When visiting Slovenia, the first thing you need is traditional Slovene food. When eating in Ljubljana, it’s best to get off the beaten path. Find yourself some small restaurants and cafeterias and taste locale Slovene fare.
If you want to try authentic Slovenian food, there are 11 things you should try. First, you’d want to try staples in Slovenia like local meats, sausages, and regional prosciutto. You can also taste the local products made from buckwheat, together with the many delicious types of bread and pastries of the region.
Every regional cuisine in Slovenia is different from each other. The influences that the country received through the years make their food delicious and diverse. Let’s take a look.
Understanding Slovenian cuisine
Before we list down all the local fare you’ll find when eating in Ljubljana, let’s understand what does Slovenian food tastes like. How did the local culinary scene evolve to what it is today?
Slovenska kuhinja or Slovenian cuisine has many influences from the nations surrounding it. With the traditional Slovenian lands under several authorities before, food culture intermingled from different regions of Europe.
Traditional Slovene food came from the influence of the locale’s history, climate, and overall landscape. Much of the food came from the influence of neighboring countries. These include Austria, Italy, Hungary, and Croatia.
Traditional food staples in Slovenia are far different than the average European staple. Some include buckwheat, mushrooms, nuts, potatoes, pork, and many dairy products.
A good chunk of the most common traditional Slovene food is bread, pastries, and meats. Soups and stews are a newer added staple for the region, but they are growing.
Slovenians love a good soup or stew, with over 100 different variations on it. Pork is the primary meat in the country, with a lot of fishes eaten out of the sea. Dumplings and pasta is also standard fare on the Slovenian countryside.
With that said, here are 11 must taste traditional Slovene food if you’re visiting Ljubljana.
1. Kranska klobasa (Carniolan sausage)
Kranjska klobasa or Carniolan sausage is the most famous Slovenian food. You can find it anywhere in the country, named after Krajska in 1896. The sausage is so good that it is currently listed as a protected food at the EU level.
Carniolan sausage is most similar to what people know in the United States as Kielbasa or polish sausage. Even then, the flavor notes are much different compared to others in the region.
The recipe for the sausage typically uses between 75 to 80% pork, depending on the other add-ons. The meat should also have up to 20% bacon, which should be different from the pork. Other allowed flavorings include Sečovlje sea salt, saltpeter, black pepper, some garlic, and up to five percent water.
The sausage cannot have any other ingredients, according to its protections.
Kranjska klobasa is a protected recipe for a reason. Oral traditions say that the sausage is a vital part of the menu in important Slovenian events. As for the taste, there’s nothing that can equal its traditional taste.
The combination of pork and bacon smoked in traditional beechwood speaks to its traditional roots. While garlic, pepper, and salt sound like simple, traditional flavors, but it makes the sausage delicious and smoky.
2. Štruklji (Slovenian rolled dumplings)
Štruklji are different types of Slovenian pastries, considered as rolled dumplings. The Štruklji are almost as old as time, with the first recipes coming from the 16th century. They were part of the monastery food back in the day, becoming festive middle-class meals in the 17th century.
While traditions call for setting aside Štruklji for special occasions, Slovene households commonly have it now. The dumpling can be either cooked or baked, with each region having its own filling.
The taste of Štruklji varies depending on who is cooking, with fillings going from savory to sweet. Traditional variations of this pastry use filo from wheat or buckwheat. The more traditional recipes use buckwheat for the pastry.
As for the filling, the most common have a walnut filling. If you want a salty Štruklji, you can find one with creamy cheese and tarragon, normally served with meats.
If you have time during your visit to Ljubljana, it’s best to look for some regional variations. Bean štruklji comes as a side dish, usually available in the lower Carniola regions. Wljkava štruklji comes from the Brda region is one with salami, sausages, olives, and other spices.
When visiting around Slovenia, try to look for the local variations of Štruklji. It will make the entire trip a lot more memorable.
3. Pogača (Slovenian flatbread)
Pogača is a common breadstuff with different preparations from different countries. Among them, the traditional Slovene Pogača is the simplest, but also among the most delicious.
Slovenian pogača is a regional food from the Bela Krajina region. People know it here as Belokranjska pogača and it’s as simple as it can be. Pogača is a flatbread, mildly flavored to coated with different flavorings.
The most proper preparation of the flatbread is not with olive oil and herbs. Instead, the treatment should use egg wash, coarse salt, and caraway seed, locally referred to as “cumin.”
Pogača is important to locals, so much that its creation is usually to exact specifications. The diameter, thickness, and even the size of the square etchings on top. It’s a great breakfast fare and a way to break bread with guests and welcome them into homes.
The taste of Pogača is best when freshly baked. Eaten with wine or with other foods, it’s among the most delicious food you can try in Ljubljana.
4. Idrijski Žlikrofi (Slovenian pasta dumplings)
Idrijski Žlikrofi are traditional Slovenian dumplings, not dissimilar to gnocchi. Coming from the old mining town of Idrija, the food is akin to pasta, with a distinct pocketed shape. The dumplings then get some fillings, from potatoes, onions, to minced bacon.
Idrijski Žlikrofi can have a variety of preparations too. The most straightforward preparations will have them dressed with butter. Some will use pork cracklings to dress them up.
The most traditional preparation of this dish uses bakalca. Bakalca is a rich, saucy dressing, using lamb or rabbit mixed with vegetables. The food goes on served as a starter, side dish, or even main dish.
If you’re looking to try Idrijski Žlikrofi, it’s best to eat it by itself or with another dish. Enjoy it with a slice of roast on the side, or have them on top of a salad. Idrijski Žlikrofi is a great starter if it comes with a nice, hefty serving of greens.
5. Kraški pršut (Karst Prosciutto)
The Kraški pršut is one of the most famous traditional Slovene foods around. Also known as the Karst prosciutto, it is one of the top products in Slovenia. It comes from a centuries-old tradition of salting and drying meats and ham.
The traditional preparation of kraški pršut comes from the traditional terroir of southwestern Slovenia. The rugged Karst Plateau is at the boundary of the Mediterranean and Slovenian inlands. The general topography is home to fresh, strong, and dry winds, known as Bora.
The dry Mediterranean winds and salting helps for a controlled fermentation. This process gives lets the salt seep into the ham, giving its characteristic flavor. The real kraški pršut is famous for its delicious taste.
Karst prosciutto is tender and flavorful, with a mild smoky and nutty flavor notes. The dish is another protected recipe within the European subcontinent, and for a reason.
While it’s not as famous as its Italian counterpart, Karst prosciutto is a delicacy. It undergoes a natural drying process for at least 12 months, with varieties needing longer treatment.
The salt used for kraški pršut is the traditional sea salt of the Sečovlje Salt Pans. This type of salt is famous not only for its quality but its richness too.
There are several ways you can enjoy kraški pršut in Ljubljana. It is common in many charcuterie boards in the city, served with cheese and other meats. It’s likely to find it served with traditional Slovene bread and many local kinds of cheese.
6. Ajdova kaša z gobami (Buckwheat kasha with onions and mushrooms)
As we said, buckwheat is one of the grains in Slovenia that receives the respect it deserves. To prepare it, it’s not only simple but delicious too. One of the more traditional dishes is ajdova kaša z gobami.
Ajdova kaša z gobami is a traditional preparation of buckwheat, topped with mushrooms and onions. The prep is easy to do, and many Slovenian mothers prepare this for their families.
First, onions and mushrooms undergo caramelization, concentrating the sweetness of onion into something like sugar. At the same time, buckwheat kasha undergoes preparation. Kaša or kasha are buckwheat groats, half-crushed grains with a distinct taste.
Ajdova kaša z gobami comes from the Slavic roots of Slovenia. Many Russian and Slavic countries have a version of dish basic, traditional dish.
The consumption of this buckwheat dish originally was for peasants. At the time, people had to rely on grain and forage products like mushrooms to survive. In modern times, ajdova kaša z gobami is a Slovenian staple.
The usual combination added to kaša is meat over a bowlful of the dish. Chicken is a common topping, with roasts providing delicious accompaniment. Some homes add greens to the dish like lettuce and collard greens.
7. Žganci (Buckwheat spoonbread)
Žganci is another buckwheat dish that is a staple across Slovenian homes. When eating in Ljubljana, it’s one of the least expensive dishes you’ll likely find. It is the traditional peasant food, much similar to kaša.
Žganci comes from either buckwheat, wheat, corn, or a combination of wheat flour and potato. This dish is a typical, everyday meal in Slovenia, mostly found on central regions. The food was very hearty, fed to farmers to give them energy for the day.
For many people who don’t want to eat bread for the time, Žganci is a great alternative. It works as a great side dish to savory soups and heavy meat dishes. It’s also a great pair for thick stews for lunch.
Many homes add garnishes on top of the Žganci. It can be anything from pork cracklings or roasted onions.
8. Potica (Slovenian rolled pastry)
When going to Slovenia, tourists can expect many types of pastries. The most famous of all of them is the potica, which is a rolled dough cake. Potica is so renowned that you can order it almost anywhere and has the moniker as the “Ambassador of Slovenia.”
Potica comes from the late 17th century, prepared for nobles and upper-class people. The first recorded recipe of the bread comes from the Duchy of Carniola. After some time, the cake also became famous across commoners.
The standard recipe of potica follows a very thin dough rolled like a cinnamon roll. This cake has many different types of filling, the most basic being the walnut filling.
Other variations for the cake include hazelnut, tarragon, poppy seed, bacon, and even pumpkin seed.
For Slovenian homes, baking potica for their loved ones is a way of pampering their families. Many mothers and even grandmothers pass on their recipes to their daughters and granddaughters. As many of these recipes are complex, the elderly take a good while to teach the recipe.
When tasting this traditional Slovene food, there are two ways to prepare it. These are baking the potica on an oven or a hearth. Both processes can lead to different tasting pastries.
Potica baked-on ovens are softer and creamier, which is excellent for sweet fillings. Potica cooked on a hearth is crispier, which can be great for savory fillings.
9. Jota (Slovenian soup/stew)
Jota is one of the more famous soups in western Slovenia with a robust taste. The term comes from the Gaelic word for soup, differing in taste for every region. Light and tasty varieties are common around Primorska and the Gorizia regions.
Jota, sometimes called yota, is dense and has many garnishes on it. It uses big slices or chunks of potatoes, combined with whole beans for a hearty dish.
Some locales have a custom of picking apart bread and putting jota over it. In some cases, they even pour a layer of extra virgin olive oil on top. Jota also has two ways of preparation.
During winter, Slovenes serve jota warm, done to coat the stomach with warm liquid. During summer, Slovenes serve jota cold, much like vichyssoise. This type of service comes to reduce body heat and cut down sweating and potential dehydration.
Jota uses turnips and cabbage, together with potatoes and beans. Dried pork, sauerkraut, and other meats come with the soup. Various households spice jota differently, using garlic, bay leaf, salt, and pepper.
Some regions add whole cumin seeds and even kranjska klobasa as a meaty garnish. Different regions also have a variety of ways they treat their jota.
In the Karst region, sweet karstic jota comes from mashed potatoes and beans. They add in some carrots, spices, and some vinegar. They even make jotas from sour turnips, and sauerkrauts that help liven up the body during hot, summer days.
Vipaya jota uses beetroot leaves, savoy cabbage, and sauerkraut. Jota from Istria uses sauerkraut and beans, but they skip the potatoes entirely.
10. Šelinka (Celery soup)
Šelinka is another traditional Slovenian food, existing well before Slovenians forgot how to make soup. It’s one of the more forgotten recipes in this list, now relegated to the Vipava region of the country.
Šelinka is celery soup, using a celery root diced into pieces and cooked with a strip of bacon. Once it’s tender, the soup thickens with flour and lard and seasoned with salt and pepper. Polenta comes as a common side dish with this soup.
For this soup, the usual recipe comes with a spoon of dry wine or vinegar. Households add either to add acidity to the otherwise very mild soup, making it sourer. Šelinka is common during the winter, helping revitalize the body and jolt it up.
11. Bled Kremšnita (Bled Crème Cake)
Bled Kremšnita is a specialty pastry, usually found in Bled. While created in 1953, Kremšnita has become one of the most beloved pastries in Slovenia and a staple tea-time snack.
The legendary cake has three layers to it. The bottom layer is cake, with the central layer is a thick vanilla cream and whipped cream layer. The top part is a soft, cracker-like layer with caster sugar on it.
When eating out in Ljubljana, it’s best to look for this delicious pastry. It’s one of the best Slovenian desserts you can find in the country.
Eating in Ljubljana can be an adventure by itself. If you’re a tourist, it’s best to enjoy many of the must-taste traditional Slovene foods. They are all gastronomic delights that will give you a good time.
Whether you decide you want something sweet or savory, there’s a piece of Slovenia with every bite. The food is not only delicious but worth the try too. Once in Ljubljana, fill your stomach with the best food Slovenia can offer.
If you’re looking for a gastronomic tour, it’s best to find a local guide who can help you find all the best places to eat in the city. Enjoy the culture and the best that Slovenia has in store for you.
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