For those of us with special dietary requirements, whether pescatarian, vegetarian, or vegan, you'll be happy to know that you won’t have any trouble eating in the Maldives. As a seafaring island nation from olden times, the Maldives is naturally-equipped to cater to pescatarians. We use organic ingredients like coconuts as one of our main dietary ingredients, from flakes to oil, meaning our food is highly-suitable for those with special dietary needs. Most of the meals prepared in the Maldives use locally grown, fresh, and organic vegetables like gourds and root veggies paired with simple and delectable spices. Here we have listed some of our favourite local vegan, pescatarian, and vegetarian foods for your enjoyment.
The most famous breakfast in the Maldives, Mashuni and Roshi, is a fully-pescatarian feast. Coconut flakes, lime, chillies and flaky tuna, served with Maldivian flatbread called roshi, makes up this beloved feast. You can find this meal no matter where you travel in the Maldives as it is one of our most cherished dishes. Complete the flavours with a hot cup of black tea.
For those looking for a fully vegan meal, Baraboa Mashuni is prepared with mashed pumpkin in the place of tuna. The breakfast dish is beautifully seasoned and spiced with limes, chillies, onions, garlic and fresh-cracked black pepper, and is loved by Maldivians all over. We recommend every visitor try this dish, even if they aren’t vegan.
Feeling peckish in-between breakfast and lunch? The Maldives offers some delightfully refreshing drinks and snacks for that dozy in-between time in the mid-morning. Try a cold mug of fresh kurumba (young coconut) for a refreshing drink. Coconut water is filled with all the nutrients and revitalising ingredients found in energy drinks but without any of those sugars and chemicals added in. Coconut water is replete with potassium, which is excellent for giving you much-needed energy for all the exciting activities filling your itinerary. The shot of potassium will also regulate blood sugar, and blood pressure, and help with muscle contraction. It’s also free from bad fats, cholesterol, and extra calories.
If you want a snack to go with the drink, the Maldives has a lovely selection of fresh fruits you can eat on the go. For example, Maldivian watermelons are some of the sweetest around the world and you would probably regret not having tasted some while here. It is also extremely refreshing and energising to snack on a wedge or two in between activities.
For a local-inspired tip: Maldivians love to eat young green mangoes dipped in rihaakuru, our version of yummy tuna paste (for pescatarians) or natural salts (for vegetarians and vegans).
With food influences ranging from India to the middle-east, you will find plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and pescatarian dishes to pick from when it comes to lunchtime.
Garudhiya is our go-to pescatarian dish. A delicious clear broth cooked by boiling fresh tuna with just a tiny pinch of salt and nothing else, the dish can easily be elevated with the addition of other aromatics such as onions, chillies and lime. Garudhiya is usually served along with roshi or rice, and a score of other condiments and sides such as freshly-grilled tuna, side salads of kale and bok choy seasoned with lime juice, and aromatics such as onions and roasted coconut.
For our vegetarian and vegan visitors, Tharukaaree Riha (veggie curry) is one of the most famous dishes in the Maldives, served usually with a bevy of sides that complete the dish. The vegetables in the dish can range from carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, long green beans, okra, and a whole host of other vegetables in a delicious smooth gravy. You can choose to have it with wholewheat flour roshi, or naturally-gluten free white or brown rice. Try our Moringa Rice, or bambukeyo (breadfruit) baiy for a special treat!
Any lunch dish in the Maldives would be incomplete without Asaara, the Maldivian version of kimchi and one of our favourite condiments. Maldivian Asaara is usually made with goodies such as carrots, unripe mangoes, dates, or bilimbi combined with the spice mix (vinegar +onions, chillies, ginger, garlic, curry leaves and pandan leaves) and sat out in the sun every day to ferment into delicious goodness for up to a month. Lovers of kimchi and Sauerkraut will adore this delicious fermented condiment, and it truly does complete any dish, especially if you are eating Garudhiya.
Asaara is also a wonderful little takeaway for your friends and family back home since it travels so well. Try to get one of each of the most famous types of Asaara in the Maldives; carrot, date, and bilimbi.
Evening tea time is an entire affair in the Maldives and is something that should be enjoyed to its fullest at least once while here. Maldivians love our short eats, or hedhika - an assortment of different little pastries filled with vegetables and tuna. Some of the more famous hedhika are perfect for a pescatarian diet; gulha or tuna balls are filled with a savoury mix of tuna, coconut, onions, chillies and lime. Bajiya is quite similar to Indian samosas and could be filled with the same tasty tuna mix, or a potato concoction perfect for vegan and vegetarian eaters. Our sweet pasties, namely Boakibaa (sweet unleavened cakes), are made from ingredients such as cassava, taro, and sea almonds and are a tasty enough treat that you would want to indulge in even if you aren’t vegan.
Combine the tasty hedhika with a cup of hot black tea or an ice-cold glass of fresh screwpine juice.
There’s nothing quite like freshly barbecued seafood for our pescatarian eaters. As we mentioned before, the Maldives is a seafaring nation and so we have access to the freshest and most delicious seafood that you have ever eaten. Lobster, crabs, reef fish, we have it all. Extra props if you decide to take a fishing trip with the locals and catch your own fish to eat.
For those looking to participate in the BBQ but without eating the seafood, we recommend throwing some fresh taro roots onto the grill, with sliced potatoes, pumpkin, and pineapple. We all know that fresh pineapple takes an extra delicious dimension when grilled, and served alongside the roasted taro makes for a sweet and savoury meal that you would never forget.
Maldivian chilli paste, known as Lonumirus, is perfect for barbecuing. This paste is made with roasted desiccated coconut, roasted dried red chillies, shallots, garlic, ginger, habaneros, lemon, pandan leaves and curry leaves. The ingredients of this paste make it not only ideal for adding to all kinds of barbequing dishes (the desiccated coconut caramelises so beautifully on the grill!) but also adds a whole new dimension of flavour to any dish.
We hope we’ve given you some great ideas on vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian dishes to try out in the Maldives. And if any of these are not available at your selected resort, guest house, hotel or liveaboard, don’t fret! We Maldivians love a hospitality challenge, and any of your dietary needs and preferences will be taken care of, you need only ask!