Kiev/Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, is one of my favorite cities that I visit frequently, at least a few times per year. There are just so many great things to do in Kiev and one of them is definitely a great food scene. While the Ukrainian cuisine is very much meat-oriented, there are some dishes that also vegetarians (like myself) and vegans can enjoy.
A fellow blogger, Ciara from Wellness Travel Diaries, prepared this Kiev food guide to the best vegan and vegetarian dishes. Be sure to write down all the best suggestions before your next trip to Kiev!
On the banks of the giant Dnieper River in Ukraine lies the beautiful capital of Kiev. Known for its enormous population, robust culture, and interesting centuries-long history, this capital has become a vibrant food haven for tourists and locals alike.
The pleasant landscape is littered with high line bluffs, culminating in an entrancing view of bell towers and sunlight golden domes above the intoxicating food aromas from the bustling city streets. Here you’ll find a plethora of inviting restaurants to explore for vegan diets, vegetarian folks and gluten-free eaters as well.
If you’re traveling to Kiev, Ukraine as a vegan or vegetarian, here are some delicious dishes you’ll want to keep your eye out for. Located in the capital are robust traditional dishes made for a vegan appetite or diverse dishes inspired from cuisines all over the globe.
From yummy vegan pizza topped high with cheese, to a hearty cup of borscht to warm you up on a cold winter’s night after visiting the beautiful Christmas markets in Kiev, the appealing food scene here is loaded with vegan and vegetarian options.
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Where to find the best Vegan food in town
While vegan food can be found roaming around each district, some districts do have more options than others. Understanding Kiev’s distinctive districts will help you track down the best possible vegan food in Kiev.
The unique history of the city’s districts dates back to 1810. During this time period, the city was split into four distinct neighborhood districts. Now, the city is split into 10 districts, with two informal districts existing between the natural subdivision of the Dnieper River.
With districts in mind, the best informal district to find the best vegan restaurants in Kiev, is on the right bank of the Dnieper River. Here you find seven out of the ten city neighborhoods— Podilskyi, Sviatoshynskyi, Pecherskyi, Obolon’skyi, Shevchenkivskyi, Solomianskyi, Holosiivskyi, Sviatoshynskyi.
Out of these city districts, Podilskyi, also called Podil, is hands down the best place to find vegan cuisine. There are full vegan restaurants, partial vegan restaurants, and those that have vegan options. If the restaurant is not fully vegan, almost all of the menu items are clearly labeled in English.
Also most of these places are allergy-friendly too, with gluten-free options available, as I am also a gluten-free traveler too.
Best vegetarian and vegan dishes in Kiev
While visiting Kiev, here a list of some of my favorite vegan dishes I tried:
Borscht is a traditional Ukrainian soup that’s made out of the deep purple beet root. It’s typically loaded with other robust root vegetables such as carrots and cabbage. However, the flavor pro-file, consistency, and root vegetable ratio varies according to the restaurant serving it.
The soup normally resembles an intense plum color from the beet root, but there is also green borscht where the beet root is forwent in the recipe. Both versions are excellent choices!
I found myself eating borscht several times per week during my stay. It was a great way to warm up during the winter season in Kiev.
Ever versatile, this plant-based soup can be served hot or cold, and is traditionally topped with a generous dollop of sour cream. This can be taken off for vegans, or kept for a delicious vegetarian friendly-soup.
Likewise, you’ll also find the soup garnished or made with some sort of lemon or vinegar. The soup is naturally sweet in flavor from the beet, so a splash of an acidic substance counterbalances the sweetness for an optimal tastebud explosion.
Kabab and Shawarma
Kabab and shawarma aren’t a typical Ukrainian dish, but I wanted to include this because Kiev’s food scene is extremely diverse. While this typically street food is found in most European countries, Kiev bears some palatable vegan shawarma.
The shawarma can be enjoyed while leisurely strolling through Kiev’s downtown, or by relishing this dish in an modern and trendy restaurant.
The dish — a fresh warm pita bread, served with highly seasoned vegan shawarma, doused moderately with a creamy vegan dressing and a mild tomatoey sauce. Atop of the dish is freshly cut vegetables, and crisp romaine lettuce. It can be a tempting combination for a quick eat, and for those wanting a sit-down experience.
I recommend visiting Anahata Fine Foods, as they also have gluten-free options to select, and the location is in a neat part of Kiev. If you’re gluten-free they can replace the pita with quinoa, or another substitute. Place your order at the counter, then sit down and enjoy this sapid dish in the cosy underground Metrograd mall.
Nalisniki — a cross between a thin buttery crepe and a fluffy thick pancake — this tasty and popular Ukrainian dish stands out. It’s a sweet dish you’ll find all over the city and sold in high demand once the Christmas markets in Kiev open up for the holiday season.
While the outside consist of a thin pancake slowly cooked to perfection, the inside is typically loaded with sweet fillings.
Traditionally, this delectable dishes sweet fillings are a mixture of raisins and cottage cheese. However other variations with different types of cheese can be found, along with a generous coating of powdered sugar, dollops of sweet jam, and more.
Another sweet and tasty dish to try in Kiev is syrniki. This sweet dish is a sweet-breakfast fanatic’s dream come true.
It consists of a four main ingredients: sugar, eggs, cottage cheese, and flour. Once combined these ingredients are formed into a flat circle then lightly fried for an aromatic and fluffy taste. After they are cooked, beautiful mounds of sour cream (hold for the vegans) and jam are generously placed atop the syrniki.
Pickled vegetables are a traditional Ukrainian food that can be found everywhere throughout the city. For instance, it’s found at different restaurants, served at Kiev’s Christmas markets during the winter holiday, and at local grocery stores.
Traditionally, the most well-known pickled vegetable is sauerkraut. It’s a healthy dish made of thinly sliced cabbage and carrots that have been fermented, an excellent choice for any wellness traveler wanting to eat some great natural bacteria for optimal gut health.
Another pickled vegetable dish you’ll find in Kiev is sauerkraut made with beetroot, and pickles. Each of the dishes can also be found easily throughout the city, and are both quite delicious with a unique crunchiness from the pickle, and salty-sweet tanginess from the sauerkraut with beetroot.
Additionally, holubtsi is another dish to try in Kiev. This dish consists of finely wrapped cabbage rolls that have been cooked tenderly and glutted to the brim with tasty vegetables and rice.
Similar to pigs in a blanket, vegan style, these cabbage rolls are an excellent choice when bracing the chilly days in the city. The subtle warming sensations, comforting textures, and mild flavors create a notable food experience.
While holubtsi can be vegan or vegetarian, there are meat options as well. If you’re not visiting a vegan restaurant, double-check with the server, as the vegan and meat options look exactly the same.
Normally I wouldn’t include a burger on the top vegan food list, because they can be found almost anywhere. However, the burgers I devoured while dining at trendy restaurants in Kiev were tender in texture and had a lightly charred aroma. They’re excellent options when dining around because most restaurants will have some type of vegan burger option, making it easy to eat at vegan restaurants and restaurants with vegan options alike.
One of the best restaurants to grab a vegan burger topped high with fresh-cut romaine, crisp pickles and other fresh veggies of your choice is the chic restaurant called Murmur.
Murmur is a incredible rooftop restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining space. It has an astonishing terrace where you can relax, eat, and soak up the skyline of Kiev.
Lastly is the famous potato pancake that can be found all over Ukraine. Deruni is another traditional Ukrainian dish that’s naturally vegetarian.
It’s a mixture of freshly grated potatoes, flour and onion that’s combined with an egg, then served with a side of creamy sour cream. Although this dish is not fully vegan because of the egg, I wanted to include it because it’s one of the most recognized foods in the entire country and is often mentioned by Ukrainian writers.
Some vegan restaurants may have this beloved Ukrainian dish as a vegan option, just double-check at the restaurant, then give it a try!
Other delicious dishes to try
- Banush – a dish that consists of cheese, corn grits, animal fat and topped with sour cream
- Okroshka – a summer soup made with kefir
- Paska – a giant sweet and tasty bread
- Kapusniak (vegetarian or meat options) – traditional soup made with mushroom broth for vegetarians, carrots, onions, potatoes
- Varenyky (vegetarian or meat options) – dumplings made with sweet or savory fillings
Final thoughts on Kiev food scene
Beyond the golden lit domes, the enormous Dnieper River, and intriguing history, the impressive food scene in Kiev is another area the city shines brightly in. If you’re traveling to Kiev as a vegan, there’s a multitude of splendid restaurants to seek out and try. From a classic vegan burger to traditional Ukrainian borscht, Kiev is a yummy haven for vegans.
About the author: Ciara is wellness travel blogger, personal trainer and travel coach. She’s a SoCal native who loves to travel the globe with her husband and find new ways to feel happy and healthy. Through a blend of fitness, nutrition, and personal development tips — her travel blog, Wellness Travel Diaries helps your mind, body, and soul take a vacation too. When she’s not traveling, you’ll find her playing frisbee with friends or eating a giant bowl of dark chocolate ice cream. You can follow Ciara on Instagram, on Pinterest and Twitter @WellnessTravelD.
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