There is no such thing as a single, uniform, distinct Slovenian
cuisine. In the opinion of some experts, there are more than
40 distinct cuisines in a country, whose main distinguishing
feature is a great variety and diversity of land formation,
climate, wind movements, humidity, terrain and history.
the north-east there is the expanse of the Pannonian plain,
in the east, the green and hilly Dolenjska region, in the
south the Karst and the Adriatic coastline, in the north-west
the Alps, the Barje marshes and the wine producing hills of
Stajerska. All these factors influenced the development of
the great variety and range represented by Slovenian cooking.
To give some examples: crabs are found only in the rivers
of Notranjska, prut (Karst leg ham) can be dried only
by the winds of Karst and the coast.
In addition, Slovenia is a borderland country. It borders
on four states with established and distinct national cuisines.
From each Slovenians have borrowed culinary specialties, adapting
them and making them their own.
cuisine is not homogenous for another reason. The highly stratified
population, founded in the town, the farmhouse, the cottage,
the castle, the parsonage, the monastery and so on, led to
the evolution of distinct cuisines. The urban populace was
acquiring Austrian, German and French dishes. The evidence
for this process appears in the first cookbook published in
Slovenian language, Valentin Vodnik's cookbook (1799). The
influence of the German source is evident, but it also contains
original elements. Certain occupations developed their own
cuisine and special dishes. Thus we have the cuisines of:
miners (eg omelette called miner's heart), iron workers, raftsmen,
charcoal-burners, foresters (eg. Dormouse on the spit, blacksmiths
), ("fiolovec" - very thick bean soup) and
When we speak of Slovenian cuisine we are usually referring
to the traditional country dishes. Even here, there are differences
in style and method, due to the diversity of countryside and
climate. However, if we take away the greater differences
among individual cuisines, we can summarize its characteristics
in the following points: (arrive at a general description)
1. Slovenian cuisine is varied. This does not coincide
with general view that it is uniform and monotonous. It is
of course true that we often equate Slovenian cuisine with
"¾ganci", "saurkraut", kranjske klobase",
"krvavice" and potica". However, there is much
more to it than these well-known dishes. Indeed, Slovenian
cuisine is comparable in range and variety to the cuisines
of much larger countries. However, this fact is seldom recognized
and is generally not reflected in the range of Slovenian culinary
2. Slovenian cuisine is similar to the cuisines of bordering
countries. As a border country Slovenia borrowed recipes
from its neighbours, creating their own adaptations. "Bograč"
of Prekmurje has its origins in Hungarian goulash (its name
taken from the clay- pot called "bograč"),
the"linkrofi"of Idria were adapted from Italian
ravioli. Such borrowing and adaptation is common to all countries
(there are very few genuine American dishes). Since Slovenian
neighbours have superb cuisines, Slovenians have acquired
some of that excellence.
There are few autochtonous Slovenian dishes. Among these
may be counted "¾ganci", potica and "pogača"
(round cake), named according to the filling "ocvirkovka"
(from "ocvirki". crackling) and "pehovka"(from
"peh", bacon). So popular were these Slovenian
specialties, that they spread to the neighbouring countries.
3. Slovenian cuisine is simple and plain. This can
be said for the greater part of the country cuisine, and cuisines
of some occupational groups like miners. The famous miner's
heart is nothing but a thick omelette, folded in half.
4. No great skill is required for the preparation
of "močnik", "kaa" or "ara"
(porridge or gruel), Other dishes recquire a great deal
of experience, knowledge and skill, for instance with
were plain due to the undeveloped technology of cooking in
the old days. You can't fry Wiener schnitzel in the traditional
bread oven or open fireplace. Various appliances and refrigeration
that we take for granted today did not exist at the beginning
of the 20th century.
Tins were unknown. Food was preserved in lard, "zaseka"
(a mixture of bacon and onions) and sugar or dried in the
chimney, in dry air or on top of the large country bread oven.
Many domesticated animals, vegetables and fruits and spices
are a recent acquisition. Traditional spices of Slovenian
cuisine were marjoram, mint, melissa, sage, thyme, setraj,
bay leaf, imported pepper and cinnamon. Curry, ginger and
soya sauce were something that cooks did not even dream about.
Urban and parsonage cuisine was influenced by the German,
Austrian, French and in some places Italian cuisine, and was
progressive for its own time. In the famous cookbook of Valentin
Vodnik, published in 1799, we find dishes of river crab, asparagus,
game, mustard, hollandaise sauce, lemon ice(zmrzlina), almond
5. Slovenian traditional cuisine is "heavy",
caloric. Many dishes are hard to digest. It is based on
the use of animal fat (ocvirki, zaseka, bacon, lard, dripping),
pork, flour-based dishes, potatoes, beans, butter, cream and
eggs, (24 eggs go into "Gorenjska prata"). Mushrooms
are used occasionally, vegetables are comparatively few with
the exception of cabbage and turnip. Many of these dishes
we now regard as unhealthy. This can be said of city and country
cooking. Farmers burnt calories through heavy work, while
city people tended to be overweight and died of stroke and
other diseases. Today many of these dishes have been adapted
and changed in accordance with new insights into what constitutes
a well-balanced diet. Oil has replaced lard, veal or chicken
is chosen rather than pork, mushrooms are used for flavour
rather than served as the main dish, etc. Instead of a mountain
of ganci drowned in pork fat and full-cream milk, the
modern day Slovenian eats a small serving without fat, accompanied
with vegetable sauce or yoghurt. From many recipes, the tastier
and healthier variants are selected. For example polenta is
now served with cottage cheese, a tradition of Primorska coastal
This is a widespread trend throughout developed countries.
6. Traditional Slovenian cuisine almost exclusively used
food products grown in Slovenia. Imported food was the
exception, oranges and lemons (and lemon juice) were almost
non-existent. Such products were better known in the city
or on the coast, where ships made their stops.
Soups are a relatively recent invention in Slovenian
cuisine, but there are over 100. Earlier there were various
kinds of porridge, stew and one-pot meals. The most common
soups without meat were lean and plain, typical is the soup
made from turnip peel. Most common meat soups were beef and
parts of a vegetable or fruit were put to use, for example,
turnip and apple peel were dried to be used in soup or tea,
crab shells were boiled or fried in butter to flavour soup.
The soups of the Prekmurje and parts of tajerska were
more substantial. In Prekmurje they even had soup for breakfast,
often as the main meal. On special occasions two soups were
served. In some places they stirred in millet or buckwheat
meal or added cream and sour milk. Sour soups were a feature
of the north-east country from Prekmurje to Koroka.
The famous tajerska sour soup of Pohorje, consisting
of veal, offal and sour cream is the best remedy for hangover.
In the hilly vinyard country they even made wine soup. The
Gorenjska soups were less substantial. The most common were
"preganka", potato and beef soup. The most
valued was the beef soup, traditionally served with golden
globs of fat and marrow swimming on top. Very popular addition
were dumplings made of spleen or brains. Common were mutton
and turnip soup (repa), crackling soup (ocvirki), and potato
soup in Dolenjska.
The common soup style in Alpine region was called "ara".
For these soups they took the off-cuts of dried meat, offal
and various kinds of "pig vegetables", such as yellow
kohlrabi, turnip, yellow and red carrots and potatoes. In
Bela Krajina they cooked "ara" with millet
or barley, and without meat. With a greater range of vegetables
and spices available today, "ara" can be quite
Another kind of popular soup is "jota",
which developed from "močnik" (gruel or porridge).
The housewife mixed in various vegetables and fruit, primarily
pickled cabbage (kislo zelje/ sauerkraut) and pickled turnip
(kisla repa/sour turnip), sometimes adding dried pork. The
most common "jota" consists of "kislo zelje"
cooked beans and potatoes with the addition of smoked pork,
sausage or ribs, a very nourishing and popular soup eaten
"Ričet" is known all over Slovenia. The
basic ingredients are pearl barley and dried meat. In some
places dried plums or pears are added. Plain "ričet"
(without tasty additions) was often served in prison. That
is where the expression to be on "ričet",
comes from. The soup is still popular today, regularly on
the menu of many households and restaurants. Improved roasted
"ričet" is offered at the restaurant Letaliče
based soups were served only on Sundays and feast days,
more frequently in more prosperous country or city households.
Apart from the beef soup, chicken soup was greatly valued.
It was thought that it had medicinal properties and brought
health to the ailing, the pregnant women and women in childbed.
The poor people of the time subsisted mainly on "jespren"
(barley soup} and moccnik (porridge, pap or gruel).
Very similar to soup and still popular is "obara"
or "ajmoht". Obara (Slovenian stew) is made
with "preganje"(clarified butter and flour)
and contains meat, offal, potatoes, herbs and other additions.
Most valued was chicken obara with "ajdovi ganci"
(buckwheat ganci). They made frog and dormouse "obara"
in Dolenjska in the old days.
Slovenians were familiar with all kinds of meat, but
it was generally served only on Sundays and feast days. Pork
was popular and common everywhere in Slovenia. Poultry also
featured largely. There is a wide variety of meats in different
parts of Slovenia. In Bela Krajina and Primorska they ate
mutton and goatmeat. On St.Martin's Day people feasted on
roasted goose, duck, turkey and chicken. In Dolenjska and
Notranjska, they ate dormouse and even hedgehog. Until the
great crab plague in the 19th century, crab was a source of
income and often on the menu in Dolenjska and Notranjska.
When the waters of the intermittent Cerknice Lake poured
off in spring, people collected fish left on dry land in baskets.
To preserve the great crop, fish was then salted, dried or
smoked. In Prekmurje they ate carp and trout in locally made
pumpkin oil. In Primorska they prepared fish soups, eel in
wine, grilled cuttle-fish, stuffed calamari, prawns in wine.
Istria is famed for the dried stockfish of the northern seas,
the "polenovka" or "bakalar", brought
to Istria by the sailors. They still prepare it on special
days, particularly Christmas, and in some places on Good Friday.
The fish is pounded till tender, then olive oil and garlic
is added. The smell is very strong while cooking (like cauliflower).
Later the smell disperses and the dish exhibits a pleasant,
distinctive character. It is usually served like a type of
goulash with polenta or boiled potatoes.
Traditionally one of the high points of the year was the
day of "koline". This was the day for the
country homemade sausages and prepared meat for preserving,
drying and smoking. The pig was slaughtered and meat prepared
and made into "krvavice" (blood sausages),
"pečenice" (frying sausages), "kranjske
klobase" (kranjske sausages), famous Slovenian "elodec"
(stomach sausage, similar to the Scottish haggis), stuffed
with fillings of local varieties (eg. gorenjski, savinski,
notranjski and primorski zelodec). From morning till night
the household made meat products of all the parts of the pig,
such as liver sausage, bacon, ocvirki (crackling), zaseka
and so on. "Krvavice"were made from the head, offal,
meat cutoffs, lard and bacon, millet, buckwheat and barley
meal, spices and blood. In more recent times, rice has been
added. In Primorska they sometimes added sugar and raisins.
"Krvavica" without blood was called white sausage.
From the water in which "krvavice" were cooked came
the soup called "godla" (transl. as mess). Some
"krvavice" burst open and the stuffing spilled out,
thickening the soup. In lower Gorenjska, the "zaseka"
was ground from fresh bacon, in the upper Gorenjska, from
the smoked bacon. A side product of "koline" was
"olca" (aspic). "Kranjske klobase"
were popular outside the borders of Slovenia, and are produced
under this name in Australia. Country people also produced
salami and dried them in the chimney, together with sausages,
ribs and other meat. Only in Kras (Karst) region and along
the coast they dried "prut" (leg ham)
in the dry local wind. Salami and sausages were made from
prime meat and bacon, smoked but still juicy. Another specialty
is "unka" (ham), baked in bread. In
Prekmurje "koline" were eaten with "bujta
repa" (killed turnip).
are the "mavlji" of Koroka. Meat
of pig's head, fried bread, buckwheat grain and spices are
wrapped in pork membrane and roasted. Similar is "Gorenjska
prata", where the ingredients are meat of pig's head,
remnants of roast, ham, bread and spices. These are mixed
and roasted in pork membrane.
From tajerska originate roasted Martin goose,
cavalry pot with beef tail, rafters' goulash and Savinja rafters'
Our ancestors ate a great deal of cabbage and turnips. They
were pickled in large barrels for winter food as "kislo
zelje" (sour cabbage or sauerkraut in German) and
"kisla repa" (sour turnip). They were used
as an accompaniment to potatoes and sausages, a side dish
or as the main ingredient in soups. "Kislo zelje"
was also used as filling for "truklji".
While the French and German are familiar with sour pickled
cabbage, they aren't familiar with "kisla repa".
In Slovenian cooking it is used much as "kislo zelje",
and preferred by many as lighter and more delicate in taste.
Trnovo, today a suburb of Ljubljana, was renowned for producing
cabbage. It was of such quality that it was exported
to Vienna and other large cities of the Austrian empire. It
is said that the emperor Joseph II enjoyed it.
Other common vegetables were potatoes, beans, broadbeans,
lentils, chicory,and in some places cucumbers, pumpkins
and egg-plant (Istria).
Turnip peel was dried on top of the bread oven and
used for the soup called "alleluja". In some places
they served it on Good Friday. The tradition has it, that
it was invented during the great famine of 16th century. Later
they improved it by adding other ingredients like flour, kaa,
is Slovenian wild lettuce, which has been gathered in the
fields for centuries. Even today regrad and potato salad is
highly valued. Since it can be picked only for a short time
in early spring, much is made of it. Families go on regrad
picking expeditions, and pick enough for a whole week. Some
"gostilne"(restaurants) even celebrate regrad days,
for instance gostilna pri Kuklju in Velike Lasce.
Beans are served regularly. Lentils (leča),
and broad beans (bob) have almost disappeared from
Slovenian tables. Potatoes came into use only in the
18th century and then literally took over Slovenian cuisine.
They are served simply with butter, or sour milk, used as
an ingredient in soups, served as salad, or as an ingredient
in a green salad, made into delicious dumplings, mashed, baked,
fried, roasted or "praen"(cooked, sliced and
fried with a spoon of lard or oil in a covered pot).
In the Middle Ages people ate acorns and other forest
fruits, particularly in times of famine. Chestnuts
were valued, and served as basis for many outstanding dishes.
Walnuts and hazelnuts are used in cakes and desserts.
Wild strawberries, loganberries, blackberries, blueberries
were a rich source of vitamins.
Mushrooms have always been popular, and Slovenians
liked picking and eating them. There are many varieties. They
are used as an ingredient in soups and stuffing, as a side-dish
or accompaniment, fried, mixed with scrambled eggs, etc. Another
specialty is a mushroom buckwheat "kassa",
in Stajerska they bake a mushroom potica and in Dolenjska
sausages are stuffed with mushrooms.
An old Slovenian dish is "kassa"(porridge). Kassa
is already mentioned in Valvasor's The Glory of the Duchy
of Krain (17th century). Millet kassa, today almost unknown,
was served most often. It was served at wedding feasts, following
the common belief that it ensured fertility. Less common was
barley kaa - ričet, and buckwheat kaa.
Often it was served with prunes, turnip or cabbage. Kassa
is also popular in other Slavic countries.
Buckwheat (ajda) was introduced to central Europe
from the far east. It was mentioned for the first time in
town records in 1426 AD. It was brought to Europe by the Mongols.
Although known in other European countries, it was only in
Slovenia that it became a national food. Buckwheat is the
main ingredient in the preparation of "ganci".
It is also used in the making of polenta (cornmeal), "krapi"
(fritters), kaa, bread, potica, pogača (round cake),
torta (cake), and in more recent times, buckwheat noodles.
Altogether Slovenian cuisine has more than one hundred buckwheat
"ganci" are the best known and popular
Slovenian national dish. Buckwheat flour is poured into boiling
salted water (krop). After a while the lump of flour is pierced
with the wooden spoon. This allows the steam to escape and
the water to boil over the flour. After twenty minutes, some
water is poured off and the flour mixed with water. The mixture
is spooned into a serving dish, and hot lard with "ocvirki"
(very small slices of tender crackling) poured over it. It
is usually served with "obara", "kislo zelje"
or "kisla repa".
Another popular and old traditional dish is polenta
(corn meal dish) at home in Primorska and Kras where it sometimes
took the place of bread. Beside the more common corn meal
polenta there is also buckwheat and potato polenta.
"Zlinkrofi", were adapted from Italian ravioli.
The best known are Idria "zlinkrofi". Initially
they were made with potato filling, later with meat and eggs.
In Koroska they make buckwheat "zlinkrofi"with fruit
filling, potato, meat and eggs. In Savinska Valley meat filling
the place of noodles Slovenians had "mlinci, or blinci"
(unleavened round bread).
Ethnologists believe that unleavened bread came to
Slovenia from the Middle East via the Balkans. "Mlinci"
were served in Notranjska in a large bowl, broken into small
pieces. Boiling salted water ("krop") was poured
over the "mlinci". After a few minutes the water
was drained off and melted butter with fried onion rounds
poured over them. This is a tasty dish, served traditionally
in some places on Christmas Eve. Some restaurants still serve
the traditional duck with "mlinci", for instance
"gostilna" Iker in Ljubljana.
Struklji are another well-known Slovenian specialty
and possibly the oldest of Slovenian dishes. A cookbook published
in Graz in 1589, mentions "tarragon struklji", which
the writer calls Slovenian. They are made of 'stretched' or
yeast dough, which is rolled out thinly, spread with a variety
of fillings, then made into a roll, which is wrapped in cloth
and cooked. Evidence of their importance is in the common
name Slovenian surname, Strukelj. There is also a village
near castle Turjak, called Strukljeva vas. Struklji are named
after the filling: orehovi (walnut), sirovi (cottage cheese),
krompirjevi, (potato), pehtranovi (tarragon), metini (mint),
fizolovi (beans) and many others. They may be filled with
breadcrumbs fried in butter, eggs, cheese, cream, bacon, blood,
beans, potato, crackling, bread, walnuts and other ingredients.
There are more than one hundred different recipes in existence.
Gostilna pri Kuklju, Velike Lasce, serves many different "struklji".
"Struklji"are most popular in Dolenjska, and ethnologists
surmise that this is where they originate. Struklji are a
ceremonial dish. They used to be served on feast days, at
carnival time (pust), weddings, wakes (sedmina), at harvest
time (zetev), at threshing (mlatev), on namedays (god).
Other Slovenian regions also prepare"struklji".
In Stajerska they cook buckwheat struklji, in Gorenjska walnut,
ricotta, cream struklji, in some places they were steamed.
In Notranjska they prepare baked struklji with cream. A specialty
are the Gorenjska struklji with plum or bilberry filling.
"Gibanice" and similar "krapce"
are a specialty of the northeast, Prlekija and Prekmurje.
The dough is baked in several layers, with the filling between
layers. In some "gibanice" there are as many as
nine layers, each with a different filling. One layer may
be walnuts, the second cheese curd (skuta), the third poppy
seed, the fourth with apples and so on. The renowned Prlekija
"gibanica" is filled with cheese curd and cream
and topped with cream and egg yolks. Loparnice are "gibanice",
that are placed on the oven spade (lopar) and baked in the
Among the cakes there is the quintessential Slovenian cake
- "potica", most likely autochtonous. It
is a festive cake, already mentioned by Valvasor in the 17th
century. In non-Slovenian cookbooks it is referred to as "kranjska"
or "ljubljanska potica". The name probably is derived
from the word "poviti"(roll up).
Potica is baked in a model, which gives it shape. There is
a variety of models. There is also a great variety of fillings:
walnut, carob, hazelnut, poppyseed, almond, cheesecurd, cream,
honey, tarragon, mint, crackling, ground bacon, dried fruit,
particularly raisins. More recently cocoa and chocolate have
been added. Lately desiccated coconut has also been tried.
A specialty is "ajdova potica". In Bizeljsko they
make it with a filling of cream, cheese curd and walnuts.
In the traditional Slovenian cuisine there are at least 50
varieties of potica. Preparation of "potica" is
a lengthy and time consuming process and these days it is
sold by bakeries and patisseries. The recipe for the more
unusual "pehtranova"(tarragon) and "ajdova"
(buckwheat) potica can be found on the web pages of www.kulinarika.net
, Kulinaricna Slovenija (Culinary Slovenia).
have other types of cakes, "pince", "gibanice",
"sarklji","kolaci", which are made
with a fine yeast dough, with many egg yolks, milk and butter.
Raisins may be added to the dough or part of it can be flavoured
with chocolate powder, so that the cake is patterned yellow
and brown, with a marble effect.
Krofi, bobi, miske, buhtelni, flancati and apple strudel
are known all over Slovenia. These small cakes came to Slovenia
from neighbouring Alpine countries and became typically Slovenian.
A recent acquisition are the renowned "kremsnite"
or "kremne rezine" of Bled and particularly "grmade"
of Bled ("blejske grmade"). Recipe can be found
in the website Kulinaricna Slovenija and sampled in the restaurant
Honey was used to a considerable extent. Medenjaki,
which come in different shapes are honey cakes, which are
most commonly heart-shaped and are often used as gifts. Most
famous are the little breads of Skofja loka and Drazgose (kruhki).
One of the most important foods of Slovenia is bread (kruh).
Slovenians are a nation of bread lovers. Bread is eaten with
every meal. It was taken along to work in the fields and on
travels. Bread was baked in the great bread oven, usually
once a week. It was put in the oven and removed with the oven
spade. The cottage dwellers baked bread with 'black' flour,
sometimes adding bran and potatoes. Well-to-do farmers had
bread made with white flour, sometimes with the addition of
dried fruit or walnuts.
Beside white and black bread, they baked bread from wheat,
rye, barley, and corn, and often a mixture of two kinds of
The importance of bread is demonstrated when guests of the
household were ceremonially greeted with a dish of bread and
salt. The tradition is still played out on formal and ceremonial
This was a description of only a part of Slovenian traditional
food. We only touched on culinary customs on festive occasions
such as weddings, name days, wakes, carnivals etc. Of relevance
would be a description of the traditional black kitchen with
the fireplace, oven spade, oven fork, clay and iron pots.
This is something to be addressed in the future. In Dolenjska
the potters burnt special three-legged pots. They used them
to cook the midday meal when working in the fields. Underneath
they heaped live coals and cooked "juzina". An important
part of tradition are eating customs. The farming family sat
around a large table. In the middle of the table was placed
a large bowl with food, into which were dipped wooden spoons,
and from which the whole family ate. In a well-to-do household
servants ate at another table.
Slovenian classical dishes are not frequently on the table
today. A place in the sun was won only by some of them, such
as potica, polenta, regrad salad, riccet, jota, bograc and
a few more. But who is cooking ssara, mavzlje, krapce, mocnik
or bujta repa? One of the main reasons is the lack of knowledge
about Slovenian national cuisine. The second is lack of understanding
of improvement and adapation that is possible. The third is
quick fix cuisine McDonald style, which is supplanting the
slower ways of cooking. It is interesting that traditional
dishes have been retained in original form by our emigrants
in America and Australia (www.thezaurus.com). American emigrants
have even published several books on Slovenian cuisine.
Slovenian cuisine is on the menu of many restaurants and
"gostilne" in Slovenia, and Slovenian specialties
are on the increase. Some "gostilne" also offer
traditional Slovenian ambient, such as gostilna Lectar in
Radovljica, restaurant Koren in Podljubelj, gostilna Pri Kuklju
in Velike Lasce (where you can see the remnants of the black
kitchen), gostilna Martin in Trbovlje (famous for specialties
of the Sava valley, restaurant Sinjor in Martjanci, in gostilna
Siker in Pernica, where you can eat original dishes of Prekmurje.
In conclusion, let us mention the contemporary Slovenian
cuisine. Dishes are borrowed from all renowned European cuisines,
some more than others. If you asked a tourist, he or she would
probably say pizza. However the modern Slovenian cuisine is
not so uniform and one-sided, and offers much more, even the
most sophisticated dishes. For example, gostilna Hana in Ljubljana
offers to connoisseurs not only Slovenian dishes, but also
"carpaccio with ruccola", marinated losos, gratined
escargot, fried banana with cognac and a lot more. The countries
of former Yugoslavia have also had influence and gained the
right of domicile. Gostilna Pod Roznikom offers a number of
specialties. There is little doubt that Slovenian cuisine
will keep on changing during the next 100 years and will be
considerably different from what it is today.
and restaurants referred to above are members of Culinary
Slovenia. Their offerings have been sampled and tested. There
are many others. The discriminating visitor can find outstanding
dishes in the many restaurants and gostilne throughout Slovenia.
In the column "Let's cook!"
more than 70 recipes of Slovenian dishes are presented. Most
of them are original, some represent contemporary Slovenian
cuisine, and some dishes which are not of Slovenian origin,
but widely used in Slovenia (e.g. cevapcici).
*Ocvirki - cracklings or scratchings, the delicious, crisp
brown residue of rendered pork fat
*®linkrofi - stuffed pasta