Trying out the local cuisine might just be one of the best parts of exploring a new country. With so much on offer to tickle your taste buds it can be difficult to narrow it down and you might just come home 10 pounds heavier (but that’s the joy of holidays right?) Traveling as a vegetarian can be challenging at times, especially when the waiter gives you that confused look when you tell them “no, you also don’t eat chicken, it’s meat too” (we’ve all been there…) but luckily there are plenty of options to keep you satisfied. Eastern Europe can be heavily meat based, but that doesn’t mean you need to snack on lettuce for the duration of your trip! Below are some of the best vegetarian dishes we have found.
1. Tavche Grache
Hands down my favourite dish from travelling Macedonia, this tomato based bean stew can be found all over the Balkans. Made from beans, tomatoes and onions and flavoured with a handful of spices, it is simple yet satisfying. Mostly cooked in earthenware pots, it has an authentic smoky flavour which is sure to make you come back for more.
Mmm carbs. Found all over Eastern Europe, Burek is filled pastry made of thin and flaky dough. While many are meat filled, some of the popular ones contain cheese, spinach or potatoes. It can be found all over Eastern Europe from restaurants to street vendors.
More carbs? Oh go on then. Pierogi are little dumplings of happiness found mostly in Poland and Slovakia. Vegetarian fillings include cheese, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, sauerkraut, spinach or types of fruit if you are after something sweeter. Fun fact: The Guinness record for making pierogi belongs to a group of students from Poland who managed to make a whopping 1663 of the stuff in 100 minutes!
4. Shopska Salad
Don’t be deceived by the word salad here. If you are a cheese lover, this one’s for you. A mixture of freshly chopped cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley and then smothered (literally) in crumbly white cheese. Perfect if you have had a little too many dumplings and need to get some nutrients back in your life.
Less of a meal itself and more of an accompaniment, Ajvar is a delicious blend of roasted peppers, aubergine, paprika and garlic. Perfect with some warm baked bread and feta cheese, this sweet and satisfying spread can be found all over the Balkans.
This one may come as a bit of a surprise, but some amazing Italian cuisine can be found all over Albania. Separated only by a small stretch of the Adriatic sea, the Italian influence can be seen everywhere from the architecture to the culture and naturally; the food.
Word has it this is one of the most important Romanian dishes of all time, which can best be described as a polenta like porridge. Usually combined with butter, sour cream and feta cheese, it’s a humble meal yet hearty enough to leave you feeling satisfied. It may not look the most colourful or appealing meal you find on your travels, but when in Rome(ania)!
Simpler than the word itself, this dish can be found in Lithuania and other Baltic countries. The cold version is bright pink in colour, made from beetroot, cucumbers and a number of other flavourings, before being mixed with sour cream. Watch out though, the hot version is usually made with meat stock!
9. Potato Pancakes
Another specialty of Poland, it may seem a bit weird to order pancakes for dinner but these savoury dishes are worth it. Served plain with some sour cream or topped with various vegetables these are popular among the locals and travellers alike.
Let’s be honest, the words Hungary and vegetarian don’t usually go hand in hand. They love their meat and may give you a bit of a judgemental look when you turn down their famous goulash, but fear not, Langos to the rescue. A deep fried dough, smothered in various toppings such as sour cream and cheese, this can be found in all the street markets and will be sure to satisfy those carb cravings.
About the author – Emma Nelson is our Operations Executive for Europe at Tucan Travel and the resident vegetarian.