The Most Delicious Balkan Food You Must Try
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Last Updated on July 27, 2021
There is so much good food to try in the Balkans. Every country has different cuisine but there is some common food which you will find in nearly all Balkan countries. Everything can be fixed with food, it’s how many people within the Balkans show love, by feeding you!
Within the Balkans, food and family go hand and hand. In Albania, a meal is like an event with piles of food and good conversation. In the Balkans, they have kept the importance of sitting down and having a meal together.
You will notice Balkan food is fresh and very flavourful. That’s because in most countries within the Balkans they grow their own vegetables and fruits. If you stop by any market you will find the produce to be incredibly fresh. I have had the best-tasting fruit and vegetables in the Balkans because (most) are not filled with nasty pesticides which leave little to no taste left in the fruit or vegetable.
So, without further ado, here are some of the most delicious food and drink that you should try during your Balkans trip!
You are going to see Byrek/Burek in nearly every Balkan country you visit. This the most popular and common Balkan food which you can find throughout the region. Byrek is a filo pastry that is filled with white cheese (feta) usually.
There are lots of different variations of this. Some are filled with meat, some are filled with onion and some with spinach and cheese. You can even have them filled with rice and there’s a version in Albania which is made from pumpkin and is almost like a dessert. Byrek is a great choice for a breakfast option or a snack meal to go.
2. Chevapi/ Ćevapi/Kebapi
You cannot go wrong with a chevapi unless you’re vegetarian of course. Cevapi is grilled meat, sort of like a meatball but it’s long. Although there are lots of different versions of this depending on what Balkan country you go to! It’s usually made with a mixture of pork, beef and lamb along with garlic, baking soda, paprika, salt and parsley. Sometimes white cheese (kaymak) is also mixed in.
Most of the time this is served in a piece of bread with some onion, and sometimes ajvar (a sauce I will talk about down below!). It’s a popular street food in Serbia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s also considered a national dish in many Balkan countries. In other countries like Albania, it’s usually served as a dinner with bread and salad on the side. In Romania, they have a similar dish called mici which translates to ‘small one’.
You really cannot come to the Balkans without trying a Chevapi!
3. Stuffed peppers/ Dolma
This is a very popular dish you find throughout the Balkans in different variations. Most of the peppers are stuffed 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.
I now make my variation of stuffed peppers using white cheese, lots of garlic, fresh parsley and olive oil. This is the perfect side dish to any meal as the flavours compliment each other amazingly. With the sweet taste of peppers to the saltiness of the white cheese, I’m drooling just thinking about it!
Another variation of dolma is what you will find commonly in Greece and Turkey. Instead of peppers, they will stuff vine leaves with rice or meat depending on what you prefer.
In the Balkans, it’s very common, just before winter, for the people to stock up on food and make pickled jams and sauces to survive the long winter. The history of Ajvar goes back to when a lot of people did not have access to a supermarket. The winters were cold, and houses may have been stuck in the snow, so this process of pickling food was very common. Pickling food and sauces are still a tradition these days even though most people have access to a market one way or another.
Ajvar is made from red peppers and is sort of like a sauce. It can be spicy depending on what type of peppers are used but mostly it’s sweet and savoury and very delicious. It makes the perfect accompaniment to cevapi, a salad or just a spread over fresh bread!
The peppers are either baked or boiled then mixed with ingredients such as chilli powder, apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar and eggplant.
5. Kaymak/ Kajmak
This is a very popular Balkan food you will find in a lot of Balkan food dishes. Kaymak or Kajmak is a sort of soft white cheese, like clotted cream. It’s a super popular breakfast accompaniment and in Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro it’s considered a national dish.
Kaymak is also used sometimes in cevapi and within many other Balkan dishes, you may not even realise!
Pasulj is a common Balkan food which is bean soup. This is the perfect winter food as its 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, and Slovenia.
But they also have similar variations in the likes of Albania too called Jani me fasule. It’s delicious, warming, healthy and a great cheap lunch or dinner!
Goulash originally stemmed from Hungary, but it is eaten a lot throughout the Balkans in Albania, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia. It is generally eaten in the colder parts of Albania like in the north of the country. Goulash is a type of stew with meat and vegetables. It’s very simple to make, rich in taste and perfect in the winter if you’re stuck in the snow!
You will find about a 50/50 proportion of meat and onions with red wine and an array of spices such as paprika along with many other ingredients!
8. Mixed grill plate
The mixed grill plate you can find throughout the Balkans in nearly every country. If you’re a meat-eater then you will be pleasantly surprised at this dish because, well, it’s essentially a pile of meat on a plate! Usually, it will include cevapi, kofte, pork and kebab (depending on where you go!) along with fries, pita, a salad and some sort of sauce, hjavar or Tzatziki.
If you’re a vegetarian this dish might be horrifying to you.
Seafood is very popular, especially mussels! I have had the best seafood in my life in Albania! The coastal countries like Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece have an incredible quality of seafood.
If you’re in the Albanian Riviera I would highly suggest tasting the mussels. Most of the mussels come from the mussel farm on lake Butrint. These are the most delicious because they have a mixture of fresh and saltwater.
Another popular seafood to try is the octopus. It’s fresh and delicious! I live in the south of Albania and at my local beach, my boyfriend is always catching them!
Baklava is originally a Turkish dessert and can be found throughout the Balkans. The best is always in Turkey, in the heart of baklava but I have had equal impressive baklava in Albania!
Baklava is a very sweet dessert made with a layer of pastry, honey and nuts. It’s a very rich dessert so you only need one piece of baklava otherwise it can sometimes be too much!
Espresso and Turkish coffee are very popular within the Balkans. The Balkan people thrive off their coffee! But they do have a different culture around it. In Albania, they have the most coffee shops per capita in the world. You will see in both Kosovo and Albania that cafes are on every corner and in between! Albanians will sit for hours having their coffee sitting with friends and talking (also using Facebook a lot!).
The most popular is espresso but in Turkey and countries like Albania and Kosovo, Turkish coffee is drunk a lot too. Turkish coffee is very strong and rich. The beans are left at the bottom of the cup so whatever you do, don’t guzzle the whole cup down as you’ll be in for a nasty surprise in the bottom!
12. Rakia/ Rakija
Apart from coffee, the other most popular drink is the alcohol of Rakia. It’s made from grapes usually but also peaches and other fruit. It’s a type of fruit brandy but is strong as hell. It’s mostly homemade so you never know how strong it might be!
Rakia is supposed to be drunk in small sips, not shooting and will be served to you in a small glass. If you look at the cafes in Albania, most of the men have a glass of Rakia with their morning coffee. They believe that this keeps them healthy and strong.
You must know that within the Balkans the people are known for homemade concoctions when it comes to medical problems you may have. I have seen Rakia been used in the local hospital where I live, when some tourist fell off their motorcycles to help clean their wounds.
They also suggest using it if you have a sore throat, sore teeth, sore anything for that matter. But also don’t rely on Rakia to fix your medical problems, make sure you have travel insurance!
13. Ayran/ Dhalle
This 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 a collection of the most delicious Balkan food you must try during your trip. Tell me below which dish you would happily try and which one you wouldn’t go near!
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