I spent Christmas and New Years in Bali this year, and there is so much vegan food abundant everywhere. This visit was only a short one, which got me thinking about must-try foods on this small Indonesian island.
With many places having full vegan menus, what should you absolutely not miss when you’re here?
Smoothie bowls have become super trendy in the past few years, and you can order one in almost every vegetarian restaurant in Bali. Made with a thick smoothie base, these bowls are topped with various toppings such as exotic fresh fruits from Bali, granola, nuts, and seeds.
Popular on Instagram, many restaurants are now trying to outdo each other with how beautiful they can create these bowls. They’re perfect for a light, cool breakfast on a sweltering hot day in Bali. These are vegan most of the time, unless they’re made with yogurt – but many places in Bali use coconut yogurt. If you’re really into smoothie bowls, why not pick yourself up a coconut bowl and wooden spoon at a local market to take back with you to make your own at home.
We recommend Nalu Bowls, which has various locations in Canggu, Seminyak, and Uluwatu
A staple in Southeast Asian cuisine, jackfruit has only recently gained popularity in the West. When unripe jackfruit is slowly cooked, it has a tender, pork-like consistency, which is delicious in wraps, tacos, and curries for a meaty texture. We tried a lot of jackfruit on this trip, seeing as it’s so readily available on many menus and can be cooked and seasoned in a variety of delicious ways. Try it in a sandwich with barbecue sauce, vegan mayo, tomato, and lettuce; or in a spicy Balinese curry with coconut milk. If you want to try this delicious fruit at home, you might be able to find unripe jackfruit at your local Southeast Asian shop, or buy it in a can at your nearest grocery store.
We recommend The Balinese Secret (galette with jackfruit and sambal) from The Spell Creperie
Hailing from the island of Java, tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food that is made from fermenting soybeans. It’s the healthiest form of soy you can eat (as tofu is highly processed!) and has a dense, chewy, meaty texture. You can find it in most restaurants and markets in Bali.
Try it in Gado Gado, an Indonesian cabbage salad with vegetables and rice crackers, or on its own. We also enjoyed vegan Nasi Campur, which is a traditional dish of white rice with various small portions of veggies, mock meats, peanuts, and tofu.
We recommend Vegan Nasi Campur from Beloved Earth Cafe
A spicy meat dish eaten widely in Southeast Asia, Rendang is considered one of the national dishes of Indonesia. Made with coconut milk and a variety of spices, which traditionally helped to preserve the meat, it’s possible to find vegan versions of this dish which use mushrooms, tempeh, or mock meat.
The ground spices usually consist of chili, ginger, galangal, garlic, turmeric leaves, coriander seeds, lemongrass, or shallots. With many flavours, spices, and the mildness of coconut milk, this dish is a must-try in Bali, which is a feast for the senses and absolutely delicious.
We recommend the Tempeh Mushroom Rendang from Sage
Popular in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand, satay originates from Indonesia and is a dish of skewered meat served with a peanut soy sauce. You can often see this being grilled on the streets or served in local restaurants.
It IS possible to find vegan versions of this dish in certain places. Satay sauce is also incorporated into many vegan dishes, including Nasi Campur, Gado Gado, and even Western-style dishes like Buddha Bowls. Vegan versions are often made with ground vegetables and herbs, or mock meats.
We recommend the Coconut Satay Lilit from Pituq Waroeng
If you have a little extra time in Bali to eat, don’t miss out on fresh spirulina. Spirulina is a blue-green microalgae full of nutrients, that grows in warm, fresh water lakes. Before trying fresh spirulina, which can be found in Bali, I only ever tried the bitter green powder (which I put in smoothies) that I detested! Fresh spirulina has a rich, cream-cheese like texture when incorporated into raw dishes, however, such as this raw gnocchi below with spirulina blue cheeze sauce.
If you like spice, make sure to try Indonesian sambal. This is a condiment that is basically hot sauce made from chilis and other spices, which can be served raw or cooked. The traditional method of making sambal is by grinding the spices with a mortar and pestle, often right before eating. Nowadays, sambal can be found pre-packed, ready-to-use or instant, but fresh is best. It pairs well with anything — fried tofu, grilled veggies, or rice.
Have you been to Bali yet? What are your favourite things to eat there? Let us know in the comments!