No traveling experience is complete without trying some traditional food from the place you’re visiting. Street food is everyone’s favorite food to experience, and especially in the Balkans. Balkans street food is something special, its tradition goes at least five centuries back. In this blog post we bring you the best of the Balkans street food, so keep reading, we hope you’re not too hungry.
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Let’s start tasting delicious Balkans street food…
Ćevapi are the best of the best, it’s a must-try food in Bosnia, but in other Balkans countries as well, and it’s very popular all around Europe. It’s kind of a small grill minced meat sausages, served with a flatbread called lepinja, onion, and often kajmak (dairy, cheese-like product, delicious). Ćevapi can be made from beef, veal, pork, sheep, or lamb meat, it mostly depends on the region where they are being made.
The most popular and the best recipe is the one originating from Banja Luka – Banjalučki ćevapi. They’re known for their shape and taste – they’re much juicier and grilled in groups of four small ćevapi, unlike others that are made individually. Banjalučki ćevapi are made from beef and mutton, with added pepper, salt, and garlic. Another popular recipe is the one from Sarajevo – Sarajevski ćevap, and they are very tasty as well.
Ćevapi can be found on food stands and in special kind of restaurants called “ćevabdžinica”, where they are prepared and served, and eaten hot and only with hands.
© Kod Muje
Leskovački roštilj is traditional and the best grill on the Balkans, and it originates from Leskovac in Serbia. It’s the best grilled meat in this region that you’ll ever try (except ćevapi, that are best in Banja Luka). Leskovački roštilj is made mostly from beef, and it’s very very spicy, grilled on an open fire and that makes it so juicy and tasty.
The most popular meal from this type of grill is Leskovačka pljeskavica, and it’s an official brand of Serbia. Pljeskavica is basically the Balkans hamburger, meat is similar to the one used in ćevapi, and it can be served in the flatbread called lepinja, or in a regular bun.
When you order Leskovački, you’ll be offered a variety of condiments, from fresh and pickled veggies to different salads and sauces. The most popular condiment might be “urnebes” salad – a delicious mixture of cheese and hot chili peppers, with salt and other spices. It originates from the same region, and that’s where it’s the hottest, the milder variations are often used in other regions. Leskovački roštilj can be found on food stands and in “roštiljnica” – restaurants serving grilled meat.
© Steven Depolo / CC BY-SA 2.0
Burek (Turkish: börek, Bulgarian: banitsa, Greek: boureki or bourekaki) is a filled pastry meal (special kind of pie) made of thin layers of dough called jufka, originating from the Ottomans, but became a traditional meal in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia. There are different interpretations of this meal, depending on where you’re eating it.
In Bosnia, burek is filled only with minced meat, and if it’s made with any other filling it’s not burek but pita (pie). Everywhere else it can be filled with various ingredients, mostly with a mixture of cheese and eggs, but also with potato, mushrooms or spinach, or even without any filling. Yogurt is mandatory with this delicious type of pastry – they make the perfect meal together. Burek can be found in almost every bakery, on food stands, and in specialized restaurants called “buregdžinica”.
© aiva. / CC BY-SA 2.0
Sandwich with Sausage or Ham
Air-dried meat products are very popular all over the Balkans, but the best ones you’ll find in Croatia. There are different kinds of such products, some of our favorites are kulen from Slavonija and pršut from Istria and Dalmatia.
Kulen is a spicy type of sausage made of minced pork with a lot of paprika (for the taste and the color) and garlic (also for the taste). The mixture is then pressed into the pork intestines, and then smoked and air-dried. Pršut (prosciutto) is air-dried ham, made from pork hind leg, it can later be smoked or not. The Dalmatian pršut is smoked, and the one made in Istria is usually not. Smoking gives it a special taste, but they’re both very delicious.
They also make a great cheese in Croatia, and it perfectly pairs with kulen or pršut. Add some veggies and condiments to it, put it in a nice pastry, and you’ll have a perfect sandwich.
Gevrek or Simit
Gevrek and simit are the Balkans equivalent of bagel, it’s a circular bread often sprinkled in sesame or poppy seeds, a traditional breakfast snack in some parts of the Balkans, mostly in Bulgaria. In Turkey, you’ll often see people enjoying this simple and delicious snack with a glass of black tea – it’s a tradition that has been going on for centuries.
Similar to bagels, this snack can be boiled before it’s baked, so it’s doughier and chewier, or it can go straight to the oven and be a bit crispy. No matter how you prefer it, it’s a great and fast breakfast meal.
© Contessa / CC BY-SA 2.0
Gyros might be the most world-wide popular street food that comes from the Balkans. It is made in a specific way – thin meat slices are stacked on a vertical rotisserie, slowly cooking, and then the outer layers are being cut in thin shavings and served in a flatbread with tomato, onion, tzatziki sauce, and sometimes French fries.
The original meal is döner or döner kebab, originating from Turkey, and Greek gyros derived from it. They’re both very delicious and very popular meals that basically conquered the whole world. These meals are usually made from lamb, pork, beef, or chicken meat. Originally it was lamb, but in Greece, it’s usually pork or chicken. No matter how you call it, or what meat is used, it is very delicious. It can be found on food stands or even in some restaurants.
© Dencey / CC BY-SA 2.0
No matter what part of the Balkans you visit, you’ll have the chance to try these foods. Even though it’s street food, it’s not unhealthy, as street food can be, but it’s definitely very caloric, so be careful with the quantity. We hope you’ll enjoy these delicious Balkans meals at least as much as we did. Let us know which one you loved the most.
If you’d like to learn a little bit about the Balkans, you should check out our guided tour around this unique region in Europe:
Balkan Tour: Where Contrasts Blend and Adventure Begins
Are you ready to dive into the history and culture of the Balkans? Start exploring the best of the region with our ten-step itinerary.