Whether you’re looking to add some much-needed variety to your meals or preparing for a global adventure, it’s good to know what type of vegan cuisine exists beyond the American version.
Here, we’ll look at some of the most vegan countries in the world to find the best vegan cuisine out there. For each country, we’ll look at what has inspired their animal-friendly eating habits as well as some of the best recipes they have to offer.
Whether you’re at a restaurant in Mumbai wondering what to order or just looking to bring a little foreign flare into the kitchen, we’ve got you covered.
Veganism Around the Globe
The number of vegans in the United States has increased 30-fold over the past 15 years. In 2004, there were just 290,000 vegans in the country. By 2019, that number had jumped to a staggering 10 million(1). And it continues to grow today.
But the popularity of veganism isn’t just a trend in the US. Almost every country around the globe has seen an increase in the number of vegan and vegetarian-identifying citizens. Today, there are over 79 million vegans worldwide(2).
For animal-friendly eaters in America that means two things: It just got a heck of a lot easier to find food while traveling, and spicing up your vegan recipe repertoire just got a lot simpler!
The Best Vegan Recipes Inspired by Global Cuisine
Us vegans have always been a creative bunch. We’ve gotten good at turning traditional meat-based recipes into animal-friendly fare. But with this new uptick in vegan cuisine popularity, the need for that kind of creativity is becoming less important.
Now, many countries are creating their own original vegan dishes to support their populations of non-meat eaters. This gives the rest of us a unique opportunity to sample authentic world cuisine without having to sub-out ingredients we can’t eat.
Below, we look at 12 of the most vegan-friendly countries in the world and the amazing cruelty-free options that are becoming popular in each. We’ll also share some of our favorite vegan recipes from each location so you can step out of your comfort zone without leaving your principles behind.
- Vegetarian Population: 24% (9% vegan)
- Vegan-Friendly Destinations: Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru
- Popular Vegan Dish: Chana Masala
India is a deeply spiritual country with most occupants devoting themselves to their chosen religion. And many of these religions impose some kind of limitation on meat eating.
Most Hindus, which make up nearly 80% of India’s population, avoid meat to some degree. Forty-four percent of Indian Hindus are vegetarians with many of those also abstaining from dairy and eggs.
All this is to say, there is a lot of vegetarian and vegan food available in India!
Vegan Indian fare centers around rice dishes, such as curry. Common ingredients include chickpeas, hummus, potatoes, and veggies. These dishes tend to be incredibly flavorful thanks to bright and bold spices like garlic, cumin, turmeric, and coriander.
Some of our favorite Indian vegan recipes include:
- Veggie-Filled Curry – This amazing dish features a bright, spicy curry sauce and loads of vegetables, including eggplant, carrots, parsnips, and spinach.
- Aloo Matar Samosas – Crispy, flaky, golden samosas filled with potatoes, spices, and green chilis.
- Vangi Bath – Creamy eggplants melt into a bed of perfectly spiced rice in this one-dish meal.
- Vegetarian Population: 14%
- Vegan-Friendly Destinations: New Taipei City, Kaohsiung, Taichung
- Popular Vegan Dish: Dougan
Over a third of the population of Taiwan is Buddhist, which certainly plays a part in the growing number of vegans in this country. The capital city of New Taipei consistently places in the top 10 for vegan-friendly destinations.
Laws about food labeling in the country make it easy for vegans to shop around, with different labels for vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, egg-free, and more. In addition to animal products, many “pure eaters” in Taiwan also avoid onions, garlic, and ginger. The lack of these common ingredients gives many Taiwanese vegetarian dishes a unique flavor.
Soups and noodle dishes are big in this country and many of their meat-free dishes use these bases. Dougan, a type of dried tofu, is a popular staple in these recipes and is often sold as street fare.
Some of our favorite Taiwanese recipes to whip up at home include:
- Vegan Lu Rou Fan – Don’t let the name fool you—there isn’t any pork in this dish! Just deliciously braised tofu and mushrooms over a bed of white rice.
- San Bei Bowl – Pan-fried tofu doused in a fragrant ginger-garlic sauce with a side of rice and celery make a perfect lunch or dinner combo.
- Cabbage Stew – Napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms give this wholesome stew an umami goodness that will warm the soul.
- Vegetarian Population: Less than 5%
- Vegan-Friendly Destinations: Addis Ababa
- Popular Vegan Dish: Injera
With less than 5% of the population identifying as vegetarian and far fewer as vegan, Ethiopia might seem a surprising choice for this list. But this country actually offers an impressive amount of animal-free fare.
That’s because about half the population is Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. While this group doesn’t abstain from meat completely, they do engage in frequent animal-product fasts. In fact, devout followers will spend 208 days every year eating only vegan food.
And that’s what makes this country a hot spot for a wide variety of meat- and dairy-free food options. Many of the restaurants in Ethiopia cater to vegans with special menus and a wide selection of options.
Most Ethiopian dishes are one-pot style stews that are eaten with a special kind of scooping bread, known as injera. These stews are heavy in vegetables, lentils, and other legumes.
Some of our favorite Ethiopian-inspired recipes include:
- Atakilt Wat – This Ethiopian staple is packed with cabbage, carrots, and potatoes and flavored with a delicious berbere spice mix.
- Ye’tikil Gomen Be’karot – This cabbage stew comes with a heavy dose of ginger and features jalapenos and onions for an extra bite.
- Teff Injera – You can’t enjoy Ethiopian stew without some injera to scoop it up with!
- Vegetarian Population: 10% (3% vegan)
- Vegan-Friendly Destinations: Brighton, Oxford, Edinburgh
- Popular Vegan Dish: Shepherd’s Pie with Beans
You might be surprised to find out that the United Kingdom is the world’s fastest-growing vegan hotspot. This country has seen the largest growth in vegan eaters over the past few years. In the first half of 2022 alone, the vegan population of the UK grew by over 40%.
This has forced a country widely known for its “meat and potato” dishes to get a bit more creative in its cuisine. Out are heavy lamb and beef-based stews and bakes. In are hearty lentil and bean dishes with an extra helping of vegetables.
Some of our favorite newly minted British vegan dishes are:
- Vegan Yorkshire Puddings – These savory muffins are best with a generous helping of vegan gravy and are my absolute favorite English side dish.
- Lentil Shepherd’s Pie – Hearty mushrooms and lentils pair with garlic mashed potatoes for a healthier take on a classic British dish.
- Portobello Pot Roast – Red wine and herbs dress hearty vegetables for a soul-warming, meat-free dinner.
- Vegetarian Population: 9% (1.3% vegan)
- Vegan-Friendly Destinations: Florence, Turin, Sicily
- Popular Vegan Dish: Pasta all’Ortolana
Italy is one of the few countries that has seen a decline in veganism of late. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of vegan-friendly recipes in this Mediterranean country.
The staples of Italian cuisine are fresh veggies, traditional pasta, and olive oil. With the exception of some egg-containing pasta varieties, these ingredients are all naturally vegan. And many other traditional Italian recipes can be easily made vegan by skipping the meat and finishing with vegan parmesan instead of the real thing.
Here are some of our go-to Italian vegan recipes:
- Easy Vegan Pesto – This simple Italian dish is perfect for weeknight dinners and easy to adjust based on what’s in season.
- Homemade Gnocchi – This homemade gnocchi is finished with sundried tomatoes, eggplants, and peas for a healthy yet filling dinner.
- Baked Ziti – With a made-from-scratch tomato sauce and vegan ricotta, this is a meal the whole family will love.
- Vegetarian Population: 3% (1.3% vegan)
- Vegan-Friendly Destinations: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan
- Popular Vegan Dish: Red Curry
Thailand doesn’t have a huge vegan population, but it does have one of the largest vegetarian festivals on the planet. Tesagan Gin Je, known to outsiders as the Bangkok Vegetarian Festival, is a nine-day celebration of plant-based food.
The legend goes that a Chinese opera company visited the city in the 19th century and became deathly ill. They turned to the Nine Emperor Gods for guidance and began following a strict Je vegetarian diet. When this saved their lives, the locals took note and started a yearly festival to honor the Nine Emperor Gods and partake in cleansing vegetarian cuisine.
Whether you visit Thailand during the festival or not, you’re sure to find plenty of vegan Thai food to keep you satiated. Here are a few of our favorite plant-based Thai recipes:
- Thai Sweet Potato Curry – This hearty vegan dish is easy to make and full of flavor and nutrition.
- Basil Fried Rice – With marinated tempeh and simple clean ingredients, this basil fried rice will leave you feeling satisfied but not overstuffed.
- Vegan Pad Thai – Making this Thai staple vegan is as easy as skipping the egg and adding your favorite veggies. We like it with bean sprouts, snap peas, lima beans, and water chestnuts.
- Vegetarian Population: 4%
- Vegan-Friendly Destinations: Crete, Santorini, Mykonos
- Popular Vegan Dish: Dolmades
Veganism is beginning to grow in Greece, a country known for its love of lamb meat and goat cheese. But the new plant-based trends in this country are more aligned with its history than you might think.
Orthodox religions have long practiced meat fasting during lent. Greece’s roots in these traditions mean that many Greek foods cater to vegans and vegetarians. This combined with an ancient Greek lifestyle where fresh produce was used in cooking far more often than hard-to-get animal products makes much of the cuisine animal-friendly.
Some of our favorite vegan Greek-inspired recipes include:
- Tourlou Tourlou – The Greek’s take on ratatouille, this veggie-filled recipe is the perfect way to use up your garden harvest at the end of the summer.
- Vegan Spanakopita – Spinach, pine nuts, and creamy vegan feta, all wrapped in flaky, golden filo pastry.
- Domatokeftedes – These traditional Greek tomato fritters make an amazing side dish, lovely snack, or delicious appetizer.
- Vegetarian Population: 16% (6% vegan)
- Vegan-Friendly Destinations: Beirut, Dubai, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi
- Popular Vegan Dish: Falafel
Like many other religions, Muslims practice many meat fasts and plant-based eating periods. And many sects are plant-based full-time. But this is just one reason why vegetarian and vegan cuisine is popular in Middle Eastern countries.
Just as in other regions, many people in the Middle East are beginning to embrace plant-based diets for their positive health and environmental impacts. This combined with a long tradition of vegetarian dishes makes this part of the world more vegan-friendly than you might imagine.
Some of our favorite animal-friendly dishes to come out of this part of the globe include:
- Tabbouleh – This cold grain salad makes a refreshing, healthy meal for any warm day.
- Manakish Zaatar – Lebanese spiced pita is the perfect side dish for your favorite Middle Eastern breakfast, lunch, or dinner recipe.
- Falafel – This classic Middle Eastern vegan staple is made by frying a mixture of garbanzo beans (or fava beans) and herbs. Falafel balls are typically paired with tzatziki sauce, but we like to dip them in smoky baba ganoush.
- Vegetarian Population: 19% (9% vegan)
- Vegan-Friendly Destinations: Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, San Cristóbal de la Cases
- Popular Vegan Dish: Guacamole
If you don’t think of Mexico as a plant-based stronghold, you probably should. Almost 20% of the country abides by a vegetarian diet, with 9% going fully vegan. While this trend toward animal-friendly cuisine seems new, it’s actually more in line with traditional Mexican values.
Long before the conquistadors brought livestock to Mexico, the Native population lived a simpler life. Aside from the occasional feast of wild game or fish, most ate only what they could cultivate from the land. This meant meals had to be made using what was readily available: corn, quinoa, and produce.
Today, many Mexicans are revisiting traditional vegan cuisine and turning typical Mexican fare into plant-based masterpieces. Here are just a few of the recipes to come out of this vegan revolution:
- Vegan Taco Salad – This is a taco salad with a makeover thanks to vegan cheese, plant-based yogurt, and tempeh taco crumbles.
- White Bean Chili – Simple, delicious, and loaded with Mexican flavor, you’ll be craving this hearty dish for days.
- Sweet Potato Enchiladas – These enchiladas are packed with lentils, sweet potatoes, and spinach for a filling meal that’s also impressively healthy. Top it off with your favorite red pepper enchilada sauce and melty vegan cheese.
Travel the World from Your Kitchen
With some of the best vegan cuisine the world has to offer right here, there’s no reason to leave your kitchen. There’s also no reason to suffer through the same boring vegan meals with so many different plant-based options coming to you from all corners of the world!
About the Author
Sara Seitz is a freelance writer living with type 1 diabetes. Her search for better health and better control of her blood sugars led her to a plant-based diet. When she isn’t experimenting with new vegan recipes, she’s helping spread the word about how plant-based is better for people and the planet. More articles by Sara.