When it comes to choosing what to have for breakfast, most people are pretty set in their ways. They stick to whatever they normally have (cereal, oatmeal, maybe an egg sandwich) and go on their merry way without giving the meal much thought.
But have you ever stopped to think about how breakfast differs in other countries?
Although grains, breads and fruit make cameos in many parts of the world, the exact meals can actually vary quite a bit — not just in the type of foods served, but also in the quantity. Some countries begin the day with coffee and little else, while others sit down to a much larger meal. Some nations favor sweet tastes when it comes to the first meal of the day, while others opt for savory. From Argentina and Bangladesh to Iran, India and Sweden, here’s what breakfast looks like in 50 countries around the world.
Matt Sulem contributed to this story.
Breakfast in Argentina is a no-frills affair. You’ll find locals typically eating one of two things: tostados (toast) or medialunas ("half-moons"), which are pastries similar to croissants but a smaller and sweeter. Of course, these are typically eaten with coffee.
Vegemite is a classic Australian product that people tend to either love or loathe. It is a thick, black spread that’s made from brewer’s yeast extract and is traditionally spread in a very thin layer over some buttered toast, sometimes accompanied with a slice of cheese. If Vegemite is too much first thing in the morning, a fry-up consisting of eggs, bacon, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms as well as some sausages, beans or hash browns is an equally Aussie breakfast to enjoy.
In Bangladesh, wheat flour flatbreads called chapattis are frequently served for breakfast along with potato curry or scrambled eggs.
In Bulgaria, banitsa is what’s for breakfast. It is a pastry that can be enjoyed hot or cold that is made by layering whisked eggs and cheese between sheets of filo pastry before being baked and is traditionally served along with plain yogurt or with ayran (a yogurt-based drink) or boza (a fermented grain drink).
In Taiwan a kind of crepe called jianbing is a common street food and typical breakfast. The name literally means “fried pancake.” Made from egg and wheat flour, the crepes can be topped with an array of different ingredients from ham and scallions to soybeans, peanuts, eggs or pork as well as hoisin and chili sauce.
In the central Andres regions of Colombia a hearty breakfast often included changua — a soup made with water, milk and potatoes that’s typically served with an egg on top. When the soup boils, a fresh egg is cracked over it without breaking the yolk and then allowed to cook in the hot broth. It may be served with a sprinkling of fried scallions or cilantro as well as stale bread (which is softened in the soup) and perhaps even some pieces of cheese melted into it.
Tostada simply refers to bread that has been sliced, flattened, grilled and buttered and is one of the components that make up a Cuban breakfast. The other essential part is, of course, a piping hot café con leche or “coffee with milk” which is typically very, very sweet, milky and frothy — a fantastic way to start the day.
Ful medames, the national dish of Egypt is fava bean stew that some have suggested dates back to ancient Egyptian times. It is made with dried fava beans that are gently cooked and simply flavored. Once it is time to eat, small dishes of flavorings and aromatics like extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, chili flakes, crushed garlic, lemon and cumin are passed around. Other garnishes, like hard boiled eggs, cucumber and tomato salad, scallions and tahini, are also sometimes included.
A typical French breakfast is all about that delicious French bread, which is usually in the form of a baguette that is either still-warm from the bakery or else perfectly toasted using a “grille-pain” and spread with butter and jam. Coffee is a common breakfast beverage but fruit juice is also acceptable, and if a croissant or pain au chocolate happens to be on the table, well, it would be rude not to indulge, wouldn’t it?
Unlike many other parts of Europe, breakfast in Germany is a savory affair and consists of bread rolls, a selection of cured meats and cheeses, and perhaps and egg or two. There may be plateful of raw vegetables or a selection of jams and honey to accompany the bread, and it’s really a mix-and-match kind of spread and lets everyone make their own decision about the best way to fuel themselves for the day.
Haleem is a dish popular throughout the Middle East as well as Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. It is a stew similar to farina and is made from wheat, barley, minced beef or mutton, lentil, lots of spices and sometimes rice. The ingredients are all cooked together on a low heat for up to eight hours, which yields a thick puree-like consistency that is garnished with fried onion, chaat masala, chili, ginger, cilantro and lemon.
In Israel, it is the communal style of breakfast rather than the food itself which is so distinctive. The communal style of dining together stems from the collective farming communities; individuals who lived together in a kibbutz shared all belongings and ate together in a communal dining hall — which was considered to be a very important part of the communal way of life.
These days many hotels offer a hearty, self-service breakfast buffet, once promoted as “Israeli breakfast” in a nod to the style in which the kibbutz meals where eaten. Shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in a tomato sauce that’s flavored with onion, chili pepper, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper, is a dish commonly found at these buffet-style breakfasts.
Italians don’t spend much time on breakfast — in fact, they rarely even sit down for their first meal of the day. To call it a meal may be a bit misleading, as it usually consists of a quick coffee, either a cappuccino (which only tourists order after midday) or perhaps a simple café, which just means espresso, and a sweet pastry or cornetto, which is enjoyed on one’s feet at the counter of a local coffee bar. It is a loud, noisy and highly energetic affair, with baristas skillfully pouring dozens of coffees each minute and patrons coming and going, a non-stop, hustle-and-bustle start to the day.
Ackee and saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica and ackee — a fruit that belongs to the same family as the lychee — is also the national fruit of Jamaica. To prepare the dish, saltfish (also known as salt cod) gets sautéed with boiled ackee (often canned ackee is used), onions, scotch bonnet peppers, tomatoes and spices and is most commonly served with breadfruit, bread and fried plantain.
To people living in the West, a typical breakfast in Japan might seem more suited to a different time of day, say lunch or dinner. Miso soup, white rice, grilled salmon, nori, natto (fermented soybeans) and some salad or pickled vegetables might all typically appear around breakfast time in Japan. It makes for a nutritious and well-balanced meal that is sustaining without being overly rich or heavy.
In Korea, breakfast normally consists of banchan — an assortment of small side dishes, which are paired with rice. The banchan are set up communally in the center of the table along with soups or stews, and diners help themselves. Kimchi, namul (stir fried, steamed or marinated vegetables) jeon (a pan-fried, pancake-like dish) and gyeran-mari (a rolled omelet) are all different kinds of banchan.
In mainland China (as well as parts of East and Southeast Asia), deep-fried breadsticks called youtiao — sometimes called “Chinese doughnuts” or “Chinese crullers” abroad — are a breakfast staple. They’re lightly salted strips of savory rather than sweet dough that are shaped so that they tear lengthwise in half easily. Youtiao are usually served with congee (rice porridge) or warm soy milk.
Nasi lemak, an aromatic rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, is the national dish of Malaysia. It is a simple and hearty dish that’s sure to keep you satisfied until lunchtime. Nasi lemak is an incredibly versatile dish that, though usually eaten in the morning, can in fact be eaten throughout the day. It’s often served with sambal, boiled eggs, peanuts, sliced cucumber and deep-fried anchovies.
Though the dish changes depending on the region, chilaquiles is a uniquely Mexican dish. Corn tortillas are cut into pieces and lightly fried, then simmered in salsa or mole until the tortillas begin to soften slightly. The mixture is then topped with any number and combination of garnishes — from crema or queso fresco to pulled chicken, raw onion, avocado or a fried egg — and usually accompanied by rice and beans.
Of course, in Morocco, mint tea is a must at any time of day. Along with mint tea, “msemen” is a great way to break the night’s fast. Msemen are rich, pancake-like breads that are made by rolling out the dough as thin as possible on an oiled surface before folding it to create eight layers which yield a crispy exterior and chewy middle once cooked. Msemen are usually served with butter and honey or jam, but can also be stuffed with vegetables or meat for a more savory breakfast.
Considered by many to be the national dish of Myanmar, mohinga is a breakfast noodle soup. Made with river catfish, vermicelli noodles, banana tree stems, lemon grass, onions, garlic, ginger, fish paste and fish sauce and garnished with lime juice, cilantro, spring onions and dried chiles, this soup is all about a balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavors. What better way to shake the sleep from your eyes than with a bowlful of flavor?
The Netherlands must truly be a magical place, because along with more typical breakfast foods like cheese, cold meats and toast with jam or honey, the Dutch also enjoy hagelslag on their sliced and buttered bread. ”What is hagelslag?” you ask? Well, simply put, the wonderfully Roald Dahl-esque word actually refers to candy sprinkles. That’s right. Sprinkles. The hagelslag come in chocolate, vanilla and fruit flavors, and this breakfast item (much like the “fairy toast” of Australia) is what childhood dreams are made of.
In Nigeria and other parts of West Africa, fried bean cakes or fritters called kosai are a breakfast favorite. Made from black-eyed peas flavored with onions, dried chili and fresh red chili peppers and then deep-fried in oil, this street food is enjoyed either hot from the oil or wrapped and saved for later.
In India, chana poori is a combination of chana masala, a tasty chickpea and tomato curry, and poori —unleavened flatbreads that are deep-fried so that they puff up with steam to create a hollow center. Channa poori is often eaten on special days or ceremonial functions, but it’s also a common street food that is enjoyed for breakfast as well as a snack or light meal.
Like in northern India, puri or poori are also a breakfast staple in Pakistan, but instead of a savory pairing of chickpeas, puri in Pakistan are more often enjoyed with halwa, a slightly gelatinous sweet usually made from semolina, sugar and ghee.
Breakfast in Poland is a sustaining affair with bread rolls, butter and jam as well as cheese, ham, sausages and eggs. Diners often use the wide selection of ingredients to make individual kanapki, which are tasty open-faced sandwiches, which sounds like a delicious thing to have first thing in the morning.
In Senegal, café touba, a traditional coffee beverage, is particularly popular around breakfast time. It is made with coffee beans that are seasoned with grains of selim pepper and cloves before being ground into a powder and brewed like drip coffee. The end result is a drink that is strong and spicy and is said to have amazing restorative powers.
Kaya toast is a well-known and much loved snack in Singapore and considered by many to be a breakfast staple. It is made with toast that is then slathered in coconut jam called kaya — a mixture of coconut milk, sugar and eggs — and sometimes topped with a pat of cold butter. Kaya toast is often accompanied by a boiled egg and a cup of coffee.
In Somalia, canjeero is a fermented sourdough flatbread that looks like a large pancake and has a spongy texture. It is the cousin of the Ethiopian flatbread injera, and it is the base of most Somali breakfasts. It’s often eaten with savory foods at dinner, but for breakfast Somalians typically enjoy canjeero drizzled with ghee or butter and sugar along with a cup of tea.
Putu pap, a porridge made with maize meal and water cooked together to form a dry and fluffy texture, is a common breakfast in South Africa. Also known as krummelpap, which means “crumbly texture,” it is often eaten with milk and sugar for breakfast and paired with more savory dishes late in the day.
In Spain, a perfect breakfast is simple and delicious, often consisting of churros — which are basically long strips of choux dough that are deep fried — dipped into a thick chocolate sauce. Unlike churros sometimes found in theme parks and across America, authentic Spanish churros aren’t drenched in cinnamon sugar, but rather only lightly dusted with sugar, if at all.
Lablani, a chickpea soup made with onion, garlic, cumin and harissa paste, is a breakfast staple loved by many in Tunisia. It is often served with poached eggs and garnished with toppings like capers, olives, cumin and herbs.
In Turkey, breakfast is all about eggs, specifically scrambled eggs. Menemen, made with barely set scrambled eggs, tomatoes, chiles, spices and lots of olive oil, is usually eaten with toast.
Matoke (green bananas) that have been peeled and cooked are at the center of this breakfast dish from Uganda, which also includes some kind of sauce made from beef, offal or beans as an accompaniment to the matoke. Katogo is very versatile and can refer to any kind of sauce within which the matoke are cooked until ready to eat. It is often enjoyed with tea or juice.
When most people pause to consider a British breakfast, of course, one thing comes to mind—the full English breakfast. But the reality is that most people living in the U.K. only succumb to that enormous plate filled with eggs, bacon, baked beans, mushrooms, grilled tomato, black pudding and toast after a boozy night out. A more typically British breakfast probably looks more like a cup of tea and some toast, which may not seem as exciting, but can definitely hit the spot on any given morning.
Eggs, bacon, toast and home fries are certainly commonly found at breakfast across the United States. But in a country so vast, it is difficult to pinpoint a single breakfast; two eggs any-style, shrimp and grits, bagels with cream cheese and biscuits with gravy are all fairly iconic ways to start the day in the U.S.A. We give the nod to the bagel, an ideal convenience food for always-on-the-go Americans as it can be eaten with one hand on the steering wheel.
Many people confuse cachapas with arepas and consider the two to be interchangeable, which is not the case! Cachapas are sweet corn pancakes usually filled with queso de mano, a soft mozzarella-like cheese, and sometimes accompanied with some chicharrón on the side. Arepas are also enjoyed for breakfast, and are small, pancake-like breads made with a maize dough. But rather than being stuffed and then cooked, arepas are cooked and then split and stuffed much like a sandwich.
Breakfast in Vietnam is very often a street-food affair, as lots of different food stands offer a fast and delicious meal to satisfy hungry stomachs. Among the most iconic and popular of Vietnamese breakfast foods is, of course, pho — a sustaining and delectable rice noodle soup with a clear broth (traditionally made with beef or chicken) that is topped with paper-thin slices of raw beef and an abundance or aromatic herbs, lime, crunchy bean sprouts and spicy fresh chiles, all of which cook together in the comforting heat of the soup.
In the West Indian states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Gujarat, a common breakfast is a dish called kande pohe. This dish is made with flattened rice (or pohe) — dry flakes that absorb liquids easily and are easy to digest. The flakes are roasted with chilies, onions mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves. Sometimes kande pohe is served with a thick porridge called upma or savory multi-grain pancakes called thalipeeth, served with ghee or yogurt. So there you have it: 50 ways that people around the world eat breakfast. After such an extensive mental trip around the globe, why not check out something closer to home by discovering the best breakfast recipe in every state?
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