Foods to try: breakfast around the world

May 26, 2021

Whether your day begins with a thick stack of syrup-drenched waffles, a plate of hummus and veggies, or a bowl of spicy and tangy Choley puri, breakfast around the world is personal and unique to each culture and person. Travel brings us in touch with local flavour including delicious regional breakfast traditions. Let’s take a look at some unique breakfasts from around the globe.


The first meal of the day on this continent varies region to region. North African breakfast can be heavily influenced by Arab tradition, and can consist of cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, hummus, jam and toast and sometimes a hard-boiled egg. Throughout West and East Africa bread is a popular staple at breakfast. In countries with a heavy French influence, beignets and pastries are usually offered as well as omelettes, while more rural areas of Africa will find porridge or gruel made of millet, rice or corn on the menu, in addition to fresh fruit. In Kenya and Tanzania, common breakfast dishes include mandazi (a deep-fried mix of wheat flour, sugar and egg), beef samosas, chapati (a thin pancake made from wheat flour), hard-boiled eggs and tea. Ugandans enjoy roasted bananas with grilled beef for breakfast. Thin pancakes or homemade bread with jam and tea or coffee are common staples in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Somalia. South Africa — due to the colonial influence — enjoys French- and English-style breakfasts with eggs, croissants and bacon.


Asian breakfast foods vary greatly across regions, but often feature rice, noodles or soup dishes and are based on what foods can be grown in that area. Vietnam is known for its pho soup for breakfast, French bread with butter or jam, and even sticky rice dishes. Mango and dragon fruit are also often served. Chinese breakfast is also heavily influenced by local agriculture. In northern China, wheat is common, so a bowl of hot wheat noodles is a regular breakfast item along with beef wrap rolls, tofu, rice rolls and bean fritters. In southern China, rice is a primary food and a staple at all meals, including breakfast. But it’s a dish called congee (a rice porridge with the consistency of a thick soup) that those who live in this area in China love to dig into.

In Japan, the word for breakfast is asagohan, which means “morning rice” or “first rice.” Japanese breakfast is light and simple, including rice covered in nattō (a sauce of fermented soy beans). Cooked fish, pickled vegetables and tea may also be served. A traditional Korean breakfast includes rice, kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), beef or fish and usually bread.


In Europe, breakfast as a distinctive meal was not common until the 17th century. In fact, the Romans did not eat until the middle of the day. “The Romans believed it was healthier to eat only one meal a day,” food historian Caroline Yeldham told the BBC in the November 15, 2012 article Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Have we always eaten them? “They were obsessed with digestion and eating more than one meal was considered a form of gluttony. This thinking impacted on the way people ate for a very long time.” The 17th century saw breakfast make its way to the table, but it wasn’t until the 19th century — and the industrial revolution — that working hours were set making breakfast a regular meal.

European breakfasts vary country by country, but often include bread or pastries, jam, porridge or muesli (a cereal mix of nuts, oats, raisins and other dried fruit), yogourt, meat slices or sausages, egg and cheese. Coffee or tea is usually served with the meal. In France, a piece of baguette topped with butter and jam is common, while Spaniards typically start their morning out sweet, with a serving of churros con chocolate (hot chocolate with churros). The sugary batter is deep-fried into stick form before being served with a cup of thick hot chocolate, used as a dip. A smörgås, or open-faced sandwich, is a typical breakfast item in Sweden. Two slices of bread are often met with a thin spread of butter and a combination of toppings including ham, cheese, lettuce, cucumber, tomato and hard-boiled egg. The classic German breakfast consists of bread rolls, butter, jam, ham, sausages, soft-boiled eggs and coffee. Greece welcomes all kinds of pastry for their morning eats.

Australia and New Zealand

While most Australian and New Zealand breakfast is similar to that of Europe’s, they do have a few dishes distinctive to their region. In Australia and New Zealand toast with Vegemite is a common breakfast. Vegemite is a spread made from brewer’s yeast, vegetables, wheat and spices. During colder months, New Zealanders will often eat porridge or Weet-Bix with hot milk for breakfast.


The morning meal in some parts of India is often similar to lunch or dinner and can consist of flatbread, idli (rice dough pancakes) or dosas (thin lentil crepes), which are accompanied by different dips and chutneys and spiced potatoes. Another common dish is appam, which are bowl-shaped pancakes that are filled with eggs, honey, and either a spicy sauce or a coconut cream.

Middle East

Traditionally, breakfast was a large meal including rich, sugary sweets and bean soups, particularly for the working class. In modern times, it has become a lighter, smaller meal without sweets. There are two structures of daily meals in the Middle East, one for most of the year and one during Ramadan. During non-Ramadan times, Middle Easterners eat at least three main meals throughout the day. During Ramadan, meals change to a small meal before sunrise and large feast at sunset.

The recipes found here reflect both the Arab tradition and common local foods that grow year round. Locals often eat a mezza (a spread of small plates) of labneh cheese, hummus, dates, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and olive oil, freshly baked pita bread, feta and tahini. Generally, tea is served instead of coffee (coffee is often saved for midday and the afternoon).

North America

While Canada and the US have similar breakfast foods, Mexico’s breakfast dishes are more similar to those in Central and South America. There’s a wide variety of breakfast options in Mexico. Some include corn tortillas, eggs, beans and a variety of sauces. A very common breakfast dish is chilaquile, a fried corn tortilla topped with eggs, green or red salsa, chicken, cheese and beans.

The United States and Canada are two of a number of countries that have foods at breakfast that are generally not eaten at other meals. Here, breakfast dishes vary widely but can include porridge, cereal, egg dishes, bacon, toast, pancakes, waffles, bagels, pastries, fruit, juice, coffee and tea. Many of the breakfast items are influenced by European foods.

Latin America

South American breakfast cuisine tends to be on the savoury side. In Venezuela, breakfast often consists of arepa, a corn flatbread stuffed with different fillings such as cheese, meat or beans. Brazilians eat homemade pao de queijos (round-shaped cheese buns), which are served with fruit, coffee, yogourt and sometimes white cheese. Argentinean breakfast consists of coffee and usually croissants or a brioche. Grilled sandwiches with cheese and ham, known as tostadas, are also served, as well as yerba maté, a tea-like drink that is made from the dry leaves and twigs of Yerba plants. Chileans take a breakfast involving marraqueta or hallulla bread covered in jam, butter or cheese. Colombians eat a variety of breakfast dishes, including tamal tolimense (rice, dry legumes, beef, chicken and pork, egg and potato, covered with maize dough and cooked in a banana leaf) eaten with hot chocolate, and changua (a soup of milk, scallions and cheese). In Ecuador, fried bananas, hard white cheese, scrambled eggs and mote (a type of corn) are often served along with strong black coffee.

Originally published September 16, 2015. Updated May 26, 2021.

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