What If You Don’t Eat Meat: Delicious Vegetarian Serbian Food

Serbs might joke that vegetarian food is our greatest enemy after promaja & co. I mean, we are notorious meat eaters. Haven’t heard of that? It’s high time you learned about Serbian food festivals. However, traditional Serbian food includes plenty of mouth-watering vegetarian and vegan dishes.

You may wonder how such a meat-oriented cuisine can be vegetarian and vegan-friendly. The answer lies in Serbian culture and religion. 

Since the majority of Serbs are Orthodox, they are familiar with lent (post). The food they eat during this period is posna hrana. Those who are truly religious are fasting every Wednesday and Friday, but also on some religious holidays. The longest lent periods are six weeks before Christmas and seven weeks before Easter.

If this confuses you, think of Serbian fasting as pescetarianism. No animal products are allowed apart from fish and seafood.

Nevertheless, if you aren’t into fish and seafood, we’ve prepared a comprehensive menu consisting of vegan and vegetarian Serbian food only. Let’s dig in!  

Starters

We bet you’ll fall in love with vegetarian Serbian starters. If you’re into hearty, traditional food that’ll help you learn everything you need to know about Serbs, you must try this selection of dishes. Mind you, some of these are vegetarian, while others are also vegan-friendly.

Gibanica

Gibanica is a type of pie made from eggs (jaja) and cheese (sir) between layers of thin dough. We use mostly white cow cheese. To spice it up, we also like to add kajmak to the filling. 

Warning: If you’re eating gibanica made by a Serbian granny, prepare napkins. It’s going to be a greasy calorie bomb. For the best heavenly experience, drink Serbian jogurt. All other types of yogurt you’ve tried before won’t count anymore.

Pite

Slices of pie with spinach and cheese
Pita variations are endless in Serbia

The word pita in Serbian means a pie. We enjoy both savory and sweet versions. You’ll find different types of pita around Serbian bakeries. It’s up to you to find a favorite. The most popular vegan options are filled with pečurke (mushrooms), spanać (spinach), krompir (potatoes), and kiseli kupus (sauerkraut).

Although burek is a traditional name for a meat pie, you’ll also hear that it can have various fillings, like the ones above. However, if you aren’t a fan of those, you’ll find prazan burek (a pie without any fillings) in every Serbian bakery.

Ajvar and Pinđur

If you happen to be in Serbia in autumn, beware. The smell of roast peppers will hit you whenever you go outside. Serbs thoroughly prepare zimnica for winter, because we hate being hungry. Zimnica is pickled everything packed in glass jars and displayed in a Serbian špajz (pantry).

Now back to the roast peppers. We use them to make the most beloved zimnica spreads – ajvar and pinđur. These two are similar with one difference. While eggplants can be an additional ingredient in ajvar, paradajz (tomatoes) is necessary to make pinđur.

Homemade Leskovac ajvar is registered with the World Intellectual Property Oganization. So, you can either adore ajvar, or you haven’t already tried it.

Proja and Kačamak

Corn flour is the common ingredient for proja and kačamak. Proja is a type of cornbread that has different variations. The traditional version that you’ll find in a typical Serbian village is hard as a rock and is best when eaten with warm milk. However, there’s an alternative called projara, whose dough is much softer and contains cheese.

On the other hand, kačamak is porridge-like, and we often eat it with milk, cheese, or kajmak. In the past, it was typical of poor families, but today it’s become a delicacy you’ll find in modern restaurants.

Kajmak and Lepinja

Lepinja sa kajmakom – a cherry on top of Serbian starters and a favorite breakfast on the go. Lepinja (flatbread, pitta bread) combined with kajmak (kaymak, thick cream with a high percentage of milk fat) is the ultimate traditional Serbian food you must try.

Main Course

A bowl of baked beans, two lemon slices, and spices laying on a table
Baked beans is the No1 vegetarian Serbian food

If you’re a fan of soups, you’ll enjoy Serbian tomato soup. However, if you skip them, we’ve got perfect main courses. Prepare your palate for the rich and aromatic flavors of the following vegan Serbian dishes.

  • Prebranac, known as the king of posna srpska slava, is baked beans. It’s a source of protein and is often cooked in a clay pot. Savor this spicy and creamy winter dish while in Serbia. If you decide to cook it yourself, here’s a traditional recipe for you. 

 

  • Posna sarma (cabbage rolls) is an unfairly less popular sarma variant. Although the meat version (mrsna sarma) is to die for according to Serbs, posna sarma has its own charm. Cabbage leaves (often sauerkraut) are filled with rice, onions, and carrots to make this godly dish.

 

  • Đuveč is a perfect casserole to make when you have a lot of veggies in your fridge that you don’t want to rot. The process is pretty simple. Take a pot, add rice (it’s the base of the dish), chopped bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, zucchini (or anything else you find), a bit of water, oil, and spices. Stir everything, put it in the oven, and voila, that’s it!

 

  • Slatki kupus has a sweet name, but it’s got nothing to do with sugar. Serbs chop and cook cabbage with various veggies and spices. We eat it na kašiku (with a spoon). It may not be love at first sight (it doesn’t look too appealing), but it will be at first bite.

 

If you’re into more modern vegetarian Serbian food, there are vegan options for the most famous meat dishes. Vegapčići for example. They’re meat-free ćevapčići, but also a spot-on tongue twister to practice Serbian pronunciation. 


Check out some of the best places for a vegetarian Serbian food tour here.

Salads

Various pickled vegetables in jars on a shelf

If you can’t imagine a meal without a veggie salad, Serbia is the right place for you. Our favorite salads you’ll enjoy include:

 

  • Srpska salata – the colorful explosion of vitamins. This salad consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers, parsley, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.


  • Šopska salata – originates from Bulgaria, but is unavoidable in Serbia too. The ingredients are the same as in srpska, with an addition of white brined cheese.


  • Kiseli kupus – sauerkraut. A must in winter served with sweet red ground pepper. Chases cold and flu away.


  • Pečene paprike – roasted red peppers. An essential salad at Serbian slava. Served with oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt.


Turšija – pickled veggies. Another winter favorite. Typically consists of cauliflower, carrots, cucumbers, and cabbage. But if we find any other veggie, we’ll pickle it too.

Desserts

Those of you who have a sweet tooth can relish traditional Serbian vegan desserts. Did you know that our vanilice were pronounced the best cookie in the world?

Apart from them, we recommend you try as many sitni kolači at posna slava as possible. Žito sa šlagom (Serbian wheat pudding) is also a traditional dessert you must try when in Serbia.

In the beginning, we told you sweet pies are as popular as savory. Some of the mouth-watering versions can be filled with apples, cherries, pumpkin (bundevara), and walnuts. Finally, we suggest you try knedle sa šljivama (potato dumplings filled with whole plums). You’ll find them in restaurants, but in supermarkets as well.  

Let’s Wrap This Meal Up

We hope that we helped you answer the question – what is typical Serbian food without meat? Surprisingly, the vegetarian food choices in Serbia are endless. Use this as a starting point for your vegetarian Serbian food tour, and feel free to explore further.

If you aren’t confident enough to order food at restaurants, cafés, or bakeries in Serbian, lessons in our Beginner and Pre-Intermediate courses cover that topic and can help you accomplish your Serbian food mission.

Prijatno!

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