Nearly every healthy diet on the planet points towards a heavy emphasis on plant-based whole foods. Whether that means adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, making one meatless meal each week, or taking away all animal products in favor of vegan eating, every step is a step towards a healthier body and planet.
If you’ve decided to explore the world of vegan eating, looking globally gives you a vast array of flavors to explore above and beyond those you may have been exposed to in your regional area. While some ingredients may be difficult to source, others are readily available if you know where to look. Check out the international section of your supermarket, stop into the specialty food store, or look online for spices and other foods you may not already have in the pantry.
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When you think of Italy, you likely think of pasta, but it’s a country full of culinary surprises where you’ll find plenty of tomatoes along with onions, garlic and peppers. Italians love to flavor with fresh or dried herbs, and of course, don’t forget the olive oil. Bean and lentils are another large part of the equation.
Try all these flavors in this Quick Italian White Bean Soup from the Blue Zones Meal Planner.
The Okinawan diet benefits from its location as a trading post for hundreds of years. The influences run deep from around the world. In addition, the archipelago is part of Japan and has picked up much of the culture since its annexation in 1879, yet remains an ‘island’ of unique tropical fruits and vegetables rare to other places. It’s worth noting that Okinawans maintain one of the longest lifespans of anywhere on the planet, so they must be doing something right.
To experience Okinawan cuisine, one must start with the base of most meals, dashi. Dashi is a seaweed broth used as a flavor boost and nutritious additive. Explore the umami flavor of kelp in this Authentic Miso Soup from Allrecipes, or get creative with these Simmered Vegetables from Recipe Tin Japan.
The colors and vibrant culture of Greece come to life in the food. Although much of the country incorporates seafood from the nearby ocean, plant-based eating is well established, wholesome and delicious. Consider this Greek Bruschetta from The New York Times or dig into this version from The Speckled Palate.
Another cornerstone of Greek cooking comes in the form of chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. The beans create a basis for a variety of dishes from simply roasting them with some seasoning, to soups, a salad topping (substitute the goat cheese in this recipe), and of course, the ubiquitous hummus.
Try this family favorite from our home:
Roasted Garbanzo Beans
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon agave
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon paprika
A dusting of garlic powder and a dash of cayenne
Simply mix all the ingredients together. Spread the beans out in a pan and roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice to coat. Yum!
If you’re really looking to break out of the “What’s for Dinner?” rut, look into African cuisine. You can start with this compilation of recipes from Eluxe Magazine. Africa is another region with a rich history that has influenced food. The sheer size of the region, with varying climates, growing conditions and cultures, adds to the complexity of ingredients.
These ingredients include greens, okra, rice, plantains, beans and flavor-boosting spices like turmeric and cardamom. Perhaps the most quintessential African dish is peanut stew. Try this version from AfroVitalityEats.
Mexico offers a plethora of spices and flavor combinations unmatched in other areas of the planet. Beans, rice, peppers, corn, lime, avocado and root vegetables are mainstream components of the recipe profile so it’s pretty easy to dish up a vegan meal. Take, for example, ceviche, an adaptive dish for many parts of the world. Where some countries include fish or shrimp, others give it a local flair. Try this Mexican Ceviche for a vegan option with all the flavors of Mexico.
Many other Mexican dishes can easily be tweaked for vegans, such as these tamales, Chiles En Nogadas, and Pozole.
Curry comes to mind, and it should since it is a linchpin of Indian cuisine. But you’ll also find a host of spices like turmeric, cardamom, cumin, mustard seed, tamarind and fennel, to name a few. India might have the deepest relationship with spices of anywhere in the world, which makes it a great place to find culinary inspiration.
Even with all those spicy options, the place to start might be with naan. After all, you need something to balance out the flavors. Here’s one naan option from Rainbow Plant Life. You might also want to try this dosa recipe. Pair these breads with some Vegan Chickpea Curry or the more subtle Pea Pulao with Lemon.
Wherever in the world your vegan culinary exploits take you, remember to be adventurous in your travels, even if you don’t leave the kitchen.
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