Vegan Middle Eastern Food

Nearly every meatless item in a Middle Eastern restaurant will be vegan. Here's an introduction to the menu offerings that are most worth sampling.
Last Updated: October 14, 2017

There may be no cuisine that’s so reliably vegan as Middle Eastern food. And that’s a weird thing to say given that most Middle Eastern restaurants feature a shank of lamb spinning in a rotisserie. But as long as you avoid the meat-containing dishes, traditional Middle Eastern food contains no eggs and only rarely contains dairy products.

Here are some of the most popular vegan foods from the middle east:

  • Falafel (deep-fried garbanzo bean/garlic/parsley balls)
  • Hummus (A paste made from garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, & lemon juice)
  • Baba ghanouj (roasted mashed eggplant with tahini and garlic)
  • Tahini dressing (sesame butter, lemon juice, water)
  • Pita bread (a puffed pocket bread that can be stuffed with the above items)
  • Dolmas (Rice, herbs, and olive oil wrapped in a grape leaf)
  • Garnishes of olives, peppers, and pickled turnips

So what non-meat dishes do you still have to look out for? Tzatziki is a cucumber/yogurt dish, not as popular as anything listed above, but still widely found in Middle Eastern restaurants. And it’s possible that dolmas may be soaked in a meat broth, so you’ll want to ask about that.

Be sure to keep in mind that falafel is sold in both Middle Eastern and Greek restaurants. In Greece, it’s traditional to ruin the tahini by adding yogurt, so if you’re dining at a Greek restaurant you may need to inquire about the vegan status of their tahini, since the stuff will likely get squirted into your pita order unless you specify otherwise.

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