Where in the world are all the vegetarians?

Where in the world are all the vegetarians

This post started innocently enough – I was curious where all the vegetarians were around the world. But once I went down the rabbit hole, I was lost for good.

Of the ten countries I was able to analyze, India takes the lead by a long, long shot. 31% vegetarian is amazing! And I wasn’t particularly surprised with the low results of Portugal and Spain (so many meat-heavy dishes there!). I thought Brazil’s would have been similar but it ranked quite high at 8%. Digging ever deeper, I found that the Brazilian city called Fortaleza is 13% vegetarian.

3 things to understand about vegetarian populations:

  • Individual cities within a country will skew more or less vegetarian, depending on the culture
  • The types of food a country loves will skew the results
  • Some people who identify as vegan also identify as vegetarian. Depending on how accurate the survey is, there’s a risk they might have been counted twice.

The huge frustration in my research.

I may have been able to cook food from every African country, but no thanks to the paltry information out there regarding these hidden gems. I ran into the same problem here. There’s remarkably little information available to be found about African vegetarians – every search I did came up blank. (If you have any, please pass it my way and I’ll make an updated infographic!).

Another shortcoming is in the results themselves: various studies often reveal disparaging percentages, depending on the interpretation of the word vegetarian (for more information, read on).

But it seems most can agree… here in the USA, we’re about 13% vegetarian.

World Vegetarian Day - percent of vegetarians in the US

A recipe for World Vegetarian Day

As you may know, I prescribe to Michael Pollan’s addage: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” After learning what famous vegetarian Mahatma Gandhi loved to eat, I created a celebration meal in his honor for this World Vegetarian Day (October 1). If you haven’t already checked it out, read on to see what his favorite dishes were and what beautiful soup we decided to try in celebration of World Vegetarian Day!

P.S. The good news is October 2nd is Gandhi’s birthday and the entire month of October is World Vegetarian awareness month, so there’ll be lots of opportunities to try his recipe or one of our hundreds of other vegetarian and vegan recipes.

Gandhi quote for world vegetarian day



  1. 5% seems really low for both Israel and China. I suppose I don’t know the ethnic breakdown of regions of China (and 5% of 1.4 billion people is still a lot) but there are a number of ethnicities in China that are traditionally vegetarian, and Israel has come down from its peak of vegetarian population in the late ’40s/early ’50s (many Holocaust survivors made their way to Israel, and many of them never ate meat again after having lived in a slaughterhouse themselves). And that number wouldn’t necessarily count people who are willing to eat meat, but just don’t do so on a particularly regular basis. But it still seems low. I wonder how they came to their estimates.

    • Sasha Martin says

      In fact, they state 4-5%… which makes it quite possibly lower. That’s what was so tough about doing this research – as far as I could tell, there’s no standard, global survey that’s used. The information for China came from a Public Radio International story – there are several big organizations listed at the bottom of the article, but it’s not clear which one provided the data… as far as I can tell it’s from “Food for 9 billion” research and the Center for Investigative Reporting. http://www.pri.org/stories/2013-06-27/vegan-lunch-going-meatless-beijing

  2. There are lots of people who eat entirely vegetarian or primarily vegetarian in the developing world. The don’t identify that way. They just can’t afford meat.

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