1 million people out of Israel’s small population of 8 million self-identify as vegetarian.
Part of what makes it so easy to be vegetarian in Israel is that kosher law requires the separation of dairy and meat. This means that most restaurants are either designated dairy restaurants or meat restaurants. If you are a vegetarian, anything on the menu at a dairy restaurant is fair game. If you’re a vegan, look for the meat-free items at meat restaurants (you won’t have to worry about dairy contamination).
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a huge part of the Israeli diet. In fact, Israel ranks third in the world for consumption of fruits and vegetables. This is possible thanks to Israel’s innovative wastewater re-use system and drip-irrigation that is used to water crops, which allows the country to sustainably produce 95% of its own food in such an arid environment.
The birthplace of yoga boasts an estimated vegetarian population of 20-40%, due to the influence of Buddhism and Jainism emphasizing non-violence, making veggie-friendly food options easy to find. In fact, vegetarianism is said to have originated in Chennai, India. It is even illegal to slaughter a cow in some areas that have prevalent Hindu influence, as cows are believed to be sacred in the Hindu religion.
Vegetarian food options are everywhere in India, consisting of a diverse range of spices, vegetables, and grains. Also, packaged foods are marked with a green label if they are vegetarian or a brown label if they are not, making things much easier for us plant-eaters (unless, of course, you are colorblind).
Fenugreek, cumin, cardamom, coriander, saffron, mustard, ginger, and basil are all flavors that are added to vegetarian dishes in Ethiopian cuisine. What makes Ethiopia so vegetarian-friendly is some of the country’s religious practices that dictate meat-free Mondays and Wednesdays, along with periods of vegetarian-only “fasting.”
Ethiopians are creative with their vegetarian fare, and many of the most well-known and popular Ethiopian foods are actually meat-free.
Thailand offers an abundance of tropical fruits, fresh vegetables, and delectable vegetarian delicacies with rice and noodles–there is even a vegetarian festival in Phuket every year. The Buddhist influence is partially to thank for the abundance of vegetarian food in Thailand, however, beware that fish and oyster sauce are common ingredients in Thai food, so be sure to request meals without these sauces if you do not eat fish or shellfish.
Luckily for vegans, Thai cuisine does not incorporate many dairy products, so you can eat all of the noodle soups, stir fry’s, and spring rolls that you desire with little concern for dairy contamination. If you have any doubts that your food is vegan, just say “pom kin tae pak,” which means “I only eat vegetables” in Thai–crisis averted!