Bulgaria is an ideal holiday destination, it has first-rate beaches, beautiful national parks, exotic caves, and picturesque monasteries. Plus, to top it all, delicious and cheap food. It is a foodie paradise, everything is so inexpensive, and you have plenty of traditional Bulgarian food to try out.
Although Bulgarian cuisine isn’t famous or popular (yet), it is delicious. One of the reasons it is so good is its ingredients; they are all fresh and have exceptional quality. Besides, you will find many Bulgarian dishes, plenty of salads, soups, fish, and meat, appealing to all tastes.
What should you know about Bulgarian Food?
Like the other Balkan countries, Bulgaria suffered a significant influence from the Ottoman and Persian Empires. So, you will find plenty of typical dishes with Turkish and Greek Cuisine like Moussaka, Kebapche, Lokum, and Banitsa.
As we said before, the secret to delicious Bulgarian food is fresh Bulgarian products and seasoning. Simple food, with quality ingredients, and very well seasoned… you can’t go wrong.
One of the most important Bulgarian seasonings is Sharena sol, which literally means colorful salt. It is a Bulgarian spice mix of salt, dried summer savory, and sweet paprika. There are beautiful souvenir jars with this spice. It’s a creative and neat gift.
Another critical spice is the Summer savory; Bulgarian use it in everything. It has a mild taste and is used in meat, fish, and soups. This spice defines Bulgarian taste as no other country uses it like Bulgaria.
Sweet paprika, cumin, and fenugreek are also widely used.
Besides seasoning, dairy plays an important role in Bulgarian food. Especially white brine cheese called “sirene,” which is used in nearly every dish, salads in particular, but you will also find french fries topped with sirene. All I can tell you is that it is an excellent idea!
Still, the king of Bulgarian ingredients is Yogurt! Bulgarians claim that it was invented in Bulgaria and that their Yogurt is the best in the world. The bacterium, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, can only be found in Bulgarian air and gives Bulgarian Yogurt its unique flavor and consistency.
Traditional Bulgarian food – Pastries
Banitsa is the most famous Bulgarian pastry. It is made of filo dough and filled with sirene (white brine cheese), yogurt, and eggs. However, there are a variety of fillings like onions, cabbage, spinach, mushrooms, pumpkin, or even sweets like apples and walnuts. Commonly, it is eaten as breakfast.
Although it is a Bulgarian national dish, you will find variations of Banitsa in the Balkans. During a road trip in Croatia and later earlier in Romania, we had already eaten this filo pastry, but it had different fillings.
Parlenka is a thin bread, like a pita or a pancake. It can be served simply or with garlic, olive, and cheese. It is excellent to eat with Bulgarian stews or with anything, really… 🙂
Typical Bulgarian dishes – Appetizers
Lyutenitsa is a roasted tomato and red pepper sauce or dip, it is a superb spread for bread or with meat. Besides tomato and pepper, it is made of onions, garlic, carrots,
Lukanka is a cured sausage made of pork, veal, spices,
Typical Bulgarian food – Soups
Shkembe Chorba (tripe soup)
Shkembe Chorba is a soup made with chopped pork, beef, lamb tripe, spiced with sweet paprika, and sometimes with milk. It is served with mashed garlic, vinegar, oil, and salt, which you add according to taste.
This soup is not for everyone, you may think how disgusting it is, but it’s pretty good. However, bear in mind that we are Portuguese and have a famous Portuguese dish made with tripe, Tripas à Moda do Porto, so it is not as strange for us.
Plus, according to the Bulgarian, this soup is a hangover remedy.
Tarator (yogurt and cucumber soup)
Tarator is a cold soup made of cucumber, garlic, Yogurt, water, and dill, topped with walnut. The soup is similar to the Greek sauce tzatziki but is much more liquid. Ideally, it is eaten in Summer.
What to eat in Bulgaria? Bulgarian Salads
This simple but delicious Salad consists of a mixture of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onions, and peppers, with grated sirene cheese and parsley on top. Traditionally, it is dressed with sunflower oil and vinegar.
The Shopska Salad is the most famous Bulgarian dish, even known as the Bulgarian Salad. It may seem simple, but it is scrumptious; all the ingredients are tasteful and work well together. Thus, when you are in Bulgaria, try eating as many Shopska salads as possible; you will miss it once you leave Bulgaria.
Shepherd’s or Ovcharska Salad
The Shepherd Salad is exactly like Shopska salad, but it’s added ham, yellow cheese (yes, more cheese), mushrooms, and eggs. It is a very satisfying salad, perfect for lunch.
Snezhanka can be classified as a salad or a dip, but it does look more like a dip. It is made of Yogurt, grated cucumbers, garlic, and dill, topped with walnuts. It is “Bulgarian tzatziki.”
Bulgarian food – meat dishes
Kebapche is a grilled minced meat stick, usually made of a mixture of pork and beef and seasoned with black pepper and cumin. This dish is ideal for eating french fries with grated sirene and a Shopska salad.
Kyufte is a meatball made of minced pork or beef spiced with black pepper and cumin.
Meshara Skara – Mixed grill
Bulgaria is a meat lover’s paradise. Their meat is sublime and really cheap. Plus, the Bulgarian love to grill. The best option is to try everything and eat a grilled mixture. You will not regret it.
Bulgarian dishes – Fish
Bulgaria has brilliant fish, especially by the black sea coast, but this luscious grilled trout was eaten in the Rila National park. On your way to Rila Monastery, plenty of restaurants served grilled trout. It was a good surprise to be able to eat a delicious grilled trout with tomato sauce in the middle of nature.
The ideal place to eat fish is in the coastal cities of Bulgaria, like Nessebar, Sozopol, Varna, and Burgas. You will find lots of good restaurants that serve a variety of grilled fish or fried fish. The most frequent fishes (and seafood) are Sea Bass, Sea bream, Garfish, Sprat, Scads, Mussels, and, Octopus.
One of the Bulgarian dishes we most liked was fried Sprat and Scads. They are small fishes involved in egg and flour and deep-fried, like tempura. Some are so small that you can eat everything as a whole and leave only the head(or not). In Portugal, we have a similar plate called Joaquimzinhos.
Bulgarian Casserole dishes
Kavarma is one of Bulgaria’s most famous and traditional dishes. It’s a slow-cooked stew done in a clay pot. The stew is made with pork, beef, or chicken and a mixture of vegetables like onions, red peppers, mushrooms, carrots, and tomatoes. It is seasoned with black pepper, paprika, summer savory, and parsley and let to cook for 3 hours.
Besides Kavarma being delightful, it is usually served in traditional colorful clay pots. They are so cute and beautiful that you will want to order this dish just because of them. The Bulgarian clay pots are also a good souvenir but not very piratical to transport.
While we were in Bulgaria, we ate several stews made in a frying pan, they were so good that we tried several. One of the stews we most liked was Tchorbadziiskava Tava, which we ate in Veliko Tarnovo. It is made of homemade sausages, pork meat, mushrooms, boiled potato, and fresh vegetables and topped with an egg. It was so good; the image speaks for itself.
Tchorbadziiskava wasn’t the only Casserole dish we ate there were so many good ones with different ingredients and sauces.
Bulgarian food – desserts
Yogurt with honey and walnuts
Have we mentioned that Bulgarian Yogurt is good? Well, it is one of the best and most unique in the world. It is creamy, soft, and tasteful.
This simple dessert is luscious, and its secret lies in the ingredients. Yogurt topped with honey and walnuts – simple food with quality ingredients. Always a winner.
Biskvitena Torta – Biscuit cake
The Bulgarian biscuit cake is simply mouthwatering, made obviously of biscuit and a filling of
Bulgarians drink plain Yogurt at every meal, especially for breakfast, but also for lunch and dinner. They usually add salt to the Yogurt. You got to love the Bulgarian, their Yogurt is super delicious, but this was a bit too hardcore for us.