They say great things come in small packages, and that is certainly true for Slovenia. Considering it’s such a small country (thirteen times smaller than New Zealand), there is a surprising variety of traditional Slovenian dishes you can sample here. According to our walking tour guide in Ljubljana, Slovenia has seven traditional regions, and each region has its own (take on Slovenian) cuisine.
If you’re a foodie you could spend a long time travelling around Slovenia and sampling all the delicious dishes the different regions have to offer. Our article though will concentrate on Western Slovenia. Why? Simply because this is the area we visited and where we ate our way around – literally.
What kind of food is Slovenia known for?
Part of the Austro-Hungarian empire (until WWI) and Italy (which annexed Western Slovenia after WWI), you can find Austrian, Hungarian and Italian influences in Slovenian cuisine. While it was also part of the former (Kingdom and later the Socialist Federal Republic of) Yugoslavia, Slovenian cuisine is distinctly different from the typical Balkan fare of ćevapčići and burek that its southern neighbours are renowned for (though you can get them in Slovenia as well).
What food should you sample when travelling around Western Slovenia?
Traditional dishes from Ljubljana
It’s hard to pin down dishes that originated in/around the Slovenian capital but the two we would suggest you try when in Ljubljana are Štruklji and Potica.
Štrukljis (Slovenian Dumplings) come in all variations – savoury or sweet; round like a ball or like slices of rolled dough; on its own or as a side dish. And each region (or even town/village) has its own version yet again. A great place to sample (quite) a few different varieties is My Dumplings Of Slovenia in Ljubljana.
Potica is a traditional Slovenian holiday cake. It’s not too sweet and reminded me a bit of the Stollen, a holiday cake my grandmother used to make. Obviously, there are as many recipes as there are Slovenian (grand)mothers but if you want to make one at home, here is one recipe to check out.
Traditional dishes from Gorenjska
If you (only) make it to Bled, make sure you stop at the Park Cafe for Bled’s signature dessert Blejska Kremšnita (Cream Cake).
If you like sausages, another one you might want to try is Gorenjska’s version of Krvavica (Blood Sausage). It might sound gross to some to eat sausages made from boiled pig’s blood, but it’s actually quite delicious.
If healthy vegetarian is more your thing, you might like Gorenjski Krapi (Buckwheat Ravioli). We tried them (with a delicious mushroom sauce) during a roadside stop along the serpentines leading up to Vršič Pass.
Traditional dishes from Primorska
Primorska (Slovene Littoral) is the westernmost region of Slovenia. Bordering Italy and under Italian control between WWI and the creation of Slovenia (within the SFRY) after WWII, it might be no surprise that this region has its own varieties of pasta and prosciutto.
Make sure you try Kraški Pršut (ham from the south-western Slovenian Karst region, cured without heat or smoke) from niche company Slovenia Food, and Bleki (square pasta) – with a delicious sauce or in a soup – when you visit the region.
Did you know that Slovenia is home to more than 500 brown bears? The dense forests of the country make a great habitat not only for bears but also for wolves and lynx.
While you can observe brown bears in their natural habitat, especially in Southern Slovenia (the regions of Notranjska and Dolenjska) you can also sample bear on a plate: Primorska is known for its game dishes, including venison, Divjega Prašiča (a wild boar dish we tried in Kobarid)… and bear (which is hunted under strict regulations to keep numbers at bay).
Kranj has its sausage, Bled has its cream cake… and Tolmin has its very own version of Frika, a hearty shepherds dish which looks like a Spanish Tortilla. Tolminska Frika however tastes very different to its lookalike, being made with 1/3 potatoes and 2/3 cheese. You can take a guess which flavour overweighs.
While in the Soča Valley, you can’t go past Kobariški Štruklji, Kobarid’s very own dumpling dessert. Made with walnuts and raisins, it is delicious. We tried it at Hiša Polonka… in Kobarid.
What else should you try while in Slovenia?
If you’re visiting Slovenia in the summer and you venture out into nature (which would be a sacrilege not to) chances are you’re passing shrubs of wild berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, …). Nothing tastes better during a hike in the beautiful Julian Alps than freshly picked berries (apart from some fresh bread with cheese and prosciutto, and a cool beer maybe, but who likes to carry all of that up the mountain).
Love honey? Well, make sure then you try some while visiting Slovenia. You’re spoilt for choice as seemingly everyone makes their own honey.
What beverages to sample when visiting Slovenia?
Well, first of all, tap water in Slovenia is drinkable/potable and tastes really nice. So, just (re)fill your reusable water bottle.
If a drop of alcohol (every now and then) is to your liking, make sure you sample
- Slovenian wine as the Slovenes keep 90% of their wine in the country (why export something you love, right?);
- one (or rather two, three, …) of the gazillion craft beers made in Slovenia; and
- the locally made liqueurs (made from blueberries, figs… you name it). I preferred those to the rakija served further south.
Feature image by Klara Avsenik on Unsplash