Being vegetarian or vegan in Budapest

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If you’re a vegetarian or vegan living in Budapest then you might be concerned about your eating options. After all Hungarians, like most of the rest of the Central Eastern Europe and the Balkans countries, are well known for their love of meat.

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Take a look at some Hungarian favourites and you’ll find many without meat and animal products and others that can and have been re-imagined without them, thanks to a growing understanding and acceptance of vegetarianism and veganism.

Couple this with a wave of entrepreneurs both local and expat opening up vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Budapest, and you can definitely consider this city no longer exclusively for carnivores.

Eat traditional Hungarian without the meat

Goulash is one of the main traditional dishes of Hungary. It’s a rich, stew-like soup made from meat, potatoes, onions, paprika and other spices. While the standard is to use beef or veal, vegetarian goulash can be made by substituting in mushrooms or tofu. Both options of course are also suitable for vegans.

Another popular Hungarian treat is lángos which is made from deep fried dough, traditionally covered in garlic, sour cream and cheese to a make a great snack. Adding meat is optional and vegans can easily make dairy free dough at home and ditch the cream and cheese for fruits, honey or nutella.

Other delicious delicious dishes that can be adapted for vegetarians and vegans include stuffed cabbage and peppers, palacsinta (Hungarian crepes) and the curious sounding chestnut puree dessert.

Eating in restaurants

There are plenty of exclusively vegetarian and vegan restaurants located all over Budapest. If you want to hear what people think about them then be sure to check out this review from a vegetarian traveller and this one from two vegans.

Enjoy a good burger? You’re in luck, Budapest is going through a burger bar boom right now and omnivores haven’t been left out of the fun. Finally Hummus Bar is a growing chain of restaurants with a great range of vegetarian and vegan dishes, all at pretty affordable prices.

And if you find yourself in a restaurant that’s not vegetarian or vegan only, then most will have English-language menus on offer and will clearly mark suitable dishes. If you’re in doubt here are some useful phrases to learn:

I am vegetarian - Vegetáriánus vagyok [veh-geh-TAI-ree-ai-noos vah-yok]

I am vegan - Vegán vagyok [veh-GINE vah-yok]

Do you have any meals without meat? - Van húsmentes ételetek? [Vahn hoosh-mehn-tesh ee-tell-eh-tek]

Can I have this without meat? - Kaphatok ebből hús nélkül? [kah-POH-tek eh-bool hoosh nee-el-KOOL]

(credit to The Vegetarian Traveller for the phrases)

Finding ingredients to cook at home

If you want to prepare vegetarian and vegan food at home the first thing you’ll need is fresh vegetables and the best place to go for that are one of the many market halls or farmers markets in Budapest.

For speciality ingredients, whole foods and staples like tofu and quinoa the best place to look is in one of Budapest’s many bio and organic food stores. GreenMark Organic also has an online webstore.

And if you need some inspiration then Culinary Hungary run a vegetarian cooking class.