20 Traditional Romanian Dishes and Foods

Romanian dishes are a blend of Ottoman and Central European influences, with hearty and simple dishes.

Lastest Updated April 19, 2024
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Basic Information

Romanian Food: Basic Overview

Common Ingredients

Grains, Meat, Fish, Dairy Products, Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, Spices.

Common Cooking Methods

Boiling, Baking, Grilling, Simmering, Frying.

Courses

Main Course, Soup, Dessert.

Meals

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Key Taste

Sweet, Savory

Eating Etiquette

Eat with forks and knives; pass food clockwise around the table; exchange greetings before eating and express gratitude after the meal.

Meal Presentation

Serve food in large portions; accompany soups and sauces with bread; garnish food with local and seasonal ingredients.

Culinary Festivals

Christmas, Easter

Influence and Fusion

Romanian dishes are strongly influenced by Ottoman, Austrian, Hungarian, German, and Slavic cuisines.
Origin and Region

Romanian Food: Origin and Region

Cuisine

Romania

Cuisine’s Geographical Territory

Southeastern Europe

Country’s Region

  1. Northern Romania
  2. Southern Romania
  3. Western Romania
  4. Eastern Romania
Romania Map
Ingredients and Preparation

Popular Types of Romanian Food

  • Soups and Stews

    Soups and stews make up a significant proportion of Romanian dishes.

    These food offerings are hearty and savory items for the main course.

    These dishes are typically prepared with vegetables, legumes, meat, and a liberal amount of herbs and spices.

    Romanians always serve stews with bread, using pieces of bread to mop up the savory sauce.

  • Grilled and Barbecued Dishes

    There are many grilled dishes in Romania; they serve as entrees, snacks, or street food.

    These grilled dishes can be made with meat sausage.

    To prepare these dishes, Romanians often marinate the ingredients in a blend of various herbs and spices before grilling.

  • Cakes and Pastries

    There are many types of cakes and pastries in Romania.

    These dishes are usually made with wheat flour, milk, butter, sugar, fruits, and spices.

    Certain Romanian cakes and pastries are specifically designed for special holidays and occasions.

Romanian dishes are specialties widely prepared and enjoyed in Romania, a country that straddles various regions of Europe. Interestingly, Romanian cuisine has many things in common with Turkish culinary delights due to cultural and historical ties.

Speaking of culinary influences, Turkish specialties play a role in shaping Romanian dishes due to the spread of Ottoman cuisine. Central European countries, such as Hungarian delicacies and Austrian delicacies, are also essential factors.

Romanian dishes have simple and homely qualities, as they rely on local and easily accessible ingredients. There are many hearty and nourishing specialties in local cuisine.

Continue reading, and I will show you what makes traditional Romanian food special, including its main characteristics, global popularity, and healthy aspects.

Next, I will dive into the 20 most common dishes in Romania before providing insight into the general cuisine and suggesting beverages for food and drink pairings.

Traditional Romanian food is a concept that encompasses long-standing dishes in Romania’s culture and history. Let me give you an overview of what this concept entails.

Ottoman Influence

During the Ottoman Empire’s rule in some parts of the country, Romanians absorbed several elements from their overlord’s cuisine, such as the use of paprika and the preparation of stuffed dishes or grilled meat.

Central European Influence

The proximity and historical connections with Central European countries enable the culinary exchange between Romania and these countries. Pastries and meat-based dishes are part of such exchange.

Simplicity

Many well-known Romanian dishes originated as simple, rustic, and easy-to-make fare for working people. Over time, these dishes gained popularity with the larger population.

Religious Factor

In Romania, certain dishes are specifically prepared for Orthodox festivities or to meet religious requirements.

Meat-centric Dishes

Romanian cuisine heavily features meat, especially pork, beef, lamb, and chicken. Many traditional dishes include meat as a primary ingredient.

Soups and Broths

Soups play a significant role in Romanian meals, with varieties ranging from clear broths and vegetable soups to more substantial, meat-based options.

Bread

Bread is a cornerstone of the Romanian diet and the default accompaniment to various savory dishes.

After introducing you to these aspects of Romanian cuisine, I will dive into how popular this cuisine is in other parts of the world.

While Romanian cuisine isn’t exactly popular around the world, it has gained fame in many neighboring countries, as well as nations with significant communities of Romanian immigrants or people of Romanian ancestry.

Outside Romania, Modalvia is the best place to find Romanian dishes since there are substantial similarities between the two cuisines. Other promising destinations include Italy, Spain, Germany, the UK, the US, and Canada.

In these parts of the world, dining establishments that offer Romanian dishes are relatively easier to locate.

Next, let’s uncover the factors contributing to the healthy aspects of Romanian dishes.

With a strong emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, Romanian dishes are suitable for adding to a healthy diet, though you should also bear in mind their shortcomings. I will address both sides of local dishes right away.

Seasonal and Fresh Ingredients

Romanian cuisine heavily relies on seasonal produce, meaning that dishes are prepared with ingredients that are in season and have the highest content of nutrients.

Diverse Vegetables

Traditional Romanian dishes often incorporate a wide range of vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, cucumbers, and various leafy greens. These vegetables are essential sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Herbs and Spices

Many Romanian recipes utilize herbs and spices, such as dill, parsley, lovage, and thyme, which can provide additional nutrients and antioxidants.

The Need for Moderation

As mentioned above, multiple Romanian dishes rely on red meat, so they should be consumed in moderation. You should also pay attention to sweets and pastries, which are high in sugar and fat and widely available during special occasions.

Remember this note of caution, and you can freely enjoy the best dishes Romania has to offer, all of which will be mentioned in the following section.

20 Most Popular Romanian Dishes with Filters

20 well-known dishes in Romania are waiting for you to discover! Use advanced filters to navigate this content more easily; there are options regarding alphabetical sorting, main ingredients, taste, cooking methods, dish types, courses, and global popularity.

Remember to check out the additional filters based on specific culinary styles, such as traditional, national, and street food options.

  • The most popular dishes in Romania are widely recognized in the country and its neighbors.
  • These dishes are available in various restaurants and households.
  • Romania has many national dishes that are emblematic of the country’s rich culinary heritage.
  • These dishes demonstrate the diverse nature of Romanian food.
  • Traditional Romanian dishes are time-honored recipes handed down through generations.
  • They reflect Romania’s seasonality, rich history, and diverse geography.
  • Characterized by a unique blend of tastes and cooking techniques, these dishes are integral to the culinary tradition of Romania.
  • Romanian street food is known for its convenience, affordability, and savory flavors.
  • They are available in many settings, from bustling street stalls to local markets.
  • These dishes offer a quick and delicious way to experience the flavors of Romania in a casual, lively setting.
Cabbage Rolls

Sarmale

  • National
  • Traditional

Sarmale is a classic Romanian dish in the form of stuffed cabbage rolls. Hailing from a similar Ottoman dish called sarma, it is a must-have specialty for many special occasions in the country, such as weddings, Christmas, and New Year.

People create sarmale by combining minced beef or pork, onions, rice, and spices and wrapping the mixture in cabbage or vine grape leaves. The rolls are then cooked for a few hours in tomato-based broth.

Vegan sarmale replaces minced beef with ground nuts, shredded carrots, and chopped mushrooms. Both traditional and plant-based versions go well with sour cream and a side of mămăligă (a staple dish similar to polenta).

Mamaliaga Polenta

Mămăligă

  • National
  • Traditional

Mămăligă, also known as Romanian polenta, is a popular staple dish made with yellow cornmeal, water or stock, and salt. Some richer versions feature butter and herbs.

Originally a type of cheap peasant food, mămăligă is now a comforting dish beloved by all Romanians. Though similar to Italian polenta in some aspects, mămăligă often has a firm consistency and a circular, dome-like shape.

In the past, mămăligă was produced from millet flour, known to locals as pulmentum, before maize was introduced to Europe in the 16th century.

Bulz, also known as urs de mămăligă, is a Romanian dish by baking mămăligă and cheese together in the oven, then topping the mixture with bacon and eggs.

Mici Mititei

Mititei

  • National
  • Street Food
  • Traditional

Mititei, also known as mici, is a famous Romanian dish of grilled skinless sausage or ground meat roll. Its name means “tiny/ little ones,” referring to the small shape of the sausage.

The preparation of mititei starts with mixing a blend of lamb and beef with various spices, including pepper, garlic, thyme, and paprika. The meat mixture is then formed into a cylindrical, finger-sized shape before being grilled.

Legend has it that mititei were invented in the late 1800s by a cook at a pub named “La o idee” (“The Idea”). He ran out of casings to make sausage, so he just grilled the sausage filling directly and served it.

However, another theory attributes mititel to grilled dishes in Ottoman cuisine. Anyway, the grilled skinless sausage dish is a popular dish for outdoor gatherings and warm-weather festivities in Romania.

Ciorbă De Burtă

Ciorbă de Burtă

  • Traditional

Ciorbă de burtă, translating to “tripe soup,” is a sought-after sour soup in Romanian cuisine. The term ciorbă refers to a category of sour soups in local cuisine.

Several local food journalists hail ciorbă de burtă as having the most complex and demanding manner of preparation in all Romanian dishes.

The main ingredients of ciorbă de burtă are beef tripe, vegetables (like carrots, onions, and celery), vinegar or fermented wheat bran, egg yolks, and heavy cream. These diverse ingredients result in a complex flavor profile with tanginess, savoriness, and sweetness.

Ciorbă de burtă is a beloved remedy for hangovers and is commonly served in restaurants and households.

Zacusca Romanian

Zacuscă

  • Traditional

Zacuscă is a thick Romanian vegetable spread made from roasted eggplant, tomato paste, sautéed onions, paprika, and roasted sweet peppers.

Locals often serve zacuscă on bread or as an accompaniment to grilled meats and cheese. Its name came from the Slavic language, meaning “snack,” “breakfast,” or “appetizer.”

Zacuscă is typically made in a large quantity after every fall harvest to preserve the veggies. In nations with an Orthodox Christian majority, this vegetable spread is very popular during fasting seasons when people refrain from eating meat, eggs, or dairy.

Salată De Vinete

Salată de Vinete

  • Traditional

Salată de vinete, often known as ust vinete, is a type of eggplant dip or eggplant salad in Romania. It boasts a smooth texture and a distinctive smoky flavor that goes well with bread and grilled meat.

Salată de vinete is primarily made from roasted eggplants, which are peeled, finely chopped or mashed, and mixed with diced onions, sunflower or olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice or vinegar.

Many Americans refer to Romanian eggplant dip as potlagel since the eggplant is known as patlagea in the old Romanian language. However, salată de vinete is the correct name in modern Romanian.

Easter Sweet Bread

Cozonac

  • Traditional

Cozonac, also known as Kozunak, is a well-known sweet bread in Romanian. It is also famous in other Southeastern European countries, particularly Romania, Serbia, Greece, Macedonia, and Bulgaria.

Cozonac is traditionally made for Easter and major holidays, such as Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Its preparation involves coiling the citrus-scented leavened dough around a nut-based filling, shaping it into a spiral shape, and baking until the bread is soft and fluffy.

On Europe Day 2006, Romania chose cozonac to represent this country in the Café Europe project of the Austrian presidency of the European Union.

Papanasi Romanian

Papanași

  • Traditional

Papanași is a beloved Romanian dessert that is traditionally served hot with sour cream and fruit jam like blueberry or sour cherry. Its name might be derived from the Latin word pappa or papa, which signifies “children’s food.”

Typical papanași consists of fried or boiled doughnuts made from a mixture of urdă (Romanian cottage cheese), eggs, flour, and lemon zest. This combo creates a soft, creamy, and tangy treat.

Ardei Umpluți

Ardei Umpluți

  • Traditional

Ardei umpluți is a classic Romanian dish made by stuffing bell peppers with various savory ingredients. Popular options include minced meat (usually pork, beef, or a mix of both), rice, onions, and various herbs and spices.

Romanian stuffed peppers are simmered in tangy tomato sauce and served with bread and sour cream or yogurt on the side. This stuffed dish originated in Ottoman cuisine and offers many different variations throughout Central and Southeast Europe.

Cascaval Pane

Cașcaval Pane

  • Street Food
  • Traditional

Cașcaval pane is a renowned Romanian appetizer and snack consisting of breaded and deep-fried cheese slices. Its preferred ingredient is cașcaval, a semi-hard yellow cheese similar to cheddar or Gouda.

Think of cașcaval pane as mozzarella sticks in Romania. Locals usually enjoy this golden and gooey snack alongside garlic sauce, mămăligă, fried potatoes, salads, or a glass of pilsner.

Drob De Miel

Drob de Miel

  • Traditional

Drob de miel, often shortened to drob, is an essential lamb dish for Easter in Romania. It is prepared by finely chopping lamb offals, eggs, herbs, green onions, and soaked bread, mixing these ingredients together, encasing the mixture in a lamb’s stomach (optional), and baking it.

The liver, heart, kidneys, and lungs of a young sheep are the must-have ingredients of drob de miel. While this haggis-like dish has many regional variations, lamb offal is an irreplaceable component.

The reason is that the lamb represents Christ’s sacrifice for humanity’s redemption, which is an important theme for Easter. Drob de miel is a rich and savory dish that is often thinly sliced and served cold with pickles and bread.

Tochitura Moldoveneasca

Tochitură

  • Traditional

Tochitură is an easy Romanian dish prepared by cooking pork or beef cubes in their own fat and, in some cases, a small amount of tomato sauce. Its name was derived from the verb “a topi,” meaning “to slow cook meat in fat.”

While tochitură is often categorized as a stew, it has little liquid, especially when this pork dish excludes tomato sauce. Romanians usually enjoy tochitură with mămăligă, sunny-side-up eggs, and cașcaval pane.

Ciorba de Perișoare

Ciorbă de Perișoare

  • Traditional

Ciorbă de perișoare a sour Romanian soup that features meatballs (perișoare) made from ground pork and beef, rice, breadcrumbs, and spices. The meatballs are simmered in a tangy broth made sour with lemon juice and vinegar or fermented wheat bran.

Ciorbă de perișoare often includes carrots, celery, and onions, and herbs like parsley or lovage. This tangy and savory soup tastes best when topped with sour cream, extra parsley, and cayenne pepper.

Salata de Boeuf

Salată de Boeuf

  • Traditional

Salată de boeuf is a Romanian salad prepared with finely diced beef, boiled vegetables, mayonnaise, and murături (Romanian pickled vegetables). It is a common sight at local celebrations, particularly Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

While salată de boeuf has a French-sounding name, many people think that it was actually inspired by a Russian dish called salat Olivje or Olivier salad.

Cake Cheese Pasca

Pasca

  • Traditional

Pasca is an Easter bread widely enjoyed in Romania. A hybrid between a cheesecake and panettone, it has a soft outside and a creamy inside.

Pasca is a sweet, yeast-leavened bread often made with a rich dough of eggs, milk, and butter. Its center is filled with a creamy mixture of fresh cheese, sugar, eggs, and sometimes raisins or citrus zest.

Along with drob de miel and cozonac, pasca is an essential part of Eastern celebrations in Romania. This sweet bread is also present under different names in other countries, such as paska in Ukraine.

Pies Placinta

Plăcintă

  • Traditional

Plăcintă is a beloved Romanian pastry that is either round or square. It dates back to ancient Roman times and has experienced remarkably few changes in the preparation method.

To make plăcintă, people prepare a simple dough, roll it thin, fill it with cheese or apples, and bake or fry the dish. Plăcintă is a simple yet addictive snack or a light meal, sometimes accompanied by sour cream or yogurt.

Fasole Batuta

Fasole Bătută

  • Traditional

Fasole bătută, also known as fasole făcăluită or icre de fasole, is a creamy bean dip in Romanian cuisine. Locals prepare it by boiling white beans and mashing them with olive oil, caramelized onions, garlic, paprika, and lemon juice.

Fasole bătută is a perfect side dish for sausages, smoked meats, dry-cured ham, and pickles. But its most popular application is to serve as a spread for toasted bread slices.

Frigarui Skewerson

Frigărui

  • Street Food
  • Traditional

Frigărui is a well-known Romanian dish of grilled and skewered meat, with pork, chicken, and lamb being popular choices. It shares many similarities with kebabs, which suggests an Ottoman origin.

Before grilling frigărui on skewers, Romanians marinate chunks of meat in a marinade of herbs, spices, oil, and wine or beer (optional). Vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms are occasionally threaded onto the skewers, too.

Typical accompaniments for frigărui include mujdei de usturoi (a Romanian garlic sauce), salads, and mămăligă.

Plescoi Sausage

Pleșcoi Sausage

  • Traditional

Pleșcoi sausage, known locally as cârnaţii de Pleşcoi, is a famous type of sausage in Romania. It is a specialty hailing from the village of the same name in Buzău County in southeastern Romania.

Pleșcoi sausage is prepared with beef, mutton, paprika, garlic, and summer savory. These ingredients are hand-minced and mixed according to a strict ratio, creating a uniquely savory and spicy taste.

Romanians often grill Pleșcoi sausage and serve it with bread and mustard. This Romanian sausage is only made in small batches, so don’t pass up any opportunity to taste it.

Salam de Biscuiti

Salam de Biscuiți

  • Traditional

Salam de biscuiți is a Romanian no-bake dessert shaped like salami slices. It is particularly famous during the Christmas season.

Salam de biscuiți consists of cocoa powder, sugar, butter, crushed cookies, rum extract, and Turkish delight. The mixture is then shaped into a salami-like log and chilled until firm.

Once sliced, the pieces resemble salami slices, with the biscuit pieces mimicking the fat found in traditional salami. While eggs are an acceptable addition, pasteurized eggs are a safer choice than regular whole eggs since there is no cooking with heat when making salam de biscuiți.

Apparently, salam de biscuiți emerged during the 1970s or 1980s as a result of food shortages.

You have just learned about the most popular dishes in Romania, so now let’s shift to the general features of the country’s cuisine.

What Is Special About Romanian Cuisine?

To foster your understanding of Romanian cuisine, I have included the following vital aspects of local dishes.

Over the centuries, Romania has been influenced by various cultures and empires, including the Romans, the Ottoman Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Ottoman influence is particularly strong and evident in many aspects, such as stuffed dishes, paprika, and grilled meat.

In addition, Romanians also have culinary interactions with Germany and various Slavic countries in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

Romania’s geography includes many types of terrain, namely mountains, hills, and fertile plains. This feature facilitates local inhabitants to harvest and cultivate a wide range of agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, meat, and dairy products.

For centuries, the majority of Romanians lived in rural areas and led agrarian lifestyles, which emphasized self-sufficiency and the use of locally available ingredients.

As a result, simple, hearty, and energy-rich dishes for the working class account for a large part of Romanian dishes.

The Romanian Orthodox faith plays a significant role in shaping Romanian cuisine through festive dishes and fasting periods. Christmas and Easter necessitate the preparation of special dishes while fasting leads to a variety of meat-free dishes.

The distinct seasons in Romania have historically required the preservation of food for winter months. As a result, preservation techniques, such as pickling, smoking, and fermentation, are integral to Romanian cuisine.

If you’re interested in pairing Romanian food with local beverages to improve the dining experience, the next section won’t let you down.

What Beverages to Pair With Romanian Dishes?

Many Romanian dishes are ideal accompaniments for the four types of beverages below.

Spirits

There are many types of spirits in Romania, with țuică, a plum-based spirit, considered the national drink. Țuică and other spirits go well with hearty and savory dishes, including sarmale, mititei, and tochitură.

Wine

As one of the world’s largest wine-producing countries, Romania offers many types of wine to pair with lightly seasoned dishes. A few popular choices are ciorbă de burtă, salată de vinete, cașcaval pane, and ciorbă de perișoare.

Beer

Romanian beer is a favored beverage for light dishes of various kinds, such as mămăligă. Meaty or grilled dishes like mititei, frigărui, and Pleșcoi sausage also agree with beer.

Soft Drinks

There are many exciting soft drinks with light or fruity flavors in Romania, such as socată, which is made from elderflowers. Casual dishes are the best accompaniments for soft drinks, such as plăcintă, salam de biscuiți, and drob de miel.

Do my recommended Romanian specialties capture your interest? Tell me about your encounter with Romanian cuisine in the comment section. I’m eager to hear your tale, and I’m sure other readers are, too! Share this list of Romanian dishes with your friends!

Jamie Scott

Jamie Scott

Editor in Chief, Senior Content Writer

Expertise

Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Recipe Development, Baking and Pastry, Food Editor, Cooking-video Maker, Western Food Evaluation Expert

Education

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts

  • Program: Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts
  • Focus: Gained foundational knowledge in French and European culinary techniques. Participated in workshops and hands-on training sessions under the guidance of seasoned chefs.

Local Community College, New York, NY

  • Program: Associate’s Degree in Nutrition
  • Focus: Acquired basic understanding of nutrition principles, dietary needs, and the importance of balanced diets in daily life.

Jamie Scott is a skilled culinary expert and content creator specializing in Western cuisine. With over 15 years in the culinary field and formal training from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, Jamie deeply understands how to blend nutrition with delicious flavors. His passion for cooking matches his commitment to making healthy eating accessible and enjoyable.

On Fifteen.net, Jamie brings a fresh perspective to classic dishes and beverages, offering readers insightful recipes, cooking tips, and a fresh view on meal planning that emphasizes taste, health, and simplicity.

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