The cuisine of the Balkans is just like its people – colorful, diverse and easy to get along with! Though the kitchen of the Balkan countries could be fairly similar, very much influenced by the flavors of the Orient, each country has its own culinary signature.
Bulgarian traditional food offers a wide variety of tastes and satisfies the palates of both meat-eaters and vegetarians. We are happy to live in generous lands that offer all kinds of fresh produce, as well as meat which makes the Bulgarian traditional food nutritious, fresh and full of options.
Take a tour through the world of Bulgarian traditional food and wine with the following famous meals.
BANITSA & AYRAN
At breakfast, as a snack amidst a busy day or even as a dessert – banitsa is the all-time favorite pastry of every Bulgarian. Made from sheets of pastry, traditionally layered with a batch of eggs and Bulgarian brine cheese, you can have as many versions of banitsa stuffing as your imagination allows – potatoes, onions or pumpkin. And on Christmas and New Year’s Eve we put little fortunes on each piece, foreshadowing what luck is coming your way in the year ahead.
If you visit Sofia or any city in Bulgaria, make sure to stop by the traditional pastry shops selling banitsa and try one. We suggest you order it with ayran – a yogurt drink that complements the banitsa experience and makes your tummy happy. See, we are so in love with our famous Bulgarian yogurt that we found a way to drink it, too!
At dinner Bulgarians first order a salad, and they could munch on it for hours while engaging in sweet talks. Shopska salad is the most traditional Bulgarian salad you would find in practically every restaurant across the country. Made from chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, roasted or fresh peppers, onions and grated Bulgarian brine cheese, garnished with fresh parsley and olives.
Shopska salad is one of our most famous meals – it is fresh, it is delicious, it is our national flag in veggie form (white cheese, green cucumbers, red tomatoes). If you ask any local, they’ll probably tell you that shopska salad should be had with our local spirit drink rakia and we confirm – they get along perfectly.
TRADITIONAL DIPS – Lyutenitsa, kyopoolu, katak
Once the fall comes the smell of roasted veggies conquers the streets. The time comes to make the dips that we would eat throughout the year. But beware, traditional Bulgarian dips are so delicious that you can end up filling yourself and missing the rest of the courses.
Our most famous dip is lyutenitsa. Made from ground roasted red peppers, tomatoes, onions, aubergines, carrots, spices and vegetable oil, lyutenitsa goes perfect on a toast or on its own. And if you decide to spread it on bread make sure to sprinkle some cheese on top and there you have it – our favourite childhood snack!
A similar dip is kyopoolu, made from ground roasted aubergine and garlic. If you’re craving a dairy taste, make sure to try katak. It is a special dairy dip, made of cow or sheep milk, preserved through a special natural process. You can try katak on its own or as an ingredient in a salad with roasted peppers and tomatoes.
Juicy pork, surrounded by delicious veggies in a flavorful stew… One of our most famous traditional main courses, kavarma is the go to choice for passionate meat eaters. It is usually made from pork but you can also find it with chicken meat. It features onions, peppers or mushroom, seasoning and white wine, all slow-baked in a special traditional ceramic pot called gyuveche.
WINE & MEZZE
If you’re a vegetarian on a quest for a delicious traditional Bulgarian meal, make sure to ask the waiter for patatnik. A recipe coming from the mystical Rhodope mountains in Southern Bulgaria, nature’s heaven for growing potatoes. Usually, it is made of grated potatoes and onions with eggs and cheese seasoned and baked on a low temperature.
Did you know that Bulgaria had a millenia long tradition in wine making? For the Thracians wine was a sacred drink which they considered a “godly interference”. And indeed The majority of Thracian treasures uncovered on the territory of Bulgaria are in fact fancy golden vessels for drinking wine.
The favorable climate in our country allows wine producers to grow all kinds of wines. Apart from the many imported varieties, Bulgaria has its own catalogue with more than 10 unique local grape varieties that could be grown only within our lands. Luckily, today’s small boutique wineries focus on quality, rather than quantity when producing wine and it’s definitely for show!
Among our most famous red wines are the thick and strong yet gentle mavrud, the berry-flavored rubin and the oaky broadleaved melnik. When it comes to white wines, usually the light and fruity dimyat and the semi dry tamianka are on top of the list.
We pair our wine either with cured meats or cheese, preferably from local farms. Reds go perfectly with Bulgaria’s strong herb cured and dried meats – lukanka, sudzhuk or pastarma. The white sorts are accompanied well by the famous traditional Bulgarian yellow cheese – kashkaval, which could be made from cow, sheep or goat milk.
The world of Bulgarian traditional food and wine is colorful, diverse and delicious! But you might get lost in it on your own. Make sure you connect with locals to take the most out of your culinary experience in Bulgaria. Sofia Top Tours offers a complete Bulgarian traditional food and wine experience of Sofia, covering hidden gem locations and four hours of culinary delight. Designed by local foodies eager to share their insights with visitors, the Food and Wine Tour is a fun and smart way to cover the traditional meals of Bulgaria in just a half day!