16 Traditional Bulgarian Food and Cuisine To Try

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Anyone who’s traveled to Europe will know that Bulgaria is a regular feature in lists of cheapest European countries to visit. This beautiful country is home to gorgeous landscapes, natural wilderness, and historic cities, perfect for any explorer. Another thing to love about Bulgaria is their food. Rich, traditional Bulgarian food is an ideal addition to your journey. 

While wary travelers may steer clear of foods they don’t recognize, it is always worth sampling the local food – Bulgarian food is no exception!

What Is So Special About Bulgarian Food?

Like many countries in Eastern Europe, Bulgarian food is hearty, comforting, and delicious. Designed for cold winters and scarce resources, traditional food in Bulgaria is focused on meats, starchy vegetables, and richly flavored sauces. 

Every region has its own versions of traditional Bulgarian food – what you eat in Sofia may taste vastly different in Varna!

The cuisines of neighboring countries heavily influence the food of Bulgaria. For example, many traditional Bulgarian dishes have roots in Polish, Turkish and Romanian foods, and the flavor profiles are very similar.

The most common meats in Bulgarian cuisine are pork and chicken. Slow cooking meats marinaded with yogurts, spices, and citrus fruits are common in all regions. However, if you go to the towns around the Black Sea, the cuisine shifts and becomes more seafood-centric due to the fresh supply. 

This is a common dish in the Balkans and each country has its own version/name of it

An important thing to know about food in Bulgaria is that people love their spices. The strong flavors are one of the things Bulgaria is known for.

You’ll find dishes laden with paprika, garlic, cumin, and thyme amongst some of the most well-loved food in Bulgaria. Whether it’s a warming soup or grilled meat shavings, you can guarantee that your Bulgarian meals will be full of flavor. 

Traditional Bulgarian Food To Try

One of the best things about visiting Bulgaria is the chance to sample the delicious food. Not sure where to start? Here is a list of 16 traditional Bulgarian foods to try during your visit. 



If you want a piece of Bulgarian street food to sink your teeth into, Banitsa is a great way to start. Greasy, flaky, and delectable, this traditional Bulgarian food will excite your tastebuds and fill your belly on a cold day. These delicious pastries are sold in bakeries and cafes throughout Bulgaria and are some of the most popular foods in the country. 

Standard banitsa includes fillings of sirene (white cheese), though you may find mushrooms, onions, spinach, or pumpkin pastries also on offer. Modern cafes also sell banitsa filled with apples, walnuts, and cinnamon for a sugar hit.

Banitsa is also a typical breakfast food in Bulgaria. Snack on these delicious pastries with your morning coffee, or do it how the locals do – washed down with boza, a traditional Bulgarian wheat drink. 

If you’re in Bulgaria over the festive season, engage in a holiday tradition and buy one of these traditional Bulgarian pastries. Over this time, banitsa contains paper charms and coins to bring luck in the New Year. Make sure you chew carefully!

Meshana Skara

Food in Bulgaria has good similarly to some common dishes in the Balkans region

When it comes to their meat, Bulgarians know what to do. Meshana skara (mixed grill) is a Turkish-influenced dish combining pork, beef, and lamb cuts. The meat is rubbed in spices, skewered and grilled, then served on a bed of spinach leaves with a side of Bulgarian yogurt. 

The ease of cooking and selling this traditional Bulgarian food makes meshana skara one of the most famous street foods in the country. Visit a street vendor and pick up a box full of delicious meat shavings to snack on while you wander around the scenic and historical streets of Sofia.


Love the balance of meat and veggie in Sarmi

Known as sarmale in Romania, sarmi is probably one of the most well-known foods from Bulgaria. The best part of this Bulgarian dish? It’s so simple!

A mixture of rice, spices, and mince is cooked over the fire, then wrapped in cabbage leaves and soaked in a mixture of water and brine. The result is a tender, juicy dish loved by Bulgarians in all regions. Some versions are fried after cooking for a crispy base and delightful crunch.

While sarmi can be found as a starter in restaurants year-round, this Bulgarian food is usually eaten during Christmas and holidays. So enjoy your sarmi like a local – with a glass of red wine and fresh, warm bread to mop up the juices. 



You might have heard of the Greek version of moussaka – therefore, you know it is delicious! However, the Bulgarian version of this classic dish is just as tasty, and is a winner any time of the year. 

The main difference between Greek and Bulgarian moussaka is the star ingredient. Greek moussaka uses eggplant as its primary component, whereas the Bulgarian version subs this out for starchy, filling potatoes. This tasty meal is stuffed with minced meat, onion, spices, and yogurt for a unique, Bulgarian twist. 

Vegetarians might wonder if there is a version of Bulgarian moussaka for them to try. Don’t despair – many restaurants these days offer varieties featuring ground walnuts or roasted vegetables in place of the traditional mincemeat. 


The ultimate in Bulgarian comfort food, lyutenitsa is a well-known children’s treat popular with people of all ages – for a good reason!

Traditionally a Bulgarian peasant food, lyutenitsa season starts when the fall crops begin to fruit. Chopped tomatoes, thick peppers, onion, garlic, and cumin come together to create a piquant, warming relish. Bulgarians spread this favorite treat on warm, homemade bread for a quick snack in the late afternoons before dinner.

Years ago, parents made this thick, tangy relish at home and stored it in jars for later use. These days, lyutenitsa is available for purchase at most stores in Bulgaria if you don’t have the time. Almost every family has their own recipe for this traditional Bulgarian food, and weekends are spent making stock for hungry bellies for the week to come. 

Shopska Salata

A refreshing dish in Bulgarian cuisine and great as a starter

The origins of this traditional Bulgarian food are uncertain, but the taste is undeniable! Shopska salata is a simple combination of diced tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and onions. The secret? Grated white cheese is sprinkled liberally on top and finished with chopped parsley.

Shopska salata has a couple of different tales. Some say that shopska salata was created in Bulgaria’s westernmost region of Shopluk. The more widely-known story speaks of the salad as a propaganda tool of the Bulgarian communist party during the 1950s. Whatever the truth is, this well-known Bulgarian food is definitely top-of-the-list for foods to try on your trip!

A fun fact about shopska salata: the colors of the main ingredients (tomatoes, cucumbers, and white cheese) are the same as Bulgaria’s flag! This might not be intentional, but the coincidence is too good for you to pass up trying this delicious, fresh salad during your visit. 

Kiselo Mlyako

If you’ve eaten anything with meat, you have likely eaten kiselo mlyako. This traditional Bulgarian yogurt accompanies many meals and street foods like meshana skara. Creamy and slightly tart, kiselo mlyako translates as ‘sour milk’ and is famous worldwide for its delightful taste and texture. 

Kiselo mlyako is a protected Bulgarian food item and is made using two specific starter bacteria to gain the name. With high protein and probiotic levels, Bulgarian locals proudly boast that this dairy product is the ‘healthiest yogurt in the world’. 

The yogurt’s flavor also pairs well with fruit, honey, and sugar for breakfast during warmer months. So whether you like sweet or savory, kiselo mlyako is one Bulgarian food you have to try!



Many traditional foods from Bulgaria stem from necessity. Fresh fruits and vegetables were often hard to come by during the harsh winters, particularly in colder areas outside the main cities. As such, many Bulgarians pickled their produce during the fall months to preserve their precious greens. While vegetables are more plentiful today, the tradition of creating turshia lives on.

The name turshia comes from Persian, and the winter appetizer is the equivalent of Italy’s giardiniera. This Bulgarian pickle is a collection of vegetables that is stuffed into jars and covered with vinegar, sugar, and water.

Turshia is usually served as an appetizer during fall and winter and contains vegetables like peppers, cauliflower, cucumbers, carrots, and cabbage. For taste, many Bulgarians will add salt, pepper, or bay leaves to the mixture. The flavor is tart and sharp and cuts through the fattier taste of many meat dishes and stews. While many families make their own turshia, grocery stores and markets also sell little jars of the vegetable pickle today. 

Bulgarian Food: Soups

Eastern European countries favor soup in the colder months, but what about during summer? Try tarator; a chilled soup usually served as a first course during spring and summer. This traditional Bulgarian food is a refreshing mix of cucumbers, walnuts, garlic, and yogurt, accented with dill and vinegar for a zesty finish. 


Cold soups in Bulgaria are good options for summer

Originating in Bulgaria in the 15th century, tarator is usually served as a precursor to seafood and chicken dishes in place of a salad. Look for tarator in restaurants and pubs around Bulgaria – perfect for enjoying the bright sunshine. 


If you’re a vegetarian, look away now. But, for adventurous foodies, shkembe is a uniquely flavored soup that you will either love or never want to eat again. Shkembe translates as ‘tripe soup’ and is known for its distinctive taste and smell.

This traditional Bulgarian food has different variations depending on the region. For example, if you’re in the north, shkembe often contains seafood or chicken as its primary protein. However, if you get the chance to taste the classic version, it’s a taste experience you won’t forget in a hurry!

Shkembe is also famed for being a hangover cure due to the heavy garlic and hot red peppers. Try it after a few beers if you’re feeling brave – otherwise, Tylenol and water still do the trick. 

Bulgarian Desserts


When you visit Bulgaria, don’t limit yourself to the cities. Some of the best food from Bulgaria comes from the regional areas, and you’ll experience a whole new culinary world in these isolated corners. In more remote parts of Bulgaria, mekitsa is standard breakfast for locals and tourists. Once you have a bite, you won’t be surprised! 

Similar to Hungarian lángos, mekitsa are deep-fried dough pieces served hot from the pot. Mekitsa is suitable for both sweet and savory toppings. Traditionally, this classic breakfast is smothered in honey, jam, or white cheese. 

Recently, cafes have started offering mekitsa as a type of fried toast. Eat this traditional food of Bulgaria with butter, syrup, or peanut butter, and enjoy a cup of coffee as you watch the snow come down. What could be better?



These classic treats are favorites across Bulgaria in any season. Rurki are long, thin pieces of pastries filled with sweet cream. Served in bunches of three or four, this traditional Bulgarian food is a great choice to sate your sweet tooth, particularly after a warm lunch. 

Rurki is a broad term for a style of dessert found across Eastern Europe and the Middle East. For example, although rurki originated in Bulgaria, a similar version called torpil tatsili exists in Turkey, and Poland calls the crunchy sweet rurki z kremem

The taste of rurki varies depending on the region, with chocolate and boysenberry rurki among some of the offerings in Sofia. However, most cafes and bakeries stick to the traditional recipe – if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

Kazanlak Donuts

Desserts in Bulgaria are a burst of flavors but can also be simple

Named for the town of Kazanlak, Kazanlak donuts are probably the most recognizable food of Bulgaria on this list. These delicious fluffy treats contain eggs, flour, milk, yeast, sugar, and vanilla flavoring. The dough is fried in hot oil and dusted with powdered sugar, cinnamon, or honey before eating.

“What’s so special about these donuts? They sound like any other.”

We’ll tell you – the secret ingredient is kiselo mlyako! 

The rich Bulgarian yogurt makes the dough fluffy, chewy, and moist and offsets the sweetness of the sugar for a delicious delicacy that will make your tastebuds sing. Kazanlak donuts are so lovely, many Bulgarians eat them with no toppings at all.

Torta Garash

If you feel like something rich and gooey for dessert, torta garash is for you. This decadent chocolate cake is one of the most famous Bulgarian desserts, and is even well-known around Europe. 

This luscious chocolate dessert has layers of walnut sponge, dark chocolate ganache, and walnuts to sate even the most demanding sweet tooth. In addition, Torta garash is often decorated with coconut, slivered almonds, or metallic chocolate ornaments around the holidays for a festive touch. 

Torta garash was created in Ruse in 1885 by an Austro-Hungarian confectioner named Kosta Garash. Making the chocolate sponge at his job as a dessert chef, he took his invention to Sofia, which exploded in popularity. Today, this Bulgarian food is available at bakeries, patisseries, and restaurants across the country. So grab yourself a slice and see what all the fuss is about. 


The Bulgarian version of shortbread, kurabiiki are classic cookies that will please even the fussiest eaters. Made of butter, honey, eggs, sugar, and flour, kurabiiki is a favorite for all ages and trendy with tourists for their sweetness and familiarity. 

This traditional Bulgarian dessert is popular for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they require everyday pantry items – no unusual spices or additions here. Secondly (and most importantly), they’re quick! Kurakiibi take around 20 minutes from dough to cookie, and so is an easy option for time-poor Bulgarians around the holiday season. 

You’ll typically find kurabiiki in bakeries or grocery stores around Christmas – however, the best versions of these cookies are made at home! Visit a local market to get your hands on some of these fresh, crunchy treats.


If there’s one thing that can be said about Bulgarians, it’s that they love their pies! Tikvenik is a flaky pastry filled with pumpkin, walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon. While the combination might sound strange, the sweetness of the pumpkin works in harmony with the cinnamon and sugar to create the ideal winter treat.

Originating in the North of Bulgaria, tiknevik was created to celebrate the cold weather and the coming spring. Pumpkins are plentiful during winter and are as popular in desserts as they are in savory dishes. 

Like many Bulgarian desserts, tikvenik is commonly eaten during the holiday season and is associated with cold weather and warm drinks. However, nowadays, it’s normal to find this traditional food of Bulgaria in cafes and bakeries all year round. Buy some tikvenik, and see for yourself just how delicious the pumpkin-walnut combo can be!

Discovering Food In Bulgaria

Bulgarian cuisine may seem intimidating at first, but there is something to please everyone. No matter what time of year you visit, the rich culture and quality ingredients provide a culinary experience that you won’t soon forget. So when you visit this beautiful country, make sure to venture outside your comfort zone and try some of these delicious traditional foods. 



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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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