Everyone has heard of Mediterranean culture, history and especially Mediterranean cuisine. The Mediterranean world is a large mosaic of many countries, one of which is Albania or, as they call themselves, Shqiperia.

Albania is located in south-eastern Europe, on the coasts of the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea, both of which are part of the Mediterranean Sea. Albanian cuisine is representative of the widely known Mediterranean diet, considered by many to be the healthiest diet in the world.

Albanian cuisine is mainly based on healthy ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, fish, dairy products and meat. Olive oil is the most popular cooking fat used in traditional Albanian dishes. Herbs are also widely used and add a special and delicious flavour to the dishes. Garlic is a staple, as are onions, which are perhaps the most popular ingredients in the whole country.

Grilled meat and vegetables on rustic wooden table

Albanian Food: Tave Mishi

Commonly used meats include beef, lamb, pork and poultry. They are part of many traditional Albanian recipes, but Albanian cuisine also has sufficient vegetarian dishes.

Historically, the openness of Albanian culture has always led to a combination of gastronomy and hospitality. Being welcoming and friendly is a fundamental aspect of Albanian society, whether towards friends or strangers.

Modern dishes have their roots in the Ottoman Empire, and Turkish influences are evident. Other modern culinary influences are Italian and Greek.

Albanian cuisine is characterised by the rural areas, the mountain regions and the coast. It is excellent, fresh and tasty and there are so many exciting flavours to try. Be prepared for amazing tastes and textures as we explore 20 traditional Albanian dishes and what makes them so delicious.

#1 – Fërgesë

Fergese of Tiirana with beef liver, Albanian national dishes

Albanian traditional food: Fergese

Fërgesë is undoubtedly one of Albania’s most traditional dishes. The dish consists mainly of tomato sauce, cottage cheese, green peppers and garlic. The dish is sometimes called summer stew because many Albanians like to eat it after it has cooled for 2-3 hours. This gives it a thicker consistency and the ingredients come out better.

Fërgesë is usually eaten with bread only. The dish is a typical menu in Albanian restaurants in the countryside that serve traditional dishes.

#2 – Byrek

Classic pie with meat on wooden board. Composition with burek pie on concrete background with textile and spices. Balkan pie with minced meat in rustic style on gray table

Albanian Food: Byrek

Byrek is an appetiser, a snack, a staple at breakfast and is even eaten as a late evening snack.

This dish is very typical in all Balkan countries. Albanians usually spell it byrek, some other Balkan countries call it burek and in Turkey it is called börek. However it is spelled, the recipe is largely the same and refers to layers of wheat-based phyllo dough filled with vegetables, meat or cheese, and probably dates back to the Ottoman Empire.

The most common Albanian byrek is filled with cheese or tomatoes, sometimes spinach and meat. It is cooked in a large pan in the oven and then cut into squares, triangles or rectangles for serving.

There are also individual byrek, usually in the shape of a rolled sausage. Because byrek is so popular in Albania, you can find it in every bakery in the country and in most restaurants.

#3 – Pispili

Pispili is an Albanian dish that consists of cornbread filled with leeks and feta cheese.

Albanian food: Pispili

Pispili is another traditional Albanian dish. It is made with cornbread and leeks or spinach. The thickness of the cornbread varies from place to place. Sometimes it is thin, like a shortbread, sometimes it is thicker, with more consistency, like a sponge cake.

Pispili usually consists of a bread base topped with vegetables and baked, but sometimes the vegetables are layered between the cornbread or the two are mixed together. Feta cheese can be sprinkled on top.

As cornbread can be quite filling and dry, pispili tastes best with yoghurt, which is usually served with it, or with fërgesë, which moistens the dish.




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#4 – Tarator

Yoghurt soup with cucumber, dill and walnuts

Albanian Food: Tarator

This appetiser is a great dish that Albanians usually eat before a main meat dish. It is usually served in the summer as it is chilled before serving. The dish is made of yoghurt, cold water, grated cucumber and salt.

It has the consistency of a soup, which is why this dish is usually served in a bowl, and tastes very similar to the Albanian traditional drink dhallë, a traditional drink similar to yoghurt but with a thin consistency and salt added.

The older generation loves this starter, while the younger ones seem to prefer dhallë because it is easier to eat.

#5 – Flija

Albanian Traditional Food Flia

Albanian Traditional Food Flia

This dish is common in the regions of northern Albania. It is a simple recipe often prepared at home or served in traditional local restaurants.

Flija is a simple crepe-like dish that is crispy on top and softer on the bottom. The addition of butter gives Flija its delicious flavour. The dish is usually served with fresh dairy products such as cheese or yoghurt.

#6 – Petulla

Albanian traditional food dessert petulla served for breakfast on a table

Albanian Food: Petulla – Gebackener Teig

Fried dough, also called petulla, is a popular dish throughout the Balkans. In Albania, fried dough is traditionally served in many different ways and is usually eaten as a snack or with dinner. It is more like a doughnut, but has a heavier consistency and is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

There are snack stands all over the country that serve petulla with different toppings. Toppings include chocolate, strawberry jam, grated cheese or ketchup.

Fried dough is quick and easy to prepare and is usually eaten with feta cheese or honey. Another less popular but delicious topping, especially in the northern region, is yoghurt and garlic.

#7 – Speca te mbushura

albaische_kueche_essen_gefuellte-paprikaschoten

Albanian Food: Speca te mbushura

Speca të mbushura or stuffed peppers is a very popular local dish. It is served in all regions of Albania.

The exact recipe depends on how it was passed down, but the dish consists of peppers stuffed with rice. Chopped lamb or tomatoes can also be added. The stuffed peppers are baked and served hot.

This dish is served with yoghurt, feta cheese or dhallë. It is also common to add chilli peppers or black pepper, as the spicy kick complements the mild flavour of the dish.

#8 – Tavë Kosi

Albanian Food: Tave Kosi

Albanian Food: Tave Kosi

In Albania, lamb baked in yoghurt is a popular traditional dish, often served at lunchtime. Throughout the Balkans, it is known as Elbasan tava- after the Albanian town from which it originates.

Tave kosi is usually prepared with lamb, but can also be made with chicken. The yoghurt is mixed with rice and eggs and baked together with the meat.

The dish has a unique taste: the baked yoghurt has a soft texture and tastes slightly sour, while the meat balances this out well and gives the dish its juicy meaty flavour.

#9 – Perime në Zgarë

albanian food_perime ne zgare

Albanian Food: Perime në Zgarë

Perime në zgarë (grilled vegetables) are incredibly tasty, and as locals love to grill, it is common to eat plates of these colourful grilled vegetables with a main course.

The vegetables can be drizzled with balsamic vinegar for flavour or marinated beforehand. Either way, they are a delight, especially for vegetable lovers.

#10 – Peshk në zgarë

Oven fresh gilthead baked with rosemary on mixed summer vegetables, served with Italian ciabatta bread

Albanian Food: Peshk dhe Perime ne Tave – Fisch und Gemüse

While most of Albania’s tourist spots are inland and offer top-notch meat dishes, Albania has great beaches along the Riviera where you can enjoy the fresh seafood of the Adriatic and Ionian coasts. The country also has numerous rivers and lakes where you can try freshwater fish.

Like meat, fish is prepared relatively simply, usually grilled or baked whole in the oven, with potatoes or tomatoes, onions, peppers, some herbs and a generous helping of olive oil.

Grilled fish and seafood are some of the healthiest dishes you can eat in Albania, and because the produce and ingredients are so fresh, they are also very tasty.

#11 – Trileçe

Tres leches cake. Slices of trilece cake with milk and caramel on a wooden background. patisserie products. Close up

Albanian Food: Trilece

Trileçe, or milk cake, is a light Albanian dessert of unknown origin that is widely eaten in Southern Europe and South America. Interestingly, the name comes from the Albanian and Italian languages: tri means three in Albanian and leçe means milk in Italian.

It is a popular dessert made with three different types of milk: evaporated milk, whipped cream and condensed milk. The cake is then doused with brown syrup, which gives it a strong sweet taste.

Depending on the region, this Albanian cake can be light, full of air bubbles, or thicker and firmer. The consistency of the cake itself depends on how much butter is used in the recipe.

Trilece has a unique taste and texture: it is light, crispy and sweet on top, soft and light in the middle and moist on the bottom.

If you love a soft, moist and sweet dessert, look out for this cake in any Albanian patisserie.

#12 – Kackavall në furrë me domate

Kackavall-ne-Furre-me-Domate-Gebackener-Kaese-mit-Tomaten

Albanian Food: Kackavall në furrë me domate

Kackavall is a traditional Albanian cow or sheep cheese. The consistency of Kackavall depends on which animal the milk comes from.

Albanians like to eat this cheese with various traditional dishes. Often, Kackavall is baked with chopped tomatoes and herbs. Baked cheese with tomatoes is a side dish because the melted cheese adds flavour to various meats.

#13 – Fasule

Bean soup Protein Vegan dish

Albanian Food: Fasule

Fasule is a white bean soup that is highly prized in Albanian cuisine. It was often prepared during the time of the Albanian famine, as it is very cheap and filling. After the end of the famine, the white bean soup kept its popularity.

The soup is prepared with tomato sauce, onions and white beans and often served with pickled vegetables or yoghurt. Albanians often eat this soup with kulac, a homemade bread.

#14 – Qofte

Albanien,Reise,Urlaub,Kinder

Albanian Food: Qofte

Qofte are grilled, baked or deep-fried meatballs made from minced meat: beef, chicken, lamb or pork. Other ingredients may include herbs, spices and vegetables.

Qofte is a traditional Albanian dish, but it is common throughout south-eastern Europe and the Middle East, even as far as India. It can be eaten as a snack, with a salad, dipped in yoghurt, with bread or as a side dish with dinner. Traditional qofte is made from lamb meat that is cut into cubes and mixed with herbs.

Homemade qofte is a little different from those found in typical Albanian restaurants. At home, the meat is mixed with breadcrumbs and they are served round and flat. They are usually eaten with tomato soup.

#15 -Albanian bakllava

Delicious rhombus shaped village baklava with walnuts in a tray

Albanian Food: Baklava

Bakllava or baklava is a crunchy dessert made with honey or syrup, walnuts and layers of filo dough.

While baklava is typical of many countries, from Turkey to Azerbaijan, from Iran to Morocco, Albanian baklava is particularly good because walnuts are more commonly used in Albania instead of the peanuts that are most commonly used.

The bitterness of the walnuts makes the baklava a little less sweet and the use of diluted honey, produced fresh in Albania, makes it lighter than some of the really sweet, syrupy versions.

#16 – Dolma japrak

Traditional dinner appetizer table. Mediterranean appetizer concept. Dry cowpea salad, roasted eggplant salad, stuffed leaves with olive oil, stuffed dried peppers, cabbage rolls

Albanian Food: Dolma Japrak

Another popular snack or appetiser in Mediterranean and Albanian cuisine is dolma japrak, a dish of stuffed vine leaves.

The leaves, filled with various ingredients such as onions, rice, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, herbs, spices and sometimes meat, are then rolled up into a fun but delicious dipping snack.

#17 – Qifqi

Qifqi, Traditional Albanian Deep-fried Rice and Egg with Herb, Gjirokastra, Albania

Albanian Food: Qifqi

Qifqi is considered the only traditional dish from Gjirokaster, a town in southern Albania, and is hard to find even in Albania. In this sense, it is one of the most authentic and typical Albanian dishes imaginable.

The UNESCO World Heritage city of Gjirokaster is worth a visit in itself, but the presence of this delicious savoury finger food makes it even more worthwhile. Qifqi are small balls of cooked rice, eggs, herbs, salt and pepper and occasionally cheese.

#18 – Gjel Deti me Përshesh

Delicious homemade roasted turkey shank. Baked with lemon, thyme, garlic and served ready to eat in a rustic roasting pan on table background.

Albanian Food: Gjel Deti me Përshesh – Baked Turkey

Gjel deti me përshesh is a traditional dish from central Albania: baked turkey with bread puree.

This dish is usually prepared on holidays, especially Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Përshesh is traditionally prepared with corn bread crumbled into the turkey’s gravy, with the meat and liver cut into small pieces, onions or leeks, and herbs and spices.

The turkey is baked separately and served at the end together with përshesh over which melted butter is poured. The baked turkey and the përshesh together make an amazing, unique taste.

#19 – Patëllxhan të Mbushur

Traditional food stuffed eggplant, meat, tomato and spices, karniyarik

Albanian Food: Patellxhan te Mbushur

This dish translates as stuffed aubergines and is one of my personal favourites because it’s really delicious, creamy and so easy to make.

Aubergines are the star vegetable in the summer months, enjoyed from May to autumn. Since Albanians usually eat what is in season, you are guaranteed to find this dish anywhere and at any time of day.

The aubergines are cut in half, the insides hollowed out and then stuffed with a mixture of fried onions and other vegetables, usually tomatoes and peppers, as well as meat and spices. They are then baked in the oven.

Patëllxhan të mbushur is a very filling meal and is therefore usually eaten alone as a main course.

#20 – Ballokume

ballokume

Albanian Food: Ballokume

Ballokume, a typical Albanian pastry, originated in the city of Elbasan (central Albania), as did the aforementioned Tavë Kosi.

Ballokume is made from corn flour, butter, sugar and eggs and is a simple pastry traditionally prepared for „Dita e Verës“, an Albanian bank holidays celebrated annually on 14 March.

They take time to make as everything is done by hand. First the butter and sugar are mixed until they are pale and have doubled in volume, then the eggs are added. Finally, the cornflour is added and the mixture is spooned onto a baking tray. The biscuits are baked and left to cool before serving.

The taste of ballokume cannot be compared to any other dessert in the Balkans or south-eastern Europe, making it one of the most authentic dishes in Albanian cuisine.

What are some traditional Albanian dishes I must try during my visit?

#1 – Fërgesë #2 – Byrek #3 – Pispili #4 – Tarator #5 – Flija #6 – Petulla #7 – Speca te mbushura #8 – Tavë Kosi #9 – Perime në Zgarë #10 – Peshk në zgarë

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