Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, no sugar, bio…let’s look at the options and food alternatives in the Czech Republic.
Czech Republic has gone a mile since the Velvet Revolution (and since it opened to the western world in the 1990ies) when it comes to special diet food alternatives. Nowadays you can find here anything from vegan restaurants to stores with several isles of dairy-free products.
If you stay in a big city with stores like Tesco, Lidl or Carrefour, your options are great. In the cities there are usually also small specialized stores as well as “healthy” stores called Zdravá výživa where you can get not only healthy food and food alternatives but also things like rose water or special cosmetics.
There are many gluten-free options nowadays. Gluten-free pastry and sweets, gluten-free wheat flour, coconut, almond, rice flower…larger city means more options but even smaller stores sometimes have what you need to eat gluten-free.
Are you lost in the maze of the Czech flour system? Here’s the Czech Flour Guide.
Dairy alternatives and lactose-free
If there’s been a boom of anything in the food alternatives area in just a few years, it’s lactose-free products and vegetable milks. Soy milk is a regular thing in cafés but often you’d be offered also almond or oat milk. You can buy those and more (rice milk, hazel nut milk etc.) also in some stores. There are several brands of lactose-free yoghurts and cheeses and also plant-based butter, yoghurt and cheese alternatives.
The stores don’t usually have vegan aisles but you can find enough vegan ingredients for your vegan home cooking. As for eating out, vegan restaurants aren’t very common although there are some especially in the cities. Restaurants usually offer vegetable salads and sometimes there are also some other vegan options, especially in the starters part of the menu.
Sugar-free and white sugar alternatives
The so called dia products (with artificial sweeteners) have a long tradition in the Czech stores but luckily now there are many more options than just that. When it comes to artificial sweeteners, there are many – more chemical or purely natural such as stevia powder or pills. There are sweeteners with some percentage of carbohydrates or completely without them. Honey is a great option as beekeeping is very common in the Czech Republic. There are also plant syrups among which the one that stands out is the chicory root syrup (čekankový sirup) with very small amount of carbohydrates.
And we mustn’t forget also coconut sugar and sweets without added sugar (sweetened with fruit).
Organic and Bio
There’s bio and organic cereal, meat, dairy…in specialized shops as well as large stores.
Raw food is probably the least common when it comes to specialized places. However, it doesn’t mean that there’s little options. Fresh fruit and vegetables are a common thing in the stores and in the markets. Restaurants offer salads and sometimes also raw deserts. The restaurant options are smaller but when it comes to the groceries to prepare your own meals, it gets much better.
If you’re looking for special vinegar, cold-pressed oils, exotic ingredients, large stores like Tesco have a pretty good selection and there are also specialized stores with Asian, Greek, Russian and other ingredients.
Common is also local and imported fresh fruit and vegetables and many varieties of nuts.
In the 90ies the only vegetarian meal you could find in a restaurant was fried cheese (smažák) with chips and maybe one salad. Those times are gone and nowadays many restaurants offer a variety of vegetarian or vegan meals. Moreover, there are restaurants which specialize on these diets. When it comes to food allergies and intolerances, you’ll find them divided into 14 groups, each group has a number. When you order in a Czech restaurant, each dish will have brackets with a number or several numbers behind it. You just need to check the back of the menu to see which number belongs to which group of allergens.