Bulgarian Food Guide: 15+ Traditional Foods You’ll Fall in Love With

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Bulgarian food, relatively undiscovered, is making its way onto the culinary world map. 

Bulgaria, nestled in the Balkan Peninsula of Eastern Europe, has a rich history, and culinary influences come alive through Bulgarian dishes. 

The food in Bulgaria has an Ottoman heritage and shares similarities with its neighbors. 

With the Black Sea to the east, Bulgaria borders Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey.

While not exhaustive, this authentic Bulgarian food guide will introduce you to the country’s rich culinary tradition. 

Based on our culinary travels through the country, here are the top 15 and more traditional Bulgarian foods to savor.

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What is Traditional Bulgarian Food

Bulgarian Traditional Food by Authentic Food Quest
A sizzling plate of traditional Bulgarian food

Bulgarian food culture is Mediterranean-influenced and rooted in fresh, local ingredients. 

It’s not unusual to find gardens everywhere and locals and restaurants growing their own produce.

Traditional Bulgarian food is varied, yet specific to certain regions of the country.

In the Thracian Valley, clay pot dishes like Gyuvech are popular. Beans as well as Cherverme, slow-cooked roast lamb, reign supreme in the Rhodopes region. 

From the Pirin mountains, you will find specialties like Kapama, where traditional restaurants called Mehana’s welcome you with authentic folkloric decor.  

From the Black Sea Coast, fish and seafood make their way into typical Bulgarian foods.

Herbs play a huge role in the general flavor of Bulgarian cuisine. Summer Savory or tsubritsa (also spelled chubritsa) is described as the “Queen of Bulgarian spices.” 

Nuts, honey, bread, and the famous Bulgarian yogurt also feature prominently in traditional Bulgarian foods. 

Rakia, the national alcohol, made with grapes or fruits such as plums, apricots, or quince, usually kicks off the meals.

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Traditional Bulgarian Appetizers & Starters

Meals in Bulgaria often begin with a fresh salad, Bulgarian soups, or some sort of starter. The options will vary based on seasonality and region. 

Tomatoes and cheese are a beloved combination, as is the popular Shopska salad. Dips and spreads are common appetizers, and Bulgarian yogurt is also omnipresent.

1. Tarator – Cold Cucumber Soup

Best Bulgarian Food Tarator Soup by Authentic Food Quest
Refreshing tarator soup in Bulgarian food culture

In the hot summer months, there is nothing more refreshing than Tarator, a traditional Bulgarian cold soup. 

This light, refreshing soup contains very few ingredients. It’s made with cucumber, Bulgarian yogurt, water, garlic, salt, and a handful of fresh herbs like dill, mint and parsley. 

There is also a version of Tarator, where no liquid is added to the yogurt. This dry tarator goes by the name Snezhanka, or “snow white,” and is more of a salad than a soup.

RELATED: 10 Surprising Facts You Need to Know About Eating at Bulgarian Restaurants

2. Traditional Bulgarian Salad – The Shopska Salad

Shopska Salad at Restaurants in Bulgaria Authenticfoodquest.com
A shopska salad is a great way to start your Bulgarian meal

Known as the Bulgarian national dish, the Shopska Salad is one of our favorite Bulgarian salads. 

The main ingredients are tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, red onion, Bulgarian white sirene cheese, parsley, vinegar, and sunflower oil or olive oil.

Interestingly, the Shopska salad was created in the 1950s by Balkan tourism as a way of promoting tourism to the country. Over time, its appeal has gone international. 

In a 2014 Taste of Europe contest, the Shopska Bulgarian Salad took first place, ahead of Italian spaghetti, Spanish gazpacho, French boeuf bourguignon, and British fish and chips.

On restaurant menus, you’ll find several variations of the Shopksa salad, such as the Shepard’s Salad or Ovcharska, which adds in eggs, mushrooms, and ham. 

3. Lutenitsa – Bulgarian Red Pepper Dip

Lutenitsa dip Traditional Bulgarian Food AuthenticFoodQuest
Lutenitsa is an excellent dip to discover Bulgarian cuisine

Lutenitsa (also spelled lyutenitsa) is a very popular and traditional spread found all over the country. 

It is sometimes referred to as Bulgarian ketchup and is eaten on toast or with different kinds of meat or meatballs.

The ingredients used vary by region and family recipes. The sauce-like spread typically contains roasted peppers, eggplant, tomato sauce, onion, and garlic pureed together. 

Even though lyut means spicy in Bulgarian, it really isn’t. 

You’ll also enjoy several other types of dips made with yogurt, cheese, cucumbers, and more.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Lutenitsa is a delicious Bulgarian spread you can easily make at home. See our simple Easy Lutenisa Recipe and get to know this flavorful and exciting traditional sauce.

Traditional Bulgaria Meats

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Traditional grilled meal platter in Bulgaria

Meat is one of the main staples in Bulgarian cuisine.

The most common meats found in Bulgarian food are pork, lamb, veal, and chicken. Beef is used less frequently as cattle are raised for their milk, though beef consumption is increasing.  

Meats are typically either grilled or slow-cooked in stews, and, you won’t find deep-fried meats.

Meat dishes are celebrated across Bulgaria with different characteristics to each region.

In the Rhodopes, you will find traditional roasted lamb dishes like Cheverme. While in the Pirin mountain, pork dishes are numerous with sausages and traditional pork stews dominating.

RELATED: Zornitza Family Estate Review: Your Luxury Relais & Chateaux in Bulgaria

4. Bulgarian Cold Cuts – Sudjuk, Lukanka and Elena Fillet

Elena Fillet and Lukanka are Traditional Bulgarian Foods by Authentic Food Quest
Cold cuts of Elena fillet (on top) and Lukanka

There are numerous cold cuts offered in Bulgarian food. Bansko, the main ski resort in the Pirin mountain, is well known for flavorful cold cuts.

While in Bansko, we had the chance to try several different cured meats.

Sudjuk is one of the most popular cold cuts. Resembling a salami, it is cured Bulgarian sausage, round in shape, made with ground pork spiced with black pepper, salt, and cumin. 

Lukanka is very similar to sudjuk. It has a flattened, almost rectangular shape, and is made with pork, veal, black pepper, cumin, and salt. It is a little spicier than sudjuk.

Elena fillet was our favorite Bulgarian cured meat. Made with lean pork meat, it is less fatty than other cold cuts. The meat is covered with spices such as salt, paprika, and savory. It has a mild taste and a unique, aromatic flavor.

Cold cuts are offered as an appetizer in restaurants and are perfect to pair with Bulgarian red wines.

RELATED: 7 Best Melnik Wineries to Visit for Amazing Bulgarian Wine Tasting

5. Grilled Meats – Kyufte, Kebapche, Shische, Shashlik

Kebapche and Kyufte are tradtional Bulgarian Foods by Authentic Food Quest
Typical Bulgarian food – freshly grilled kebapche and kyufte

Grilled meat is an essential part of traditional Bulgarian cuisine. The two most popular everyday grilled meats are kebapche and kyufte

Both are made of ground meat, typically a mix of pork and veal, with salt, pepper, and cumin. 

Kyufte has one additional ingredient – onion. Kebapche has a similar shape to a small sausage while kyufte is shaped like a fat round patty.

Meat skewers of chicken, pork, or veal are also popular in Bulgarian cooking. The meat is seasoned with salt, paprika, and summer savory and grilled with onions, peppers, and tomatoes on a skewer.

Claireand and Rosemary Eating Shaslik in Bansko by Authentic Food Quest
Ready for a feast of shashlik and a plate of grilled meat

You will find two different types of skewers: Shische and Shashlik

For a dramatic effect, go with the shashlik with their impressive meat-stuffed skewers that look like swords. The shische are smaller, with wooden skewers. 

Grilled meats are offered at traditional Bulgarian restaurants. You’ll also find grilled sausages, grilled chicken, lamb, and more, everything to satisfy any meat lover.

6. Meat Combos – Sache Bulgarian

Sache one of the best Traditional Bulgarian Dishes AuthenticFoodQuest
Bulgarian food Sache: a mix of meats to share

If you want to share and try several meats, order a Sache. 

Sache is a traditional Bulgarian dish served hot with different meats including veal, chicken, and pork. 

Roasted red peppers, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes also accompany the meat. Its typically large size makes it ideal for sharing. 

For vegetarians, rest assured that you can also find vegetarian sache, which is an excellent alternative to a meaty meal. 

Grilled, fresh vegetables are widely offered in Bulgarian restaurants. 

Traditional Bulgarian Dishes

In addition to grilled meats, many Bulgarian dishes are slow-cooked stews and soups, prepared with meat or as a vegetarian version.

While there are numerous Bulgarian dishes, these three local specialties are not to be missed.

RELATED: 7 Top Authentic Restaurants in Sofia To Taste Bulgaria

7. Gyuvech – Vegetable and Meat Clay Pot Dish

Gyuvech Traditional Bulgarian Dishes Authentic Food Quest
Gyuvech was one of our favorite Bulgarian food

Gyuvech is both the name of a classic Bulgarian dish and the earthen cookware or clay pot it is cooked in. 

The clay pot is used to cook meat, vegetables, and spices slowly in an oven. This slow-cooking technique gives the dish its full flavors and aromas.

Gyuvech is typically prepared with meat, usually pork, mixed with tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and Summer Savory. 

There are many variations. We tried one with Kashkaval (Bulgarian yellow cheese) added to pork and vegetables. 

You can also find a version with eggs and vegetarian options too. Other Gyuvech dishes are prepared with rice, potatoes, or vegetables like mushrooms and carrots.

Gyuvech has Turkish roots, and it is very popular in the Thracian Valley. However, you’ll find  Gyuvech dishes in Sofia and other parts of the country too.

RELATED: 25 Authentic Balkans Food and Drinks You’ll Want To Try

8. Kapama – Traditional Bulgarian Clay Pot Meat Dish

Kapama Bulgarian Dishes AuthenticFoodQuest
Kapama, a wonderful traditional Bulgarian dish

Kapama is a traditional Bulgarian food that originated from the Pirin Mountains. It features prominently on menus in Razlog and Bansko villages.

This dish is made with three different cuts of meat slow-cooked together with pickled cabbage

Meat cuts are typically pork, sausages, chicken legs, or veal. Sometimes blood sausage or rabbit are also included.

The dish is made in layers of meat and cabbage with a mix of spices such as black pepper, savory, salt, and cumin added at each layer. Rice is often added as a thickener. 

Pickled cabbage is a traditional preparation used in Bulgaria to preserve the vegetables in the winter.

Kapama is slowly cooked for four hours before being served. It is a hearty dish, very aromatic, and worth savoring this traditional Bulgarian meal.

RELATED: 10 Best Restaurants in Bansko for Bulgarian Cuisine 

9. Bob Chorba – Traditional Bean Stew

Bob Chorba Bulgarian Soup by Authentic Food Quest
Bob Chorba is a hearty soup

Bob Chorba is a very popular bean soup in Bulgaria. It’s typically made with white beans from Smilyan, a small village in the Rhodopes region. 

The soup is prepared with white beans, onions, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and spearmint. 

It is traditionally cooked and served in clay pots and topped with finely chopped parsley.

We had Bob Chorba for the first time while visiting Melnik in Bulgaria. We found it hearty and comforting while surprisingly flavorful for a bean soup. 

Bob Chorba will delight vegetarians in Bulgaria as it is traditionally made without meat. 

However, there are some soup versions that add pork meat or sausage to the broth, so be sure to ask.

This is not to be confused with Shkembe Chorba, which is a traditional Bulgarian tripe soup.

Traditional Bulgarian Yogurt and Cheese

10. Bulgarian Yogurt,  Kiselo Mlyako – The Bulgarian Recipe to Longevity

Bulgarian Yogurt upset stomach while traveling by Authentic Food Quest
Bulgarian yogurt pairs perfectly with cherries or other fruits

Bulgarian yogurt is also known as Kiselo Mlyako, or sour milk, and has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. 

Known worldwide for its health benefits, the secret lies in a bacteria known as Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, native to Bulgaria. 

This bacteria causes the milk to ferment and gives the yogurt incomparable flavors. 

Research has shown that the bacteria in the yogurt is a factor of longevity in the Bulgarian population. And, it also has additional health benefits for the intestinal tract and respiratory system.

Yogurt is a staple of Bulgarian cuisine. And, you’ll find many Bulgarian yoghurt based dishes including salads, dips, soups, and desserts. 

Bulgaria has many dairy stores where you can find yogurt with different fat levels ranging from 2% to 10%. The most popular is said to be the 3.6% fat.

While the taste is slightly sour, it has a mild and creamy finish. Our best advice is to try several brands and fat percentages and find your favorite combination.

You can also make Bulgarian yogurt at home using Bulgaria yogurt starter culture.

11. Sirene – Bulgarian White Cheese

Sirene Bulgarian Cheese by Authentic Food Quest
Sirene is typically served in Bulgarian salads

Sirene is the most famous and popular cheese in Bulgaria. Also known as white cheese or Bulgarian Feta Cheese, sirene is typically made with cow, goat, or sheep milk.

Sirene cheese is soft and salty, due to the maturation process in a brine solution. The taste can be more or less salty depending on the percentage of salt used in brining.

The crumbly white cheese resembles the Greek Feta, though we found it softer and more flavorful. 

Sirene cheese is widely used in Bulgarian cuisine. You will find grated sirene cheese in salads, mainly in Shopska Salad, as well as in Banitsa. It is also used as a topping for french fries or bread.

We recommend trying Sirene Cheese made with sheep’s milk. It has a milder and rounder taste in the mouth, a delight!

RELATED: 10 Traditional Bulgarian Drinks to Sip Into Culture

12. Kashkaval – Bulgarian Yellow Cheese

Kashkaval Traditional Bulgarian Cheese by Authentic Food Quest
Kashkaval cheese sold in grocery stores

After Sirene, Kashkaval is another popular cheese in Bulgaria. It is a yellow, round cheese typically made with cow or sheep milk. 

Kashkaval is semi-hard, soft in taste, and slightly chewy in texture.  It is often referred to as yellow cheese or cheddar cheese when translated on a restaurant menu. 

Honestly, it is much better than any cheddar cheese you can find in the U.S. So don’t let that translation deter you from a dish as it did for me the first time I saw it on a restaurant menu. 

Kashkaval is an excellent cheese for cooking with a nice, mild taste when melted over oven-baked potatoes.

Traditional Bulgarian Desserts

13. Banitsa – Bulgarian National Pastry

Banitsa Bulgarian Dessert Food by Authentic Food Quest
Sweet version of Banitsa

Banitsa is one of our favorite Bulgarian desserts. It is also a national dish of Bulgaria. 

Made with filo pastry, it’s prepared in layers, most commonly with eggs, white cheese, and Bulgarian yogurt.

Banitsa is traditionally served at breakfast. However, there are many other versions of this pastry. 

Some include fillings with spinach or other vegetables like leeks or cabbage. We also enjoyed it with rice as a banitsa-rice pudding. Other sweet versions are made with apples or pumpkins.

As a result, this traditional Bulgarian pastry can be eaten at different times of the day, sweet or savory.

As one of the most popular Bulgarian desserts, you will find sweet banitsa on the menu in most restaurants. To have banitsa for breakfast, look for it at the nearest local bakery.

14. Turkish Delight or Lokum

Turkish Delight Bulgarian Dessert by Authentic Food Quest
Turkish Delight filled with rose petals

Turkish delight or Lokum is one of the traditional sweets in Bulgarian cuisine. While Türkiye is the most well-known for Lokum, Bulgaria has unique, traditional flavors.

Lokum is a family of confections based on starch, gel, and sugar. 

In Bulgaria, Turkish Delight is generally flavored with rose petals, walnuts, or honey. 

Lokum is also layered into filo pastry to create a version of banitsa. On top is a serving of honey that makes the combination particularly sweet with a semi-chewy and crispy texture.

We had it with rose petals and found it sweet and delicate, and at the same time, filling.

If you see it on a menu, don’t miss out on trying the rose version.

RELATED: 17 Most Popular Turkish Desserts You Can’t Wait To Try

15. Mekitsa – Bulgarian Donuts

Mekitsa Bulgarian Sofia Food by Authentic Food Quest
Delicious Bulgarian donuts

These delicious donuts are Bulgaria’s famous traditional breakfast treat. 

Known as Mekitsa, the fried donuts are made with flour, egg, and yogurt and dusted with powdered sugar. 

You can also find some variations topped with sirene cheese. These donuts are surprisingly light, soft, and not overly sweet. They go well with coffee.

Mekitsa & Coffee Sofia Food by Authentic Food Quest
Perfect spot to grab a quick breakfast in Sofia

The best place to try them is at Mekitsa & Coffee in Sofia. This small bakery specializes in reviving this old breakfast tradition. 

They serve the original Mekitsa as well as new versions with chocolate, honey, walnuts, and more.

RELATED: From Breakfast to Dinner: 10 Sofia Food Not To Miss

FAQ’s – Bulgarian Food

Bulgarina Meat Food by Authentic Food Quest
Grilled meat is one of the most popular food in Bulgaria

What is Bulgarian Food? 

Bulgarian food is Mediterranean-influenced and rooted in local ingredients. Bulgarian food shares similarities with its neighboring countries, Turkey and Greece. Grilled meats and stews, Bulgarian yogurt, Shopska Salad, and Lutenisa, as well as herbs like Tsubritsa, make up the food of Bulgaria.

What is the Most Popular Food in Bulgaria?

The most popular Bulgarian foods are grilled meats, Bulgarian yogurt, Banitsa, Tarator soup, Shopksa Salad, and the national alcohol, Rakia.

What do They Eat for Breakfast in Bulgaria?

The traditional breakfast Bulgarian food is the banitsa, which is often accompanied by Ayran, a yogurt-based drink. Another Bulgarian breakfast drink is Boza, a fermented beverage. Mekitsa donuts are also popular and go very well with coffee.

What is the Signature Bulgarian Dish?

The signature Bulgarian food, often considered the national dish, is Banitsa. This traditional pastry holds a special place in Bulgarian culture and cuisine. While it’s widely available with many different fillings, it’s often shared during celebrations, weddings, and holidays, making it a symbol of togetherness and community.

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Have you ever had Bulgarian food or drinks before? In the comments below, please let us know which of these Bulgarian foods you’d like to try.

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43 Comments on “Bulgarian Food Guide: 15+ Traditional Foods You’ll Fall in Love With”

  1. The Pitca Bread really looks tempting. Summer Savoy queen of Bulgarian Spices – we would surely like to try it. The Cold Yoghurt Soup sounds like a Lassi to me in India. Shopska Salad and Lutenitska will be my favourite whereas my husband will droll over all the meat options you have shown us here.

  2. I wish I had read this guide before I visited Bulgaria last year. Very comprehensive guide indeed – for everyone. And, I agree herbs play a big role in Bulgarian cuisine. I always found the food in Bulgaria very flavourful and fresh. And, I love the Bulgarian wines. One of the most underrated wine regions in the world that also happens to be one of the oldest winemaking countries in the world.

  3. So much information! I love everything in shop aka salad and I’m a huge fan of feta so I’m sure I would love sirène too. The combination of pork, peppers and cheese looked and sounded amazing so I would try gyvech as well. And how can you go wrong with a donut?!?

  4. Ladies, count me in – I’m joining your Bulgarian feast. Actually, considering the country’s location, I’m not really surprised by the choice of foods. Although I’ve been to Bulgaria only as a small child, I know most of those dishes and ingredients from the neighboring countries – it’s such a culinary mix of southeast Europe – amazing. Like I said – count me in…for the salad and the cheese, the meats and….the rest of it, too.

  5. Reading this post really makes for a pleasant surprise! I’m very particular about the food that I consume but I’m a sucker when it comes to Turkish, Greek, Mediterranean & seafood-based cuisines so yes, never thought that Bulgarian food would appeal to me but now, I think I can easily spend a week or two, eating my way around Bulgaria! I’m even drooling now just thinking about the yoghurt & the desserts – banitsa, lokum & mekitsa!

  6. I am a big lamb fan and rarely get it at home. So I now know to visit Bulgaria. As big seafood fans, we would be happy with the supply from the Black Sea coast. The Shopska Salad sounds like a great starter. We like to share our plates, so Sache would be a good choice.

  7. Let’s start with saying that the Pitca bread looks amazing, and I would love to have some right now! The grilled meats are pretty tempting. I’m not sure about the yogurt on its own, but as an element to a lot of dishes I’d be game. Gyuvech would be on the top of my list, along with all of the desserts! 🙂

    • There is so much to love about Bulgarian food. Even though the yogurt may not look tempting on its own. It is pretty tasty. You’ll not go wrong with any of the dishes you mentioned. The question is, when is your Bulgaria trip? Cheers.

  8. Most of these foods remind me of foods in the Baltic region (apart from the wedding bread), and I am pretty sure I had some of these on my trip to Bulgaria. Not quite sure as it was so long a go. But I did have a lot of the local beer out there which wasn’t too bad. Looking at doing a trip back to the country now, mainly to visit Plovdiv but also hoping to check out the local wine.

    • That’s great to hear Danik that you considering a trip back to Bulgaria. You will be amazed and impressed, both by the food and the amazing wines. Reach out if you have any questions as you plan your trip.Cheers.

  9. I can’t say that I’ve ever had authentic Bulgarian food, but everything looks and sounds simply amazing. I may have to go to the library and see if I can find a cookbook with many different Bulgarian recipes that I can try making at home.

  10. I am getting hungry and all the food looks so good. I’m not sure if there are any Bulgarian restaurants around here or not. I’ll have to look and see and maybe venture to a new restaurant one day by myself. 🙂

  11. I have to admit that I knew little about Bulgarian food until I read this article. I learned so much and my mouth is watering while looking at all the food photos. That wedding bread looks delicious!

    • So glad you enjoyed learning about Bulgarian food, Alli. Yes, the bread is captivating. We wanted to taste it as well though we didn’t get invited to a wedding. Maybe next time, though everything else is pretty tasty!!


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