I’d expected Bulgarian food to be very heavy with lots of meat and greasy sauces. Instead, I discovered that Bulgarian cuisine is pretty diverse. I got lovely Bulgarian soups, huge salads, and delicious oven dishes based on Bulgarian recipes that have been passed on for generations.
Yes, organs are a big thing there, but I’m telling you: you need to know about Bulgarian food.
I love trying local foods when I travel and with food being so cheap in Bulgaria, I tried out a lot of Bulgarian dishes! Below is a list of the Bulgarian foods I ate while I was in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian food you need to try – 11 typical Bulgarian dishes
1. Shopska salad
Shopska salad will remind a lot of people of the typical Greek salad with feta, cucumber, and tomato, but it’s not the same. Shopska salad is made with delicious Bulgarian white cheese, which is much softer than feta cheese.
It also has cucumbers, onions, and tomato, like the Greek salad, but also roasted red peppers and sometimes a bit of parsley. It’s delicious, cheap, and I had it about four times when I was in the country.
Tarator is a cold cucumber soup with yogurt, garlic, dill, walnuts, oil and water. It’s eaten often in summer as it’s light and refreshing.
Funny story: when Anita was telling me what tarator is made of, she couldn’t think of the English word for walnuts and so she described them as “the nuts that look like brains”. Of course, we talked about brain nuts for the rest of our trip.
3. Nameless zucchini oven dish
One night we stayed in a tiny town just outside of the historical village of Bozhentsi. When I say “tiny”, that’s exactly what I mean. There were 22 people living in this town and two of them were the owners of the guesthouse we stayed in that night.
Remarkable people, who had their own farm and were self-sufficient. They grew their own vegetables, had cows and goats for milk, got meat from a nearby farmer and had an old lady drop by from time to time to turn their milk into cheese. They also baked their own bread.
I’m sure it won’t surprise you that the meal they prepared for us that night was the best meal of the entire trip. We had shopska salad (of course), several vegetable dishes and then this one zucchini oven dish. There’s no real name for it, but it was absolutely delicious.
I’m sure everyone knows baklava as being Turkish, but Bulgaria has its own baklava – By the way, check this for more interesting facts about Bulgaria.
I’m sorry to say the one in the photo is the Turkish kind as I was simply too impatient to wait until I found the Bulgarian kind and too much in the mood for sweets. However, the Bulgarian kind is supposed to be a bit less sugary.
Purlenka is “burned”(but not really) bread, prepared on the barbecue. It’s flat, hearty, and often contains herbs or garlic. It goes great with salad and stays good for quite a while, so we simply took the leftovers with us to eat later on our trip.
Gevrek tastes a bit like Belgian sandwiches. I say Belgian sandwiches because in Belgium we have bread, “sandwiches”, “pistolees”, and “stokbrood” (like a baguette). I’m pretty sure in English all of these are just called sandwiches, but I’m drifting off here.
So, it’s like a soft kind of sandwich, white on the inside and shaped like a big donut with a way too large hole in the middle. Bulgarians often sprinkle some herbs over it to give it a stronger taste. I had gevrek as a snack and liked it.
7. Pizza without tomato sauce
Alright, this is definitely not Bulgarian, but it was delicious so it deserves a spot on here. This was basically like a pizza but with a slightly different bottom. It had white sauce instead of tomato sauce as well as spinach and salmon.
8. Chicken hearts
When Bulgarians kill an animal for food, they use as much of it as they can. That means they’ll also eat the organs and so it’s not uncommon at all to find these on the menu.
I tried some liver and these chicken hearts and have to say they didn’t taste as bad as I expected. The chick hearts were a bit rubbery, like thin sausages.
9. Bulgarian moussaka
I love moussaka and this Bulgarian moussaka was great. It contained beef, onions, potatoes, eggs and – of course – yogurt. I had this dish at a well-known restaurant in Sofia where they also play traditional Bulgarian music and perform the fire dance.
During the fire dance, a man and woman ran over a smoldering fire. This custom goes back to pagan traditions but the Bulgarians have added Christian Orthodox elements to make it “okay”.
At one point, the male dancer lifted me up and walked over the fire with me! All I could think was it was a good thing I hadn’t had my dinner yet. The poor guy.
10. Bulgarian Chicken soup
Also not typically Bulgarian, but I love how you could find soup in almost every restaurant there. Soup is comfort food for me and you have to really mess up before soup tastes bad. I had this chicken soup together with the purlenka I wrote about at the same place where Anita ordered the liver soup I tried some of.
10. Halloumi salad
So the first time I heard about halloumi was… in Berlin. Yup! My friends Marcela and Felipe from Fotostrasse had taken me to this cozy and super cheap Turkish place near where they lived and there I learned about halloumi.
A halloumi salad was the first proper meal I had in Sofia and although it was okay, I have to say that there are many kinds of cheese I like better. Halloumi is a bit too rubbery for me.
So far my introduction to the Bulgarian kitchen. Have you tried any of these Bulgarian dishes before? Or do you know of another Bulgarian dish I should try next time I go? I know there are probably a dozen other great ones.
Try your hand at Bulgarian cooking
If you want to learn how to cook some of these Bulgarian dishes yourself or are interested in the recipes behind the Bulgarian kitchen, check out this cookbook.
For vegetarians, this Bulgarian recipe book is a good choice.
Go on a Bulgarian food tour
If you're flying to Sofia to visit Bulgaria, consider going on going on this food tour to get an introduction to Bulgarian cuisine at try several Bulgarian traditional foods in one day.
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happy to hear that you liked our kitchen so much! If you liked the chicken hearts, try also chicken liver, I bet you’ll find it delicious ;)
As I already wrote in my post https://ntripping.com/5-reasons-to-visit-bulgaria-right-now/ Bulgarrian food is definitely a very good reason to visit this small but beautiful Eastern European country.
I really did! I tried liver soup, but I’m not sure what kind of animal the liver was from:)
I really appreciate your comment, but leaving links like that is a bit spammy, so please don’t do it again:)
I’m already hungry from looking at this pictures. It looks healthy too which is good for me. Only the chicken hearts? Seriously? IEW!
I know, right? They do eat a lot of meat as well, but all the places I’ve been to had a wide range (if not a very wide range) of options, with lots of salads and vegetable oven dishes as well.
The chicken hearts really weren’t that bad:D
Lindo Korchi says
Besides the Belgium chocolates, I hardly know much about the country, so it’s good to see a variety of the country’s cuisine. The purlenka looks delicious; topped w/ butter or hummus, I’m sure it’d be way good! Are the sauce-less pizzas popular in Belgium? And does it have a unique taste to it compared to other sauce-less pizzas?
Hey Lindo, this post is about Bulgarian food, not Belgian food:)
Lindo Korchi says
Wow! Shows how much I know about European countries. How embarrassing.
Well, it says it’s about Bulgarian food both in the title and in the text:)
Jo Anne Valentine Simson says
Great photos of food! I loved the Bulgarian food when I was there. Still have about half a bottle of the spice I bought on the streets of Sofia. Another person who tweets a lot about Bulgaria is Ellis Shuman @ellisshuman
Haha, I still have spices from Sofia too:D
Marissa Tejada says
I’d love to really visit Bulgaria one day. I’ve only been for skiing. I will have this blog post tucked in my phone to try every dish! All of it looks delicious.
That sounds like a good strategy! I’d love to know which one you liked best once you’ve had a chance to taste them:)
Alex N says
I have a friend that has be trying to convince me to visit his home country of Bulgaria but I find most flights to be a bit expensive from where I live in America into Sofia. Examples include 500 USD less into Istanbul then Sofia. Do you have any budget travel tips for those that live outside the EU, expesically coming for the US/Western Hemisphere?
Thanks in advance for the reply; and if not, great blog!
Hey Alex! I’m afraid Sofia simply isn’t that cheap to fly into. It wasn’t for me from Brussels either. I think I paid around €180 return. One option is to fly into Brussels and then take a cheap Wizz Air flight from Brussels Charleroi to Sofia. Wizz Air does have budget flights there, but if you need to take a lot of luggage, it adds up again. If you can come with carry-on only, I would check which European airport you can cheaply fly into that also has Wizz Air flights to Sofia.
Also, Bulgaria itself is really cheap, both for accommodation and food, so that evens things out a bit:)
Hope that helps!
I’m from Bulgaria and I’m going this summer and can’t wait to have”djob” it’s basifally like a pita bread stuffed with different things and they pinini press it after it’s so good! Also Banitsa which is our traditional Bulgarian breakfast is amazing with some “boza” which is a drink made of wheat. So many things to taste and try! Also pig ears are a must they are amazing especially when barbecued…I can go on and on. If you like salami and stuff like that try “lukanka” which is like a dried salami but wayyyyy better! And next time you go you definitely need to have “kebapche” with French fries and shredded Bulgarian feta! Ok I’m done cause I’m hungry now lol
Ooooh thanks so much for the tips Silviya! You’re making me hungry too :D
Ralitsa I says
Hello everyone. As a Bulgarian born and bred person, I just wanted to clarify that the pizza and the halloumi salad from the list are absolutely not typical dishes in Bulgaria. Also, instead of “baklava” which is also not a traditional Bulgarian dish, I would suggest trying “banitsa”
(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banitsa) as well as “sharena sol” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharena_sol), and basically if you wish to inform yourself about the Bulgarian cuisine Wikipedia is a good start: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarian_cuisine
Thanks for the comment!
I think I mentioned in the post that these are not typical Bulgarian dishes but that I wanted to include them as I had them on my trip there and I try to share my own experiences as much as possible :)
Banitsa, Pitka, Lukanka and Sirmi are some that you must try for authentic Bulgarian cuisine ! There are also so many sea food delights if you get to the coast of the Black Sea. Best wishes!
Oooh I will. I think I tried Banitsa. The name rings a bell :)
Thanks for the tips!