Bulgarian Food – 6 Delicious Meals to Try When Visiting

Posted By Angie in Europe

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After being underwhelmed by the food in Turkey when I had expected to fall in love with it, I took my first bites of Bulgarian food skeptically. Sure, it was served in an adorable, colorful ceramic pot, but how good could it possibly be? Wasn’t Bulgaria supposed to be the home of meat stews and brown sauces? As it turns out, my first Bulgarian meal was not only good, it was so good that I practically left the restaurant skipping with joy.This scene was repeated after nearly every meal I enjoyed in Bulgaria, and six foods stood out among the rest as being delicious no matter where we tried them.


In a country where there are only two major types of cheese and they are described on English menus as “white cheese” and “yellow cheese,” you wouldn’t necessarily expect either to be good. However, we became addicted to “white cheese,” or sirene cheese.

It is similar to Greek feta, but it’s saltier, milder, and even more heavenly than feta. You’ll find this cheese in many different types of food such as pastries, salads, and baked dishes. I am pretty sure there were a few meals where it was in every dish that we ate.


The best froyo in the world.

Yogurt originated in Bulgaria, and the strain of bacteria that distinguishes Bulgarian yogurt from other yogurts supposedly can’t be grown anywhere else in the world. It’s a shame, because we really liked the yogurt here. Now, if you’re on a search for really great Bulgarian yogurt, you need to drive around and look for a shack that sells the homemade stuff, or stay at an inn like we did that had phenomenal homemade yogurt. The store-bought stuff was good, but nothing beats homemade.

A lot of the yogurt is made with goat’s milk, which I expected to be really ‘goaty,’ but it was rather mild and really delicious.

Baked Goods

Bulgarian baked goods

There are bakeries on practically every block, and the window displays beckon you to stop by. Most of the baked goods seemed to be variations on the theme of bread + cheese = heaven.

Our two favorites were the traditional banitsa made with a flaky dough and filled with sirene cheese (or other things, but we always stuck with the cheese), and what I can only describe as cheezy bread. This bread was shaped sort of like a giant flat cinnamon roll. It was soft like a roll and topped with cheese before baking so that it developed a nice cheese crust on top. And if that doesn’t get your mouth watering, imagine a layer of sirene cheese baked in the middle. Mmmm! This is one thing that I must learn how to make.


Shopska Salad

We met someone from Romania just before we went to Bulgaria, and he kind of made a sour face when we asked about Bulgarian food and told us that there isn’t anything fresh there. Our experience couldn’t have been further from that. I think we had a salad with almost every meal (and it seemed most everyone else did, too).  And I’m not talking about some wilted iceberg lettuce with grated carrots and purple cabbage. I’m talking about beautiful tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, pungent onions, tasty peppers, and, of course, a mound of creamy, salty cheese to top it all off. There are so many different delicious salads, but two of our favorites were the shopska salad (basically what I described previously) and the ovcharska salad (shopska ingredients plus egg, ham, and sometimes olives).


Coming from Turkey, we expected Bulgarian meatballs to be similar to Turkish kofte, which we were just ok and were definitely meat overload. However, the meatballs we had in Bulgaria were typically made of pork and also had onions, parsley, garlic, and other seasonings inside to give your palate some other flavors besides straight up meat. One of the more interesting and tasty meatball variations we had in Bulgaria had yellow cheese stuffed inside.

Baked Dishes

Bulgarian clay pot dishes.

One of my favorite things about Bulgaria was “baked dishes” or “hot dishes,” as you’ll see them categorized on English menus. They’re basically baked casseroles served in beautiful Bulgarian ceramic pots that are deceptively small but house a serious amount of food. The ingredients can be any combination of things like cheese, veggies, pork, chicken, eggs, lukanka or sujuk (sausages), and the casseroles can be covered in a tomato sauce, cheesy sauce, or served in a heartier broth for something like a stew.

My first meal in Bulgaria was a baked dish consisting of creamy, cheesy rice with mushrooms and pork. One of our other favorites was a hot cheese starter with yep, you guessed it, sirene cheese, veggies, and sometimes an egg on top. What’s better than sirene cheese? Hot, gooey, melty sirene cheese. Delicious!

These are just some of the many amazing foods we tried during the course of our stay in Bulgaria. If you are planning on visiting Bulgaria to try some of this mouth-watering cuisine, I would suggest seeking out smaller towns and villages.

It was really difficult to find traditional food in big cities like Sofia where seemingly every restaurant was either a French café or an Italian place. Conversely, some of the best food we had in Bulgaria was in the teensy village of Govedartsi at our guest house’s restaurant.

We look forward to getting back home and trying to recreate some of these awesome Bulgarian dishes. Of course, a major component in doing so will be sirene cheese, which we hope to try our hand at making. Look for future posts to see how we do!

Looking to try other delicious meals in Europe? Click the previous link to see our six favorite meals from the region!

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  1. Hi, I’m bulgarian too like Kaloyan and may say that he’s right about our neighbours. But we have the same feelings for them, so… here are the Balkans 🙂 Our food and meals are so much more than you have mentioned, so I will recommend you more for your next trip to our country 🙂 You must, I repeat, must try some dishes like “kavarma” – chicken or pork stew with vegetables. Next – your favorite “sirene” but it is “po shopski” – baked in those ceramic pots with fresh tomatoes, whole egg and whole chilly pepper on top. And I’m sure that you’ll fell in love with some “signature dishes” from Bulgaria – “Musaka” – layers of baked potatoes and minced meat with herbs and carrots, covered with (mixed our yoghurt and eggs) or (special sauce with fresh milk, butter, grounded black pepper, whisked egg whites and yolks mixed with all that stuff. Every family here makes this topping differently but these are the most popular ways) and stuffed peppers – red or green, filled with minced meat and rice or even only with rice and herbs, than baked tenderly or not so tenderly, but boiled 🙂 . My post is very long even now, so I’ll just mention the fresh apple or pumpkin banitsa (there is no sirene in them), the perfection of well prepared “gyuvetch” – mixture of fresh veggies, meat, herbs and baked for hours at low temp. And last, but not least – the famous, save-me-from-that-damned-hangover typical soup – “shkembe chorba”. Only in Bulgaria we can say is it well or not well prepared. It contains veal tripe (don’t be scary), fresh milk, butter, red sweet pepper. And a lot, a lot of garlic with apple/white whine vinegar, hot red chilly pepper and minced garlic. It’s fantasy for us even when we are sober 🙂 Enjoy!

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  2. As a bulgarian myself I’m not suprised about neighbour countries hating on us and the stuff we make. Even though we are neighbours we aren’t very friendly to each other. So don’t judge a book by it’s cover, or review in that matter, go and see for yourself, prove them wrong. Btw most of the dishes you mentioned are like an every day meal here, I feel so sorry for you that you don’t have them where you live, we eat sirene all the time hehe ^^

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    • We managed to find a big package of Sirene cheese at specialty stores here and buy it whenever we can. I don’t think it is exactly the same, but it makes an incredible Shopska Salad!

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  3. The cheese thing! When I saw my choices were “white cheese” and “yellow cheese”, I was also expecting something basic and bland. The white cheese is delicious!

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    • We thought the same. After traveling around Italy where there are names for every minor variation of cheese, our hopes for it were very low.

      Now I can easily say I never judge a cheese based on its name anymore. Bring on that white cheese!

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  4. I remember enjoying all the meals in Bulgaria, though I tended to visit some of the cheaper street food stalls when possible. It was towards the end of the trip, so…yeah. But I think all these dishes are the type that could be screwed up easily, but in the hands of someone who knows what to do, they’re spectacular comfort food dishes.

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    • I agree completely. Some of these are going to be very hard to recreate at home when we try. Shopska salad looks so simple, but we had one in Budapest that was just awful!

      I’m drooling just thinking about it.

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