Serving some of the best food in the world, in Indonesia vegetarian food is easy to find.
Indonesia has an incredible food culture, much like many other Asian countries. There are 6000 islands and 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia creating a diverse and vibrant mix of food.
It is largely based around the street food culture where many traditional dishes can be found at food stalls, often called a warung or kedai.
Steamed rice (nasi) is normally the staple at any meal and forms the centerpiece at the table. While chicken, eggs, beef, fish, and milk are the staple proteins, Indonesian vegetarian food is incredibly popular.
Indonesian cuisine is highly regional, thus differs greatly amongst the different regions and islands in the archipelago.
Influences include the Middle East, India, and China and the array of vegetarian food is no different.
If you’re wanting to eat food that is exclusively vegetarian, Indonesia is the perfect place to do so.
In Indonesian sayur means vegetable so keep an eye on that when reading restaurant menus.
Indonesia Vegetarian Food
1. Bakwan Jagung / Corn Fritters
First on the vegetarian food list is bakwan jagung, also referred to as perkedel jagung.
It is an Indonesian street food snack made from corn and can also be used as a side dish or as an appetizer.
The corn is then mixed with flour, shallots, spring onion, egg, flour (wheat and rice), water, salt, and white pepper. The batter is then fried in hot oil until golden brown.
Urap/urab is an Indonesian vegetarian salad that is made using steamed or boiled vegetables.
The vegetables are mixed with shaved coconut that has been lightly spiced and seasoned. Vegetables used for the dish include spinach, green beans, Chinese water spinach, cabbage, and mung bean sprouts.
The dish is then topped with a combination of shredded coconut, kaffir lime leaves, a hint of chili, garlic, and shallots.
Although urap can be found throughout Indonesia, it is more of a Javanese specialty.
Bakwan jagung are found throughout the country, sold by street food vendors and at the local markets.
2. Mie Tek Tek / Mie Goreng / Fried Noodles
These Javanese stir-fried noodles derive their name from the sound of the spatula hitting the wok – tek tek.
They are traditionally sold by street vendors who walk through the neighborhoods selling their goods. The hitting of the wok signals the vendors are nearby, ready to sell their Indonesian vegetarian food.
The dish is largely based on the Chinese chow mein dish but is normally a bit sweeter. This is due to the addition of a sweet Indonesian soy sauce.
Stir-fried vegetables, garlic, and chilies are mixed with egg noodles and tossed together to form this vegetarian dish.
Many Indonesians will add chicken to the dish too.
There are also many variations of mi tek tek as each region and vendor will have their own rendition of it.
Mie goreng translates directly to “fried noodles” and is found throughout the country.
Although the vegetarian option is highly popular, many warungs add some form of protein such as chicken, prawn, or beef.
4. Telur Belado
The next Indonesian vegetarian food on the list is telur belado, originating from West Sumatra.
This vegetarian dish in Indonesia includes eggs so it won’t be suitable for everyone.
Hard boiled eggs are deep-fried and then cooked in sambal balado – a sweet, sour, and spicy sauce.
It is this sauce that takes the humble egg to the next level.
Telur belado can work as both a main dish and as a side dish. They can be served on rice or be served together with other forms of protein. Or even as a quick snack between meals.
While it can be made easily at home, it is best bought from an Indonesian street vendor at one of the many warung nasis.
If you have decided to eat purely vegetarian, Indonesia is the perfect location to do so. Rujak, once again a dish of Javanese origin, is a salad comprised of both fruit and vegetables.
There are many variations of the salad, but common ingredients include apple, cucumber, green mango, pineapple, and papaya.
The dressing (sambal rujak) is a combination of sweet, salty, and spicy. It’s made up of tamarind, chili, palm sugar, water, and dried shrimp paste.
Rujak is one of the most delicious vegetarian foods in Indonesia and is perfect as a side dish, snack, or dessert.
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Originating from West Java, oncom is made from a base of soy pulp, cassava tailings, or peanut and coconut press cake.
The base product is then fermented with mold to create either red or black oncom.
This traditional Indonesia vegetarian food item is prepared in various ways.
It can be deep-fried to make goreng fritters. It can be cooked in banana leaves to make a dish called pepes.
Or it can be roasted and mixed with steamed rice to form a dish on its own.
Because it is fermented, there are a number of health benefits associated with oncom.
Some of these include boosting metabolism, protecting the digestive system, and reducing cholesterol.
7. Gado Gado
Literally translated to “mix mix”, this Indonesian vegetarian food staple is considered a super salad.
It’s packed with fresh vegetables, bean sprouts, fried tofu, and boiled eggs. Finished off with a slightly spicy and umami peanut dressing sauce, it’s simply delicious.
Gado gado is recognized as one of the five national Indonesian food dishes, and rightly so. It is found in almost every part of Indonesia, at street food vendors, local markets, and restaurants.
There are many variations of the dish depending on the region, but you can count on this: It’s going to be fresh. It’s going to be crunchy. It’s going to be flavorful.
8. Nasi Goreng / Fried Rice
Nasi goreng is one of the five national dishes in Indonesia, modeled on the Chinese egg and vegetable fried rice dish.
It is also incredibly popular in other parts of Southeast Asia too.
There is no single recipe for nasi goreng as are so many different variations of this staple Indonesian dish.
The main ingredients include rice, an array of vegetables, garlic, and an assortment of seasonings.
It is often mixed with sweet Indonesian soy sauce (kecap manis), thus giving it its dark color.
The flavor profile is sweet, savory, spicy, and of course, umami.
It is believed that the origins of the dish stemmed from reducing the amount of rice wastage.
Therefore, there are no two ways about it. The rice used for nasi goreng must be cold, day-old rice. Period.
It is almost always topped off with a fried egg as well as fresh chili and spring onion.
9. Tempe Goreng
This simple, yet delicious vegan dish is a staple found across Indonesia.
A brine of raw garlic, aromatic spices, and water is prepared. The raw tempe is then marinated in this brine for a few minutes.
Finally, it is deep fried until golden brown and crispy.
They are the perfect snack on their own but can also be enjoyed along with steamed rice and sambal. It is enjoyed at any time of the day or night, by both locals and tourists alike.
Tempe goreng is believed that tempe goreng can help reduce the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and even strokes.
It also assists in lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
10. Tahu Bacem / Deep Fried Tempeh
Originating from the Mataraman region of central Java, tahu bacem can be enjoyed as a snack or a main dish.
Spiced tempeh is deep fried until crispy and golden brown.
These fermented soybean cakes are boiled with a traditional mix until the water has all evaporated. This way, households or vendors are able to prolong the lifespan of the ingredient.
It’s also a great way to infuse other flavors into the cakes.
When required, the tempeh is taken out of the refrigerator, fried, and served with a whole fresh chili.
The dish is also fully vegan, which is an added advantage for those who follow the vegan diet.
11. Orek Tempe / Spicy Tempeh
Indonesia vegetarian food includes so many ways to eat tempeh. It could be its own post.
Orek tempe is a fermented soybean cake. It is both sweet and spicy and are considered protein bombs.
They also offer other health benefits such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and prebiotics.
The process to make orek tempe from start to finish takes about three or four days.
They can be found almost anywhere in the country, from street vendors to high-end supermarkets.
This naturally cultured and fermented snack is ever popular amongst both the Indonesian vegetarian population and vegans alike.
Once the base is fermented, it can be deep fried and eaten on its own as a snack.
It can also be served with steamed rice and other vegetables to form a full meal.
A delicious dipping sauce is served with it using the famous kecap manis mixed with chili, shallots, garlic, and oil.
12. Sayur Lodeh
Once again, this Indonesia vegetarian food is of Javanese origin. Although it is popular throughout Indonesia.
It is also a vegetable soup but unlike sayur asem, sayur lodeh is coconut milk based.
Ingredients such as long beans, chili peppers, eggplant, tofu, and tempeh are cooked in coconut milk along with aromatic spices.
This bumbu spice mix contains coriander, turmeric, shallot, garlic, candlenut, and kencur powder.
Sayur lodeh is commonly served with steamed rice or slices of lontong rice cake. Although it is a traditional Indonesian vegetarian food item, it is commonly served with salted fish, chicken, or beef.
13. Sayur Asem / Vegetable Soup
Sayur asem is a type of Indonesian vegetable soup that originated from the Sudanese people of West Java, Banten, and Jakarta.
Local vegetables are cooked in a tamarind broth with an added spice paste. This paste is made up of galangal, ginger, chilies, shallots, and garlic and forms the base of the soup.
Other aromatic ingredients include lemongrass, tamarind, turmeric, and white pepper.
A hint of coconut palm sugar is also added to balance out the dish.
Sayur asem is both sour and refreshing, with a slight acidic edge to it. It is also one of the most popular vegetarian foods in Indonesia, and rightly so.
Ketoprak is another one of the amazing vegetarian dishes available in the country.
It is comprised of fried tofu, steamed rice cake, vegetables, rice vermicelli and a delectable peanut dressing.
Many variations exist, but the dish is normally topped off with crispy shallots and sweet Indonesian soy sauce.
Although it is common throughout Indonesia, its routes stem from Jakarta and West Java.
15. Jogja Gudeg / Jackfruit Stew
This Indonesian jackfruit stew originated in Yogyakarta city on the island of Java. It’s also popular in the central region of the island.
Young jackfruit is shredded and then boiled together with palm sugar and coconut milk. This is a lengthy process and is done so in a traditional Javanese clay pot over a wood or charcoal fire.
A mixture of aromatics such as candlenut, coriander, shallots, garlic, galangal, and bay leaves are added to the pot.
Teak leaves are the final addition, giving the stew its red hue.
Although the dish is considered an Indonesian vegetarian food, many renditions include the addition of chicken and eggs.
16. Lontong Cap Go Meh
Lontong cap go meh is a traditional Javanese dish, although it is served nationwide in Indonesia.
An elongated rice cake, lontong is cooked in banana leaves.
It is then served with a variety of accompaniments such as vegetables in a coconut milk soup, pickles, or a hard-boiled marble egg.
It is most commonly consumed by the Chinese Indonesian community during the cap go meh celebration.
This lantern festival occurs on the 15th day of the first month in the Chinese lunisolar calendar.