Cyprus: Vegan Cheese Paradise

With 225 kilometers in length and 90 kilometers wide, Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia. Although geographically it belongs to Asia, politically and culturally it is mostly counted as Europe. In addition to good weather, beautiful beaches and cultural treasures, you can find above all one thing: vegan cheese in all shapes, colors and flavors! Here you will learn everything you need to know.


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A Divided Country – Brief Historical Digression

After Greek coup leaders wanted to enforce the annexation of Cyprus to Greece in 1974, the north of Cyprus was occupied by the Turkish military. Since then, Cyprus has been de facto divided. According to international law, the whole island belongs to the Republic of Cyprus, but the northern part continues to be controlled by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is only recognized by Turkey.

Divided Cyprus: The north is dominated by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the south by the Republic of Cyprus
Divided Cyprus: The north is dominated by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the south by the Republic of Cyprus

Between the two areas there is a buffer zone (Green Line/πράσινη γραμμή/yeşil hat), which also divides the capital Nicosia and is monitored and managed by United Nations peacekeepers. Since May 1st of 2004, the Republic of Cyprus, with its internationally recognized territory, is a member state of the European Union. The Turkish north of the island is thus also EU territory, but the Republic of Cyprus can not exercise its right there.

All of the following descriptions refer only to the southern part controlled by the Republic of Cyprus.

Why is Cyprus vegan friendly?

Homemade burger with the vegan cheese from the Cypriot supermarket
Homemade burger with the vegan cheese from the Cypriot supermarket

The Greek magic word for vegan products is nistisimo (written: νηστίσιμο or ΝΗΣΤΊΣΙΜΟ). That means “fasting”. Many Cypriots fast during 90 days a year and in that time period eat almost vegan. That’s why there are vegan products and food everywhere. The exact fasting rules and times for Eastern Orthodox Christians can be read here.

We were out of the Lenting season in Cyprus and still found many vegan products. Although, except in the weeks immediately after Easter and Pentecost and in the two weeks after Christmas, every Wednesday and Friday should be fasted, but only a few will stick to it.

The biggest vegan offer is probably to be found during the “holy and great forty days of Lent” in the seven weeks before Easter, in Lent before the Dormition from August 1 to 14, and in Philip Lent from November 15 to December 24.

Note that “nistisimo” doesn’t automatically mean “vegan” because, e.g. honey can be included. So check the ingredient list anyway!

Where can I find vegan cheese and how much does it cost?

Vegan "fasting cheese" in 2.5 kilo blocks in the cheese counter of a Cypriot supermarket
Vegan “fasting cheese” in 2.5 kilo blocks in the cheese counter of a Cypriot supermarket

The supermarket chain Papantoniou has the largest selection. Here you will find up to seven different kinds of vegan cheese in 2.5-kilo blocks directly in the cheese counter (subject to availability). Prices are between 5.50 euros and 11.50 euros per kilo.

Cheese selection in the supermarket chain Papantoniou
Cheese selection in the supermarket chain Papantoniou

In the photo on the right you can see our personal favorite (the one for 7.70€/kg). Although we found another cheese for 5.50 €/kg which we liked very much as well. You can recognize it by the packaging: It has very big and often the word “Vegan” on it (in the upper picture on the left). Generally, most cheeses are not only labeled as “nistisimo” but also as “vegan”.

Our haul for the ultimate vegan cheese comparison
Our haul for the ultimate vegan cheese comparison

Also at AlphaMega you will find some vegan cheese blocks in the cheese counter depending on the respective branch.

In almost every supermarket in Cyprus, there are also numerous packaged vegan cheeses in the refrigerated section. For example, from the Cypriot brand Green Vie, which has its headquarters in Limassol. Unfortunately, they did not respond to our request for a factory tour.

Vegan cheese in the cooling shelf: the top row is completely vegan
Vegan cheese in the cooling shelf: the top row is completely vegan

Can I export the vegan cheese?

Yes, we already took several 2.5 kilo blocks with us without any problems. It may only happen that someone wants to take a closer look at your baggage at the airport, as the cheese on the baggage scanner might look conspicuous. However, we don’t know whether there is an official limit.

What else is vegan?

Juice prices in Cyprus: freshly squeezed orange juice for 1 euro
Juice prices in Cyprus: freshly squeezed orange juice for 1 euro

As you can see in the photo, in many cafés freshly squeezed orange juice is cheaper than the non-fresh juices. Moreover, avocados actually grow in Cyprus, so you can buy them here locally instead of the imported ones.

Avocado tree on the roadside in Cyprus
Avocado tree on the roadside in Cyprus

However, there aren’t that many purely vegan restaurants yet, as can be seen on HappyCow: There is only one in Larnaca (Solar Kitchen Bar) and one in Paphos (Meraki Market Café).

Language Guide

Although English is still a common language as a legacy of the colonial era and is spoken by many Cypriots, it does not hurt to know a few words in Greek. In addition to Turkish, Greek is one of the two national and equally official languages of the Republic of Cyprus.

Vegan Basics

English Greek (spoken) Greek (written)
vegan afstirá chortofágos αυστηρά χορτοφάγος
I am vegan Ime afstirá chortofágos Είμαι αυστηρά χορτοφάγος
without meat chorís kréas χωρίς κρέας
without fish chorís psári χωρίς ψάρι
without milk chorís gála χωρίς γάλα
without egg chorís avgó χωρίς αυγό

Useful Words & Phrases

Deutsch Greek (spoken) Greek (written)
yes nay ναι
no órchi όχι
please parakaló παρακαλώ
thanks efcharistó ευχαριστώ
No, thanks! Orchi, efcharistó! Οχι, ευχαριστώ!
Hello! Jassu! Γειά σου!
Pardon? Signómi? Συγνώμη?
Bye! Adío! Αντίο!
Sorry! Signómi! Συγνώμη!
Help! Voíthia! Βοήθεια!

Where can I find more information?

By the way, besides vegan cheese, Cyprus also has many archaeological sites and beaches to offer
By the way, besides vegan cheese, Cyprus also has many archaeological sites and beaches to offer

For more questions regarding “Vegan in Cyprus”, you’ll get the answers in the Facebook groups Cyprus Vegan Society and Vegan Supermarket Finds Cyprus. Furthermore, you can find vegan, vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants in Cyprus on HappyCow.

 

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