The popularity of the vegan, plant-based lifestyle has grown tremendously around the globe over the past decade, and Sarajevo is no exception in following this ever-growing trend.
Modern studies have shown that a more plant-centered lifestyle appears to be facing an upward trend, with a rapid increase in impassioned individuals, books, cookbooks, catering facilities, and documentaries focusing on veganism. The enthusiasm and interest for the decisions that impact one’s health, all living beings and living systems on the planet are undeniable. It is possible to find healthy vegan food, and there are also ‘fast food’ vegan options, meaning there are a lot of food choices regardless of whether an individual prefers plant-based foods for health reasons, or due to purely ethical reasons.
Given that the traditional food in Bosnia and Herzegovina is known for being high in animal products, finding something that is plant-based in this country’s capital city may seem like a wild-goose chase, ironically. Yet, that is not at all the case, since vegan food options are becoming rather common in Sarajevo nowadays, and the offer keeps expanding quite rapidly. One to several vegan meals is available in the vast majority of restaurants, and many stores are offering many vegan items. Furthermore, there are restaurants, cafés and stores that have really stepped up their vegan food game and have contributed to turning the city into a more than adequate place for everyone interested in eating delicious, plant-based foods.
Vegan Food Concept Store ‘Zdravo’
‘Zdravo’ is the first vegan food concept store in Sarajevo, located in the Miljacka district in the Dzemala Bijedica 160 F Street. This concept store is a healthy food bistro and café, an eco-friendly store that offers health-related products including appliances and nutritious food to prepare recipes at home, and a cozy meet-up place with an aesthetically pleasing interior. All items at the store are vegan, which means they do not contain meat, dairy, eggs or honey. Aside from being vegan, the products are also free of unhealthy refined ingredients. Manager and owner of ‘Zdravo’ Maja Pilav explained that the idea behind opening a vegan concept store in Sarajevo was to create a pleasant meet-up place and a healthy food oasis to make it possible for people to taste plant-based food in a pure, positive atmosphere - so they can learn for themselves how delicious it is.
‘Karuzo’ is an ‘a la carte’ restaurant, located in the Dzenetica Cikma Street, 100 meters from the Sacred Heart Cathedral, near the Music Academy and open green marketplace ‘Markale’. This is a restaurant that provides innovative vegan and vegetarian meals combined with Mediterranean cuisine. All ingredients are fresh and seasonal, and none of the dishes served in the restaurant contain meat. There is a specific vegan as well as vegetarian menu. Once you are here in Sarajevo, why not try a healthy, vegan alternative of the local traditional minced meat dish ‘cevapi’, which ‘Karuzo’ provides in a completely plant-based version. Chef and owner of ‘Karuzo’ Sasa Obucina, a professional vegan and vegetarian chef, personally welcomes the customers and prepares every meal from scratch, ready to adjust everything according to individual dietary preferences and nutritional needs. If you are up for a glass of wine, the chef can recommend which of the fine domestic wines from the restaurant’s enviable collection goes best with a specific meal.
Indian Restaurant ‘Taj Mahal’
‘Taj Mahal’ is an Indian restaurant, located in the Paromlinska 48/A Street. The restaurant has a years-long tradition of preparing authentic Indian food, which includes different vegan and vegetarian meals. The staff is familiar with what ‘vegan’ means, and they actually prefer that the customer emphasizes that the dishes should be vegan, in order to avoid serving dairy cream on top of the food. In case you love a hint of spicy to your meal, ‘Taj Mahal’ knows how to spice up the food with special, Indian spices that guarantee to raise your body temperature and satisfy any spicy addict’s taste buds. However, if you are not a huge fan of spicy food, just let the staff know so that they can adjust just about the right level of spiciness, since the key to high-quality Indian food is not in the spiciness itself but rather in a skillful manner of mixing the spices up into a perfect, flavorful combination. The meals are prepared in a special Indian oven, Tandoor. Some of the must-try vegan dishes at ‘Taj Mahal’ are Chana Masala (an Indian stew based on garbanzo beans), vegetable biryani rice, and potatoes and cauliflower cooked with tomato sauce and spices called ‘Aloo Gobi’.
Sushi Bar and Restaurant ‘Kimono’
‘Kimono’ is a sushi bar and restaurant located on the third floor of the Sarajevo City Center (SCC), in the Vrbanja 1 Street. This restaurant offers a wide range of Asian cuisine delicacies, like sushi and wok-style dishes. All of these dishes have a vegan option available, such as the vegan sushi roll, and wok-style veggie rice or noodles enriched with exotic spices and hot or sweet chili sauces. Besides traditional Asian dishes, there is a more casual vegan sandwich option on the menu, too. A very sophisticated, yet cozy atmosphere makes ‘Kimono’ a great place for having a working lunch or dinner, as well as for spending some free time with friends and family, eating delicious, often spicy foods.
‘Falafel’ is an entirely vegetarian and vegan restaurant, located in the Djulagina Cikma 2 Street, in Bascarsija (Old Town Sarajevo), with some of the best Middle Eastern cuisine options in town. The restaurant serves no meat whatsoever, and its menu does not contain any items made with refined wheat flour. Its menu is focused on healthy, green foods that are predominantly vegan, with just a few vegetarian options. This small restaurant is a true treasure chest of nutritious, plant-based foods, and enables its customers to get a taste of Middle Eastern cuisine downtown Sarajevo. All of the served foods are rich in natural vitamins and plant protein, and some contain high-quality olive oil and sesame paste known as tahini. Popular options to try in ‘Falafel’ are creamy Middle Eastern dip ‘hummus’, moutabel dip, tabbouleh salad, and - as the restaurant’s name suggests - falafel meal in different forms.
‘Vapiano’ is a part of an international restaurant franchise company headquartered in Cologne, and in Sarajevo it is located in ALTA Shopping Center in the Franca Lehara 2 Street. This restaurant is a modern, urban place that introduces the Mediterranean spirit and lifestyle into its daily food offer. Its chefs prepare Italian food adhering to the fast-casual principle, with plenty of plant-based options in its standard menu. The standard menu includes a variety of pizzas, pastas and risottos that can be entirely made with vegan ingredients. The pizza dough is 100% plant-based, as it is made of fine wheat flour, fresh yeast, water, and a little bit of oil, salt, and sugar, and so is the pasta that is made of only two ingredients, namely durum wheat and water. Some of the vegan pizza options here are vegetable pizza Verdure and mushroom pizza Funghi, when ordered without the cheese, while vegan sauces to go with pasta and risottos are Aglio e Olio and All’ Arrabbiata. Make sure to order the mentioned sauces without parmesan cheese. In addition, ‘Vapiano’ regularly comes out with special, seasonal menus often incorporating a lot of new vegan meals, especially during summer. Some of its seasonal menus at times include pizzas with vegan cheese and vegan pesto sauce.
Desserts, Smoothies, and Coffee
Although the amount of sweet plant-based options in Sarajevo is somewhat lower compared to the savory ones, there are certainly places that come to the rescue once your blood sugar level drops, or you simply want to enjoy the delightful sweetness that a cake slice carries. What is so great about it is that a lot of plant-based desserts cannot even qualify as unhealthy, with the exception of sugary ‘sinful’ vegan desserts that are totally worth trying, too. Some of the best sugar-free desserts of this kind can be found in the abovementioned café ‘Zdravo’, but also at cafés offering different juices and smoothies like the fresh juice and smoothie bar chain ‘Juice & Smoothies’, which prepares freshly made juices and smoothies along with raw vegan cakes and raw sweets. ‘Juice & Smoothies’ bars are located in shopping centers SCC and BBI, and in Bascarsija. If you happen to be away from the city center and pass through Ilidza on your way to a relaxing walk down the alley ‘Velika Aleja’, the path towards an attractive tourist nature park ‘Vrelo Bosne’, you can now freshen up with a juice or smoothie at a newly-opened smoothie bar ‘Juicy Corner’, located right next to the Ilidza bus terminal. ‘Juicy Corner’ sells loads of fruity, plant-based desserts and sugar-free, raw fruit candy rolls. Some of the pastry shops, most notably ‘Mrvica’ and ‘Marshall’s Gelato’, have incorporated vegan ice-creams into their everyday ice-cream offer and they keep adding interesting new flavors as the customers’ demand for it increases. With over six decades of tradition, boutique ‘Badem’ (shops located in Bascarsija, Marsala Tita Street and BBI center) is known for selling the best Turkish Delight sweet treat ‘rahat lokum’ in town that just happens to be vegan, but it also sells vegan jelly candy made with agar, a plant alternative to gelatin, along with a rich selection of spices, teas, nuts, seeds, and legumes. ‘Rahat lokum’ is normally served with traditional Bosnian coffee, with its specific sweet flavor complementing the strong roasted coffee aroma. Although, just like other black coffees, traditional Bosnian coffee is vegan by default, coffee beverages with plant-milks - including cappuccinos and lattes - are served at ‘Zdravo’, ‘Juice & Smoothies’, and Spazio Café (Radiceva 11 Street).
In an era of popularity of online stores where social networks play a major role, an online-based patisserie ‘VegaliciousMery’ promotes a plant-based lifestyle and sells healthy and flavorful raw desserts, including cakes, chocolates, macaroons, and other sweets. Owner and founder of ‘VegaliciousMery’ Merisa Ferovic said that ‘VegaliciousMery’ existed for six years now, ever since she personally switched to a plant-based lifestyle. Speaking about the desserts she herself prepares, Ferovic specified: “All of the raw desserts are free from gluten, refined sugars and additives. They are made of fresh, dried, or frozen fruits, with seeds, nuts, vegetable oils, and raw superfood items. ‘VegaliciousMery’ cakes are made for everyday use, but - depending on customers’ orders - they are also designed to fit special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and other holidays”.
Vegan Food Stores
Vegan food items and products can be found at healthy food stores, like ‘dm’, ‘Kana Healthy Market’, ‘MakroVita’, ‘BiOrganic’, and healthy food departments of all major supermarkets. ‘Kana Healthy Market’, which has recently become the first vegan cheese retailer in this country, issued a statement for Pulse.ba noting that this store itself is based on a concept of providing vegan and vegetarian alternatives in Sarajevo, so it started importing quality vegan cheeses of the brands ‘Sheese’ and ‘Green Vie’. “We will certainly expand our offer of vegan cheeses, which tend to be sold out very quickly. Our costumers love them for their quality and delicious flavors. We also sell jackfruit, falafel mix, hummus, and vegan alternatives for milk, sausages, pates, protein shakes, and so on. It is noticeable that a plant-based diet is growing popular here”, reads the statement.
Plant-Based Diet Gaining Momentum in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Capital
Speaking for Pulse.ba, representative of the BiH Vegan Activists’ Association ‘Vegani i Veganke BiH’ and co-organizer of the ‘Cube of Truth’ in BiH Adna Mrguda said that, when it comes to veganism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, steps forward are visible each year. “Even though the steps are perhaps small, they are very significant for us vegans. The steps include people already knowing what the word ‘vegan’ means, and restaurants often include vegan options into their offer, thanks to tourists visiting our city and country, but also to activists and volunteers of the Association. We advise anyone wanting to learn about veganism in BiH to visit our Facebook page, and our official website”. Mrguda stressed that vegan lifestyle is particularly popular among younger generations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are thus a part of one of the fastest growing global trends. She particularly singled out that, alongside thousands of cities around the world, the B&H capital was a part of the global vegan activists’ street campaign ‘Cube of Truth’, organized through international organization ‘Anonymous for the Voiceless’.
The BiH Animal Rights Organization ‘EVA’ is an animal rights organization that, besides campaigning for improvement of the standards of animal welfare and the environment, also raises awareness about the benefits of a vegan way of eating. Commenting on the popularity of a vegan lifestyle in Sarajevo, ‘EVA’ President Lejla Sadinlija underlined that the situation in Sarajevo was a lot better compared to previous years, primarily due to global trends that set focus on healthy nutrition, and added that people are becoming more aware of the negative effect that animal products have on human health. “That is why more and more people turn to a plant-based diet, and this kind of lifestyle is no longer considered extreme as it used to be the case. However, there is considerable room for improvement when it comes to restaurants, fast food and other public places where food is sold”, said Sadinlija. She expressed hope that the city will become even more vegan-friendly sooner rather than later.
Here is a quick heads-up in the case there is no vegan-labeled option available anywhere nearby - just like in other places around the world, there are ‘accidentally’ vegan products sold in Sarajevo. This means that the products are vegan by ingredients, although they do not contain the actual label. The traditional potato savory pie ‘krompirusa’ is vegan, just make sure to ask for it to be served without sour cream on top. ‘Ajvar’, a red pepper-eggplant spread, is another vegan product that is part of the traditional cuisine not just in Sarajevo but across the region. French fries, grilled or cooked vegetables, grilled mushrooms, and rice are included in menus at most restaurants, but definitely ask the staff at the restaurants to prepare the vegetables and mushrooms in separate pans from those used for preparing meat. Order fruit salads for dessert, without the whipped cream. Most products labeled ‘posno’, which means fasting food, are vegan. Nevertheless, it is necessary to check the ingredients to be sure that it does not contain ‘med’ (honey), ‘kazein’ (milk protein casein), or E120 that stands for carmine (a pigment derived from crushed cochineal insects). A list of ‘accidentally’ vegan products in Sarajevo is long, and it contains products that have been very popular in this area for decades like the boxes of chocolates ‘Bajadera’, ‘Fontana’, and ‘Griotte’, alongside crispy wafers ‘Frondi Nougat’ and many other.
Ultimately, fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can be found in all stores, while farmers’ markets are an amazing source of local produce. Since new plant-based items are being included into the offer across the city at a fast pace, while checking the places recommended herein, do not hesitate to continue exploring and broadening your horizons with the new discoveries in this regard.