If you are traveling to Europe, don’t miss the Balkans. It’s full of friendly people, amazing landscapes and most importantly – delicious food. Food of the Balkan area is described as rich in flavor and a true part of gastronomic heaven.
Also, Balkan is the perfect place to look for great comfort food – that both looks and tastes good.
So, if you are looking for the best Balkan comfort foods to share with your friends, we’ve got a great selection for you.
What are Balkan countries after all?
Travellers are often unsure what counts as Balkan area since there are no clear borders identified on maps.
However, people have the need to make groups of similar things and divide the world into different levels.
Therefore, it’s often debated which countries exactly fall under this category, since cultural and geographical lists are a bit different.
Generally, the Balkan area includes all former Yugoslavian countries – Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro. However, some also include parts of Romania and north of Greece.
About Balkan food
It is important to mention that Balkan food and culture is very specific due to its diversity. Because of its location, it has been influenced by different cultures from countries around it.
However, the most noticeable influence comes from Greece and its Mediterranean recipes, and Turkey with delicious Middle East tastes.
As some of the Balkan countries were under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, it is easy to understand why many of the recipes can be found in Turkey, as well.
The rule about best Balkan comfort foods is that you shouldn’t eat it with your eyes first, as some say. Leave your taste buds to be the judge and feel the amazing flavors and enjoy the food.
What are the 5 best Balkan comfort foods?
What is exactly comfort food? Actually, there are no strict rules about this.
The only important factor is – the food that brings you comfort and joy. People often search for comfort foods after a hard-working day, during emotional stress, or simply wanting to enjoy your meal without thinking about calories.
Usually, comfort foods are associated with family and home-cooked meals, which is what Balkan food is all about.
Here are 5 best Balkan comfort foods you have to try! The great thing is that Balkan food is so diverse, you can definitely find something you will enjoy.
1. Stuffed peppers, zucchini, cabbage – stuffed everything!
Stuffed vegetables are one of the favorite home-cooked meals in the Balkans.
The reason for this is that there are so many variations, from the type of vegetable to the stuffing ingredients so you can adjust it to your taste.
However, the most common and most authentic recipe is stuffed peppers – which can be found in almost any Balkan restaurant of traditional food.
Stuffed peppers – how to make them?
For these tasty bites, you will need some big bell peppers (5 to 6 pieces) and ingredients for the stuffing.
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- an onion and a carrot – chopped
- 1 1./2 lbs. of minced meat (a mix of ground beef and pork, to your taste)
- a cup of rice
- bacon (just a couple of slices)
- tomato paste and a sliced tomato
- a cup of water and wine
- seasoning – salt, pepper, paprika, garlic and any other of your taste
- Using a wok or any other similar pan, start cooking onions with oil and add bacon after a couple of minutes.
- Next step is adding carrot, and waiting until it’s soft.
- After that, you should add meat and seasonings, as well as rice, and stir until everything is mixed together.
- Cook everything for a couple of minutes, and core the peppers so they are ready for the stuffing.
- After a couple of minutes, your mixture is ready to be put in the peppers. Stuff the peppers and close them with pieces of sliced tomato.
- Put everything in a baking pan, and pour the mixture of water, wine, and pepper paste over it.
- Cook in your oven at around 400-450° F – cover at first and after an hour bake it without a cover for 20 more minutes.
2. Oven baked beans – Tavce Gravce
Beans can be found in different dishes in Balkan foods. But oven-baked beans is one of the best Balkan comfort foods and certainly one of the most favorite.
To make it, you’ll need:
- white beans – around 1lb
- onions 1/5 lbs.
- meat of your choice – generally people use bacon or sausages
- 3 spoons of flour and paprika powder mixture
- seasonings – salt, pepper, parsley
- Cook beans and meat in a pot and add chopped onions.
- After everything is cooked, add the roux you prepared by frying paprika and flour on oil, and stir it until you get a fine mixture.
- After you add seasoning, mix everything and pour it in a casserole or any other oven dish.
- Bake until you get a fine crust on top.
Oven baked beans are eaten everywhere in the Balkan countries.
However, its name tavce gravce comes from Macedonia, where it is a national dish. It’s part of the tradition and definitely one of the best Balkan comfort foods.
3. Kebab / Cevapi – grilled meat in general
Grilled meat is definitely one of the most popular Balkan comfort foods. It’s easy to find and it’s considered as fast food in many Balkan countries.
However, cevapi is the most favorite variation of the Balkan barbecue. They are eaten in portions of five or ten pieces, along with homemade bread, kajmak, and onions.
Of course, people add different things like French fries, ajvar, tomatoes, etc. but cevapi-bread-onions is the basic, most popular option.
Yes, cevapi is very popular grilled meat in Balkan countries. But it can definitely share its place with pljeskavica – one of the best Balkan comfort foods.
Pljeskavica is actually a hamburger, very popular in Serbia. Its name is derived from the word ‘pljesak’, which means to clap your hands – that you actually do to make the flat shape of the minced meat.
Many restaurants have secret recipes of how they make the meat mixture – which seasonings and special spice mixtures they add, what types of meat they use, etc.
But generally, the most common recipe includes ground beef/pork, garlic, onion, salt, paprika powder. Pljeskavica is usually served in homemade bread called ‘lepinja’ along with some salad – lettuce, chopped onions or sliced tomatoes.
Figure 3 Pljeskavica – along with cevapi, probably the most favorite among the best Balkan comfort foods alt.tag: a burger
4. Burek – a stuffed pie
One of the pastry dishes you can find in almost any Balkan bakery or pastry shop is definitely burek. It comes from Turkey, but it’s popular among all Balkan countries.
Burek is a pie stuffed with different ingredients, such as cheese, meat, spinach, mushrooms, etc.
In some countries, the perfect combination is burek with yogurt, which is common breakfast, but also a snack throughout the day. Usually, burek is baked as a big round pie, and then it is cut in quarters, most commonly in the shape of a triangle.
5. Donuts – mekike, mekici, mekitsa
Donuts are very common sweet food in Balkan countries. However, they are not like you imagine them to be. Balkan donuts are small pieces of dough deep-fried and sprinkled with icing sugar.
Its name is different from country to country, but you can find it as mekike in Serbia, or mekici/mekitsa in Bulgaria. This common sweet is usually eaten for breakfast – with honey or jam, or even chocolate cream.
However, this comfort food is eaten on another occasion too, as a favorite Balkan sweet.
To make this traditional Bulgarian breakfast, you will need:
- warm water (around 2 cups)
- dry yeast (one pack, 11g)
- a bit of sugar
- a bit of salt
- 1 cup of flour
1. Mix these ingredients together, and let it double in size.
2. After about 20 minutes the mixture will ‘grow’ and bubbles will appear so you can proceed to make the mekici dough. You’ll need:
- the prepared mixture
- A ½ cup of flour (you can use the all-purpose one)
- A ¼ cup of oil
3. Mix everything together slowly and create a firm, elastic dough.
4. Next comes frying. Take small round pieces of the dough, create the desired shape (usually flat or round) and fry them in oil for a couple of minutes.
5. When it comes to serving, it’s up to you. Balkan people usually eat it with sugar or jam. Perfect Balkan comfort food when you need something sweet and tasty!
It’s not fair limiting the list of best Balkan comfort foods to just a couple of recipes. Balkan cuisine consists of so many colorful and tasty dishes.
And the best part of it is, as you travel around Balkan countries, you can try each dish in many variations and different servings.
The beauty of the Balkan cuisine is its diversity, where the location and fertile ground give you a mixture of amazing ingredients and creative recipe ideas.
So, if you are looking for delicious comfort food to try after a hard day – this is where you can find it!