Easy Being Vegan in Sri Lanka?

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 1 2021
Look Easy Being Vegan in Sri Lanka?

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy Ceylon Today Features

“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 mostly vegan. Dairy products are considered a luxury and not a part of the daily diet of a traditional Sri Lankan until modern times. Our traditional sweetmeats are mostly 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, economic 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 any 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 take a 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 from the previous meal)

- 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, cereals - mung ata, kadala, kawupi and so on.)


- 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), pumkin, and the list goes on. 

- 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



-Aggala and many more. 


Herbs are boiled and consumed as a drink during the morning or evening with kithul jaggery. These herbs could be for example, belimal water, ranawara water and polpala water.

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

This is a brief introduction about 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 a 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

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 1 2021

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