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Balkan Cuisine: A Complete and Tasty Guide!

Do you love food and are you curious about Balkan cuisine?

Balkan cuisine, I absolutely love it and I am thrilled to write about this topic! If you’ve ever wanted to try something new and exciting in the kitchen, Balkan food is the place to start.

You’ll find the Balkans in the southeast of Europe. They are known for their many different, hearty, and tasty meals that mix history, culture, and taste in a delightful way.

So, let’s dive in and find out what this cuisine is all about!

What is Balkan cuisine?

Balkan cuisine is the food that people in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Slovenia have been eating for a long time.

The geography, climate, and history of this area have all had a huge impact on the food that you’ll come across during your visit to the Balkans.

Fresh fruits, veggies, and seafood from the Mediterranean are mixed with hearty meats and great spices from the Ottoman Empire to make a very flavorful dish.

Fresh seafood in Greece
Fresh seafood in Greece

Even though each Balkan country has its own recipes and variations, they all like really fresh, flavorful food that is often made with ingredients from their own area. I love the fact that most of the ingredients are local!

You could say that Balkan food shows how the area has a lot of different cultures and practices that go back hundreds of years.

Is there such a thing as Balkan cuisine?

Just in case you wondered about this, yes, there is no doubt about it. Even though each country has its own tastes and recipes, Balkan cuisine is often used to describe what they all have in common when it comes to food.

The Mediterranean, Turkish, Central European, and even Ancient Greek cuisines have had a big impact on this lovely and unique cuisine.

Balkan Cuisine Main Dishes

Let’s dive in and find out about some tasty main courses from the Balkans that you must try during your visit to one of the Balkan countries:

1. Ćevapi:

This dish is like small sausages, but the skin is taken off. It’s made of ground meat and has the shape of a sausage, but it’s kind of like a meatball.

It’s very popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Usually, it’s served with flatbread and Ajvar, which is a tasty condiment made from onions and red peppers.

Balkan cuisine - Bosnian Ćevapi
Bosnian Ćevapi

2. Moussaka:

Imagine a dish with layers of eggplant and ground meat, with a creamy white sauce on top. That’s moussaka! It is a popular Greek dish that is baked in the oven and served hot. It’s full of good things!

Balkan cuisine - Greek Moussaka
Greek Moussaka

3. Pljeskavica:

This Pljeskavica is made of chopped meat, but can also contain pork, beef, and lamb in it. It’s shaped like a burger patty.

So, some people call it the Balkan Burger. This dish comes from Serbia, where it is usually served with a sweet dairy product called Kajmak.

Pljeskavica
Pljeskavica

4. Sarma:

Imagine a leaf of pickled cabbage rolled around a mixture of ground meat, rice, and tasty spices. This is Sarma! The bundle is then cooked slowly, which brings out ALL the flavors. In many Balkan countries, this dish is a true favorite.

Balkan cuisine - Sarma dish
Sarma dish

5. Shopska Salad

The Shopska Salad is easy to make and tastes great. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and peppers are used to make this dish.

On top, there is a lot of sirene, a cheese made in the area. It’s a traditional Bulgarian dish that’s great for a light meal or as an appetizer, but you’ll find it all over the Balkans.

Shopska Salad
Shopska Salad

These are just a few great examples, but Balkan food has a whole world of tastes to discover!

What do breakfast, lunch and dinner look like in the Balkan states?

I can tell you that every meal is a big deal in the Balkans. They love their food and drinks.

  • Breakfast: People eat things like burek, which is a flaky bread filled with cheese or meat, yogurt, and strong Turkish coffee for breakfast. It’s a very filling way to start the day that will keep you going for hours!
  • Lunch: In the Balkan states, lunch is the main meal. It’s usually a big meal with several courses, like a soup or salad, a meat or fish dish, and fresh bread or potatoes on the side.
  • Dinner: This is usually a lighter meal, with cold cuts, cheese, fresh bread, and salads being common choices. A glass of local wine or brandy (slivovice, rakija, raki) is often served with the meal.

What do Balkans eat with every meal?

In the Balkans, bread is the one thing that is always on the table when it’s time to eat. Yes, good, simple bread! It’s such an important part of the way they eat. Fresh bread is often served with every meal, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Sometimes it’s a fluffy loaf, and sometimes it’s a crispy, crunchy pastry. Most of the time, the bread is warm and has a wonderful smell that makes your mouth water. It’s baked just right, and it’s always very nice.

Balkan cuisine - Greek meal with flatbread
Greek meal with flatbread

People in the Balkans eat bread with cheese, dip it in their soup, or use it to pick up tasty food from their plates.

So, the next time you eat a meal in the Balkans, don’t forget to enjoy the simple bread that is always a delicious part of the spread.

Best Vegetarian Balkan Foods

If you’re a vegetarian, don’t worry! Balkan food has a lot to offer you as well. Here are some of the best meals you can make or eat without meat:

  • Ajvar is a condiment made mostly of red peppers, garlic and eggplant. People often put it on bread or serve it as a side dish.
  • Tarator is a cold soup from Bulgaria that is great for hot summer days. It is made with yoghurt, cucumbers, garlic, walnuts, dill, and water.
  • Gibanica is a Serbian pie made with layers of filo dough, cheese, and eggs. It’s filling and tastes great. Very recommendable!

Best Balkan Desserts

This is for the sweet tooths among us! Desserts from the Balkans are known for their strong, and rich flavors. Let’s find out what you can choose:

  • Baklava is a sweet treat made of layers of filo dough filled with chopped nuts and held together with syrup or honey. This is my personal favorite!
Albanian Baklava
Albanian Baklava
  • Tulumba are sweet pieces of fried dough that have been soaked in syrup. They are very popular all over the Balkans. It’s extremely sweet but very nice.
  • Kadaif is another treat that is sweet and syrupy. It is made with a special kind of pastry and is often filled with nuts.
Kadaif

I’m sure that you’ll find your favorite dessert in the Balkans as there are many great options to choose from! If you love sweet desserts, the Balkans is the place to be.

Balkan Cuisine: FAQs

The information below is related to Balkan cuisine and gives you some more great insights on this topic!

Balkan Cuisine Drink

There is a drink for every time of day in the Balkans. First, let’s talk about the morning. A lot of people in the Balkans like to start the day with a strong cup of Turkish coffee. It tastes rich and dark, and it gives you a good boost of energy.

People might drink a cool Ayran as the day goes on, especially during the hot summer months. Ayran is a simple drink made with yoghurt, water, and a little bit of salt. Then it’s evening, a time to chill out and eat together.

Balkan cuisine - Typical Turkish Coffee
Typical Turkish Coffee

People often drink local wines at this time, which have unique tastes from the farms in the area. Rakija is a stronger drink for people who like that kind of thing. Rakija is a homemade fruit brandy that is popular all over the Balkans. It has a good kick to it!

Balkan drinks can help you start your day, cool down in the afternoon, or relax in the evening.

Things to Know About Balkan Cuisine

When you think about Balkan food, keep in mind that it’s about more than just the food. It’s also a lot about the experience. In the Balkans, people don’t rush when it comes to food.

Meals are supposed to be like happy times, when you can sit down, relax, and enjoy good food and good company. Family and friends often meet around a big table to eat delicious food, tell stories, and laugh together. This is what I love about the Balkans!

Each dish has a story to tell, often about the history and culture of the place where it comes from. Balkan food is all about freshness. Locally grown ingredients, like juicy tomatoes and fresh herbs, are used in a lot of recipes, which makes the food taste better.

And let’s not forget the rich bread that is loved at every meal! Balkan food is a feast for all the senses, with delicious flavors, enticing smells, and a feeling of warmth and community.

Which Balkan country makes the best food?

It’s almost impossible to pick the best food in the Balkans, just like it’s hard to pick your favorite kid for example.

But I personally like the Bosnian cuisine with their type of cevapi and their type of baklava. This would be my personal choice!

Each country adds its own special touch. But each country’s food will be interesting to taste because it is made with local ingredients, traditional methods, and a lot of love. It’s all just very tasty!

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    The Wrap-Up: Balkan Cuisine

    The rich and varied meals of Balkan cuisine are a beautiful way to show you the history and culture of the area. Every dish, from the savory cevapi to the sweet Baklava is very tasty!

    A trip through the Balkans to try the food is a great way if you’re into food. You’ll come away with a lot of knowledge and a full stomach.

    So, the next time you’re in the Balkans, get ready to eat some of the most delicious food you’ve ever tasted.

    If you want to know more about Balkan cuisine, check out my other posts about Albanian breakfast and the Serbian national dish!

    Your restless voyager,

    Dustin

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