Being Vegan in Indonesia

Vegan in Indonesia

We spent a month traveling in Indonesia and were pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to find a variety of vegan options. Although we only visited three islands in the archipelago – Java, Bali and Lombok – we certainly got a good taste of the country’s cuisine.

Vegan in Indonesia - Street Food in Yogyakarta

Street food in Yogyakarta, Java – grilled sticky rice

All across Indonesia tofu and tempeh are staples and they show up in numerous appetizers and main dishes. For us, it was a bit difficult to get used to the flavor and texture of tempeh, a fermented soy bean cake that was invented in Indonesia, but the taste slowly grew on us, especially when it’s marinated and fried crispy. By the end of the trip we couldn’t get enough!

Vegan in Indonesia - Gado Gado

Gado Gado – Traditional Indonesian dish with tempeh, tofu, vegetables and peanut sauce

A number of other ubiquitous meals can easily be made vegan, such as gado gado and nasi goreng, just by omitting the egg and cracker (made with fish). Keep in mind, however, that although the concept of vegetarian is widely understood, extending the dietary restrictions to include eggs and dairy (not to mention honey) was more of a challenge at restaurants and home stay breakfasts. For example, “no milk” may be understood, but locals didn’t seem to extrapolate that butter or cheese should not be included in our meal, too. We learned to simply give them a list of all the ingredients separately and guest house owners were happy to oblige us.

Vegan in Indonesia - Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng – Traditional Indonesian fried rice

On our travels through Java and Bali, we became frequent patrons to The Loving Hut, a chain of vegan restaurants with franchises in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Singaraja and Denpasar. The philosophy ofBe Vegan, Make Peace” aligns perfectly with our beliefs and it doesn’t hurt that their food is also delicious. Their vast array of Western dishes was a welcomed change to the often-ordered, and definitely enjoyed, Indonesian dishes.

Vegan in Indonesia - Loving Hut

Loving Hut

A highlight for our taste buds was our time on Gili Air, an island off the northwestern coast of Lombok. It was there that we discovered traditional Sasak cuisine, including Urap Urap and Olah Olah.  Not only are these dishes already traditionally and deliciously vegan, they are also organic and local in that they are prepared using the delicious coconuts growing everywhere on the island.

Vegan in Indonesia - Sasak Food

Traditional Sasak Food

Lastly, we spent about a third of our vacation in Ubud, located in the south central part of the island of Bali. It would appear that a constant stream of health-minded yogis have increased the demand for vegetarian food in this cultural center and so, restaurants are understandably catering their menus to offer more meat-free options. Some restaurants even went so far as to advertise as “vegetarian” and only upon closer inspection of the menu did we see the fine print that meat options (often outnumbering the vegetarian and vegan options) were also available.

In general, we observed that vegan food in Ubud got put under the same umbrella as “gluten-free” and/or “low calorie” sections on the menu. In short, we found that the majority of those looking for vegan options were mostly interested in veganism from a health perspective instead of a moral obligation to animals. Still, we were happy to find a trio of restaurants on Jalan Sugriwa that we visited daily.

Vegan in Indonesia - Vegan Desserts in Ubud

Vegan Desserts in Ubud

Overall, eating our way through a month in Indonesia was not only delicious, but it was relatively pain-free. We have been to some countries, such as the Philippines, where our only option was picking up packages of nuts and seeds from the local mini-mart. And unlike some of our other trips, we actually gained weight on our Indonesian vacation.

Where in Indonesia have you enjoyed vegan cuisine?

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26 thoughts on “Being Vegan in Indonesia

  1. Carolyn

    Tempeh is pretty easy to make, especially in warm weather. (It needs a constant 90 degrees F in its early stages of growth. Later on it makes its own heat.) You only need soybeans, water, and the starter (check Google for tempeh starter). And really it is not fermented, like pickles or sauerkraut are. It is “cultured” and is more like mushrooms — something alive — with mycelia that poke into the soybean pieces and pre-digest them.

    In your pictures, the tempeh does not have any dark spots, which actually add to the flavor. The dark spots appear near the end of the culturing. Also you can make it with part brown rice, which I think makes it even more delicious.

  2. Giselle and Cody

    Yum yum yum yum! We immediately loved the tempeh in Indonesia, and the gado gado and nasi goreng were favourites as well! Glad you made it to Loving Hut too, the food is great there! We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves in Israel with all of the vegan options. Viva vegan! 😉

  3. Alex

    Don’t feel too bad about the Philippines — my only dietary restriction is that I don’t eat fish and I nearly starved there as well 🙂 Glad Indonesia was a little easier for you!

  4. Rae

    Hi guys,

    Awesome blog 🙂

    I’m wondering if you could help please – I’m going to Lombok tomorrow for a week but am struggling to find lists of words that us vegans would find handy.. any chance you can help if this is still floating around in your memory somewhere? 🙂 many thanks!!

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Rae,
      Thanks for the compliment on our blog. We’re sorry to say that we do not recall any vegan language we may have used while there. In our experience English was so widely spoken in the restaurants that we didn’t need to use Bahasa Indonesia much. That being said, we did not go to the island of Lombok on our Indonesian adventure. Hopefully next time. Thank you Rae for the idea to include useful language for vegans in these posts. Enjoy your trip. 🙂

      1. Felicia

        tolong (please)
        dibuat (be made)
        tanpa (without)
        daging (meat)
        Ikan (fish)
        bebek (duck)
        ayam (ayam)
        terasi (fish paste)
        susu (milk)
        telur (egg)
        cheese (keju)
        terima kasih (thank you)

        so when we put it together, it becomes:
        “Tolong dibuat tanpa (fill in the blank with your requirements, could be ‘daging’ or ‘telur’ etc)”

  5. Victoria D

    Great tips! We are headed to Indonesia next month after Thailand and really looking forward to the tempeh, we love it! I’ve heard alot about the vegan food in Ubud, and raw food too! Did you find Ubud restaurants to be more expensive?

  6. Farah

    Hey!
    Very intresting for me since I’m vegan and I’ll be one month in Indonesia (Java, Bali, Lombok)
    Do you remember those places where you went? The one on Gili Air, and the one in Ubud? (with the amazing pictures of those vegan cakes) 🙂

    Thank you 🙂

    Farah

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Farah,
      How exciting that you’ll be going to Indonesia. There are so many great places to visit!
      In Java, I think your best bet will be to find the Loving Hut restaurants as much as you can. Here is a link to our review of them: http://www.boundingoveroursteps.com/loving-hut-jarkarta-indonesia/. Here is another post about the restaurants we frequented in Bali on Jalan Sugriwa, that includes the vegan cakes: http://www.boundingoveroursteps.com/eating-vegan-ubud-bali/. As for Gili Air, we can remember the exact name of the restaurant but it was on the west side of the island – the entire island can be walked in an hour. They had a large menu with nice tables and chairs right on the beach. You can go into any restaurant there and ask for Urap Urap and Olah Olah. My guess is that most can simply make it for you even if it’s not on the menu as all the ingredients can be found right there on the island.
      We also recommend staying at Adinda Homestay in Bali: http://www.boundingoveroursteps.com/taruna-homestay-pemuteran-bali/, which is on Jl Sugriwa (they don’t have a website though), and if you make it up to Pemuteran we recommend staying at Taruna Homestay. They do not have an extensive vegan menu but what they do have is delicious. Here is our review of their place: http://www.boundingoveroursteps.com/taruna-homestay-pemuteran-bali/
      Have a wonderful trip and please let us know if you find other wonderful vegan places and vegan travel tips.

  7. Ash Slade

    Just planning a trip to Bali and potentially Lombok, so found your post very helpful! Would you mind me asking where you stayed on Lombok? And how long did you stay there and on Gili Air, or did you just do a day trip to Gili? (We’re trying to decide how to split our time, and are travelling with our 2 year old daughter, with a lot of luggage, so aren’t very agile or able to pack up and go to frequently!)
    Thanks, in advance! x

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Ash, so great that you’re going to Bali! I would avoid the south unless you are interested in seeing drunk Australians. LOL The north is quite lovely. We enjoyed Pemuteran in particular but if we went back we would also check out Lovina and the northeastern side. We actually did not go all the way to Lombok and instead stayed for several days on Gili Air and a couple nights on Gili Trawangan. If you have lots of stuff than I would not consider either of the Gilis to be honest as no cars are allowed on the islands and instead they use poor horses to drag people and their luggage from place to place. We walked instead but we had very little luggage with us. The better places of course are further way from where the boat lets you off. Here is where we stayed while on Gili Air: http://www.boundingoveroursteps.com/island-view-bungalows-gili-air-indonesia/ The west side of the island seemed to have more vegan options. I would recommend going all the way to Lombok in your case as it might make for a smoother transition from place to place. Keep in mind that getting on and off the boats with a small child and lots of luggage could be quite the hassle as sometimes you are expected to climb down a bamboo ladder. We recommend staying at Taruna Homestay while in Pemuteran and Adinda Homestay in Ubud: http://www.boundingoveroursteps.com/adinda-homestay-ubud-bali/ But from what I remember, I don’t think you can book in advance. I should stop before this becomes another blog post. LOL I’m so excited for you and we would very much enjoy hearing about the experiences you have there as vegans. 🙂

  8. Anna

    Hello! My girlfriend and I are also vegan and considering travelling to Sumatra and/or other Indonesian islands soon. It is great to know we will be able to find some delicious vegan food! We were also wondering what your experience was as a lesbian couple in any of the places you visited, if you don’t mind sharing your perspective. We have heard that other than in Bali, public affection is not ok? Did you have any issues, for example with sharing rooms?

    Thanks!

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Anna, how great that you’ll soon get to explore Sumatra. We never made it to that island and would love to go. You are right that outside of Bali the country is Muslim and so public affection (lesbian or otherwise) is not considered ok as affection is seen as a private thing. We wrote a post about staying in a hotel in Java that might interest you: https://www.boundingoveroursteps.com/surviving-shariah-law-as-a-lesbian-couple/
      Have a wonderful time and please enjoy a plate of gado gado for us! 🙂

  9. steffi

    hey! 😀 thank you for your appreciation for foods from my country, indonesia. 🙂 i hope you would love to try the other like lontok, opor tahu tempeh, etc.

  10. April

    Ohhh wow I love this post! Making me hungry. I’m so pleased to see Vegan food available in Indonesia! Hoping to travel there one day. Great blog!

  11. Elle Andi

    Thanks for your report. Nasi goreng often contains basa gede paste, which is made with shrimps. So make sure they use sambal olek only 🙂

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Thank you for this information Elle. It is always so helpful to have the names of ingredients in the local language. It makes it so much easier to be clear about certain ingredients used, especially with street vendors where there can be a major language barrier. 🙂

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