There’s a myth that Middle Eastern food and culture aren’t compatible with vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. This perception could not be more false. I am here to show you how some of the most delicious and popular vegan dishes are, in fact, from the Middle East–I mean we are the undisputed champions of hummus, after all. So, if one of your 2018 green goals is to introduce more plant-based dishes to your diet, then here’s a list to get you started:
Food sharing is an essential part of the Middle Eastern culture. We love sitting around the dining table, enjoying delicious dips and getting lost in conversation. When it comes to keeping it vegan, it doesn’t really get much better than Middle Eastern appetizers. A classic spread looks something like this: hummus, falafel, tabbouleh, baba ganoush and, of course, dolma.
While most of these foods have become mainstream, appearing on many menus in Western cities, don’t doubt for a second that they originated from the Middle East.
Now, on to some hot dishes for the cold months ahead: vegan soups to give you all the energy and nutrients you need. When it comes to vegan alternatives, ensuring that your meals are filled with whole foods such as legumes and pulses is a must. These babies have all the complex carbs, fiber, protein and vitamins you need from a plant-based diet.
One of my personal favorites is the good old lentil soup that can be made with red or green lentils. The Iranian diet has Ash-Reshteh, a thick noodle soup that is filled with lentils, beans, chickpeas and lots of herbs. The flavors are mouth-watering and all you have to do is avoid the ‘kashk’ (a fermented dairy product) to keep it 100 percent vegan.
3. Rice dishes
You didn’t think we were going to skip the rice, did you? For many Middle Eastern cultures, making rice is considered an art. Speaking from experience, the classic and aromatic saffron rice from Iran is a staple on every table. A popular vegan dish that comes up again and again in Middle Eastern cuisines is rice and lentils. Different countries in the region make it differently, with their own delicious twists.
If you’re not already convinced that the Middle Eastern region is vegan-friendly, then let’s talk dates. These nutrient-rich energy goodies are what every vegan needs to snack on. The varieties are endless, but my personal favorite has to be Palestinian Medjoul dates.
These plant-based Middle Eastern foods are high in energy and can be turned into delicious meals. So next time your grandma tells you to eat meat, remind her that equally delicious and nutritious plant-based meals can be made out of common traditional staples.