Vegan Sri Lanka – try these top 10 vegan meals in Sri Lanka
General things to remember:
Traditional Sri Lankan cuisine is very spicy. They use a lot of chilli, black pepper, onion, garlic in almost all the salty meals. If you don’t like any of the ingredients, you need to tell them ahead of time. If they have to prepare a meal from scratch, they might use less of these ingredients or not use them at all. But even if you ask for a ”non-spicy” meal, usually it will be spicy anyway. Their understanding of spicy is different to ours.
Tempered means: a lot of spices are used during the meal preparation whcih brings up their flavor even more. It’s a cooking technique when spices are roasted in oil or without oil to enhance their flavor. Basically it means that the meal will be even spicier. Bring on the dragon breath haha.
Deviled means: not really sure if the word has anything to do with devil but maybe the strong flavor. It’s usually something cut into pieces, that is or fried or grilled and with a sauce. I also found it spicy just made in a slighly different way than with tempering.
- Always explain the word vegan. Sometimes they might not realize that ghee, eggs or butter are NOT vegan. Many people still confuse vegetarian with vegan so it’s good to clarify.
- It takes quite a long time to prepare meals in Sri Lanka. In some restaurants it can be even one hour or an hour and a half, depending on the meal, so it’s normal to order a meal, leave and then go back to the restaurant to eat it or take it away.
- Similarly to India, Sri Lankans usually eat their meals with hands so they can connect with the food better. You can ask for cutlery, though in most places, no problem.
I mention young coconuts like the first ones on this list because I believe that they are super healthy. Most probably one of the healthiest things out there in the world, together with green leafy veggies full of chlorophyll. It’s almost impossible for bacterias or any other ”negative” things to get inside a coconut. The water is filtered over and over again which makes it so healthy. Coconut water is hydrating, full of electrolytes, good source of magnesium, low in calories and contains almost no fat. If I had to choose just 1 thing to eat/drink for the rest of my life, it would be young coconut water and coconut flesh.
In Sri Lanka you will find coconuts being sold along the main roads, at fruit and veggie markets, outside of fruit stalls… quite a lot all around. Get ready for orange-colored coconuts, and not the green ones as you might have seen in other countries. In Sri Lanka the orange coconuts are called ”king coconuts”.
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3. Vegetable rice and curry
Traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry is made with coconut milk. However, there might be parts of it that would be just vegetarian (contain animal milk or eggs) and not vegan, so always double check when ordering. Just remember that Sri Lankan curry is very spicy so if you cannot handle spicy, tell them ahead of time.
6. Fried vegetable noodles or rice
Fried veggie rice is easy to get as well, similarly to fried veggie noodles I mentioned above. However, I saw the same ”problem” there as with noodles. The biggest part of the meal is rice, while the vegetables form a tiny portion. Then the whole meal does not contain many nutrients and again, it tastes boring after a while.
We all know that dhal is a curry made of red lentils. While in India it can be made with cow milk (vegetarian) or coconut milk (e.g. in Kerala state), in Sri Lanka I have only seen it cooked in coconut milk (vegan). Thumbs up! It’s quite quick to prepare and it’s usually eaten or with roti or with plain white rice. What I found interesting is that in Sri Lanka each time I tasted dhal, it was rather spicy. A bit or very spicy, but always spicy. While in India it was one of those safe meals for me and usually not spicy at all. I guess it depends on herbs used and if the cook uses a lot of chilli, onion or garlic, right?
Dhal is one of those meals you cannot get enough of. At least for me. I believe this list would not be complete without dhal. Do you also love it as much as I do?
8. Coconut sambal
9. Vegetable kottu
I was both really surprised and happy to find out that they do make vegan pancakes in many places around Sri Lanka. They look yellow and taste like coconut because they are mostly made of coconut milk and grated coconut. Sometimes coconut or kithul palm sugar or syrup are put inside, other times they are eaten with fresh fruit.
And what about vegan snacks?
- salted or spicy nuts – at grocery stores
- salted or spicy lentils (called dhal) – at grocery stores
- salted or spicy chickpeas (called gram) – at grocery stores
- boiled chickpeas – I’ve seen a few street stalls where they sold boiled chickpeas with grated coconut, and spices if you wish. I didn’t add spices but chickpeas tasted great and it was another source of protein and fiber.
- roasted peanuts – also possible to get at street stalls