Want to try Armenian food that is vegetarian? Even though many consider the Armenian cuisine to be heavy in meat and dairy, there are plenty of plant-based food options here. I’m sharing my selection of tasty Armenian vegetarian dishes. At the end I’ll also guide you a bit on where to try these delicious veggie meals in Armenia. If you find this post helpful please share your tasty tips with me on Twitter and Instagram with #ArmeniaTravelTips.
Armenian cuisine, just like other components of its culture, has been heavily merged with that of nations Armenians have lived next to. That influence is expressed in most dishes, ways and styles of cooking and food-related traditions. And up to now there are many arguable points on the origins of certain dishes. After all, what’s important is that the cuisine’s best dishes and traditions live on.
In reality, it’s interesting that the Armenian cuisine can’t be described as more meat or plant-based. It’s both at the same time offering a great selection to each taste.
Vegetarian food in the Armenian cuisine
The Armenian Highlands, the historic territory where Armenians have lived since the beginning of their history, is rich and prosperous. Armenians have always made use of the natural resources that the local geography offered. From the perspective of cuisine, this refers to a large number of plant-based food options and spices, as well as herbs used in medicine. Armenians consume large amounts of plant-based food and have even developed plant-based versions of many non-vegetarian dishes.
If you’re a vegetarian or just a foodie that would like to also taste some plant-based dishes, I’ve prepared a must-try list for you. Some of the names in the list may be very hard to pronounce, that’s why I also included the Armenian-letter versions in case you want to copy and show when ordering. If you also want to know more about how to make some things smoother in Armenia without knowing the language, I have a dedicated post on that.
Salads, dishes and soups with greens
Apart from being used in salads, greens are widely used as the main ingredient in many dishes and soups. You will probably think that a spinach omelet is not an unusual thing, but what about greens you’ve never heard of. All these greens are widely used in omelets in Armenia, but also in many very interesting egg-free dishes. The thing is, many of these herbs grow in Armenia, and not much elsewhere. And that’s why they’re not widely known and used outside of Armenia.
Salad with seebekh, fried seebekh with eggs
Armenian name of the plant: seebekh [սիբեխ]
Seebekh (Lat.: Falcaria falcarioides) is among the rare and endangered species of the world. Armenia is home for it, so it’s growing here in large quantities. There has been only one occurrence of finding this plant in Turkey. So you may consider yourself lucky if you happen to try it here. During the season it’s freely sold everywhere in Armenia.
Armenian name of the plant: Pippert [փիփերթ]
Mallow (Lat.: Malva) is not that rare, but very uncommon for foreigners to use in cuisine. Mallow soups with vegetable broth are a super delicious, fresh and light summertime meal.
Sorrel (Rumex family) salad with walnuts, Sorrel soup
Armenian name of the plant: A-ve-look [ավելուկ]
There are 12 types of Rumex plants that grow in Armenia. The most common type is Common Sorrel, and it makes a perfect ingredient for salads, puddings, soups or stews.
The two most popular sorrel dishes that you can try basically anywhere are:
- Sorrel salad with fried onions, garlic, walnuts and pomegranate seeds.
- Sorrel soup with garlic and groats (kernels of various grains)
Nettle soup, fried nettles with eggs
Armenian name of the plant: Yegh-eenge [եղինջ]
Nettles are plants that can grow everywhere in the wild or in urban areas. They have stinging hairs that hurt and burn the skin. Gathering these is a very challenging task but be sure there’s a great meal ahead. Used by many slavic nations, as well as widely used in Iran, nettles have proven to be healthy not only as a food but also as a medicinal herb. From late March to late September, young nettles are widely available in all the regions of Armenia.
Emmer and mushroom pilaf
Armenian name of the dish: hajarov oo senkov plaf [հաճարով ու սնկով փլավ]
Emmer (hulled wheat) makes an ideal companion to mushrooms in a pilaf. This combination is an absolute must-try. Both grains and mushrooms have quite a mild taste together. Emmer wheat grains are healthy and keep you full for a long time. Most cafes and restaurants serve this pilaf, as it’s extremely popular among locals, and it takes little time to make.
Pronounced as: “pa-soots tol-ma” [պասուց տոլմա]
As I said earlier, Armenians have plant-based versions of almost all meat dishes. The most popular one is the vegetarian version of the world famous Armenian meat-and-rice dolma. This dish is made of all types of mouth-watering vegetables, grains and legumes and is a potential candidate for becoming your absolute favorite from this list. Typically, it comes in a form of a large cabbage leaf that wraps a stuffing made of chickpeas, lentil, beans, onion and several other vegetables.
Ghapama: stuffed pumpkin
Pronounced as: “gha-pa-ma” [ղափամա]
This is a traditional Armenian dessert which explodes in your mouth with hundreds of flavors. From sweet to sour and neutral, every part of a bite leaves a special aftertaste. Ghapama is a pumpkin filled with rice, dried fruits, grains, nuts, seeds and honey. Traditionally this dessert is cooked in autumn, served during special holidays and celebrations like weddings, Christmas and other religious holidays. Ghapama is a symbol of abundance.
Where to try all these vegetarian dishes?
Many of the things mentioned in the list will be available at most cafes or restaurants, especially during the respective season. For instance, autumn to spring for the pumpkin dessert, spring to autumn for most greens. Some others will for sure be available throughout the whole year.
However, don’t just hope for getting into a restaurant and immediately finding exactly what you had in mind. It’s always better to prepare in advance and know where to go for each of these. That’s why I’ve shared my selection of 6 cafes and restaurants in Yerevan with delicious vegetarian foods earlier. If you decide to visit one, check the menu thoroughly, you might find another set of awesome foods to make up your own list of favorites.
And in case you are following a halal diet, check out another blogpost of mine on the restaurants where you can taste halal food. There are some overlaps between vegetarian foods and food that’s qualifies as halal for Muslims, so you might find some interesting options there.
Let’s wrap this up now…
As a real food enthusiast, I ought to go now and try cooking something from the list. And I’ll leave the tasting experience to your imagination until you try these foods yourself. Take your time, look up other ingredients and decide for yourself which of these you’d like to taste. And when you do, don’t forget to share your thoughts and experiences with me on Twitter and Instagram with #ArmeniaTravelTips.
Featured image credit: Einladung_zum_Essen on Pixabay