In 2018, I switched to a completely plant-based diet for several months. Those early days were definitely spent experimenting on the best dishes to order at vegan restaurants and ‘normal’ foodaries. But, I did learn:
- Vegan food is delicious.
- You really don’t feel like you’re missing out.
- When you’re tracking your nutrient intake, it’s pretty sustainable.
I also discovered die-hard meat eaters still think vegan food is all fruit, vegetables and healthy food. How wrong they are! Vegan junk food is sensational.
If you’ve been thinking about introducing more meatless dishes into your diet, this guide will help you do so with a little less pain than I did. You’ll find everything from healthy plant-based dishes to craving-inducing carb coma treats, so be prepared to start salivating.
Photo by Megumi Nachev on Unsplash
What to Order at a Non-Vegan Restaurant if You’re a Vegan
3 Dishes to Try at a Vegan Indian Restaurant
One concern people have about vegan diets is where you get your protein from. There are so many protein-rich plant-based foods and supplements out there. One of these foods is lentils, which just so happen to be a main ingredient of classic Indian dish, dal.
Every chef will have their own way of cooking dal, but most will contain lentils and other pulses, spices (like tumeric), garlic and whatever additions you want. The end result is a thick, stew-like dish absolutely packed full of flavour.
Lentils also contain around 18 grams of protein per 1 cup serve, so you’re getting a good hit of an essential macronutrient too.
Dal can be served with rice, salad, or as I found, is really delicious on toast.
2. Vegetable Pakora
This delicious flavour-bomb combines an array of different vegetables, rolled in a batter and then fried. The batter tends to be made of chickpeas, which also gives you a hit of protein.
While a veggie pakora is far from the healthiest thing you can order from an Indian restaurant, they are super yummy. Eat them as an appetiser, or as I found was my favourite way, dipped in your favourite curry sauce.
You may not be able to have naan bread (made with yoghurt) while following a vegan diet, but you can have papadums! They’re also gluten-free, so double win.
A classic papadum recipe includes flour (such as chickpea), water, salt and sometimes cumin seeds, which is then mixed, rolled into discs and fried. Then, you can snack on them on their own or use them to dip into a delicious dal, curry or other Indian dish.
3 Vegan Dishes to Eat at a Japanese Restaurant
1. Non-Meat Based Ramen
Vegan ramen is a delicious bowl of noodles and broth, with a variety of toppings, such as vegetables, tofu, pieces of nori and other delicious things. Instead of the traditional pork or chicken stock base, vegan ramen will typically use a miso or vegetable base.
If the thought of tofu is putting you off, it’s not added to all vegan ramens. When it is, it can be marinated and fried off so the flavour is absolutely mind blowing. When you order, do mention to your server or the chef that you are vegan, and they can ensure there are no fish sauces and the dish is completely meat free.
Sweets at Japanese restaurants aren’t what you should expect in other Australian eateries. One such dessert is mochi, and you should definitely give it a try.
Mochi is made from pounded glutinous rice and contains a filling. For the adventurous, try the red bean paste filling or, for the more wary, test the waters with a matcha or custard.
Tip: It’s amazing crumbled over frozen yoghurt or as toppings for other desserts.
3. Vegetable Sushi
Westernised sushi is often made fun of for our non-traditional fillings, but it does mean it’s enjoyable for almost anymore. Seek out your local sushi restaurant or Japanese restaurant and try out tofu, tempeh, vegetable or a mock meat roll.
Even if you haven’t tried sushi, you will most likely know what it is. But just in case, sushi is a nori (seaweed) sheet, with a specially made rice and any filling you want, which is then rolled up. There are a few variations, but this is normally the first kind people experiment with.
3 Dishes to Order at a Mexican Restaurant if You’re Vegan
1. Jackfruit Pulled ‘Pork’ Tacos, Burritos & Nachos
Mexican restaurants in Australia are leading the way in cool with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, including switching out pork with jackfruit. It’s worth noting that while jackfruit has a similar texture to pulled pork, the flavour isn’t spot on, but it’s still delicious.
Anything you would normally top with pulled pork, you can simply switch out for jackfruit, if it’s on the menu.
2. Black Bean Soup
The great thing about soups in Mexican restaurants is they’re normally vegetable based. In particular, black bean soup is absolutely delicious, with a similar flavour to a soupy chilli con carne.
A lot of black bean soups will be topped with corn chips or guacamole, and if it’s an optional extra, we do recommend doing so.
3. Vegetable Fajitas
A fajita is a Tex-Mex dish, serving grilled fillings in a flour or corn tortilla. Popular fillings do include beef, chicken and prawns, but there are some delicious vegan options too.
If you don’t see any meat-free options on the menu, see if you can order tortillas and a grilled pile of sliced capsicums, mushrooms and corn. Of course, guacamole can be vegan, so be sure to top up on that too!
3 Things to Order if There are No Vegan Options
Most restaurants, taverns and café will let you order sides on their own. When there are no main items suitable or adaptable, create yourself your own little vegan buffet on your table with all your favourite sides.
I’m talking dairy-free mashed potatoes, chips, steamed vegetables, side salads, dip platters — anything that’s available and you like, eat away!
2. Get a Salad & Hold the Meat
While restaurants may have a chock-a-block salad menu, they don’t always have vegan selections available. The simple solution is hold the meat. However, this leaves the problem that the salad could be a little lacklustre — unless you add your own toppings!
Get friendly with your server and see if you’re able to order a side of fresh or roast veggies, as well as taking out any meat and dairy from the salad. Then, once everything arrives, you can make your own yummy creation.
3. Veggie Supreme Pizza — Hold the Cheese
This trick may only work if you’re at a tavern or family friendly eatery, and not a high-end restaurant. If there are pizzas on the menu, look for a veggie supreme option and simply ask for the cheese to be removed. In times of need, you can also order a normal supreme, holding any meat and dairy.
3 Best Dishes to Order at a Vegan Restaurant
1. Cruelty-Free Burgers
You do not need meat to have a phenomenal burger. Thanks to all the businesses releasing plant-based mock-meat substitutes and lentil or blackbean patties, you’re absolutely rolling in burger options.
Even fast food chains are jumping on the vegetarian and vegan chain with veggie burgers or switching out meat for hash browns. Ensure you double check if any mayonnaise or cheese is vegan, if you’re going meat-free, or simply have it removed.
2. Vegan Mac & Cheese
Yes, there are bad vegan mac & cheese recipes out there, but there are also some absolutely amazing ones that compete with traditional recipes too.
With a vegan mac & cheese, the secret is all in the seasoning. The chef needs to be adding garlic and onion powder, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, a little paprika and normally some nutritional yeast. Cashews can also be creamed to help thicken up the sauce too.
3. Vegan Cheesecake
Like mac & cheese, vegan cheesecake is packed full of ingredients to replace traditional dairy-filled products. However, the ingredients you get will depend on if you’re getting a ‘clean’ or unhealthy recipe.
A clean vegan cheesecake will normally contain a base made of nuts and then use a creamed cashew with flavour (berries, cacao, etc.) for the topping. While it’s considered the healthier version, there are normally a lot of calories in them.
For the alternative, the baker will normally try and find a substitute as close to the original ingredient as possible. But, you should probably try both the cleaner version and a more traditional option to make up your own mind.
You can find a vegan restaurant near you on Localsearch!