International Breakfasts

WHAT IS BREAKFAST FOR YOU? IS IT A CUP OF strong coffee and a multi-vitamin? Maybe a latte and a granola bar eaten in the car? Or perhaps a stack of blueberry pancakes, doused in maple syrup, and peppery vegan sausage links?

No matter what your tastes, there’s an international breakfast option out there for you! They aren’t always as difficult to prepare or as exotic as you may think they are, either. Many of the ingredients for international breakfast dishes—such as broths, chopped fruits and vegetables, steamed rice, and tortillas—can also be used in other meals. This minimizes shopping, preparation, and costs. No special ingredients needed!

When you have time to try out some new dishes, have friends and family join in the fun of shopping and preparing. Then, spin the globe and begin your breakfast adventure!


Mexican and Central American breakfasts include some familiar ingredients done in an exciting way. Huevos rancheros start with fried eggs, served with a flavorful red sauce and usually accompanied by steamed or refried beans and steamed tortillas. To veganize this dish, use scrambled tofu for the eggs. Add some vegan pan dulces (Central American sweet rolls) and a robust cup of coffee, and you’ve got a fun way to start the day!

The ever-popular breakfast burrito can be as plain or as fancy as you like. Traditional fillings include chopped tomatoes and onions or salsa, shredded lettuce, fresh or pickled chilies, and fresh cilantro. You can also toss in some chopped or scrambled tofu or make veggie carnitas (very thinly sliced Tofurky or other soy meat, seasoned with your favorite Central American spice blend).

Take a note from early morning Mexican street vendors, who offer seasonal mango, papaya, orange, pineapple, and melon slices or juices. Fresh or frozen vegan tamales flavored with pineapple, coconut, and raisins can be found, especially during winter holiday time. Serve pan dulces with vegan hot chocolate spiced with cinnamon or with Horchata, a hot rice drink that resembles liquid rice pudding.


Norwegian breakfasts are rarely hot or sweet. A typical breakfast is home-baked, seven-grain, whole wheat bread served with butter, margarine, or brown goat cheese, as well as sliced smoked salmon or cod, sliced tomatoes, and fruit juice. Actually, breakfast is usually lunch as well. It’s not unusual for people sitting around the break- fast table to assemble a sandwich of breakfast ingredients, to be eaten later in the day at work or school. Vegans can use thinly sliced smoked tofu in place of the cod and slices of vegan cheese as sandwich ingredients.

Perhaps you’d like to treat yourself to a British breakfast ‘tea.’ Dainty finger sandwiches made with chopped tomatoes, onions, and capers or with sliced cucumber and fresh dill are fun and easy. So are baked beans on toast, sweet pastries, and sliced fruit. Have a pot of tea at the table, properly enjoyed with the steamed non-dairy milk of your choice.

For breakfast minimalists, you might try the French approach. A large cup of steaming latte, a minute glass of fruit juice, a baguette or vegan croissant with fruit preserves, and a square of dark chocolate says, “à la française.” The secret is having coffee cups that resemble soup bowls, as the latte or steaming coffee with milk is the centerpiece of this morning meal. Large cups leave lots of room for dunking breakfast breads.

In contrast, traditional German and Eastern Euro- pean hot breakfasts are not for the light-and-lean crowd. On weekends or holidays, you may find tables groaning with meat cutlets, eggs, potatoes cooked with onions and bacon fat, and breakfast ‘puddings’ made with smoked meat, eggs, and cream. Breakfast breads and pastries are served with oodles of fresh butter. Fruit usually appears in the form of juice, fruit preserves, and fruit cooked in syrup and served with heavy cream. Thin waffles and crêpes are served with regional syrups, preserved berries, and of course, lots of butter.

We can re-create the groaning table with a variety of vegan meats, including vegan bacon strips, vegan sausage patties, and steamed or baked savory silken tofu puddings flavored with sautéed onions, white or black pepper, and vegan sausage crumbles. Add some freshly baked sweet breads, rolls, and vegan muffins and lots of fresh and baked fruit. Consider making this ‘spread’ for a holiday brunch!

And for the more adventuresome, there’s always the famous Czech garlic and bacon soup for breakfast. Doesn’t a fragrant bowl of garlic broth, seasoned with crumbled vegan bacon strips and served with a hard roll for dunking, sound interesting?


Asian breakfasts are the ultimate in subtlety and health. Japanese breakfasts can feature steamed sushi-style rice (more glutinous than long-grain rice), miso soup (avail- able as a dry mix; check the ingredients to make sure it is vegan), steamed tofu, thick daikon radish slices, and pickled vegetables. They do just fine without the egg that is typically served with them! Keep in mind that Japanese breakfast dishes, while relatively low in fat and calories, are fairly high in sodium.

Vietnamese breakfasts may include pho, which is distinct from other Asian noodle soups because it has strong Chinese and French influences. Early pho chefs borrowed white rice noodles from China and adopted the French tradition of adding charred onions to beef or chicken broth for color and flavor. Simply substitut- ing vegetable broth will not take away from this soup’s taste! Then, garnishes such as sliced onions, sprouts, chilies, and basil finish off the dish.

Popular in India and Pakistan, raitas are yogurt- based condiments that add ‘cool’ and subtle flavor to spicy foods. Raitas are a combination of yogurt and minced, raw fruits and vegetables, with some ginger, garlic, green chili paste, and/or mustard mixed in. Instead of dairy yogurt, use unflavored vegan yogurt or soft, silken tofu flavored with a small amount of lemon juice mixed into the tofu. Then, add your own mixture of fruits, vegetables, and seasonings, and you have created vegan raitas at home!

Adding International Flair to Yogurt

In many countries, breakfast is a bowl of plain (unflavored) yogurt. To give this dish a cultural bent, start with 2 cups of unflavored soy yogurt. If soy yogurt is not available, you can use soft, silken tofu, flavored with approximately 1 teaspoon of lemon juice per cup. This will yield 3 servings. Here are some ideas:
  • Scandinavian: Add 1/4 cup of chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, fresh berries (in season), canned or frozen raspberries or loganberries, or currant jelly.
  • Greek:Add cup of chopped cucumbers, chopped sweet onions, assorted olives, or dates.
  • Turkish: Add 1/4 cup of fresh sliced apricots (in season), canned apricots in syrup, dried apricots, assorted fruit preserves, or a variety of dates.
  • Middle Eastern: Add 1/4 cup of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet onions, radishes, dates, or raisins.
  • Russian: Add 1/4 cup of vegetarian caviar, chopped sweet onions, chopped scallions, shredded beets, chopped apples, or walnuts and raisins.
  • Indian: Add 1/4 cup of shredded carrots and cucumbers, chopped pistachios, or raisins and 1/2 teaspoon of spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cumin, or orange and lemon zest.


(Makes 8 servings)

This Latin American beverage tastes great hot or cold. Make a double batch and store in the refrigerator.

  • 1 quart rice milk
  • 1 quart water
  • 3/4 cup sugar (Use your favorite vegan
  • variety.)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large pot, combine rice milk, water, and sugar. Heat and stir for approximately 3 minutes. Add cin- namon and vanilla and continue to stir for an additional 2 minutes.

Serve hot, or chill for approxi- mately 2 hours and then serve.

Total calories per serving: 136
Carbohydrates: 31 grams Sodium: 50 milligrams
Fat: 1 gram Protein: 1 gram
Fiber: <1 gram


(Makes 6-8 crêpes)

This sweet crêpe recipe is very convenient. The batter can be prepared and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

  • 1/2 cup soy or almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup melted nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup or orange
  • juice concentrate
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • Water to thin crêpe batter, if necessary

In a large bowl, combine milk, water, margarine, sugar, maple syrup or orange juice, flour, and salt. Mix only to combine. Cover and allow batter to chill for at least 2 hours. The batter can also be made a day ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.

When ready to prepare crêpes, preheat a large skillet or electric frying pan to high heat and spray with vegetable oil. Place a layer of paper towels on a serving plate.

Crêpes should be very thin, thin enough to cook completely without flipping. Pour a very thin layer of the batter into the pan, approximately 2-3 Tablespoons depending on the size of the pan. Cook until golden and thoroughly cooked, approximately 1 minute, depending on the pan and thickatter. Remove from pan and place on the serving dish. You’ll want to layer the crêpes with paper towels or a clean cloth so they do not stick together.

Continue to create crêpes, thinning the batter with a very small amount of water if necessary.

Serve the crêpes hot, spread with fruit preserves and/or sprinkled with a small amount of chopped nuts.

Note: If you prepare the crêpes ahead of time, refrigerate them and then serve hot or cold when needed.

Total calories per crêpe: 179
Carbohydrates: 23 grams Sodium: 190 milligrams
Fat: 8 grams Protein: 3 grams
Fiber: 1 gram


(Makes 6-8 servings)

*Pictured on the cover. This savory breakfast soup can be made ahead and heated as desired. Proceed with caution—it is garlicky!


  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 pods dried star anise
  • 2 dried bay leaves

Place broth, soy sauce, garlic, and onions in a large pot and bring to a fast boil. Reduce heat and add ginger, cinnamon, star anise, and bay leaves. Cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the garlic, onions, cinnamon, anise, and bay leaves and discard them. Continue to simmer while you prepare the rice noodles.


  • One 1-pound package dried rice noodles
  • Approximately 3 quarts boiling water to cook noodles (See package directions.)
  • One 8-ounce package seitan, drained and chopped (found in natural foods stores)
  • 1/4 cup fresh, washed bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup shredded Asian cabbage, such as Napa
  • 1/2 cup washed baby spinach
  • 1 cup shredded fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped scallions (both green and white parts)
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped, roasted, unsalted peanuts (optional)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup fresh, deseeded, and chopped chilies (You choose the heat!)

While the broth is simmering, prepare the noodles according to the package directions (usually soaking for 10 minutes and then cooking in 3 quarts of boiling water until tender, approximately 2 minutes). Drain noodles and place them in a serving dish that s large enough to hold the finished broth as well.

Add the seitan to the broth and allow it to heat for approxi- mately 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove seitan from broth and place the seitan on top of noodles in the serving dish.

When ready to serve, place sprouts, cabbage, spinach, basil, cilantro, scallions, and (if using) peanuts on top of the noodles and seitan. Pour the hot broth over this and serve immediately. Allow everyone to season with lime and chilies, as desired.

Note: Asian basil, also called ‘pur- ple’ or ‘opal’ basil, may be used in place of conventional basil.

Total calories per serving: 388
Carbohydrates: 76 grams Sodium: 775 milligrams
Fat: 1 gram Protein: 14 grams
Fiber: 3 grams


(Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups or 2 servings)

  • 1 cup plain (unflavored) vegan yogurt
  • 1/2 cup peeled, chopped, and deseeded cucumbers
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Place yogurt into a bowl and stir in cucumbers. Add seasonings. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Total calories per serving: 79
Carbohydrates: 12 grams Sodium: 16 milligrams
Fat: 2 grams Protein: 3 grams
Fiber: 1 gram


(Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups or 2 servings)

  • 1 cup plain (unflavored) vegan yogurt
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Total calories per serving: 82
Carbohydrates: 12 grams Sodium: 20 milligrams
Fat: 2 grams Protein: 3 grams
Fiber: 2 grams


(Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups or 2 servings)

  • 1 cup plain (unflavored) vegan yogurt
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/3 cup chopped golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped no-salt-added pistachios
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Total calories per serving: 247
Carbohydrates: 37 grams Sodium: 38 milligrams
Fat: 9 grams Protein: 7 grams
Fiber: 4 grams

Nancy Berkoff is The Vegetarian Resource Group’s Food Service Advisor. She is the author of Vegans Know How to Party, Vegan in Volume, Vegan Microwave Cookbook, Vegan Menu for People with Diabetes, Vegan Seafood: Beyond the Fish Shtick for Vegetarians, and Vegan Passover Recipes.