Romanian food: A taste of Romania’s traditional dishes

Romanian Food: A Taste of Romania’s Traditional Dishes

Welcome to our guide on Romanian food, where we take you on a culinary journey through the traditional dishes that define the rich gastronomic heritage of Romania. From hearty soups and stews to delectable pastries and grilled meats, Romanian cuisine offers a diverse and flavorful experience that reflects the country’s history, culture, and geographical influences. Join us as we explore the unique flavors and ingredients that make Romanian food a true delight for the senses.

Romanian Cuisine: A Brief Overview

Influence of Eastern European and Balkan Cuisine

Romanian cuisine is a delightful blend of flavors and culinary traditions from Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Due to its geographical location, Romania has been influenced by various neighboring countries such as Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Ukraine, resulting in a rich and diverse culinary heritage.

Key Ingredients in Romanian Dishes

Romanian cuisine features a wide array of ingredients that are essential to creating the unique flavors found in traditional dishes. Some key ingredients commonly used in Romanian cooking include:

  • Pork: Pork is a staple meat in Romanian cuisine, and it is often used in various forms such as sausages, bacon, and roasted pork. The succulent and savory flavors of pork are integral to many traditional Romanian dishes.

  • Cabbage: Cabbage is a versatile vegetable that is heavily utilized in Romanian cooking. It is commonly used in dishes such as sarmale, which are cabbage rolls stuffed with a flavorful mixture of ground meat, rice, and spices.

  • Cornmeal: Cornmeal is a staple ingredient in Romanian cuisine and is used to make traditional dishes such as mamaliga. Mamaliga is a polenta-like dish that is often served as a side dish or used as a base for other flavorful ingredients.

  • Sour Cream: Sour cream is a popular dairy product in Romanian cuisine and is used to add a creamy and tangy element to many dishes. It is often served alongside soups, stews, or used as a topping for various traditional Romanian dishes.

Popular Traditional Romanian Dishes

Romanian cuisine boasts a variety of mouthwatering traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations. Some popular examples include:

  • Sarmale: Sarmale is considered the national dish of Romania and consists of cabbage rolls filled with a mixture of ground meat, rice, and spices. These flavorful rolls are typically served with sour cream and polenta.

  • Mici: Mici, also known as mititei, are small grilled sausages made from a mixture of ground beef, lamb, and pork. They are often enjoyed as a street food delicacy or served with mustard and fresh bread.

  • Ciorba de Burta: This hearty tripe soup is a beloved Romanian specialty. It is made with beef tripe, vegetables, and a tangy broth flavored with garlic, vinegar, and sour cream.

  • Papanași: Papanași is a traditional Romanian dessert that consists of fried or boiled dough dumplings topped with sour cream and fruit preserves. It is a sweet and indulgent treat that is often enjoyed as a special occasion dessert.

In conclusion, Romanian cuisine offers a delightful combination of flavors influenced by Eastern European and Balkan culinary traditions. With its key ingredients and popular traditional dishes, it is no wonder that Romanian food is gaining recognition and enticing taste buds worldwide.

Appetizers and Soups

Mămăligă: Traditional Romanian Polenta

Mămăligă is a staple dish in Romanian cuisine and has been enjoyed for centuries. This traditional Romanian polenta is made from cornmeal and is typically served as a side dish or as a main course with various toppings. The preparation involves boiling water and slowly adding the cornmeal while stirring continuously until it thickens to a smooth consistency. Once cooked, it can be served hot, often with cheese, sour cream, or a delicious tomato-based sauce. The rich and creamy texture of mămăligă makes it a comforting and satisfying dish that is loved by locals and visitors alike.

Ciorbă de Burtă: Tripe Soup

Ciorbă de Burtă is a hearty and flavorful soup that has a special place in Romanian cuisine. This traditional dish is made from beef tripe, a type of edible lining from the stomach of a cow or sheep. The tripe is cooked until tender and then combined with a variety of vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and celery, and seasoned with herbs and spices. The result is a tangy and slightly sour soup that is typically served hot, often with a dollop of sour cream on top. Ciorbă de Burtă is known for its rich and complex flavors and is a beloved part of Romanian culinary heritage.

Sarmale: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Sarmale is a classic Romanian dish that showcases the country’s love for hearty and flavorful food. These stuffed cabbage rolls are made by carefully wrapping a mixture of minced pork or beef, rice, onions, and spices in pickled or fermented cabbage leaves. The rolls are then placed in a pot and cooked slowly in a flavorful tomato-based sauce until the flavors meld together. Sarmale is usually served hot, often accompanied by sour cream or a side of mămăligă. The combination of tender cabbage leaves and savory filling creates a satisfying and comforting dish that is a favorite at family gatherings and festive occasions in Romania.

Main Courses and Side Dishes

Mici: Romanian Grilled Ground Meat Rolls

Mici, also known as Mititei, are a popular dish in Romanian cuisine. These grilled ground meat rolls are made with a mixture of beef, lamb, and pork, seasoned with various herbs and spices such as garlic, thyme, and paprika. The meat mixture is shaped into small rolls and then grilled to perfection. Mici are typically served with mustard, bread, and a side of pickles. The combination of juicy meat and flavorful spices makes mici a must-try dish for meat lovers.

Mămăligă cu Brânză și Smântână: Polenta with Cheese and Sour Cream

Mămăligă cu Brânză și Smântână, also known as Polenta with Cheese and Sour Cream, is a classic Romanian side dish that is often served alongside main courses. It is made by boiling cornmeal in water or milk until it thickens into a porridge-like consistency. The cooked polenta is then topped with grated cheese, such as sheep cheese or feta, and a dollop of sour cream. The combination of creamy polenta, tangy cheese, and rich sour cream creates a delicious and comforting dish that pairs well with various meat dishes or stews.

Varză à la Cluj: Transylvanian Cabbage Stew

Varză à la Cluj, also known as Transylvanian Cabbage Stew, is a hearty main course that is popular in the region of Transylvania. This dish is made by sautéing cabbage and onions in a mixture of oil and butter until they become soft and slightly caramelized. Then, diced pork or smoked sausages are added to the pot along with tomatoes, paprika, and other seasonings. The stew is simmered until the flavors meld together, resulting in a savory and satisfying dish. Varză à la Cluj is often served with a side of bread or polenta and is perfect for a comforting and filling meal.

These main courses and side dishes are just a glimpse into the rich and diverse culinary traditions of Romania. Whether you’re a meat lover or prefer vegetarian options, Romanian cuisine offers a wide range of flavorful dishes that are sure to satisfy your taste buds.

Desserts and Sweets

Papanași: Romanian Cottage Cheese Doughnuts

Papanași are delightful Romanian cottage cheese doughnuts that are a must-try dessert for anyone visiting Romania. These fluffy and golden treats are made from a mixture of fresh cottage cheese, eggs, flour, and a touch of sugar. The dough is then shaped into small balls and deep-fried until they become crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

What sets Papanași apart is the delightful surprise that awaits you in the center of these doughnuts. Once cooked, a small indentation is made in the middle, and it is filled with a generous dollop of sour cherry or plum jam. This burst of fruity sweetness perfectly complements the mild saltiness of the cottage cheese doughnut.

Traditionally, Papanași are served warm and dusted with powdered sugar. The combination of the soft doughnut, tangy jam, and sweet powdered sugar creates a harmonious balance of flavors that will leave you craving more. Whether you enjoy them as a dessert or a sweet snack, Papanași are an absolute treat for your taste buds.

Cozonac: Sweet Bread with Walnuts and Raisins

Cozonac is a beloved Romanian sweet bread that is typically enjoyed on special occasions and holidays. This delectable treat is made by combining a rich dough made from flour, eggs, milk, sugar, and butter with a generous amount of walnuts and raisins. The dough is then rolled out, filled with the nutty and fruity mixture, and carefully braided into a beautiful loaf.

The preparation of Cozonac is a labor of love, as the dough needs time to rise and develop its characteristic soft and airy texture. Once baked to a golden perfection, the aroma of freshly baked Cozonac fills the air, enticing everyone in its vicinity.

The result is a mouthwatering bread that is both sweet and nutty, with a hint of cinnamon and vanilla. Each slice of Cozonac reveals a beautiful swirl of walnuts and raisins, adding a delightful texture and flavor to every bite. Whether enjoyed with a cup of coffee or as a dessert after a hearty meal, Cozonac is a true Romanian delight that will leave you wanting more.

Plăcintă: Traditional Romanian Pie

Plăcintă is a traditional Romanian pie that has been enjoyed for generations. This savory and satisfying dish can be found in various forms, each with its unique filling and preparation method. Whether sweet or savory, Plăcintă is a staple in Romanian cuisine and is often served as a delicious snack or a hearty meal.

One popular variation of Plăcintă is filled with cheese, typically a combination of cottage cheese and feta cheese. The filling is mixed with fresh herbs such as dill or parsley, creating a burst of flavors that complement the creamy and slightly tangy cheese. The pie crust is made from a simple dough of flour, water, and a pinch of salt, which is rolled out and filled with the cheese mixture. It is then baked until golden and crispy.

Another mouthwatering variation of Plăcintă is filled with a combination of cabbage and minced meat. The cabbage is sautéed with onions and mixed with ground pork or beef, creating a savory and hearty filling. This meaty version of Plăcintă is perfect for a satisfying lunch or dinner.

No matter the filling, Plăcintă is a true comfort food that embodies the rich flavors and culinary traditions of Romania. Whether enjoyed as a snack or a main course, this traditional Romanian pie is sure to satisfy your cravings for something delicious and homemade.

Beverages and Alcoholic Drinks

Țuică: Romanian Plum Brandy

Țuică is a traditional Romanian alcoholic beverage that holds a special place in the hearts of locals. Made from plums, this strong brandy is a staple at social gatherings, celebrations, and even during the winter holidays. With its distinct fruity aroma and smooth flavor, Țuică is often enjoyed as an aperitif or a digestif.

The process of making Țuică involves the fermentation and distillation of plums, resulting in a high-proof spirit that ranges in alcohol content from 40% to 60%. Each region in Romania has its own unique techniques and traditions for producing Țuică, making it an interesting and diverse beverage to explore.

Vinars: Romanian Grape Brandy

Vinars, another popular Romanian brandy, is crafted from grapes. This exquisite drink showcases the rich flavors of Romania’s vineyards and the expertise of local winemakers. Similar to Țuică, Vinars is often enjoyed on special occasions or as a way to celebrate achievements.

The production of Vinars involves the distillation of grape pomace, which is the solid remains left after the grapes have been pressed for winemaking. The resulting brandy is aged in oak barrels, allowing it to develop a complex and refined taste. With its smooth texture and elegant notes, Vinars is a favorite choice among those who appreciate fine spirits.

Palinca: Fruit Brandy

Palinca is a fruit brandy that is cherished for its vibrant and natural flavors. While it can be made from various fruits like apples, pears, or plums, the most common version in Romania is made from apples. This fruity brandy offers a refreshing and aromatic experience that captures the essence of Romania’s orchards.

The production process of Palinca involves fermenting the fruits and then distilling the resulting mash. The brandy is typically aged for a short period to allow the flavors to fully develop. Palinca is often enjoyed as a digestif, as it is believed to aid digestion and provide a pleasant ending to a meal.

In conclusion, Romania boasts a rich variety of traditional beverages and alcoholic drinks that add to the country’s culinary heritage. From the strong and fruity Țuică to the refined Vinars and the refreshing Palinca, these Romanian brandies offer a true taste of the country’s flavors and traditions. Whether sipped on special occasions or savored during gatherings, these beverages provide a unique experience for those seeking to explore Romanian culture through its traditional drinks.


In conclusion, Romanian food offers a delightful and diverse culinary experience that reflects the country’s rich history and cultural heritage. From hearty soups and stews to savory meat dishes and delectable pastries, Romania’s traditional cuisine is a treasure trove of unique flavors and tastes. Whether it’s indulging in the iconic sarmale or savoring a slice of cozonac, visitors to Romania are in for a treat as they explore the country’s traditional dishes. So, the next time you find yourself in Romania, make sure to immerse yourself in the country’s culinary delights and experience the true taste of Romania.

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