Home » The Delicious Balkan: Taste of Mediterranean Cuisine
Balkan cuisine is extremely diverse and serve as a symbolic marker of boundaryless unity between regions’ nations, religious rituals, traditions and holidays.
It is a fact the Balkan food is actually a combination of several cuisines of Mediterranean, Eastern and African. Different flavors, intense aromas and a great variety of colors have been adopted by local communities and developed with them.
1. Dips – Ajvar, Pindjur and Lutenitsa
In the delicious Balkan cuisine, sauces, dips and condiments are common ingredients. Someone typically serves them as starters, either with meat dishes or as salads. It may also serve them as starters. The most well-known sauce is ajvar, which is made with roasted red bell peppers and eggplants and served throughout the autumn months. They used different names in Bulgaria’s national dish, Lutenitsa and Pindjur in North Macedonia.
Balkan countries are always home to these popular dips and spreads. You can sample them and ask what ingredients were used in creating them. With cheese and meat dishes, you can snack on these dips and spreads.
Meze is an appetizer enjoyed throughout the Balkan Peninsula, Western Asia, and North Africa. Made with a variety of different ingredients and has spicy taste. It is frequently consumed with alcoholic beverages.
In Serbia, Bosnia, and Montenegro, for example, meze can be prepared with kajmak, ajvar, salami, suho or suvom mesom (cured meat), kulen (paprika-flavored sausage), and various pastries.
Southern Croatia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro, on the other hand, are home to more Mediterranean fare such as pršut and pancetta.
In Bulgaria, they often serve meze with lukanka (spicy sausage), sujuk (spicy sausage), sirene (white brined cheese), kyopolou, and Shopska salad.
Kajmak is an unripen cheese made from water buffalo, cow, sheep, or goat’s milk. It is popular in Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia, where it is often eaten as meze with bread.
Have you ever tried Balkan yogurt? It is an unsweetened and sour yogurt. It is produced in countries across the Balkan region. Yogurt is frequently consumed as a savory drink in various regions of the Balkans.
Bureks are the most well-known street foods in the Balkans. This flaky pastry is made from phyllo dough and is filled with meat, cheese, spinach, or jam. They originated from the Ottoman Turks, who first introduced them in the region.
It’s difficult to describe the taste of sarma, which is referred to as wrapped in Turkish, and signifies grape leaves or stuffed cabbage throughout the Balkans. Sarma is stuffed cabbage stuffed with rice and minced meat and pork. In Albania is called japrak or dollma in Greek. Sarma is traditionally prepared at home, but some restaurants may serve it in the winter.
The Balkans have grilled meat dishes as an essential part of their cuisine. Although pork is the most typical, chicken, lamb, and veal are available, too. You can find grilled meat on several Balkan menus. Grilled meat is found in several menus around Balkan countries. This meat is usually prepared in a variety of styles, including slow-cooked stew, cabbage, and peppers stuffed with it. They are grilled and served as street food, too.
Cevapi, Ćevapi, Cevapcici, and Ćevapčići are all common Balkan sausages. They are made up of pork, beef, and lamb, with varying proportions. Cevapi sausages are made by hand and do not contain sausage casing. They are served grilled as a street food.
Lamb cooked under the bell
The Balkans have a traditional way of cooking Lamb meat under a bell. This bell-shaped lid is known as sač or saç and is used to cook Lamb or any other meat. It is buried in hot embers and cooked slowly for several hours until it falls apart. This method gives to the meat a juicy taste, spread of flavor and aromas. It has its origins in Ottoman cuisine and is widespread in Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and others.
Originated in Austro-Hungary, Goulash is the Balkans’ staple food. In the Balkans, it is a thick stew made from beef, veal, pork, lamb, or sometimes wild game meat. Gulash is filled with onion, pepper, tomato, and carrots. It is eaten as a primary meal with pasta, potatoes, or polenta in Albania, Kosovo, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia.
In the Balkan, every country has its own way of serving a burger. Milovan Mića Stojanović, Tito’s personal chef, is credited with developing the pljeskavica recipe.
The burger is served with sliced onions, shredded cabbage, and ajvar sauce. The patties are slightly charred, giving them a nice crunch.
You must eat kebap if you aren’t a vegetarian. Kebap is a grilled meat mixture, similar to a meatball, but longer. The main ingredients are pork, beef, and lamb, along with garlic, baking soda, paprika, salt, and parsley. Sometimes you may find it filled with white cheese (kajmak). It is typically served with bread and onion, or with pita-bread in Greece. It is a popular street food in Albania, Kosovo, Greece and Serbia. In Albania, they may serve it with bread and salad for dinner.
A gyro is a well-known and favorite Greek dish made with grilled spiced meat shaved off a vertical rotisserie. Gyros are typically served with pita-bread, fried potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki.
It is similar to the Turkish, Lebanese, and Mexican versions of this dish, respectively. Pork and chicken are common choices for gyros, but it may serve beef and lamb sometimes depending on the region. This dish can be served also on a plate with pita-bread, fried potatoes, vegetables, tzatziki, and lemon on the side.
Lake Fish – Fresh Trout and Carp
The Balkans’ local cuisine is heavy with fish from the rivers and lakes. One of the most common fish we ate in the Balkans is crap. Trout, from Lake Ohrid which is a Macedonian-Albanian shared lake, is a very popular too. In Montenegro, sampled carp is popular. This fish grows in the Lake Skadar, which is Europe’s largest lake.
Octopus salad is a classic example of how a simple recipe can be elevated to something special. The octopus is cooked until tender and then dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. A few slices of red onion add some color and crunch while the garlic adds a subtle flavor. The result is a delicious salad that’s perfect for summer entertaining.
Mussels are a prized food in the Mediterranean region. In Greece, they are called mydia (Greek: μύδια) and they are often eaten raw or lightly steamed.
Black Squid Ink Risottos
Black Squid Ink Risottos are a specialty of Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The name comes from the fact that the risotto is colored black with squid ink.
This is a hearty soup that is made with a combination of seafood, including shrimp, mussels, clams, and scallops. Something traditionally made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, and herbs.
Fish soup is a rich soup that is made with fish, vegetables, and seasonings. It’s a typical Greek dish.
Grilled octopus is a popular appetizer that is made from octopuses that have been marinated in lemon juice, oregano, and salt. They also served this dish as primer.
Balkan regions are known for their rich natural vegetation and curative herbs. Vegetables have always a place on the table, especially in Albania, Kosovo, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia. As a result, you will find lots of different types of vegetable dishes that range from salads to grilled ones. Below are some of the most popular veggie dishes that you can order at a restaurant in the Balkans:
• Cabbage (njoki) – A traditional Bosnian cabbage dish. It is basically shredded cabbage cooked with onions, tomatoes, and spices. It’s best eaten raw or lightly steamed.
• Eggplant (brukirica) – An eggplant dish similar to baba ghanoush, it’s made by frying slices of eggplant until crispy, then seasoning them with salt, pepper, and chili flakes.
• Peppers – Paprika is a condiment made from dried peppers. It comes in various colors, including red, yellow, green, purple, and black. It’s great sprinkled with potatoes, pasta, or even eggs.
• Tomatoes (brinza) – Brinza is a tomato-based sauce that’s made from tomatoes, onions, and vinegar. It’s great over pasta, pizza, or simply on its own.
Risottos are rice dishes that vary widely across the Balkans. From Greece, to Albania, to Serbia, to Croatia, to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and so on, each country has their own unique style.
Tarator is an unusual soup served as cold. Made from cucumber and natural yoghurt with garlic and dill to add flavor, it is refreshing in the hot summer months, similar to gazpacho in Spain. Tarator soup is popular in Bulgaria, Albania and Greece.
STUFFED PEPPERS/ DOLMA
This is a very popular dish you find throughout the Balkans in different variations. Most of the cooked peppers are stuffed with white cheese, long with a mixture of other herbs and ingredients. Some variations are stuffed with rice and meat too, which is very common. Stuffed peppers can be a great option if you are vegetarian, although some use meat inside, so always double-check.
Pasulj is a common Balkan food which is bean soup. This is the perfect winter food as it’s warming and very cheap to make. It’s sort of like baked beans which are commonly eaten in western Europe. You can find this dish in the likes of Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Greece and Slovenia.
Blitva and potatoes
Blitva and potatoes are typically served as a side dish with fish, though it can be a meal in and of itself. Found along the Adriatic Coast, this dish combined blitva (a cross between spinach and swiss chard) with boiled potatoes. Fresh garlic and onions may be added for a simple, yet delicious veggie-friendly dish!
Coffee culture in the Balkans is huge, to the point where coffee is pretty much a food group in itself.
Brought into the region in the 16th century by the Ottomans (the first coffee shop in Europe was in Belgrade!), the most traditional type of coffee in the Balkans is what you may know as ‘Turkish coffee,’ but you will hear it referred to as Bosnian coffee, Greek coffee, Albanian coffee, or simply just domestic coffee in Serbia.
Unlike espresso in Italy, which is gulped down while standing at the bar, coffee in the Balkans is savored, and it can take hours to drink a single cup, so sacred is the coffee culture there!
Rakija (or rakia, rakiya, raki) is the collective term used for a family of fruit spirits widely consumed in the Balkans. It’s made using a variety of fruit like plum, grape, apricot, or mulberry, and typically contains an alcohol content of about 20% ABV. When produced at home, which is common, it’s often higher.
In Croatia, a type of herbal rakija called travarica is often served at the start of meals with dried figs. Depending on where you go, you’ll find rakija flavored with different ingredients like anise, myrtle, walnut, mistletoe, honey, plum, and pear.
In Albania, rakia is deeply rooted in tradition. It’s produced everywhere with one of the most famous rakia-making regions being Skrapar in southern Albania. Skrapar rakia is considered the best and a must at many Albanian festive ceremonies.
BozaBoza is one of the most surprising traditional drinks we discovered in the Balkans. It is a fermented non-alcoholic drink that can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire.Depending on the country, the ingredients differ. It can be made from corn, wheat, fermented wheat, or millet. And, the taste can vary from slightly sour to sweet. It is consumed as a refreshing drink. And, in Bulgaria, it is consumed as a popular breakfast beverage.
Dhalla/AyranThis is a popular drink in Turkey, as well as Albania and Kosovo. Ayran or Dhalle, is a salty yoghurt drink! It may sound disgusting but try having it with a meat dish or something spicy and it’s delicious. This is a popular drink with a meal to ‘help with digestion’. It’s mostly consumed in the summer when it’s hot and you need something super refreshing.
There’s nothing quite like Christmas in the Balkans. However, Cozonac takes the cake (pun intended) for one of the most beloved desserts around the holidays. This is a traditional Romanian sweet bread made with raisins, Turkish delish, nuts, and cocoa cream.
Baklava is one of the most iconic desserts in the Balkans. You can find this treat layered with thin pastry, nuts, and honey throughout the Balkans and Middle East today. It is extremely sweet, unlike some of the other Balkan deserts!
Tulumba is the closest you’ll get to churros in the Balkans. This fried dough dates back to the Ottoman Empire, and today you can find it throughout the Balkan region, but especially in Albania and North Macedonia. The dough is fried and then soaked in syrup, sometimes with sugar and cinnamon added.
Next on our Balkan food list, we have mekitsa, another Albanian, Greek and Bulgarian breakfast. They make it from balls of kneaded dough that are deep fried. In Albania, they are called petulla. Imagine donuts and you get the idea what petulla is like.Also found in North Macedonia and Serbia. They usually dusted mekitsa with icing sugar and served with jam, honey, or white cheese.
SHARE THIS STORY: