I just got home from traveling throughout Croatia. And contrary to what I read on the internet before I departed, news flash! It’s super easy to eat vegan in Croatia. I absolutely feasted on a mix of healthy/fresh and indulgent Croatian vegan cuisine, and I am here to share my experience and advice!
First of all, a little bit about Croatian cuisine in general. It’s quite varied depending on which region of the country you’re in. In the inland parts, the cuisine is more similar to other Slavic food. Think lots of smoky paprika and black pepper seasoning, bread and noodles, sausages, potatoes, cabbage, and cheeses.
In coastal Croatian the cuisine is more resemblant of other Mediterranean cuisines, especially Italian. Lots of olive oil, fresh herbs, pizza, pasta, fresh fruit and vegetables, and salads. In both cases, it’s surprisingly vegan-friendly. It helps if you learn a little Croatian, but that’s not strictly necessary. Also, HappyCow has a pretty good suite of options throughout Croatia. BUT, it’s certainly not exhaustive. Some of my best meals during this trip were not listed there.
The different parts of Croatia have one thing in common, though: I was able to find tasty vegan food EVERYWHERE I visited. I’ll take it from the top!
Vegan options in Senj (Upper Adriatic Coast)
Pictured is spaghetti napolitana enjoyed at a restaurant overlooking the ocean, along with a side of fresh salad and homemade bread. Make a judgment call or check to see whether the pasta has egg. (Pasta with veggies and sauce can be found throughout Croatia’s coastal cities.)
Vegan options near Plitvice Lakes National Park (central Croatia)
Lots of tourists visit this park so I wanted to call it out even though there aren’t major cities nearby. I did grocery shopping for this part of the trip. It’s not a populous area with many restaurants. The restaurant options are the slightly pricey ones inside the actual park. Your vegan options there are mostly French fries and espresso. I stopped at a Mercator supermarket on my way up to Plitvice and stocked up on rice milk, cornflakes (a European iteration which seem to be less sweet/healthier), bananas, and local strawberries. I enjoyed a hearty breakfast with these items in my AirBnb before heading into the park, and an espresso while I was there.
Okay, so maybe Plitvice isn’t a hub for vegan gastronomy, but trust me, visiting is still worth it! I mean, just look at this. I recommend going super early, to avoid the crowds… and it’s beautiful even in the rain.
Large chain supermarkets, namely Mercator and Konzum, are everywhere throughout Croatia, so when in doubt about vegan dining options, you’ll always be able to find vegan basics. I never found one that didn’t have non-dairy milk, some vegan-friendly snacks and cereals, produce, bread, and a big selection of ajvar, a regional red pepper spread that is naturally vegan and often enjoyed in lieu of ketchup.
Vegan options in Šibenik (central Dalmatia) and Krka National Park
I spent two days in beautiful Šibenik and if I went to Croatia again, I would stay for at least four. This place had everything: the best AirBnb I’ve ever stayed in in my life; heaps of vegan-friendly restaurants, stunning sea views, a gorgeous castle overlooking the whole town, a wonderful pebble beach, perfect weather, and easy access to the lovely Krka National Park. You’re here for the food, though…
The first restaurant I recommend in Šibenik is SHE Bistro. The restaurant is completely vegetarian, sourcing their ingredients locally. So, you’ll hardly find a better opportunity than this to try real Croatian food, vegan style. Most of the menu is vegan, and everything is labeled. They have both lunch/dinner and breakfast menus. I enjoyed spinach fritters with balsamic reduction and potato salad.
As well as a (better-than-it-looks, mind-blowing in fact!) vegan cream of kohlrabi soup:
The next morning I wandered back into the city center planning to eat at SHE again, but Caffe Bazza‘s menu caught my eye along the way. This place was NOT on HappyCow. But their menu included several vegan options such as vegetable curry. Even more importantly, the breakfast menu had something that was actually substantial for plant-based eaters – a selection of smoothie bowls, as well as fresh local avocado toast. (I can’t overstate how wonderfully ripe and sweet the avocados and tomatoes on this were. Topped with a glug of bright, grassy EVOO… yum).
I also enjoyed some espresso here, as I did at many places throughout Croatia 🙂
Finally, here was a cheese-less pizza margherita at Pizzeria Argola. Plenty of veggies are available as toppings too. I was just in the mood for margherita that day. In Croatia you’re going to find mostly traditional pizza flavors, so save the BBQ chickpea pizzas for home :).
While staying in Šibenik I also took the time to visit Krka National Park. The dining options were similar but slightly better to Plitvice. I enjoyed some French fries and seltzer water just because I was hot and tired and it sounded good, but there were also eateries within the park selling vegetable stew, sorbet, and a couple of other vegan-friendly things. Like with Plitvice, I recommend going early so you don’t get stuck shuffling across a boardwalk in a crowd of hundreds.
Vegan options in Trogir (Dalmatian coast)
About an hour south of Šibenik was the beautiful town of Trogir. There was one amazing sounding veg-friendly restaurant, Pasike, on HappyCow that I showed up to, but they were closed for a wedding. What a place to get married!
Luckily, not only did we find vegan gelato and milkshakes at a place around the corner from Pasike, we found a beautiful restaurant called Konoba TRS that was able to accommodate vegan. This was our “fancy” meal of the trip. The dining room is a beautiful outdoor shaded garden. I enjoyed a meal of fresh pasta with pine nuts, sundried tomatoes, and zucchini, and more than a few pieces of their homemade bread. Plus, a local craft beer.
Trogir was a little bit pricier and fancier than Šibenik, but still nice to stay for a night.
Vegan options in Zagreb
Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb has so many vegan options around town and listed on HappyCow that I almost don’t feel it’s necessary to enumerate them. Whereas in resort towns on the coast you’re more likely to find at least some things open on any given day, Zagreb is LARGELY closed on Sundays. This was the main impediment to my vegan eating – going through the HappyCow list and finding that every eatery listed wasn’t open until tomorrow :).
You can enjoy vegan-friendly Korean, Croatian, Mexican cuisine, and more in Zagreb. The supermarkets are well-stocked with plant-based cooking ingredients and snacks too.
Pictured here is vegetable curry from the Sri Lankan Curry Bowl, which was very vegan-friendly, listing all of the ingredients for the various dishes on the menu, but not yet listed on HappyCow. It was delish! I recommend choosing the “Croatian” spice level. Not pictured: lentil and carrot fritters, hold the yogurt sauce. (Maybe not as yummy as my Triple P Curry, but still really great.)
Vegan options at Zagreb Franjo Tuđman Airport
Leaving early on a flight headed stateside? I highly recommend stopping in at Spread in the international terminal of the Zagreb airport. This is a sort of upgraded fast food place with tons of veg-friendly options including veggie burgers, veggie nuggets, fresh-squeezed juices, noodles with vegetables, and beyond. Just talk to the staff about which items are vegan since the menu isn’t explicitly labeled. Plus, it was open super early in the morning.
One final tip for traveling in Croatia as a vegan
I made one important life change before going on this international trip that could not have been MORE helpful. Doubly so because I was on my phone searching for vegan food a lot. My boyfriend and I switched our phone plans to Project Fi. Even before you factor in the benefits during international travel, we are on track to save hundreds of dollars per year due to the low-cost, sliding scale data plans. The base price is only $20/month and thereafter it’s $10 per 1GB of data, capped at $60 if you go above 6GB.
But more importantly, the price for mobile data is exactly the same in almost all international destinations (they cover 150+ countries). So, unlike in Singapore when I had to use mobile data for 30 seconds to load some AirBnb info and ended up owing like $80, I was able to use (and pay for) mobile data at my usual rate. That meant access to Google Maps GPS, the HappyCow app, Uber, Google Translate, and beyond, without any significant cost to me. Seriously, it was a lifesaver. If you’re interested in Project Fi you can use this link to learn more & sign up and we’ll both get a $20 credit off of our bills. Happy travels!
So, can vegans survive in Croatia?
I didn’t merely survive during this trip. I thrived! I got in tons of challenging runs and hikes, as well as plenty of walking and swimming in the Adriatic Sea. And I generally found many satisfying vegan meals wherever I went. I came back from my vacation a couple of pounds lighter, feeling fit, happy, and with a tasteful amount of suntan.
Croatian vegan cuisine is probably higher on carbs than anything else. This is perfect for me because I’m so active and I don’t think of carbs as some kind of enemy. I never calculated or worried about my macro intake during this trip to Croatia, but in retrospect I can see that I ate a lot of bread ;). I in no way see this as a concern or a negative, but maybe someone out there does.
Am I missing any awesome vegan Croatian eats?
Sound off in the comments if you have more suggestions!