Bulgarian cuisine is colourful and diverse.
In some places recipes have been passed down from generation to generation and have remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
Characteristic of Bulgarian cuisine is the simultaneous heat treatment of most products. The recipes include a large number of vegetables and spices, among which are garlic, black pepper, thyme, spearmint, savory, bay leaf and paprika. Some dishes are prepared for specific Bulgarian holidays – Christmas Eve, Easter, St. George’s Day and St. Nicholas Day.
Herbs and Spices in bulgarian cuisine
Herbs have a prominent place in Bulgarian cuisine. Various healing herbs are used for seasoning in many traditional dishes. These include basil, thyme, oregano and spearmint. Almost all Bulgarian dishes include parsley.
It is used in main dishes, soups and salads, both fresh and dried. It is not only used as seasoning, but according to folk medicine it helps cure digestive and kidney diseases. Basil also has a special place in Bulgarian cuisine. It is most often used to season meat, beans and potato dishes. No one in Bulgaria can imagine bean soup without spearmint.
This aromatic spice is used both fresh and dried. The taste of wild mint is also excellent. Thyme is also used as a spice and has various medicinal qualities. It has been believed since ancient times that it is a cure for colds, bronchitis, heart disease and rheumatism.
The typical bulgarian foods
It is rooted in centuries-old traditions and practices.
Bulgarian honey is very high quality honey, and its taste and nutritional values are impressive. The country produces many kinds of honey and bee products – acacia, herbal, pine, honeydew and polyfloral honey.
The different regions of the country produce different kinds of bee products depending on their natural resources. Some herbs are found only in Bulgaria and there are also some rare or endangered plants here. This makes Bulgarian honey delicious and very unique. It also increases its healing qualities.
Bulgaria produces very high quality propolis with proven healing powers. Propolis has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and also stimulates the immune system. The propolis produced in the region of the Rodopes is of the highest quality.
Yoghurt is a traditional Bulgarian product. The microorganism responsible for the fermentation of the milk bears the name “Lactobacillus bulgaricus” .
This dairy product has a very pleasant taste and is used in the recipes for many beloved Bulgarian dishes: tarator, banitsa, snezhanka salad and as topping for some main dishes as well as a soup thickener. In addition to its excellent taste, it is also beneficial to good health. Studies have shown that it has anticancer effect.
According to some legends, yoghurt has been around since Thracian times. The Thracians learned to add sour sheep’s milk to fresh milk in order to make it keep longer. Therefore a product named “prokish” or leavened milk was created. Other theories associate yoghurt with the Bulgars and the drink “kumis”, a drink made from horse milk.
Don’t leave Bulgaria without trying…
The traditional Bulgarian cuisine is rich in spices, with specific and unique taste. Most Bulgarian meals are easy to prepare – if you follow a traditional recipe to prepare an authentic Bulgarian meal, you will feel the Bulgarian spirit and cosy atmosphere.
Shopska Salad is the most popular Bulgarian starter. Despite the fact that the recipe originates from the region of the capital – Sofia, this salad is prepared in the entire country. Shopska Salad is exceptionally popular among foreign guests of the country.
This is due to the fresh tomatoes and the flavorful vegetables, as well as the renowned white cheese, by which it is garnished.
This salad is served as a starter or as a garnish to barbeque or baked meat. It is prepared from fresh vegetables, and in some regions baked peppers are also added. The preparation of Shopska Salad is exceptionally easy and fast, if you have all the required products.
Banitsa is a very widespread Bulgarian dough dish, which is often present on the Bulgarian table in any of its multiple variants. It is prepared by dough sheets with various fillings. Sheets can be bought ready or they can be rolled out by dough.
The most widespread recipe for making banitsa is the one with filling of white cheese and eggs. In the various regions of Bulgaria, however, there are dozens of possibilities for preparing this dish – with filling of pumpkin and sugar (pumpkin pie), with filling of cabbage (cabbage pie), with onion, spinach, rice, meat, etc. Another type of banitsa is the milk banitsa, which is served as a desert. Banitsa is usually included in breakfast menu.
Bread bears strong symbolics in Bulgarian folklore and the culinary tradition. It is present in various rituals and customs, and it is a symbol of hospitality, family and home. Bread is baked for every holiday in Bulgaria.
It is decorated in various ways, depending on the established traditions. The most popular form of bread, which is present on the table of Bulgarian family every day, is the standard small flat loaf of bread.
It is prepared by flour, water, salt, butter or other fat, and yeast. Ritual breads are also made according to this recipe; however they have various shapes and decorations, depending on the season, the celebrated holiday or the imagination of the hostess.
Tarator (cucumber soup)
Tarator (Cucumber Soup) is one of the traditional Bulgarian dishes. It is prepared mainly in the summer months, because it has a cooling effect, but many people prepare it all year long.
There is almost no Bulgarian, who will tell you that they do not like eating tarator. Regardless of the season, you can taste tarator in every Bulgarian restaurant. In the various parts of the country you can taste various recipes for making tarator.
In its essence, tarator is a cold soup, prepared by yogurt, cucumbers, walnuts, salt, vegetable oil and spices.
Sarmi (stuffed cabbage vine leaves)
Sarmi are round or oblong balls made of vine or cabbage leaves with filling made of minced meat and rice. This is a dish which is also popular in other countries; in Bulgaria there are a lot of versions for its preparation.
During the summer, sarmi with vine leaves are prepared, and during the winter they are made by sauerkraut. The filling can be made with minced meat, as well as without meat. Meatless sarmi are one of the dishes, present on the Bulgarian table on Christmas Eve.
For this holiday they are prepared from sauerkraut leaves, and in the filling rice is mixed with raisins or walnuts instead of meat. In some regions, fine chopped bacon is added to the filling.
Patatnik is a dish, which is very typical for the Rhodope region. Its recipe contains products, which had always been present there in large quantities – potatoes and white cheese. Even its name originates from the local word patat, which means potato.
There are various ways of preparing it – baked, fried, boiled or with rolled out sheets. In each locality, various spices are added to the basic products. Patatnik can be prepared with or without meat.
The classic recipe, however, uses only potatoes, white cheese, an egg, onion, spices – salt, pepper, fresh mint and fat. To make sure that the dish is evenly baked and that it will have a delicious crisp crust, you need to bake it in low temperature. When serving, it can be garnished with yogurt or vegetables.
Kapama is a traditional Bulgarian dish, which is prepared in the region of Bansko and Razlog.
It is one of the attractions for tourists in the authentic taverns in the resort of Bansko. It is prepared by many products – a few types of meat – pork, chicken, veal, rabbit meat, and sauerkraut; you can even use preliminarily prepared stuffed cabbage leaves; sausage or black-sausage and rice can also be added to this unusual mixture.
Kebapches find a place on the table of each Bulgarian family. They often turn into a favorite dish of many guests of the country, along with Tarator and Shopska Salad.
Kebapche is a dish made of minced meat with spices, with oblong shape, which is baked on a barbeque. Besides being present in Bulgarian cuisine, kebapche is also a popular dish in the Serbian cuisine. In Bulgaria kebapche is prepared by mixed pork and veal minced meat with various spices – pepper, cumin, salt, etc.
In the various parts of the country the recipes for preparing kebapche include various spices. After kneading, the minced meat must be left for a few hours, in order to take up the fragrance of the spices. Then oblong pieces are shaped, about 15 cm long, and not more than 3 cm in diameter.
Top 5: Best Fast Bulgarian Recipes
Ingredients: 500 g tomatoes, two cucumbers, 1 pepper, 1 onion, 200 g white cheese, parsley (to taste), vinegar, salt and oil (to taste) Dice the tomatoes into cubes. Slice the cucumbers into rings and finely chop the onion or cut it into crescents. Slice the pepper into thin strips, add the spices and stir.
Crush or grate the cheese on top of the seasoned vegetables. Chop parsley finely and sprinkle. It is best to serve the salad well chilled. Olives may be added if desired.
Ingredients: To make the pastry from scratch: 2 cups milk, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp salt, 2 eggs, flour – as much as can be absorbed, 50 g yeast Or: 1 package ready pastry sheets, 400 g white cheese, 2 eggs, 400 g yoghurt, butter To prepare the pastry dough mix the milk, salt, sugar, eggs, yeast and flour and allow dough to rise.
Then tear small balls from the dough and roll out on a floured surface. Place the rolled-out sheet on aluminium foil or wrapping foil. Spread a mixture of the eggs and cheese on each sheet. Use the foil to roll up the sheet. The rolled-up sheets are placed on a baking pan in the form of a spiral. Bake in preheated oven at 200-250 °C until brown.
Ingredients: 500 g pork, 500 g Flatbread potatoes, 200 g green beans, 200 g eggplant, 100 g okra, 100 g peas, 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1-2 tomatoes (fresh or canned), parsley, savory, salt, pepper (to taste) Dice the meat into cubes and sauté or stew briefly and put in a crock pot.
Cut the vegetables into cubes and add to the hotchpotch. Add the spices and stir. Bake with the lid on for about an hour and a half to two hours in hot oven. The lid may be taken off in the last 20 minutes to get a crust. In some regions of the country a cup of rice is added to the dish.
Ingredients: 2 cucumbers, 400 g yoghurt, crushed walnuts (to taste), 1 clove of garlic, vegetable oil, dill Peel cucumbers and cut into small cubes. Stir yoghurt while still in the pot. Add to the cucumbers and continue stirring. Add ½ litre of cold water. More or less water may be needed depending on the desired density.
Use a pestle and mortar to crush the clove of garlic with some salt and add to the soup with the ground walnuts and finely chopped dill. Season with a little vegetable oil. Tarator is served cold as an appetizer.
Ingredients: 20 cabbage /sauerkraut/ leaves, 2-3 onions, 500 g minced meat, 1 cup rice, paprika, black pepper, savory, parsley, vegetable oil. Fry the finely chopped onions and add the minced meat and some water.
When the meat is almost done add the rice and a cup of water. Stir until the rice absorbs the water. Add the spices to taste. Cut the solid part of each cabbage leaf. Put a little of the stuffing in the centre and wrap the sarma. Arrange the ready sarmi in a saucepan and add one to two cups of water, cover with a few cabbage leaves and simmer. The sarmi may be prepared without meat. If not using meat, add raisins and walnuts to the rice stuffing.
Video Guide – 10 FOODS YOU NEED TO TRY IF YOU VISIT BULGARIA !
Those are just a few of the dishes popular and traditional for Bulgaria.