S is for South Tyrol – where there’s no shortage of delicious vegan food!


VEGAN WORLD TRIP

S is for South Tyrol – where there’s no shortage of delicious vegan food!

South Tyrol – an Italian region with plenty of character

The region of South Tyrol in northern Italy really is picture perfect! It is a region of superlatives, and many people come here because of the incredible natural landscapes. The valleys around Bolzano and Merano can be wonderfully charming. They will beguile you with apple blossom everywhere in springtime, with lush green in the summertime accompanied by the sound of cowbells from the neighboring Alpine pastures, and with ripe grapes from numerous grape vines in the fall. And once you get to the mountains, things get even more spectacular. Breathtaking peaks, raging mountain streams bubbling with clear water, and snow-covered mountains of more than 2000m or 3000m in height really do look like something out of an idyllic storybook illustration. They are punctuated by pretty villages here and there, inviting mountain huts, and hospitable people who live in close proximity to nature. If you explore this special part of Italy with us, you’ll discover that all this plentiful nature and hospitality can be found in the region’s traditional food, too. So, why not come with us on a voyage of indulgence to South Tyrol? You’re in for a few yummy vegan surprises, too!

Arriving in South Tyrol – indulgence within arm’s reach

The early start was worth it. We get there in record time… and no sooner have we crossed over the Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy, when we see some of the fantastic landscapes that South Tyrol is famous for: green Alpine pastures, the Eisack Valley, sun-kissed vineyards and, towering over it all, the majestic peaks of the Dolomites. All our senses are deliciously awake, and our eyes can hardly get enough. This special paradise, which has both Austrian and Italian influences and while also retaining its very own character, an authentic atmosphere and self-confident inhabitants, attracts not only fans of Alpine sports, but also those in search of great food and drink. And indulgence is in season all year round. If you, as a vegan, think that people in South Tyrol eat nothing but bacon, then all I can say is that that’s only half the truth. Because, recently, a lot has been changing – and a lot of people have been coming up with original ideas! So it’s definitely worth taking a closer look…

Mediterranean flair meets Alpine charm

South Tyrol and its cuisine thrive in the exciting space which exists between the first hints that the Mediterranean is near, and the rustic charm of the Alps – even if this does not always live up to our romanticized clichés of what life is like there. Especially when you take a stroll through Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol, you’ll often feel like you’re in central Italy. And you’ll hear plenty of Italian here, which doesn’t tend to be the case in the surrounding area. The South Tyroleans are proud of their German-speaking roots, and of their self-sufficiency. And in some valleys you might even come across the Ladin language.

But sit on the terraces of the cafés in Bolzano’s Piazza Walther with an espresso, a wonderfully fresh granita or an Aperol spritz (which, by the way, doesn’t contain any colorings made from insects) – and you’ll feel like you’re in the Mediterranean! The pretty little lanes in the old town also have plenty of Italian flair to offer – which, of course, you’ll also find in Vipiteno, Bressanone, Chiusa, Egna, Castelrotto and, of course, Merano. Merano has a long history of welcoming summer tourists and visitors to health resorts. It’s no wonder given the favorable microclimate the region enjoys, which also lets the botanic garden at Trauttmannsdorff Castle bloom.

If you like Italian cuisine, you’ll find vegan dishes at places like Pizzeria Marechiaro in Bolzano. Vegan lifestyles are becoming more and more popular here, which means that many restaurants and cafés now offer delicious vegan meals. See below for more recommendations. You can also get a fix of Mediterranean flair by taking a stroll through the markets in Bolzano, Vipiteno, Brunico, Caldaro, and other small towns.

Or if you fancy a contrast to “la dolce vita”, why not take a trip to see mountain villages and Alpine cabins for a completely different atmosphere?

Plant-based luxury in an Alpine cabin

South Tyrol is home to some breathtakingly high mountains. At almost 4000m, the Ortler is the region’s highest peak. With the Dolomites, the Ötztal, Sarntal and other Alps, this mountainous region is a veritable paradise for mountaineers, winter sports lovers and adventurers alike. And even though the tourism industry around here is extremely well organized, you’ll still manage to find hidden valleys and mountain villages which feel like they’re almost completely isolated from the rest of the world. However, the Alpine cabins with all their culinary specialties are by no means known exclusively to the locals. The cuisine here reflects mountain life – it’s straightforward and full of vitality! Of course, there’s plenty of traditional hearty fare on offer. But vegan foods are slowly making their way onto menus, so it’s worth asking what’s available. One tip to start with: the minestrone soup and vegetable soup in the cabins are as vegan as they are delicious.

There are more and more rays of hope for people following a vegan lifestyle – at least in higher end Alpine restaurants. These include the 100% vegan Steineggerhof (see below) in the idyllic Eggental Valley, or Hotel Briol in Barbiano – high up in the Eisack Valley with views over the Schlern and Sella mountains. Johanna Fink from Hotel Briol prefers serving meatless meals, and often serves vegan dishes such as their very popular lemon risotto, or polenta. Hotel Enzian in the legendary village of Seis am Schlern also says on its website that it caters for vegan needs.

To be on the safe side when you go for a mountain hike, pack a vegan picnic (known locally as “Marende”) that you’ve bought fresh, and set off to enjoy the view and the sunshine at the top! Other mountain treasures include a wide array of herbs – which can not only be made into tea, but can also make a healthy addition to or add the finishing touches to a range of delicious meals, such as soups or dumplings.

Simply veganize all your traditional favorites!

Talking of dumplings… Dumplings and apple strudel practically enjoy cult status when it comes to Alpine cuisine. And the vegan versions of these dishes are absolute hits! Dumplings work exceptionally well without egg and milk. And they’re great anytime: They go with soups, as a side dish for a salad, or taste amazing by themselves with a vegan alternative to butter and vegan Parmesan substitute. Veganized apple strudel is a quick and easy dessert which is ideal for fall and winter.

The basic recipe for the equally famous Mezzelune stuffed pasta is also vegan as standard (the German name – Schlutzkrapfen – is quite a tongue-twister!). The dough is made from wheat and rye flour. A variety of fillings are possible. Why not make a plant-based filling? Maybe with spinach and an alternative to ricotta, or with pumpkin?

And if we may, another audacious question: Why not try vegan bacon? Because, after all, South Tyrol is pretty much synonymous with bacon. You can eat it at any meal from breakfast to supper. So if you don’t want to miss out on this taste experience, we recommend that you try out these delicious alternatives to bacon. You’ll be surprised how similar to the original they taste! Simply serve with Schüttelbrot (a crisp rye bread often spiced with caraway or fennel seeds) and perhaps a glass of vegan wine … and there you have it: a truly South Tyrolean gourmet experience!

What is “Törggelen”, and can you enjoy it if you’re vegan?

 “Törggelen” may be a bit of a mouthful if you don’t speak German, but it’s also a South Tyrolean custom which is popular with tourists every fall. The word comes from the Latin “torculus”, which means “wine press”. And, yet again, of course, eating and drinking are involved! Typically, grape must and young wines are served. They’re accompanied by chestnuts (“Keschtn”), nuts and a whole host of bacon and sausages. But the meal wouldn’t be complete without some wonderful rye bread, cabbage, and … you guessed it… some dumplings!

Vegans can enjoy the action in the traditional “Buschenschank” wine taverns, even if it has to be limited to a glass of wine and a few nibbles. We can recommend the winemaking villages of Appiano and Caldaro. The Röck Winery in the Eisack Valley even offers some vegan alternatives on its Törggelen menu: beetroot tartare, fermented chestnuts, pumpkin soup, spinach dumplings, Mezzelune stuffed pasta (Schlutzkrapfen), as well as sweet doughnuts.

If you fancy trying out “Vinschgerlen”, also known as “Vinschger Paarlen” – crispy and flavorful double flatbread rolls made from rye and wheat flour with caraway, fennel seeds and blue fenugreek – in the place they originate from, why not go to the Vinschgau region, somewhere between the Reschen Pass and Val Martello? It sometimes seems like there is an endless number of valleys in South Tyrol.

And once you’ve enjoyed Törggelen in the fall, winter can begin! If you’re a winter sports fan, we’d recommend Corvara, Brunico in the Kronplatz/Plan de Corones region, and Urtijëi. If you’re planning a holiday to the region, why not have a look at some of our recommendations?

South Tyrol’s 11 best restaurants and other places for enjoying great vegan food

  1. La Vimea – Italy’s first vegan and organic hotel, established in 2016, is situated in South Tyrol – or, to be more precise, in the Vinschgau area mentioned above.
    Make sure you try the plant-based breakfast or brunch!
  2. The Steineggerhof hotel in the Eggental valley also has a vegan restaurant.
  3. The Alpiana Hotel in Lana near Merano serves vegan meals in its gourmet restaurant, Nutris.
  4. Röck Winery, on the way to the Alpe di Villandro, offers vegan dishes to be enjoyed with Törggelen. Please ask and make your wishes known in advance.
  5. The Hochfeiler Hütte cabin in the Zillertal Alps has vegan food available, as joint tenants Lena and Ivan are vegans themselves. It’s always best to reserve a table in advance and indicate that you’ll require vegan dishes.
  6. For a restaurant in beautiful verdant surroundings with great vegan options, why not try the Brix 0.1 in Bressanone?
  7. You can find vegan ice cream varieties at Happy Ice in Merano, or at Sammy’s Eislabor in Tirolo.
  8. You’ll find vegan dishes on the menu at Sooo Chic, as well as a great atmosphere and wonderful panoramic view. It’s no coincidence that it’s in the trendy Val Gardena valley.
  9. Roberts Stube im Felsenkeller in Tirolo also has vegan dishes on the menu. Serving slow food is part of its ethos.
  10. Vegabula Brunico is a project run by the catering and hotel management school in Brunico. Delicious vegan food is available here four times a week at lunchtime (Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri). 
  11. And if you’re in Bolzano and fancy a takeaway, why not try the Philiaz takeaway or the Rockin Beets delivery service?

And if you want to put together your own South Tyrolean picnic, why not try…

8 recommendations for a plant-based South Tyrolean “Brotzeit” picnic

Schüttelbrot and Vinschgauer (crispy spiced rye breads)

Vegan alternative to bacon

Vegan alternative to cheese or soft cheese with herbs

Sun-drenched tomatoes or tomato spreads

A slaw that’s as healthy as it is delicious

Vegan dumplings are wonderful eaten cold with a dip, or as a side dish to serve with a salad.

Almost) last but not least, apples from South Tyrol, a region which is famed for this fruit! Make sure you look out for organic ones!

And to top it all off, how about a piece of buckwheat tart?

South Tyrol is a source of inspiration with its delicacies that encapsulate both the Alps and the Mediterranean

There’s certainly room for improvement in terms of the vegan food on offer in the bacon lovers’ heaven that is South Tyrol. Nonetheless, plant-based food is becoming ever more popular. Young chefs in particular seem to be inspired by the idyllic surroundings to create amazing new dishes, as well as new plant-based interpretations of traditional dishes. All of which just makes South Tyrol even more attractive as a region!

Recipes

South Tyrolean cuisine has given us plenty of inspiration, too, so we decided to veganize some of our favorite dishes for you! In no time at all, this food will transport you to South Tyrol – whether you’re looking for an Alpine or Mediterranean feeling!