20 Amazing Romanian Foods You Must Try in This Lifetime

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 that to you.

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.

But let’s skip the talking and instead let’s feast our eyes with these 20 amazing Romanian foods that you must try at least once in this lifetime. Preferably not all at once!

And take my advice – don’t read this article on an empty stomach!

1. Sarmale (Cabbage Rolls)

Probably one of the first things that comes to mind if you ask a Romanian to name a traditional dish.

Made of minced meat (usually pork, but also a combination of pork and chicken or just poultry meat) mixed with rice and spices, rolled into sour cabbage leaves (fermented cabbage) and boiled for hours in a special sauce made of the sauerkraut juice, water, tomato juice and other secret ingredients, they are simply delicious.

You usually server 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)

Tasty Romanian Food: Mici
Source: paprikaexpress.ro

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.

Variants include eating them with French fires or garlic, but mustard and bread is the way to go in my opinion.

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 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)

Pomana porcului

This is really an old tradition and difficult to explain as a whole: the Pomana porcului is eaten in the honor of the pig that has just been slaughtered, usually in December, before Christmas.

Fresh meat from 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.

Restaurants serve this dish as well, but obviously the meat is not just as fresh. I can hardly tell the difference, though.

7. Papanasi

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!

10. Cozonac

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)

Mucenici

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).

13. Drob

drob romanian food

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 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, carrots, peas and mayonnaise and you will get the delicious salata boeuf – with or without meat.

15. Coliva

Although this sweet 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)

zacusca

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)

slaninuta cu boia

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)

parjoale moldovenesti

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!

Wrapping up

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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19 thoughts on “20 Amazing Romanian Foods You Must Try in This Lifetime”

  1. I’m 100% Romanian, my father is from Canada, but both his parents immigrated there from Romania and my mother moved to America from Romania when she was 25 y/o. When I was 3 y/o in 1969 my Bunica (mother’s mother) came to live with us for good. She loved to cook, so I ate most of these dishes growing up, but my favorite was her cheese strudel! She would get the strudel dough stretched out paper thin and it would cover the entire dining room table, it was incredible how she did that and it was beyond delicious! Growing up, while my friends snacked on chips and cookies, I snacked on Jumari and Strudelโ€ฆand I wouldnโ€™t have it any other way!

    Reply
  2. My husband just came back from a first time trip from Romania, What a beautiful Country! and delicious food! He actually brought me back some goat cheese and bread in his suitcase and we loved it! What a blessed people to live in such a place, someday I hope to experience it for myself…

    Reply
  3. The best place on earth to eat and live. We just returned from a short stay in Beclean. My heart remains there!

    The food is great, the country side better and people the best.

    Reply
    • I am happy you enjoyed it there, Kristen, although I must be honest and admit that I had to Google Beclean as I had never heard of it before ๐Ÿ™‚ Looks like a nice town and I am sure that the surrounding area was even better.

      Reply
  4. A great blog! I wanted to share some foods from two areas of the country. First, the south, Oltenia, (even if not given much credit in the food department), one can also find things in there for people who are not meat enthusiasts for its vegetable-oriented soups and foods. Leek soup is a big thing in there, also orache spinach soup, stinging nettle food, and garden patience* stevia* food. The soups are more sour in there. For meat lovers, besides the things said already, there is pork meat preserved in the jar with lard, over the winter. The good stuff, man. Also – jellied meat/ pig’s trotters with heavy garlic flavour.
    The second area is the center of the country, Transylvania . There is something specific in here called green salad soup (with fresh salad, sour cream, eggs and smoked bacon in it, I mean, what can go wrong?) and also noodle soup but the noodles are made from scratch with a special machine. One thing that is awsome is left from the Saxons of Transylvania and it’s a sort of sweet pie called Lichiu / *Hencles made in a wooden oven. Mentioning it because older romanian women still have some ovens like that and use them for lichiu or for baking enormously round bread, slowly cooked which tastes so good, especially if you spread some oxen sour cream on it. Besides these, on the top of my head it comes, roasted pepper salad with vinegar or garlic, meatballs soup and Ostropel, which is a sort of romanian stew with chicken and thick tomato sauce. Sorry, this got too long. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • You made my mouth water, Xari! It is true that when it comes to soups and stews, Romanians get very creative. We do love our varied soups!

      It was also the first time that I had heard about lichiu – sounds delicious and I know the ovens you’re talking about. The bread baked there is the best!

      Reply
  5. Thanks to our visit, I am so glad we got to sample some of the wonderful Romanian dishes. The pictures still make me drool and l still say #5 with polenta is not on the cards for me. Federico did have it and loved it, but not for me thank you! Everything else l would gobble up. Where is the bean soup in the bread? ๐Ÿ™‚ Loved that so much too.

    Reply
    • I also hated polenta until recently, but for some reason I really enjoy it now. But yes, it’s not that special for sure! And indeed I forgot about the bean soup in the bread, but at least we have that beans dish with hocks to make up for it ๐Ÿ˜€

      Reply
  6. Bon appetite Calin!
    So, #16 I can eat with no remorse.;-)
    As a vegetarian (sorry!), I imagine one can improvise with soy, tofu, etc., to substitute for the different meats in the majority of the dishes. “Tofurky” anyone?
    Also the deserts and soups and salads look great, but I imagine the recipes could be modified to lose the high-fat content, and still maintain the yumminess.;-)
    Out of curiosity, do the Romanians, as a rule, maintain a higher body fat percentage? Pictures and videos of the hoi polloi don’t suggest this, but if one consumes so much of this obviously “rich” food pictured here, how could they not be? Maybe lucky and good gene pool? Me, I’d be a blimp or dead from a coronary if I ate all the food pictured here. Now, don’t get me wrong, it looks delicious, and I am sure is prepared with great skill, but…
    Unfortunately in the USA, the lack of healthy choices–especially for people who don’t live near supermarkets, are stuck with fast food, 7-11’s, and Circle K’s. Hence, too many people are overweight from consuming fatty, sodium-rich, sugary food and beverages which cause nothing but health issues.
    Certainly no lack of weight-loss programs on TV, though!
    Great update!
    ~Teil

    Reply
    • I remember reading recently that Romanians are eating healthier than ever now. The people are more educated now and have the option to make healthier choices – and most of them do.

      Until recently, bread consumption was extremely high. Basically, in Romania, you ate everything with half a loaf (not slice) of bread ๐Ÿ™‚ My father used to eat french fries with bread, pasta with bread… anything with bread, and he was not alone ๐Ÿ™‚ But things are getting better.

      So we’re not constantly having the foods listed above. And there are healthier options as well, but the traditional foods come from a time where people were a lot more active and that extra grease didn’t harm them as much as it does us today.

      Regarding the body fat percentage, most Romanians are not very fir actually. I noticed that -probably like in most of the world thanks to fast foods and cheap prices – Romanians are starting to put on more weight. But fortunately, there’s this growing trend of eating healthier, so things are getting better hopefully.

      Reply
  7. Oh my god you just made me simultaneously craves all these foods! I’m Romanian and man I’m getting homesick now…

    Reply
  8. Hello, I really enjoyed the article and have almost all of them and enjoyed them. Ciorba is really my favorite soup! My Romanian husband past in 2018 and I can tell you he would totally agree with you about your top 20 because he definitely loved all of those! Thank you!

    Reply

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