Bulgarian cuisine

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Tarator is a cold soup made of yogurt, water, minced cucumber, dill, garlic, and sunflower or olive oil.
Traditional Bulgarian Christmas Eve dish Sarmi

Bulgarian cuisine (Bulgarian: българска кухня, romanizedbǎlgarska kuhnja) is a representative of the cuisine of Southeast Europe. It shares characteristics with other Balkan cuisines. Bulgarian cooking traditions are diverse because of geographical factors such as climatic conditions suitable for a variety of vegetables, herbs, and fruit. Aside from the vast variety of local Bulgarian dishes.

Bulgarian food often incorporates salads as appetizers and is also noted for the prominence of dairy products, wines and other alcoholic drinks such as rakia. The cuisine also features a variety of soups, such as the cold soup tarator, and pastries, such as the filo dough based banitsa, pita, and the various types of börek.

Main courses are very typically water-based stews, either vegetarian or with lamb, goat meat, veal, chicken or pork. Deep-frying is not common, but grilling – especially different kinds of sausages – is very prominent. Pork is common, often mixed with veal or lamb, although fish and chicken are also widely used. While most cattle are bred for milk production rather than meat, veal is popular for grilling meat appetizers (meze) and in some main courses. As a substantial exporter of lamb, Bulgaria's own consumption is notable, especially in the spring.[1]

Similarly to other Balkan cultures, the per capita consumption of yogurt (Bulgarian: кисело мляко, kiselo mlyako, lit. "sour milk") among Bulgarians is traditionally higher than the rest of Europe. The country is notable as the historical namesake for Lactobacillus bulgaricus, a microorganism chiefly responsible for the local variety of dairy product.[2]

Bulgarian cuisine shares a number of dishes with Middle Eastern cuisine, including popular dishes like moussaka, gyuvetch, kyufte and baklava. White brine cheese called "sirene" (сирене), similar to feta, is also a popular ingredient used in salads and a variety of pastries.

Holidays are often observed in conjunction with certain meals. On Christmas Eve, for instance, tradition requires vegetarian stuffed peppers and cabbage leaf sarmi, New Year's Eve usually involves cabbage dishes, Nikulden (Day of St. Nicholas, December 6) fish (usually carp), while Gergyovden (Day of St. George, May 6) is typically celebrated with roast lamb.


It includes a significant contribution from Ottoman cuisine,[3][4] including baklava, ayran, gyuvech, moussaka,[5] and shish kebab.[6][7] It shares also many characteristics with other Balkan cuisines.

Traditional Bulgarian foods[edit]

Traditional Bulgarian cold cut - Lukanka
Traditional Bulgarian soup Teleshko vareno
Soup Topcheta (left) and Shkembe chorba (right)
Green salad (left) and Shopska salad(right)
Stuffed peppers

Bulgarian breakfast[edit]

  • Banitsa — baked pastry made of layered stuffing and phyllo. There are great many varieties that even have different names, with arguably the most famous one being with eggs, sirene and yogurt.[8]
  • Börek — another favorite pastry among Bulgarians, this one with Turkish origin
  • Tutmanik — somewhat similar to Börek, but not layered
  • Milinki(singular: "Milinka") — bread roll type pastry with eggs and sirene
  • Princess with minced meat — an open-faced baked sandwich with minced meat, and possibly some yellow cheese on top
  • Princess with yellow cheese — an open-faced baked sandwich with yellow cheese on top
  • Princess with eggs and cheese — an open-faced baked sandwich with egg/sirene mixture on top
  • Mekitsi(singular: "Mekitsa") — Deep-fried dough pastry, typically served with jam, honey, sirene or icing sugar
  • French toast
  • Kazanlak Doughnuts — a specific type of doughnuts, from the town of Kazanlak
  • Buhti(singular: "Buhta") — Deep-fried dough balls, served with jam, honey, sirene e.g.
  • Langidi(singular: "Langida") — somewhat similar to American style pancakes, soft and eggy
  • Palachinki(singular: "Palachinka") — Bulgarian style pancackes that are thinner then the American pancakes and are sometimes eaten rolled around some stuffing
  • Katmi(singular: "Katma") — another variant of Bulgarian pancakes, which are bigger and thicker and are rolled around stuffing
  • Popara — might be made from rusks, bread, or kozunak with tea, milk or sour milk(Bulgarian yogurt). Quite different from other Bulgarian breakfasts, this one was very popular during the 20th century, and many Bulgarians remember this dish with a great deal of fondness and childhood nostalgia.

Cold cuts[edit]

  • Banski starets (also banski staretz) — spicy sausage,[9] native to the Bansko region.[10]
  • Elenski but — air-cured ham sausage, seasoned with herbs[9]
  • Lukanka — spicy salami of minced beef and pork[5]
  • Pastarma — spicy beef sausage;[11] a variant of Anatolian dried meat, called pastourmas to Greeks, bastirma in Azerbaijanis, and basterma to Arabs[12]
  • Sujuk (also soudjouk, sukuk, sukuk, or sucuk) — flat cured, dark red sausage, common in the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa[13][14]

Soups and stews[edit]


  • Ovcharska salata (shepherd's salad) — shopska salad, with the addition of grated egg, mushrooms, and sometimes ham.[21]
  • Ruska salata (Russian salad) — salad with potatoes, carrots, gherkins, and mayonnaise[21]
  • Shopska salad — a common salad of chopped cucumbers, onions, peppers, and tomatoes with white cheese[22]
  • Snezhanka ("Snow White salad") — chopped cucumbers with yogurt, dill, garlic, and often walnuts[23]
  • Turshiya (also torsi) — pickled vegetables, such as celery, beets, cauliflower, and cabbage, popular in wintertime; variations are selska turshiya (country pickle) and tsarska turshiya (king's pickles).[24]

Sauces, relishes, and appetizers[edit]

Lyutenica is a traditional Bulgarian sauce made from tomatoes and peppers
  • Lyutenitsa (also lyutenitza) — purée of tomatoes, red peppers, and carrots, often served on bread and topped with white cheese[5]
  • Kyopulu (also kyopolou) — roasted eggplant (aubergine) and bell peppers, mashed with parsley and garlic and other ingredients[25]
  • Ljutika — spicy sauce
  • Podluchen sauce or yogurt sauce — yogurt with garlic, oil, paprika, salt and sometimes dill.
  • Katino meze—Hot starter with chopped pork meat, onion, mushrooms with fresh butter and spices.
  • Drob po selski — chopped liver with onion and peppers
  • Ezik v maslo — sliced tongue in butter
  • Sirene pane — breaded Bulgarian brine white cheese bites
  • Kashkaval pane — breaded kashkaval bites
  • Mussels in butter — with onion and fresh herbs, traditionally from Sozopol

Skara (grill)[edit]

  • Kyufte (meatballs of minced pork meat, seasoned with traditional spices and shaped in a flattened ball)
  • Kebapche (similar to meatballs, but seasoned with cumin and shaped in a stick)
  • Parjola (pork steak, chop or flank)
  • Shishcheta (marinated pieces of chicken or pork and vegetables.)
  • Karnache (a type of sausage with special spices)
  • Nadenitsa (a type of sausage with special spices)
  • Tatarsko kyufte (stuffed meatballs)
  • Nevrozno kyufte (very piquant meatballs)
  • Chicken in caul
  • Cheverme (used in celebrations such as weddings, graduations and birthdays: a whole animal, traditionally a pig, but also chicken or a lamb, is slowly cooked in open fire, rotated manually on a wooden skewer from 4 to 7 hours.)
  • Meshana skara (mixed grill plate): consists of kebapche, kyufte, shishche and karnache or nadenitsa
  • Grilled vegetables (usually a garnish or a side dish)
  • Grilled fish (salt water or freshwater)

Main dishes[edit]

Traditional Bulgarian grill (Skara)- Tatarsko kufte
Cheverme grill from the Rhodopes.
Whole pigs, roasted on charcoal in Pernik.
  • Gyuvech
  • Yahniya
  • Plakiya
  • Sarma
  • Drob Sarma
  • Wine, Tepsi or Tas kebab
  • Kavarma
  • Kapama
  • Mish Mash (Popular summer dish made with tomatoes, peppers, onion, white brine cheese, eggs and fresh spices)
  • Pilaf (Rice with chopped meat, vegetables or mussels)
  • Moussaka
  • Chomlek
  • Mlin
  • Stuffed courgettes
  • Pulneni chushki—Bulgarian stuffed bell peppers[5]
  • Peppers börek
  • Roasted beans
  • Beans with sausage
  • Pork with rice
  • Roasted Chicken with Potatoes
  • Pork with Cabbage
  • Chicken with Cabbage
  • Roasted Potatoes
  • Drusan kebab
  • Rice with chicken
  • Tatarian Meatball
  • Meatball(s) with White Sauce Stew
  • Kjufteta po Chirpanski (Meatballs with potatoes; a recipe from Chirpan)
  • Meatloaf 'Rulo "Stephanie"'
  • Potato balls with Sauce
  • Panagyurishte-style Eggs
  • Fried Courgettes with Yogurt Sauce
  • Chicken in katmi (Popular in a "Thracian" variety)
  • Fish Zelnik (With Sauerkraut and Rice)
  • Fish in pastry (Usually in celebration of St. Nicholas)
  • Stuffed Carp or Nikuldenski Carp (Prepared for the Feast of St. Nicholas)
Bulgarian Kavarma (left) and Yahniya (right)

Breads and pastries[edit]

Traditional Bulgarian pogacha (left) and a pile of mekitsi with jam (right)

Dairy products[edit]

Vacuum packed Kashkaval cheese in Bulgarian store.

Bulgaria has a strong tradition of using milk and dairy products.[5] Bulgaria even has a namesake strain of bacteria used to make many of its cheeses and fermented foods which gives it a distinct in its flavor. This strain is called Lactobacillus bulgaricus.


The name Halva (халва) is used for several related varieties of the Middle Eastern dessert. Tahan/Tahini halva (тахан/тахини халва) is the most popular version, available in two different types with sunflower and with sesame seed. Traditionally, the regions of Yablanitsa and Haskovo are famous manufacturers of halva.

Baked pumpkin with walnuts.
A tahini-based halva with pistachios
Kozunak as prepared in Bulgaria for Orthodox Easter
  • Pumpkin Dessert (Печена тиква)
  • Baklava
  • Buhti with yogurt
  • Tolumbi (толумби) - Fried schuh pastry cakes soakes in syrup which is usually made with honey
  • Cookies "Peach" or Praskovki
  • Fruit bread
  • Biscuit cake
  • Garash cake ("Torta Garash")
  • Katmi with jam or honey or cheese (Today usually with added chocolate)
  • Skalichki
  • Kazanlak Donuts
  • Kazanlak Korabii (Казанлъшки курабии) - Scone like pastry that is egg washed and sprinkled with sugar
  • Keks - similar to marble cake
  • Kompot
  • Kozunak
  • Kurabiiki
  • Lokum
  • Maslenki
  • Milk with Rice
  • Oshav
  • Tart with cherries or sour cherries (Traditionally from Bobov dol)
  • Tart with different fruits
  • Tatlii
  • Tikvenik
  • Tulumbichki

Spices and herbs[edit]

Other staples[edit]

Traditional Bulgarian drinks[edit]

Perushtitsa Mavrud wine
A bottle of Zagorka in a traditional mehana
Pelin is a bitter liqueur based on wormwood


Distilled liquors[edit]


Fermented beverages[edit]

Hot beverages[edit]

  • Tea (Usually prepared with one or several herbs, rose or fruits)
  • Greyana Rakiya (boiled rakiya; winter alcoholic beverage)
  • Greyano Vino (winter alcoholic beverage)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (April 2006). "Bulgaria Poultry and Products Meat Market Update." Thepoultrysite.com. Accessed July 2011.
  2. ^ "Bulgarians celebrate the art of 'true' homemade yoghurt". Timesofmalta.com. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  3. ^ Stefan Detchev, "From Istanbul to Sarajevo via Belgrade—A Bulgarian Cookbook of 1874", doi:10.1163/9789004367548_015 in Earthly Delights: Economies and Cultures of Food in Ottoman and Danubian Europe, c. 1500–1900, 2018, Balkan Studies Library 23, ISBN 978-90-04-36754-8, p. 396
  4. ^ Iskra Velinova, "The Pleasures of Being Global: Cultural Consumption of Pizza and Sushi in a Bulgarian City", Approaching Consumer Culture, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-00226-8_8, p. 190
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Deutsch, p. 87-88.
  6. ^ Culinary Cultures of Europe, ISBN 9789287157447, p. 98
  7. ^ A considerable number of dishes belonging to the “Bulgarian " cuisine are in fact borrowed from the Ottomans. Turkish cuisine forms the core of Balkan cuisine For more see: Evgenia Krăsteva-Blagoeva,Tasting the Balkans: Food and Identity in Region, Regional Identity and Regionalism in Southeastern Europe, Part 2, Ethnologia Balkanica, Editors Klaus Roth, Ulf Brunnbauer, Lit Verlag, 2009, ISBN 3643101074, p. 33.
  8. ^ name="deutsch"/>Deutsch, p. 87-88.
  9. ^ a b c Bousfield & Willis, p. 232.
  10. ^ Dublin, p. 138.
  11. ^ a b Bousfield & Richardson, p. 40.
  12. ^ Robert Sietsema, New York in a Dozen Dishes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), p. 112.
  13. ^ Jonathan Bousfield & Dan Richardson, A Rough Guide to Bulgaria (Rough Guides, 2002), p. 40.
  14. ^ Nichola Fletcher, Sausage: A Country-By-Country Photographic Guide With Recipes (DK: 2012), p. 217.
  15. ^ a b c d Ross, p. 67.
  16. ^ Kay, p. 57.
  17. ^ Kay, p. 57; Ross, p. 67; Kelsey Kinser, Vegan Beans from Around the World: 100 Adventurous Recipes for the Most Delicious, Nutritious, and Flavorful Bean Dishes Ever (Ulysses Press, 2014), p. 29.
  18. ^ DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Bulgaria, p. 233.
  19. ^ Sachsenroeder, p. 144; Deutsch, p. 88.
  20. ^ Kay, p. 57; Ross, p. 70.
  21. ^ a b Sachsenroeder, p. 143.
  22. ^ Deutsch, p. 88; Sachsenroeder, p. 143.
  23. ^ Sachsenroeder, p. 143; Kay, pp. 56-57; Richard Watkins & Christopher Deliso, Bulgaria (Lonely Planet, 2008), p. 55.
  24. ^ Ross, p. 63; Kay, p. 57.
  25. ^ Kay, p. 57, Sachsenroeder, p. 143; DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Bulgaria (DK: rev. ed. 2011), p. 233
  26. ^ Deutsch, p. 87; Bousfield & Willis, p. 232.
  27. ^ Lay, p. 57.
  28. ^ Tropcheva et al., Antifungal activity and identification of Lactobacilli, isolated from traditional dairy product "katak", Anaerobe (2014), doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2014.05.010.


  • DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Bulgaria (DK: rev. ed. 2011).
  • Jonathan Bousfield & Matthew Willis, DK Eyewitness Travel: Bulgaria (DK: 2008).
  • James I. Deutsch, "Bulgaria" in Ethnic American Food Today: A Cultural Encyclopedia (ed. Lucy M. Long: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015).
  • Annie Kay, Bulgaria (Bradt Travel Guides: 2nd ed. 2015), p. 57.
  • Fiona Ross, "Bulgaria" in Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia (ed. Ken Albala: ABC-CLIO, 2011).
  • Agnes Sachsenroeder, CultureShock! Bulgaria: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette (Marshall Cavendish: 2nd ed. 2011).