Bulgaria’s capital city isn’t known for being a great vegan travel destination, but perhaps it should be. If you’ve been keeping up with our vegan travel adventures this Veganuary, you’ll know that we came to Bulgaria with pretty low expectations about vegan food here and were pleasantly surprised to find that being vegan in Sofia was not only do-able, but also delicious.
I should say now that although travelling vegan in Sofia was good, vegetarians would likely have an even better foodie experience. Along with meat and bread, local yoghurt and feta cheese are staples of traditional Bulgarian cuisine. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of dishes to try if you’re vegan in Sofia.
From breakfast banitsas to vegan bob chorba, we ate all the traditional Bulgarian that we could find vegan versions of. Just because we’re vegan, we didn’t want to miss out on trying local Bulgarian cuisine, and fortunately there are some awesome vegan restaurants in Sofia with just this kind of food.
If you’re looking for a place to try vegetarian banitsas then Hlebar is the place. Banitsas are long rolls of filo pastry stuffed with different fillings. They’re a traditional Bulgarian breakfast food, though you can get them all day long at Hlebar.
We ate the banitsas with vegan fillings – apple, raisins and brown sugar, and potato and mushroom – but only when eating them did it occur to us that maybe that pastry wasn’t all vegan (as the filo pastry is traditionally made with egg and probably butter). When we asked the staff there was a bit of a language barrier to finding out.
Hlebar gets a special mention because it’s one of the few breakfast places with vegan and vegetarian options, and it also stocks a small shelf and fridge full of vegetarian and vegan whole foods, including yoghurt, plant milks (oat milk, rice milk, soya milk etc.) and grains.
Meal: Breakfast (veg-friendly).
Best Banitsa: Apple, raisin and brown sugar banitsa.
Cost: Pretty good value. A breakfast of two espressos and two banitsas cost 11lev (£4.31).
No vegan in Sofia should miss this place. Sun & Moon Bakery was our first vegan discovery in Sofia. We were staying in an Airbnb apartment right around the corner from Sun & Moon Bakery on Gladston (the original, there are also two other branches in Sofia) and were really excited to find so many vegan options.
Although labelled as a “bakery,” Sun & Moon is really a bakery-restaurant-cafe all rolled into one. There is literally everything a hungry vegan could want under one roof here. We ate vegan banitsas filled with tofu and basil, and red lentil and carrot, for breakfast. Vegan cookies and the chia seed and einkorn milk smoothie also made for good breakfast options.
For main meals, there is an extensive vegetarian menu with loads of vegan options. We tried all of the vegan stuff under the “Bulgarian Cuisine” section, such as lutenica (a tomatoey relish) and kyopoolu (aubergine relish) which came with homemade wholemeal bread. A hearty white bean soup called bob chorba was best for really cold days, and there was also a great bunch/lunch dish called mish-mash (scrambled eggs if vegetarian, scrambled tofu if vegan, with onions and peppers), as well as mashed nettles.
Meal: Breakfast, lunch and dinner (vegetarian and vegan).
Best Vegan Food: Vegan mish-mash.
Cost: Sun & Moon Bakery was such good value. A breakfast of two espressos, a banitsa, a vegan cookie and a smooth cost around 11lev (£4.31). A dinner including the two relishes, two mains, homemade bread and a glass of wine cost just 19lev total (£7.32).
Soma Vital Food served beautiful, nourishing food. All of the mains sounded so delicious that I’d have liked to eat them all! I had a creatively named and super yummy Chick-curryeah, a light chickpea and carrot curry, while Luke savoured slices of tofu with veggies cooked in coconut milk.
We whiled away some time sipping espressos overlooking the snow covered rooftops of the city after we ate, and ordered a banana, date, almond and coconut milk smoothie which we devoured within seconds because it was so smooth and delicious.
The restaurant is located on the 5th floor of the building and you need to take the lift to get to the floor. We previously tried to access the restaurant via the stairs but they don’t go up all the way to the restaurant, so we messed that right up.
Meal: Lunch and dinner (vegan, but some honey).
Best Vegan Food: Chick-curryeah, a fab and light chickpea and carrot curry.
Cost: Good value for good food. Mains range from 6.50 – 12.90lev. We had 2 mains and 2 coffees for 20lev.
This vegetarian, vegan and raw cafe has a cool design which is a mix of industrial and floral, and it seems to be frequented by locals much more than tourists. When we visited there wasn’t an English menu but the waitresses were really lovely and happily translated for us – I’ve seen that since then they’ve now translated their menu into English.
All of the wraps on Salted’s menu are vegan! The bread is a type of homemade Einkorn wheat wrap, and the hummus and pesto is also homemade too. I super enjoyed my wrap stuffed with baked falafel, hummus, green pesto and salad, though Luke reckons the same with red pesto is even better. There were fresh vegan spring rolls too, also tasty.
Confusingly, we found this cafe through a listing for “Cobbo” on Facebook, but the cafe’s name is actually called “Salted” on the cafe front and menu. Afterwards, I realised there is now a new Facebook page for the cafe. Not really sure what’s going on there.
Meal: Lunch (vegetarian and vegan).
Best Vegan Food: Homemade wrap with falafel, hummus, green pesto and salad.
Cost: A few lev more expensive than Sunmoon, but still decent. We had three espressos, two wraps and three fresh spring rolls for 21lev (£8.22).
Veda (from ayurveda) House is a vegetarian teahouse not a block up from Sunmoon Bakery on Gladston. Though the tea is definitely the big pull factor of this place, there is a good sized lunch menu that’s all vegetarian and vegan as well. Luke had a really good seitan and quinoa dish, and I had a nice salad though am definitely still regretting not ordering a cool sounding dish of aromatic cauliflower with smoky tea from Mount Lapu that I saw another blogger speak highly of.
Their tea menu is crazy extensive and goes on for pages and pages. It includes traditional Bulgarian teas (I had the fig tea, which was very nice) and Chinese green teas (Luke had chun mee which translates to mean valuable eyebrows). The most expensive tea on the menu called a ‘white monkey’ tea. Supposedly this tea is grown at such high altitudes that they have to train monkeys to pick the leaves, and they only pick the leaves on days that are the perfect balance of cold and clear.
Meal: Lunch, or just tea (vegetarian and vegan).
Best Vegan Food: You want to try that aromatic cauliflower, right?
Cost: Kind of expensive.
If you’re looking to eat really cheap then the Sunday night buffet at Dream House is what you want. It’s an all-you-can-eat vegan food buffet. There were lots of vegetable based dishes, as well as green lentils, beans, rice, tofu, salad and some plates of potatoes. I’ve got to say though, the food was cold – something which we don’t mind after living in Taiwan for a year where they eat cold vegan buffet food every lunch time, but some might mind.
I saw a couple of photos of dishes from the actual menu as well, which looked way more impressive than the buffet food, but I’ve no idea what the other options are really like. If you’re on a tight budget as a vegan in Sofia, then Dream House is definitely worth checking out.
Dream House is located in a bit off an odd place. It’s on a street off Vitosha Boulevard but it’s on the second floor next to a hostel. You have to enter through a dodgy looking and cold stairwell that looks an awful lot like a scene for a low-budget horror film. But once you get in the restaurant it’s nice and normal.
Meal: Lunch or dinner (vegetarian and vegan).
Best Vegan Food: We only had the buffet but it’s probably not the best dish there.
Cost: The Sunday night all-you-can-eat buffet cost just 7lev (£2.74) each.
I liked Mix of Fig’s concept of fast food not having to be unhealthy and lacking in nutrition, but their execution relied heavily on vegan cheese. We’re personally not really into vegan cheese because it has pretty funky taste to us and everything that we ordered was served cold, including pizza and a vegan rice omelette. If you like vegan cheese though, then you might be into this place!
Vegan fast food is a cool concept and maybe if it was something more along the lines falafel and hummus, colourful salads with grains like rice, quinoa and couscous, or even hot chips, hot vegan burgers and grilled veggies, it could be amazing.
Mix of Figs is only a block away from Sun & Moon and Veda House, and the food quality is so high in those places that it takes a real lot of effort and thought to make it in this area of Sofia. The staff here were super friendly though, so I hope it goes well for them.
Meal: Lunch (vegan).
Best Vegan Food: Green quinoa croquette was okay.
Cost: Average. All of the 4 small plates pictured above cost 11lev.
Vegan Food in Central Market Hall
After wandering out of town to a vegan restaurant that turned out to be closed, we stumbled into the Central Market Hall (an indoor food market) near Serdika metro which was open at almost 8pm at night. We had a scout round and found a food stall called k-express that had vegetarian and vegan hot food in the bain marie.
We grabbed a pot of tomato, cucumber and red pepper salad, some hot shredded cabbage, and baked butternut squash to go. It was all very simple veg food at a super cheap price, and really good if you’re tired of eating out too much but don’t want to cook.
Meal: Lunch and dinner (veg-friendly).
Best Vegan Food: All was nice, nothing particularly stand out.
Cost: Cheap. Three pots filled up with veggies and a bottle of water was 5lev (£1.96).
Other Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Sofia
There were a number of other vegetarian and vegan restaurants that we wanted to try in Sofia but just didn’t have the time to get to, including Soul Kitchen, which is meant to be a little more high-end. There’s also a Loving Hut chain in Sofia, and an Indian restaurant called Saffron that apparently has some veggie options. A few people have left a comment on this blog post praising Tres Bien, another vegan cafe in Sofia that I hadn’t heard of until this!
Health Food Stores with Vegan Produce in Sofia
There are quite a few health food stores stocking vegetarian and vegan produce in Sofia, but we were so busy eating out at all the vegan restaurants that we only stopped by Zdravosloven. It’s conveniently located just off the main Vitosha Boulevard and stocks loads of useful things. We went there to grab a jar of peanut butter for our trip to Bansko, but saw there was a small bakery at the back and ended up leaving with some vegan banitsas filled with curried veg and a chewy vegan apple pie for breakfast. It’s probably also a great little place to stop by for breakfast on the run.
I feel like I should mention boza as well. Boza is a fermented rye drink that’s really popular in Bulgaria. It’s a thick, gloopy brown drink that’s a little hard to stomach, but Bulgarians drink it for breakfast. I heard from vegan travel blogger Mostly Amelie, that boza apparently makes your boobs bigger, but content to be small breasted one gulp of boza was enough for me. There is an organic version that you can get everywhere, including in Sun & Moon Bakery and the health shops.
Where to Stay as a Vegetarian or Vegan Traveller in Sofia
We stayed in a shared apartment hostel that’s part of Canape Connection hostel which we found on Airbnb. It’s located in a triangle of vegan restaurants. It’s literally about 30 metres away from Sun & Moon Bakery on Gladston, a block away from Veda House and really close to Mix of Figs as well. We liked our stay mainly because we – by chance – had the apartment to ourselves the whole time and because of the proximity to Sun & Moon.
I read that Yara, another vegan travel blogger, stayed at Hostel Mostel where you get basic meals included with your stay. She said that their meals were all home cooked vegetarian and vegan food, which sounds like a great deal for vegan travellers on a budget.
Resources for Travelling Vegetarian and Vegan in Sofia
If you’re making the brave journey as a vegetarian or vegan traveller to Bulgaria, then you’ll probably want to glean as much info about finding veg-friendly options in Sofia and the rest of the country.
Happy Cow was super useful as usual and has listings for the majority of restaurants that are vegetarian and vegan in Sofia. There’s also a small Facebook group of vegetarians and vegans in Bulgaria worth checking out.
The Vegetarian Traveller has a short guide to being vegetarian in Bulgaria, which highlights some traditional vegetarian options and includes some useful phrases. Vegansaurus had a good blog post on the vegan dishes she ate in Sofia, Bansko and Burgas.
Have you been travelling as a vegetarian or vegan in Sofia, or around Bulgaria? How was your experience?