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The Vegetarian Food Bucket List | Foods To Try Around the World |

We come across bucket lists all the time. You may have one (or more!) of your own. Whether it be a bucket list of destinations to visit, a bucket list of experiences you want to have, or a bucket list of personal life goals, I’m sure we can all relate to the concept. As a vegetarian and passionate traveler, finding delicious foods that line up with my eating habits is always a part of any trip planning. Because of this I decided to create a Vegetarian Food Bucket List for both myself and for others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

Traveling as a Vegetarian and finding tasty foods can be challenging, but that does not mean it should deter you from seeking out amazing dishes around the world! Meat is a common ingredient in some of the world’s most famous dishes, such as Bistec encebollado in Latin America, the Philly Cheesesteak of Philadelphia, or Machaca in Mexico, but this does not mean that you can’t find a plentiful selection of mouthwatering plant and fruit based dishes.

So, here you have it: My Vegetarian Food Bucket List. I hope you find some inspiring dishes to seek out and try that will make your taste buds happy!

(Note: Many of these dishes are vegetarian-not vegan, and do contain dairy products)

board with pears and honey near grapes
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Photo by Polina Kovaleva on

Costa Rica & Nicaragua: Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto is the national dish of both Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with both countries claiming its origin. The countries has been in a sort of competition to lay claim to the dish. Nicaragua claims the dish was brought to their country by African-Latinos long before the dish was served in Costa Rica. Costa Rica claims the dish originated in Costa Rica in the 1930’s.

In 2003, Costa Rica cooked 965 pounds of Gallo Pinto and made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. In response Nicaragua cooked 1,200 pounds of Gallo Pinto. This continued until Costa Rica cooked enough Gallo Pinto to feed 50,000 people in 2009.

Gallo Pinto is a dish that includes white rice and black beans, scrambled eggs, and a small tortilla. Gallo Pinto is offered served with a fried banana or a cup of Chan seeds in sweet water. The dish is most often served with the breakfast meal, but may be found being served with any meal. Other items that Gallo Pinto may be served with include eggs, queso fresco, tortillas, and sweet plantains.

Gallo Pinto, Vegetarian Food Bucket List
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Gallo Pinto. Photo Credit: Hollykathyrn on Flickr.

Ecuador:  Bolon de Verde

Bolon de Verde is believed to have origin links to African dish fufu, believed to have been introduced in the Caribbean and South America by African slaves. Bolon de Verde, also known as green plantain dumplings, is a dish consisting of a large ball of fried plantain that is stuffed with fresh white cheese. The dish is often served as a breakfast dish or brunch. It is also commonly served as an appetizer or side.

***Tip: This dish is sometimes stuffed with pork, so be sure to verify you are ordering the cheese stuffed version***

Bolon de Verde, Vegetarian Food Bucket List
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Bolon de Verde. Photo Credit: pxhidalgo on pixabay.

Israel: Shakshouka

The origins of Shakshouka in Israel is not clear, but one version says it was brought into the country by Tunisian Jews during the mass exodus from Arab and Muslim lands. Other versions claim it originated in Yemen or the Ottoman Empire. Most claim that the dish’s origin was from the African culture.

Shakshouka is a dish made with poached eggs that are served with a sauce made from tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, garlic, and a mix of spices that may include cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg. Shakshouka is commonly served as both a breakfast dish as well as for dinner. The dish is often served in the iron pan in which it was cooked and with a side of bread for dipping.

Shakshouka, Vegetarian Food Bucket List
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Shakshouka. Photo Credit: Jeff on Flickr.

Ethiopia:  Yetsom Beyaynetu

Yetsom Beyaynetu, sometimes referred to as a fasting platter, has roots that trace back to the beliefs of the Orthodox Christian religion in Ethiopia. There are a certain number of days throughout the year on which no animal products or byproducts can be consumed, most often on Wednesdays and Fridays, when no food could be consumed before noon and any food after could not contain animal products.

Yetsom Beyaynetu is a combination dish served on a bed of injera, which is a spongy pancake made from teff flour. The dish includes a variety of Ethiopian dishes, including shiro wat (chickpea flour curry), misir wat (lentils stew), key wat (beef stew), salata (tomato salad), and more! The available vegetables of the day are often used to create the platter.

Yetsom Beyaynetu. Vegetarian Food Bucket List.
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Yetsom Beyaynetu. Photo Credit: Glen_Pearson on pixabay.

Indonesia: Gado-Gado

Gado-Gado is a commonly found dish in Indonesia that originated in Batavia and is said to have been spread throughout the area by the Betawi inhabitants. The dish was popular in the 17th century among locals in the Batavia region as it was inexpensive.

Gado-Gado, meaning “mix-mix” is a traditional dish in Indonesia featuring a mixture of vegetables (including potatoes, long beans, bean sprouts, spinach, corn, and cabbage), Tofu, tempeh, and hard boiled eggs, all mixed with a peanut sauce. The dish is usually served as a main dish as it is very filling.

Gado-Gado, Vegetarian Food Bucket List
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Gado-Gado. Photo Credit: Like_The_Grand_Canyon on Flickr.

China: Veggie Spring Rolls

Spring rolls are a dish that originated in China during the Tang Dynasty. The dish originally was a pancake that people would serve on the first day of Spring with a mix of fruits and vegetables. Veggie Spring Rolls comes in many varieties in throughout China.

The dish can be fried or not fried and may contain a variety of different fillings. Some common fillings include cabbage, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, and bean sprouts, but you can basically add anything you desire! Dipping sauces are often served with the rolls to add some more flavor!

Veggie Spring Rolls
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Veggie Spring Rolls. Photo Credit: George Wesley on Flickr.

Peru: Papa a la Huancaina

Papa a la Huancaina is said to have originated during the construction of the Peru Central Railroad. Women would prepare meals for the workers that consisted of boiled potatoes that were served with a cheese, pepper, and milk sauce. Another version states that it was a dish that was served at railroad stations to passengers.

Papa a la Huancaina features boiled yellow potatoes served with corn, olives, and boiled eggs and topped with a creamy and spicy cheese sauce, known as huancaína sauce. The dish is usually served cold as an appetizer.

Papa a la Huancaina.
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Papa a la Huancaina. Photo Credit: Jorge Gobbi on Flickr.

Puerto Rico: Mofongo

One of Puerto Rico’s favorite local dishes is the soft, garlicky green plantain dish known as Mofongo. Mofongo has deep roots in the development of Puerto Rico. The dishes’ origin was inspired by both local and international influence. When the island was being colonized in the 1500’s, the Spanish brought with them African slaves. With them came the dish fufu, which was a root vegetable cooked, mashed, and served with a side of meat or vegetables. The Spanish on the island adapted the dish and added the base sauce sofrito, which is a combination of onion, garlic, and peppers.

The main ingredient of Mofongo is green plantains, which are fried and mashed with oil, garlic, and salt. It can be served as the main course or as a side. It is often served with meat, such as chicken, beef, shrimp, or a combination of vegetables. The starchiness of Mofongo allows it to absorb the sauces, making it that much more delicious!

Mofongo, puerto rico. Vegetarian food bucket list.
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Mofongo. Photo Credit: Navigation Junkie.

France: Tartiflette au Reblochon

Tartiflette au Reblochon is a reblochon cheese and potato based dish that originated in Savoy in the French Alps. The inspiration for the dish was likely the traditional dish called pela, which is potato and onion dish found in the Provence region of France. The dish was created in the 1980’s as an effort by the Union Interprofessional Reblochon to promote the sale of Reblochon cheese.

Tartiflette au Reblochon is a dish made from potatoes, reblochon cheese, onions, white wine and spices that goes well with a side salad and glass of white wine. The dish is often served at the alpine ski resorts and is often a party dish for young adults.

***Tip: This dish is sometimes served with ham or bacon, so be sure to check before you order***

Tartiflette, vegetarian food bucket list.
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Tartiflette. Photo Credit: Fugzu on Flickr.

South Africa: Pampoen koekies

Pampoen koekies, or “Pumpkin Fritters” are a delicious dish found in South Africa. They are a favorite among children in the area. Pampoen koekies are made from puréed pumpkin, flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, milk, and salt. They are often drizzled and served with a thick caramel sauce. Pampoen koekies are often served as a breakfast dish, side dish, or a dessert.

pampoen koekies with caramel sauce
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Pampoen koekies. Photo Credit: T.Tseng on Flickr.

Italy: Trofie al Pesto

Trofie al Pesto is said to have originated in Golfo Paradiso on the eastern end of Liguria. The name of the pasta is said to have come from the Italian word strufuggiâ, which means to rub. The pasta is made by rubbing/rolling the dough into form. Today, the dish can be found at most restaurants throughout the Liguria region and beyond as well as prepackaged and ready to cook at most stores, and should definitely be on your vegetarian food bucket list when visiting the region.

Trofie pasta with pesto is a pasta dish that features a Trofie pasta, a thin, short, and twisted noodle that is often topped with freshly made pesto sauce for a delicious dish. Pesto sauce is made from  basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, and two types of cheese.

Trofie al pesto
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Trofie pasta with pesto. Photo Credit: Marco Verch on Flickr.

Greece: Spanakopita

While the origins of Spanakopita aren’t exactly known, it is believed that they may trace back 400 years in Greece. The origins may be related to the similar Turkish dish of ispanakli. The dish is very popular throughout Greece and can be found in Greek delis, bakeries, and restaurants.

Spanakopita, also known as Spinach pie, features spinach, feta cheese, onions, eggs, and seasonings held together by a phyllo dough. The dish is often served as an afternoon snack or as a dinner dish either fresh from the oven or after being cooled to room temperature.

spanakopita, vegetarian food bucket list
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Spanakopita. Photo Credit: Stijn Nieuwendijk on Flickr.

Egypt: Kushari

Although the exact origin is not clear, it is said that the origins of the dish were actually in India, not Egypt. The dish is said to have been brought to Egypt from British colonizers when they came to Egypt from India. The name is believed to have originated from the Indian word khichri, which means a dish of rice and lentils. It is said that the pasta was added to the dish by Italians living in Egypt, and that the fried onions, daqqa, and tomato sauce were added by the Egyptians.

Kushari is the national dish of Egypt, and therefore is a very commonly found dish throughout the country. Kushari involves a combination of macaroni noodles, rice, and lentils that are topped with a spicy tomato sauce and daqqa (a vinegar and garlic sauce). The dish is sometimes topped with garbanzo beans and/or fried onions.

Kushari. Vegetarian Food Bucket List
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(Kushari. Photo Credit: Matt Saunders on Flickr.

Lebanon: Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh has roots that go back 4,000 years when it was an important dish for the Levant people. The dish is said to have originated in the mountains of Lebanon and Syria as an essential part of the diet in the Middle Ages. The dish is now a staple of every Lebanese home and has gained popularity around the world.

Tabbouleh is a traditional Lebanese salad featuring bulgur, parsley, mint, spring onions, and tomatoes that are often topped with lemon juice and hummus and is said to be one of the tastiest in the world. If you are visiting the region, be sure to add this tasty dish to your vegetarian food bucket list.

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Tabbouleh. Photo Credit: Katrin Gilger on Flickr.

Portugal: Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde is a popular soup found throughout Portugal that originated in the Minho Province, where it has been being consumed for centuries. The dish was often served as an appetizer or as a light dinner meal.

Caldo Verde is made from Portuguese cabbage, kale or collard greens, potatoes, onions, and olive oil. Tomatoes may also be added. The soup is often times served with a slice of freshly baked bread. It is said to be one of the healthiest foods in the world, with one of it’s main ingredients being kale or collard greens.

***Tip: This dish may be made with meat, so be sure to verify there is no meat in the version you order***

Caldo Verde. Vegetarian Food Bucket List.
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Caldo Verde. Photo Credit: Pasquale Paolo Cardo on Flickr.

Vietnam: Mi Quang

Mi Quang is a dish that originated in the Quảng Nam Province of Central Vietnam. The dish is often a feature of the lunar new year festival Tet and is also often served on death anniversaries. Mi Quang is a noodle based dish that features fresh Vietnamese veggies such as water mint, basil, coriander, sliced banana flower, and lettuce that is seasoned with tumeric. This is another dish that is sometimes served with meat, so it is important to verify that you are ordering the vegetarian version.

Mi Quang.
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Mi Quang. Photo Credit: Prince Roy on Flickr.

India: Dal Tadka

Variations of Dal exist throughout India and can be traced back to very early times in India. Remains from the Indus Valley Civilization suggest that dal, and lentils in general, were a critical part of the civilization. There is also evidence that dal was served at celebratory meals and on the royal menu. Today it is commonly found in restaurants throughout India.

The national dish of India, Dal Tadka involves lentils seasoned with a variety of spices, including tumeric, masala, and coriander. Veggies are added for additional flavoring, including onions, chillies, and tomatoes. Dal Tadka is often served with the side dishes of rice and rotis.

Dal Tadka.
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Dal Tadka. Photo Credit: Bharat Mirchandani on Flickr.

South Korea : Doenjang Jigae

Doenjang dates back to the Korean Three Kingdoms Period. During this time the vast farmlands lead to unreliable sources of meat, leading farmers to turn to an easily preparing substitute. Farmers began to cultivate jang from plants, and doenjang production began through fermentation of soy beans. The earliest form of Doenjang Jigae appeared as curled mallow soup, which involved mallow leaves and other vegetables being boiled in doenajng.

Doenjang Jigae is a soup made from soybean paste broth with tofu, mushrooms, and bean sprouts added in. Ingredients vary greatly from region to region and from household to household, but Doenjang Jigae is considered a comfort food throughout the country.

***Tip: Seafood or other meats are sometimes added to this dish, so be sure to check before ordering***

Doenjang Jigae
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Doenjang Jigae. Photo Credit: amanderson2 on Flickr.

United States: Maque choux

Maque choux is a dish originating in Louisiana. The dish is made from corn on the cob that is stewed or braised. The exact origins of the dish are not known, but one version states that the word traces back to the Cajun French. Another version states that the dish may be connected to the Spanish word machica, which is a traditional toasted corn meal.

The dish features corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onion and in some cases, celery and garlic. Hot sauce or sugar may also be added for flavoring. Maque choux can be served as a side dish or served as a main dish in combination with rice.

Maque Choux
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Maque choux. Photo Credit: Craig Dugas on Flickr.

Greece: Greek Salad

Greek Salad, also known as Horiatiki, is just that-a salad. It is, however, one of the most popular and well-known salad dishes not only in Greece, but around the world. Greek Salad dates back to the 19th century and is said to have resulted from the increase in availability of tomatoes after being brought in from South America by the Conquistadors.

Greek Salad often times contains tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, feta cheese, and olives and topped with a dressing containing salt, pepper, Greek oregano, and olive oil. Greek Salad does not contain any leaves or lettuce and is generally a seasonal summer dish. If visiting Greece, be sure to have this dish on your vegetarian food bucket list!

Greek Salad
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Greek Salad. Photo Credit: Stephen Rees on Flickr.

Switzerland/France:  Savoyard fondue

Savoyard fondue is a cheese fondue rumored to have been invented by shepherds in the Fribourg region of Switzerland who spent long periods of time in the pastures. The shepherds combined leftover bread, cheese, and alcohol to create a dish. The dish became more popular throughout Europe as people living in the Alps in France started to cook the dish when the weather was cold, and the dish is now found in Switzerland, France, and Italy.

Savoyard Fondue is a melted cheese mix, often times containing Beaufort, Comte, and Tomme de Savoie. Bread is often used for dipping and a glass of wine is often enjoyed along side the dish.

cheese fondue
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Cheese Fondue. Photo Credit: omefrans on Flickr.

Turkey: Dolma and Sarma

Dolma and Sarma is a common dish with a lot of variety in Turkey. The dish dates back to the time of Alexander the Great. It is said that when he and his soldiers returned from Thebes they brought with them stuffed vine and cabbage leaves.

In the general sense of the words, Sarma means “wrapped thing” and dolma means “stuffed thing.” Common vegetables used for stuffing include zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and onions. Common vegetables used for wrapping include vine leaves, collard greens, swiss chard, and cabbage.

***Tip: These are sometimes stuffed with meat, so be sure to check before ordering/eating***

Dolma and Sarma.
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Stuffed Grape Leaves. Photo Credit: F_A on Flickr.

Spain: Tortilla Español

Tortilla Español is one of Spain’s most popular dishes. There are two versions of it’s origin. The first says that the dish was introduced by Basque General Tomás de Zumalacárregui during the siege of Bilbao. It was created as a quick and nutritious dish to feed the armies. The second version states that the dish was created by a stay-at-home mother and popularized by General Zumalacárregui.

Tortilla Español is often enjoyed in the afternoon with a glass of wine, but is also served at room temperature for breakfast or dinner with sides. Ingredients include potatoes, eggs, and onions. Sometimes tomatoes or peppers are also added in. Olive oil, salt, and pepper is also added to help flavor the tortilla.

Tortilla Español
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Tortilla Español. Photo Credit: Joan Nova on Flickr.

China: You Tiao

You Tiao is a popular breakfast dish in China. You Tiao dates back to the Southern Song Dynasty and Yue Fei. Yue was a General who is said to have led may victories against the Jins, who were attempting to invade the Southern Song area. Yue was later executed on fabricated charges under the direction of prime minister Qin, which angered many. A local baker shaped two pieces of dough into the shape of Qin and his wife, dipped them into boiling hot water, and invited people to take bites, which is said to have been the origin of the present day You Tiao dish.

You Tiao is a deep fried dough is the shape of breadsticks. The breadsticks are soft and delicious with a light salt topping. This dish is usually served as a snack or breakfast food and is sometimes served with rice congee or soy milk. Dipping You Tiao in chocolate sauce or peanut butter is a common way to make the dish a little more sweet!

You Tiao
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You Tiao. Photo Credit: Sarah Starkweather on Flickr.

Japan: Edamame

Edamame is a common appetizer that is served around the world, but its origin is traced back to Japan. The dish dates back as far as 1275 when it was referenced by a Japanese monk. The dish is referred to many more times throughout Japan’s history and is becoming a more popular food in other areas of the world because of its nutritious value.

Edamame is a very nutritious dish featuring steamed or boiled young soybeans that are topped with sea salt. The beans are cooked before they have ripened. Edamame is often times served as a snack or side dish.

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Edamame. Photo Credit: Liz Lawley on Flickr.

India: Masala Dosa

Masala Dosa is commonly believed to have originated in Udupi in Karnataka. It is said that a Brahmin Adiga (or cook), who was not allowed access to alcohol, attempted to ferment his own alcohol from rice. When it didn’t work, he poured it on a pan and created something similar to a crepe that would become known as Masala Dosa.

Masala Dosa is a tasty Indian treat that is made from a fermented rice and black lentils batter with curried potatoes and peas on the inside, served with a variety of dips, including chutneys (often tomato and coconut) and sambar (a spicy stew).

Masala Dosa, Vegetarian Food Bucket List
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Masala Dosa. Photo Credit: Nadir Hashmi on Flickr.

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Don't let being a vegetarian stop you from enjoying amazing food on your travels! Add these great dishes to your Vegetarian Food Bucket List and make your taste buds happy!
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