I am sitting in the Chiang Mai International airport waiting to board my plane to Kunming China to start my study abroad! My stomach began growling so I searched the airport for a cheap vegan snack. I bought some dried mango and seaweed crackers and began to think about the question I am often asked “How do you eat vegan whilst traveling?”. So I thought that I would reflect on my time in Nicaragua, and provide you guys a helpful resource for eating vegan in Central America!
I have found that eating vegan can be difficult at times whilst traveling, but the hardest part it seems is actually at the airport! As most airport food is pre packaged I have struggled to find fresh salads or sandwiches that do not contain meat or cheese. Because of this I try to bring my own food to the airport, and I always bring A LOT because traveling makes me super hungry.
My flight to Nicaragua was in the morning so I made banana apple overnight oats the night before to eat on the plane. They were soaked in almond milk with chia seeds and coconut and made a delicious breakfast waiting at the gate. I also packed two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, pretzels and carrot sticks for the day of travel. I was also able to find a great fresh fruit smoothie at the Houston Airport.
Upon arrival in Nicaragua I realized that the food was very simple and had little amounts of spice or flavor. Because the country is relatively poor, meat is also a delicacy and luckily is not served with every dish. Restaurant employees did not seem to understand the term vegetarian so instead I said “sin carne, sin leche, sin huevos por favor”. I also had a guide that was very helpful in making sure my dishes were all vegan. Throughout my time I learned a lot of common dishes that are traditional and vegan that I will share with you!
Unique foods and flavors in Nicaragua
Plantains – taste like a cross between traditional bananas and potato. They are a great carbohydrate source and actually contain more fiber and potassium than traditional bananas. They are usually eaten steamed (looks like a cooked banana) or twice fried (looks like a smashed yellow potato fritter). Twice fried dipped in hot sauce is my favorite!
Taro – is a root vegetable that is white/purple in color and tastes a like an over cooked potato to me. We ate a lot of boiled potato, which was great because it was very high in carbohydrates and low in fat. They can taste a little bland so I liked mixing them with beans and hot sauce.
Chayote – is a watery vegetable that tastes a lot like a zucchini or summer squash. It is the most commonly grown vegetable in Nicaragua as it is native to the area and can thrive without a lot of water. It is the main vegetable in the diet of many poorer people living in rural villages. We often had it cooked in a tomato broth or steamed with other vegetables.
Breakfast: Fresh fruit, rice, beans, baked/fried/steamed plantains, corn tortillas, avocado, corn flakes and soya milk.
Lunch: Rice, beans, plantains, taro, potato, sweet potato, salads, cooked chayote, carrots beets etc, fruit, fruit juice, peanuts and french fries.
Dinner: Rice, beans, plantains, eggplant ratatouille, lentils or chickpeas cooked in a tomato sauce, twice fried plantains and salad.
Snacks: Taro/plantain/banana/potato/vegetable chips (non-queso flavored), fruit, “tea” cookies, oreos, wafer cookies, dark chocolate, peanut butter and lots of interesting fruits.
Overall, it was very doable and being vegan did not hold me back at all! The food in Nicaragua was simple but delicious and I appreciated the fact that they didn’t use excessive amounts of oil in their cooking. I enjoyed talking to people about being plant based as it came up a lot as eating in big groups is a large part of traveling. If any of you have any questions about veganism or traveling please reach out!