An Introduction to Food and Traditions of Bulgaria

Traditional Bulgarian Stew
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The Southeastern European country of  Bulgaria has always been a crossroads between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. As such, Bulgaria’s traditional foods have been influenced by the surrounding region, sharing many dishes and flavors with Turkish, Middle Eastern, Italian, and  Greek cuisines. Traditional recipes often feature Bulgarian feta cheese or sirene; meat, especially grilled lamb, pork, or veal; fresh vegetables; and yogurt.

Traditional Bulgarian Stews and Restaurant Meals

Restaurants that serve traditional Bulgarian cuisine often specialize in one-pot meals that may resemble rich and hearty stews.

  • Gyuvech: A baked meat and vegetable stew similar to ratatouille. The base is tomato, and it includes olives, mushrooms, onions, onions, and herbs.
  • Kavarma: A a spicier version of this meal served in an earthenware bowl or pot.
  • Sides: Cabbage rolls and stuffed vegetables are also popular items at Bulgarian traditional restaurants.

Meat Dishes

Meat dishes are a mainstay of Bulgarian cuisine. The stews above are “special occasion” or restaurant fare; more typically families will eat simple grilled meats, including:

  • Kepabcheta: Cumin-seasoned ground meatballs, skewered and grilled
  • Kufte: Spicy ground beef and pork formed into patties or balls and grilled
  • Pork chops and steaks are also common, as are a variety of Bulgarian sausages

Bulgarian Salads

A fresh salad will usually begin a meal. Bulgarian salads typically do not contain lettuce. Cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, and peppers make up a standard salad, and sirene is also often featured. 

Bulgarian salads include:

  • Meshane: The most common Bulgarian mixed salad
  • Snezhanka: A cucumber-yogurt salad, similar to a Greek tzatziki
  • Shopska: The typical “Bulgarian salad” of diced onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley, covered in sirene was actually invented in the 1960s as part of a tourist promotion!

Bulgarian Pastries and Breads

These common Bulgarian pastries and breads are available from bakeries and street vendors, but they are best when they are eaten fresh:

  • Banitsa: Cheese- and meat-filled pastries
  • Sirenka: A stuffed bread, filled with cheese
  • Pita bread, as well as bagel-shaped rolls, are also eaten.

Desserts of Bulgaria

You'll be able to find halva and Turkish Delight in Bulgaria, but Bulgarians also like garash, a cake made of ground walnuts and frosted with chocolate icing. Bulgarian desserts may also be made from phyllo dough and resemble baklava.

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