Tuscan cuisine has a lot to offer if you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet. We are not talking about specialised restaurants and menus, but local recipes traditionally made without meat, fish, dairy and eggs.
In “Vegetarian and Vegan Tuscan Cuisine: Part 1” we explored Tuscan starters and main courses. In this second part, we will explore what vegan and vegetarian-friendly desserts you can rely on, to satisfy your sweet tooth, as well as useful tips and vocabulary to make your holiday hassle-free.
Vegetarian & Vegan Tuscan Cuisine: Top desserts
While vegetarians will find themselves right at home when picking a dessert, the choice of a sweet treat is harder for vegans. Not to worry, Tuscany will bewilder you once again. We’ve put together a list of our favourite Tuscan desserts — all are vegan-friendly!
Cavallucci and Panforte
Typical of Siena, these sweets are usually prepared for Christmas, but you can find them in many pastry shops and bakeries all year round.
Cavallucci are biscuits made using walnuts, spices, honey and candied fruit. Panforte is made with the same ingredients, but is something between a cake, nougat and spiced bread.
Chestnuts (castagne in Italian) are a versatile ingredient in Tuscan cuisine. You will find many vegan desserts made with this nut, such as frittelle di castagne — small, delicious chestnut pancakes.
Castagnaccio — a sweet flat bread with raisins, pine nuts and rosemary — is another typical dessert, best paired with a glass of sweet wine like Vin Santo. Certain chefs add milk to the traditional dairy-free recipe, so make sure to ask before ordering.
This Tuscan speciality is traditionally prepared around la vendemmia, wine grape harvest, in September and October.
Put together the spongy texture of focaccia Toscana and the juicy pulp of ripe red grapes, sprinkle with sugar or honey, and you have a simple and irresistible treat. You can find different varieties in Tuscany: from a sweet version in the south, to a bittersweet one in the north where rosemary and anice are added.
Vegetarian & Vegan Tuscan Cuisine: General tips
Before you go and explore these vegetarian and vegan-friendly desserts, there are a few tips and tricks useful for your gastronomical adventure.
If you see this word on the menu, double-check the ingredients with your waiter. In Tuscan cuisine, gratinato refers to vegetables covered in breadcrumbs and baked — this is a perfect dish for a vegan diet. Beware: at times gratinato can be baked with bechamel sauce and cheese.
Broth, in Italian Brodo, is another ingredient worth asking about. Often dishes that look perfectly vegetarian or vegan, like risotto and polenta, may be cooked in a chicken or bone broth. Ask your chef to use vegetable broth or water instead.
Same applies to the use of sausages. At times pasta sauces — like mushroom sauce — bean stews and soups are seasoned with sausages or pancetta (bacon).
This is your safe haven — most types of bread and focaccia you find in bakeries are vegan, as butter and lard are rarely used to bake. Milk may be more common, so as a general rule, ask if you are in doubt.
While fried vegetables are a great side dish for vegetarians, traditional frying batter contains egg and is not vegan-friendly. Many restaurants, however, are starting to cook with lighter, egg-free batters, so ask your waiter before renouncing this tasty dish.
While most types of pizza you encounter are vegetarian, it is harder to find a vegan pizza margherita, as vegan cheese is not yet widely popular in Tuscany.
There are a few vegan options to enjoy: ask for a vegetable pizza without mozzarella, or opt for schiaccia or schiacciata, which is a Tuscan flat bread without tomato sauce.
As we all know, ice-cream is the star of an Italian summer. The good news is that now many gelaterie (ice-cream shops) have a vast choice of vegan flavours. Otherwise opt for a refreshing sorbet — a frozen dessert made with various types of fruit juice or fruit puree, without dairy or eggs.
Useful Vocabulary and phrases for Vegetarians & Vegans
- Sono vegano/vegetariano I am vegan/vegetarian
- Contiene latte o uova? Does it contain milk or eggs?
- Non mangio carne e pesce I don’t eat meat or fish
- Latticini Dairy
- Preferirei I would preferer
- Avete alternative vegetariane/vegane? Do you have vegetarian/vegan alternative
- Avete le latte di soia/mandorla/avena/riso? Do you have soy/almond/oat/rice milk?
- No/senza formaggio/latte/carne/uovo No/without cheese/milk/meat/egg