Herb crusted lamb chops at Penzion Berc

Your Foodie Guide: The Best Slovenian Food You’ve Got to Taste

Last updated Aug 12, 2022 | Food & Wine, Slovenia

I am blown away that Slovenia is not more well known for its amazing cuisine, but I believe that is going to quickly change. Why is that? The Michelin guide has at last launched in Slovenia! It awarded one restaurant with 2 Michelin stars and five restaurants with 1 Michelin star for their fine Slovenian food.

This small European country has also won the title European Region of Gastronomy for 2021. With all this recent publicity, Slovenia is now on the world’s gastronomic map and is truly a foodie destination.

What makes Slovenian food so unique and delicious and deserving of all the recent accolades? We only cracked the surface of the cuisine during our 1-week stay, but I hope to answer this question as I share some of the amazing dishes we had throughout the country.

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01- Zlikrofi

Zlikrofi with lamb ragout at Penzion Berc

Zlikrofi with lamb ragout at Penzion Berc

These delicious little pockets of dough are pressed together and filled with potatoes, onions, crackling pork fat or minced lard, and spices. This delicious pasta creation originated in the mining town of Idrija and is commonly served with Bakalca. Bakalca is a common sauce that is made with lamb and vegetables, mutton, or rabbit.

We had the pleasure of trying this delicious savory dish while dining at the restaurant of our charming accommodation, Penzion Berc, while in Lake Bled.

Another great way to sample this regional pasta and many other unique Slovenian dishes is to attend the Open Kitchen in Ljubljana. This culinary event is held every Friday and runs only on good weather days from March-October. I have shared all my favorite dishes from this gourmet market in my article on Ljubljana below.

Zlikrofi at Open Kitchen in Ljubljana

Zlikrofi at Open Kitchen in Ljubljana

Please time your itinerary to be in Ljubljana during these months if you are a foodie! You will not be disappointed.

02- Trout

Soca River Valley in Slovenia

Soca River Valley, the gorgeous home of the freshwater trout

Freshwater trout is the most common fish found in Slovenian restaurants. The trout flourishes in the beautiful alpine rivers throughout Slovenia, and the best trout are located in the Soca River Valley. It is commonly prepared by frying it in buckwheat or corn flour.

We had two lovely trout dishes prepared during our tasting menu experience at Hisa Franko.

Never heard of Hisa Franko? Then don’t miss my full review on one of my favorite Michelin-starred foodie experiences. Wow, just wow. 

Trout, whey, poppy seeds, beetroot, ground ivy, and watercress at Hisa Franko

Trout, whey, poppy seeds, beetroot, ground ivy, and watercress at Hisa Franko

Trout belly glazed with pear and tonka butter, buttermilk, bitter chicory, pumpkin oil

Trout belly glazed with pear and tonka butter, buttermilk, bitter chicory, pumpkin oil at Hisa Franko

03- Buckwheat

Buckwheat gnocchi with truffles at Penzion Berc

Buckwheat gnocchi with truffles at Penzion Berc

An often neglected grain-like plant, buckwheat has been used for centuries in Slovenia.  The first time I heard of buckwheat was in Japan, where buckwheat soba noodles are a popular dish.

By the way, buckwheat is not related to wheat and is not technically a grain! It is considered a pseudocereal like quinoa. Buckwheat is a superfood that has a lot of nutritious value including being a good source of fiber and magnesium. It has also been linked to lowering cholesterol and glucose.

It is used for many purposes in Slovenian cuisine including bread, pudding, risotto, and pancakes. A local favorite is buckwheat dumplings that are filled with cottage cheese and millet porridge topped with sour cream and cracklings called ajdovi krapi. I did not have the opportunity to try that traditional dish. I did have some delicious buckwheat gnocchi with truffles while staying at the hotel Penzion Berc in Lake Bled. So delicious!

04- Carniolan sausage

Carniolan sausage at Klobasarna in Ljubljana

Carniolan sausage at Klobasarna in Ljubljana

Carniolan sausage is one of the many Slovenian foods with a protected designation of origin. Only 11 certified manufacturers make these sausages today using a recipe that dates back to the 19th century!

Where do you try this Slovenian fast food?

Klobasarna in Ljubljana! All they serve is the Carniolan sausage. You cannot miss this small shop due to the huge sausage sign placed at its entrance. Our order was served with mustard, horseradish, and a fresh roll.

Klobasarna sausage in Ljubljana

Klobasarna sausage sign in Ljubljana

05- Bled Cream Cake

Bled cream cake at Hotel Park in Slovenia

Bled cream cake at Hotel Park

Oh my goodness, I dream of this cake! I love desserts, but I do not like them overly sweet. Fearing this cake was going to be too sweet, I only ordered one for my husband and I to share. As soon as I took that first bite, I immediately regretted that decision. It was super light and fluffy!

This heavenly cake is made of layers of egg custard, vanilla cream, and whipped cream sandwiched in between a buttery crispy crust. The Bled cream cake, known as kremna rezina, is served throughout Slovenia, but it is imperative you try it at the original source, Hotel Park in Lake Bled. They are served fresh daily, sometimes up to 3,500 slices per day.

The recipe was created in 1953 by the talented pastry chef Istvan Lukacevic from Hotel Park. His recipe continues to be used today and now holds the protected designation of origin, which means only a patisserie in Lake Bled can call this dessert a Bled Cream Cake. Mmmm …. so decadent and worth every calorie.

06- Karst Prosciutto

Prosciutto at Guerila Winery

Prosciutto at Guerila Winery

Karst prosciutto is yet another Slovenian food that has a protected designation of origin. The Karst region is well known for its prized dry-cured ham.

It is prepared by using salt specifically from the Adriatic coast of Slovenia and then dried naturally for at least 12 months.  This area has particularly strong wind known as Bora which aids the drying process. The Karst prosciutto is renowned for its tender, high quality, and unique tasting ham.

While we were visiting Guerila Winery during our 2-day tour of Slovenian wine country, we were served this delicious delicacy paired with local cheese. It is the perfect accompaniment to a wonderful glass of Teran wine due to its elevated acidity.  There is even a Teran and Prosciutto Festival held every August in Dutovlje.

2017 Lisjak Kras Teran Wine

2017 Lisjak Kras Teran Wine

Teran also originates from the Karst region and is made from the Refosco grapes. Because of its higher concentration of antioxidants, it is known as the “healthy wine.”  I did not have the chance to try it while touring Slovenian wine country, but I did buy a bottle to take home at the local wine shop in Ljubljana called Wine Bar Suklje. I haven’t opened it yet to try it out but will let you know when I do!

07- Struklji

Kobariški štruklji, parsnip, apple walnut and pork crackling dumpling glazed with pork fat Smoked pork creme brûlée, sun dried plums, horseradish at Hisa Franko

Bottom: Kobariški štruklji, parsnip, apple, walnut and pork crackling dumpling glazed with pork fat

Top (in the container): Smoked pork creme brûlée, sun-dried plums, horseradish 

Struklji, yet another delicious traditional Slovenian food! There are several ways to prepare this dumpling. Different types of dough are used to make this dish including filo or buckwheat. It is filled with goodies such as tarragon, cottage cheese, or even apples and walnut for a sweeter version (like a strudel). Locals will have it as a side dish with meat or as a dessert.

Kobarid, home of the famous 2-Michelin starred restaurant Hisa Franko, is known for its famous kobariski struklji. It is made with walnuts and raisins and is served as the signature dessert in many of the local Kobarid restaurants. Kobarid even has a festival to celebrate this dish!

Ljubljana has a struklji-only restaurant called Moji struklji Slovenije. They serve over 20 types of traditional, savory, and fruit dumplings. Lots of options!

We had a modern version of struklji while dining at Hisa Franko. It certainly lives up to the hype. Delicious!

08- Honey

Mobile beehives on a truck in Slovenia

Courtesy of Getty Images: Mobile beehives on a truck in Slovenia

Beekeeping is a huge deal in Slovenia! So much that they even petitioned officials at the UN for three years to declare May 20th World Bee Day. The effort was successful. The goal of the World Bee Day initiative is to bring awareness to the public about the importance of bees to sustainable agriculture and food security.

Why May 20th? Slovenian Anton Jansa, the father of modern beekeeping, was born on that day. Initially destined to be a painter, he changed course and became an apiarist (aka beekeeper). He wrote many textbooks to really promote beekeeping knowledge.

While we were hiking throughout the Slovenia countryside, we came across many brightly painted beehives that looked like cabinets called an AZ hive. Supposedly the bright colors help the bees to have better orientation. Some beekeepers even put their hives on a truck, so they can move them around to get a wider variety of flavors.

AZ hive in Slovenia

Slovenian beehive we encountered on our hike through Slovenian wine country 

It comes as no surprise that honey is widely used in Slovenian cuisine. The indigenous Carniolan bee is responsible for making this high-quality honey called Slovenski med. It even has a protected geographical indication.

There are many types of this delicious treat including forest honey, silver fir honey, acacia honey, and linden honey to name a few. Slovenian honey is used for many purposes such as spreads, sauces, toppings, baking in pastries, and paired with dried fruits and dairy dishes.

Slovenian honey is not just used in the local dishes but is also incorporated in relaxing experiences such as massages and facials. You can participate in apitherapy. This was new to me, but apparently, this involves inhaling beehive air to help your respiratory and immune system and overall wellbeing.

If interested, you can try apitherapy at Hotel Posestvo Pule, which is about 1 hour east of Ljubljana. If you really want to immerse yourself in the bee experience, you can even sleep in a honey-combed chalet and get honey massages at a place called Beeland.

I wasn’t joking when I said Slovenians are really into their bees! According to Time Magazine, “1 out of every 200 people is a beekeeper.”

09- Tolminc and Bovec cheese

Slovenia is home to several delicious kinds of cheese. Two of the more well-known types are Tolminc cheese and Bovec cheese. Both kinds of cheese have obtained a protected designation of origin (PDO), which means only cheesemakers that make their cheese within a well defined geographical area can call their cheese Tolminc or Bovec.

TOLMINC CHEESE

Aged Tolminc cheese at Hisa Franko

Aged Tolminc cheese at Hisa Franko

Tolminc cheese is a unique hard cow’s milk cheese that is sweet initially but becomes slightly spicy with aging. When we dined at the highly regarded restaurant Hisa Franko, we were given the option to sample some aged Tolminc cheese. Chef Ana Ros’ husband Valter has a cheese cellar on site, where he ages this cheese for up to 5 years. I highly recommend trying this course.

Selection of Tolminc cheeses with matching chutneys at Hisa Franko

Selection of Tolminc cheeses with matching chutneys at Hisa Franko

BOVEC CHEESE

Bovec sheep cheese, chestnut honey emulsion, red cabbage chutney, cinnamon puff at Hisa Franko

Bovec sheep cheese, chestnut honey emulsion, red cabbage chutney, cinnamon puff at Hisa Franko

Bovec cheese is a hard sheep’s milk cheese that comes from the native Bovec sheep in the Upper Soca Valley. It has a distinctive slightly tangy flavor. We were able to experience this local cheese at Hisa Franko as well.

10- Pumpkin Seed Oil

Slovenian pumpkin seed oil stand in Ljubljana

Slovenian pumpkin seed oil stand in Ljubljana

I am obsessed with pumpkin seed oil now that I’ve tried it in Slovenia. It is delicious with a very unique nutty flavor. I purchased a bottle from a little market stand run by the Hergan Farm while we were in Ljubljana. I have tried it over salads, but my favorite way to consume it is as a dip for toasted sourdough bread. Some even drizzle it over ice cream, but I have not tried that yet.

Toasted sourdough bread with Slovenian pumpkin seed oil

Toasted sourdough bread with Slovenian pumpkin seed oil I brought home

Pumpkin seed oil is known as “green gold” and is packed with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. There are two ways it is produced: hot-pressed or cold-pressed.

Hot-pressing involves crushing the pumpkin seeds, roasting them at 212-230 degrees Fahrenheit, and then pressing them. 3 kg of seeds = 1 L pf pumpkin seed oil. The oil is thick, dark, and the taste is more intense.

Cold-pressing just involves the last step, pressing the oil out of the seeds without any heat. 6 kg of seeds = 1L of pumpkin seed oil. Cold-pressed oil is supposed to retain more of the nutrients that can be destroyed by heat. The pumpkin seed oil is lighter with a milder taste compared to hot-pressed oil.

11- Strudelj (or Zavitek)

Apple Strudelj at Belica Restaurant in Slovenia

Apple Strudelj at Belica Restaurant

This Slovenian food is like a strudel made with flaky puff pastry and filled with various types of fruits such as apples, peaches, and cherries. We tried an apple strudelj at Belica restaurant while touring Slovenia wine country. It reminded me of American apple pie and was delicious but nothing mind-blowing. The bled cream cake is still my favorite Slovenian dessert. 

12- Bread

Natasa's sourdough bread at Hisa Franko

Natasa’s sourdough bread 

Bread plays a major role in Slovenian cuisine and is made with a wide range of ingredients including rye, buckwheat, spelt, and wheat flour.

Spelt?

I had never heard of this distinct type of whole-grain until we dined at 2-Michelin starred restaurant Hisa Franko.

Head baker at Hisa Franko, Natasa Djuric, is the mastermind behind the absolutely delicious sourdough bread course. Her secret? Spelt flour, which gives it an amazing nutty flavor. This easy to digest “ancient’ grain also has great nutritional value and is high in protein, fiber, and micronutrients.

Because Natasa had heard how much we LOVED her bread course, she very kindly gave us a loaf to take home.

Where to Stay to Experience the Best Slovenian Food

Due to its unique geographical location surrounded by Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia, Slovenia offers some amazing regional dishes. A road trip is required to experience all of these culinary delights!

I highly advise renting a car and staying in several different cities throughout Slovenia to truly experience a wide variety of Slovenian local dishes.

Here is a list of the places we personally stayed during our culinary road trip:

LJUBLJANA: GRAND HOTEL UNION

Grand Hotel Union Room with Balcony overlooking the city

Our gorgeous view from our room balcony at the Grand Hotel Union 

This beautiful historic hotel is located in the heart of the city with easy access to all of the food markets and restaurants. The staff truly makes you feel that warm Slovenian hospitality.

GORISKA BRDA (SLOVENIA WINE COUNTRY): GARNI HOTEL DVOR

Stunning sunset as seen from the Garni Hotel Dvor

Garni Hotel Dvor at sunset 

Run by two sisters, this gem of a place is a beautiful bed & breakfast created from a renovated historic building. It is located in the wine region Goriska Brda, Slovenia’s Little Tuscany. The landscape is breathtaking! Due to the proximity of Italy to this region, you can expect a lot of lovely pasta dishes.

KOBARID: APARTMENT ZONIR

The reason you stay in Kobarid is to dine at Hisa Franko! We were originally supposed to stay at an apartment we found on Airbnb called Apartment Zonir. We were moved to a different apartment at the last minute a few hours before arrival due to plumbing issues. It was clean and suited our needs but it was not anything special.

If we were to stay again, I would try to book reservations at Hisa Franko way in advance and then spend the night in one of their limited rooms on the property. When we secured our dining reservations two months in advance, there was no availability left. Book in advance!

There were 2 other highly-rated accommodations we were considering had we decided to stay more than one night. Nebasa Chalets is actually owned by the parents and sister of Chef Ana Ros, who operates Hisa Franko.

LAKE BLED

Penzion Berc in Lake Bled Slovenia

Penzion Berc in Lake Bled

Without a doubt, Penzion Berc is the accommodation you will want to base yourself at Lake Bled. Converted from a farm to a boutique hotel, this charming family-run accommodation made us feel like family. We wished we had booked more nights. They also have one of the top-rated restaurants in Lake Bled. Win-win.

Final Thoughts

One of the best ways to discover a country is through its cuisine. We found Slovenian food to be incredibly fresh, using only in-season local ingredients that are full of flavor. I can’t think of any imported food that we had on the whole trip.

I strongly advise renting a car and eating your way around all the regions in this beautiful picturesque country that stretches from the mountains to the sea. You will meet some very friendly locals along the way. When you leave, I promise you will already be planning your next trip back.

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What other amazing Slovenian foods have you tried?

Let me know in the comments below!

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