A Vegan Guide to Romania
Visiting Romania as a vegan is quite a unique experience. Romania’s traditional cuisine is heavy on meats and dairy products, and veganism is mostly confined to the big cities. In many small towns or the countryside, veganism may be unheard of.
But you might be surprised to learn that local vegan foods abound and are probably as old as the country itself. But they are just not called vegan. The food is called “mancare de post” (translated as fasting food).
Romania is a very religious country and many people follow long fasting periods, some throughout the year, typically on Wednesdays and Fridays. Romanian fasting food is entirely animal-free and it can be found everywhere, from the local supermarket to street food vendors and local restaurants.
The trick is to find delicious fasting food, as sometimes it can be quite bland. Choices are more plentiful during the year’s traditional fasting periods, 6-8 weeks prior to Easter and Christmas, when you’ll find with ease vegan versions of traditional Romanian foods. Think of stuffed cabbage rolls with rice and mushrooms or vegan sweet bread.
During the fasting periods, vegan foods abound in stores, coffee shops (vegan croissants anyone?) and at street vendors. Again, you’ll find vegan foods throughout the year, but the offer may not be as varied.
Here are some examples of traditional Romanian dishes that are plant-based by default and very popular on fasting period. Two vegetable spreads called “zacuscă” and “salată de vinete” can be found in many home pantries but also in some restaurants with traditional fayre.
The first spread is based on roasted red bell peppers and eggplants with tomato sauce and the second one is eggplant based, resembling baba ghanoush but without the added tahini. Note that the eggplant spread is typically made with egg-based mayonnaise, so make sure to ask for the vegan version.
Side dishes often featured in restaurant menus and that suit a plant-based diet are: varză călită (sauté cabbage), cartofi țărănești (peasant style potatoes), french fries, pilaf cu ciuperci (cooked rice with mushrooms), Fasole frecată (mashed beans) and grilled vegetables.
Other traditional fasting dishes are: Mâncare de mazăre (cooked peas), Tocană de cartofi (potato stew), Mâncare de dovlecei (a kind of zucchini stew), Ghiveci or Ghiveci călugăresc (vegetable stew or monastery style vegetable stew), Sarmale de post (vegan stuffed cabbage rolls) and Ardei umpluți de post (vegan stuffed bell peppers). These dishes are sometimes made with meat, so make sure to ask about this beforehand.
In Romania’s large cities, you’ll find a more sophisticated vegan offering. You’ll find vegan/vegetarian restaurants with some fantastic menus and dishes. But even in large cities, there are not many vegan and vegetarian restaurants, as veganism is just starting to become popular locally.
Now let’s take a trip to some of Romania’s top vacation spots and discover the best places to enjoy vegan foods.
Vegan Restaurants in Bucharest
Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is also known as “Little Paris”, in the same way that, as we saw, Amsterdam is nicknamed “Little Venice”. The Palace of Parliament is far from being little, in fact it is considered to be the largest administrative building in the world.
This modern complex was built by command of communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu and took 13 years and 700 architects to complete. There are lots of places to eat plant-based in the center of Bucharest.
Have a refreshing kombucha at Sublime (Splaiul Independenței 2F) while you choose a dessert from the over 15 listed on the menu. It is the best ending to a meal consisting of seitan wrap, Buddha bowl, noodle salad, or a delicious soup. Pizza with vegan mozzarella or a burger are served hot at Level Up (Strada Sfânta Vineri 10).
Near Romanian Athenaeum, the city’s main concert hall and a landmark of the capital, is Restaurant Savart (Strada George Enescu nr. 2-4) an exquisite place both for vegan and non-vegan friends.
If you’re a fan of Turkish cuisine, then Mr Cigkofte (Bulevardul Nicolae Bălcescu Nr. 18) has a challenge for you. It involves identifying or simply savoring the 20 spices of the eponymous dish.
Bistro Raw & Vegan (Strada Transilvaniei Nr. 11) is a small and chic place opened by two sisters that offers a large menu of raw meals and vegan pasta to enjoy. Rawdia (Strada Puțul lui Zamfir 50-52) has several outlets in the country and each and every one of them respects the same commitment to delicious and healthy food. The dishes are not only eye pleasers but will also conquer the taste buds so don’t miss this place!
Now it’s time to get dirty and discover the Berca Mud Volcanoes in Buzău County at Pâclele Mari and Mici. Grab a pair of boots for this one-of-a-kind phenomena in Europe because the mud is mainly liquid and grey and it’s being pushed up from a depth of 3000 m by gases, constantly modifying the surroundings.
The ground around them is always dry and cracked due to the high temperatures of the soil. It’s best to go in spring or fall.
O’Brothers Social Pub (Strada Mesteacănului 10) is not an entirely vegan place but the menu is very wide and features lots of interesting choices from black bean enchiladas, ragout of mushrooms, veggie curry, hummus and tabbouleh to beer stewed cabbage, which you should probably resist if you’re driving.
Vegan Food in Sinaia & Predeal
Travelling through Prahova Valley, a jewel is waiting to be discovered in the mountains of Sinaia. Having its own power station, the Peleș Castle was Europe’s first electrified castle, which, incidentally, also aired the first movie ever seen in Romania.
With breathtaking panoramic views, especially in the autumn, this was the favorite summer residence of King Carol I and Queen Elisabeta.
Closer to a king’s dining experience is the tapioca pudding with almond milk and fresh fruit, preceded by zucchini spaghetti with avocado at KUIB (Str Gârbovei, Sinaia).
Other great vegan options can be found at Ramayana Café (Blvd Carol 19, Sinaia) with Indian specialities and other food like pizza. This place is highly recommended and the vegan options feature mushroom tikka, hummus, salad, chana masala, aloo gobi, curries, and more.
Vegan Food in Brasov and Bran
Moving closer to the mystic lands of the country, at 25 kilometers southwest of Brașov, from a high cliff rules Bran Castle, a Transylvanian fortress widely known from the legend of Dracula. Only two-minutes’ walk away there’s a monument on the hillside that shelters Queen’s Mary heart.
Before arriving at these historical places be sure to eat first. Try the vegan places such as Rawdia (Str Apollonia Hirscher 7) or Delicious Raw (Str Michael Weiss 12 or Nicolae Bălcescu 49), or visit one of the best restaurants with great vegan options: Trattorian Artisan Food (Piața George Enescu 14-15) Dei Frati (Piața George Enescu), Amasi with Lebanese cuisine (Strada Mihai Viteazul 1) or a more French inspired Ma Cocotte with vegan and raw vegan options (Nicopole, 34A) in Brașov.
Here you can also visit the Black Church and take a little trip to Poiana Brașov.
Sighișoara, the hometown of Vlad the Impaler, is one of the best-preserved medieval cities where time seems to have just frozen. The Historic center is a fortified medieval town with narrow streets and colorful buildings. The Medieval festival that takes place every July brings back to life old stories and characters. You can take a bite to eat at La Perla (Hermann Oberth Square,15).
On the way to Corvin’s Castle from Hunedoara, you should stop at Șelimbăr, Sibiu, to grab the party-sized vegan pizza from Bianca Neve place (Strada Trifoiului 5). Call to order and I promise, you have never had such an amazing fresh and flavorful vegan pizza ever! And while you’re in Sibiu, take the chance to visit the Big Square and the old city.
She’s Green (Timotei Popovici St, 19), just a few minutes-walk from Big Square, offers a delicious breakfast and lunch.
Vegan Food in Cluj-Napoca and Turda
Prepare yourself for the ultimate underground experience, 112 m down to be more precise – and we’re not talking about music, although it did host the Eurovision semi-finals back in 2018.
Turda’s renovated salt mine was ranked among the “25 hidden gems around the world that are worth the trek“ by Business Insider 7 years ago and it continues to amaze tourists with its underground lake you can cross by boat, salt carved balconies, museum, amphitheater, Ferris wheel, and other activities. Resembling a NASA spaceship, as one reviewer truthfully noted, Turda Salt Mine is a place that will be remembered.
Taking in the healthy, salty air down the mine makes you really hungry, and you’re in luck because Cluj has some great plant-based suggestions such as Samsara Foodhouse (Cardinal Iuliu Hossu St, 3), where you can try some authentic local dishes such as Varză a la Cluj and polenta with mushrooms, which is another rustic meal, or more international ones: kimchi rolls, Spicy Mushroom bamboo shoot soup, burgers, sushi, creamy mushroom gnocchi, Tiramisu.
There’s also Rawdia (Aurel Suciu St, 9), Bistro Mint (Gheorghe Șincai St, 11) with nice vegan options, Natuu (Someșului St, 30) for breakfast, lunch, or take-outs, Zen Vegan Bistri (Eroilor Bvd) and Rawana (Pl al v Voievod 53b) for pure raw energy.
Vegan Food in Maramures
Yes, there is such a thing in the northwest part of Romania, where people have a distinct spiritual philosophy. Each of the blue wooden crosses of Săpânța’s Merry Cemetery bears a glimpse of the person’s life written in epitaphs. In this unique way, the people’s ancestors’ belief that death is the beginning not the end is represented.
To continue on the same happy note, we must take care of the stomach too. Ask for “Meniu de Post” (fasting menu) at Casa Veche from Sighetul Marmației (Iuliu Maniu St, 27) to get vegan options. At Baia Mare you can look for Cinquecento (Petoefi Sandor St, 7), Le Bistrot (Școlii St, 2), La Palincie (Lucaciu Vasile St, 7), and Refresh Juice (Unirii Bvd, 7B) for plant-based choices.
Vegan Food in the Danube Delta and the Black Sea Resorts
One of the most beautiful places in Romania and a true wonderland with great biodiversity is the Danube Delta. With nearly 5,500 species of flora and fauna, declared a Biosphere Reserve, it is the best-preserved Delta in Europe and a paradise for every nature lover and birdwatcher – there’s over 330 species of birds to spot. The best way to explore it is through the labyrinth of at least one of the three major canals.
But first be sure you don’t venture out on an empty stomach. At La Liman (Portului St, 26) restaurant in Tulcea ask for vegan options such as the breaded mushrooms, imam bayildi, and salads.
For sun and sand, sea and breeze, the Black Sea seaside provides it all. Vegan food too. For example, in Constanța, Pofta De Verde (Chiliei St, 2) is a completely vegan restaurant with raw and cooked dishes, desserts, and juices. For a genuine Romanian taste, try the menu from MiniBistro (Tomis Bvd, 279). Sandwiches, falafel, and burritos are good at Cămara Cu Merinde (Mamaia Bvd, 180).