9 World Famous Dishes that Are Naturally Plant-Based
For nearly all of modern human history, dining on copious hunks of meat was a luxury reserved for the wealthy and the elite. Because of this reality, cultures have always relied on more plentiful plant-based ingredients to shape their cuisine. Starchy tubers, protein-packed legumes, and simple flour-based doughs were crucial to the nourishment and development of people around the world.
That’s why many of the iconic dishes we regularly enjoy in the US were originally made vegetarian or entirely plant-based. These foods—falafel, curries, burritos, dumplings, etc.—areremain staples of the American diet, and can still be prepared without any animal products. That being said, if you’re dining out at a restaurant, there’s a chance that meat or dairy may be added to the dish, so you should always check with the staff before ordering.
This Monday, check out our list of world-famous dishes that are naturally plant-based, and take a shot at cooking them at home. We’ve attached a basic recipe along with each dish, but you can always branch out and customize them to your preference. If you want to save time, many of these foods can be purchased pre-made at the supermarket, in either the frozen or refrigerated sections. Just make sure to read the label to make sure there are ’s no surprise ingredients. Happy cooking!
Everyone is likely familiar with the burrito, a fluffy flour tortilla wrapped around a filling of various proteins, sauces, and vegetables. It was originally conceived as a way to transport food and to keep it hot, but today the burrito is in a category all its own, with chefs and home cooks continuously pushing the boundaries of this humble food. Burritos can be filled with everything from beans to whole grains, like brown rice or quinoa, to roasted vegetables, like sweet potato, cauliflower, or bell peppers. Adding salsa, guacamole, or hot sauce (all naturally vegetarian) can amp up the flavor and spice level.
For the Easy Tex-Mex Burrito recipe, click here.
People across the United States are passionate about cooking and eating chili, and this passion has spawned countless variations, recipes, competitions, and debates. Texas chili is no beans, no tomato, and all beef, but many types of chili opt for some combination of beans, tomatoes, and vegetables, as well as ample amounts of smoky chile peppers and spices. One way to add another level of richness to vegetarian chili is using a spoonful(s) of creamy peanut butter, which contributes a subtle nutty sweetness to the final product.
For the Best Vegetable Chili recipe, click here.
There are hundreds of varieties of curries cooked around the world, making it a truly global dish. And for good reason. The combination of warm, aromatic spices and seasonings, and pungent kick of chile easily excites the taste bud. Indian curries typically use chickpeas, cauliflower, potato, and a spicy paste, while curries from Southeast Asia are sweet-and-spicy, thanks to the addition of coconut milk. There are also Japanese curries, which are dark and look a lot like melted chocolate, and are uniquely delicious. You can easily create your own curry at home, customizing it to your preference while keeping the essence of the dish intact.
For the Vegan Thai Red Curry recipe, click here.
A staple of Mediterranean cuisine, the falafel is a crispy protein-packed ball of pulverized chickpeas, typically fried, that can be added to pita sandwiches or atop salads. The secret to making delicious falafel is starting with dried chickpeas (you can use canned but it won’t be the same), and using large amounts of fresh herbs, spices, garlic, and a sprinkling of baking powder and baking soda. This recipe from The Mediterranean Dish is a great introduction to the art of falafel. If you don’t feel like making your own from scratch, there are boxed falafel mixes and frozen varieties that come pre-made and just need to be heated.
For the Double-Decker Falafel Sliders recipe, click here.
Is it pasta? A dumpling? A potato? Italians may argue all three, but the classic version typically consists of nothing but starchy potatoes and flour (although some recipes call for egg). This mixture is formed into a rope of dough roughly an inch thick, and is then chopped into bite-sized pieces and quickly cooked in boiling water. Today, you can find gnocchi made from everything: almond flour, corn meal, bread, pumpkin, cauliflower, and spinach, as well as the classic potato. Because gnocchi recipes generally use a higher ratio of non-flour ingredients than pasta, it is often considered the healthier of the two options. You can toss gnocchi with a fresh pesto sauce or baked with tomato sauce in a hot oven.
For the Vegan Gnocchi recipe from The Curious Chickpea, click here.
Hummus may have originated in the Middle East, but this creamy, garlicky dip has made its way around the globe. Recently, variations on traditional hummus have emerged (you can find hummus made from beets, carrots, black beans, and pistachio), but the classic is a simple combination of chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, lemon juice, and seasoning. You can also add roasted garlic, miso paste, or chipotle chile to give your hummus extra flare.
For the Quick and Easy Hummus recipe, click here.
Another dough/potato dumpling combination, the pierogi, once considered peasant food, is an iconic piece of Central- and Eastern-European cuisine. The dough is typically made with flour and water (sometimes egg), and is then stuffed with any number of fillings: Some are plant-based, filled with potato, fried onions, sauerkraut or mushroom, while others are filled with farmer’s cheese or meat. You can even find dessert pierogies if you look hard enough. To cook pierogies, simply simmer in boiling water till they float and finish in a hot pan with some oil or butter (vegan butter works, too). Then serve with something creamy.
For the Vegan Pierogies recipe from Connoisseurs Veg, click here.
There are a lot of frozen dessert options chilling in the freezer aisle of your supermarket, but it isn’t always clear which ones use dairy and which ones don’t. Sorbet, unlike ice cream, gelato, or sherbet, can be made using only water and sugar (but sometimes fruit juice and other ingredients are added for flavor). So how does it get so creamy? Dissolving sugar in water gets you a syrup with a lower freezing point than water alone, so as the remaining water begins to freeze, the remaining sugar syrup becomes more concentrated and prevents it from freezing solid. You can make your own sorbet at home, but a vegan “nice cream” made with frozen bananas and other fruit might also satisfy your frosty dessert cravings.
For the Vegan Mango Sorbet recipe from The Petite Cook, click here.
Click here for more Meatless Monday recipes. When posting pictures of recipes to your social media network, tag @MeatlessMonday use #MeatlessMonday to show the plant-based community your creation.