When the long, light days of summer arrive, there’s nothing better than tucking into a refreshing dish that’s bursting with colour and flavour. Whether you’re going abroad this year and are looking forward to trying new cuisines or you just want to recreate delicious foreign flavours at home, summer is the perfect time to get creative in the kitchen – and the beauty of summer dishes is that they’re incredibly diverse.
From chilled soups that are the perfect refresher on a hot day to spicy dishes that will help you beat the heat, there’s a summer dish for every diet and taste preference! To get you inspired, here are 13 summer dishes from around the world.
1. Gazpacho, Spain
On a hot summer day, enjoying a cold and refreshing bowl of gazpacho is a wonderful way to cool off.
Originating in Andalusia in southern Spain, this chilled soup is jam-packed with mouthwatering summer flavours (ripe tomatoes, piquant peppers, and cooling cucumbers) and then bulked out with stale bread.
Making gazpacho is simple: you just blend the vegetables with crushed garlic and olive oil, soak the bread for 20 minutes or so until it’s soft, then tear it into pieces, and add it to the mixture before blending again. Then, simply pass through a sieve, and chill. The trick to perfect gazpacho is to make sure your veg is beautifully ripe, so it’s worth seeking out top-quality ingredients.
To make your own authentic Andalusian gazpacho, try this recipe from Spanish Sabores.
2. Summer rolls, Vietnam
Most of us are familiar with spring rolls, but in summer, few things are as satisfying as tucking into a plate of Vietnamese summer rolls.
Also known as fresh spring rolls, summer rolls are fresh, light, healthy, and absolutely delicious. Crunchy veg is paired with thin vermicelli noodles, aromatic fresh herbs, and a cold protein, which is then all wrapped in featherlight rice paper.
What’s great about summer rolls is that they’re endlessly versatile – although each roll should be stuffed with a variety of tastes and textures. For your protein, you can opt for tofu, chicken, pork, or prawn, and for your veg, carrots, peppers, cucumber, lettuce, and radish all work well. Dipped in spicy peanut sauce, each bite is squidgy-yet-crunchy, spicy-yet-cool.
Why not try making these fresh Vietnamese summer rolls by Cookie + Kate?
3. Kolokithokeftedes, Greece
Greek salads might be synonymous with summer, but so are kolokithokeftedes – otherwise known as courgette fritters.
Courgettes come into their own during the summer months. Plus, when paired with aromatic fresh herbs and tangy feta cheese, and served with a dollop of creamy, refreshing tzatziki, it tastes like summer – or more specifically, like summer in Greece.
Making kolokithokeftedes is simple. You just grate courgettes, salt them, squeeze out excess liquid, and then mix in chopped onions and fresh herbs like mint, dill, and chives. Then, add eggs and feta cheese, mix well, and add some flour before shaping into patties. Fry in olive oil until each side is golden and serve with a generous helping of tzatziki.
To make Greek kolokithokeftedes, try this recipe from Eating European.
4. Ceviche, Peru
Fish and chips might be a summer staple in the UK, but if you want to inject a more international flavour into a fish dish, why not make ceviche?
While it originated in Peru, ceviche is eaten all throughout Latin America, and this light, refreshing fish dish is absolutely packed with zingy, punchy flavours. Plus, it’s also one of the healthiest fish recipes around!
What makes ceviche perfect for summer is that the fish isn’t actually cooked; it’s marinated in what’s locally known as leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), which is made with limes, chilli, onion, salt and pepper. The acid in the lime ‘cooks’ the fish, and once it’s marinated, just add a dash of olive oil and coriander. If you don’t eat fish, you can even make a vegan version of ceviche using tofu!
To make traditional Peruvian ceviche, try this recipe from Eat Peru.
5. Falooda, India
If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to make falooda, which is a frozen dessert drink that’s hugely popular in India.
In summer, it’s sold in just about every restaurant and ice cream shop on the subcontinent, as well as from street food stalls – and made with rose syrup, basil seeds, vermicelli noodles, nuts, milk, ice cream, and sometimes jelly, it’s deliciously different!
Adding noodles to a dessert may sound odd, but vermicelli noodles are flavourless, so they take on the fragrant, sweet flavours of the rose syrup and ice cream. The squidgy texture of the noodles is also beautifully offset by the crunchy basil seeds (similar to chia seeds).
To make authentic Indian falooda, try this recipe from the Ministry of Curry.
6. Panzanella salad, Italy
Italian food is celebrated all around the world, and while pasta and pizza may be the most famous exports, the salads are just as delicious.
Originating in Tuscany, panzanella is a classic Italian salad that’s made from juicy, ripe tomatoes, a tangy vinaigrette, and crispy, olive oil-soaked bread. Though this dish uses stale bread, soaking up the oil and tomato juices breathes new life into any loaf!
To make panzanella, you need to make sure you’re using perfectly ripe, plump tomatoes. Then, chop and salt them to bring out the juices and make them even tastier. Whip up your dressing (olive oil, garlic, shallots, dijon mustard, and vinegar), then pour it over your tomatoes and stale (or toasted) bread. Season, add fresh basil, and leave to soak for 30 minutes before eating.
For more on making perfect panzanella, check out this recipe from Serious Eats.
7. Jollof, Nigeria
Jollof is a rice dish that’s eaten all across West Africa, though it’s said to originate in Nigeria. Every country has their own version of Jollof, but at its core, it’s simple: rice, a tomato sauce, and plenty of seasoning. Though there’s nothing simple about the taste of Jollof! Seasoned with scotch bonnet chillies, onion, garlic, thyme, and curry powder, every mouthful is an explosion of summer flavours.
The secret to perfect Jollof lies in the flavoursome sauce, so take time to source the best tomatoes, peppers and chillies you can find; then, blend until smooth. Fry your onions and garlic until soft, add the tomato sauce, and simmer. Finally, add your seasoning, stock, and rice. For maximum authenticity, turn up the heat for the last few minutes so the rice scorches!
To make Nigerian Jollof, try this traditional recipe by Ev’s Eats.
8. Kimbap, Korea
Korean kimbap might look just like sushi, but these seaweed and rice rolls are actually more different than you might think.
Whereas sushi is made with vinegar-seasoned rice and raw fish, kimbap uses cooked meat and veg, and the rice is seasoned with sesame oil. Kimbap is also paired with kimchi and pickled vegetables, rather than soy sauce or wasabi.
In Korea, kimbap is the perfect sunny day snack, and because it’s easily portable, it’s a popular picnic dish. You might need to seek out an Asian supermarket to get all your ingredients, but this tasty and refreshing dish is definitely worth it – plus, it’s fun to assemble too. You can make meat kimbap or veggie (or a mixture of both). Just be sure to slice your ingredients thin and long.
To make Korean kimbap, try this recipe from My Korean Kitchen.
9. Nicoise Salad, France
On a hot day, tucking into a crisp and refreshing salad is one of life’s simple pleasures – but some days you might fancy something a bit more substantial than a leaf-based salad. If that’s the case, why not make a Nicoise salad?
Originating in Nice, in sunny Provence in the South of France, a Nicoise salad is hearty enough to fill you up, yet light and refreshing enough to be perfect for hot weather.
There’s a lot of debate about what should actually go in a Nicoise salad, but most versions contain green beans, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, olives, tomatoes, and fish (anchovies were traditionally used, but these days canned tuna is more common). Pair with a classic vinaigrette, or add some mayo if you prefer things a bit creamier. Serve with a glass of rosé for maximum authenticity!
To make traditional Nicoise salad, try this recipe by Snippets of Paris.
10. Vatapá, Brazil
You can’t have an article about summer dishes without featuring a recipe from the land of eternal summer – Brazil.
Vatapá is a Brazilian shrimp stew that originates in the state of Bahia, where Iberian, indigenous, and African cultures merge, resulting in local cuisine that’s as dynamic as it is delicious. Nuts, shrimp, and coconut find their way into most Bahian recipes, and vatapá is no exception.
Vatapá is very adaptable: some versions use bread to thicken the stew, others use flour; some use peanuts, while others favour cashews. The protein is usually shrimp, but sometimes it’s subbed for cod or monkfish. However, coconut milk and local palm oil always go in, and it’s these two ingredients that give vatapá its signature velvety texture and floral notes.
To make traditional Bahian vatapá, try this recipe from Sabor Brasil.
11. Som tam, Thailand
Thai food is packed with fresh and fragrant summer flavours, but if you don’t fancy eating a Thai curry or noodle dish, why not make som tam?
Som tam (also known as green papaya salad) is the most popular salad in Thailand, and not only are its zingy, tart flavours, and chilli kicks the perfect antidote to summer lethargy, but it’s also super healthy and virtually fat-free.
The key ingredient is unripe papaya, which you can buy from Asian supermarkets, and the flavour comes from the dressing, which contains Thai chillies, garlic, tamarind, lime juice, palm sugar, and fish sauce. There’s plenty of crunch from the raw carrots, green beans, peanuts, and papaya, and while the dish is often served with rice, it’s perfect by itself. Just leave out the fish sauce to keep it veggie.
To make Thai green papaya salad, try this recipe from Rosa’s Thai Cafe.
12. Borscht, Ukraine
Borscht is eaten all over Eastern Europe, but its origins are in Ukraine, where it’s the national dish.
You might think this deep-red soup is best eaten in winter, but borscht can be eaten hot or cold – so if you like the idea of a chilled soup but don’t fancy gazpacho, borscht is an obvious choice.
In Ukraine, there are many variations of borscht, but all are sweet-yet-sour and beetroot-based.
While the warm version of borscht is heartier and usually contains meat as well as root vegetables, the summer version is stripped down. Beets are cooked, shredded, and cooled, and then sugar and lemon juice (or vinegar) provide the signature tang. A dollop of sour cream is usually scooped on top (turning the red soup a vibrant pink), and diced potatoes and hard-boiled eggs are often added, too.
To make Ukrainian borscht, try this authentic recipe by iFOODreal.
13. Halo-halo, Philippines
A final dish for people with a sweet tooth: Filipino halo-halo. We’ve already featured falooda in this article, the Indian ice cream sundae-style drink – and if you think that dessert had a lot going on, halo-halo takes things up a notch.
Halo-halo means to mix, and that’s just what this dish is: a mish-mash of sweet and colourful ingredients that when mixed up is the ultimate summertime treat.
Ingredients vary, but it’s all about contrasting textures (chewy and crunchy, creamy, and sticky), as well as a jumble of vivid colours. The most commonly used ingredients include sweetened red beans, ice cream, jelly, fresh fruit (e.g. mango, banana and strawberries), flan, condensed milk, and shaved ice. You can use whatever you like – just serve in a tall glass with a long spoon so you can reach it all!
To make Filipino halo-halo, check out this guide by Serious Eats.
Whether you’re jetting off this summer or are staying at home, recreating the unique tastes of summer dishes from different countries is easier than you think – and the beauty of summer food is that it’s wonderfully diverse.
If you fancy something cold, why not try making chilled soups like Spanish gazpacho or Ukrainian borscht, or knocking up some refreshing salads like Italian panzanella, Thai som tum, or a classic French Nicoise?
Or, if you’re happy to make something warm, you can’t go wrong with Greek kolokithokeftedes, Brazilian vatapá, or punchy Nigerian Jollof. And if you fancy something sweet, why not try making either Indian falooda or Filipino halo-halo, which are both delicious and wonderfully colourful ways to cool down this summer?
For even more meal inspiration, you might want to check out our article; 7 sunshine-inspired recipe ideas.