Slovenia has a very rich and exceptionally diverse culinary tradition. The country consists of 26 gastronomic regions, 3 winegrowing areas and has produced 365 authentic local dishes. That’s a lot considering how small Slovenia is.
Upon visiting this subalpine gem, tasting its unique food is obligatory and the easiest way to do so is by joining a food tour in its capital, Ljubljana. It’s where you can find a colourful and tasty blend of traditional specialities from all over the country.
To give you a glimpse into what you should definitely try, here’s a list of the top 5 dishes you might not have heard of but are guaranteed to fall in love with once you’ve tried them.
5 Slovenian dishes you should try on your next trip
Žganci – traditional Slovenian farmer’s grub
Difficult to pronounce, easy to make, žganci is one of the most widespread and popular Slovenian dishes. Farmers have been eating žganci for centuries. In English, this dish can be described as corn mush or spoonbread. Although every region has its own variety, the most common žganci are those prepared with buckwheat flour and dressed with cracklings.
If you’re hiking in the mountains of the Upper Carniola region, you are sure to be served this hearty meal at a mountain cottage or by a friendly local grandma. Another version of žganci is prepared by cooking flour in salted water and adding potatoes, semolina or corn grits. They go really well with goulash. It gives the body all the energy it needs for a hard day’s work.
Potica – the champion of Slovenian desserts
As far as traditional Slovenian festive pastries go, potica takes the cake. Pun intended. Potica is a rolled pastry made of leavened dough filled with any of a wide selection of fillings. In every household, there’s someone who can bake potica. Grandmothers and mothers usually pass it on to their daughters.
To give you an idea of how the recipe is, the oldest records mentioning potica date back to 1689. Making potica is quite an artistic venture and not an easy task at all. You need to strike the perfect balance of dough and filling. More than 80 various types of fillings exist, but the most common potica is made with walnut, hazelnut, tarragon, poppy seed, and cottage cheese. Potica requires a special baking mold called potičnik, which has a conical protrusion in the middle. Does all this hard work pay off? You bet!
Carniolan sausage – the most famous Slovenian meaty dish
This scrumptious Slovenian meaty miracle is protected by geographical indication and is a symbol of the country’s cultural heritage. The Carniolan sausage or Kranjska klobasa is only made by 15 producers with a special certificate.
The sausage has to be smoked and must contain at least 68% of pork, 12% of beef, and no more than 20% of bacon. Made by adding sodium nitrite, seasoned solely with garlic and pepper, should be held together with a wooden skewer.
The Carniolan sausage has to be cooked before consumption and is usually eaten hot, together with sour or cooked cabbage or sour turnip. Magic! A white bun, mustard, and grated horseradish are almost mandatory companions in this very tasty meal. It goes down amazingly well with some red wine or a pint of cold beer.
Prekmurska gibanica – a layer cake beyond compare
This incredible dessert comes from the Pannonian Straights of Prekmurje, eastern Slovenia. It can be served at weddings or as a farmer’s treat and any occasion in between, really. The cake has to be cut into triangular pieces and placed in a pile. Distinguished by a rich specter of fragrance and pleasant texture that evokes softness, succulence, and fullness.
Its many layers are made from pastry (filo or strudel) with poppy seeds, apple filling, cottage cheese, walnuts, and an optional sour cream topping. The Prekmurska gibanica protected at then European level with the label ‘Traditional Speciality Guaranteed’. Any room for dessert? A resounding yes!
Štruklji – the best multipurpose rolled dumplings ever
Yet another tongue-twister and tummy pleaser. Traditionally, these rolled dumplings were made from strudel dough in a spiral or swirly shape. In the 16th century, cooked rolled dumplings were part of monastery cuisine and later became a middle-class meal. Today, this Slovenian food is a popular side dish that goes amazingly well with meat and sauces, but it can also double as a delicious dessert. We suggest you try both versions! Štruklji can be either sweet or savoury and you can order this masterpiece with various fillings, like tarragon, cottage cheese, nuts, apples, poppy seeds, or cheese.
At the end of the day, the main ingredients of any gastronomical adventure are people and culture. Ljubljana is home to an amazing blend of both, so whenever you’re in the neighbourhood, do try these and many more delicious local dishes on the city’s food tour. If you’re travelling around Slovenia, be sure to stop off at a few tourist farms and mountain cottages where you’ll be tempted by so many fantastic Slovenian delights, you’ll never want to leave.