Vegetarians, rejoice! Although Slovenia is well known for its rich meat cuisine that is extending through whole country (we can’t hide our pride for Carniola sausage, Karst prosciutto, bear salami and horse burgers), we are fully aware of the importance of fasting from meat. That is why throughout history due to different circumstances we developed some delicious vegetarian dishes, rich in flavour, ingredients and for every Slovenian national holiday.
Since our food was traditionally (until 2nd world war) meant for heavy field work and cold winters, it is nutritious and made with local ingredients such as “skuta” (fresh cottage cheese), buckwheat, apples, tarragon, walnuts and more … While some of Slovene vegetarian dishes usually come as a dessert, many of them can be eaten as a main dish as well. Let’s dig into them!
Most of the info we found in a great book on Slovenian food by Janez Bogataj: Abeceda okusov Slovenije (Slovenian food alphabet).
Štruklji (pron. sh-trook-ly)
It is safe to say that štruklji (rolled dumplings) is a dish loved by Slovene nation in general. It is a boiled rolled pastry with a sweet or savory filling. They are mostly a festive dish, known in all Slovenian regions, and was as such established by our bourgeois in the 17th century whereas before it was usually on the menus of Slovenian monasteries. We love to eat it as a side dish (to a steak, let’s say) or as a main, and they can be both savoury or sweet – depending on the filling. Most known are the ones with tarragon, walnuts, cottage cheese, apples, dried pears and many, many more (think seasonal delights like pumpkin, wild garlic etc). One thing is for sure, štruklji will fill up also the most picky mouth.
In Ljubljana you can find them in all their variety in a little shop Moji štruklji Slovenije at the central market.
Potica (pron. potizza)
This round shaped, rolled sweet pastry filled with a filling of choice, is at the core of Slovenian identity – every ex pat or immigrant will swear by their grandma’s recipe for it and how no one bakes a better one. It was first mentioned as far back as 1575! Despite the fact that it is supposed to be a festive dish, especially for Christmas (walnut filling) and Easter (tarragon filling – yes we like to place this herb in desserts), housewives liked to show their appreciation for their loved ones with baking it on random days. And don’t think we are humble when it comes to fillings. Right the opposite! We will fill it up with almost all of our crazy wishes, in fact more than 80 different fillings are known, even leftover pig fat as a special type of potica (špeharica) eaten at Slovenian traditional masquerade festival called pust. In case you are wondering if chocolate is also good filling for potica, I can assure you it is.
You can get potica with many fillings (chocolate too!) at the covered central market and many bakeries and dessert shops around Christmas and Easter. We like to get our these days at Niša.
Another sweet pastry called Prekmurska gibanica (only for laughs, the literate translation would be “over Mura layer moving cake”) is a layered cake originating from the region Prekmurje, the head of Slovenia (if you imagine it shaped as a chicken). It is a sweet, multiple layer cake exploding with different flavours. For centuries it was a festive and ceremonial sweet dish for special occasion, such as New Year, Christmas, weddings, religious celebrations and for every gathering imaginable, yet the exact year of origin is unfortunately unknown. Different layers of fillings alternate with the dough – and the order is very important: first poppy seeds, then cottage cheese, walnuts and last, apples. This is what makes Prekmurska gibanica special and even recognised as protected traditional national food meaning it has to follow the exact written process and under certified hands.
Ajdova kaša z jurčki (Buckwheat groats with porcini) / (slovene pron. ay-doh-vah kash-ah zs yourch-kee)
Buckwheat is one of the most used grains in Slovenia, although it is technically a seed. It is usually called the queen of wheats and people cherish it for its health benefits (also recently gluten free lovers). The unique taste, easy conditions for cultivating and a variety of possibilities to make delicious dishes out of buckwheat persuaded Slovenes for loving this rich in nutrition goddess. In fact, we love it so much we are naming our baby girls Ajda (buckwheat)! It can be cooked, or baked and made with onion, vegetables, herbs, you name it. It loves cream too. The most known and widespread as a traditional Slovene representative dish is buckwheat porridge with mushrooms, usually porcini. This savoury symbiosis will satisfy every mushroom lover out there, and trust us, you won’t feel guilty after eating it. It is perfect for a delicious healthy winter lunch.
You can try it out in the Prekmurje restaurant Gujžina.
Idrijski žlikrofi are traditional Slovenian dish, originating from Idrija region. They look like little dough pockets, filled with potato, onion, herbs and originally, minced lard. The other meat version is also made with bacon. First records of the makings of žlikrofi date as far back to the end of 18th or the beginning of 19th Century. The dish itself is supposed to originate from Transylvania and was brought to Slovenia with miners that were working in Idrian quicksilver mine. Ever since the year 2002, žlikrofi are a protected dish, usually served with a distinctive sauce, better known as “bakalca” or ram goulash. For such, preparation of žlikrofi needs to follow traditional recipe. Žlikrofi can also be eaten as an individual dish, so it can be a delicious dish for all the vegetarian mouth out there, you can always pair it with a vegetarian sauce of your choice.
Idrijski žlikrofi with a twist – as a dessert with wild berries and walnut sauce!
Jota (pron. yota)
The mother of winter soups, jota is a sauerkraut heaven. It is one of the most distinctive dishes of Western Slovenia, which soon spread into the rest of Slovenia. Although the dish is well known in other European country, Latvia, which is supposed to have its own, the mixture of sauerkraut and beans is typically Slovenian. Different varieties of jota can be found in Slovenia, for example, jota in Karst is made with potato and the one from Istria is made without. One thing is definitely for sure, we loooove jota! So we developed different types, beside the one with sauerkraut there is also that one with turnip, and the one where potatoes and beans are mashed and the one where they aren’t. Which one will you eat, definitely depends on where in Slovenia are you located. Although for extra taste we Slovenians like to cook in ham, but we can assure you that jota is just as delicious without meat as it is with it.
You can get your own jota without meat in Klobasarna on Ciril-Metodov trg, 15.
Ričet (pron. ree-chet)
In other words: queen of all minestrone, made with barley, beans, potatoes and different vegetables is a Slovenian stew that is a perfect fill up after a long hiking in Slovenian mountains, skiing or just walking around little Slovenian towns in winter. Ričet is mostly eaten in Gorenjska region, more or less near the mountains. You can basically get it at every mountain cabin in Triglav national park. We usually cook in with pork meat to make the taste richer, but to be honest, the taste without the meat is pretty rich already. So don’t hesitate and find your vegetarian ričet at Klobasarna, Moji Štruklji Slovenije
Curious to eat more delicious seasonal vegetarian Slovenian food? Join our foodwalks and we’ll be more than happy to organise a proper experience for you!
Thanks for reading!
If you crave some more delicious experiences, come join our food tours! Also, if you need help with your travel planning to Ljubljana and/or Slovenia, do not hesitate to contact us as we do also offer these services. Cheers from the yummy side of the Alps!