Being Vegan in Sri Lanka

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy

“People need to be educated so that they can make intelligent moral choices”

Gary L. Francione

Vegan food has become a trend in today’s world. Vegan food is food that is prepared by avoiding the use of animal products and is purely based on a plant-based diet. Vegan food avoids dairy products too. Therefore, vegan food is generally known to be costly and difficult to prepare. Restaurants that offer vegan food offer them at a high price. However, in reality, vegan food is not costly nor is it rare or difficult to prepare. 

Why vegan food is known to be expensive is because vegan food is prepared to satisfy the taste buds of those who crave the taste of meat. But this spoils the whole concept of being a vegan. Being a vegan is about avoiding animal products, adopting a plant-based diet and practicing a conscious and compassionate lifestyle, and also, training your mind and life for a minimalist lifestyle. Choosing to be a vegan is a conscious choice. So if you still crave the taste of meat and want your vegan food to taste like meat, it clashes with the ideology of veganism. Hence, a pure vegan diet is easy and economic. It is environmentally friendly, organic, and minimalist. 

Also, if you choose to be vegan, it is a choice to choose animal-cruelty-free products. Therefore, if you crave to enjoy how the meat of an animal tastes, there is no point in choosing veganism.

In Sri Lanka, the traditional cuisine is primarily vegan. Dairy products are considered a luxury and not a part of the daily diet of a traditional Sri Lankan till modern times. Our traditional sweetmeats are primarily vegan. Cow’s milk is not used to prepare our traditional sweets.

So, if you plan to adopt veganism, being a Sri Lankan makes it easy for you. It is an effortless, economical process. The traditional Sri Lankan cuisine consists of rice, vegetables, and fry. These vegetables are cooked with coconut milk and some are cooked with water. Cow’s milk or ghee is not used to cook Sri Lankan curries. The oil used in Sri Lankan cuisine is coconut oil or sometimes sesame oil. 

Fries such as an onion fry or bitter gourd (karavila) are made without adding any dairy products or animal products. The sambol is usually made of greens or sometimes vegetables such as the Pathola sambol. Snacks, desserts, and drinks are also plant-based and cow milk is not a required ingredient in traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. Most of the traditional drinks are made of fruit juices and sometimes coconut milk is added to it. 

Let us look at a common traditional Sri Lankan meal, that is purely vegan. 


Hoppers (plain), lunu miris or kocchi sambol

String Hoppers, dhal curry and pol sambol

Diya bath (add coconut milk, curry leaves, and onions to the leftover rice of the previous night)

Milk rice with lunu miris

Imbul kiribath (milk rice stuffed with coconut and treacle)

Mun kiribath (milk rice cooked with green grams) and lunu miris

There is a vast number of yams and cereals you can have for breakfast and they are boiled and eaten with coconut and lunu miris. (yams – raja ala, bathala, manioc etc. cereals – mung ata, kadala, kawupi etc.)


Rice (red or white)

Dhal curry 

Polos curry (cooked jackfruit)

Other vegetables that are common in Sri Lanka are kohila, nelum ala (stem of the Nelum plant), karawila (bitter gourd), pumpkin, etc. 

Some vegetables are not cooked but stir-fried with oil. Dambala is a vegetable that can be made like this.

Sambol made of green leaves

Pol sambol, or pathola sambol


String hoppers, dhal curry, pol sambol

Kurakkan thalapa with a spicy gravy

Pol roti with lunu miris 

Hoppers with lunu miris

Pittu with coconut milk and lunu miris 

Some also eat rice with vegetables for dinner 


Del fries

Jackfruit fires

Manioc fries 


Most of our traditional sweets are vegan. They are made of rice flour, mung flour, kithul treacle, kithul jaggery, coconut milk, and sometimes added spices. Some are fried in coconut oil.

Konda kawum, mung kawum, aasmi, athiraha, aggala, etc. 


Herbs are boiled and consumed as a drink during the morning or evening with kithul jaggery. These herbs could be, Belimal water, Ranawara water, Polpala water, etc.

Fruit juices are common and they are consumed purely as juice or sometimes coconut milk and kithul jaggery is added to it. 

This is a brief introduction to going Vegan as a Sri Lankan. It is not costly nor is it a difficult task. Vegan recipes are in our Sri Lankan cuisine. There is no need to pay extra for your vegan burger or your vegan meat (actually this sounds ridiculous) if you wish to be vegan. Simply adapt to a traditional Sri Lankan diet. Remember that being a vegan is also a lifestyle, it has a deeper meaning than spending a lot on vegan food. Veganism is a conscious choice to be minimalist, compassionate, and aware of all living beings around you and to be environmentally friendly. It is a journey. 

“It’s pretty amazing to wake up every morning, knowing that every decision I make is to cause as little harm as possible. It’s a pretty fantastic way to live.”

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Uncategorized, Sri Lankan culture, Sri Lankan food, Sri Lankan traditional food, Vegan food 

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