When it comes to breakfast foods, Americans are plain and predictable. If we don’t reach for carbs — think bagels, toast, and muffins — we pour a bowl of cereal or dish out a little yogurt. And when we spring for scrambled eggs, hash browns, or home fries, you know it’s officially an occasion.
But breakfasts from around the world are more adventurous—even if their ingredients are simple. From sweet pastries sold on the streets of Mexico City to the spicy noodle soups of the Yunnan Province in China, there’s far more to breakfast than toast.
We tracked down 10 traditional breakfasts from around the world to serve as inspiration for the next time you have to plan an early morning meeting. These dishes are guaranteed to jolt your coworkers awake more effectively than a second cup of coffee.
When it comes to mastering Brazilian foods for breakfast, start with bread. Portuguese French rolls are served with hefty helpings of papaya and soft, fresh cheese. Want to make breakfast an occasion? Serve an orange or banana cake, along with strong coffee.
Before it gets too hot, Mexico City residents reach for licuado, a milk and fruit smoothie, or hunt down a sweet, yeasted pastry called conchas. But they’re on the go until lunch, which is the bigger meal of the day. Out partying? Recuperate with seafood soup, black beans and eggs, or even a barbacoa taco. A cup of cafe de olla, black coffee brewed with cinnamon, will chase down these savory breakfast dishes.
Parisians aren’t big on breakfast foods. They’ll put a little butter and jam on the flaky dough of a torn croissant and call it bon. If there’s time, a soft-boiled egg might provide a bit of extra energy. Perhaps a Parisian might pour a dish of granola and fromage blanc—similar to our cottage cheese—but that’s rare. No matter how busy they might be, however, there’s always, always time for espresso.
As in France, the cornerstone of good German breakfast food is bread—usually a sourdough, rye, or poppyseed roll. On the table, you’ll also find plenty of Nutella, for spreading, and creamy cheeses like gouda or emmental to pair with salami, ham, sausage, or smoked salmon. And don’t forget the soft-boiled eggs! Germans wash this heftiest of breakfasts from around the world down with a strong cup of coffee.
Breakfast foods in Scandinavia feature plenty of bread and coffee, too. But Scandinavian “crisp breads” are the perfect vehicles for cheese and smoked fish. You’ll also find that the Swedes have elevated porridge far beyond American oatmeal—think sprouted oats, wild blueberries, and cinnamon for plenty of texture and flavor.
As with other countries in the Middle East, Israelis have to contend with scorching temperatures, even early in the morning. So savory foods for breakfast often include an array of vegetable salads, like chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and parsley, as well as soft white cheeses. A special occasion might call for shakshuka, a pan of simmering tomato sauce with cumin and harissa, bearing three or four perfectly poached eggs. Still hungry? Try bourekas, a puffed pastry stuffed with cheese or spinach or eggplant. And forget espresso. Most Israelis are jolted awake by strong, black, Turkish coffee.
Traditional foods for breakfast in India are as varied as the country itself. But in India’s capital, you’re likely to find a combination of dosa—a pancake made with fermented batter—and poha—curried rice with onions and potatoes—on the menu, along with array of chutneys, pickles, and yogurts. Have a sweet tooth? Reach for a puffy poori—bread fried in ghee until it crisps and browns.
While Americans make an occasion out of dim sum, these little bites often make for a big breakfast in China—that’s great news for everyone who loves steamed pork buns. In the Yunnan Province, locals gravitate toward a spicy noodle soup, mi xian, filled with pork, broth, rice noodles, and all the fresh herbs and chile paste your heart desires. You’re not as likely to find coffee here, however. Opt for a strong cup of tea with each meal (and any time in between).
In Tokyo, you’ll find that breakfast looks relatively similar to the foods you might have eaten for dinner the night before. Think grilled fish, rice, cold tofu, lots of pickled veggies, and miso soup. If you’re brave, opt to try the natto, a fermented soybean dish considered an acquired taste by many a Westerner.
Forget the oatmeal. In South Korea, pumpkin porridge made with small rice balls is the name of the game when it comes to sweet foods for breakfast. As in Japan, you might find locals reaching for rice and a broth soup in the morning. But in Korea, be sure to put lots of kimchi, spicy fermented cabbage, on your plate, too. With the influx of Western culture, you’ll also see East-meets-West dishes in the city, like sweet egg sandwiches with a hint of brown sugar.
Have an early morning meeting?