10 Traditional Slovak Dishes You Must Try

Bryndza cheese is a highlight in many Slovak dishes | © Ajale/Pixabay
Bryndza cheese is a highlight in many Slovak dishes | © Ajale/Pixabay
Slovakia enjoys a prime location in Central Europe, surrounded by Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Ukraine. Historically, Slovakia was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later was joined together with the Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia. Due to Slovakia’s central location and complex history, many Slovak dishes also exist in surrounding countries. But almost always, Slovaks have added their own special twist to their local cuisine. While you can get dumplings in any Central European country, you can only find true bryndzové halušky in one place: Slovakia. Bon appétit, or Dobrú chuť!

Dumplings with sheep cheese (Bryndzové halušky)

This is Slovakia’s national dish – so if you can only try one Slovak food, make it this one! Bryndzové refers to the high-quality, creamy, soft, locally produced sheep cheese that is unique to Slovakia. Although this type of cheese is also produced in neighboring countries, each country has its own special recipe, and Slovaks are especially proud of theirs. The cheese is served on top of halušky, or potato dumplings, very similar to Italian gnocchi. Finally, to create the best possible combination, pieces of smoked bacon and sausage are typically sprinkled on top.

You must try bryndzové halušky while in Slovakia! © SoniaBelviso/Flickr

Pierogis stuffed with bryndza (Bryndzové pirohy)

Bryndza cheese makes another appearance in Slovakia’s take on a Polish classic – the pierogi. Slovaks stuff these potato dumplings with bryndza cheese, then slather sour cream on top, and finish it off again with pieces of fried bacon. This dish is often accompanied by a glass of žinčica, sour sheep’s milk. With a tangy fermented taste, it’s not for everyone, but definitely worth a try!

Cabbage soup (Kapustnica)

Cabbage soup makes an appearance at every traditional Christmas dinner, but is also enjoyed year round as an appetizer before the main meal. Sauerkraut is mixed into a creamy base with boiled potatoes, mushrooms, chopped ham, paprika, black pepper, and garlic. The soup is served warm, and together with freshly baked bread it is very filling on its own.

Kapustnica © Marciarka/Wikimedia Commons

Pork with dumplings and cabbage (Vepřo knedlo zelo)

Stewed cabbage accompanies soft pieces of pork covered in garlic next to knedle, or bread dumplings, for this Slovak classic. Knedle is a different type of dumpling – it looks similar to a loaf of bread. You are often served four or five pieces with your pork. The dumpling is very soft and delicate, and it absorbs the juicy flavors from the meat and garlic, making it irresistible!

Goulash soup (Gulášová polievka)

Here’s another food that takes on a variety of modifications in many Central and Eastern European countries. In Slovakia, it usually consists of beef, onions, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and a spice mixture. This food is very popular at sporting events and is often cooked in a cauldron over an open fire. You can find goulash soup next to the courts at a tennis tournament or at the finish line of a 5K race. The intoxicating smell lures you in as the soup cooks for several hours. The perfect way to get your energy back after skiing at Jasná Nízke Tatry.

Slovak goulash is typically cooked over an open fire © erge/Pixabay

Fried cheese with French fries and tartar sauce (Vyprážaný syr)

Allow the inner child in you to shine through as you enjoy this thoroughly unhealthy but thoroughly delicious treat. The only way to eat this dish is accompanied by a velký pivo, or large beer, or perhaps even two. This dish is perfect after having spent hours paddling down the Hron River or descending a challenging trail in the Tatras. The type of cheese used is typically Edam, and pickles often accompany this dish to embellish the salty flavors.

Schnitzel (Vyprážaný rezeň)

Pork as made popular by Wiener schnitzel, or fried pork from Vienna. Just as in Austria, you will find different varieties of schnitzel on the menu at almost every restaurant. A thin slice of pork is first tenderized and then fried with bread crumbs. A mayonnaise-based potato salad is often served as the side dish. If you want to take your schnitzel experience up a notch, order bačovský rezeň, which is schnitzel topped with ham and melted cheese.

Schnitzel is a Central European classic © Hans/Pixabay

Potato pancakes (Zemiakové placky)

These are often given to schoolchildren as an after school snack, but are also served a side dish or an accompaniment to soup. The best potato pancakes are fried in good quality oil and are crunchy on the outside but are gooey on the inside. They should be eaten warm with sour cream, kefir, or soured milk.

Funnel cake (Trdelnik)

Funnel cakes are amazing in winter, served warm at a Christmas market with a mug of mulled wine. The sugar and cinnamon melt delicately in your mouth, and the cake gives you energy to spend hours walking in Bratislava’s Old Town. But recently Slovaks have adapted the funnel cake to include a summer variety – one that is served with vanilla ice cream stuffed inside. Now you can enjoy this Slovak traditional dessert year round!

Trdelník © Jorge González/Flickr

Slovak pancakes (Slovenske palacinky)

The dessert version of pancakes! These are really just crêpes…with all sorts of lovely fillings. The doughy crêpes are thin and melt in your mouth when served warm and layered with homemade apricot jam. Strawberry jam, hazelnut spread, powdered sugar, and cinnamon are other popular accompaniments. The perfect way to end a meal on a balmy afternoon in Košice.