For the past four years, I’ve had the privilege of spending each summer in Montenegro. My partner is from here and I’ve therefore gained a unique perspective on Balkan culture.
As a vegan, there have certainly been some challenges. Meat and potatoes are staples here, with lots of seafood served near the coast. But overall, I’ve found Montenegrins to be incredibly accommodating and open to the concept of veganism.
What’s more, I’ve met a few local vegans and vegetarians who have provided me with valuable insights and strategies for thriving as a vegan in Montenegro. I’m excited to pass on this wisdom to you, so you can navigate restaurant menus, discover plant-based options in supermarkets, partake in cruelty-free experiences, stay at vegan-friendly accommodation and even engage with locals using handy Montenegrin travel phrases.
Let’s get stuck in!
Why this vegan guide to Montenegro?
I’ve immersed myself in Montenegrin culture for several years, both as a tourist and from a local perspective. From merry family gatherings to vibrant carnivals, from bustling restaurants and cafes to lively local food markets, I’ve explored the nation from north to south, east to west; even reaching its highest peak. Along the way, I’ve encountered staunch carnivores, open-minded locals, vegetarians and fellow vegans. In fact, I have even influenced a few people to cut down on their meat intake and experiment more with vegan food.
Whilst I don’t claim to be an expert (I still make vegan discoveries all the time), I have acquired a distinctive perspective that can guide you on your own journey through this jaw-droppingly beautiful Balkan country.
Useful vegan phrases in Montenegrin
Ja sam (m) vegan/(f) veganka [pronounced: ya sam veh-gan-kah].
I do not eat…
Ja ne jedem… [pronounced: ya ne yeh-dem]
…meat – meso [pronounced: mess-oh]
…fish – ribu [pronounced: ree-boo]
…eggs – jaja [pronounced: ya-ya]
…dairy products – mliječni proizvodi [pronounced: mlee-yech-nee proyz-voh-dee]
…seafood – morski plodovi [pronounced: mor-skee plod-ov-ee]
Do you have any fasting (posno) pie?
Imate li posnu pitu? [pronounced: im-mah-tay lee pos-noo pih-too]
Do you have plant-based milk?
Imate li biljno mlijeko? [pronounced: im-mah-tay lee bil-nyoh mlee-yeh-koh?]
Does the pasta contain egg?
Ima li u tijestu jaja? [pronounced: im-mah lee oo tee-yeh-stoo ya-ya?]
Does the soup contain meat?
Ima li u supi mesa? [pronounced: im-mah lee oo soo-pee mess-ah?]
Da/ne [pronounced: dah/neh]
An intro to Montenegrin cuisine
In a way, Montenegrin cuisine is very similar to English preferences: meat and veg (potatoes are especially favoured).
Locals love a good BBQ, where they fill up a saucepan with ćevapi (minced meat sausage), chicken and other types of meat. Many local events also feature cold cuts, including Montenegro’s famous pršuta (prosciutto) and Njeguški sir (cheese of Njeguši, in the mountains).
And pretty much everything is accompanied by bread, beer (usually Nikšićko) and many different types of Rakija (fruit brandy). Oh, and Montenegrins love palačinke (crepes) with Eurocrem (hazelnut spread) and Plazma (a sort of ground biscuit powder).
Obviously, none of this is particularly vegan-friendly, apart from the bread and alcohol (yes, Nikšićko is vegan and rakija too, as long as you don’t drink any that are honey-flavoured).
But you’ll be glad to know that there are some hidden vegan gems within Montenegrin cuisine.
Attitudes to vegan diets in Montenegro
Whilst I have come across a few locals who have openly expressed their scepticism towards alternative proteins (I vividly recall one instance where someone unwittingly shared his thoughts about my ‘plastic’ and highly-processed meat substitutes – unaware that I understood a bit of Montenegrin – whilst munching on cured deli meats), the majority of people I have met seem to be remarkably open and receptive to the concept of a vegan diet.
In fact, many Montenegrins are no strangers to vegan food, particularly the older generations. That’s because many Montenegrins are Orthodox Christians and follow fasting guidelines. In other words, they abstain from eggs, dairy and meat for certain periods of time. The majority of the population don’t follow this strictly anymore but there are enough people who do to ensure that there is demand for posno foods.
What is Posna jela?
Posna jela (sometimes posna/posnu/posni) refers to food that is eaten during fasting periods. In addition to traditional fasting periods, such as during Great Lent and Holy Week, Orthodox Christians may choose to abstain from animal products and fatty foods to express repentance and demonstrate moderation and temperance. The strictest observance involves abstaining from alcohol, meat, eggs, cheese and vertebrate fish for 24 hours and I have met Montenegrins who fast like this 5 days a week!
A word of warning though, many posno foods still contain fish, seafood and honey, so make sure you brush up on your Montenegrin vegan vocabulary and phrases to ensure products/meals are fully vegan!
Eating out as a vegan in Montenegro
When I first came to Montenegro, eating out as a vegan was pretty difficult. Of course, it still comes with its challenges but every year brings new options and restaurants can be pretty accommodating if you ask politely.
I even brought my own block of vegan cheese to Soul Pizza Studio in Tivat and they gladly added it to my vege pizza. Other restaurants, such as Al Posto Giusto in Porto Montenegro, offer plant-based cheese (biljni sir) if you ask for it – it’s not always listed on menus. Beyond Meat also features on a few menus and seems to be growing in popularity as more Montenegrins discover it and tourism grows.
Accidentally vegan foods in Montenegro
Top tip: Look for food labelled posno (sometimes posna/posnu/posni)! As mentioned, fish and honey are still considered posna but looking out for this label makes it much easier to find vegan food in Montenegro, particularly before Easter and Christmas. You can use this word when asking for some of the accidentally vegan foods I’ve listed below.
Look for food labelled posno
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are quite a lot of accidentally vegan meals in Montenegro. Here are a few of my favourites:
Caramelised onions and paprika-flavoured beans. Pasulj tends to be more saucy and prebranac are baked so that they have a drier consistency.
Posna pita sa pečurka/krompir/blitva
Pita is a filo pastry pie found in pekare (bakeries). The majority of local bakeries will sell at least one posna pita, usually with pečurka (mushrooms), krompir (potatoes) or blitva (chard). You can also find sweet posna pita, including jabuka (apple) and višanja (cherry).
Possibly my favourite vegan pastry so far though has been the štapići od povrći that I bought from La Parisienne – delicious!
Priganice are fried balls of dough, similar to doughnuts but crispier! Traditionally, these are made without eggs or dairy but some modern recipes are not always vegan-friendly – ask for posne priganice to make sure. Priganice are often served with cheese and honey but you can ask for these with jam or dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar.
A delicious stewed red pepper and aubergine sauce served as a condiment.
A vegetable-based dish usually made with red onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes. Other popular ingredients include courgettes, aubergines, potatoes, carrots and oregano.
Discover the accidentally vegan foods
Shopping for vegan food in Montenegro
Voli, HDL and Idea supermarkets usually have an organic/bio section. Here you’ll find all sorts of useful vegan ingredients, from chia seeds to peanut butter, soya chunks to vegan pesto, lentils to plant milk. Some supermarkets even sell tofu, Beyond Meat, vegan cheese and butter in the chilled and freezer sections. Oh, and there are often small Asian food sections, with ingredients such as spring roll wrappers, nori seaweed, gochujang, Sriracha and teriyaki sauce.
Also, look out for posno products, including posni mayonnaise by brands such as THOMY and Polimark, posni krem (chocolate hazelnut spread) by brands such as CreMonte and Amoretti, posna Plazma and various sweet treats and snacks (keep an eye out for ‘med’ – honey) such as išleri, kikiriki štapići, choco napolitanke and THE MOST DELICIOUS hazelnut almond nougats called Bajadera by Kraš.
Here is a small selection of vegan products I have found in Montenegro:
More specialist ingredients can be found in bio shops, organic markets and Cosmetics stores (yep, the beauty stores often have food sections). Here you can find tofu, seitan, tempeh, more varieties of beans and lentils, nooch, edamame and even vegan milk chocolate!
What to do as a vegan in Montenegro
Montenegro is a stunning country with breathtaking scenery. Mountains, canyons, forests, rivers, lakes and a spectacular coastline – this beautiful Balkan country has it all! And that means that there are plenty of vegan-friendly activities to do, including water sports, skiing, hiking, climbing, abseiling and canyoning.
If history is more your bag, then there are also hundreds of ruins, fortresses, caves and submarine tunnels to explore. Alternatively, you can just chill out on one of Montenegro’s incredibly beautiful beaches.
There’s even a new cable car that takes you up Lovćen and back with a view of Boka Bay in its entirety. It really is stunning and you can grab a drink at the top before heading back down.
I’ll leave it to my friend Nemanja to show you just how breathtaking Montenegro is:
Vegan-friendly places to stay in Montenegro
Whilst there are no 100% vegan/vegetarian hotels in Montenegro just yet, there are various accommodation options that offer vegan-friendly meals. However, these hotels tend to be situated around the more popular areas of the coastline and can be pretty pricey. So if you’re thinking of heading away from the busy tourist spots, it may be better to book yourself an Airbnb with a kitchen and cook for yourself.
A bit of shameless promotion of my partner’s family’s Airbnb here…but it is one of the best places I have stayed during my travels (I met my partner whilst staying here) and the family is fully informed about veganism.
Having now tried and experimented with a lot of vegan food themselves (they also know how to cook many accidentally vegan Montenegrin dishes), they will be more than able to guide you during your stay.
If you stay in the right season and ask nicely, they may even let you try some of their home-grown, organic produce (e.g. tomatoes, figs, pomegranates, etc.).
You’ll have to book in advance though, it’s a popular Airbnb!
Located in the beautiful town of Perast, Conte Hotel offers clearly-labelled vegan options in their restaurant. Just be warned, Perast is packed in the summer and it may be difficult to get around by car!
If your budget allows for it, then Luštica Bay should definitely be on your to-stay list! It’s luxury at its finest and is situated in a beautiful part of the Luštica peninsula with azure seas and a pristine coastline.
There are plenty of restaurants and bars around the hotel offering vegan options, including The Spot (they serve Beyond Meat steak, which is expensive but tasty).
The hotel’s bar, The Lobby Bar, also offers a fully vegetarian/vegan menu with detox drinks and even a plant-based pudding!
Prefer to travel for free? Check out my review of Trusted Housesitters to see how you can stay in gorgeous houses and spend time with furry friends at the same time!
I’d love to hear about your experiences as a vegan in Montenegro! Got any restaurant suggestions? Know any places to avoid? Or want to share your best vegan Montenegrin travel story? I look forward to hearing about them in the comments below!