You can’t have a blog dedicated to a specific country without talking at least a little bit about its cuisine, right?
Fortunately, Romania has some amazing foods that anybody in the world would love – and today I’m here to prove it by sharing some amazing Romanian foods you must try when you visit.
Even though at least some of these traditional Romanian foods can be found in other Balkan countries (and not only) as well, they are part of the Romanian culture and part of what makes this country such an amazing one.
Plus, we might have added our own take on the dish itself to make it better – or at least slightly different. It could even become “weird Romanian food,” it will still be delicious!
But let’s skip the talking and instead let’s feast our eyes with the best traditional Romanian foods that you must try at least once in your lifetime. Preferably not all at once!
IMPORTANT: take my advice – don’t read this article on an empty stomach!
1. Sarmale (Cabbage Rolls)
Sarmale are probably the first thing people will mention if asked to name a traditional Romanian dish.
These cabbage rolls are made of minced meat (usually pork) mixed with rice and spices, rolled into sour cabbage leaves (fermented cabbage) and boiled for hours in a special sauce made of sauerkraut juice, water, tomato juice and other spices.
It might not sound like a lot, but they are delicious!
You usually eat Sarmale with another piece of traditional Romanian food – Mamaliga (we’ll have more about it later), you can top them up with some sour cream and a bit of a hot pepper with each bite. Yum!
2. Mici (Grilled Minced Meat Rolls)
Mici (also called Mititei) are literally translated as “Small ones.” While they got bigger and bigger over the years, they’re normally not longer than an adult’s finger.
Created from a mixture of minced pork and cow meat, mixed with spices and garlic as well as sodium bicarbonate, they are then grilled and eaten hot with mustard and bread or fried potatoes.
They are very similar with the cevapi you can find in the Balkans, but the Romanian Mititei are usually fluffier and juicier. I also like their taste better.
3. Ciorba de Burta (Beef Tripe Soup)
Eating beef tripe might not sound like the best thing to do when you visit a foreign country, but that’s because you have never tried the Romanian Beef Tripe Soup aka Ciorba de burta.
Serve it with sour cream, vinegar and a traditional garlic paste known as “mujdei” and all your pleasure spots will be tickled. No kidding – it might sound gross, but it’s delicious.
Bonus: You are not forced to eat the beef tripe itself, just gulp on the liquid and you’re set.
4. Mamaliga (Polenta)
Mamaliga is probably the second thing that Romanians will use as an example for traditional Romanian foods, after Sarmale (and maybe after Mici).
It is very similar to the Spanish Polenta: boiled corn flour in water with a dash of salt and a few drops of sunflower oil or butter. And that’s it!
The result is a creamy delight that you will eat instead of bread. And despite the simplicity of the recipe, it takes a lot of practice to know exactly how much corn flour to use in relation to the water, otherwise it will be either too hard or too runny.
Mamaliga is usually served with traditional Romanian white cheese and sour cream and often times it is used as a side dish for Sarmale, Varza a la Cluj and many other dishes.
5. Varza a la Cluj (Cluj-style Cabbage)
This dish is sort of a “sarmale for the lazy”. Instead of rolling the minced meat into the sauerkraut, you mix them all together and bake them in the oven.
This dish is more popular in the northern parts of the country, but it’s equally delicious no matter where you decide to eat it.
It’s usually sprinkled with some sour cream on top and eaten with a side of mamaliga.
6. Pomana porcului (Honoring the pig)
This is really an old tradition and difficult to explain as a whole: the Pomana porcului is eaten in the honor of a pig that has just been slaughtered, usually in December, before Christmas.
Fresh meat from various parts of the pig is cut into larger pieces and fried in a deep pan, usually in the pig’s fat.
It is then served immediately to all those who participated at the pig’s slaughtering and always accompanied by the traditional “moonshine” – Tuica.
Or you can try it with water – even tap water in Romania is safe to drink.
Restaurants serve this dish as well, but obviously the meat is not just as fresh. I can hardly tell the difference, though.
A delicious dessert made usually of cottage cheese (or any type of sweet cow cheese), that is rolled into donut like shapes and fried, then filled with sweet cream and topped with jam, usually berries or cherries.
They are pretty difficult to prepare and some restaurants to them better than others.
So definitely try ordering these in a few places to make sure that you get the truly great ones. (Yes, good excuse to have many portions of these!)
8. Ciorba Radauteana (Soup from Radauti)
A delicious, fatty soup made from a lot of vegetables and chicken. It’s also usually served with sour cream and after you try it once, you won’t eat your chicken soup otherwise!
9. Jumari cu ceapa (Greaves with Onions)
These are obtained from frying bits of bacon and they are as delicious as they are unhealthy.
However, if you don’t overdo it and serve them warm with salt and large chunks of onion, you will surely love them. They make the traditional Tuica go down easier, too!
They are also prepared together with the Pomana Porcului above. Don’t buy the ones in supermarkets though, if you want the real taste: they need to be freshly made to be perfect!
A sort of sweet bread filled with a sweet walnut paste, or poppy seeds paste or Turkish delight, this dessert is usually cooked during the holidays – Christmas and Easter mainly.
Now you can find it in every store here in Romania, but if you want to experience the real taste of the Cozonac, you have to try the homemade version which can’t be beaten.
11. Iahnie cu ciolan (Beans with Hocks)
You can’t go wrong when you combine beans with a large chunk of a smoked pork hock or any other type of smoked meat. Usually eaten during the winter, together with pickles, it’s a culinary delight.
Yes, you will probably find this in various forms and shapes in many places around the world – but you still have to try the Romanian version!
12. Mucenici (Sweet Dough Rolls)
These sweet dough rolls are eaten once a year, on the 9th of March. There are actually two types of Mucenici in Romania and they are completely different one from another.
We’re talking about the Moldavian version here (seen above), which are large, 8-shaped pieces of delicious sweet dough, baked in the oven and served with a topping of honey and walnut paste.
The other version is made of 8 shaped pasta-like bits that are boiled into water until done. Then, the entire “soup” is mixed with sugar, vanilla and lemon zest and eaten with a spoon.
While they’re both good, the large ones are the best – so make sure you ask your waiter what type you’re getting if you plan to order them (although I haven’t seen any served in restaurants, to be honest).
Usually prepared for Easter, the Drob is normally made from lamb organs (especially liver). Recently, in order to keep it healthier, many recipes prepare it from chicken liver only.
I personally prefer that version – which is seen in the image above (made by my wife!)
You mix the meat with dill and spices, you place boiled eggs in the middle and you serve it cold – with some mustard if you like the combo.
You can check out the first drob that we’ve made, plus a few other traditional Romanian Easter dishes here.
14. Salata boeuf (Beef salad)
This is a really funny traditional Romanian food: despite the French name and the “beef” in its title, it’s actually inspired by a Russian salad and is usually made with chicken meat (even though the beef version still exists) or without meat at all.
Add pickles, boiled potatoes, carrots, and peas as well as plenty of mayonnaise and you will get the delicious salata boeuf – with or without meat.
Although this sweet snack was originally nothing but a dessert made from boiled grain seeds mixed with sugar and walnuts, it is now traditionally served to honor the dead or after funerals.
Some people still prepare them during the holidays and it’s absolutely delicious, despite its simplicity.
16. Zacusca (Vegetable Paste)
A delightfully tasty paste that I am a huge fan of, the Zacusca is made mostly of eggplants, but there are other varieties, with peppers, onions, mushrooms and green tomatoes.
They are all really good and the best part is that most of the ones you can find in supermarkets taste decent too.
The ingredients are baked and boiled for hours, then canned and eaten when they’re cold. It doesn’t look like much, but it is delicious!
17. Slaninuta afumata cu boia (Smoked Bacon with paprika)
Usually made of fat coming from the pig’s belly and smoked at home, this bacon is served with paprika and red onions with salt.
Add some homemade bread to the mix and a traditional red wine made in Romania – or our ever-present Tuica – and you are all set!
18. Parjoale Moldovenesti (Meatballs from Moldavia)
A special type of meatballs, these are made of minced pork meat mixed with dry bread crumbs, garlic and spices, then deep fried in sunflower oil.
Unlike regular meatballs, they are larger and flatter and absolutely delicious. You can eat them warm, but also cold.
19. Carnati de Plescoi (Plescoi sausages)
A delicious type of sausage made from mutton spiced with chili peppers and garlic, the Plescoi sausages are first dried then smoked and finally served baked with mustard and white bread.
20. Placinta cu branza dulce si stafide (Fried dough with sweet cheese & raisins)
There are many variants of this dish, but I’m sticking here with the traditional one: fried dough pie, filled with sweet cow cheese and raisins. Sprinkle some sugar on it and serve it hot or cold – it’s delicious either way!
It’s very similar to your regular cheesecake, so if you are a fan of that, you’ll love the Romanian version!
21. Piftie / Racitura (Meat aspic)
This delicious jelly / aspic is called Racitura in the Northern parts of the country and Piftie in the rest of Romania.
Traditionally, it’s a bone broth boiled for hours, until most of the water evaporates. In the same broth, various bits of meat are added (usually pork, but you can also have turkey or chicken meat), plus vegetables – usually carrots or even pickles and garlic.
Left to cool, it turns into the delicious jelly you never thought you’d enjoy. Nowadays, though, pork gelatin is added into the boiling water to speed up the process.
22. Salata de vinete
The Romanian version of Baba Ghanoush, this salad is made from oven-baked eggplants that are blended and mixed with some mayonnaise and/or oil, and mixed with either grated onions or garlic.
Simple, but delicious – you eat it as a spread on top of toast (and generally can’t have enough).
23. Ostropel (Chicken Stew)
Another very simple Romanian dish, but one that’s absolutely amazing. It is basically a stew with chicken meat boiled in a thick tomato sauce. Usually, garlic is added for extra flavor.
You will eat it with plenty of bread to clean all that sauce – or with mashed potatoes. Yummy!
24. Ciorba de Perisoare (Meatball soup)
One of my favorites “ciorba”, this is a sour soup with boiled meatballs. My mouth is watering as I am writing this. Ha!
There’s not much to explain about this: it’s a Romanian ciorba (filled with boiled vegetables) with the added perisoare (meatballs made from pork, mixed with rice and spices). You usually add some sour cream before eating and it’s amazing!
25. Galuste cu prune (Plum-filled dumplings)
I left these for last because, I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan. But most people who have tried these plum dumplings found them surprisingly delicious.
You get a mashed-potato dough here, sweetened and filled with plums – usually half a plum or an entire one – boiled and covered in sweet breadcrumbs when ready.
You’ll probably either love them (like most do) or hate them (like I do) – but you can’t know until you try.
OK, I am honestly hungry after writing this. It wasn’t easy to write, but I sure hope that you enjoy it and find at least most of these traditional Romanian foods interesting at least.
These amazing Romanian foods had to be shared with the world. Now all I can hope is that you will be able to try them all out as soon as possible!
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