Before my visit to Cyprus I did my internet food research as I always tend to do. After reading few posts and reviews my fate became obvious. I’m gonna starve to death!
Visions of days after days surviving only on French fries loomed from all over the internet. French fries for breakfast, lunch and dinner! And mean, unaccommodating restaurant staff not interested in your weird food requirements. My goodness, it is vegans hell!
Good that I am not that easily scared away and I always need to check things by myself. Believe me, Cyprus is NOT a vegan’s hell on Earth and with a proper research and a bit of initiative you can enjoy your stay with a full belly.
Here’s the deal:
I’m not gonna write about typically vegan bars or restaurant, as you can just install Happy Cow App and find those that are near you. There won’t be many I fear. In this post I want to show you what to eat in ‘regular’ places, how to find vegan food and basically how to make sure you get what you want. Let me try to convince you that, contrary to common opinion, eating vegan in Cyprus is not that difficult.
So here are the things I ate in Cyprus, mostly in regular bars and restaurants:
HUMMUS, HUMMUS and more HUMMUS
As much as eating fries day after day scares the hell out of me, I could be eating hummus whole month long without getting bored. And in fact one of the best hummus I have ever had, was in Cyprus.
This currently world-famous paste made of mashed chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and sometimes tahini originally comes from Middle East. It is inevitable part of cuisine of all Mediterranean countries, the recipe differs between locations.
Cyprus version is served with a dash of olive oil, sprinkled with paprika and herbs, accompanied by pieces of pita bread.
STUFFED VINE LEAVES – Koupepia / Dolmades
This popular in Greek, Turkey and all Middle East dish traditionally contains rice with herbs and spices wrapped in delicate vine leaves. It can be served hot or cold. I prefer cold version with fragrant tomato sauce sprinkled with cilantro.
You have to be careful though, as in Cyprus there is a version containing meet, so always make sure the one you’re ordering is vegan.
A Greek version of popular ratatouille is common also in Cyprus. Oven baked delicious mix of sliced eggplants and courgettes, chunks of potatoes, tomatoes onion and various herbs make a great and nutritious vegan meal.
EGGPLANT DIP – Melitzanosalata / Baba ghanoush
Baked in the oven, or preferably over an open fire eggplant is mashed with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and seasoning. This fragrant dish is often served with bread or pita. My favorite version is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Healthy, beautiful and delicious!
I love my beans, and I was very happy to see so many beans and legumes dishes in Cyprus. Broad beans baked with thick tomato paste and bay leaves, green lentils in thick sauce, chickpeas with veggies and tomatoes, the list goes on and on. If you don’t believe me just look at the picture of Zorbas menu later in this post I’ve never seen so many lagumes dishes in one place, all of them taste different.
This Cypriot dish, best described as salad consisting mainly of blacked-eyed beans, oil, lemon, salt and pepper is often served with boiled courgettes or chards. Simple, healthy and full of protein. Yeeey! That’s what vegans love !
If you love Mediterranean Cuisine just like I do check out the recipes from ‘The Mediterannean Vegan Kitchen’:
and ‘Mediterranean Diet for Vegans’
Nutritious soup made of broad beans, onions and sometimes other veggies based on tomato and olive oil. Just like hummus, it’s very popular in whole Mediterranean area, having many local varieties.
I don’t think I need to introduce falafel to any vegan. Ok, it’s not typical Cypriot dish, but with such proximity to Lebanon and Israel, there’s no wonder falafel is easy to find in Cyprus.
I know I was supposed to write about dishes not restaurants here, but I wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t share with you this great find in Larnaca – tiny falafel bar. If you happen to have some time in Larnaka, make sure you visit FALAFEL Abu Dany.
The owner is a very nice guy, who makes everything from scratch and even creates his own spice recipes. If you ask for spicy Falafel India he will ask you how spicy should it be from 1 to 10. I dared to say 7! Uff! If you’re not used to really spicy cuisine stay below 5. Just take a look at the menu – isn’t it a vegans paradise?
It is a Cypriot version of popular Geek salad, that consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, lettuce, peppers, onion, capers and seasoning.
I know, I also get irritated when proposed a salad when I want a hearty vegan meal, especially when I’m really hungry. But if you ask for a full size version (not the one they often include with meze) and you combine it with bowl of hummus and pita bread, you get delicious, filling and healthy meal.
Village salad, also called country or peasant salad, often contains feta, so make sure to ask for a version without it. (Don’t just say ‘please make it vegan’, instead say ‘please don’t add cheese/feta’ – more about this aspect of ordering later).
Traditional selection of hot and cold appetizers – Meze is similar in its concept to Spanish tapas. Meze contains small portions of various dishes, some of them hot, others cold.
What are vegan components of Meze?
Tahini – a paste made with crushed sesame seeds, olive oil and sometimes lemon.
Eggplant dip and Hummus – of course !
Olives – big green olives (quite salty), tiny brown olives (more delicate and almost sweet), olives in spicy brine with peppers, man I’m already drooling!
Salad – usually village salad or beans salad
Pita bread or other flatbread – you need it to dig into those delicious dips.
VARIOUS SANDWICHES AND VEGGIEBURGERS
Sandwiches and burgers are quite common, especially in modern bars and pubs popular among young people. First evening in Larnaca in the first bar we went to we found those delicacies – sandwich with tahini, grilled mushrooms, arugula and fresh veggies accompanied by nachos.
Veggieburger with tahini sauce and fresh salad with quinoa. It does not hurt to ask if the burger wasn’t made with eggs, as many veggieburgers are (don’t ask me why). This of course was totally plant based and delicious 🙂
TRADITIONAL CYPRIOT COFFEE
This vegan foodie guide wouldn’t be complete without mention of Cypriot Coffee. Brewed in special copper pot from fresh ground Brazilian beans, it’s arguably one of the best variants of coffee I have ever tried. Sugar is added before brewing, so you will be asked how sweet you want your coffee to be. I choose the medium sweet, and despite the fact that I normally drink my coffee with no sugar, it was a good choice.
Because of the special way the coffee is brewed a delicious froth forms on the surface. It’s a strong coffee, so this small cup is really sufficient. You will get it with complimentary glass of cold water. Oh, just looking at the picture I feel the aroma – it’s unforgettable!
Since we mentioned coffee, let’s also look at some sweet options.
EATING VEGAN IN CYPRUS: SWEETS
Known also as a Turkish delight it’s a mix of sugar, water, starch that looks and tastes like a jelly. Popular additions include: rose water, almonds, nuts, vanilla. It’s usually covered with even more powdered sugar, so that the cubes do not stick together.
It’s a sweet preserve made of nuts or various fruits, which are basically soaked and boiled in sugar syrup. This extremely sweet delicacy is usually served with glass of cold water. I wonder why…?
When I first saw it I thought it’s really weird. A jelly or pudding made of grape juice and flour cooked until stiff and accompanied with crushed nuts or almonds. I can’t tell you how does it taste like. It is one of those foods (like baked chestnuts) that you need to try and decide for yourself if you love or hate it.
Ok, one more time about the place not a dish, but you’re gonna thank me for that. Zorbas, called by locals The Bakery, is in fact half bakery half ‘eatery’ where you can get both delicious bread and variety of Cypriot dishes. Our friend introduced this place to us as the ultimate takeaway for local people. After trying the dishes for the first time we loved it so much that we visited it every second day and tried something different each time. It’s super affordable too, as two big lunch portions cost us around 10-12 EUR (I usually ate mine for lunch and dinner).
The dishes are pre-cooked and displayed in special heaters, so you always see what you get. Most of the vegetarian dishes are in fact vegan, only some of them have feta – but you can always ask very helpful staff about it. Additionally there’s a sandwich stand, where you also see all ingredients, so it’s easy to compose a nice and hearty pita with veggies or baguette.
Initially I thought it’s a unique place, but when I checked their website I discovered it’s actually a chain with dozens points in all major cities of Cyprus. Chain with tasty, affordable and healthy food that has so many vegan options? That’s what we like!
PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT EATING VEGAN IN CYPRUS
from someone who has been traveling as a vegetarian/vegan all of her adult life – that’s me 🙂
– order your food explicitly. Don’t expect that everyone knows what vegan means (especially in a meat-eating society). Yes, I know everyone working in gastronomy should know what vegan means, the chefs should know the difference between vegan and vegetarian and the waiters should not make those big-round eyes when you ask them what’s inside the dish. I also know the world is not a perfect place and in order to get what you want you need to ask for it clearly. By clearly I mean, explain what you eat and what you don’t eat.
– If you have doubts about presence of particular ingredient in the dish, don’t be shy to ask! I know many waiters make a strange face when you say vegan. Don’t say it! Instead just ask: “does this stew contain any meat or fish or egg or whatever..”?
– Don’t be afraid to say you’re allergic to something. Who cares if it’s true or not. They’re not going to perform tests on you, do they? They will surely treat your requirements more seriously, though. People in Europe are rather aware and concerned about allergies.
– Don’t be shy to ask to remove some ingredient from the dish, but be realistic about it. If you see that the salad or stew that you’d like to try contains cheese, just ask if it’s possible to prepare this dish without it. It’s also a good test to check if food is freshly cooked or prepared in the morning and served throughout the day. If it’s the second option I wouldn’t eat it anyway.
– Many vegetarian foods in Cyprus can be very easily made vegan, just by removing cheese. Fortunately most stews are made using olive oil, which is much more popular than butter.
– Many vegetarian dishes are actually vegan, but people just don’t know the difference and mark them as vegetarian in menu. Check the ingredient list or ask.
Is Cypriot cuisine meat-heavy? Yes, it is! Will you starve as a vegan in Cyprus? I hope I managed to convince you that you won’t.
Thankfully I had full fridge of food this weekend, as writing this post made me constantly hungry 🙂 I hope you enjoyed it and found some answers about eating vegan in Cyprus.
Make sure to check out my other post about Cyprus:
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