The truth is that traditional Slovenian food is quite unknown and that is also a reason why I’ve decided to present it in this post. Via this guide to Slovenian gastronomy, I will help you get to know the rich culinary heritage and give you some ideas about what to eat in Slovenia or Ljubljana.
It is so amazing that such a small country like Slovenia offers various food (over 170 distinguishable dishes) depending on climate, history, traditions, also villages and towns. Each region has its own specific culinary tradition rooting back to historic time. Additionally, Slovenian cuisine is under significant influence of the neighboring countries’ food from Austria, Balkan countries, Italy and Hungary.
Therefore, you will find Slovenian food specialties from:
- Austria cuisine: Slovenian sausage (“klobasa“), Wiener Schnitzel (“dunajski zrezek“) and strudel (“štrudelj” – a pastry with a filling of apples/sour cherry/cabbage,…).
- Italian cuisine: all kind of dishes made from pasta, gnocchi (small, and soft dough dumplings), pizza, rižota (risotto), žlikrofi (similar to ravioli – small cases of pasta filled with meat or cheese), minestrone (“mineštra” – a thick soup made with vegetables, also meat, sometimes with pasta or rice).
- Hungarian cuisine: goulash (“golaž” – a stew made with meat, onion and paprika), paprikas (chicken or beef stew), pancakes (filled with jam, nuts or chocolate).
- Balkan cuisine: burek (a pie made of beef/cottage cheese/spinach), čevapčiči (small grilled minced meat served with onions, flatbread and ajvar – red pepper spread), pljeskavica (spicy meat patties), ražnjiči (shish kebab).
Some basics used in Slovenian gastronomy are dairy products, mushrooms, sausages, meat (mainly pork), seafood, incorporating seasonal fruits and vegetables, potatoes, beans, grapes, honey, herbs and olives.
What is very common/appropriate to do here before starting your meal is “Dober tek” (“Bon appétit”), and the answer to that is “Hvala enako” (“Thank you, the same to you”), also “Na zdravje” (“Cheers”).
The old traditional Slovenian breakfast consists of fresh bread, a cup of milk, butter, honey an apples. This type of breakfast is not common now anymore. For breakfast, we eat homemade marmalade, also eggs, meat products, cheese, and cereals. We drink natural juice, milk, tea, coffee or cacao.
Bread plays a special role is Slovenian cuisine. There is a wide variety of bread, made of grain wheat flour, rye, corn, buckwheat, spelt, oat, also a mixture of two or more kinds of flour. Moreover, many times it is added also various seeds, even onions, olives or walnuts. It is eaten with every meal.
Traditionally, most Slovenian meals start with soup and are eaten all year round. You can find an endless variety of soups – mushroom soup, chicken soup, barley soup, “jota” (soup with sauerkraut/turnip, beans, potatoes and smoked pork or sausage), bean soup, mix-vegetable soup but the most common is beef broth with noodles. What’s more, beef soup is also a common starter on Sundays in many Slovenian families. Beef soup is a clear, full-flavored broth with either noodles or dumplings and a sprinkle of parsley.
“Mineštra” (minestrone) or stew are also very typical and a favorite Slovenian dish, many times cooked with pork bones, ribs, sausage or another type of meat.
The main dish often includes meat. A favorite side dish is roasted potatoes (“pražen krompir“), but also rice or “štruklji” (boiled/baked dough rolls containing various fillings). The interesting thing about “štruklji” is that they can be served as a dessert as well. A salad is also an important part of lunch with pumpkin seed or olive oil as a dressing. In early springtime is highly appreciated a dandelion (wild lettuce) salad. Also, other vegetables are used in various ways. Very common is cabbage, used as sauerkraut (many times accompanied by sausage and/or roasted potatoes), sweet-and-sour cabbage, and raw cabbage salad.
Bread is often served on the side.
Slovenes are big fans of fish and seafood. A trout (“postrv”) is a fish from the Soča river and is prepared in a variety of ways (traditionally rolled in buckwheat or cornflour and fried). Fish is usually accompanied by boiled potatoes and chard.
When it comes to Slovenian desserts, there are several:
- Potica is a national dessert, yeast-dough roll cake with a variety of filling options (tarragon, walnut, crackling and poppy seeds). Potica is a typical Slovenian easter food. It is also common to put it on Slovenian tables at Christmas and other holidays.
- Štrudelj or Zavitek (strudel filled with apples, blueberries, cherries, cottage cheese);
- Blejska kremna rezina or Kremšnita (Bled cream cake is a dessert from the town of Bled – a layer of vanilla custard topped with whipped cream and sandwiched between layers of flaky pastry );
- Prekmurska gibanica is a pastry filled with poppy seeds, walnuts, apples and cottage cheese and topped with cream;
- Cmoki is boiled potato-dough dumplings filled with plums;
- Krof or Slovenian fried dough is fluffy round fried dough bun filled with apricot jam, traditionally made for carnival time.
- Miške, buhtelni, flancati, pince, šarklji are other types of desserts usually made of fine yeast dough with many eggs yolks, butter and milk.
Other Slovenian specialties
- Kranjska klobasa (Carniolan sausage) is a famous Slovenian specialty, usually served with mustard, ketchup and a slice of bread. It is a “Protected Slovene product“;
- Kraški pršut is an air-cured ham from the Karst region, made in an old traditional way. It goes perfectly with a glass of red wine;
- Indrijski žlikrofi are small boiled dumplings filled with potatoes, onions, and lards or smoked bacon, herbs and spices. Žlikrofi is accompanied by the typical meat sauce;
- Krvavica or Blood sausage is stuffed with beef or pork blood;
- Ajdovi žganci is made with buckwheat flour and water. It can be served with cracklings, milk or with sauerkraut and grilled sausages on the side;
- Bujta repa is a popular winter dish. It’s a type of thick pork soup prepared by mixing pork ingredients in a large pot and slowly stewing it. It is served as a main dish – hot pot.
- Seafood is mainly popular along the coast of Slovenia.
- Pumpkin seed oil is so delicious and healthy. It is mostly used as a salad dressing.
Many Slovenian towns and cities host culinary and social events, but the last couple of years is popular a unique culinary street food event called “Odprta Kuhna” (the Open Kitchen). The feature of this event is you can experience freshly cooked food prepared by Slovenian chefs right in front of you. Apart from delicious food, it’s a place of good live music and entertainment. My husband and I love this event and always find something for our taste – from Slovenian dishes to international and exotic dishes. I personally love a various choice of food there, but mostly vegan. Yummy!
Among friends, it is common to hear “gremo na pijačo” (let’s go for a drink).
Many times you can find on Slovenian tables local mineral water but without a good wine is not a good meal. Very common is “špricer“, half wine and half mineral water. We have three wine-growing regions in Slovenia and are very proud of high-quality wines (sorry, I cannot recommend any since I don’t drink alcohol :)). Beer is also popular with national brands Laško and Union.
In winter Slovenians like drinking “kuhano vino” or “mulled wine”, traditionally made of red or white wine with spices. There is also a Slovene brandy called “žganje” or “šnopc“.
After lunch or in the afternoon with our friends or family, we usually enjoy drinking Turkish coffee. Coffee with milk or whipped cream is also commonly available.
Vegan food in Ljubljana
As you could assume so far, Slovenian cuisine tends to be meat-dominated (or at least using meat products ingredients) but it does not mean that all vegans out there “draw the short straw”. The same like there’s a tendency of vegan options in the world, I believe that Slovenia is progressing when it comes to offering non-meat dishes as well. There are some restaurants, cafe bars or at least menus that offer vegan food in Ljubljana. The good news is that even some traditional Slovenian food and desserts are now available in veganized version. Hooray!
What’s more, many cities in Slovenia have markets where you can find a good selection of local, fresh and good quality fruits and vegetables. I like the colorful open-air central market in Ljubljana that is a must to visit. This place offers mostly organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, and some other products. The choice is really huge – from five types of radicchio, various varieties of apples, cherries, etc.
Some staples in traditional Slovenian food
Honey: Beekeeping is one of the oldest traditional crafts in Slovenia. There is a relatively rich selection of different honey (flower, forest, acacia and other types of honey). Slovenian honey is a high-quality and also important ingredient in Slovenian gastronomy. Not only it is used in desserts but also in special dishes or made honey brandy or liqueur.
Cheeses and sour-cream: There is a long cheese-making tradition in Slovenia. A lot of dishes include various cheeses (made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats) but also common cottage cheese. One of the most common is Tolminc (is a hard full fat cheese made of cow’s milk) and Bovčji sir (made from sheep’s milk with intense aroma).
Mushrooms: In season (late summer and autumn) Slovenes love putting some mushrooms on the table which we pick in the nearest woodland. Mushrooms are made in soups, served grill or in risotto.
Forest fruits: Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries are common parts of Slovenian desserts, cakes, pies, strudels. They are used to make jams or eaten fresh.
Chestnuts: No autumn is perfect without chestnuts. I personally love them, whether roasted or cooked. Boiled chestnuts are used for making puree or as an ingredient in cakes, ice-cream or other dishes. We love eating hot chestnuts also to heat up our hands in cold autumn days. It’s a true autumn ritual gathering in the circle of a family at home or in street stalls.
Eating habits in Slovenia
- We typically eat three meals a day, from which lunch is the most important.
- Around 10:00 a.m. we take a break and have a snack.
- Lunch is served from 12:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Soup (most commonly beef soup) is the most popular starter (on Sundays is a must).
- We eat the main dish at the same time as the salad.
- Meals are usually large, caloric and hard to digest (based on animal fat, eggs, flour-based dishes, butter, cream, potatoes).
- We don’t have typical food for dinner. Usually, dinner is smaller than lunch (leftover from lunch, yogurt, cheese and salami with bread,…).
- Traditional spices of Slovenian cuisine is parsley, marjoram, mint, melissa, sage, thyme, savory, bay leaf, pepper and cinnamon.
Where can you try traditional Slovenian dishes?
Local dishes are basically found everywhere in Slovenia but mostly in “gostilna” (a simple restaurant that serves traditional Slovenian food), tourist farms, resorts and hotels. There is also common to find in “osmica“. The word means “eight” and is referred on a period of eight days when farmers offer their homemade produce at their homes. You can also explore the dishes at various culinary events in Slovenia.
Dishes can be sometimes expensive, but you have also an option for more economic cooked foods at local supermarkets.