The Slovenian cuisine is partly based on the culinary art of its neighboring countries Austria, Hungary and Italy, in that partial elements are taken and given the typical Slovenian touch. The cuisine there is as diverse as the country itself. For example, you will find different dishes on the plates along the Adriatic coast than in the Slovenian Alps or in the Karst region or in the Pannonian Plain. Some sources claim that there are over 1,000 different Slovenian national dishes. Either way, the fact is: there are many! We give an overview of typical food and drink in Slovenia.
Slovenians attach great importance to using fresh products from the region when preparing their meals. These include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, local cereals, sheep’s cheese, meat from animals from the region, fish and seafood from the Mediterranean, wild herbs and local honey. When it comes to drinks, people like to think about local products: wine, beer or schnapps from the region are preferred on the table.
Regional and national delicacies in Slovenia
In northern Slovenia, i.e. in the Alpine region, the cuisine is based heavily on neighboring Austria. Strudel, pastries, roasts and sauerkraut have a long tradition here. The influence of the sea but also that of neighboring Italy is noticeable on the Slovenian coast, where primarily fish and seafood as well as ravioli, gnocchi and risotto are on the menu. Things are a little sharper near Hungary, in the Pannonian Plain. Paprika is an important ingredient there. Hearty stews have their place alongside goulash and pancakes.
Here is a brief overview of traditional, regional delicacies, which are also appreciated throughout Slovenia: Let’s start with something sweet, with Potica. It is a traditional nut roll that should not be missing at any festival or celebration. The popular “Ljubljanske palačinke”, the quark pancake, and the “Torta Ljubljana”, a buckwheat sponge cake, come from the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. The more bitter traditional delicacies include the Carniolan sausage, the kranjska klobasa. This is a smoked scalded sausage made according to a certain recipe from 1896.
The pršut – for months in the Slovenian wind, mainly the bora, dried ham – which is served at the beginning of the traditional Slovenian meal, is another well-known and popular specialty in Slovenia (as in Croatia). In general, air-dried and cured meat products, which are originally at home in the Karst region, are particularly popular.
Slovenia and cheese are two inseparable partners. Thanks to the good climate of the high alpine pastures, the cheese product has a long tradition here. For example, south of Ljubljana, the Trniči is produced on the Velika planinader plateau. In addition to its good taste, its trademark is its pear shape. Locals and tourists alike enjoy sour milk and sterz, a simple, crumbly pastry on the plateau. Another cheese specialty is Bohinjski Mohant, a semi-soft cheese from the region around Bohinj – in the north-west of the country. It has a particularly spicy taste and a sharp aroma.
Food in Slovenia is very hearty. People love the gibanica, a mostly hearty – but sometimes also sweet – filled puff pastry. Tünka – the pail meat – and numerous meat stews such as the Pohorski pisker or the Bograč have their roots here.
Where can you find typical Slovenian delicacies?
Slovenia is a modern, open country. Accordingly, when it comes to eating and drinking, the catering industry is also geared towards offering various international dishes. However, those who prefer typical Slovenian dishes should either mingle with the locals, i.e. visit traditional inns, or look for happiness in huts or holiday farms. Often there are traditional slaughter festivals or other festivities that offer traditional Slovenian cuisine. But more and more upscale restaurants are adding traditional Slovenian dishes to their menu. An invitation from a Slovenian family would be ideal. But who is this luck brought to !? By the way, traditional food is more likely to be found in the country than in the city.
What do you eat in Slovenia?
Not all dishes are foreign or exotic to our Austrian palate. Some things can be recognized:
- Kraški pršut, an air-dried ham
- Žabji kraki, deep-fried frog legs with tartar sauce. Can be found mainly around the capital Ljubljana.
- Goveja juha, a beef soup
- Čebulna juha, an onion soup
- Gobova juha v kruhovi posodi, mushroom soup with bread
- Ribja Juha, a fish soup
Meat dishes can be found both from pork and beef, from veal, from various poultry, from game, but also from horse.
- Biftek: Beef steak, preferably with green pepper sauce or porcini mushrooms
- Čebulna bržola: beef roast onion
- Telečja: Veal in different variations, such as stuffed veal breast or veal knuckle
- Svinjska: pork dishes such as pork knuckle or roast pork
- Bujta repa: a typical beet stew made from fatty parts of the pig’s head and skin
- Žrebičkov zrezek: Foal steak, a specialty that takes some getting used to for us Austrians
- Konjski golaž: horse goulash
- Ocvrti piščanec: fried chicken
- Divjačinski golaž: game goulash
- Jelenov zrezek z brusnicami: venison steak with cranberries
- Čmar: stuffed pig’s stomach
- kranjska klobasa: the aforementioned Krainer boiled sausage
- Žitna klobasa: Grain sausage that is often served with potatoes and sauerkraut
- Jaglačaist: sausage stuffed with millet and meat
Fish (ribe) & seafood (morski sadeži)
Fish is found primarily in the south of the country, in the coastal region. Traditionally it is grilled with lots of garlic.
- Ščuka s fižolom: pike fillet with beans
- Anchovy na žaru: grilled sardines with lots of garlic
- Lignje na žaru: grilled squid
- Pedoci: mussels
As in most southern countries, the side dishes are ordered separately.
- Potatoes (Krompir) in different shapes, such as fried potatoes (pečen krompirček) or French fries (ocvrt krompirček)
- Riž: rice
- Štruklji: a special, cooked curd cheese strudel, which is preferably eaten with roasts
- Njoki: small potato dumplings, comparable to the Italian gnocchi
- Žlikrofi: dumplings, similar to ravioli
- Polenta: cornmeal or buckwheat porridge
- Kislo zelje: sauerkraut
… as well as various vegetables
The most popular dessert is the palačinke, which is served in a wide variety of varieties. We Austrians also know this thin omelette with a sweet filling.
- Potica: Nut roll that is often eaten at parties
- Prekmurska Gibanica: There are two variants, on the one hand the puff pastry with a filling of nuts, apples, raisins and ricotta, and on the other hand the strudel with a poppy seed, quark and apple filling.
- Ajdnek: buckwheat cake filled with honey and nuts
- Dražgoški Kruhek: homemade gingerbread
Spices & Ingredients
The Slovenian cuisine likes to use local herbs and spices very much for their creations. These mainly include:
- Karst savory
- Lemon balm
The salt from Piran is grown and processed using the same method, which goes back around 700 years. With its rich sea minerals it gives the dishes their special touch. In Slovenia, salads and cold dishes are enriched with the viscous pumpkin seed oil, which has a nutty taste. Last but not least, honey should be mentioned, which has a firm place in Slovenian cuisine with its 600-year tradition.
Drinks (pijače) – What do people drink in Slovenia?
Wine is also grown in Slovenia. A distinction is made between vino rdece (red) and vino belo (white) wine. Rosé (Rose vino) is also available. The most famous wines are:
- Modra Frankinja, a very dry, dark red wine.
- Cviček, a rosé that tastes slightly acidic and has little alcohol.
- Laški Rizling, a white wine that is preferred to drink with sweets.
- Bizeljčan Beli, a dry white wine that is often drunk as a wine spritzer.
The Slovenes have their own breweries, but beers from other European countries are also offered.
Here is a little linguistic “beer customer”:
- alcoholic beer: pivo
- non-alcoholic beer: brezalkoholno pivo
- Draft beer: točeno pivo
- light beer: svetlo pivo
- dark beer: temno pivo
- A small beer is “malo”, a big one is “veliko”.
The best known is the Slivovitz, a plum brandy. It has at least 37.5% alcohol content. It is available in gold – in barrels – or in white – stored in bottles.
Pelinkovac, a herbal liqueur with 28 to 35% vol. Is also known far beyond the Slovenian borders.
Pleterje is the name of a pear that grows in a bottle and is filled with pear brandy. Pleterje is made by the Carthusians in the Pleterje monastery of the same name.
In this regard, the drinks menu is comparable to ours. So here is just a little vocabulary aid:
- Water: Voda (tip: tap water in Slovenia has the best drinking water quality!)
- Mineral water: Mineralna voda
- Juice: Sok
- Milk: Mleko
- Coffee: kava
- Milk coffee: Bela kava
- Coffee with cream: Kava s smetano
- Tea: Caj
Small catering customer
In a gostilna (inn) or in a gostišče (inn with overnight accommodation) you can usually get Slovenian “home cooking”. The menu in a restavracija – a restaurant – is on the other hand more upscale and varied. In terms of price, you have to dig deeper into your pocket here, depending on the class. The obcestno gostišče is like our rest house.
A bife is a kind of bar where you can meet, have a drink, possibly have a snack and talk. A kavarna is a coffee house that offers cakes, cakes and sometimes ice cream in addition to tea and coffee. A slaščičarna is a pastry shop.
On a turistične kmetije – a kind of farm – own products are sold or offered directly for consumption. In a vinska klet – a winery – you can find wine and sometimes small snacks. A samopostrežna restavracije, a fast restaurant, is more likely to exist in larger towns. Finally, the three meals in Slovenian:
- Breakfast = Zajtrk
- Lunch = Kosilo
- Dinner = Večerja
In Slovenia, too, life has changed over the past few decades. When the whole family used to sit together at dinner time after the housewife had previously prepared for a long time, Slovenian women now also go to work and there is little time to cook. On the weekends, however, people still like to sit together – especially in the country -, eat, drink, talk and laugh.
All year round, but especially in the summer months, the festivals in the villages increase. Slovenes know how to celebrate and enjoy, and so in some places certain culinary delicacies are the focus. Examples of this are the asparagus days in Istria, chestnut, wine and truffle festivals or the interesting anchovy pickling competition in Fužana at the end of April.
Souvenirs from Slovenia
You are welcome to bring something with you to those who stayed at home or take a little souvenir home with you. Many visitors consider Slivovitz, Pelinkovac or one of the other spirits as souvenirs of a culinary nature. The honey is also highly recommended. Not only official shops, also numerous private households sell it. The honey directly from the producer is usually cheaper, tastier and more natural. You can buy it wherever there is a reference to “med”. Oil, especially the good pumpkin seed oil, bučno olje, is a popular souvenir.
In the summer months, we often find stalls selling liquor, oil or honey on the roadsides of busy routes. Another popular souvenir is morska sol – the sea salt. This, as well as the mineral-rich solni cvet – the fleur de sel -, can be purchased either directly at the salt pans or in souvenir shops and supermarkets. Furthermore, wine, ham, and cheese are a reminder of the beautiful holiday season in Slovenia.