Why Poland is a Paradise for Vegetarian Travellers

“A vegetarian, travelling in Poland?” a friend laughed at me. “All the Polish eat is meat, more meat and potatoes.”

When I told people I was travelling to Poland, the negative responses came pouring in. I could forget sampling the local cuisine. There’d be nothing except bread and butter for me. I was going to starve if I didn’t eat meat!

Turns out, all those people were wrong.

What many people don’t know about Poland is that they have the highest rate of fruit and vegetable consumption in Europe. Yes — the Polish are chomping those apples and stewing those beetroot! You won’t see a dinner plate in Poland that doesn’t come with a heaped shredded cabbage salad, a rainbow beetroot salad, or a luminous orange carrot salad.

Colourful salads come with every meal in Poland

Traditional Polish Cuisine

The lamest thing for a vegetarian is hearing that there’s plenty of… salad. While traditional Polish salads are so much better than the limp lettuce affair that goes on elsewhere in the world, there’s plenty of other Polish specialities for vegetarians to tuck in to. The most famous Polish food is pierogi (boiled dumplings). Though there are a lot of meaty ones around, you can easily find potato and cheese stuffed ones called pierogi ruskie too. Polish staples like boiled potatoes, rye bread and cream cheeses, and cabbage and beet soup also make the menus frequently.

Vegetarian pierogi ruskie

Vegetarian Chain Restaurants

The first thing any vegetarian travelling to Poland ought to know if that, believe it or not, there are actually vegetarian chain restaurants popping up around the country. If you want generous portions of hot, reliable vegetarian grub then these are the places to go. Greenway was my favourite because of its yoghurt milkshakes and heaped servings of stew with buckwheat — and it’s cheap. A slightly more expensive food chain, Bio Way, can also be found around the country.

Vegan stew and brown rice in Greenway

Vegetarian Cafés

It’s not all fast food for vegetarians in Poland. You can expect to find quirky, hipster cafés and organic stores dotted around here and there. A quick search on HappyCow will pull up all the veggie joints in the area you’re travelling. Krakow is a real hotspot for vegetarian places, and Glonojad trumps the lot with its Vietnamese condensed milk coffee and vegan oatmeal cookies. If you want something more rock ‘n’ roll then Spoldzielnia Organic Bar in Krakow serves up rice in big red cabbage leaves on record disc place mats.

Vegetarian chilli, buckwheat and salad at Glonojad, Krakow

Vegetarian Couchsurfing

Where there are quirky vegetarian cafés, there are trend setting vegetarians eating in them — and Couchsurfing is the perfect way to meet them. I found that the Polish people were the most generous and welcoming Couchsurfing community I’ve surfed with. Search for vegetarian hosts in the areas where you’re travelling and you’ll be sure to meet someone awesome. Vegetarianism in Poland is still fairly young, so there are a lot of experimental vegetarian cooks around try out new dishes and mixing cuisines.

Traditional Polish loaf wrapped in cabbage made vegan by our amazing Couchsurfing host

After travelling as a vegetarian in Poland, I was far from starving. This underrated European country is a vegetarian paradise — don’t miss it.

Author Bio: Charlie is a long-term traveller, freelance writer and house sitter taking an alternative path across the world. Her travel blog, CharlieOnTravel, is about simple, sustainable and socially responsible travel. Follow her vegetarian adventures on Facebook.