The beginning of the year sees a great number of individuals experiment with plant-based diets. Their motivation could be health, animal welfare, or even the environment, and their new vegan motivation leads them to seek out a number of animal product alternatives, as well as a host of exciting plant-based recipes.

One common discovery is that there are a number of popular international dishes that are already made without meat and dairy products. While it might seem unusual to a culture whose diet is so closely related to the signature meat and two veg, many other countries around the world have a wide range of plant-based recipes that are a standard and celebrated part of their diet. Today, we’re sharing five of our absolute favourites!

Dhal

To regions across South Asia, dhal can mean a number of different dishes. By definition, dhal, or dal, are the edible pulses used to make soups, but these soups have great variety. Most commonly, however, dal are prepared with onions and tomatoes before being added to a stock, creating a rich and delicious dish that can be served well with rice or bread. Most recipes you will find are indeed plant-based but, do scrutinise the ingredient list as some will call for ghee.

Jollof Rice

The iconic rice of West Africa has become internationally celebrated for its smoky profile and vibrant colour, with servings like Jollof Rice from VaroFoods becoming a mainstay of supermarkets. Few can resist the taste of jollof and it remains an essential part of every menu in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, many of whom compete to have the so-called best jollof in the world. A sauce is made with scotch bonnets, tomatoes, and spices, that is then added to the rice during cooking, imbuing each grain with flavour and colour.

Vegetable Gyoza

A favourite among those fond of Asian cooking, gyoza can be, and often are, vegan. Meat-based gyoza can easily be served with pork and chicken alternatives but there’s often little need to do so when vegetable gyoza, with their deep flavours created by mushrooms and even seaweeds. Don’t assume that all are vegan, since fish sauce and oils are typical ingredients but, this can easily be swapped.

Tacos

Mexican cooking is an endeavour that rewards plant-based diets, being full of exciting vegetable ingredients and an array of remarkable spices. Tacos, and their sibling the taquito, have the potential to be a showstopping dish without the addition of meat or dairy. Squashes are a great vehicle for lime and chilli, which can all be roasted together before being served with rice, lettuce, and tomato for an impressive taco. Just don’t forget the salsa verde or guacamole!

Falafel

Chickpeas are a treasure for any plant-based diet, being versatile and nutritious. The water they are often stored in, aquafaba, can even be used as an egg substitute. It is when they are prepared and cooked as falafel, however, that they are at their most delicious. Chickpeas, and occasionally fava beans, are mixed together with onions, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and parsley, before being fried, to create a crisp and rich food that is best served inside soft, warm pita bread.