Top 10 Dishes to Try in Bulgaria
For anyone who’s about to move to another country, one of the first questions that probably comes to mind is what the food would be like. If you’ve tried Balkan food before, you’ll enjoy Bulgarian cuisine for sure. If you haven’t – you are in for a pleasant surprise. Fresh vegetables and fruits, lots of yoghurt, white and yellow cheese and fragrant spices – that’s just some of the things that the Southeastern European country has to offer. Read our list of top 10 Bulgarian dishes to learn more.
Yoghurt with jam or honey
The homemade yoghurt is probably the brightest symbol of the Bulgarian cuisine. Two bacteria, Lactobacillus bulgaricus (yes, Bulgaria has a bacterium named after it) and Streptococcus thermophilus, help its fermenting process and make it both tasty and healthy. If you ever go to one of Bulgaria’s mountain resorts, make sure to visit a traditional restaurant and ask for yoghurt with homemade jam or honey to make your experience complete.
One of the most popular Bulgarian dishes, this salad is made out of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, sliced peppers and onion as well as white cheese and a dressing with sunflower or olive oil and optionally some vinegar and salt. A black olive, a stalk of parsley or a hot pepper could be the final adding to the dish. Bulgarians enjoy the salad throughout the whole year, but especially in the summer, when they like to accompany it with a traditional beverage like rakia or mastic.
This traditional pastry dish is usually made with eggs, cheese, yoghurt and thin unleavened dough. Making a mixture of whisked eggs, white brined cheese and yoghurt, then layering this mix between phyllo pastry and finally baking it in an oven for an hour – that’s the not-so-easy process of how you make a banitsa. There are many variations of banitsa, including adding spinach, leek or pumpkin instead of (or in addition to) cheese. Bulgarians especially enjoy having banitsa for breakfast with boza or ayran. Also, if you happen to be in the country for New Year’s Eve, don’t be surprised if your Bulgarian friends share a banitsa with lucky charms with you – it’s an annual tradition, and one that Bulgarians take to heart.
There are many variations of how to prepare a tarator, but the most common one is by mixing yoghurt, water, cucumber, salt, oil and garlic. Additionally, some other ingredients such as walnuts, dill or kitchen herbs could be added. Tarator is served in a bowl or a glass, but whether you call it a soup or a drink, one thing is for sure – this cold dish is irreplaceable during Bulgaria’s hot summer days.
Boiled beans – “Bob chorba”
The boiled beans, or “bob chorba,” is made out of beans, a few different vegetables – carrots, peppers, onion and tomatoes and some herbs such as summer savory and spearmint and – if you’d like – a sausage or another type of meat. While the tarator can save you from the summer heat, bob chorpa is best enjoyed served on a cold winter day.
Tripe soup – “Shkembe chorba”
You can find Shkembe chorba in almost every restaurant in Bulgaria, but we must warn you this special dish is not to every taste. With ingredients including chopped calf or pork belly, a broth with milk, and garlic, vinegar, and hot red pepper, people either love it or hate it. All agree, however, that it is the most effective hangover remedy.
One of the most traditional dishes in the Bulgarian cuisine, you will find different variations of it in the different regions of the country. The peppers could be stuffed with a mixture of minced meat, rice and vegetables or with cheese and eggs and be served with yoghurt, béchamel or tomato sauce. Even though the most common recipe is the one with rice and minced meat, the peppers can be stuffed with beans instead of mince and served as a ritual dish on Christmas Eve when people in Bulgaria traditionally eat vegetarian food.
Cheverme requires a special method of preparation of sheep or goat meat on embers, putting the meat on a long wooden skewer and roasting it for many hours – usually five to eight. Then just add some salt to the meal and enjoy. There’s no way to describe the deliciousness of cheverme – you have to taste it.
This dish is part of several European and Asian national cuisines, and is among the most liked ones in Bulgaria. The main and irreplaceable ingredient of the mixture for the cabbage rolls is rice, but you could also add vegetables (onion or leek, carrots, celery and tomatoes), minced meat (lamb, pork or beef), some herbs (sweet or hot red pepper, black pepper and cumin) and in some variations even fruit (apples or plums).
Prepared with pork, beef, chicken, black pudding, sausage and in some variations even rabbit, this dish is heaven for the meat lovers. The kapama also includes sauerkraut, rice, some kitchen herbs – black and red pepper as well as bay leaf. All the ingredients are placed in layers and then the kapama is roasted in the oven for a few hours. Best consumed in the winter, this dish is on every table in Bulgaria on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
A proud member of the Balkan cuisine family, Bulgarian food most certainly has something to offer for every taste. Expats say that they especially appreciate how easy it is to find fresh and healthy products in the small shops and open markets in the country. Whether you are feeling adventurous and eager to try unusual dishes like shkembe chorba or tarator, or prefer to stick to safer options like cabbage rolls or boiled beans, one thing is for sure – Bulgarian food will not leave you indifferent.