Vegan in Sarandë, Albania
Updated: Jul 16, 2022
Did you know Albania is the fourth largest consumer of onions, following Tajikistan, Niger and Sudan?
So you've decided to visit the Albanian Riviera and are wondering what you can expect to scrounge up as a vegan? Besides onions, expect to find ample garlic for not only consumption, but warding (more on that in a future post), olives, cabbage, eggplants, peppers, legumes, leeks, sugar beets and figs...
Looking to satisfy a sweet craving as the Albanians do? Consider halva.
Other popular options are variations of sweet or savoury dough balls.
The healthiest, simplest and most affordable of desserts are those made of fresh fruit. Fruits are enjoyed all year-round throughout Albania, whether they be whole and fresh or fashioned into jams, compotes and preserves. The most popular Albanian fruits you'll find are figs, cherries, peaches, apples, grapes, pomegranates, blackberries, watermelons, plums, mulberries, lemons, pears, strawberries, olives and avocados.
Albanians are generous with the use of olive oil.
Plan on frequent trips to the market or local grocery stores, and do try to secure lodging with a functional kitchen.
The medieval Albanian code or pledge of honor, also referred to as "besa," emphasizes the aiding and protecting of others in moments of need, and encourages the looking after of guests and strangers. It is a promise of faithfulness, integrity, loyalty and solidarity. Throughout World War II during the German occupation, Albanians motivated by besa, rescued and stowed away over 2,000 Jews from Nazi persecution.
If you make an Albanian friend, prepare to be well-fed, well-stuffed and well looked after!
Vegan options when dining out are somewhat limited in their diversity:
Stuffed aubergines (nightshades more commonly known as "eggplants")
Qifqi are rice balls with spinach and herbs, found mostly in Gjirokaster, which translate to, "Fu#kity fu#k"
Grilled vegetables, usually drizzled with balsamic vinegar or glaze
Plazhi I Ri Caci on the esplanade serves up some local fare, including, stuffed peppers, stuffed eggplant, grilled vegetables, beans, okra and green beans. Each dish is excessively heavy-handed with the olive oil, so be forewarned!
Onhezmi is a restaurant and lounge bar in a secret garden of faerie lights above the hubbub of the quay below with all the benefits of an elevated view of Lëkurësi Castle, the Ionian Sea and rolling hills of olive groves.
Onhezmi serves coffees, juices, wines, beers, liquors, cocktails, fruit salads, pizzas which can be custom-ordered without cheese, fried potatoes, grilled vegetables with garlic and vinegar, stuffed eggplants and stuffed peppers.
Te Becqua is more centrally located in the heart of Downtown, and offers potato stew, pea stew, green bean stew, stuffed peppers and stuffed eggplants.
Kayak is a gelato and frozen yogurt shop along the boardwalk, serving three different varieties of vegan gelato--pineapple, wild berry, kiwi, strawberry, melon, and sometimes dark chocolate, lemon, strawberry and mango.
Salad Farm brings a taste of California to the Albanian Riviera. This expat-owned establishment serves fresh salads, smoothies, sweet potato fries, hummus and falafel sandwich wraps, with upcharges for vegan substitutions. While not traditionally Albanian and somewhat pricey (800 lek for a Mediterranean salad and 600 lek for a vegan smoothie!), if you're looking for something different, this spot is about a twenty minute walk from the city center.