Buddhist Food Etiquette 4 Rules: How To Buddhist Food Best

The most important rules and principles to planning a Buddhist-friendly menu. Follow Buddhist food etiquette to prepare a menu that your guests will enjoy. Avoid embarrassment and be an ideal host.

What Buddhist food etiquette is

Buddhist food etiquette is the set of rules to plan a menu that is appropriate for guests who follow a Buddhist diet. Such rules include:

  • The allowed foods and ingredients.
  • How to ask about dietary restrictions.
  • How to deal with your guests’ diets.

If you are hosting, respect Buddhist food etiquette to properly plan a menu that your guests will enjoy and to avoid any embarrassments. 

If you are a guest, follow Buddhist food etiquette to politely deal with your hosts and the other guests.

Buddhist food menu rules

Buddhist food etiquette rules

Buddhist dietary restrictions.

1) Respect Buddhist dietary restrictions in your menu

The Buddhism religion does not set dietary laws. However, the principles of the Buddhist faith suggest the avoidance of some foods.

The interpretation of such principles varies by region and Buddhist school. Most people of the Buddhist faith follow a vegetarian, vegan, or lacto-vegetarian diet.

Meat is excluded from the Buddhist diet

One of the main principles of Buddhism is nonviolence and the avoidance of suffering. According to this principle, most Buddhists do not eat animals, as doing otherwise would imply killing.

Thus, the meat of any animal is usually excluded from the Buddhist diet.

Fish and seafood are excluded from the Buddhist diet

Buddhists normally do not eat fish, seafood, or shellfish. All of them are considered living beings, thus eating them implies their killing or suffering.

Dairy products and cheese are allowed

Milk, dairy products, and cheese are normally included in the Buddhist diet. As long as their production does not involve any harm to the animal. Nevertheless, in some regions or in some Buddhist schools, milk and dairy are excluded.

Eggs are out, honey is in

Eggs are usually excluded from a Buddhist diet.

Honey is widely accepted.

Vegetables and fruit are always ok

In general, all vegetables and fruit are allowed in the Buddhist diet. However, some Buddhists do not eat plants with a strong smell. Such as onion, garlic, or leeks. The belief is that such plants lead to increased emotions, such as anger or sexual desire.

Grains are ok

In general, Buddhists can eat any type of grain. Pasta. Couscous. Quinoa. Amaranth. The same applies to bakery products and bread. Pizza is allowed too.

Condiments are almost always ok

Oil, salt, and spices are allowed. Buddhists that avoid alcohol may not consume vinegar made from wine.

Sweets and desserts are generally ok

A Buddhist diet can include most types of sweets or desserts. However, some interpretations tend to exclude or limit sugar. First, sugar can be addictive. Second, in the Buddhism faith, many believe that eating food should nourish, but not bring sensual pleasure.

Drinks are ok, but alcohol is not allowed

A Buddhist diet usually allows soft drinks, tea, and coffee. However, some see coffee, tea, and sugar drinks as potentially addictive and avoid them.

In general, most Buddhist diets do not allow alcoholic drinks. However, in some regions, alcoholic drinks are present at religious celebrations. Thus, some Buddhists may consume alcohol.

2) Etiquette for asking guests about their Buddhist diet

It is perfect etiquette to ask your guests about their Buddhist dietary restrictions. 

In written formal invitations, it is sufficient to ask guests to please inform the hosts about any dietary requirements. 

In informal invitations, a simple “do you follow any diet or have any dietary restriction?” works. Another option is to ask if guests avoid any food.

It is against etiquette to ask further questions. Such as why someone follows the Buddhist dietary rules. Or why someone excludes or includes a certain food. 

If you have a genuine curiosity, you may ask such questions. However, it is polite to justify your curiosity. In other words, state why you are curious about it. Be apologetic. Never judge or question the answers you get.

best menu practices to deal with Buddhist dietary restrictions

3) Buddhist food menu planning etiquette

Follow these key principles to deal with Buddhist guests’ dietary restrictions.

Serve each food on its dedicated plate 

Do not serve multiple foods on the same plate. Instead, separate them. Assign a plate and serving utensils to each food or ingredient. Serve condiments and sauces separated from food.

This way you allow guests to pick the foods that they can eat. Or to avoid the foods that they cannot eat. 

Include safe options 

Many foods are allowed in almost every diet. Such as vegetables and fruit. Plan some safe dishes that almost any guest will be able to eat. As an example, only a few people say no to baked potatoes or salad.

Avoid risky foods

Many foods are not allowed in many diets. Pork meat. Alcohol. Beef. Crustaceans.

If you are unsure about your guests’ diet, play safe. Avoid cooking these foods altogether. Or, at least, plan one or two dishes without them.

4) Buddhist food guest etiquette

Guests following Buddhist dietary rules should respect etiquette too. Otherwise, they risk disrespecting their host or the other guests.

Do not expect the host to guess your diet 

If you do not eat some foods, clearly state it with your host. 

It is bad etiquette to expect a change in the menu based on your needs. Instead, you may ask if there may be some options suited for a Buddhist diet. Be apologetic in your requests. It is rude to do otherwise. As a guest, you do not want to sound entitled.

Be accommodating. Do not expect the host to accommodate your requests. However, any considerate host will feel compelled to provide guests with Buddhist diet options.

Politely refuse food that you do not eat

If the host serves food that you do not eat, simply avoid it. If the host or another guest explicitly offers such food to you, politely refuse it. It is enough to say “no, thank you”. 

Provide additional detail only if someone asks you. It is good etiquette to be brief. Otherwise, do not discuss your dietary restrictions in length.

Do not impose your diet on the other guests

Never expect others to adjust to your diet. Do not expect your hosts to change their menu to accommodate your needs. Similarly, at a restaurant, do not expect the other guests to change their food order. 

buddhist food etiquette mistakes

Buddhist food etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst Buddhist food etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Not accommodating Buddhist dietary restrictions.
  • 7/10. Imposing your diet on others.
  • 5/10. Sharing unsolicited details about your diet.
  • 5/10. Asking personal dietary questions.