Balkan cuisine

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Easter breakfast is eaten in Serbia for Orthodox Easter. It is also popular in North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. A similar meal is eaten in Slovenia but with Slovenian potica instead of cake.

Balkan cuisine is a type of regional cuisine that combines characteristics of European cuisine with some of those from Western Asia. It is found in the Balkan Peninsula of Southeast Europe, a region without clear boundaries but which is generally considered to at least include the modern countries of Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Romania and Greece and the former Yugoslavia, with the possible exception of Slovenia and northern inland regions of Croatia.[1]

Balkan cuisine can be found in Vienna as a result of post-WWII migration to that city.[2] Germany has restaurants serving Balkan cuisine, which were often called Yugoslavian restaurants until the outbreak of the Yugoslav Wars.[3] There were Balkan Grills in West Germany from the 1960s, leading to the popularisation of ćevapčići in Germany, but these establishments have become rarer since the late 1980s and those that survive are often now called "Croatian" instead.[4] A restaurant selling Romani cuisine opened in Slovenia in 2014. Romani cuisine, the traditional food of the Romani people, includes dishes from traditional Balkan cuisine.[5]


The Balkans have a history of foreign rule and internal power struggles, and this has resulted in a diverse cuisine in which influences have merged as a result of cultural exchange.[6] The historical foundation of modern Balkan cuisine is Ottoman cuisine, which itself was heavily influenced by Arabian Levantine cuisine and the medieval Byzantine cuisine.[7] The Ottoman Empire introduced the use of peppers to the region and it also brought börek, a filo pastry with origins that may lie in Ancient Roman cuisine.[6] During the Ottoman presence, dishes such as ćevapi and pljeskavica were introduced along with Turkish coffee.[8] At the same time pork became popular in northern Serbia as pigs were not taxed under Ottoman Islamic law.[6]

The components of Balkan cuisine are also typically drawn from the traditional cuisines of Greece, Persia, the Arab countries and Turkey, as well as the Balkan region itself,[9] and there has been some borrowing from Mediterranean cuisine, Armenian cuisine and the cuisines of North West Africa and Central Europe.[10] Commonalities can be found with German cuisine, Hungarian cuisine and Slavic cuisine.[11] The involvement of Austria, Hungary and Italy in the Balkans led to the introduction of breaded-meat dishes and goulash, as well as an emphasis on seafood.[8] The influence of Persian cuisine is shown by the use of yoghurt in meat dishes.[12] There are also some contributions from Jewish cuisine, such as patišpanja, the sponge cake found in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[13]


Balkan cuisine is characterised by very diverse, strong and spicy food.[14][15] Pickled vegetables and small hot peppers are common ingredients,[16] with peppers appearing in ajvar spread.[6] Feta cheese is also a popular ingredient.[1] Dishes frequently make use of stuffed vegetables[8] such as sarma which is made with stuffed vine leaves. Also popular is moussaka, a dish made with eggplants or potatoes.[1] Many dishes are served with the thick cream known as kajmak[17] and the egg-and-lemon sauce avgolemono is also widely used.[18] Meze are often served as appetizers, as they are in Levantine cuisine and Caucasian cuisine.[19] Popular desserts include baklava and halva[1] and the fruit brandy rakia is often drunk. Cooking is typically done using a sač, a type of baking lid covered with hot coals or ashes,[8] a technique dating back to Ancient Greek cuisine.[20]


The similarities within Balkan cuisine are partly due to the common natural environment of the Balkans which provides similar food ingredients.[21] Many dishes and recipes across the Balkan region are referred to using the same vocabulary, albeit with national variations.[22] The common features of Balkan cuisine are most easily seen in the haute cuisine of restaurants. In contrast, meals prepared domestically reveal the cuisine's geographic variation,[1][23] including a series of intermediate cuisines ranging from those of North and Mediterranean Europe to that of the Middle East.[24] The different nationalities within the Balkans create their own variations,[23] and a dish by the same name may have different ingredients and preparation methods in different countries.[8] Chocolate, cakes and sweet confections are popular in the North Balkans, but in the South it is seafood, honeyed sweets and pastas that indicate the area's more Mediterranean style.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bradatan, Cristina E (January 2003). "Cuisine and Cultural Identity in Balkans". Anthropology of East Europe Review. 21 (1): 43–47.
  2. ^ Brook, Stephen (2012). DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Vienna. Dorling Kindersley Ltd. p. 200. ISBN 9781409384397.
  3. ^ Heinzelmann, Ursula (2008). Food Culture in Germany. ABC-CLIO. p. 124. ISBN 9780313344947.
  4. ^ Stefanov, Nenad; Radović, Srdjan (2021). Boundaries and Borders in the Post-Yugoslav Space: A European Experience. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 265–7. ISBN 9783110712766.
  5. ^ Sullivan, Meghan Collins (16 May 2014). "Introducing Roma Cuisine, The Little-Known 'Soul Food' Of Europe". NPR.
  6. ^ a b c d Garcevic, Srdjan (31 December 2018). "Delicious Histories of Favourite Balkan Foods". Balkan Insight.
  7. ^ Gostin, Alina-Ioana; Bogueva, Diana; Kakurinov, Vladimir, eds. (2021). Nutritional and Health Aspects of Food in the Balkans. Academic Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 9780128207864.
  8. ^ a b c d e Bills, John William (29 August 2018). "7 Things You Didn't Know About Balkan Cuisine". The Culture Trip.
  9. ^ Miljkovic, Ema (2020). The Balkans: Everyday Life and Culture. Livre de Lyon. p. 3. ISBN 9782490773459.
  10. ^ Gostin, Bogueva & Kakurinov (2021), p. 10.
  11. ^ Byrd, Melanie; Dunn, John P. (2020). Cooking through History: A Worldwide Encyclopedia of Food with Menus and Recipes. ABC-CLIO. p. 302. ISBN 9781610694568.
  12. ^ Roufs, Timothy G.; Roufs, Kathleen Smyth (2014). Sweet Treats around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 24. ISBN 9781610692212.
  13. ^ Goldstein, Darra; et al. (2005). Culinary Cultures of Europe: Identity, Diversity and Dialogue. Council of Europe. p. 384. ISBN 9789287157447.
  14. ^ Gostin, Bogueva & Kakurinov (2021), p. 11.
  15. ^ Gostin, Alina-Ioana; Bogueva, Diana (2021). Gostin, Alina-Ioana; et al. (eds.). Nutritional and Health Aspects of Food in the Balkans (1st ed.). LIT Verlag. pp. 9–20. ISBN 9780128207826.
  16. ^ Dalby, Andrew; Dalby, Rachel (2017). Gifts of the Gods: A History of Food in Greece. Reaktion Books. pp. 155, 184. ISBN 9781780238630.
  17. ^ Carman, Tim (22 January 2013). "Prepping Balkan cuisine for its Capitol Hill debut". Washington Post.
  18. ^ Kaneva-Johnson, Maria (1995). Balkan Food and Cookery. p. 349. ISBN 0-907325-57-2.
  19. ^ Coxall, Malcolm (2014). "1.1 History of the tapa". Traditional Vegetarian Tapas Recipes of Spain. Malcolm Coxall. ISBN 9788494178337.
  20. ^ Sparkes, B. A. (1962). "The Greek Kitchen". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 82: 121–137. doi:10.2307/628548. JSTOR 628548. S2CID 162981087.
  21. ^ Gostin, Bogueva & Kakurinov (2021), p. 21.
  22. ^ Jianu, Angela; Barbu, Violeta, eds. (2018). Earthly Delights: Economies and Cultures of Food in Ottoman and Danubian Europe, c. 1500–1900. Brill. p. 4. ISBN 9789004367548.
  23. ^ a b c Roufs & Roufs (2014), p. 24.
  24. ^ Anderson, E. N. (2005). Everyone Eats: Understanding Food and Culture. NYU Press. p. 193. ISBN 9780814707401.