is a cold soup made of yogurt, water, minced cucumber, dill, garlic, and sunflower or olive oil (Chips are also sometimes added).
Traditional Bulgarian Christmas Eve dish Sarmi
Bulgarian cuisine (Bulgarian: българска кухня, translit. bǎlgarska kuhnja) is a representative of the cuisine of Eastern Europe. It shares characteristics with other Balkans cuisines. Bulgarian cooking traditions are diverse because of geographical factors such as climatic conditions suitable for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruit. Aside from the vast variety of local Bulgarian dishes, Bulgarian cuisine shares a number of dishes with the Russian, Turkish, and Greek cuisine.
Bulgarian food often incorporates salads as appetizers and is also noted for the prominence of dairy products, wines and other alcoholic drinks such as rakia. The cuisine also features a variety of soups, such as the cold soup tarator, and pastries, such as the filo dough based banitsa, pita and the various types of börek.
Main courses are very typically water-based stews, either vegetarian or with lamb, goat meat, veal, chicken or pork. Deep-frying is not common, but grilling – especially different kinds of sausages – is very prominent. Pork is common, often mixed with veal or lamb, although fish and chicken are also widely used. While most cattle are bred for milk production rather than meat, veal is popular for grilling meats appetizers (meze) and in some main courses. As a substantial exporter of lamb, Bulgaria’s own consumption is notable, especially in the spring.
Similarly to other Balkan cultures the per capita consumption of yogurt (Bulgarian: кисело мляко, kiselo mlyako, lit. “sour milk”) among Bulgarians is traditionally higher than the rest of Europe. The country is notable as the historical namesake for Lactobacillus bulgaricus, a microorganism chiefly responsible for the local variety of the dairy product.
Bulgarian cuisine shares a number of dishes with the Middle Eastern Cuisine as well as a limited number with the Indian, particularly Gujarat cuisine. The culinary exchange with the East started as early as the 7th century, when traders started bringing herbs and spices to the First Bulgarian Empire from India and Persia via the Roman and later Byzantine empires. This is evident from the wide popularity of dishes like moussaka, gyuvetch, kyufte and baklava, which are common in Middle Eastern cuisine today. White brine cheese called “sirene” (сирене), similar to feta, is also a popular ingredient used in salads and a variety of pastries.
Holidays are often observed in conjecture with certain meals. On Christmas Eve, for instance, tradition requires vegetarian stuffed peppers and cabbage leaf sarmi, New Year’s Eve usually involves cabbage dishes, Nikulden (Day of St. Nicholas, December 6) fish (usually carp), while Gergyovden (Day of St. George, May 6) is typically celebrated with roast lamb.
As in many areas of the Balkans that were formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, food in Bulgaria is influenced by the Turkish—ayran, baklava, gyuvech, and moussaka are all of Ottoman derivation.
Traditional Bulgarian foods
Traditional Bulgarian cold cut – Lukanka
- Banitsa — breakfast pastry of eggs, white cheese, and yogurt between phyllo layers
- Banski starets (also banski staretz) — spicy sausage, native to the Bansko region.
- Elenski but — air-cured ham sausage, seasoned with herbs
- Lukanka — spicy salami of minced beef and pork
- Pastarma — spicy beef sausage; a variant of Anatolian dried meat, called pastourmas to Greeks, bastirma in Azerbaijanis, and basterma to Arabs
- Sujuk (also soudjouk, sukuk, sukuk, or sucuk) — flat cured, dark red sausage, common in the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa
Soups and stews
- Gyuvech — spicy vegetable stew, cooked in clay pot
- Supa ot kopriva (nettle soup)
- Tarator — cold soup of cucumbers, garlic, yogurt and dill
- Shkembe chorba — spicy soup made of tripe, reputed in Bulgaria to be a “hangover cure”
- Bob chorba — hot bean soup
- Smilyanski fasul — Smilyan bean soup
- Pacha — a sour lamb’s-trotter soup,” with sour ingredients such as pickles, bitter fruit, or vinegar in the broth
- Zelenchukova supa — a vegetable-based soup
- Gubena supa — forest mushroom soup
- Ribena chorba — a fish soup made with thyme
- Ovcharska salata (shepherd’s salad) — shopska salad, with the addition of grated egg, mushrooms, and sometimes ham.
- Ruska salata — salad with potatoes, carrots, gherkins, and mayonnaise
- Shopska salad — a common salad of chopped cucumbers, onions, peppers, and tomatoes with white cheese
- Snezhanka (“Snow White salad”) — chopped cucumbers with yogurt, walnuts, dill, garlic, and often walnuts
- Turshiya (also torsi) — pickled vegetables, such as celery, beets, cauliflower, and cabbage, popular in wintertime; variations are selska turshiya (country pickle) and tsarska turshiya (king’s pickles).
Sauces, relishes, and appetizers
- Lyutenitsa (also lyutenitza) — purée of tomatoes, red peppers, and carrots, often served on bread and topped with white cheese
- Kyopulu (also kyopolou) — roasted eggplant (aubergine) and bell peppers, mashed with parsley and garlic and other ingredients
- Ljutika — spicy sauce
- Podluchen sauce or yogurt sauce — yogurt with garlic, oil, paprika, salt and sometimes dill.
- Katino meze—Hot starter with chopped pork meat, onion, mushrooms with fresh butter and spices.
- Drob po selski — chopped liver with onion and peppers
- Ezik v maslo — sliced tongue in butter
- Sirene pane — breaded Bulgarian brine white cheese bites
- Kashkaval pane — breaded kashkaval bites
- Mussels in butter — with onion and fresh herbs, traditionally from Sozopol
- Kyufte (meatballs of minced pork meat, seasoned with traditional spices and shaped in a flattened ball)
- Kebapche (similar to meatballs, but seasoned with cumin and shaped in a stick)
- Parjola (pork steak, chop or flank)
- Shishcheta (marinated pieces of chicken or pork and vegetables.)
- Karnache (a type of sausage with special spices)
- Nadenitsa (a type of sausage with special spices)
- Tatarsko kyufte (stuffed meatballs)
- Nevrozno kyufte (very piquant meatballs)
- Chicken in caul
- Cheverme (used in celebrations such as weddings, graduations and birthdays: a whole animal, traditionally a pig, but also chicken or a lamb, is slowly cooked in open fire, rotated manually on a wooden skewer from 4 to 7 hours.)
- Meshana skara (mixed grill plate): consists of kebapche, kyufte, shishche and karnache or nadenitsa
- Grilled vegetables (usually a garnish or a side dish)
- Grilled fish (salt water or freshwater)
- Drob Sarma
- Wine, Tepsi or Tas kebab
- Mish Mash (Popular summer dish made with tomatoes, peppers, onion, white brine cheese, eggs and fresh spices)
- Pilaf (Rice with chopped meat, vegetables or mussels)
- Stuffed courgettes
- Pulneni chushki—Bulgarian stuffed bell peppers
- Peppers börek
- Roasted beans
- Beans with sausage
- Pork with rice
- Roasted Chicken with Potatoes
- Pork with Cabbage
- Chicken with Cabbage
- Roasted Potatoes
- Drusan kebab
- Rice with chicken
- Tatarian Meatball
- Meatball(s) with White Sauce Stew
- Kjufteta po Chirpanski (Meatballs with potatoes; a recipe from Chirpan)
- Meatloaf ‘Rulo “Stephanie”‘
- Potato balls with Sauce
- Panagyurishte-Style Eggs
- Fried Courgettes with Yogurt Sauce
- Chicken in katmi (Popular in a “Thracian” variety)
- Fish Zelnik (With Sauerkraut and Rice)
- Fish in pastry (Usually in celebration of St. Nicholas)
- Stuffed Carp or Nikuldenski Carp (Prepared for the Feast of St. Nicholas)
Breads and pastries
- Sweet Pita
- Pita with Meat (Variably with Mushrooms or with Tomatoes and Onion.)
- Pogacha (Usual ritual bread.)
- Kravai (Usual ritual bread.)
- Kolach (Usual ritual bread.)
- Banitsa (The most popular pastry in Bulgaria with a number of varieties.)
- Tikvenik (Banitsa with pumpkins)
- Zelnik (Banitsa with white brine cheese and cabbage, spinach, leek, scallion, parsley or sorrel)
- Byal Mazh
- Mekitsi (Deep fried kneaded dough made with yogurt and eggs)
- Katmi (a variety of pancakes)
- Palachinki (a variety of crêpes)
- Tiganitsi (Similar to Mekitsi)
- Parjeni filii, “fried toasts”
- Kiflichki with jam or white cheese
- Trienitsa or Skrob
cheese in Bulgarian store.
Bulgaria has a strong tradition of using milk and dairy products.
- Sirene — soft and salty white brine cheese; appears in many Bulgarian dishes
- Kashkaval — hard yellow cheese, often used in mezes;kashkaval Vitosha is made from cow’s milk, while kashkaval Balkan is made from ewe’s milk
- Kiselo mlyako (literally “sour milk)—Bulgarian yogurt, produced using Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus; used in many Bulgarian dishes
- Smetana: cream
- Izvara: quark
- Katak — a “traditional fermented curd/yogurt-like product”
The name Halva (халва) is used for several related varieties of the Middle Eastern dessert. Tahan/Tahini halva (тахан/тахини халва) is the most popular version, available in two different types with sunflower and with sesame seed. Traditionally, the regions of Yablanitsa and Haskovo are famous manufacturers of halva.
Kozunak as prepared in
for orthodox Easter
- Pumpkin Dessert (Печена тиква)
- Buhti with yogurt
- Tolumbi (толумби) – Fried schuh pastry cakes soakes in syrup which is usually made with honey
- Cookies “Peach” or Praskovki
- Fruit bread
- Garash cake (“Torta Garash”)
- Katmi with jam or honey or cheese (Today usually with added chocolate)
- Kazanlak Donuts
- Kazanlak Korabii (Казанлъшки курабии) – Scone like pastry that is egg washed and sprinkled with sugar
- Keks – similar to marble cake
- Milk with Rice
- Tart with cherries or sour cherries (Traditionally from Bobov dol)
- Tart with different fruits
Spices and herbs
- Summer savory (Chubritsa)
- Spearmint (Djodjen)
- Sharena sol
- Yoghurt (“Kiselo Mlyako”, lit. sour milk)
- Honey (“Med”)
Traditional Bulgarian drinks
Pelin is a bitter
based on wormwood
- Tea (Usually prepared with one or several herbs or fruits)
- Greyana Rakiya (boiled rakiya; winter alcoholic beverage)
- Greyano Vino (winter alcoholic beverage)
- ^ (April 2006). “Bulgaria Poultry and Products Meat Market Update.” Thepoultrysite.com. Accessed July 2011.
- ^ “Bulgarians celebrate the art of ‘true’ homemade yoghurt”. Timesofmalta.com. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
- ^ Zlatarski – Българската кухня през вековете p 78-79
- ^ a b c Deutsch, p. 87.
- ^ a b c d e Deutsch, p. 88.
- ^ a b c Bousfield & Willis, p. 232.
- ^ Sachsenroeder, p. 138.
- ^ a b Bousfield & Richardson, p. 40.
- ^ Robert Sietsema, New York in a Dozen Dishes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), p. 112.
- ^ Jonathan Bousfield & Dan Richardson, A Rough Guide to Bulgaria (Rough Guides, 2002), p. 40.
- ^ Nichola Fletcher, Sausage: A Country-By-Country Photographic Guide With Recipes (DK: 2012), p. 217.
- ^ Kay, p. 57.
- ^ Sachsenroeder, p. 144; Deutsch, p. 88.
- ^ Kay, p. 57; Ross, p. 70.
- ^ Kay, p. 57; Ross, p. 67; Kelsey Kinser, Vegan Beans from Around the World: 100 Adventurous Recipes for the Most Delicious, Nutritious, and Flavorful Bean Dishes Ever (Ulysses Press, 2014), p. 29.
- ^ a b c d Ross, p. 67.
- ^ DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Bulgaria, p. 233.
- ^ a b Sachsenroeder, p. 143.
- ^ Deutsch, p. 88; Sachsenroeder, p. 143.
- ^ Sachsenroeder, p. 143; Kay, pp. 56-57; Richard Watkins & Christopher Deliso, Bulgaria (Lonely Planet, 2008), p. 55.
- ^ Ross, p. 63; Kay, p. 57.
- ^ Kay, p. 57, Sachsenroeder, p. 143; DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Bulgaria (DK: rev. ed. 2011), p. 233
- ^ Deutsch, p. 87; Bousfield & Willis, p. 232.
- ^ Lay, p. 57.
- ^ Tropcheva et al., Antifungal activity and identification of Lactobacilli, isolated from traditional dairy product “katak”, Anaerobe (2014), doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2014.05.010.
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Bulgaria (DK: rev. ed. 2011).
- Jonathan Bousfield & Matthew Willis, DK Eyewitness Travel: Bulgaria (DK: 2008).
- James I. Deutsch, “Bulgaria” in Ethnic American Food Today: A Cultural Encyclopedia (ed. Lucy M. Long: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015).
- Annie Kay, Bulgaria (Bradt Travel Guides: 2nd ed. 2015), p. 57.
- Fiona Ross, “Bulgaria” in Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia (ed. Ken Albala: ABC-CLIO, 2011).
- Agnes Sachsenroeder, CultureShock! Bulgaria: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette (Marshall Cavendish: 2nd ed. 2011).
Bulgarian food is tasty, fresh and hearty. Bulgaria is famous for its quality vegetables and dairy products and its variety of mild spices. Pork and chicken are the most common forms of meat, though seafood, fish and veal dishes are also popular and lamb has a special traditional place in Bulgarian cooking.
While many of the staples of Bulgarian cuisine you would also find in Turkey, Greece or Serbia, in Bulgaria each of those has its own local flavour to set it apart from the Balkan neighbours’ version. From hearty salads through delicious pastries to grilled meat classics, here’s 7 Bulgarian dishes you absolutely must try during your stay in the country!
1. Baked extravaganza: banitsa (баница)
This piece of greasy pastry deliciousness can be purchased in bakeries all over the country. Its standard variety includes a filling of feta-like white cheese (сирене, sirene), though varieties filled with onions, cabbage, spinach, mushrooms or pumpkin can also be found. For your sweet tooth, you can also try banitsa with apples and walnuts. Banitsa in any of its forms is an inseparable part of a traditional Bulgarian breakfast. Combine it with the thick fermented wheat drink boza for a quintessential Bulgarian experience.
Holiday tip: careful when chewing your piece of banitsa at Christmas or New Year’s Eve! On those dates, banitsa is filled with lucky paper charms which are sometimes easy to chew through. The luckiest piece will contain the coin which means you’ll enjoy a very successful year ahead of you.
- Standard price: 1-1.50 BGN (0.50-0.75 €)
2. King of the grill: kebapche (кебапче)
The Bulgarian cousin of former Yugoslavia’s famous ćevapčići and Romanian mititei, a kebapche is the perfect side dish to a glass of cold Bulgarian beer on a summer day. Though Bulgarians may argue about that, whether the beer is a Kamenitza or a Zagorka makes no big difference. The important part is that the kebapcheta are at least three and include some kind of sides, usually French fries with grated sirene cheese on top, to make the classic “three kebapcheta with sides” (тройка кебапчета с гарнитура, troyka kebapcheta s garnitura).
The dish itself is an elongated piece of grilled minced meat, comparable in shape and size, though not in contents, to a hot dog. As with the smaller ćevapčići that you can taste in Serbia, the meat is usually a mix of pork and beef, though it can be solely pork just as well. A beef version exists, but is uncommon and will normally be labeled as such. Typically, spices like black pepper and cumin will be added to the meat, for a mildly spicy taste.
- Standard price: 1-2 BGN (0.50-1 €)
3. Head start: shopska salata (шопска салата)
Bulgaria’s internationally-renowned salad is a simple — but effective — combo of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers, with grated sirene cheese and parsley on top. Whether a century-old meal of the Shopi ethnographic group (as the name implies) or a 1950s invention of communist Bulgaria’s state-owned tour operator Balkantourist, Shopska salad is the perfect appetizing companion to a shot of rakia at the start of a Bulgarian meal. Curiously, Shopska salad’s most prominent colours are white (the cheese), green (the cucumbers) and red (the tomatoes and peppers), which match perfectly to the colours of the Bulgarian national flag. A not-so-subtle hint at Shopska salad’s vital role in Bulgarian cuisine.
- Standard price: 2.50-5 BGN (1.25-2.50 €)
4. Goodness with goodness on top: musaka (мусака)
This dish is enjoyed in many variations throughout the Balkan region. The Bulgarian version involves potatoes, eggs and minced pork meat and is a known favourite of Bulgarian men, among whom it is a popular joke that they cannot marry a woman who is unable to cook the perfect musaka.
While the Greek variety of musaka may be based on eggplant, the Bulgarian dish relies strictly on potatoes to layer the meat. The whole thing is traditionally covered with thick Bulgarian yoghurt on top.
- Standard price: 3-6 BGN (1.50-3 €)
5. Childhood favourite: lyutenitsa (лютеница)
Ask a Bulgarian and they would say this thick relish of tomatoes and peppers is the best thing you can spread on your toast. Nowadays it is commercially produced and sold in small jars, though it is still commonly made at home by many Bulgarian families. When you can smell the aroma of roasting peppers emanating from balconies throughout the country in autumn, you know homemade lyutenitsa season is soon to be upon you!
Due to the onions, garlic and cumin used to make it, lyutenitsa is always going to be at least somewhat hot in taste, to which it owes it name… and its popularity. Lyutenitsa is a particular favourite of children. Parents know that a slice of bread spread with lyutenitsa (and sprinkled with sirene cheese, as everything seems to be in this country!) is one of the few ways to persuade their kid to have a snack in-between rounds of hide-and-seek in the neighborhood, for example.
- Standard price for a small jar: 1.50-2.50 BGN (0.75-1.25 €)
6. Dragon’s breath: shkembe chorba (шкембе чорба)
While lyutenitsa may be a kids’ favourite, shkembe chorba is strictly the preferred territory of adults. Indeed, it takes more than a bit of guts to try this tripe soup, whether because tripe is a somewhat unusual offal to be used in a soup or because of the way shkembe chorba is customarily generously spiced. You are expected to add vinegar, oil, salt and crude pepper to taste – though you will discover that to Bulgarians this usually means in generous quantities.
Cherished as a hangover remedy, shkembe chorba is offered by many small restaurants and is often consumed by companies during the early hours of the morning right after a night of binge drinking. And because shkembe chorba is very difficult to eat without a cold beer to accompany the hot sips, this anti-hangover strategy naturally fits with the “fight fire with fire” hangover cure that is a beer after a heavy night out.
- Standard price: 1.50-3 BGN (0.75-1.5 €)
7. Summer refresher: tarator (таратор)
Tarator and the previous soup on the menu, shkembe chorba, couldn’t be any more different. Unlike shkembe chorba’s firey spiciness, tarator is light, refreshing and cold. A yogurt-base soup of cucumbers, garlic, dill and sometimes walnuts (and even ice cubes!), tarator is a must in those scorching summer days when, say, the sun has forced you into the cool shade of a small restaurant on the Black Sea coast. And if you want to try it in the comfort of your home, here’s how to prepare it!
Tarator is also a great introduction to the renowned Bulgarian yoghurt, famous the world over for its health benefits. You may also like to try Snezhanka (Snow-White), the salad version of tarator which uses strained instead of watered-down yoghurt and is quite similar to Greek tzatziki and Turkish cacık.
- Standard price: 1.50-3 BGN (0.75-1.5 €)
Bulgarian food is delicious, hearty and truly satisfying.
If you have ever wondered what food do they eat in Bulgaria or fretted as to what you will be subsisting on when you travel to the country, wonder/fret no more.
Expect fresh salads, chunky soups, slow-cooked stews and lots and lots of red meat. With its juicy, melt-in-the-mouth quality, pork tastes the best in Bulgaria. From thinly sliced dry-cured sausages called ‘lukanka’ and ‘sudjuk’ and served as an appetiser to large chops plucked straight from the barbecue, you will find pork taking a pride of place on the Bulgarian national table no matter what’s the occasion.
Vegetable- and meat-based stews are very popular too, especially in winter when the temperatures drop below zero and a deep blanket of snow covers the country. To keep warm both vegetarian and meaty soups are often cooked and a beaten egg is blended in them to improve even further the flavour. Pickles, relishes and sauerkraut (all, ideally, homemade) complement lunches and dinners and, usually, a thick slice of bread is eaten with every meal.
In summer seasonal vegetables provide the bulk for enormous bowls of salads. Soft brined cheese is then crumbled on top and it is all liberally seasoned with salt, vinegar and copious amounts of sunflower oil.
Ah, the sunflower oil! It plays a leading role in
The women of Bulgaria know how to use it generously so that the flavours of the meal hit all the pleasure points in the brain and the stomach of the lucky eaters. After spending several years in London and getting used to cooking with a spoonful of oil at the very best, I remember gasping at the huge amounts of oil my mum uses in her home cooking every day.
She lifts the bottle, tips it over the large pan or pot in which the day’s dish is to be prepared, and lets the golden liquid flow freely for a while. I always tell her: ‘That’s too much oil!’ She never fails to reply: ‘It’s not quite enough yet!’ The flavour of her dishes is incomparable though, whereas mine are usually a bit dry.
Being an off-shoot of the Balkan cuisine, Bulgarian food shares several dishes and many cooking techniques with Bulgaria’s neighbours, most notably Turkey, Greece, Serbia and Romania. Yet, Bulgarians have changed them and adapted them to suit our own national taste. For example, a moussaka in Bulgaria is customarily made with cubed potatoes rather than slices of aubergines.
So, yes, keep an open mind about
I mean, just because you may have had a dish with that exact name before, it doesn’t necessarily mean that in Bulgaria it will be prepared the same way or have the same flavour as in Greece.
It may just surprise you and, actually, taste better.
Today, in order to introduce you to traditional Bulgarian food, I have picked ten dishes eaten either for breakfast or lunch/dinner in Bulgaria. I have spelled their names with both Latin and Cyrillic letters to make it easy for you to order them when in Bulgaria.
Make sure that you give them a try!
Now, before we dig into the dishes and their stories below, here is one final note. All the Bulgarian food in the photos in this blog post (bar the kebapche in white bread roll) was cooked by my mum for meals with my immediate and extended family.
It was very difficult to photograph it, I am afraid. People around the table were so eager to tuck in their food that I was rarely given more than a few seconds to snap a quick photo here and there. I had to be really quick; there was no time to experiment with light and angles.
Eating the food whilst it was still hot and sharing the meal with relatives and friends around the table was much more important. So, I invite you to this virtual Bulgarian feast.
Bulgarian Food – Ten Traditional Dishes You Must Try in Bulgaria
1. Banitza (Bg: баница)
You can’t go to Bulgaria and not have a piece of banitza! It’s a Bulgarian national food staple. Banitza is a tasty baked pie made of filo pastry, eggs, yogurt and brined cheese. Across Bulgaria there are many regional variations of banitza. A slice of banitza can be eaten for breakfast, as a mid-afternoon snack or it can be even enjoyed as a light lunch or dinner. Banitza is often coupled with a bowl of thick natural Bulgarian yogurt, a bowl of homemade fruit compote or a glass of boza – a thick fermented drink made of wheat or millet. My English husband became a staunch fan of banitza and while we lived in England, I would make it every fortnight as there it’s very easy to buy Bulgarian brined cheese. As in Italy, or at least in the Veneto where we reside, we find it very hard to source proper brined cheese, we hadn’t had banitza for close to a year. So, when my mum treated us to this beauty for breakfast, it was so quickly eaten, that I had to guard my slice in order to take this picture.
2. Shopska Salata (Bg: шопска салата)
Shopska Salad is Bulgarian summer in a bowl. Fresh crunchy cucumbers are peeled off and sliced thinly. Big red juicy tomatoes are then added to the mix cut in bite-size pieces. If you are feeling particularly healthy or generous, throw in a handful of julienned peppers. Season with salt, vinegar and oil and then crumble on top a large helping of brined cheese. Grab a salad spoon and mix it all, not too vigorously though so as not to crush the tomatoes. The Shopska Salad is a staple in every Bulgarian restaurant. At home, people have it as a starter while enjoying a drink. Definitely give it a try when you are in Bulgaria. There is something like a national obsession with it, so it is unlikely that you won’t have it at least once.
3. Green Bean Stew (Bg: яхния от зелен боб)
This is such a simple dish to make, yet it is so flavoursome and satisfying. All you need is a kilo of fresh green beans, some ripe tomatoes, onions, seasoning and oil and in no time you can enjoy a tasty vegetarian stew for lunch or dinner. Once you have eaten all the green beans off your plate, the sauce can’t go to waste. In Bulgaria thick slices of bread are served on the table with every meal. Breaking off a large piece of bread to mop the green bean stew sauce is a pleasure like no other. Give it a try!
4. Kebapche (Bg: кебапче)
Kebapche (pl. kebapcheta) is one of my most favourite Bulgarian foods. Luckily, in Bulgaria kebapcheta are sold everywhere. You will find them freshly grilled in restaurants and food shacks and frozen in the supermarkets for you to prepare at home. A kebapche is made of pork and beef minced meat seasoned with cumin which gives it its amazing flavour. From a street stall you can grab one or two juicy kebapcheta in a bread roll to have as a quick and unpretentious lunch. At a restaurant, you can order two or three (or as many as you want, really) kebapcheta with a garnish of French fries with grated brined cheese, pepper relish and some fresh salad. This is definitely a Bulgarian food to enjoy as often as you can when you are in Bulgaria.
5. Pork Chops (Bg: свински пържоли)
I wasn’t fast enough! By the time I had the camera all set up and ready, the big plate piled up high with pork chops, which my mum had just placed on the table, was all but empty and everyone around me was too busy munching for me to take any pictures at all. You know the old saying – when you can’t beat them, join them. So, I tossed the camera aside and tucked into my own juicy pork chop. I don’t know if it is the climate or a closely guarded secret, but pork in Bulgaria tastes the best in the world. It is usually so dry in England, that I never enjoyed cooking or eating it there. But in Bulgaria is the type of meat most people eat on a regular basis and you need to try it for yourself to appreciate the difference. Pork chops are a very popular Bulgarian dish. They are often prepared for special celebrations. They are best barbecued or grilled, but you can also roast them in the oven in a tray greased with a generous glug of oil.
6. Mekitzi (Bg: мекици)
Mekitzi are little balls of sticky dough which you pull and shape with your fingers into a flat patty which is then dropped into a pan with hot oil and fried to golden perfection. Eaten hot the mekitzi are crunchy on the outside and soft inside. You can also have them cold. It’s just that they will turn slightly chewy. Mekitzi are usually served for breakfast or as a tasty snack. They are great enjoyed either with a little bit of brined cheese or with jam. Mekitzi are also delicious simply dusted with icing sugar. You can buy them from the little shacks selling pastries and doughy snacks which are ubiquitous in every Bulgarian city and town. Or you can make them at home. A Bulgarian wife/husband is not strictly needed, but it helps having one.
7. Meatballs (Bg: кюфтета)
There is nothing like a juicy Bulgarian meatball! It really puts to shame its namesakes from around the globe. First, it is much larger than, say, a minuscule Swedish meatball, and, second, it tastes great grilled or fried. To make meatballs the Bulgarian way, you need pork mince, chopped onion, a slice of stale bread soaked in water, an egg (to bind the mixture) and seasoning, like black pepper, cumin, paprika and salt. You need to work all the ingredients together, leave the mixture in the fridge for at least half an hour to settle and then tear it into plum-sized balls. Roll these between the palms of your hands and squash them only very gently. Roll the meatballs in flour, dust off the excess and fry them in hot oil. Skip the flour stage, if you decide to grill them instead. Yum!
8. Milinki (Bg: милинки)
Milinki are irresistible! You can’t help it, but treat yourself to yet another one and then another one and… You get the drift. Milinki are little dough balls stuffed with pieces of brined cheese. They are dipped in a mixture of butter and oil and then lightly dusted with fine breadcrumbs. The milinki are baked tightly packed in a large tray, so that as the temperature rises, they expand, stick together and, when you take them out of the oven, they resemble one large bread. You need to leave the milinki to cool down a bit and then the fun part begins. You tear them one by one and eat them as fast as you can. The milinki simply melt on the tongue. Their crust is nice and crunchy. The fine breadcrumbs that they are dusted with, add a little salty exaltation to the whole experience. Best enjoyed with a bowl of thick natural Bulgarian yogurt, a glass of ayran (yogurt thinned with water and with added salt) or a cup of boza – a drink made of fermented wheat or millet. If you don’t have anyone to treat you to a tray of homemade milinki, again you can buy them very cheaply from one of the little shacks selling pastries and doughy snacks in every Bulgarian city or town.
9. Tarator (Bg: таратор)
This is a lovely and very refreshing traditional Bulgarian dish. Tarator is perfect to have in summer when the temperatures hit an impossible high. It is made of yogurt, thinned with water, and grated or cubed cucumber. It is seasoned with dill, (optional) garlic, salt, vinegar and a glug of oil. Right before you serve it, sprinkle a generous portion of crushed walnuts on top. If you don’t thin the yogurt with water, but otherwise complete all the other steps of making a tarator, then you will end up with a cold dip, which in Bulgaria is called ‘Salad Snezhanka’ (Bg: салата Снежанка). Snezhanka means ‘Snow White’ in Bulgarian. Here is the right moment to suggest that, when you are in Bulgaria (or if you can easily buy it abroad), you simply need to eat lots of Bulgarian natural yogurt. On a daily basis, ideally. Bulgarian yogurt is thick, refreshing, sates the appetite and it has a slightly sour taste. We, Bulgarians, are very proud of it, not least because for the correct production of real proper natural yogurt you need to use special bacteria, called ‘Lactobacillus Bulgaricus’, where ‘Bulgaricus’ obviously means ‘Bulgarian’. These wondrous bacteria take care of the intestines and promote long life and health.
10. Stuffed Vegetables (Bg: пълнени зеленчуци)
This is a lovely traditional Bulgarian dish. It’s very healthy, tasty and it can be made either with meat or purely vegetarian. You need peppers, aubergines, courgettes and/or large tomatoes. Basically, any vegetable which can be hollowed out. Then you fill them up with a mixture of seasoned and lightly fried minced meat and rice, put them in a large pot, cover them with water and simmer them for a while. Then serve and enjoy. If you prefer a meatless meal, you can use mushrooms instead of the mince or simply increase the quantity of the rice. I remember posting the picture above on my Facebook page some time ago and it got so many likes and comments, proving how popular this simple yet authentic Bulgarian dish is.
Thank you for reading! Please, leave me a comment, pin the image below or use the buttons right at the end to share it on social media.
For more interesting information like this, please, follow me on Facebook and subscribe to my weekly strictly no-spam newsletter.
Bulgarian cuisine is the culmination of all of the greatest traditional dishes in Southeastern Europe, incorporating hints of Russian, Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish and Serbian flavors and ingredients. Bulgarian dishes are decadently rich and yet simple concoctions of spices and fresh raw ingredients that are found in abundance in the region.Bulgaria’s diverse and delicious dishes come from its location at the literal crossroads of the modern world in Southeastern Europe. With Turkey and Greece to the south, Bulgarian dishes often reflect classic Greek flavors such as olive oil and a hearty use of feta cheese, while the Turkish influence is seen in the grilled meats and stuffed pastries that are commonly cooked in large gatherings. The delicious cuisine and traditional dishes of Bulgaria are hearty, warm and inviting… and we invite you to learn about some of our favorite traditional Bulgarian dishes here:
We have to begin with Sirene, as this local cheese — along with yogurt — is found in so many of the dishes in Bulgaria. A white brine cheese, Sirene is made from goat milk, sheep milk, cow milk, or an combination of those milks. Very similar to Greek feta cheese, it is crumbly, strong and has a bitter hint to it. Sirene is common not only in Bulgaria, but in Serbia, Croatia and many other Southeastern European Countries.
Get Traditional Bulgarian Sirene Cheese Shipped to Your Home >>
Easily one of Bulgaria’s most popular and widely-recognized traditional dishes, the Shopska salad is much like a Greek or Mediterranean Salad; with chopped fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted or un-roasted peppers, and scallions (Green Onions), as the star of the dish, and a heap of finely shredded sirene cheese. The salad is lightly dressed with a simple mixture of olive oil and vinegar and is often served with Rakia (A Popular Fruit Brandy).
Get Our Favorite Shopska Salad Recipe HERE >>
Bulgarian Banitsa (Banica)
Bulgarian Banitsa is really just a thin pastry made by layering thin sheets of filo pastry with eggs and cheese. The dishes that are made with the finished banitsa products are wide and varied. Often, banitsa are the staple of breakfasts, with these pastries being stuffed with even more soft cheese (Like A Cheese Danish), dipped in yogurt, or stuffed with vegetables such as pumpkin.
Get Our Favorite Traditional Banitsa Recipe HERE >>
Tikvenik — Bulgarian Pumpkin Roll
Christmas time in Bulgaria comes with a celebration of fall foods, just like in other corners of the world. During the fall and winter, one of the most popular dishes being cooked in the Balkan region of Bulgaria is Tikvenik, or Bulgarian pumpkin rolls. Banitsa stuffed with Sirene Cheese,fresh roasted pumpkin, cinnamon and chopped walnuts; this dish has a true aroma of Christmas.
Get Our Favorite Traditional Tikvenik Recipe HERE >>
Comparable to Turkish Kefta Kebabs, and Serbian Cevap, Kebapche is a blend of minced pork (Or Combinations of Pork, Lamb and Beef) and beef spiced with black peeper, cumin and salt that is formed into long, thin patties and grilled over an open fire. Though the true ingredients and recipe will vary depending on the region in which you are enjoying it, kebapche can often include minced onions and can be served in pita or flatbread.
Get Our Favorite Bulgarian Kebapche Recipe HERE >>
Much like a bulgarian sweet salsa, Ljutenica is a spicy relish made from eggplant, peppers, carrots, onions, tomatoes, sugar and spices. Used as a condiment, ljutenica is spread on toast and bread, and is often used as a relish on grilled Kebapche.
Get Our Favorite Traditional Ljutenica Recipe HERE >>
Literally meaning “Bean Soup,” this traditional Bulgarian soup can use any mix of beans, and is stewed with tomatoes, onions, carrots and chubritza (Also Known As Summer Savory) or Spearmint.
Get Our Favorite Bob Chorba Recipe HERE >>
A cold soup that is also used as a sauce and a dip, Tarator is made with a blend of ground walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, cucumber, yogurt, and dill. Similar in taste to a tzatziki sauce, the dish is served cold and with bread as an appetizer.
Get Our Favorite Tarator Recipe HERE >>
A minced meat casserole that it heavily influenced by Greek Moussaka, Bulgarian Musaka is made of ground pork, tomatoes, potatoes, onion and a yogurt sauce.
Get Our Favorite Bulgarian Musaka Recipe HERE >>
Similar to ljutenica, kiopoolu is an eggplant based dish that is not as spicy and sweet as ljutinica, and is a bit closer to baba ganouj in tecture and taste. It is usually served alongside bread for dipping.
Get Our Favorite Kiopoolu Recipe HERE >>
As we move into Bulgarian desserts, we have to mention that lokumki are not only one of our favorite Bulgarian desserts, but they are one of our favorite wintertime desserts of all! A Bulgarian cookie that is stuffed with a hard jelly or in some cases Turkish Delight, these cookies are rolled in powdered sugar and soft baked.
Get Our Favorite Traditional Lokumki Recipe HERE >>
These honey spice cookies — while served more often during Christmas and the winter season — are traditional Bulgarian cookies made with cloves, cinnamon and honey. With a lit hint of spice and warmth, these cookies are often served with a hot drink or warm milk.
Get Our Favorite Medenki Recipe HERE >>
Learn The Basics of Bulgarian Cuisine and the Food Regions in the Video Below: