A vegetarians guide to Slovenian food
“We are going to Eastern-Europe, I am going to need to bring provisions or I will go hungry as a vegetarian” I said as I was packing for Slovenia. I would soon find out that there are two BIG mistakes in this thinking.
First of all, Slovenians do not consider themselves to be part of Eastern-Europe. This lovely country is part of the Balkan region, or Central Europe if you are a stickler for geographical terms. The Balkan Countries, although starting to become popular are still a little “off the beaten path” for many. This part of the world has absolutely spectacular nature with a variety of mountain ranges (pack your hiking boots) and the proximity to the Mediterranean has seeped through to the culture as well as the cuisine. More on that in my two-day guide to Ljubljana!
Second of all, here I was, lugging around energy bars because I was worried there would not be very many vegetarian options available. Leave those energy bars at home and bring a larger size of clothing, because the vegetarian options are plentiful and delightful!
Now that we have set the record straight: what does one eat and drink in Slovenia?
TYPICAL VEGETARIAN FRIENDLY SLOVENIAN DISHES
Slovenian cuisine is an exquisite mix of Mediterranean and Eastern-European cuisine. I would venture out on a limb and say that it offers the best of both worlds. Fresh produce and olive oil/pumpkin seed oil are the basis for every meal, seasoned well with any of these frequently used spices: sweet marjoram, mint, sage, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, cinnamon and black pepper.
Traditionally, Slovenian cuisine is heavy on the meat dishes. That being said, vegetarian options are always available and some traditional dishes are even vegetarian from the start. If you are lactose intolerant, it might be a little harder as the vegetarian dishes regularly contain dairy (ricotta).
You can’t leave Solovenia without trying these dishes:
- Žganci: Made from Buckwheat, a dish eaten at breakfast.
- Struklji: Traditional ricotta cheese dumplings .
- Burek: The most popular fast-food dish.
- Strudle: The cake could give Austria a run for its money.
- Bled Cake: The only cream-cake I have liked, to date.
- Potica: You can’t get more traditional than this cake. A sweet pastry generally filled with walnuts and poppy seeds or tarragon.
- Ričet: A delicious barley soup or the Slovenian version of minestrone. Usually served with meat, but you can find veggie options of this soup!
And let’s not forget about the importance of honey in Slovenian culture. In 2011, Slovenia was one of the first EU countries to prohibit the use of pesticides harmful to the bees and their environment. One in two hundred Slovenians is actually a beekeeper!
When you walk around the central market in Ljubljana, you might notice painted wooden beehive panels. The culture of painting the beehives dates back to the 18th century and it allegedly helps the bees to orientate themselves. In the olden days, the bees would also be informed of any important changes in the family by the head of the family.
WHAT DO I DRINK WHEN IN SLOVENIA?
I was blissfully unaware of this fact, but Slovenia has no fewer than three wine-growing areas. They even have the oldest growing vine in the world. Yep, you heard it right: Slovenian wine is a thing! I am in no way a wine-connoisseur but am known to indulge in the occasional glass of red wine. Find out more here: https://winetastingljubljana.com/blog/10-slovenian-wines-you-have-to-try/
If wine is not your thing, there is always beer. This is actually the most popular alcoholic beverage in Slovenia. Believe it or not Slovenes are one of the top 10 consumers of beer in Europe. Not surprisingly, the micro brewing trend caught on big time. Craft beer is widely available, I really like the microbrewery Reservoir Dogs.
We did a really good food tour when in Ljubljana. It was around 3.5 hours long with 8 stops and it takes you around the best spots in Ljubljana, showcasing the best foods the country has to offer and there was wine! Have a look at : https://ljubljananjam.si/
All images taken by the lovely Mankica Kranjec. Have a look at her work here: