Are you a plant-based foodie itching to explore the colorful and vibrant food scene of Malaysia? As a traveler, it’s normal to feel a bit apprehensive when trying to find suitable options, especially if you’re avoiding meat. But fear not, because Malaysia is a paradise for those who prefer a plant-based lifestyle and has a plethora of tasty and nutritious meat-free dishes that you can indulge in. The country’s food scene is incredibly diverse and multicultural, influenced by Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines, as well as other cultures from around the world. Additionally, locals are increasingly seeking plant-based options. A recent study by the Department of Agribusiness at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) found that 86% of Malaysian consumers aim to purchase more “green foods—more sustainable, safe, healthy and humane food products. We are sharing some of our top picks for meat-free foods so you’ll know exactly what to go for on your next trip to this Southeast Asian gem. 

Roti Canai with Dhal

This popular Southeast Asian dish is a mouthwatering dish commonly eaten for breakfast or as a snack in Malaysia, and is a must-try for anyone visiting the country. Roti Canai is a type of Indian-influenced flatbread that is typically made with flour, water, and oil or ghee – make sure to specify ‘no ghee’ if wanting to avoid dairy. It is kneaded and stretched into thin layers before being folded and cooked on a griddle until it is crispy and flaky.

Dhal, on the other hand, is a spicy lentil-based curry that is typically served as a dipping sauce or side dish with roti canai. The lentils are cooked with spices such as cumin, turmeric, and chili powder until they are tender and flavorful.

Roti Canai

Bee Hoon

Bee hoon, also known as rice vermicelli, is a thin, translucent noodle made from rice flour. It is a popular ingredient in many Malaysian dishes and can be found in a variety of savory and sweet preparations.

As a meat-free option, bee hoon is often used as the base for stir-fries and noodle dishes that are loaded with vegetables and tofu. One popular dish that features bee hoon is called “Siam Bee Hoon”, which is a stir-fry dish that typically includes bean sprouts, cabbage and tofu. The dish is flavored with soy sauce, garlic, chili, and sometimes curry powder, making it a flavorful and filling meal.


Idli is a savory and fluffy steamed cake that is a staple breakfast food in Southern India. It is also popular in Sri Lanka, Nepal, and obviously Malaysia. The cake is made from a batter of fermented rice and urad dal (black gram) that is ground and then steamed in special molds. The fermentation process gives the batter a slightly tangy flavor and makes the idlis light and airy.

Idlis are traditionally served with coconut chutney, sambar (a spicy lentil soup), and a variety of side dishes such as potato masala, onion chutney, and tomato chutney. They are a healthy and nutritious breakfast option, as they are low in fat, high in protein, and gluten-free.


Veg Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng is a popular Southeast Asian dish that typically includes rice stir-fried with a variety of ingredients, such as vegetables, eggs, and meat. While the dish may contain meat or shrimp, in Malaysia it is easy to find plant-based versions of nasi goreng that do not include any animal products.

In vegetarian nasi goreng, the meat is usually replaced with tofu, tempeh, or additional vegetables, such as mushrooms, carrots, and green beans.

Veg Nasi Goreng


This Malaysian version of spring rolls is filled with a variety of vegetables, herbs, and sauces and is a common sight at food stalls. The dish is typically served as an appetizer or snack, but can also be a light meal on its own.

The filling for popiah typically includes shredded carrots, jicama (also known as yam bean), bean sprouts, lettuce, and sometimes shredded tofu or mushroom. The ingredients are cooked and seasoned with a combination of soy sauce, garlic, and other spices to create a flavorful and savory mixture.


Veg Maggi Goreng

Maggi Goreng is a popular Malaysian dish that is made with Maggi instant noodles that are stir-fried with a variety of ingredients, such as vegetables, tofu, and spices. This dish is a popular street food and is usually the go-to order for most people at a ‘mamak’. 

Mamak stalls are indoor and open-air food establishments particularly found on just about every corner in Malaysia. They serve a type of Indian Muslim cuisine unique to the region by its Indian community. They’re usually open 24/7, serving rice, maggi goreng, idlis and dosa at all times of the day. While the original recipe for Maggi Goreng may include meat or shrimp, it is easy to find plant-based versions of the dish that use vegetable broth and omit the meat and seafood.

Maggi Goreng


Cendol is a popular Malaysian dessert that consists of shaved ice, coconut milk, and green pandan-flavored jelly noodles, known as cendol. The dessert is usually served in a bowl or glass with palm sugar syrup and red beans. Cendol is a refreshing and satisfying dessert that is especially popular during hot and humid days in Malaysia. You can spot it easily at street food stalls and dessert shops throughout the country and it’s a must-try for anyone looking to experience the sweet and colorful flavors of Malaysian cuisine.



Malaysia offers a wide range of delicious meat-free options that draw from its multicultural food scene. However, as a general rule, it’s best to ask about ingredients that may contain animal products, such as ghee, butter, shrimp paste, or dried fish. Even at Indian pure vegetarian restaurants, dairy products may still be used, so it’s important to confirm with the staff. On the other hand, some Chinese restaurants labeled as vegetarian may actually serve fully plant-based dishes. Lastly, when ordering noodles, it’s a good idea to double-check whether they contain eggs. A unique suggestion from Lever: if you’re for a treat: if you have the chance, find and try Nanka’s delicious plant-based burgers made from native jackfruit.

By following these tips, plant-based eaters can fully enjoy the diverse and flavorful cuisine that Malaysia has to offer.



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