Filipinos are meat lovers, but that doesn’t mean vegetarians and vegans are missing out. There’s a world of flavors that are waiting to be explored when it comes to vegetarian Filipino cuisine.
From vibrant vegetable dishes to dishes where coconut milk takes center stage, there is no shortage of delicious options for those who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle in the Philippines.
Vegetarian dishes don’t only highlight the abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits in the country, but they also showcase the creativity and ingenuity of Filipino cooks in transforming these plant-based ingredients into delectable dishes that are not only satisfying, but also very nutritious.
Here are the top vegetarian Filipino dishes that you must try.
Adobo lovers have long embraced the classic combination of meat marinated in vinegar and soy sauce, but for those looking for a vegetarian twist, Adobong Kangkong is the perfect option.
This mouthwatering dish features tender water spinach leaves sautéed in a flavorful mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and spices. This makes way for a rich flavor that pairs perfectly with steamed rice.
The water spinach, also known as kangkong, adds a fresh and crunchy texture to the dish, making it a delight to eat.
Recipe: Adobong Kangkong
Next on the list is Ginisang Monggo (Mung Bean Stew). This hearty and nutritious stew is a staple in Filipino households. especially during Lenten season when meat is traditionally avoided.
To cook this dish, the mung beans are simmered to perfection with a medley of vegetables like tomatoes, ginger, spinach leaves, onions, and garlic, creating a flavorful base for the stew. Some cooks even incorporate ingredients like fried tofu for added texture.
One of the best things about this hearty dish is its inexpensive ingredients which allow it to be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their budget. The simplicity of the dish also makes it easy to prepare, making it a popular choice for busy households.
Recipe: Ginisang Munggo
If you’re looking for a vegetarian twist on a classic Filipino stir-fry dish, then Chopsuey is the answer. This colorful and flavorful medley of vegetables is not only pleasing to the eye but also a delight to the palate.
Chopsuey typically includes a mix of bell peppers, mushrooms, quail eggs, snap peas, carrots, and cabbage. These vibrant veggies are stir-fried in a savory sauce made from soy sauce, oyster sauce, and vegetable broth.
To elevate the protein content of this dish and make it more filling, some vegetarian versions of Chopsuey incorporate tofu or seitan. The tofu absorbs the flavors of the sauce and adds a nice contrast in texture to the crunchy vegetables.
On the other hand, the seitan provides a meaty chewiness that mimics the texture of traditional meat stir-fries.
A dish that will surely make you want to ask for extra rice, Laing is a favorite among vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
Laing starts with taro leaves, which are known for their distinct earthy taste. These leaves are first blanched to remove any bitterness, then sautéed with garlic, onions, and ginger, creating a fragrant base for the dish. The star ingredient, however, is the coconut milk, which adds a velvety character to the sauce.
One of the secrets of this Bicolano dish lies in using fresh and high-quality ingredients, as well as cooking it slowly over low heat to allow the flavors to meld together.
To further enhance the flavor profile, ingredients like chili peppers or shrimp paste is added to give the dish a spicy kick and more umami flavor.
Laing is definitely one of the most mouthwatering Filipino dishes thanks to the creaminess of the coconut milk which balances out the earthiness of the taro leaves.
A crispy snack that is loved by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, Ukoy is a popular Filipino dish that features vegetable fritters.
These golden and crunchy fritters are made with thinly sliced vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini (optional), and carrots.
Meanwhile, the batter is made with rice flour, cornstarch, and water which results in a light and airy texture that perfectly coats the vegetables. Some recipes even call for the addition of chopped spring onions and garlic to give the fritters an extra burst of flavor.
Pinakbet is a flavorful dish that showcases a colorful array of vegetables such as bitter melon, eggplant, squash, okra, and string beans.
These vegetables are sautéed in garlic and onions until tender, then simmered in a savory sauce made from shrimp paste and fish sauce.
For those who are vegan, there are variations of Pinakbet that omit the shrimp paste and fish sauce, replacing them with vegetarian alternatives like soy sauce or miso paste, or vegan versions of shrimp paste and fish sauce.
This allows vegans to not miss out on the umami flavors of Pinakbet without compromising their dietary choices.
If you’re in the mood for a unique and exotic vegetarian dish, look no further than Poqui Poqui. Hailing from the northern region of the Philippines, this dish is a simple yet flavorful culinary gem.
Poqui Poqui is a flavorful eggplant dish that is known for its smoky taste. The star ingredient is the eggplant, which is roasted until the skin turns charred and the flesh becomes tender and succulent.
Once the eggplant is cooked to perfection, it is peeled and mashed with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and eggs. This vegetarian dish is usually enjoyed as breakfast or as a light meal with steamed rice.
Considering the popularity of Sisig, it’s no surprise that vegetarians put their own spin on this beloved Filipino dish. Tofu Sisig captures the essence of traditional Sisig while catering to the vegetarian palate.
Firm tofu is the star ingredient, of course. It is first marinated in a flavorful blend of soy sauce, calamansi juice (or lime juice), and various spices. This marinade infuses the tofu with a tangy and savory taste, reminiscent of the original pork-based Sisig.
Once marinated, the tofu is pan-fried until golden and crispy, mimicking the texture of traditional meat-based Sisig. It is then chopped into smaller pieces to mimic the diced texture of the original dish.
To enhance the flavor and add depth, vegetarian versions of Sisig often incorporate bell peppers, onions, and chili peppers to the dish. These vegetables not only provide a colorful and vibrant appearance but also contribute to the overall taste profile of the dish.
Some adventurous cooks even experiment with different ingredients to add their own twist to Tofu Sisig. For instance, some may include mushrooms to mimic the texture of meat and add an extra layer of complexity to the dish. Once ready, it is served on a sizzling plate with calamansi and mayonnaise.
Recipe: Tofu Sisig
Pork lumpia may be the most popular version of Lumpia, but Lumpiang Sariwa is arguably the most nutritious. This fresh and vibrant version of the popular Filipino spring roll starts with a delicate crepe made from rice flour and water.
These crepes are cooked until they become translucent and pliable, creating a soft wrapping for the filling. The filling itself consists of an array of colorful vegetables like julienned carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts, peanuts, and jicama.
To assemble the Lumpiang Sariwa, a generous amount of the crepe is laid out on a clean surface, and a spoonful of the vegetable filling is placed in the center.
The sides of the crepe are folded over the filling, and then it is rolled tightly to create a neat and compact spring roll, then topped with crushed peanuts.
A final touch of a sweet and tangy sauce made from vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce is drizzled over the Lumpiang Sariwa, adding a burst of flavor to every bite.
Recipe: Lumpiang Sariwa
Named the best eggplant dish in the world, Tortang Talong is a Filipino dish that showcases the humble eggplant in all its glory. This simple yet delicious dish is a typical breakfast food.
To prepare Tortang Talong, eggplants are first roasted over an open flame until the skin turns charred and the flesh becomes tender.
Once cooked, the eggplants are peeled to reveal the soft and smoky interior. Then, the eggplant is mashed with a fork.
In a separate bowl, eggs are beaten until frothy and tomatoes and onions are added to the mixture.
This creates a thick and luscious batter that can be fried into a savory omelet. The eggplant is dipped into this mixture and cooked until golden brown on both sides.
The result is a Tortang Talong that is crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, with a hint of smokiness from the roasted eggplant.
Recipe: Tortang Talong
Ginataang Langka is a beloved Filipino dish that showcases the sweet and creamy flavors of jackfruit cooked in coconut milk.
The jackfruit is first cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces, removing the seeds and tough parts. Then, it is sautéed with garlic and onions until fragrant. Once the jackfruit has softened slightly, coconut milk is added to create a rich and creamy base.
The dish is then brought to a gentle simmer, allowing the flavors to meld together seamlessly.
Ensladang Manga is a refreshing and tangy salad made with green mangoes. This vegetarian appetizer or side dish is perfect for those looking for a light and zesty dish to kickstart their meal.
It’s very easy to prepare. Simply start by peeling and julienning or cubing green mangoes, ensuring that they are small. In a bowl, mix the green mangoes, sliced red onions, chopped tomatoes, and minced chili peppers for a hint of spice.
To create the dressing, combine calamansi juice (or lime juice) with shrimp paste and a touch of sugar (optional). This dressing adds a savory and umami flavor to the salad, balancing out the tartness of the green mangoes.
Once the dressing is whisked together, it is poured over the mango mixture, ensuring that all the ingredients are evenly coated.
Recipe: Ensaladang Mangga
Coconut milk is a staple in Filipino cuisine, and it’s the main ingredient once more in Ginataang Gulay, a delicious and creamy vegetable dish.
This vegetarian dish is made with tons of vegetables with rich coconut milk, resulting in a hearty and satisfying meal.
Ingredients include squash, string beans, eggplant, and okra. These vegetables are cut into bite-sized pieces and then sautéed in a pan until they become slightly tender.
Once the vegetables have softened, coconut milk is added to the pan with a little bit of fish sauce (optional) and shrimp paste (optional), creating a luscious sauce that coats each vegetable perfectly.
For less effort, you can also buy a ginataang gulay mix in the grocery or sari-sari store. Just dissolve this powder into a cup of water and add it to the dish for instant flavor.
The dish is then brought to a gentle simmer, allowing the flavors to meld together and the vegetables to fully absorb the richness of the coconut milk. Tofu and mushrooms can be added for more protein and texture.