Romanian foods that everyone should try

I think we can all agree on one thing.

Romanian food is delicious.

Coming to Romania is a must for any travel enthusiast and food lover because there is such a richness in terms of traditional cuisine, that your senses will be absolutely spoiled with amazing and intense flavors. Romanian cuisine may not be as fancy as French cuisine, and it isn’t too spicy or too complicated either. But it is interesting and inviting, and it is the perfect comfort food!

Pork is the most beloved “vegetable” but, also, Romania excels at soups and salads. The intriguing fact about Romanian food is that when tasting it seems familiar, but at the same, time different. This is because the traditional cuisine is actually a mix of dishes and cooking techniques borrowed from neighboring cultures – Hungarian, German, Turkish and Slavic but all transformed and Romanised with local herbs and spices so it is a perfect reflection of both the country’s past and its agrarian and Shepherd roots.

1. Sarmale (Cabbage Rolls)

romanian food sarmale

Considered to be Romania’s national dish, these stuffed cabbage rolls are actually of Turkish origins, but the Romanians claim that theirs are the best, and they are probably right. The initial recipe was strongly modified over time until it reached what it is considered to be now the perfect stuffing, a balanced mixture of rice and minced meat (usually pork or pork combined with beef) and other vegetables and local herbs, rolled in cabbage leaves (it’s best using pickled cabbage) or young grape leaves for a delicate flavour.

The tastiest cabbage rolls are those slowly cooked in clay pots in the oven, covered with a little water, some cabbage brine for sourness and some slices of traditional bacon for a tasty smoky touch. Traditionally served with mamaliga (often translated as polenta, this is a corn flour mush replacing bread in many traditional dishes) and sour cream, the Romanian cabbage rolls are not only delicious, but very creamy, consistent, and fully satisfying.

Here’s a great cabbage rolls recipe so you enjoy this delicious Romanian dish in the comfort of your own kitchen.

2. Ciorbă de burtă (tripe soup)

romanian food tripe soup
Photo source: Casa Luica Restaurant

When it comes to tripe soup, you either love it or hate it. This traditional food has a very strong aroma and a velvety texture which are the result of several hours of work. Besides the beef tripe, this dish also uses beef and pork legs which are boiled for several hours, in order to obtain a delicious soup.

Counterintuitively, the tripe is not the most important part of the dish, but the soup itself. Besides the bones, several vegetables are used to obtain the delicious taste, such as carrots, bell peppers, hot peppers, celery, and parsley. Close to the end, a couple of garlic cloves are added in order to enrich the flavor, and everything is served with sour cream, hot peppers, and toast.

3. Ciorbă Rădăuțeană (Rădăuți Soup)

romanian food ciorba radauteana

Ciorbă refers to a type of traditional soup which can be served in many different ways, depending on the ingredients used. But the one called rădăuțeană is among the most appreciated in Romania. “Invented” in the late ’70s in the city of Radauti, this dish is actually an alternative to the above-mentioned soup – the tripe soup, which was considered to be too heavy and many people didn’t enjoy the particular flavor of the tripe. So instead of tripe, ciorba rădăuțeană uses chicken breast.

To keep it simple, this dish has plenty of sour cream and garlic in it, and for the specific sour taste, vinegar is used. It’s a delicious soup, not too fatty and not too heavy either, but a whole meal in itself. Best served with homemade bread.

4. Balmoș

romanian food balmos

100% Romanian, balmoș is a traditional shepherd dish, a true tribute to the famous mamaliga, which will blow your mind when tasting it. It’s fatty, it’s buttery and sticky, with tons of cheese in it, it’s soft and silky like a cream but heavy and rich in taste. And it’s incredibly easy to make it if you have the right ingredients!

Sour cream is boiled with butter and a bit of salt for a couple of minutes. Then, the corn flour is added until it is properly boiled with no lumps in it and, finally, plenty of salty traditional fermented cheese is added. Served extra hot, with some butter and sweet cheese on top, balmoș is the perfect dish for cold winter nights when all you want is something truly tasty and comforting.

Enjoy this tasty dish following this awesome balmos recipe.

5. Jumări (Smoked bacon and greaves)

romanian food jumari

This is a traditional Romanian appetizer made, of course, from pork. In Romania, the traditional bacon is called slănină, and it is actually smoked salty pig fat flavored with garlic, pepper, paprika, and several other spices, and it’s a dish usually prepared by all Romanian families for the winter time. The frying crunchy version is called jumari, meaning greaves, and, along with slănină, accompanied with raw onions, homemade bread and a shot of tuica (traditional plum brandy) as digestive, they represent the perfect starters for an authentic Romanian meal.

Definitely, a must try!

6. Mici

romanian food mici

Also known as mititei, they are the most popular Romanian grill dish, and they are so loved that there is absolutely no Romanian who can imagine a proper barbecue without them. These caseless sausages made of different combinations of ground meat, black pepper, and other spices are grilled until they darken a little and become moist and soft.

They are served simply with mustard and bread. You can find mici in restaurants, in fast foods, in street food shops or you just can buy the mixture from any grocery store, fresh or frozen, ready to be grilled or fried whenever you feel like it. Simple, meaty, and savory! And for extra satisfaction, wash them down with a cold pint of Romanian beer.

7. Cighiri

romanian food cighiri

Cighiri are something similar to huge meatballs, but besides ground pork, the recipe also includes the meat of several organs such as the liver, heart, and lungs, which are combined with onions, eggs, bay leaves, garlic, and plenty of salt and pepper. All this mixture is then wrapped in hog stomach and fried. They are absolutely delicious, perfect for a hot quick snack.

Served with any garnish you desire, some pickles and homemade red wine, these cighiri have high chances to become one of your next favorite comfort foods.

8. Salată de vinete (Roasted Eggplant Salad)

Photo source: Where is my spoon?

One of the most cooked and eaten Romanian appetizers, the eggplant salad is the perfect choice for a quick snack and an amazing starter for a traditional Christmas dinner. It is easy and cheap to make, and you can top it with tomatoes or feta cheese.

The traditional way to prepare this appetizer is to roast the eggplants on a grill until they become really soft, but you can also roast them on the stove top or bake them in the oven. Afterward, all you have to do is remove the skin, chop them, and dress them either with sunflower oil and chopped onions or mayonnaise and garlic.

If you want a more comprehensive recipe for this delicious eggplant salad, check it out over at whereismyspoon.co.

9. Drob de miel (Lamb Drob)

Photo source: Mancare.ro

A dish which is exclusively prepared during Easter, the Lamb Drob is a delicious appetizer made with lamb offals (liver, lungs, spleen, heart, and kidneys), eggs, green onions, bread dipped in milk, and several herbs such as dill, garlic, and parsley. This is one of the most popular Romanian dishes, and there are numerous variations of the recipe.

The Lamb Drob has a medium preparation difficulty, but to be honest, it’s not rocket science. The most important part is washing and preparing the lamb offals. Afterward, you just have to chop them, mix them with the rest of the ingredients, and bake them. The Drob is best served cold with mustard and boiled eggs.

10. Tochitură moldovenească (Moldavian Stew)

romanian food tochitura

There is nothing like the famous Moldavian stew, and there is no exaggeration in saying that this is the ultimate Romanian dish, as it combines the best traditional foods Romania has to offer: mamaliga (polenta), traditional salty fermented cheese, fried eggs, fried pork, traditional sausages, and pickles. It’s the perfect combination of tastes and textures. It’s Romania on a plate!

The stars of this traditional dish are the pork and sausages, which are best cooked over an open fire in a cast-iron stew pot, but they can also be fried in a skillet. Over the delicious meat is then added white wine, tomato paste, onions, garlic, and bay leaves.

11. Alivenci

romanian food alivenci

Time for some dessert! This dessert took birth in rural poor areas basically out of nothing! First, it was something similar to a sweet polenta but nowadays, alivenci are a true delight. It’s the perfect combination of milk, sour cream and butter with corn and wheat flour, raisins, and vanilla, served with fresh yogurt and some caster sugar. It’s a bit heavy but definitely worth trying!

12. Julfă with hemp mousse

romanian food julfa

This traditional dish is the kind of desert that your grandma would make, but unfortunately it is rather hard to find in restaurant menus, mainly because it’s not very good looking, is time-consuming to make and hemp seeds are nowadays quite expensive. But if you ever have the occasion to taste it, just do it and you will not regret it.

The desert itself is not very complicated, using plain dough made of wheat flour and water cooked in thin layers (approximately ten or more) in the oven until dry and stiff. After cooling, each layer is covered with sweet hemp cream and let to rest for at least two days for all the moisture of the cream to be absorbed. Some ladies prepare julfa with walnut mousse, as walnuts are cheaper and easier to find. The result is delicious as well but, nothing compares to the earthy flavor of the hemp.

13. Papanași with sour cream and jam

romanian food papanasi

A traditional dessert originating from the north part of the country but popular among all Romanians, being available in almost every restaurant. Papanasi are a kind of fried cheese doughnuts best served hot, with sweet and sour cream, and preferably, blueberry jam. Maybe it doesn’t sound too appetizing but the taste and the gummy texture combined with the blueberries’ sourness is absolutely divine!

And because everybody loves them, here’s a papanasi recipe so you can try them at home.

So, here they are, ten amazing traditional Romanian foods that once tried will definitely make your Romanian experience unforgettable! If you enjoyed our post and want to find out more about Romania’s culture and traditions, we have more posts on that. Check them out here!

14. Authentic pickles

romanian pickles

Once autumn begins, every Romanian household in the countryside reaps what they sow and to prepares for the cold winter. And while dishes may differ from one region to another, preparing pickles is a tradition throughout the whole country. The most common pickles are pickled cucumbers, but you can also use peppers, cauliflower, or cabbage. The recipe for these delicious appetizers is really easy, and they are a perfect addition to the Romanian main course, dominated by pork.