A guide to Slovenian vegetarian food
When you think of Slovenia, your mind might drift off to pristine nature and rich culture. Both are absolutely true, but did you know that Slovenian cooking is without a doubt one of the countries unheralded strengths?
The cuisine borrows a little something from its neighbouring countries: Hungary, Italy and Austria. While traditionally heavily meat based, the Slovenians emphasises the use of fresh and local ingredients which in practice means a multitude of amazing vegetarian Slovenian food to try! This guide will run you through some of the traditional elements of Slovenian food as well as some vegetarian dishes you should make sure to try while visiting.
Before delving deep into the vegetarian foods to try, let’s take a step back and have a look at the beautiful country of Slovenia. Nestled at the start of the Balkan region in Central Europe, it is still rather off the beaten path for many travellers exploring Europe. 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.
Slovenia is a relatively small country with a population of a mere 2 million inhabitants. Historically Slovenia is a young nation, having gained independence from former Yugoslavia in 1991. The capital of the country is beautiful Ljubljana , brimming with extraordinary friendly locals and plenty of restaurants!
The country is divided into 24 gastronomic regions, each containing their own tasty specialities to try. The dishes mentioned in this guide are an eclectic mix from all over the country.
It is good to note that lunch is typically the largest meal of the day. There are however plenty of restaurants more than happy to serve delicious vegetarian Slovenian food for dinner.
Do not spend your pennies on water in bottles, rather bring a reusable bottle and drink water from the tap. It is absolutely delicious and drinkable. In Ljubljana there are multiple water fountains dotted across the city where you can fill your bottle for free.
Traditional vegetarian Slovenian food you will find on every menu
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. Time to explore some of the traditional vegetarian Slovenian foods you will find on most menus around the country.
This neglected grain forms one of the main staples of the (vegetarian) Slovenian food. It is grown in the Slovenia, and is therefore a very popular ingredient for a lot of breads, dumplings or as a side dish. The white flowers of buckwheat are a favourite of the honeybees, who produce buckwheat honey.
A well-known dish you might want to try is the delicious Buckwheat Porridge (ajdovi žganci z ocvirki). Make sure your porridge does not contain pork for flavouring. Other delicacies made with buckwheat are dumplings filled with cottage cheese (ajdovi krapi).
Buckwheat grows quickly and is therefore a very popular ingredient for a lot of breads, dumplings or as a side dish. The white flowers of buckwheat are a favourite of the honeybees, who produce buckwheat honey
Although not technically vegetarian Slovenian food, this staple could not be omitted from the list. 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 and together they produce over 2000 Tons of honey a year.
Beekeeping is one of the oldest crafts in Slovenia. In fact, in the olden days the bees were considered part of the family – the head of the family would talk to the beehive to inform them of important changes in the family.
Slovenian Pumpkin seed oil
Pumpkin seed oil is a deep green color and has a slightly nutty taste. The oil is produced in the Štajerska and Prekmurje regions of Slovenia. The seeds are roasted and pressed and produce this liquid gold called pumpkin seed oil. It is used as a salad dressing, drizzled on soups or even on bread – much like olive oil in Italy. It is also a popular ingredient for vegetarian dishes in the Slovenian cuisine (stews, vegetable dishes). If you are feeling adventurous you can drizzle some pumpkin seed oil on vanilla ice cream to enhance to taste!
Another example of the perfect vegetarian Slovenian food is the use of dandelions, preferably freshly picked during spring time. The fresh leaves are known for their many health benefits and served in fresh salads or mixed with potatoes and/or kidney beans– be sure to try the vegetarian version of Regratova solata .
The most common side dish served on the Slovenian menu. The potato is so highly regarded in Slovenia that there are numerous festivals and sayings dedicated to this humble vegetable. It forms the core ingredient for traditional stews and dumplings (kostel potato dumplings, kocovi krapi pockets, štruklj) and is even eaten together with eggs to make a delicious omelette (krumpentoč, frika). You get the picture, as a vegetarian (and even a non-vegetarian) you will be eating lot of potatoes when savouring the many delights of vegetarian Slovenian food.
For those with a sweet tooth, fruit is an essential element. Apple, pear and plum orchards can be found all over the country and are widely used to make desserts or spirits (schnapps!). Make sure you try the Slovenian strudelj (Strüdl). There are all sorts of varieties including cherry, apricot, peach, plum, and o fcourse apple strudelj (Juhm).
If all else fails, you could live of the different varieties of studelj or vegetarian štruklj (filled dumplings) throughout your stay in Slovenia. But that really would mean you are missing out on the wealth of the vegetarian Slovenian food on offer!
Vegetarian Slovenian dishes you have to try
I have touched upon more a few vegetarian friendly dishes in the above paragraph, let’s examine a few more dishes that need to go on your list of things to try when you are visiting Slovenia!
Made from buckwheat and cooked for fifteen minutes in a large bowl, very much like one would cook porridge. Add milk, honey or runny yoghurt and you have the perfect hearty and typical vegetarian Slovenian breakfast.
Possibly the most popular vegetarian Slovenian food . Traditionally štruklji are made with filo pastry and have a filling of your choice. The most common vegetarian alternative is made with ricotta cheese filling or a buckwheat walnut variety. Both are usually eaten as side dish. For those of you with a sweet tooth, štruklji also come with a variety of fruit fillings usually served with breadcrumbs on top at the end of a meal. The central market in Ljubljana has a restaurant where they serve more than 20 kinds of different štruklji. They are freshly prepared each day!
A delicious thick barley soup or the Slovenian version of minestrone. Usually this vegetarian dish is served with barley, beans, potatoes, carrots, parsley, celery, leeks, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Sometimes a sneaky bit of meat will be added, so be sure to ask in advance if the soup is vegetarian.
This traditional Yugoslavian dish is made out of filo pastry, the vegetarian version is filled with cheese and the traditional version comes with a meat filling. This crunchy and greasy (vegetarian) Slovenian fast food is one of the nations favourites. The best burek in Ljubljana can be found in Nobel Burek.
Strudel is a sweet pasty filled with delicious warm apples and cinnamon. It is commonly found in Austria and parts of Germany as well as in Slovenia. This vegetarian friendly Slovenia dessert is wonderful as an afternoon snack with a warm cup of coffee. Found on pretty much every menu around Slovenia.
Known locally as Kremsnita or kremna rezina is a cream cake made out of sweet puff pastry delicately placed on top of a thick layer of delicious cream and custard and topped of with a healthy sprinkling of powder sugar. Another delicacy dating back to the Austro- Hungarian Empire and one you will want to savour while overlooking beautiful Lake Bled.
Have you pick of places to try this vegetarian friendly Slovenian food (I say food because the portions are generous enough to fill you up) while chilling out at one of the many eateries dotted around the the mesmerising lake. The original version of this cake was created in the Park hotel where to this day reportedly 3500 slices of Kremna rezina are served every day
A sweet pastry generally filled with walnuts, poppy seeds and tarragon. These traditional flavours are often found in the Slovenian cuisine and come together beautifully in this traditional Slovenian desert. You can’t get more traditional than this cake. A sweet pastry generally filled with walnuts, hazelnuts, tarragon, poppy, cheese and others flavors. It is a favourite around the holidays! There is a little boutique store in the heart of old town Ljubljana where you can taste this dessert year.
Tours to discover (vegetarian) Slovenian food
If you happen to be in Ljubljana, be sure to try their local food tour. The tour is 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 here. The tour caters to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians!
If you are not able to book a tour, you can take a self-guided food tour thanks to the online guide created by Ljubljana Yum. You can download the guide for a mere 6€! The eBook is mobile friendly and contains tons of hidden gems and awesome wine bars.
Looking for vegetarian friendly restaurants in Ljublajana? I compiled a list of the best restaurants for you to check out.
On a side-note if you are heading to Slovenia and the region of Ljubljana, be sure to allocate some time to visit the beautiful Lake Bled. Legend has it the lake that was created by fairies!
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