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Italian cuisine is arguably one of the world’s most popular and delectable foods. Each region of Italy uniquely hosts its diverse range of dishes, curated from hundreds of years of culture and cooking. The island of Sicily is no different and plays host to its regional delights influenced by Italian, Spanish, French, Arab and Greek cooking. For those of you who are conscious of a plant-based diet, be it for environmental reasons, dietary requirements or personal preference, travelling abroad can sometimes be challenging. Happily, Sicilian cuisine features a rainbow of suitable dishes. Our guide is to some of Sicily’s notable plant-based dishes and some useful phrases to help you with your gastronomy discovery.

vegan pasta with basil

Pasta al Pomodoro

Italy’s Mediterranean climate allows for the production of some of the world’s finest olive oils. It is this olive oil that is used as the staple of much of the countries cooking, not only does it taste fantastic, but it is used instead of butter, meaning many dishes are naturally without dairy. In Sicily, you will find the classic dish pasta al Pomodoro, which is brilliant in its simplicity. You will discover a light spaghetti dish that features a fresh tomato, garlic, basil and olive oil sauce. As with any other pasta dish in Italy, make sure that the dish is made from dry pasta rather than fresh because fresh pasta contains egg.

Vegan Arancini

Sicily is famous for its thriving street food culture. There are many towns, including the capital Palermo, which host these bustling markets where you have the opportunity to find delicious food and immerse yourself in the vibrant experience. Arancini is not traditionally a meat-free dish, but over the years many varieties have evolved, and it is now possible to find several vegan options. A typical vegan arancini consists of a rice ball, stuffed with sundried tomatoes, peas or chickpeas, coated in breadcrumbs and fried.

Plant-Based Pizza

The recipe for traditional Italian pizza dough does not contain any animal products so as long as you check beforehand, a classic pizza with tomato sauce and no cheese is an easy choice. It could also be an excellent opportunity to try some grilled local seasonal vegetables as a tasty topping.

vegan italian tomato pizza

Gelato and Granita

From the heart of Sicily comes the frozen and fruity granita. A combination of sugar water and fruit, it is a naturally vegan dessert, and a perfect accompaniment to the sun saturated climate. Popular and traditional flavourings include coffee, mandarins, mint, wild strawberries and lemon juice. The texture of granita is unique and differs from that of ice cream or sorbet.

Gelato is another traditional Italian frozen dessert. In its original form, the recipe typically contains milk, but it is not unusual to find dairy-free gelato in outlets across Sicily. Failing that, many gelaterias also offer sorbet in an array of flavours.

front of a gelato shop

Cioccolato di Modica

The city of Modica, to the southeast of the island, is a delight of baroque buildings and distinctive history but is perhaps most famous for its speciality chocolate. An ancient Aztec recipe, Modica chocolates simple ingredients are all vegan, and it’s the way they are handcrafted using traditional methods that makes it so special.

Useful Phrases

I am vegan = Io sono vegana
Without butter = Senza burro
Without cheese = Senza formaggio
Without meat = Senza carne
Without milk = Senza latte
Dried pasta = Pasta secca

If you would like to find out more about Italian cuisine, have a read through our recent journal entry on the foods of Tuscany. For a lifestyle and yoga retreats in Sicily, with a focus on healthy, local cooking, take a look at our website. Our retreat has been uniquely handcrafted with an emphasis on mindful zero-kilometre cooking, prepared by the estate’s passionate chef, and includes a foraging workshop. The home of the retreat is one of the stunning Aeolian Islands, Salina, whose fertile organic soils support hand-grown and local seasonal produce.