With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we’re embracing the summer staycation. All week (and all summer) long, we’ll bring you transportive flavors and travel-inspired ideas from around the world, so you can take your tastebuds on a trip and give your mind a mini vacation while you’re still at home. Here, our favorite international vegetarian recipes.
Eco-conscious living is a big topic of conversation these days, and one of the easiest ways to partake is to eat less meat. Cutting back on meat consumption means less carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions; it can also save water during these drought-stricken times, as nearly half of the water used in America goes toward animal agriculture. This explains why we initially curated this collection for Earth Day—but it’s never a bad time to eat more plants.
Not in the mood for fake meat? Fear not–we’ve got plenty of other meal ideas for you that go beyond the mock meat burger. Here are 13 vegetarian recipes that draw inspiration from around the world, and celebrate vegetables for all their best qualities (with some cheese and eggs sprinkled in here and there).
1. Colombia: White Corn Cheese Arepas with Hogao
This version of the traditional Colombian corn cakes often stuffed with various fillings was cooked up by our senior video producer Guillermo Riveros and is gloriously heavy on the cheese. Just beware: The secret ingredient in the accompanying hogao sauce with tomatoes, garlic, and scallions is not vegetarian, but you can replace it with a veggie alternative. Get our White Corn Cheese Arepa recipe.
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2. Trinidad: Vegetarian Pelau-Stuffed Peppers
Pelau is a pilaf made with coconut milk that hails from Trinidad. It’s usually made with chicken, but tastes just as good meatless when filled with the goodness of black-eyed-peas and butternut squash. Get our Vegetarian Pelau-Stuffed Peppers recipe.
2. Thailand: Thai Red Curry with Kabocha Squash
This one-pot meal boasts all of the flavors of a traditional Thai red curry, but only takes a little over an hour, thanks to the use of prepared curry paste. Get our Thai Red Curry with Kabocha Squash recipe.
Related Reading: A Guide to Different Types of Curry
3. Mexico: Chiles Rellenos
Before America had jalapeño poppers, Pueblans had chiles rellenos: roasted poblano peppers stuffed with melted cheese, coated with an egg batter and fried until crispy. Get our Chiles Rellenos recipe. (And if you don’t do eggs or dairy, try a veggie taco to pay homage.)
4. South Korea: Japchae
5. India: Chole (Chana) Masala
India offers many vegetarian delights (aloo gobi is a favorite way to prepare potatoes), but this saucy, spiced chickpea dish is built on pantry staples, which gives it a leg up right now. It makes a lovely meal with yogurt and rice, and is easy and approachable even for those who are completely new to South Asian cooking. Get our Chole (Chana) Masala recipe.
6. Israel: Shakshuka
This dish has North African origins but it’s become inextricably associated with Israel. Our version marries the tomatoes with melting onions and fresh green chiles; we serve it with feta and zhug, an herby Yemeni hot sauce. Get our Shakshuka recipe. (Or try a verdant Green Shakshuka variation.) If you don’t have eggs or don’t eat them, try cooking large spoonfuls of silken tofu in the sauce to evoke that lovely jiggly poached egg texture. And for something to sop up all that sauce, make this easy flatbread recipe on the stovetop.
7. Iran: Baghali Ghatogh
The keys to this incredibly simple yet enchanting Persian stew are a whole lot of dill and well-cooked onions—plus the right type of dried beans. Get the Persian Butter Bean Stew recipe.
8. China: Steamed Vegetable Dumplings
These slightly chewy steamed Chinese dumplings are made with a stuffing of spinach, carrot, mushrooms, and pressed tofu that’s stir-fried first before assembling. Get our Steamed Vegetable Dumplings recipe. (Still hungry? Make our Fried Tofu Takeout Noodle recipe or Shiitake Stir-Fried Brown Rice recipe to go along.)
9. Italy: Cacio e Pepe
If you have a box of pasta and Pecorino cheese at home, then you’re mere minutes away from tucking into a platter of cacio e pepe pasta, a dish that embodies Italian simplicity at its finest. Get our Cacio e Pepe recipe.
Related Reading: Even More Amazing 3-Ingredient Recipes
10. Poland: Mushroom Pierogies
These meaty yet meatless Polish dumplings are hard not to love, with their filling of cremini mushrooms, onion, and garlic wrapped in a tender sour cream dough. After boiling, we like to brown them in a pan of butter for a crisp contrast. Get our Mushroom Pierogies recipe.
11. Japan: Soba Noodles with Swiss Chard-Miso Pesto
This is not a strictly traditional Japanese dish, but it utilizes favorite Japanese ingredients like soba noodles and umami-rich red miso paste, plus a garnish of roasted nori. This is an easy but unusually delicious dish you’ll come back to often. Get our Soba Noodles with Swiss Chard-Miso Pesto recipe.
12. France: Ratatouille
Instead of stewing all these iconic summer vegetables together, we cook them separately so each retains a perfect texture. Twirl this vibrant melange of veggies with pasta for a main course, or use it to top toast for a snack or appetizer. Or just eat it with a spoon. Get our Ratatouille recipe.
13. Greece: Grilled Greek Salad
We can’t help but gaze longingly at the Greek-inspired Spinach and Filo Pie recipe pictured at the top of this page (basically a round spanakopita), but since the weather is finally starting to get warmer, we’re leaning toward this great grilled veggie dish instead—essentially a deconstructed Greek salad with firm halloumi cheese standing in for feta. And yes, even the lettuce is grilled. Serve with flatbread to make it a meal. Get our Grilled Greek Salad recipe.
Susannah Chen wrote the original version of this post in 2015; it has been updated with new links, text, and images.