The Gastronomer's Guide
5 Best Vegetarian Dishes in the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean diet is known to be one of the healthiest diets in the world. Heavy on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans, there also tends to be a good deal of poultry and fish on the table. Not to worry — there are plenty of easy workarounds and substitutions vegetarians can make to do Mediterranean cuisine their own way. Whether dining your way around Italy and Greece or cooking for yourself, here are five dishes you should definitely try.
1. Fattoush Salad with Mint Dressing
A staple of any Lebanese meal, fattoush is a colorful salad loaded with fresh produce. It’s easy to be flexible with fattoush; add carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, radish, cabbage, bell peppers, toasted pita, and so on. The basic variety typically uses lemon dressing, but you can spice it up with mint. For protein, toss in some roasted chickpeas or lentils — and don’t forget sumac, a tarty Middle Eastern spice that adds a kick of flavor and color. Fattoush can be served as a main or as one of many side salads.
2. Roasted Chickpea Gyros
You simply can’t leave Greece without eating its go-to dish: The gyro. Many vegetarians would write off the gyro, a flatbread pita wrap nearly always highlighted by pork or chicken. But veggies, rejoice — introducing the roasted chickpea gyro, a delicious alternative we have a hard time even calling an alternative, because it’s just as delicious. If you’re making it yourself, the key is to perfect those chickpeas. Try 20 minutes in the oven for a hearty, but not hard, texture. If you’re dining out, then just sit back and enjoy!
3. Moroccan Honey Glazed Eggplant
This melt-in-your-mouth eggplant dish comes at you from all angles. The soft eggplant is the main event, but the honey provides a much-appreciated sweetness. The harissa — a North African hot chili pepper paste — comes in with a kick, followed by warm cumin and a sour lemony tang. It’s as good warm as it is cold — can you say leftovers? As savory as this dish is, you’ll barely notice you’re eating vegetarian. Bonus: It’s also gluten-free.
4. Creamy Tomato and Roasted Veg Risotto
Craving an Italian flavor? Go with one of their favorite dishes: Risotto. This rice dish is typically cooked in a broth derived from meat or fish, but this veggie (and naturally vegan) variation subs in vegetable stock and oozes with cherry and sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and red peppers. Add vegan parmesan if you’re feeling frisky! Risotto is not only easy to make, it’s rich in flavor. At its best, it’s perfectly creamy and provides a little bit of everything in each bite.
Ever heard of Mujaddara? It’s popular across the Middle East and comes in various forms. The dish is layered: Lentils and rice spread across the base and the mix is topped with caramelized onions and a few sauces on the side. Typically, you’d finish it off with a yogurt sauce, but substitute hummus or tahini to make this already gluten-free dish vegan and dairy free. The best part? It’s super inexpensive to make.