Vegan in Belgrade: Tips and Tastes
Updated: Dec 29, 2022
Our friends back in the United States feared we would be enduring the great starvation experiment moving to the land of meat, milk, cheese and butter, where national dishes are heavy on ground and grilled meats (known as ćevapi) and egg and cheese pies.
🥩 🥛 🧈 🥚🧀
We soon learned of the practice of "posno," which translates to "fasting." The Serbian Orthodox fast for certain periods of time throughout the year--usually before Christmas (Božić), which falls on January 7th in The Balkans, as well as before Easter and certain days of the week. The fasting is done forty days prior to each holiday, and entails the avoidance of meat, dairy, eggs and lard.
Fish 🐟 (which for some reason Serbs do not believe constitutes as meat 🥩 ) and honey 🍯 are, however, permitted during lentenesque fasts, and are considered "posni," "posno, "posna," "post," "lenten," "fasting" or "ПOСНИ."
If you're vegan like me, do keep that in mind when you are ordering anything labeled "posno."
When in doubt, I print out and carry around a few copies of what I refer to as my "V-Card," and save a copy in my phone's image gallery for added peace of mind. I've shared my V-Cards with many a server, chef and tour guide throughout the Balkans and beyond; this handy trick has spared me many-a-headache and stomachache throughout the years.
The practice of fasting seeks to honor Jesus' sacrifice in his withdrawal into the desert for forty days and forty nights, setting the stage for deep reflection. Other Christians may elect to fast throughout this period, withdrawing from certain foods, festivities, entertainment, alcohol or other vices. Fasting represents the synergy of the mind and soul (pneuma) and the body (soma), and is an important spiritual discipline to guard against gluttony and impure thoughts, deeds and words. True fasting is not meant to be conducted as a form of masochistic suffering, but as a silent joy, followed by increased prayer and charity, repenting of one’s sins and reaching out in love.
Abstaining from food places our minds and bodies in a specific state, an altered or non-ordinary state of consciousness. One could say the senses are seemingly heightened; it's little wonder many holy men experienced such profound ascetic epiphanies during fasts.
Fasting is a tradition present in many cultures and religions throughout the world with about as many variations as a human mind might conceive of.
While Jesus totally abstained from the consumption of any food according to Scriptures, Orthodox Christians choose to fast by consuming simple Lenten products in moderation with great mindfulness.
I've likely bored you all to tears with the anthropology of food, and so without any further ado, allow me the honor of being your living, breathing North American field guide to surviving as a vegan in this glorious country I've come to love so much and so well-Serbia!
Recommended Fare and Foodstuff
We'll begin this culinary journey with one of my favorite categories-sweets. I am a sweet fiend, a sugar cat, sugar junkie, and a self-described fruit bat! I'd probably snort powdered sugar if you placed it before me in a tray given the right accoutrements! The amount of glucose fueling my brain is legendary. As a connoisseur with a lifetime's worth of taste-filled experience, I pronounce the following worthy of honorable mention for this highly-esteemed category:
🫐🍓🍒 Sweet Stuff 🍒🍓🫐
🍰 Ćao Šećeru is my favorite vegan patisserie in all Belgrade. It was the first all-vegan sweet shop I happened upon post-long run when embarking upon this grand adventure with my husband overseas. Beyond the nostalgia factor, and my loving adoration of Jelena (AKA Fibi) who works there, make no mistake, my accolades for Ćao Šećeru are given based on merit- the taste, texture, consistency, freshness, innovation, presentation and healthiness variables all factor into my ranking equation. The following images will serve as evidence undergirding my effusive love!
Scroll through the gallery above to browse through their menu.
Scroll through Ćao Šećeru's Instagram page for more tantalizing "food porn."
🍰 Rock'n'Raw gets high marks from me as an exquisite vegan sweets shop. Each cake, doughnut, bar and energy ball is gluten and flour free, fully-raw and all flavor. The names of each treat are inspired by the world of Rock-&-Roll:
The Star Man (David Bowie)
Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
She's a Rainbow (The Rolling Stones)
Cheri Cheri Lady (Modern Talking)
Light My Fire (The Doors)
Yellow Submarine (The Beatles)
Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles)
A Kind of Magic (Queen)
Baby I Love You (The Ramones)
Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
Rock'n'Raw sweets are made in a kitchenratory with great skill and finesse. All unaltered raw materials and an imaginative presentation, spiced with love to fill you with rock and roll energy! A magical taste, courtesy of the sweets alchemist Dejana Popović.
Prepare to embark upon a stellar adventure of chocolate nougat galaxies and nebulae of wild berries. These sweets are always an epic hit with me.
🍦 Crna Ovca, translates to "Black Sheep," and serves a small, but tasty selection of vegan ice creams, including lovely colorful sorbets and a water-based black chocolate flavor.
🍦 Kolibri Eismanufaktur is a newer Austrian-influenced ice cream shop with exciting, unique flavors including Hokkaido pumpkin, basil, chocolate-cherry sorbet, cinnamon, black cherry, strawberry, nettle and berry, ginger and counting! Every staff member I've encountered has been a delight to speak with--especially Sanja, who explained to me the fascinating and harrowing process of preparing the nettle and berry ice cream. The anguish of taming stinging nettle through many washings and boilings is no simple task for the faint of heart. I have a colossal amount of respect for Sanja after my first (and hopefully only!) run-in with stinging nettle while in Athens. The creativity of this ice cream shop is novel and delicious.
🍦 Luff Gelato is another ice cream shop with some good options on a hot summer's day. The cones served are also vegan. The vegan dark chocolate sorbet, fig and pineapple-chili ice creams are splendid.
🍰 Zdrawo Slatko has a wonderful selection of vegan cakes and other sweets, and is located on the second floor of Palilula Market.
Treats pictured above from Zdrawo Slatko:
Zdrawo slatko snickers
🍰 ŠecerNo features handmade unique raw vegan cakes and treats using natural fruits, such as dates for sweeteners. A fantastic place for those who are vegan, diabetic, vegetarian, fasting or looking to support a small local vendor. Located in Titel, ŠecerNo delivers to Belgrade, Titel, Knicanin, Perlez, Zrenjanin, Kikindi and Novi Sad.
🍰 Bemata 2 features some better-than-decent and very pretty raw vegan cakes, but we found their other dishes to be rather on the lackluster edge of the spectrum.
🍰 Mandarina Cake Shop, while not strictly a vegan patisserie, serves mono-portions of exquisitely decadent vegan cakes from time-to-time, and is well-worth an investigative detour to check if they have any in stock for the day.
🍰 Poslastičarnica Šuma (The Forest) is an in-house bakery and pastry shop located in the heart of the Bohemian quarters of Skadarlija, with some solidly nice vegan cake options, some of which are sugar and gluten-free as well. My personal favorite selection was the Lešnik torta, or broken hazelnut cake, gluten-free and naturally sweetened with dates and dark sugar-free chocolate for crust,
🍲🍴 Cost-effective, Posthaste, Toothsome 🍴🍲
In this category, you will find some delectable delights made-to-order quickly, affordably and tastefully.
🌮 La Taqueria serving up some veganized traditional Mexican tacos, pico de gallo, guacamole, grilled vegetables, beans...and oh-my-goodness-gracious, do they know how to marinate mushrooms! Honestly, the best Mexican cuisine we've tasted throughout our travels abroad.
Their menu catchphrase is more than fitting: "100% Tacos made by Mexicans."
🌯🥙 Tortilla Casa allows you to create custom burritos, bowls, salads and they have an excellent Scorpion hot sauce.
Two noteworthy cousins of Tortilla Casa are Burrito Madre and El Camión Loco, a self-described Californian taqueria on wheels. Both of the aforementioned permit patrons to customize their own burritos or bowls with loads of fresh vegan-friendly ingredients.
🥔 🍟 Patatas serves fresh French fries cooked before your very eyes. I enjoy a thick smattering of spicy ketchup, and James and I always look forward to a friendly greeting by our jocular friend, Dean who works there.
One fateful and dark night in the rain, all bundled up in thick jackets, Dean recognized us from across the way, and beamed us a bright smile and hearty greeting. In spite of the other countless pedestrians strolling by, he recognized us from his perch, and committed to one of the most enthusiastic waves we've ever been on the receiving end of!
(Need I say we were FREQUENT patrons?).
Customer service: 20 / 10!
🥔 Potato's, not to be confused with Patata's above, serves only one thing - monstrous mega baked potatoes filled with customizable toppings (olives, ajvar, mushrooms, corn, beets, pickles or other vegetables).
Be sure to request a POSNO potato to ensure olive oil is used instead of butter.
🌯🍚🥢 Sushirrito has some of the finest tasting rice in all Belgrade. They have many vegan options, and allow you to customize a vegan sushi roll or veggie bowl to your specifications.
They have a wide selection of vegan sauces which aren't at all too salty or boring. The seaweed salad, miso soup and edamame are also vegan.
🥙🥬🍲 Rai Urban Vege has some of the best vegan pad Thai and fresh spring rolls wrapped in rice paper I've ever tasted. They have other menu items too, ranging from stuffed sweet potatoes, rice bowls, plant-based burgers, sweet potato sticks, hummus, curries, salads and raw desserts.
🥙🌯🥗 Hanan Shawarma Jerusalim is a Lebanese restaurant offering vegan dishes including customizable pita wrapped sandwiches with optional fillings including hummus, falafel, tahini, French fries, rice, salads, grilled vegetables and tabbouleh.
Cypress Tacos serves up some vegan Mexican street food including a vegan burrito and taco, vegan falafel salad and vegan tofu salad. If you find you need something sweet to appease your tastebuds, a few steps up the street, and you'll be at Ćao šećeru, which is an absolute, non-negotiable must-taste on your vegan tour through Belgrade.