“A vegetarian travelling to Poland? You’ll struggle to find anything to eat there. They only eat meat, more meat and bread.”
When I told people at home that I’d be travelling in Poland, I got only negative replies about how I’d have nothing to eat. I’d probably starve if I didn’t eat meat, they said. It turns out that people are either misinformed or altogether uninformed about the Polish diet. It turns out that the Polish eat a lot of vegetables and being vegetarian in Poland isn’t so hard. They have salad with every meal and you rarely see a plate that doesn’t have shredded beetroot, cabbage and grated carrot heaped on the side. In fact, Poland has the highest rate of fruit and veg consumption in Europe.
There are a few sure fire ways to eat good, nutritious veggie meals whilst travelling in Poland, and stick to a tight budget at the same time.
This is my golden rule for how to find a good host. When you search the list of hosts in a specific town, filter them using the keyword “vegetarian” and you will be sure to find some amazing cooks, or at least someone to point you in the right direction. Our Polish host in Wroclaw was an incredible vegetarian cook who has been experimenting with making traditional Polish dishes vegetarian.
Check Happy Cow for Veggie Places in the Area
Probably common sense to vegetarian travellers, but something I sometimes forget to do. Happy Cow is like an extremely small scale trip advisor that lists only vegetarian-friendly and vegan restaurants, cafes and stores. If you find yourself in a decent sized city, then definitely search Happy Cow because there is always something. In Krakow, Happy Cow led us to Glonojad, a veg cafe right around the corner from our hostel where you could eat good food for PLN 12-15 (£2.50-3) and drink good coffee too.
Yes, believe it or not, Poland has vegetarian chain restaurants. These are a great way to find reliable, healthy veggie food fast and on-the-go. My favourite was definitely Green Way, a chain that serves up crazy big portions of stews, salads, buckwheat, pierogi and pancakes for around 10-15 PLN (£2-3). It may not be the best food in the world, but you can’t argue with the cheap prices, filling portion and nutritional value. Bio Way was another chain that we saw around a lot, but it definitely wasn’t such a good deal as Green Way.
A lot of people aren’t fond of cooking their own food when travelling, but if you’re a budget, vegetarian in a new place, then this is a great way to eat local ingredients. You can get by in a basic hostel kitchen, and if you’re staying with a Couchsurfer then that’s even better. In Poland, bread, cheese and salad are staples, so there is plenty of choice in the local shops and markets.
Pierogi (Polish dumplings) are found on the menu nearly everywhere in Poland. They come stuffed with a variety of fillings, including meat, potatoes, cheese and even blueberries. If you’re ever stuck for food, look for pierogi ruskie, a peirogi that’s filled with potato and cottage cheese. After a plate of pierogi you will be really full. In fact, Luke ate so many at the beginning of our travels that I thought he was going to turn into a pierogi.
So it transpires that a vegetarian traveller in Poland can most certainly find food wherever they are, even if it’s just bread and local cheese or the traditional side salads. Vegetarianism is a growing trend in Poland, shown by the dozens of vegetarians listed on Couchsurfing, and the vegetarian cafes popping up in all of Poland’s big cities. As in all major cities of the world, there is always an alternative crowd who only eat veggies, which means that a vegetarian traveller will never go hungry in a new place.
Bon appétit, vegetarians in Poland.