Traditional Romanian Food: Our comprehensive guide to Romanian dishes, Romanian drink (including popular Romanian wine varieties), Romanian Desserts including some favorite Romanian delicacies and the Romanian national dish.
Discover what to eat in Romania with our list of the best traditional Romanian food – more than 42 Romanian dishes and drinks to seek out and try on your next trip. We include suggestions on where to eat some of these dishes, especially, what to eat in Bucharest, the nation’s capital. It might be a good idea to rent a car in Romaniato get as much of a taste for Romania and visit as many places as you can. These dishes can be very unique in different parts of the country.
Join us as we explore Romanian cuisine and the most famous Romanian food!
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Traditional Romanian Food: Brief History
Romanian cuisine is the culmination of all the influences around the region. Traditional Balkan cuisine combines with Turkish, Austro-Hungarian and Moldovan/Ukrainian. These, as well as more ancient influences from when Romania was part of the Roman empire. In fact, Romanian is the only language in the region that is based on Latin. So if you speak Italian or Spanish you may find yourself being able to read and understand some Romanian too.
So, in Romania, often you’ll find dishes that are similar to those available in neighbouring countries. Who invented each dish? Some have easier histories, some go back so far it’s hard to know who invented them. Either way, all of the below dishes have become typical Romanian food, even if not all of them can claim to be 100% original Romanian.
Plus, Romania as a country was formed from the states of Moldovia and Wallachia in 1859, and only at the end of World War I did the states of Transylvania, Banat, Bukovina, and Bessarabia also become part of Romania. So today, Romanian traditional food is really a combination of the cuisines of each region, rather than always having been “Romanian”. More recently, Moldova became an independent country, though has left behind some of its cuisine.
Traditional Romanian Food: Starters, Soups & Salads
Some traditional Romanian dishes to get your stomach ready for the main feast.
Zacuscă – Vegetable Dip
Vegetable spreads are popular all over the Balkans. Zacuscă is the Romanian version of what may have originally been a Bulgarian dish but tastes distinctly different from other versions we’ve tried elsewhere. Red peppers and eggplant should be roasted on a BBQ. The charred skins removed, and then blended with other vegetables, like carrots, perhaps mushrooms. There are many varieties and a lot of restaurants make their own from scratch.
This is a very popular Romanian food you can find almost everywhere, from supermarket shelve to corner stores, to 5 star restaurants. The best version we tried was at Zexe Zahana in Bucharest.
Salată de icre – Fish Roe Dip
Fish roe – typically from pike or carp – is blended with oil and lemon juice to make this traditional Romanian food. Zesty, fresh and creamy while not being too fishy. Great with some fresh bread! Eaten at Green Village in the Danube Delta.
Salată de Vinete – Smokey Eggplant Salad Dip
Another typical Romanian food is Salată de Vinete. Eggplants are thrown straight on hot coals to infuse them with natural smokiness. Then blended with oil and perhaps lemon juice. When done right, there should be no bitterness, only a mix of freshness and smokiness.
Jumări – Pork Rinds – Greaves with Onions
Pork rinds that still have some soft fat, as well as very crispy bits. The onion balances the fat. We had these at Sergiana in Brasov.
Ciorbă de burtă – Tripe Soup
A typical Romanian food, as well as a dish found across the region from Montenegro to Armenia. Ciorbă de burtă is a tripe (stomach) soup mixed with plenty of butter. The butter helps cover up the strange texture and flavor of the tripe – not my favorite, but locals love it! Eaten at Hanu’ Berarilor Casa Oprea Soare, Bucharest.
Caşcaval Pane – Deep Fried, Breaded Yellow Cheese
Another dish popular through the Balkans – and the world really – is deep fried cheese. In Romania and Bulgaria, it is made with the local Caşcaval – a mild yellow cheese.
Placinta Dobrogeana cu Branza (sarata) & Plăcintă cu brânză – Cheese Pastries
Pies date back to Roman times and possibly before. Every part of the Balkans makes there own style of cheese pie. And Romania has quite a few varieties. Dobrogea is a region in SE Romania, near the Danube river and near the city of Constanta. So “Dobrogeana cu brânză” is the cheese pastry of that region and is very flat with a layer of cheese down the middle.
Whereas Plăcintă cu brânză, simply translates as “pie with cheese” and refers to the more generic version that bears resemblance to the multi-layered pastry called “boerek” found throughout the Balkans. Look out for bakeries all around the country. We got the above pie at a famous bakery chain Simigeria Luca.
Salam – Romanian Sausage (Salamis)
Romania has a huge variety of salamis, often named after the city where they were invented. But, one of the most famous is the Salam Sibiu, invented by an Italian immigrant, who actually set up shop in Sinaia. The reason the sausage was named Sibiu sausage was because it was exported to Hungary and stamped by the customs department of Sibiu. Salam Sibiu is regarded as one of the highest quality pork salamis in Romania.
Ciorbă de fasole cu afumătură – Bean Soup With Smoked Ham Hock
Smoked ham is an ingredient that is used to flavor many Romanian dishes. Smokey, meaty goodness! Mixing with beans makes for a hearty winter soup. Eaten at Vatra, Bucharest – with an excellent traditional Romanian food menu.
Ciorbă de perişoare – Meatball Soup
Speaking of hearty soups, look at all that butter! Romanian meatball soup is likely a product of Turkish cuisine but Balkan cooking and cold winter weather seem to have fattened this dish up for the local market.
Fasole batută – White Bean Dip
White beans are mashed up with oil and sometimes garlic. Then topped with paprika caramelised or crispy onions. Goes great with smoked meats, sausages or bread. Eaten @ Vatra, Bucharest.
There are many Romanian cheeses. Here are a few important ones to look out for:
- Telemea – A salty white cheese similar to feta.
- Brânză de burduf – A unique sheep cheese matured twice, first in wood, then in sheepskin.
- Cașcaval – The semi-firm yellow cheese similar to very mild cheddar
- Caș – A fresh white cheese made from sheep or cow’s milk.
- Năsal – A special white cow’s cheese which can only be produced in Taga cave where a bacteria lives that cannot be synthesised elsewhere.
Borş – Traditional Soup with meat and veg or fish
Borş is a Romanian/Moldova sour soup. The sourness comes from a wheat or bran fermented drink, also called Borş. The name may sound familiar as “borscht” is a famous Ukrainian/Russian sour beetroot soup. But the Romanian Borş differs from this as it is a hearty meat or fish soup.
Take a Bucharest Food Tour:
Traditional Romanian Food: Grilled Meats & Fish Dishes
Mici / Mititei – Rolled Meat
The words Mici & Mititei both mean “Small ones”, and mici is literally a small rolled meat. Normally made from a mix of beef, pork and lamb as well as spices that may include garlic, black pepper, thyme, and coriander. They are similar to “Ćevapi”, a rolled meat considered as a national dish in Bosnia. But Mici is the original Romanian version, supposedly invented in the 19th century, and can be found on almost every restaurant menu.
The above were eaten at Hanu’ Berarilor Casa Soare.
Pleşcoi Sausages are a firm, thin sausage made from mutton and spiced with garlic and chilli. They taste a little dry but are packed with flavor. Traditionally these are made by home producers in the village of Pleşcoi, and can be bought door to door. Now they are produced on a larger scale to meet demand.
Eaten at one of Bucharest’s most famous restaurants – Caru’ cu Bere.
What To Eat in Bucharest: Beer sausages (mild chili) – With Sundried Tomato Potatoes
There are many different cooked sausages to try in Romania, but this was one of my favorite dishes in Bucharest. The beer sausages are not made with beer but are made to be eaten while drinking beer as they are mildly spicy. The star of this plate though was actually the potatoes with sun dried tomatoes (ordered as a side).
Try this only at La Nenea Iancu Pub – Named after the famous Romanian writer of the same name, but without the word pub 😉
Varză țărănească cu Ciolan Afumat – Smoked Ham Hock & Rustic Cabbage
Smoked Ham hock is used in so many dishes. But for a big wedge of meat heaven, you can order the whole thing. Cabbage is a popular side and you’ll find that many cabbage side dishes, like this rustic cabbage, that has been cooked with smoked ham in too. Double whammy for the hammy!
Eaten at Vatra, Bucharest.
The most popular fish in Romania is Trout, Pike and Carp. Find them either baked or grilled.
Looking For Accommodation in Bucharest?
From budget to luxury, check out our top picks for Bucharest Hotels & Hostels
Traditional Romanian Dishes: Mains, Stews & Sides
Sarmale – Romanian National Dish
Sarmale is ground pork and rice, wrapped and cooked in cabbage leaves. It’s considered a Romanian National Dish. Romanians claim this version as 100% Romanian, though it could possibly be derived from a similar Turkish dish.
SĂRMĂLUȚE ÎN FOI DE VIȚĂ – Sarmale With minced Goose in vine leaves
This is a cross between a fancy version of dolma – stuffed vine leaves and Romania’s sarmale above. This version stuffs the vine leaves with goose, instead of pork and covers it with a rich cream and bacon sauce. It was considered a Romanian delicacy during the interwar period (1919-1939) at a time when Romania was relatively affluent.
Bulz / Bulz Ciobanesc
Bulz is polenta mixed with white cheese and baked in the oven, normally topped with a fried egg. Ultimate comfort food that packs in the calories. Often served as a starter or side, this is really a full meal for one person.
Eaten at La Nenea Iancu Pub.
Varză a la Cluj – Cluj Style Cabbage
Think of this like a cabbage hash. Shredded cabbage cooked with pork and sour cream. Cluj Napoca is a large city in northern Romania and this version of cabbage is popular there.
Pomana Porcului – Pork Feast
“Pomana Porcului” means “pork feast”. It’s the Romanian dish traditionally eaten straight after the slaughter of a pig, to honor the sacrifice. It features some of the choice lean cuts, pan cooked in their own juices perhaps with a little wine. It’s a real farmers meal.
Ciolan afumat cu fasole – Army Stew (Beans & Pork Stew)
Another dish made with ham hock. This hearty stew called Ciolan afumat cu fasole is also known as “army stew” as it was the perfect easy to make, filling meal to keep the troops happy.
Drob de Miel – Lamb Haggis with Boiled Egg
Drob de miel is like a Lamb haggis meatloaf with a boiled egg in. Served at Easter referring to the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God.
Transylvanian Stews – tochitură ardelenească & Gulaș de cartofi cu afumătură
The tochitură ardelenească is a classic Transylvanian stew made with or without tomato (wine is the substitute for tomato) with the addition of vegetables like carrots, peppers, and potatoes. Eaten at La Mama, Bucharest – a popular place, but the food was a little lackluster.
You may also find an alternative version called Gulaș de cartofi cu afumătură – which is a potato goulash with smoked ham added. Transylvania was previously part of the Austro-Hungarian empire before joining Romania in 1919, so it’s cuisine is more heavily influenced by that historic region.
Ghiveci cu pește – Fish Stew With Vegetable
A classic example of a use what you have dish. Throw fish and whatever vegetables are available in a big stew pot and cook slowly. A simple solution for those living near the rivers, delta and black sea areas of Romania.
Eaten at Hotel Sunrise, Danube Delta. Head out to the protected delta area for an incredible natural setting.
Tochitură moldovenească – Moldavan Stew
Moldova borders Romania to the northeast of the country and used to be a part of Romania. Whether this dish is Romanian or Moldovan seems to be unclear, it was invented in the Moldovan region but possibly before Moldova became part of Romania in 1859. Moldova’s independence still left behind a culinary mark on Romania. The meat heavy stew includes smoked ham, pork loin, and sausages, stewed in a tomato sauce and then served with polenta covered in white cheese and topped with a fried egg.
Mămăligă – Romanian Polenta
Mămăligă is Romania’s polenta dish – made from boiled cornmeal. The ancient version of this dish, before corn arrived in Europe in the 16th century, would have been made from millet flour and is likely a remnant of Roman occupation. Corn grows well in the Danube Delta region of Romania and polenta is a traditional peasant food as an alternative to bread.
Today, Mămăligă is served as a side along with many traditional Romanian dishes. Its dense texture is buttery and rich.
Traditional Romanian Food Podcast
In This Episode:
- What To eat in Romania – our top picks for must try foods when you visit Romania
- Ancient Foods Of Romania – 2 dishes that have probably been made in the region for at least 2,000 years and are still hugely popular today.
- We head out to the farm to try an authentic Romanian pork dish that honours the sacrifice of the pig
- Plus a Romanian dessert that will make your tastebuds sing with joy!
Papanași – Romanian Donut
Papanași is a boiled or fried donut, stuffed with soft white cheese or cottage cheese and topped with sour cream and a fruit compote. As the most popular of Romanian Desserts, it can be found on almost every restaurant menu and may be considered an honorary Romanian National Dish.
Donuts have a long and complicated history. Fried or boiled dough has been a part of many cultures and it’s hard to track an origin. Romanian Papanași is believed to have derived from Austro-Hungarian cuisine. The name itself may have derived from the Latin “pappa” which in context means kid’s food, rather than father.
Papanași is certainly a fun food, and a must try Romanian Dessert. Eaten at Hanu’ Berarilor Casa Soare, Bucharest.
Salam de Biscuiti – Romanian Salami Biscuit
Crumbled biscuits, cocoa powder, and other ingredients combine to make a salami shaped Romanian dessert. Absolutely no meat salmis were harmed in the making of this dessert though 😉 A salami even a vegetarian can enjoy.
We had a great version of this at Life Harbour Marina Restaurant – though it’s not always available. Contact them in advance to check. You can also take a boat trip from the marina.
Cozonac – Marble Cake
Cozonac is a Romanian marble cake – but a little closer to a sweet bread than a cake. It’s particularly popular during holiday periods such as Easter and Christmas.
Plăcinte cu brânză dulce – Fried dough with sweet cheese
The addition of sweetened cheese converts Romania’s famous cheese pies into Romanian desserts. They come in many different forms and can be found at bakeries throughout Romania.
Brânzoaică – Moldovan Sweet Cheese Pastry
The Moldovan version of the sweetened cheese pie. This can have vanilla and raisins added to the cheese and lemon zest added to the dough mix.
Plăcintă cu mere – Romanian Apple Pie
More Great Tours Leaving From Bucharest
Romanian Drink – Wine, Beer & Spirits
Romanian Drink: Beer
Ursus – A popular commercial Romanian beer, light, dark and unpasteurised options.
Silva – The most commercially available Romanian craft quality beer. They have a blonde and a dark larger, the pale ale is the closest to a true craft beer of the three.
Zaganu – Also a popular Romanian craft beer with both dark and blonde options.
Ciuc Beer – Probably the easiest to find beer. It’s an easy drinking, malty brew. Definitely a big mass production larger.
Romanian wine is relatively unknown internationally. But with a great climate for growing grapes, and grape varieties endemic to Romania, you’ll be excited to discover some new flavours.
We visited Avincis Winery near the town of Drăgășani. In recent years this region has become much more popular for wine growing and their stand-out grape Negru de Drăgășani is making some delicious berry fruit, bold red wines. This is a newer grape that has come into being from parent grapes Băbească neagră (A Moldovan/Romanian variety) and Negru Vîrtos a Romanian grape that is no longer cultivated.
This new Romanian wine only came into being in 1993, so it’s an exciting new variety. Avincis winery makes a couple of wines with this grape. A higher end pure wine, and a more affordable but still an excellent blend with Merlot (pictured below). Avincis has over 40 hectares of planted vines, as well as a large visitor centre and tasting room. Perched on top of Dobrușa hill, you can enjoy your wines with panoramic views. They even have accommodation options.
Contact the winery in advance to organise a tasting or book accommodation – or even book your dream wedding with Romanian wine!
Fetească Neagră – Is probably the most famous Romanian Wine variety. It grows through much of Romania and Moldova producing a dark ruby wine with black currant characteristics. You’ll find it on most menus and every supermarket shelf.
Fetească Albă – The white Romanian wine variety that is also endemic to the region and easy to find. Used for both sparkling and still wines in Romania & Moldova.
Some other Romanian wine varieties to look out for:
White: Tămâioasă Românească (sweet & semi-sweet wines), Grasă de Cotnari (Grown only in the Cotnari region since the 15th century), Galbenă de Odobești
Red: Băbească Neagră (Light-bodied, fruity wine)
If you can’t make it to a winery, Paine si Vin in Bucharest has an amazing selection of wine and very knowledgeable staff.
Romania Drink: Spirits
Some fortified drinking before or after dinner.
Pălincă, Țuică & Rachiu
Pălincă – A fruit brandy originating from the Austro-Hungarian empire in the middle ages. The most common varieties are pear, plum, and apricot. Pălincă has a serious kick, commonly around 45% ABV, you can find it over 70% on occasion.
Țuică – Specifically a plum raki and traditional to Romania. This spirit is produced once the wine harvest is complete, from October to December. After 6 to 8 weeks of fermentation in barrels, the plums mix is then distilled. As well as commercial production, Romanian families in the countryside often produce their own. It’s customary to drink one shot, only before a meal, and not after.
Rachiu – The Romanian version of raki. This drink originates from Turkey (where it may also be called arrack) and is popular throughout the Balkan region. In Romania, the word refers to any raki that is not Țuică (made from plums). So you will find Rachiu made from pears, other fruits and even from grains.
Romanian fruit liqueurs are all made in the same way and are produced from whatever fruits are in season. It’s common for these style of liqueurs to be mostly homemade. So finding a commercial product (like Saber, above, stocked in Carrefour in Bucharest), or seeing them in restaurants is less common. If you manage to get invited to someone’s home in the country, then you’ll probably be in luck!
Production is simple. Take fruit of your choice (I like the sour cherry “vișine” the best). Add the same weight in sugar. Leave to ferment for a few days, then add vodka or Țuică and leave to mature for 100 days at room temperature. Then filter out the fruit and drink the beautiful colored liquid.