10 Serbian Fasting Foods You Must Try (And Why They’re Great for Vegans)

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10 Serbian Orthodox Fasting Foods You Must Try

Serbian Orthodox fasting is a tradition that’s often misunderstood outside Serbia. The word “fasting” in this case doesn’t mean that Serbs don’t eat anything at all.

Instead, it just means that they abstain from eating certain foods that are prohibited by the Serbian Orthodox Church at particular times of the year, the most important of which is the 46-day Lenten fast leading up to Easter.

So, what are these foods that are avoided during Serbian Orthodox fasting periods? Meat, eggs and dairy products. Sound familiar?

Apart from honey and aquatic animals, the foods eaten during Serbian Orthodox fasting periods are all vegan! Which means that Lent is the perfect time of year for vegans to explore this otherwise meat-loving country.

My good friends Caitlin from The Vegan Word and Sam from Alternative Travelers will be doing just that on their upcoming #VeganLentTour of Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro.

When Caitlin asked me if I had any tips on vegan food in these countries, I realized that now was the time to pull out all those notes I’d scribbled down on Serbian Orthodox fasting foods during my four trips to Serbia and actually make a blog post out of them.

Despite the abundance of vegan graffiti in downtown Belgrade, the concept of veganism is still not that well-known in Serbia. For that reason, you’re probably better off asking for “fasting food” rather than “vegan food”, and then stating that you also don’t eat honey or “seafood”.

Whereas nistisimo is the magic word for vegan fasting food in Greece, in Serbia the word to remember is “posna”. Actually, word endings change a lot in Serbian, so you might also see fasting dishes labeled as “posno” or “posni”.

In any case, here are 10 posna (or is it posni?) dishes that you definitely don’t want to miss when you’re in Serbia, especially if you’re there during Lent or another Serbian Orthodox fasting period.

1. Ajvar

This spread made from roasted red bell peppers is popular throughout the Balkans and is sometimes referred to as “Serbian vegetable caviar”. The original ajvar is made with just four ingredients: roasted red peppers, oil, vinegar and salt. Sometimes eggplant, garlic and/or chili peppers are also added.

It can be eaten as a spread on bread or as a side dish. And, although this is not so traditional, I’ve even used it as a pasta sauce!

The custom is for families to prepare a big batch of ajvar in mid-autumn, which is then canned and eaten throughout the winter. Nowadays, you can find commercial varieties in any supermarket or local shop.

2. Prebranac

This baked bean dish is a staple in Serbian as well as Bosnian and Macedonian cuisine. Usually thought of as a winter dish, this casserole of caramelized onions and white beans is classic Serbian comfort food.

It can be served hot, cold or at room temperature, and, depending on the amount of water added, the consistency ranges from almost totally dry to a very thick sauce. It’s typically served with warm, crusty bread for mopping up.

3. Bećar Paprikaš

The main ingredients of this thick stew, also known as sataraš, are bell peppers, tomatoes and onions. It’s popular not just in Serbia but also in other countries of Central Europe, particularly Hungary. In fact, the Serbian name sataraš comes from the Hungarian szataras.

It’s typically served with rice, cheese and homemade bread, but it’s easy to ask for the cheese to be left off. And, if it’s being offered as a fasting dish, it won’t be served with cheese anyway.

4. Proja

This one takes me back to the southern homestyle cooking of Alabama, where I grew up. Who knew southern US cuisine would have something in common with the traditional fasting foods of Serbia?

Proja is a cornbread that can come in various shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s baked in individual muffin tins, and other times a big batch is baked as a single sheet and then sliced. It’s a common everyday meal in Serbia and is often served with sauerkraut (kiseli kupus in Serbian).

Cheese is sometimes mixed in to the cornbread batter, but if it’s the fasting version (posna proja) that won’t be the case. Just don’t confuse proja with projara, which is a fancier, non-vegan version that contains eggs and yoghurt.

5. Džuveč

This oven-baked vegetable stew is similar to the ratatouille eaten in southern France or the briám that’s popular in Greece. Just as the English word “casserole” can refer to a type of cooking vessel or the food cooked in that vessel, the name džuveč (also written as “đuveč”) refers to the earthenware pot in which the dish is traditionally prepared.

Džuveč does sometimes contain meat, but there are various fasting versions that feature vegetables such as string beans or leeks instead. The dish is also popular in Turkey, where the vegetable-only version is called türlü güveç.

5. Posna sarma

Sarma is a common dish found throughout the former Ottoman Empire but is especially popular in the Balkans. To prepare sarma, sour cabbage leaves, or sometimes other green leafy vegetables such as chard or grape vine leaves, are rolled around a filling.

Typically, that filling contains rice and various meats, but the fasting (posna) version of sarma is filled with rice and walnuts instead. Sarma is often served on a bed of sauerkraut and covered in a light tomato sauce.

7. Srpska Salata

This simple, fresh salad commonly features as a side dish at Serbian meals, especially in the summer months. It’s made with fresh chopped tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers and onions that are tossed with a liberal helping of vinaigrette dressing of oil, vinegar and dried herbs.

The salad is sometimes also seasoned with a type of hot pepper known as feferon, so if you don’t like your salads spicy be sure to ask for the feferon to be left off.

8. Posni Burek

This flaky pastry is a favorite breakfast item in Serbia, and it’s also popular among young Serbs in the wee hours of the morning after a long night of partying.

While meet and cheese are the most common fillings, there are also fasting varieties (posni burek) that are completely vegan. These may be filled with mushrooms, potatoes, or even apples or sour cherries. Alternatively, the prazan or empty burek with no filling is also a vegan option.

Burek can come in various shapes and sizes, from the long, cigar-shaped ones in the picture above to the round burek that was first developed in the town of Niš, where a burek festival and competition called the Buregdžijada is held each year.

9. Čorba od pečuraka

This thick and creamy mushroom soup often appears on menus in traditional Serbian cafés, known as cafanas. It’s hearty and warming, and, unlike some other fasting dishes, it’s easily found year-round in Serbia, even outside of fasting periods.

10. Posna Pogača

The rustic bread known as pogača comes in large, round loaves with a soft crust and is a favorite in Serbia and throughout the Balkans. Unfortunately, the traditional recipe is nowhere close to being vegan, as it calls for milk, butter, eggs, AND sour cream. Eeek!

You might be wondering why all those bodily secretions are needed just to make bread? Well, they aren’t, of course, and thankfully there’s also a fasting version of this bread known as posna pogača. This one is much simpler, as it’s made with just water, yeast, salt, sugar and oil.

So, grab a loaf of posna pogača and smear it with ajvar, or use it to scoop up those last few beans in a big dish of prebranac. The Serbian Orthodox fasting time is more like feasting time for vegans!

Even if you don't see any of these dishes on the menu, you can always ask for "posna hrana" (fasting food).  This is a phrase that staff at any restaurant in the whole country will understand, and they will almost always be happy to prepare something for you that's not on the menu.

When it comes to vegan foods that are part of the Serbian Orthodox fasting tradition, these 10 are really just the tip of the iceberg. On my most recent trip to Serbia, I bought a whole cookbook full of fasting recipes.

OK, so I can't actually read it because it's in Serbian, but I can tell by flipping through it that there are dozens if not hundreds more vegan dishes in traditional Serbian cuisine. If you've discovered others in your travels, let me know in the comments below (I'm looking at you, Caitlin and Sam)!

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About Wendy Werneth

Intrepid traveler, vegan foodie and animal lover. I uncover vegan treasures all around the world, so you can be vegan anywhere and spread compassion everywhere.


  1. Oh wow Wendy, this is great. Thanks so much for sharing this information — I’m getting really excited to try all these yummy-looking foods! Those beans especially look so hearty and comforting. I’ll be sure to let you know what else we find there! 😀

  2. Proja looks Amazing! I’m going to have to try making it.

  3. Hi Wendy&all,

    as a Hungarian I would like to note that I do not recognise the word szataras at all. I’ve never heard it, and a quick Google search didn’t really bring up anything useful either (in this context. I did get tons of results related to this dish 🙂 ). The word may have been existing in Hungarian in the past, but not today (or if it does, that must be very region-specific and marginal).

    The Hungarian name of the dish described is lecsó (pronounced something like “let-shaw”), and while it is indeed commonly served with rice or bread here in Hungary, I have never seen or heard of anyone eating it with cheese. However, it has a common variant that contains eggs, so if a vegan would like to try this dish in Hungary, they have to make sure it’s not called tojásos lecsó (where tojásos – “toy-ah-shosh” maybe 🙂 – indicates that the dish contains eggs). My experience is that when it’s not called tojásos lecsó it’s not made with eggs, but it’s still worth asking, better safe than sorry 🙂

    Hope this helps 🙂

  4. What has motivated you to visit Serbia four times?

    • Good question! I’ll be honest, it’s not one of my top favorite countries, but life keeps taking me back there. The first time I went with a friend who grew up there, and we visited her family. Then years later I went back for her wedding. A mutual friend of ours met a Serbian woman at that wedding and fell in love, and a couple of years later I went back for HIS wedding! And the fourth time, I’m honestly not sure why I chose Serbia. My husband and I needed a break and were looking for flights for a quick getaway, and Belgrade was what came up.

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