4 Amazing Foods: Viewing Plant-Based and Vegetarian Diets Through A More Diverse and Cross-Cultural Lens

Have you ever stopped to wonder which communities around the world had mastery of vegan and vegetarian diets prior to them trending? Vegan and vegetarianism popularity has risen exponentially in just the last decade. Many of us are more or less privy to the numerous benefits of a wholesome plant-based diet–whether we are open to it or not–from preventing obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease, to helping us feel more energized throughout the day.

In spite of this, many still find it difficult to break into the lifestyle, seemingly viewing plant based diets as unfathomably boring, expensive, lacking in nutrition or simply a futile effort to replace the taste of the general population’s biggest meat and dairy staples. Nevertheless, when we examine the diets that have predated the recent popularity of abstinence from meat and dairy, we can reimagine this lifestyle through a more diverse, satisfying, and culinarily exciting cultural lens. Through approaching the topic via a more cultural lens, we can expand our horizons on plant-based accessibility as well as uniqueness. Let’s take a look at some communities around the world that have been thriving on vegan and vegetarian foods. 


For decades, India has maintained an exceptionally high statistic of plant-based and vegetarian practitioners that now reigns at 44% with 81% also limiting the consumption of meat primarily due to religious beliefs. The practice of non-violence and the belief that divine energy flows through all beings (known as Ahimsa) aids in abstinence from meat.  Jian, Buddhist, and Hindu passages, for example, promote compassion by way of not harming other life forms. While not all practitioners of these faiths subscribe to a plant-based diet, many are and we can examine the impact of these doctrines in the culinary world of India which is over abundant in delicious and flavorful vegetarian and vegan foods. Vada Pav, Chana Masala, Daal, Potato Samosas, Aloo Gobi, and Onion Pakora are just a few of the popular plant-based dishes available in this wonderful and varied cuisine.

Similarly, due to religious practices, Ethiopian food is also a hugely overlooked and surprisingly untapped treasure trove for incredibly flavorful plant-based eats that have been around for centuries. Due to Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity which necessitates intermittent fasting throughout the year, abstinence from meat and dairy are not unusual. During this time practitioners consume strictly plant-based dishes. Dishes like Misir Wot (spicy lentils), Atir Kik Alicha (split pea stew), Shiro Wot (chickpea stew) are among many that are totally vegan.

Moreover, these dishes are loaded with nutrition and are just a few popular examples of how Ethiopian bites can be a vegetarian and a vegan’s dream come true. The bread in which each dish is placed and eaten with, known as injera, is actually one of the most nutritious carbohydrates in the culinary world. It is not your average carb as it also contains protein and probiotics at a cost of very few calories.

Eritrean food bares an uncanny resemblance to Ethiopian cuisine but is known for being much lighter. Much like Ethiopian food, Eritrean vegan meals are as a result of Orthodox beliefs and practices. They are served with Taita, a large spongy crepe that is highly nutritious (like Injera). Nai tsom migbi (a veggie platter) often contains timtimo (misir wot or spicey lentils), Atkilt Alicha (vegetable stews), and many other dishes.



The African Hebrew Israelites of Dimona are a 50 year old community also known as “The Village of Peace” and not to be overlooked. They are known to have mastery of the vegan diet due to a fundamental and unique religious belief that Adam and Eve ate plant-based diets in the Garden of Eden. For this reason, they refuse to eat anything without seeds– or otherwise genetically modified–and have been thriving ever since. From this trailblazing community’s successful attempt to pioneer veganism in Isreal, Teva Deli (an online vegan grocer) was born!

Apart from these rich and eclectic cuisines, there are many cultures that incorporate vegetarian and vegan recipes into their daily life that we often take for granted . Mexican food that has, for many decades, been popular all across the globe is abundant in plant-based options. Simple staples like mole, nopales, salsa, beans, guacamole, rice, are among some dishes that are rich, satisfying, nourishing, and effortless to make. Likewise, Middle Eastern dishes like muhammara, baba ghanoush  hummus, falafel, moussaka, and dolmas are a few examples of vegetarian foods that simply cannot be passed up. This style of cuisine is known for its heavy usage of legumes and nuts and will delight any food connoisseur with its richness and diversity.

The list of vegetarian and vegan friendly societies does not end there. Chinese, Burmese, Southern Italian, Thai and many others support rich and nourishing plant-based diets! That is to say, when we approach veganism and vegetarianism from a less westernized viewpoint, one might learn that there is more to these lifestyles than meat replacements and cashew cheese. There exists a culinary richness and diversity that has played a role in many religions and walks of life which vastly predate the recent uptick of vegans in the last decade. 


Madrid-based traveler, visual and performing artist, and content writer.

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