Often touted as the most important meal of the day, breakfast looks different around the globe. Every country has its own unique way of breaking fast, from rice porridge to nachos to "sprinkle toast." Whether you like your eggs scrambled or fried, or prefer coffee over tea, there’s a morning menu out there that suits your taste buds. Here’s what people in 20 other countries around the world eat for breakfast.
For their morning meal, Egyptians regularly consume ful medames or simply “fūl,” a richly flavored mixture of stewed fava beans and spices. To make fūl (pronounced “fool”), dried fava beans are soaked overnight and then cooked for several hours with various aromatics such as garlic, onions, parsley, lemon juice, and chili peppers, before being finished with a dash of cumin and a drizzle of olive oil. Since the ubiquitous breakfast food requires hours of preparation and cooking time, most markets also sell canned varieties of ful medames. Fūl is typically served with pita bread, eggs, and cheese and enjoyed at all times of the day, but especially in the morning before school or work.
In Turkey, breakfast is not a grab-and-go affair. Instead, a copious spread of white bread, white cheese called beyaz peynir, olives, honey, butter, jam, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers is placed on the table to be enjoyed by the family. Other spicy additions include sucuklu yumurta (dried sausage made of ground beef, garlic, sumac, and cumin) and menemen (a traditional Turkish scrambled egg dish cooked with peppers, tomato, and spices). Breakfast time varies among households, but most cafés serve breakfast items throughout the morning and into the early afternoon.
Breakfast dishes may vary in different regions of India, but roti (also known as chapati) is a staple throughout the country. The wheat flour flatbread is rolled at home, pressed into a circular shape, pan-fried in ghee (clarified butter), and served with dips and chutneys. Other dishes commonly present on the breakfast table are dosas (lentil-and-rice crêpes), idlis (steamed rice-dough pancakes), and spiced potatoes. Since Indians are accustomed to rising early for work, breakfast is typically served between the early hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.
China’s version of chicken noodle soup is congee or conjee, a savory rice porridge that is regularly consumed for breakfast. Combined with water and aromatics such as green onions and lotus root, the rice is boiled until it changes into a pudding-like consistency and then topped with pork, seafood, or youtiao (fried dough). Although it resembles a sort of gruel, congee is delicious and considered to be the ultimate comfort food in China. Since it’s easy to make and incredibly filling, it’s also a perfect way to start the day, which means many people in China will enjoy a warm bowl of congee as early as 6 a.m., before the workday starts.
In Morocco, breakfast isn’t complete without some sort of pancake on the table, especially baghrir, a special pancake made from semolina flour and yeast. Also known as a “thousand-hole pancake” or “thousand-hole crêpe,” the baghrir is famous for the tiny craters that appear on its surface as soon as the batter is poured into the pan. These holes form due to the active yeast in the batter, and if they don’t appear, it means the baghrir is too thick. A properly cooked baghrir is spongy and tender and served with honey, butter, and jam. Similar to people in the West, many Moroccans eat an early breakfast, although food isn’t consumed until after morning prayer.
In Peru, animal blood is a common breakfast ingredient, due to the fact that blood is purported to be good for your health since it protects against anemia. One popular option is a sandwich called pan con chicharrón, featuring blood sausage, fried sweet potato, and salsa criolla (a mixture of chopped onions, lemon, and cilantro), sandwiched between two halves of a fresh bun. Another favored breakfast item is sangrecita (seasoned chicken blood), in which chicken blood is boiled and then fried with onions and salt. Most Peruvians eat breakfast before leaving for work or school, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.
In Venezuela, arepas are consumed in many households in the mid-to-late morning, around 10 or 11 a.m. Composed of corn flatbread stuffed with a variety of savory items — cheese, fish, chicken, shredded beef, or black beans — arepas are beloved by most Venezuelans. In fact, they're such a common snack in Venezuela, they’re consumed throughout the day, not just for the morning meal. And since breakfast isn’t as essential as the midday meal, many Venezuelans eat lightly in the morning in order to save room for lunch, which is the largest meal of the day. As corn is a good source of fiber and highly prevalent in South America, arepas are also popular in Colombia and Ecuador.
In Sweden, breakfast is a simple affair, with many Swedes choosing muesli (hot or cold granola) or boiled eggs for their morning meal. Another popular dish is an open-faced breakfast sandwich called smörgås. To make smörgås, a thick piece of bread is spread with fresh butter and topped with a combination of ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, or egg. To jazz up smörgåsar, many Swedes buy roe spread, packaged in small tubes and available in grocery stores throughout the country. Similar to caviar, this salty fish paste is considered a delicacy, with Swedes adding it to their breakfast sandwiches for a special morning treat.
Although curry is most often thought of as a dinner item in the West, it’s often consumed as the morning meal in Myanmar, with Burmese egg curry being especially popular throughout the country. The breakfast staple features hard-boiled eggs fried in turmeric and swimming in a spicy tomato and onion sauce. If this traditional dish isn’t made for breakfast, Burmese families still prefer to dine on savory dishes, such as soup, sticky fried rice, boiled yellow beans, or fried fish. Regardless, breakfast is always served with green tea and is most often enjoyed in the early morning hours between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m.
Although breakfast often depends on the region, chilaquiles are omnipresent on breakfast tables throughout Mexico. Consisting of fried tortilla chips bathed in a warm red or green salsa, and topped with shredded chicken, beans, Mexican crema (fresh sour cream), and avocado, chilaquiles are akin to having nachos for breakfast. Whether or not they are fried, tortillas remain one of the most essential breakfast staples in Mexico, traditionally consumed with eggs or beans in the morning. Although lunch is considered to be the most important meal of the day, Mexicans usually don’t skip breakfast. In fact, eating a meal between 7 and 10 a.m. is more important than dinner, which is typically a light snack in the evening.
When you’re in Spain, you don’t need to choose between breakfast and dessert, because when you eat churros con chocolate, the two are synonymous. Cocoa powder is sweetened with sugar before being thickened with cornstarch, to produce a rich chocolate sauce. Most often, the ooey-gooey chocolate is poured into a mug and served with churros (fried dough) or soletillas (ladyfinger cookies) for dipping. However, since breakfast isn’t as important as lunch, many Spaniards skip the morning meal entirely or eat as late as 11 a.m.
In Japan, breakfast foods are traditionally savory, featuring dishes we would often associate with lunch or dinner. Cooked fish, rice, and pickled vegetables are all foods typically found on the breakfast table, alongside miso soup. Made of dashi (Japanese stock), miso (fermented bean paste), vegetables, and tofu, miso soup is a simple dish that can be quickly cooked on a stove. The warm soup is so nourishing that it’s often considered to be an ideal way to start the day. Since people in Japan rise early, the average breakfast time is 7:10 a.m. on weekdays, before people leave for work or school.
In Mongolia, the word for breakfast literally translates to “morning tea,” so tea is the most important item on the breakfast table. Suutei tsai (milk tea) is the morning standard, made daily in yurts across the country. The salty green tea is a combination of tea and cereal, made with green tea, milk, and millet. It’s not uncommon to add leftover meat to the milk tea in order to transform the straightforward dish into a hearty meal with some protein. Often served with urum (clotted cream made from yak milk), suutei tsai is usually consumed early in the day, between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m.
Translating to “fried pancake,” jianbing is a popular breakfast item served on the streets of Taiwan. The savory crêpes are made of egg, wheat, and mung bean flour, and are pan-fried on a circular cast-iron griddle. The result is a puffy, fried cake that can be topped with a variety of savory items, such as ham, scallions, soybeans, hoisin sauce, cilantro, pickles, and chili sauce. Jianbing is always cooked fresh and served hot, which means long lines usually form in the morning as hungry citizens wait for their favorite breakfast.
In the central Andes of Colombia, changua is a traditional breakfast soup consumed daily. It’s very easy to make — water, milk, and green onions are brought to a boil on the stovetop before eggs are cracked into the boiling mixture and poached briefly. Sometimes potatoes are added as well. It’s most commonly served with chopped scallions, cilantro, and toasted or day-old bread. The dish is thought to restore a person’s strength, which is why it’s served in the morning between 7:30 and 9 a.m. before a long workday.
As one of Israel’s most well-known breakfast dishes, shakshuka has recently gained more international acclaim. To make shakshuka, eggs are cracked into a flavorful tomato sauce and then poached inside a hot oven. As shakshuka is a communal dish, it’s acceptable to eat it out of the pan, while sopping up the tomato sauce with fresh bread. The tradition of large, communal breakfasts in Israel stemmed from the country’s kibbutzim (collective farming communities), where people toiled in the fields before dawn and then shared a large breakfast together. In fact, a proper Israeli breakfast is often so large that many Israelis prefer to skip lunch entirely.
Ackee and saltfish is not only a typical Jamaican breakfast but also the national dish of the country. Ackee is a savory fruit with thick, red skin, brought to Jamaica from West Africa in the 18th century, while saltfish (salted cod) was a cheap food, since the white fish was preserved in salt for longer storage. Although these ingredients have different flavor profiles, they blend well to make a salty, nutty, savory dish that is found throughout Jamaica. Ackee and saltfish are often served with fried plantains or “johnnycakes” — Jamaica’s version of fried dumplings — and consumed as early as 5 or 6 a.m.
Banchan, an assortment of small side dishes and cooked rice, is a typical breakfast in South Korea. It often consists of leftovers from the night before, which means it includes an array of Korean dishes. Soups and stews are common, as is kimchi (salted and fermented vegetables), jeon (meat and vegetable fritters), and gyeran-mari (rolled omelets). The dishes are all placed on the table in small bowls and eaten communally. Since Koreans follow a similar schedule to people in the West, banchan breakfast is usually served early in the morning, around 7 a.m. or so.
If you’re wondering why the Netherlands is one of the happiest countries on Earth, it may have something to do with breakfast. Hagelslag, which is buttered bread topped with sprinkles, is so popular for breakfast that the Dutch reportedly consume millions of sprinkles annually. The country’s chocolate sprinkles are made with real cacao, while other flavors include anise (licorice) and fruit. Although this cheerful breakfast dish can be eaten as early as 6 a.m., hagelslag is so ubiquitous in the Netherlands that it’s also considered to be an acceptable snack throughout the day.
In Nigeria, instant noodles and eggs are a classic standby for breakfast. Not only are instant noodles extremely affordable, but when combined with eggs, they’re transformed into an easy and filling meal. Often served with boiled or scrambled eggs, indomie is the standard brand for instant noodles in Nigeria, found in nearly every pantry throughout the country. In fact, instant noodles and eggs are among the first dishes Nigerian children learn how to cook. Outside of the home kitchen, noodle stands are found on most street corners, and it’s not uncommon to see Nigerians snacking on the noodles before work.