Please note: This article was first published on The Vegan Tourist and last updated November 27, 2015.
A few months ago, the Swedish furniture store chain Ikea introduced a new dish at its in-store restaurants in Austria: Grönsaksbullar. These are vegan “meatballs,” which are made with chick peas, green peas, corn, carrots, onions, red bell peppers, kale, and herbs. They are served with a side-dish of quinoa and mushrooms, and some tomato sauce.
There’s a lot of online chatter amongst vegans about the fact that a huge company like Ikea decided to introduce a vegan version of its popular meatballs at its in-store restaurants, so I decided to try them myself. I spent an hour on buses and trams, travelling from the North of Vienna to the Shopping City Süd, one of Europe’s largest shopping malls, which is located right outside Vienna (in the south, hence the “Süd”). Yes, I know that there’s an Ikea branch not far from where I live, but I grew up in a fairly small community in the South of Vienna, close to this shopping mall. Once every couple of years or so, I enjoy wandering the halls of this huge mall, reminiscing, then return back home after several hours completely exhausted (and vow never to return again). Anyway…
I spent an hour or so ambling through Ikea, and then checked out the store’s self-service restaurant. I ordered the Grönsaksbullar, and also chose some potato salad from the salad buffet. I loved the potato salad, I liked the Grönsaksbullar, but I hated the quionoa-mushrooms with the tomato sauce.
The Grönsaksbullar didn’t live up to all the hype, but they were okay. I would order them again. It’s the only vegan dish on offer at Ikea, so vegans have little choice, whether they like it or not. Nevertheless, I am hugely appreciative of Ikea’s efforts to introduce at least one plant-based dish on its menu. I want to support that, so I’ll order them again. But I didn’t buy a bag of frozen Grönsaksbullar, which are available at their store. I simply wasn’t that crazy about them.
The quinoa-mushroom side dish was a disaster. The quinoa was cooked in way too much water, the quinoa seeds were mushy and soggy. Quinoa is not a grain, it is the seed of the Chenopodium plant. So don’t cook it like you would cook a grain like rice. Use less water! Perfectly cooked quinoa should be fluffy and not mushy. Even worse, the quinoa-mushroom dish was prepared with little or no salt, no other spices seemed to have been used for seasoning, and it didn’t taste much like anything. It really wasn’t very good, I simply couldn’t eat it. Half of it went in the trash.
The worst thing you could do, of course, is add any sort of fluids to the cooked quinoa, so tomato sauce is a big no-no for any dish that is served with quinoa. Grönsaksbullar with mushy quinoa-mushrooms and tomato sauce is not an inspired dish. Nutritionally balanced, yes. Did I like it? No.
Here’s hoping that Ikea will tweak the recipe, that the store’s kitchen staff will learn how to prepare quinoa properly, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that in the future Ikea will give customers the option to order just the Grönsaksbullar (without a side-dish). Paired with some potato-salad from the salad buffet, this would have been a very good meal indeed.
I hope that Ikea will introduce vegan desserts in the future – all those tortes and cakes, and I couldn’t eat one of them! Vegan sandwiches would be lovely. Soy or rice milk for coffee would be very welcome, too. Consider this my wish list for Santa Clause.
After I had lunch at Ikea, I spent another hour or so shopping at their store. I spent roughly 50 Euros on various items from their home decor section, and bought several Christmas presents there. I deliberately spent money at Ikea, because the store makes an effort to accommodate vegan customers. There’s a lesson here for other furniture chain stores and various other stores with in-house restaurants: Vegans get tired and hungry, too, and we’re very loyal customers! If there’s nothing for us to eat at your restaurants and cafes, then we will spend our money elsewhere.