Albanian Food: Top 10 Traditional Dishes to Try in Albania
Albanian food reflects old gastronomic traditions of various cultures mostly focusing on Mediterranean flavors. Countless authentic Albanian dishes are found across Albania, each region offering their own spin; among many recipes, these are the most popular dishes to try in Albania.
Byrek is an iconic salty Albanian pie heavily inspired by the Ottoman cuisine. This authentic crunchy pie is made of thinly rolled dough layers covering various food fillings in between them. The fillings vary depending on preference but the fillings’ choice will give the name to a specific Byrek recipe in a series of different pie varieties. The most cooked recipes are “Byrek me Gjizë” (“Byrek with Ricotta Cheese”), “Byrek me Domate dhe Qepë” (“Byrek with Tomatoes and Onions”), “Byrek me Mish” (“Byrek with Meat”), and “Byrek me Spinaq” (“Byrek with Spinach”). All Byrek variations are especially popular across Central Albania while in the southeastern part of the country a much thinly rolled version called “lakror” is preferred. When in Albania, order up a tasty triangular Byrek and savor a simple and fulfilling Balkan flavor.
Bakllava is the most popular traditional dish among many Albanian desserts. It has a clear Turkish origin but throughout centuries it gained an original and local cooking craftsmanship. This mouth-watering dessert is prepared with many dough layers placed on top of each other with sweet nuts or less often pistachios in between and baked for a long time in the oven. After the bake, a very sweet syrup called “shërbet” is added making the whole thing a smooth and juicy delight. Bakllava is traditionally prepared in a large aluminium or inox tray, giving it an authentic feel, and then cut and served into diamond-shaped pieces. This traditional dessert is especially preferred during festivities and special occasions.
3. Tavë Kosi (Sour Milk Casserole)
Tavë Kosi is an especially beloved dish among the locals. It’s essentially a unique and dense medley or goulash made with lamb or chicken meat, eggs, and, of course, yogurt or sour milk. All ingredients are then put in a casserole and cooked well in the oven. Additional herbs are added making the dish somewhat exotic. As many other traditional Albanian dishes, it’s best served warm.
Fërgesë is one of the most authentic dishes in Albania. Its main ingredients include cottage cheese, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and spices. The main two variations of this recipe are “Fërgesa me piperka” (“Fërgesa with peppers”) and “Fërgesa me mëlçi” (“Fërgesa with liver”). The first is best served as a side dish while the latter is used as a main course. “Fërgesa me mëlçi” is in many cases called “Tavë Dheu”. Fërgesa is the symbol of simplicity and a little meat mania of the Albania cuisine. This dish is typical in taverns and guesthouses around the country. Along with some warm home-made bread, you’ll feel at home and fill your belly.
If Italians have spaghettis, the Albanians have jufka Dibre. Jufka is pasta made by hand with only flour, eggs, milk, salt and pepper. This delisious dish dates from the XIV-th century. It seems to have originated from the Dibra region and quickly spread as an easy to prepare meal in the Albanian highlands and then all over the country. Cooked and served commonly with boiled and then ovened (roasted) uncut chicken, the dish is ideal during winter. The pasta resembles the tagliatelle and gains flavours from the chicken and it’s broth, as well as additional herbs such as parsley, and thyme. The cautious cook in the oven results in a dish with gold colored al dente yet somewhat crispy jufka-s as well as a wholesome, succulent, and nutritional chicken meat. Jufka-s with chicken goes along superbly with a seasoned fresh salad. Another variation of this meal replaces chicken meat for generous chops of tender beef.
Petulla is a cheeky Albanian dish and a household-favorite. Petulla is the Albanian traditional version of pancakes or donuts. The simple recipe and few ingredients of mainly flour and eggs makes this dish highly popular and convenient. As other foods of this family, petulla offers a yummy taste when dipped into some honey or other sweet sidings.
Shëndetlie is one of the oldest recipes of the Albanian cuisine. This stunning dessert tastes like an authentic combination of cookie, cake, and ice-creamish textures. Main ingredients include flour, eggs, sugar, baking soda, honey, and butter. An additional sticky liquid known as “shërbet” made of water, sugar, and other sweet flavors of specific preferences such as cloves and vanilla. As in the recipe for Bakllava, shërbet is thrown into the dessert once the latter has been cooked in the oven.
8. Imam Bajalldi
Imam Bajalldi is another bizarre Albanian food with some eastern influences. It consists of large stuffed eggplants cooked in the oven. Ingredients used as fillings vary with regions but they most commonly include garlic, onions, and tomato puree. Other complementing condiments of the recipe are dill, pressed pepper, and olive oil giving to this plate a more Mediterranean feel. Imam Bajalldi is the ideal traditional summer dish. Fresh and on-season ingredients combine their powers to serve as an effective and natural appetite stimulant.
9. Tavë Krapi (Carp Casserole)
Albania is a seaside country with a long stretch of coastline. The waters of the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea, as well as those of the major lakes and rivers provide fresh authentic ingredients for the seafood lovers. Many restaurants and households across the Albanian riviera offer freshly caught and cooked fish in the oven. For the best and most authentic gastronomic experience try the “Tavë Krapi” (“Carp Casserole”) of the Shkodra region in northwest Albania.
10. Speca të mbushura (Stuffed Peppers)
“Speca të mbushura” (“Stuffed Peppers”) is another meal commonly cooked in Albanian households. It’s frequently prepared and consumed during summer. As the name tells, the dish is made with fresh peppers filled with ground beef, tomato sauce, onions, and seasonal herbs. The stuffing can vary depending on the preferences of the cooker thus, the dish offers room for creative recipe variations.