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Traditional breakfasts around the world, from a lifetime of travelling for food! We cover some of the best traditional breakfast meals in the world in this post, from Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, even the United States of America.
Do you look forward to breakfast in the morning? I do, so that first coffee and a breakfast dish is very welcome, particularly if I’m sitting overlooking a beautiful beach or a sleepy Central American town just starting to wake up.
We’ve been sampling breakfast around the world on our travels, to 50+ countries over 6 years. Here are some global breakfast food highlights and disasters, traditional, local and modern.
When you travel, trying local dishes is at least half the fun, don’t you think? Leave me a comment if you enjoy trying many and varied foods for breakfast.
World Travel Chef is a food and travel blog, created by James, an executive Chef and dedicated international traveller. Will travel for food!
We try to seek out local and traditional breakfast specialities as we go because life is more interesting that way. Some we love, some we don’t, but we’ll give them all a try. What do you think? Do you like to try new things or stick to what you know when you travel?
Breakfasts Around the World
Breakfast in Sri Lanka
Of all the breakfasts around the world, Sri Lankan breakfasts are one of the very best. Forgive me for enthusing about how much I love Sri Lankan breakfasts (read more here), but they are just so good! My whole family are big fans too. When travelling in Sri Lanka breakfast is our most successful meal of the day, at dinner time options sometimes aren’t so great.
Here we have spicy dahl, various roti (flat breads) and hoppers served with delicious coconut curry and fresh coconut sambol spiked with hot chillies. Click through to the above post for more on authentic and delicious traditional Sri Lankan breakfast food.
Breakfast in Thailand
In Thailand expect congee, Thai donuts, pork skewers or a noodle dish for breakfast. Thai omelette rice or fried rice are also popular. In Thailand you really can get just about anything for breakfast. We have a full post on Thai breakfast here.
Nasi Lemak is the classic Malaysian breakfast dish. Nasi means rice, nasi lemak means fat rice.
In this dish the rice comes with a red sauce (sambal), cucumber slices, a hard-boiled egg, peanuts and those fiendish little dried fish. I’m a big fan of anchovies, but these weren’t what we in the west love for their oily saltiness.
The sauce we had above was sweet and we would have preferred more spice, less sugar. Nasi lemak comes in plenty of varieties, you should be able to find one that you enjoy. For other breakfast dishes in Malaysia try this post about food options on Penang.
Nasi lemak wasn’t our favourite, but it was an interesting experience as trying new things always is. After a while, we discovered vegan Malaysian food and we liked this a lot more.
Kaya toast is another popular Malaysian breakfast, kaya is a custard like substance flavoured with pandan, it looks like green lemon curd. Again, we didn’t like this breakfast.
Traditional Breakfast in El Salvador
In El Salvador, you’ll find pupusas, yummy little corn-based flat cakes filled with cheese, beans or chicharron (a pork crackling blend). They usually come with tomato sauce and a sort of vinegar-soaked coleslaw. We like pupusas a lot and ate them at roadside pupusarias, made and cooked fresh to order. My kids love these too.
We were also served enchiladas for breakfast often in El Salvador.
Breakfast in the United Kingdom
The Great British breakfast originally from the United Kingdom will certainly keep you going all morning. We had a traditional full English breakfast every day while staying in hotels in Britain. We thought it was great value, room and a breakfast this size for around £10 each. Cereal, fruit, juices, toast, teas and coffees are also included in most full English breakfasts.
Just remember that it isn’t the healthiest of options and that much oil and carbs after a while isn’t good. While I exercise a lot as my Dr said ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’. Keeping this to only a few times is probably better in the long run. British people typically only eat a traditional breakfast like this as a treat.
Your traditional British breakfast will include eggs (poached eggs, fried or scrambled), sausage, bacon, occasionally black pudding and, hopefully, some vegetables, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, and sometimes fried potatoes of some sort. Serve with ketchup or HP sauce.
Hash browns and fries are not part of a traditional English breakfast, but you will see these on the plate in some greasy spoon type cafes in the UK.
The beans served at breakfast in England and the rest of the UK are normally baked beans out of a tin, ideally Heinz baked beans, but you’ll often come across cheaper brands. I’ve never come across home-made baked beans on a full English breakfast plate, although you can make a version of British baked beans at home. Heinz is of course, an American company.
To make a full Welsh or full Scottish, local specialties like lava bread, potato scones or haggis may be added.
What do British people eat for breakfast? British people may eat a full English occasionally, often, or never. They are just as likely to eat cereal, toast, yoghurt, an omelette, or any of the usual breakfast foods. A sweet breakfast of cakes and pastries is much less common in the UK than it is in say, the USA or Italy.
Breakfast typicos is Guatemala, eggs, refried beans and fried plantains. The home-made bread was a bonus at Cool Beans in Flores, Guatemala. I joke about being over refried beans, they do serve them with everything in Central America, but they’re absolutely delicious. We also tucked into many plates of huevos rancheros while we were in Guatemala, eggs poached with tomatoes and vegetables, Guatemalans know how to do breakfast!
Eggs Florentine or Eggs Benedict with salmon (or bacon) was always my pick when we went out to breakfast back home in Port Douglas Australia. I guess it’s a fairly typical Australian restaurant breakfast but I can’t think of anything uniquely Aussie. You’ll find these two breakfast egg dishes just about anywhere in the world.
Smashed avo on sourdough toast is also a popular Australian breakfast that’s actually popular the world over. Some Australians grab a pie or sausage roll in the mornings too.
Most of the hotels in Port Douglas or anywhere in Australia have buffet breakfasts with the usual western dishes, bacon, eggs, pastries and so on. Sometimes with miso soup for our Asian visitors. When the four of us went out for breakfast in Australia we’d pay $50 upwards with drinks at breakfast time.
What do Australians eat for breakfast? There is no typical Australian breakfast as Australians come from all over the world to settle. Some Australians grab a pie or pastry from a bakery, some eat cereal, and others eat toast, yoghurt, eggs or fruit. Others may eat Indian, Thai, or Vietnamese dishes for breakfast if their origins were in that part of the world. Australians are very fond of a full English from time to time too, with meat, or vegetarian.
Cruise Ship Breakfasts
On a cruise ship, you can have anything you like for breakfast, so long as you don’t want Asian.
Made-to-order omelettes with lots of vegetables or smoked salmon with capers and lemon are favourites, but if you wanted ice cream, bacon and egg pizza or something resembling dessert (the above plate of waffles with cream and syrupy fruit was my breakfast one day), it was your lucky day!
Endless choices from a buffet that changed daily. Read about finding a budget cruise here, our next is costing us just $30/day.
Breakfast in the USA – The Bad
Breakfasts in cheap hotels during our 1 month USA road trip were interesting, but not the best. They filled a hole and were good value. We’ve not seen anything like this, with plastic disposable plates, anywhere else in the world.
This was one of the better ones, from a hotel in New York. American motel breakfasts were mostly highly processed carbs with eggs, even this microwaved variety, being rare.
A lot of places had waffle machines, which the kids adored. Most had oranges or apples alongside cakes and other sweet things. Coffee was always free, all day. That’s got to be good!
Breakfast in the USA – The Good
The southern states and better quality restaurants gave us sensational breakfast dishes. In Mother’s Restaurant, New Orleans, we discovered what biscuits (similar to scones) SHOULD taste like. Superb!
We also sampled grits, gravy and collard greens. Beignets (sweet donuts) were another famous NOLA favourite.
Breakfast in India
In 2015 we spent a month in India and we also found some awesome Indian food in Malaysia. Dosa, roti, vada or idli with sambar and coconut chutney are very typical of Southern India and they are delicious.
Above we have a huge dosa with sambar (thin veg curry), fresh coconut chutney and an extra veg curry dish on the side. Waiters with huge stainless steel buckets of curries weave between tables replenishing plates as diners enjoy. A dosa is a type of pancake and comes served in many ways, plain, filled or even sweet.
In Malaysia, you will also find Indian dishes like this served at breakfast time.
Breakfast in Laos
In Laos, like most places on the backpacker trail, you can get just about anything for breakfast.
We had cheese and onion roti, baguettes, excellent shakshuka, (an Israeli egg dish with vegetables), tofu with chilies and ginger and this yummy vegetable noodle soup bought from a street stall.
I guess this is the most typically Laos dish of the bunch and we all enjoyed it immensely.
Cambodia has some interesting and tasty dishes, we even took a cookery class there and learned to make fish amok and a Cambodian style stir fry dish with chicken and greens. There didn’t seem to be any particular breakfast meal, we ended up eating a lot of fried rice, or, the backpacker special, omelettes and toast.
Oh, and deep-fried spiders. But not for breakfast.
Breakfast in Turkey
Turkey gave us amazing breakfasts of local cheeses, olives, breads, fruits, vegetables and pastries plus good olive oil. It was foodie heaven. I had no idea Turkey produced such great quality, interesting foods. You could go there just to eat.
Read up on breakfast in Istanbul here, my husband has taken away a few great ideas for his 5 star hotels from the Turks.
Not too dissimilar from Turkey, Romania gave us cheeses, tomatoes, home-made bread, milk and butter straight from the cow and jams from the fruits in the orchard.
There were a few processed meats and some interesting dishes such as fried hard sheep’s cheese. We had our best breakfasts in Romania when we were staying with families in home-stay type accommodations with well-practised home cooks, passionate about good food.
We liked Romania so much we kind of never left, but that’s another story! Romanian breakfast can involve eggs, cured meats, bread, jam, butter, pastries, cheeses, and usually some fresh vegetables, often cucumber and tomato. We experienced many variations on Romanian breakfast during our 3 years in Romania. Also we sometimes grabbed mici (skinless sausages) or placinta, sweet or savoury, for breakfast
Breakfast in Jordan
In Jordan expect a fairly typical Middle Eastern breakfast of breads (usually flat breads) hummus, salad, cold meats, cheeses and olives. Jordanian Ka’ek, Arabic cookies, or Halaweh Tehiniyey may also be on the breakfast table. Vegetables and salad are commonly eaten at breakfast in most of Europe and the Middle East. In Jordan, expect salads of red pepper, green pepper, cucumber and tomato to be sprinkled with sumak and thyme as in the photo above.
Mint tea may be served, which in Jordan doesn’t contain as much sugar as tea in Egypt, or you may find regular tea and coffee.
Breakfast in Greece
What do they eat for breakfast in Greece? Pastries are common at the Greek breakfast table, either sweet or savoury, along with breads, eggs, vegetables like tomato and cucumber, olives, fruits and nuts.
You may also find cooked dishes like gigantes, fava bean in a Greek style tomato sauce. Our full post on Greek food is here. You could also see Greek salads like tzatziki, yogurt and cucumber salad or Greek zucchini fritters.
Favourite Breakfast Around The World – Vietnamese Breakfast
Vietnam is currently one of our favourite breakfasts from around the world. In Vietnam it’s hard to pick between some of the country’s very best dishes, pho, mi quang, cau lao and op la, but the picture above shows our personal favourite, mi quang. For more on these Vietnames dishes, see here.
What’s The Number 1 Breakfast In the World?
Eggs have to be the most commonly eaten breakfast food in the world. Every country we’ve ever visited has eggs available at breakfast time. The only countries I can think of where we didn’t see eggs quite as commonly would be Sri Lanka and India, where fermented grain products like idli or dosa are more common. You would see egg curry or an egg dosa, but they were just one of many options. I would also say that eggs are the most healthy breakfast food in the world, if they are good quality eggs.
Fruit juice is also commonly served at breakfast, in almost every country.
Other International Breakfasts
International breakfasts include the Full English, American, and Continental (European) breakfasts. As you can see from the photo above, American breakfast items like pancakes and bagels, French toast and more, can be found alongside more typial Thai and Asian breakfasts.
Other international breakfasts include the all American breakfast, (a pared down version of a full English, with the possible addition of pancakes, butter, and syrup), Café Con Leche y Pan Tostado in Cuba, (milk coffee and Cuban bread toast) or Jok (congee, rice porridge) in Thailand. The world of international breakfast foods is very diverse and always interesting!
That’s it for now, our breakfast around the world favourites from the last few years. What’s your pick of the breakfasts from around the world?