Food is one of the best ways to discover a country and its culture and a great way to reunite people from different horizons and break the ice between them. I think that one of the best things about Bulgaria is that wherever you go – to the seaside, to the mountains, to the Rose Valley, to the villages or the big cities, you will find seasonal food for all the tastes (vegetarian, vegan, meat lovers). Bulgarian dishes are simple and seasonal thanks to the climate and the abundance of fruit and vegetables.
I will do my best to shortlist my favorite dishes (and not only!!!), but cannot promise the article will remain exhaustive ):
First and absolute must try with no excuses – Banitza and Boza (Баница и Боза). One of the funniest episodes of me and my husband going back to Bulgaria was in 2016 when after landing, we had only 20 minutes to get on a bus to Varna, to go to the restrooms before the long journey and to get something to eat – we managed to find, buy and eat Banitza and Boza in such a short time and embark for the next destination!!!! So you can imagine how long we were craving for it!!!
Banitza is a traditional dish that Bulgarians eat for breakfast. Many variations exist – Banitza with Bulgarian white cheese (Сирене – sheep or cow, similar to Feta), Banitza with spinach, Banitza with meat and others. Wherever you go in Bulgaria, you will see street kiosks selling Banitza. However, the best Banitza remain the one that you can eat in Silistra city on the main city market. The place is very modest and hidden, but the sells the best Banitza ever!
Traditional Bulgarian breakfast includes also dought products like Milinki (Милинки), Kifla s marmalade or lokum (Кифла с пълнеж), Mekitsi (Мекици) and others. All of them tasty and full of calories. There is a dough dish served for lunch and dinner as more nutritious – Luchnik (Лучник). Luchnik is a big Bulgarian calzone filled with onions. Goes very well with ayran (yogurt drink) and is heavenly refreshing! Yummy!
After breakfast is time for lunch: one of the things I adore about Bulgaria is no matter where you go, no matter the hour of the day, you will find a place where you can eat properly (not only sandwiches, chips and the like). The service is fast and good and you won’t wait long and waste your time in queues.
So, when in Bulgaria, don’t miss out to eat salads and soups when possible.
Shopska salad is a Bulgarian signature dish and is a part of every single restaurant menu. Ovcharska salad is a variation of Shopska with eggs and additional vegetables. Vegetarian and Vegan salads with quinoa, spinach, goat cheese are getting more and more popular as well. Something typical Bulgarian is the grilled red pepper salad, called in some countries ”Bulgarian pepper”, simply grilled in a ”chushkopek (чушкопек – special kitchen appliance to grill pepper)” or on a grill seasoned with sunflower oil and smashed garlic is a delight for all the senses.
Soups make an integral part of the Bulgarian menu especially in the cold days as in the summer it’s time to go green. Pileshka (Пилешка – chicken) soup, Teleshko vareno (Телешко варено – Beef soup), Topcheta soup (Супа топчета – meatballs soup), Gradinarska (Градинарска супа – Garden soup), Nettle soup (Супа от коприва – supa dessert kopriva), and the signature summer soup – Tarator (Таратор – yogurt, cucumbers, dill, garlic, walnuts, salt, pepper and a little bit of sunflower oil).
As a main dish, you can order Fried courgettes with yogurt (that one of my favorite dishes) or parsley/ spinach cutlets with meat – pork, chicken, meatballs sausages and a Sach (Сач). Sach is a special plate to grill meat and vegetables with spices. The taste is just delicious and the food remains warm because of the dessert itself.
Breaded cheese (Кашкавал/ сирене пане) with jam or honey is very popular as finger food to combine with beer. Kashkaval pane (Кашкавал пане – Breaded cheese) is a must – try (another favorite of mine!!!). Greasy dish, but extremely delicious. Breaded white cheese with jam is another favorite of mine as I like combining sweet and sour. Baked white Bulgarian cheese (Сирене) with honey and walnuts is something very special you have to try at least once.
French fries (Пържени картофи със сирене) known as universal finger food are served with white Bulgarian cheese and can be ordered as a side dish in every bistro or restaurant.
For all the seafood lovers, there is a variety of mussels, various seafood, and Tsatsa (Цаца – sprat ), perfect meze for beer!
There is a special bio mussel farm in the region of Balchik specialized in only mussel dishes (all various for all the tastes). If you are mussels lover like me, don’t miss it out and visit Dalboka Farm.
When Bulgarians are going out for lunch or dinner they usually order Parlenka (Пърленка) as a substitute for bread. Parlenka is a flatbread with butter, garlic, herbs or cheese and is dessert delicious with salads. Although the best parlenka I’ve ever eaten is called ”Rodopska parlenka” and I tried it in Armira hotel in Starozagorski Mineral Bani.
Bulgaria is a paradise for meat lovers – pork, chicken and all kind of sausages can be ordered in every corner (almost). One of the most famous meat dishes is Kebabcheta (Кебабчета) and Kufteta (Кюфтета – Pork meatballs). Grilled with spices, these are the perfect dinner dishes !!!
After the mean course, it’s time for dessert. Typical Bulgarian deserts are Bulgarian yogurt with honey and walnuts, biscuit cake and rice with milk and cinnamon. All of them light and delicious. A traditional coffee dessert is homemade lemon biscuits (Курабийки – Kurabiiki), but you can only buy them from the street shops, they are not served in the restaurants or cafes.
What about drinks?
Bulgarian wine is famous worldwide and it’s an absolute must do to try some local wine – Mavrud is a typical Bulgarian red wine and is extremely delicious. In terms of white wines, I am not a big fan, but I tried a local white wine – a combination of Muscat, Traminer, and Chardonnay and is heavenly delicious. For more information visit the website of the local wine shop of Messembria winery in Nessebar.
A popular Bulgarian drink in the summer is a mixture of Mint alcoholic drink with Sprite or Soda (Мента). Super refreshing with a plate of Tsatsa (sprat). In terms of beer, the choice is not so rich as in Belgium or the Netherlands, but it’s worth to try the local brands.
My favorite summer drink is the elder homemade lemonade that you can order in every cafe or bistro. Light, refreshing and summerish!!!
There are many other delicious Bulgarian dishes as Sirene po shopski (Сирене по шопски – baked eggs), Musaka (Мусака), all kind of mezes – Lukanka (Луканка), Filet Elena (Филе Елена) and more others to try during your next trip!
Thanks for reading!