Vegetarian food in Uzbekistan – a guide for vegetarian travellers

Tukhum Barak pasta in Khiva

We have been travelling to Uzbekistan for nearly 20 years. During our first visit in 2004, finding vegetarian food in Uzbekistan was quite a challenge. Few shops even had refrigerators to store any fresh food. The standard diet consisted of bread and meat. Even now, Uzbekistan’s national dishes are rice pilaf with mutton (plov), meat kebabs, and meat-filled pastries (somsa). But things changed for the better over the years. Read what you can expect in terms of vegetarian food in Uzbekistan in 2022.

The vegetarian basics – Bread and Salad

Bread, or non is the ubiquitous food in Uzbekistan. It comes with every meal and is almost always fresh and tasty. Another mainstay for any vegetarian in Uzbekistan is achikchuk, a tomato salad with onions and sometimes cucumbers. Well, definitely there’s always tomatoes, and they are very intense, sweet, and tasty. Over the years we have had many dinners consisting of bread and tomatoes, with luck complemented with yogurt or eggs.

Vegetarian breakfasts in Uzbekistan

Vegetarian Uzbek breakfast at Samarkand Antica Guesthouse
The best breakfast in Uzbekistan: at the Antica Guesthouse in Samarkand

For vegetarian travellers in Uzbekistan breakfast, especially in private guesthouses, might be the best meal of the day. In almost all hotels and guesthouses, fried eggs and bread are the mainstay for breakfast. If you are vegetarian it is worth to ask if they can do something different instead (otherwise you will end up with fried eggs most days). Often the alternative to eggs is kasha. This can be a kind of porridge from various grains, or a sweet milky rice porridge. In family homestays, there is a good chance to get also home-made marmalades, pancakes, or some kind of vegetable buns.

Traditional Uzbek food and its vegetarian versions

Much to our delight, recently the traditional Uzbek food is sometimes also available in a vegetarian version. At least this is true in the more touristy cities like Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva. Even Uzbeks enjoy somsa filled with potato or pumpkin instead of meat. Unfortunately often they still taste of mutton fat. Manti, a kind of stuffed ravioli, are sometimes offered with pumpkin, cabbage or potato filling too. The vegetarian laghman (noodle) you will find on several menus are more tricky. Usually this means that someone picked out the meat – and there will be still some small pieces of meat in the soup. We also tried the vegetarian plov on several occasions, but found it a bit bland: more like rice with vegetables. It seems that the special taste in plov comes from the meat.

The vegetarian delights of Khiva

The town of Khiva in the Northern province of Khorezm offers two regional specialities that are (almost) vegetarian: Tukhum Barak and Shivit Osh. Tukhum Barak are egg-filled ravioli-style noodles that are served with a rich yoghurt sauce. In fact they are somewhat bigger than ravioli and Germans may find them reminiscent of Maultaschen. Shivit Osh are green dill noodles served with some tomato sauce with meat, as well as potatoes and yoghurt. As the sauce usually comes in a small extra pot, this dish can easily be adjusted to vegetarians. These two dishes make for great vegetarian food in Uzbekistan.

What to order if there is no vegetarian food on the menu

If you are travelling in non-touristy, more rural places there will be less choice of vegetarian food in Uzbekistan. Recently fast-food has become quite popular, especially Turkish dishes. In bigger cities like Karshi or Termez you should be able to find a pizza or pide without meat. During our last trip had some tasty cheese-honey pide in the Fergana valley. Even in the most remote Uzbek countryside, there will always be non and achikchuk (see above). Other things you could ask for are French fries (fri) with sauce (a red tomato sauce, not really ketchup). A plate of garnir consists of several side dishes, like fries, buckwheat porridge, rice and such. It makes for a good emergency option of vegetarian food in Uzbekistan.

Foreign restaurants

The only place in Uzbekistan where you will find foreign restaurants is Tashkent. Georgian restaurants have a long tradition in Uzbekistan and offer many vegetarian dishes, such as Khachapuri (a bit like a very cheesy pizza) and Kinkali (dumplings filled with cheese or mushroom). Indian restaurants are obviously also a good choice for vegetarians. Tashkent has a huge Korean population. While the Korean cuisine is heavily meat-based too, the Korean restaurants usually have some tofu and vegetable dishes, several pickles, rice and vegetarian (cold) noodle soup on the menu (the soup is called kuksu). You will also find it on menus in the Chimgan Mountains in summer.

Diet Cafés

During our latest research trips we found that canteen-style self-service cafés with many vegetable dishes are becoming increasingly popular. They are called “diet café” although we didn’t think the food was particularly fat-free or health-obsessed. Nevertheless, compared to most Uzbek eateries they serve less meat and less deep-fried food and are thus considered healthy. On offer are salads, different kinds of cooked vegetables, cake and fruits (besides the meat dishes). Usually there is a counter where you can just point at the food you want. It’s very convenient for travellers! Unfortunately the Diet Cafés often close around 6 or 7 pm.

Melons at the Boysun Bazar in Uzbekistan

And then there are the colourful markets, where you can buy wonderful fresh fruits in summer. Self-catering is usually also possible, but you will end with a lot of bread, cheese and pickles.

Overall, finding vegetarian food in Uzbekistan has become much easier over the last years. And in most places you will eat decently as a vegetarian.

Have you been travelling and trying to find vegetarian food in Uzbekistan? What did you eat and like? Let us know your experiences in the comments.

Never miss a new post! Get notifications about new posts straight into your inbox!

Want to pin this post? Do it here!


  1. This post has made me really hungry! Everything looks fresh and yummy! We tried Khachapuri
    on our trip to Georgia and in L’viv. It was delicious! I love the colorful linens and dishware. How do you not buy tons of souvenirs on your trips?

    1. Dear Lissette, it is hard in Uzbekistan. And actually we do buy ceramics and suzannis in Uzbekistan. Some we keep and some we give to friends when we are back in Europe. Yes, the vegetarian food situation improved a lot over the years.

  2. It sounds like it can be a challenge to travel to Uzbekistan for the first time, if you are a vegetarian. It’s good to know that things are changing though, and more and more places are offering vegetarian dishes. I am a meat eater so all of these dishes excite me, as I have never tried tried Uzbek food before. I am intrigued by those dill noodles.

  3. How have I never tried Uzbekistan food before?! I am mostly vegetarian and these all look so deliciuous! The somsa filled with pumpkin or the Tukhum Barak a sound divine!

    1. There are not many Uzbek restaurants outside Uzbekistan. And the few tend to focus on meat dishes as the national cuisine is very meat-based. But if you interested in Uzbek vegetarian cooking – there are some good youtube videos.

    2. A very nice round up of vegetarian dishes from Uzbekistan.While Plov and Somsa are popular Uzbek dishes, the achikchuk salad is a healthy option and also the cereal bowl of kasha is amazing! Tukhum Barak is a wonderful substitute for noodles and I would love to try kachapuri it looks so yummy! It’s great to know that some of the family stays in Uzbekistan serve homemadearmalades and the diet cafes serve less deep fried food besides fresh fruits and meat.

      1. Dear Puloma, things are really changing in Uzbekistan. As a vegetarian you still might have some difficulties – but it is perfectly possible to travel there as a vegetarian.

  4. Those look like great options for vegetarians traveling to this country and looking for wholesome food. I like the idea of the barak with veggie filling options which I’m sure is quite delicious and also filling to eat after a day out exploring.

  5. This is so interesting to know. I’m not a vegetarian but it’s good to learn about the different types of food available. The diet cafes sound intreresting, I would really like to try one if I ever visit!

  6. If finding vegetarian food in Uzbek is hard, I can’t imagine how to find vegan food! I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but it’s good to know that vegetarians have more choices of food in Uzbek today. Thukum Barak looks more like pot stickers to me and I would like to try them, but I don’t think I can eat the Shivit Osh. It’s funny though about someone picking out the meat and voila… you have a vegetarian noodle.

    1. I had to google pot stickers! But you are right – they look similar. Vegans really do have a hard time in Uzbekistan. But then, as a vegan you are used to it somehow. Some vegans also bring some food from home or they try to stay in places with kitchen, where they can cook their own food.

  7. This is such a smart post! I’m a vegetarian (not vegan!), and sometimes it’s hard while I am traveling. I like that you presented options on what to order in case there aren’t specifically veggie options.

      1. I am a pure vegetarian, I don’t even take eggs…. Kindly guide me . Planning to visit Tashkent in December last.

        1. Dear Nitesh, vegan might be a bit difficult. However, Tashkent should be fine. There are some Indian restaurants that will be able to cater to your needs. In Tashkent there are also big supermarkets and a lot of farmer markets where you can buy vegetables and fruits.

  8. This is such a helpful post and I agree without finding vegetarian food can be challenging sometimes. Thank you for sharing this. Tukhum Barak and the Khachapuri look good.

  9. I am not a vegetarian. But I must admit I struggle to get enough produce when we travel. So I do look for vegetarian options. I was not surprised that finding vegetarian food in Uzbekistan was a challenge. We travelled once with vegetarians in the Czech Republic and most of the times they got simple salads and lots of eggs. So I was not surprised that this was a key part of your meals. I am sure that markets were a great spot to get some variety.

  10. I am vegetarian and always searching when traveling for a great variety of meal options. I always find the markets are a great source of fresh fruit and vegetables. This is a great resource for me, and sorry to hear it was a challenge to find vegetarian options in Uzbekistan. The breakfast looks yummy!

  11. It’s good to know that the cuisine in Uzbekistan has developed so much over the years and has been adapted a bit to visitors’ needs. I love trying local cuisine, and I eat meat, so I quickly find myself in countries where meat dominates the diet. But I have vegetarian friends, and traveling to some destinations is challenging for them because of food. I would love to try the vegetarian laghman, vegetarian plov, or somsa filled with potato or pumpkin instead of meat. It seems to be delicious. A plate of garnir seems to be a good solution as well. It’s a great culinary guide to Uzbekistan!

  12. Thanks for clearing my doubts about veg food in Uzbekistan. 🙂
    I explored the vegetarian food of Istanbul, Turkey. It was easy to get vegetarian food in Istanbul… Wasn’t sure about this country but now I am. Thanks!

    1. Dear Shankshank, the options for vegetarian travelers in Uzbekistan really improved. As long as you stick to the tourist places you will not have any problems.

  13. I really like the sound of the diet cafes! It’s good that they’re aware of health and are mindful not to offer all fried foods. I’m not vegetarian but I felt your frustration a little while reading this. It can’t be easy in some places to eat well. I was surprised to read about the Korean population here, I didn’t know there was a community.

    1. Dear Lisa, Stalin relocated the Koreans from the Russian-Korean border to the “backlands” of the Sowjetunion. Today Uzbekistan has close economical ties with Korea and many Uzbeks learn Korean in the hope to work there in the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *