Meat eaters love to talk smack about vegan food. They say vegan food looks and tastes like cardboard and is nowhere near as good as food with animal products on it. If they try any vegan food at all, it’s typically either vegan pizza or vegan burgers. Judging all vegan food based on vegan pizza and burgers is like saying hip-hop sucks when the only hip-hop song you’ve heard is “Gucci Gang” by Lil Pump.
To truly enjoy vegan food, you need to get out of English-speaking countries either physically or gastronomically. There are so many countries with delicious vegan dishes that don’t overly rely on oil, gravy, or salt for seasoning and instead use vegetables, fruit, spices, and fresh herbs to season their food.
Growing up in an international city as a first-generation American exposed me to so many amazing cuisines from all over the world. Traveling and living overseas has also expanded my palate. I have been able to discover so many incredible ingredients and dishes that are now a big part of my vegan diet.
Here are 21 international foods that I discovered as a vegan.:
1) Vegan Cheese
My addiction to cow cheese was why it took me so long to go from vegetarian to vegan. Once vegan cheese started popping up, it was much easier for me to give up cow cheese. The very first vegan cheese brand I tried was, fortunately, Follow Your Heart which is still one of the best vegan cheese brands out there. In Los Angeles, there’s a Follow Your Heart market and cafe which was my happy place when I lived there.
There are so many amazing vegan cheese companies now. My favorite brand is Dairy Free Down Under from Australia. I make grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, tostadas, and cheese and crackers with their cheese. It’s so good!
2) Vegan Ice Cream
So Delicious was my favorite vegan ice cream when I first became vegan but unfortunately, they don’t sell their product here in Thailand. I also really miss Tofuti Cuties. Thankfully, there are a lot of vegan ice cream brands in Thailand. There is even a market in Bangkok with a vegan section called The Vegan Basket that has an all-vegan ice cream fridge! If you go there, try the chocolate vegan mochi! Talk about vegan heaven!
Hemp is not just for hippies. You can make hemp into anything, including vegan milk, cheese, bread, and pizza! Hemp milk is the best-tasting plant milk in my opinion but oat milk is a close second.
Hemp oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It tastes delicious in salads, smoothies, and pasta. Hemp seeds will enhance any dish and have a rich, nutty flavor. On top of being nutritious and delicious, hemp is also very eco-friendly since it grows easily, does not require pesticides to grow, and improves the soil it grows on instead of depleting it.
I discovered couscous while living in Morocco. Moroccan couscous is not vegan at all but I was able to veganize it easily. I use couscous to make stuffed bell peppers in spicy tomato sauce. It’s also great in salads.
Moroccan spices are on another level. You just need one pinch and the entire pan of food is fully seasoned. I had never used cumin before living in Morocco, but now I put it in pretty much every dish I cook. It tastes amazing in chili, black beans, soup, and stir fry dishes.
6) Argon Oil
Argon oil only grows in Morocco and is the best-tasting oil on the planet. I used to dip my bread in the oil and eat it just like that. It has a very fragrant smell and nutty taste that is not like any other oil. Since it is really expensive outside of Morocco, I recommend only using it if it is prominently featured in a dish. I like it with bread and drizzled on salad. You can also pour some over roasted veggies or cold pasta dishes.
7) Morning Glory
I grew up eating Thai food but never had morning glory before moving to Thailand. Stir-fried morning glory is a very simple dish to make but it’s now my favorite Thai dish. You just need morning glory, cooking oil, soy sauce, garlic, and Thai chilies. It costs less than $.50 to make and is a great source of fiber, potassium, iron, vitamin a, vitamin c, calcium, and magnesium. I eat it with steamed rice and use coconut sauce instead of soy sauce since I’m allergic to soy.
8) Coconut Sauce
I love tofu and used to drink soy milk a lot. Soy was a big part of my life for most of my vegetarian and vegan journey, but I developed a soy allergy a few years ago and can no longer eat it. It sucks, but thankfully, coconut sauce has saved my cooking! I don’t know what sorcery is used to convert coconuts into this salty black sauce, but it tastes better than soy sauce and is a perfect, soy-free and gluten-free replacement!
Outside of Thailand, this sauce is called “coconut amino sauce.” Even if you aren’t allergic to soy, you should try it if you see it at the market. I use it to make pad Thai, pad see-ew (a Thai flat noodle dish), pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), stir-fries, and fried rice.
9) Mushroom Meat
I’ve not seen mushroom meat outside of Thailand and that’s unfortunate since every vegan needs mushroom meat in their lives. Mushroom meat is made from the stems of mushrooms and is seasoned with Thai spices. You can find it at most supermarkets in Thailand and all-vegan Thai restaurants. It’s just called “seasoned mushroom” in Thai.
I love making tacos with it and also make stir fries including a spicy “beef” and broccoli stir fry. I also like to eat it with salad and a side of garlic chive mashed potatoes. It already comes seasoned but I like to add cumin, black pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper when I cook with it.
10) Grilled Bananas
In Latin American cuisine, we eat platanos which are a kind of banana only bigger and better for cooking with. In Thailand, people grill small Thai bananas and eat them with palm sugar syrup and candied coconut meat. I eat grilled bananas by themselves since I think it’s sweet enough already. It’s my favorite snack.
Tempeh originated in Indonesia but is now available all over the world. It’s made from fermented soybean but you can turn any bean into tempeh. I like chickpea tempeh.
I cook tempeh by lightly frying it in olive oil and adding pepper, paprika, sea salt, and cayenne pepper. It enhances any salad and tastes great as a wrap with lettuce, cucumber, spicy salsa, guacamole, and a flour tortilla.
Some people hate quinoa, but I think it’s delicious! Quinoa is originally from Bolivia but is now a popular superfood for people all over the world. Quinoa is very similar to rice in that you can make it taste like anything and it goes with anything. It can taste sweet or bitter depending on what kind you use. It’s packed with protein and very filling.
I love to put quinoa in a spicy turmeric vegetable soup that I make. I also use it in place of couscous since it’s gluten-free and has the same consistency as couscous.
Turmeric is a fragrant spice used in SE Asian and Indian cuisine. It makes everything turn yellow, including your hands and dishes if you’re not careful! It’s an antioxidant that helps lessen inflammation and improves your gut and mental health.
Whenever cold and flu season comes around or when I want to boost my immune system, I make a spicy turmeric soup that always makes me feel better mentally and physically. Turmeric is also delicious in “golden milk” which is made using vegan milk, turmeric powder, ginger, cinnamon, black, pepper, vanilla, and date syrup.
14) Oat Milk
Oat milk arrived in Thailand much later than it did in the U.S. but now there are all kinds of oat milk brands here. My favorite is Good Mate original. I have it with Ceylon tea every morning and love using it for smoothies.
15) Thai Basil
Thai basil has a much stronger scent and flavor than sweet basil. Thai people use it for many different Thai dishes. I love putting Thai basil on pho soup and stir-fries. I also make a simple cold pasta salad with pasta, olive oil, cherry tomatoes, Thai basil, salt, and pepper.
16) Homemade Soup Broth
Since most premade broth isn’t vegan, it’s better to make vegan broth from scratch. Vegan broth is very easy to make but takes a long time since you need to cook it for over an hour to get all the flavors out. It is worth the time though because once you have soup with homemade broth, soup that’s made with chemical broth tastes awful.
To make broth I boil chopped Chinese turnips, carrots, onion, garlic, celery, spinach, parsley, and cilantro for two hours. Be sure to season the broth with salt and pepper.
Ginger is a very strong antioxidant and immune booster. It’s why I never get sick, even if I’m surrounded by people coughing and sneezing. I drink ginger tea pretty much every day and also put it in soups and stir-fries.
19) Cooking Beans from Scratch
Once you cook beans from scratch, you will never touch canned beans again! Since I’m allergic to soy and don’t like vegan meat, beans are my main source of protein. Making beans from scratch is very easy.
Just soak the beans overnight, drain the water, and boil them with salt and other seasonings until cooked. Beans are so cheap and can be made into anything. I make black bean burrito bowls at least once a week. I also use kidney beans for minestrone and chili. Garbanzo beans can be made into hummus and are great for salads and pasta dishes.
Jackfruit is a hearty fruit that is a filling snack and very cheap in Thailand. It can be used as a natural, soy-free vegan meat. I recommend trying jackfruit tacos, fried chicken, Sri Lankan curry, and pulled “pork” sandwiches. You will never miss meat!
21) Burmese Tea Salad
Salad has a terrible reputation for being boring. I like salad but even I don’t get very excited about it. Burmese tea salad, or “laphet,” is the most delicious salad on the planet. The premade tea packages come fully seasoned with Burmese spices and crunchy fried nuts and are 100% vegan!
If you can find some, try it! There are different recipes for it, but I like to mix it with red-leaf lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, avocados, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and lots of fresh lime juice.
If you’re looking for new vegan ingredients that taste better than animal products, try something from this list and see if you love it as much as I do. If there’s an Asian market near you, that’s the perfect place to discover new ingredients. MommyTang’s YouTube channel has a lot of easy, delicious, Asian vegan recipes if you want some inspiration.
When you become a vegan and do it the right way, the options for delicious food you can eat expands and never stops expanding. There are so many fruits and vegetables that you have never heard of or seen that you would probably love. The best way to discover new ingredients is to try vegan food from other countries and travel to new countries when you can. Even if that country isn’t known for being vegan-friendly, you might discover new ingredients to add to your diet. Vegan is not limiting or3 Surprising Foods I Thought I’d Never Eat But LOVE Since Going Vegan boring at all!
And if somehow all those delicious pictures haven’t convinced you of all the vegan options, check out Pete and Toni’s vegan food discoveries!