Heralding the upcoming World Vegan Day on November 1, Emirates has delivered a resounding response to heightened demand for plant-based cuisine with a multimillion-dollar investment into new vegan choices onboard. A curated menu of gourmet vegan dishes has been introduced into First and Business Class, while Economy Class menus have also welcomed a refreshed selection of plant-based produce. To cater to the rapid growth of the global vegan community and general interest in herbivorous diets, Emirates is setting new standards in customer experience with delicious and healthy options for cosmopolitan customers following a vegan lifestyle, or for those who seek a lighter meal choice while travelling. Vegan options are available to order and pre-order onboard, as well as in Emirates Lounges.
Increasing Demand for Vegan Cuisine
Emirates has been serving vegan options onboard since the 1990’s. Initially, vegan requirements were focused on specific routes such as Addis Ababa where vegan meals are required during certain times of the year by those practising the Ethiopian Orthodox faith, or across the Indian subcontinent where multiple faiths encourage a plant-based diet. Vegan dishes are now rapidly gaining general popularity on US, Australian, some European and UK routes, with Emirates noting a sizeable increase in interest in vegan dishes over the last decade. Routes showing recent increasing interest in vegan meals include Beirut, Cairo, and Taiwan. Currently Emirates offers more than 180 plant-based recipes catering to vegan customers.
Already consistently rated as the best airline for vegan travellers by many dedicated website polls including VegNews, Emirates has invested into developing a new vegan menu to rival acclaimed restaurants. The vegan menu in First and Business Class spent a year in development in Emirates Flight Catering, an expansive facility based at Dubai International airport, which is home to 11,000 employees and serves up to 225,000 meals daily. It is the largest flight catering facility in the world and home to international chefs of 69 different nationalities. The menu was the focus of multiple presentations and tastings, featuring contributions from diverse cuisine specialists like Chinese, Indian and Arabic speciality chefs, to create a wide range of flavours and textures. The tasting panels included both vegan and non-vegan chefs and team-members to ensure an inclusive approach.
In Economy Class, the vegan menus are also refreshed every month, providing a wide variety of dishes to frequent travellers. The vegan meals in Economy Class are available to pre-order and have been extremely well received by passengers worldwide. Current passenger favourites include a creamy spinach and avocado mousseline, with marinated tofu, blanched snow peas, radish, asparagus, pomegranate seeds, courgette ribbon and sriracha oil, or the multicoloured quinoa with succulent caramelised pear and celeriac purée, roasted cauliflower, glazed carrots, sautéed kale and lovage pesto, and the hearty Autumnal flavours of barley risotto with mushrooms, served with sundried tomatoes, buttered chestnuts, blanched broccolini and toasted pumpkin seeds.
The vegan desserts are also deliciously decadent, featuring tempting choices such as a dark chocolate custard cake balanced by fresh, juicy strawberries, a zesty lemon tart lightly laced with coconut cream and a rich chocolate tofu cheesecake complemented by a sweet strawberry compote.
High Quality Healthy Ingredients
The benefits of plant-powered choices are of increasing interest to health-conscious customers who may not define themselves as vegan but will occasionally choose lighter choices to complement their lifestyle. Alternative products used onboard Emirates include items like artisan vegan cheese, chickpea flour instead of white flour, because chickpea flour is gluten-free and naturally aerates dishes like crepes and omelettes to an irresistible fluffy texture. Coconut or vegetable-based cream is used instead of full fat dairy cream, coconut butter or margarine instead of dairy butter, and coconut and flaxseed oil are used as healthier alternatives to vegetable oil, with the bonus of infusing additional flavour to dishes and a high smoke point. The dishes also incorporate a range of superfoods including rich-in-antioxidant black and white quinoa seeds, which help with cholesterol and blood sugar levels, lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease. The new vegan menu in First and Business Class features unique koftas, made with plant-based products from the world-renowned Beyond meat company. Vegan desserts have been created using organic dark chocolate with 60% raw cocoa ingredients, sourced from the Dominican Republic. Vegan dishes are complemented by refreshing Vitality juices, a bespoke range of juice blends, created by beloved UAE brand Barakat. Each gluten free and vegan juice is packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants, with no added sugar, additives, or preservatives.
Taste Profile & Presentation
The Emirates team of award-winning chefs have put together a creative new menu, where vegetables take centre stage and the absence of meat isn’t felt, through clever use of textures and infusions to conjure the essential umami effect. Jackfruit, a fibrous tree fruit from southwest India, is used as a focal point in some of the vegan dishes as it cooks out with a meaty texture. Kohlrabi, a Northern European cross between cabbage and a turnip, has a mild taste that absorbs the flavours its marinated in or cooked with – a very effective addition to vegan cuisine. Other core ingredients providing a moreish meal include the inimitable tofu, cauliflower steak and varieties of nuts and legumes. With an emphasis on freshness, vibrancy of taste and satiety, Emirates’ new vegan dishes showcase a tempting collection of colourful and healthy choices including heirloom cherry tomato tofu with edamame and roasted sesame, thyme scented mushroom ragout, fresh Hass avocado and mango salad timbale, or kale and cranberry salad served on a bed of grilled sweet potato. Ensuring that the tasty and healthy dishes are also edible to the eye, vegan meals are delicately garnished with farm-fresh herbs, berries, and colourful jus,’ while several of the new vegan desserts are adorned with thin sheets of genuine gold leaf.
Vegan options onboard Emirates are nutrient-dense and rich in greens, fruits, and vegetables, sourced from several UAE-based suppliers including fresh locally grown kale, heirloom cherry tomatoes, salad leafs and herbs from Bustanica. Bustanica is the world’s largest hydroponic vertical farm, a US$40 million joint venture investment through Emirates Flight Catering. The Bustanica farm is driven by powerful technology – machine learning, artificial intelligence, and advanced methods – and a specialised in-house team that includes agronomy experts, engineers, horticulturists, and plant scientists. A continuous production cycle ensures the produce is perfectly fresh and clean, and grown without pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals. All passengers on Emirates will be served delicious leafy greens, including lettuces, arugula, mixed salad greens, and spinach directly from Bustanica, with plans for even more fruit and vegetables to be farmed in the future.