Yes. Garlic and onion are plants so they are vegan. There might be some vegans who might not eat onion and garlic, but this is most likely due to personal likes and dislikes. Additionally it also might be due to some religious beliefs and practices which we will discuss later in the article.
Why are people confused about onion and garlic not being vegan?
Most vegans are not confused about whether onion and garlic are vegan. While they are very aware that onions and garlic are actually vegan, some might still get confused when/if non-vegans ask them if they eat onions and garlic. This can often be the case when travelling throughout Asia in places where the term vegan is not well understood.
You might run into this kind of conversation:
So, why is there confusion about this topic? Why do non vegans ask vegans about whether they can eat garlic and onion?
Well, it turns out that there are several religions that don’t eat animals but also don’t eat garlic and onion. If you have some knowledge about these religions but not about veganism, you might think a diet that doesn’t include meat, dairy and eggs might also exclude onion and garlic.
Disclaimer as we read more in this blog post
We are not religious scholars. Far from it. But we have done a certain amount of study in this area and spoken to many people who practice these religions. Also, like all religions, each follower interprets the doctrine as they wish and some people might practice consistently or occasionally. What follows is a very general assessment of the religious practices of a huge number of people around the world. Buddhists are not a homogenous group.
Diets that include vegetarianism and veganism and also forbid onion and garlic.
There are many different types of Buddhism and many people follow what might generally be called a Buddhist diet. It is followed by many monks and nuns. There are also many restaurants around the world that serve this kind of food. Vegan meats like tofu, seitan and more processed vegan meats can feature heavily and you can find many vegan versions of meat dishes.
Buddhist Food by country:
(Known as shōjin ryōri (精進料理, fucha ryōri (普茶料理) devotion cuisine),
This cuisine is very simple. It features seasonal vegetables, light seasoning and will often contain soy, tofu or kuzu.
Many Mahayana Buddhists, Zen Buddhist (Trúc Lâm/ Thiền) and Cao Đài practice vegetarianism. In Vietnam this is called đồ chay food.
As well as monks and nuns who eat this food on a regular basis, many Vietnamese people observe this diet for 1 or more days of a lunar month.
Vegetarian food in Thailand is called "jay" (เจ). Many Chinese Thai people undertake a vegan diet without the five pungent roots for 9 days as part of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.
China and Taiwan
In China and Taiwan this cuisine is called 斋菜 - zhāi cài
This food is often known as Korean Temple Food. 사찰음식 - sachal eumsik
Why do some Buddhists avoid onion and garlic?
Onions and garlic are considered to be two of the five pungent roots along with scallions, chives, leeks and asafetida. These pungent roots are often forbidden.
There are a number of reasons that those following a Buddhist diet avoid these Five Pungent Roots.
- They are considered to increase libido when consumed.
- If eaten raw, they can incite people to anger and disputes.
- When eaten cooked, they can increase one’s sexual desire.
- They also are thought to disturb the peacefulness of the mind which is detrimental to meditation.
- The breath of someone who eats these foods might drive away the good spirits.
Jain vegetarianism is a diet that is followed by followers of the Jain culture and philosophy and has some similarities with Hinduism, although there are some significant differences.
Jains are lacto-vegetarians. They consume dairy (although many modern Jain scholars are suggesting that dairy should be eliminated from the Jain’s diet as they believe the modern commercialized production of dairy products involves violence against farm animals).
Jains do not eat animal products because they adhere to an Ahinsa approach: The term ahinsa means nonviolence, non-injury and absence of desire to harm any life forms.
What else do Jains not eat?
- Jains do not eat root vegetables including potato, garlic, onion, carrots, beets, radish and leeks. The rationale behind this is that avoiding these foods prevents the injuring of small insects and microorganisms when they are plucked from the earth.
- Honey is avoided as this would amount to violence against bees.
- Mushrooms are not eaten as they might harbor insects.
- There are also other limitations on how water is treated before drinking, when food should be eaten and fasting is common. Find out more on these limitations by reading this article and also this one.
- Some devout jains will wear a facemask to avoid inadvertently breathing in insects.
We really hope this has cleared up any confusion about whether onion and garlic is vegan, and why there might be some confusion about this topic.
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We'd love to hear from you! Do you have any questions? Were you confused by this garlic and onion thing? Let's have a discussion in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!