Traditional Romanian Food – What to Eat in Bucharest

(Last Updated On: September 18, 2019)

If you are traveling to Bucharest and looking for traditional Romanian food, you will quickly find that Bucharest is home to tons of restaurants serving some of the country’s finest Romanian cuisine.

Bucharest is filled with so many pleasant surprises. It is a beautiful city, once nicknamed the “little Paris of the east” due to its stunning architecture. The country of Romania has a rich history, and many fascinating stories to tell.

The region was part of the Hungarian empire, and before that part of the Ottoman empire. European and Turkish influences can be seen in the architecture, the Romanian language, and of course, in traditional Romanian food.

All of those cultures and experiences mingled together to create a rustic cuisine that we found absolutely delicious. While the flavors were familiar from previous travels to countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, some of the flavors from Romania are uniquely their own. 

The other pleasant surprise, beyond the beauty of the place, the fantastic food, and friendly locals, was that the city has largely been ignored by tourists. Don’t get us wrong, there are tourists here, but just not huge crowds of tourists. Which makes it yet another reason to consider a visit. 

In preparation for your visit, we’ve compiled our list of 70+ Romanian dishes not-to-be missed on a visit to Bucharest.  No doubt you won’t be able to try them all in a visit – but, hey, that’s all the more reason to come back.

Want to jump to a specific section? Use the menu below:

Main DishesStreet Food and Snacks
Side and Vegetable DishesBreakfast Foods
CheesesAppetizers
Sausages & Smoked MeatsSalads
SoupsDesserts
BreadsDrinks

 

Bucharest Food

 

Traditional Romanian Main Dishes

Romanian Meatballs – Chiftele

Romanian Meatballs - Chiftele
Grilled chiftele meatballs

Pretty much every region has their version of meatballs, and Romania is no different. What makes chiftele different, however, is the use of shredded potatoes and carrots in the meat mixture.

When making the meatballs, grated vegetables are then squeezed to remove as much moisture from them as possible, prior to mixing with the other ingredients. The addition of potatoes makes the meatballs very tender.

The potatoes are in fact more important than the type of ground meat used. Many chiftele recipes don’t even specify the type of meat. Typical options are beef, pork, lamb, or veal, or any combination of them.

Sarmale – Cabbage Rolls

Romanian Cuisine: Sarmale - Romanian Cabbage Rolls
Romanian Cabbage Rolls with Polenta

These Romanian cabbage rolls are filled with a mixture of rice and ground pork, then cooked in a savory tomato based sauce. Unique to sarmale is the use of sour cabbage – cabbage picked in vinegar.

Budinca de Dovlecei La Cuptor – Zucchini Pie

Traditional Romanian FOod: Budinca de Dovleci
Cheesy Budinca de Dovlecei might be the best zucchini dish you ever eat

Budinca de Dovlecei is a traditional Romanian dish that is similar to crustless zucchini quiche. The difference is less eggs, more vegetables, and more cheese. This zucchini pie can be eaten either hot or cold. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch or as a light dinner. 

Beef Stew with Potatoes (Tocanita de Vita cu Cartofi) 

Bucharest Food: Beef Stew with Potatoes (Tocanita de Vita cu Cartofi)
Beef Stew with Potatoes – Tocanita de Vita cu Cartofi (Credit: fanfo)

This braised beef stew is a staple in any Romanian home. Made with beef, potatoes and carrots, it’s a pretty typically stew. It is, however, traditionally served with Mamaliga (polenta), another very common side dish in Romania

Creamed Chicken (Ciulama de Pui) 

Romanian Dish: Creamed Chicken
Romanian Creamed Chicken (Credit: Sabastian Studio)

Ciulama di pui is a dish straight out of grandmother’s kitchen. Roasted chunks of chicken and mushrooms are cooked in a creamy sauce typically made with soured cream, giving the dish a bit more zing. Top it off with fresh dill, serve with a side of the always present polenta, and dig in!

Grilled Mutton Pastrami with Polenta (Pastrama de Oaie cu Mamaliguta)

Traditional Romanian Food: Pastrami
Romanian Pastrami (with polenta, of course)

This pastrami is quite different from what you’d typically get in the deli. First of all, it’s made with lamb. The lamb is cold cured in a dry mixture of salt, paprika, garlic powder, chili flakes, and thyme. Sometimes rosemary or juniper is also used. The pastrami can then be smoked and eaten as is, or fried in a pan.

Drob – Easter Meatloaf

A very traditional Bucharest Food: Drob - Romanian Easter Meatloaf
Drob – Romanian Easter Meatloaf (Credit: Elena Crk)

Drob is very traditional Romanian dish which is served during Easter. It’s made by mixing minced lamb offal (liver, lungs, spleen, heart, kidney) with dill, garlic, and bread soaked in milk. The addition of a hard-boiled egg gives the meatloaf an extra splash of color (and flavor).

The ingredients sound a little off-putting, but the herbs actually give this haggis-like dish a very nice flavor. Since this is a very seasonal dish, it’s hard to find in local restaurants. You’re better off making a Romanian friend and getting an invite to Grandma’s house for Easter – it will definitely make an appearance there.

Tochitură Moldovenesca

What to eat in Bucharest? Tochitură - stew
Tochitură Moldoveneasca (Credit: Sabastian Studio)

This is a thick pork stew cooked in a spicy tomato or wine sauce, then topped with a fried egg. The traditional version of this stew may contain other organs. Less adventurous eats should not worry – most versions you find in restaurants are meat-only with a tomato sauce base.

Roasted Pork Knuckles (Ciolan de Porc la Captor) 

Traditional Romanian Cuisine: Pork Knuckle
Pork knuckle with mustard and pickled cabbage

Roast pork knuckle is one of the Romanian dishes that you can’t leave Bucharest without trying. The slow roasted pork is often served on top of polenta, which mingles together with the salty pork fat. The mustard sauce on the side along with pickled cabbage cuts through the fatty meat and pairs together with it perfectly.

Bring your appetite when you order this! They are the knuckles can be huge – plenty to share between two people.

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Traditional Romanian Desserts

Traditional Romanian Breakfast Foods

Polenta

Romanian Breakfast Polenta with Egg and Mushrooms
Romanian Breakfast Polenta with Egg and Mushrooms (Credit: Timolina)

Just like in many cultures around the world, what is eaten for breakfast in Romania varies widely. Often in big cities such as Bucharest, there are a numerous cafes and vendors selling pastries and other breakfast designed to eat on the go. In the countryside, more substantial Romanian foods such as polenta with eggs and cheese may be cooked up.

Breakfast Cold Cut Plate

Bucharest Food: Romanian Traditional Breakfast
Traditional Romanian Breakfast

When sitting down for breakfast, a plate of cold cuts and cheese, bread, eggs and yogurt with fruit, juice and coffee are common in Romanian households.

Plăcintă

Romanian Dishes: Noodle Pie

Placinta Macedoneana is a pastry dish with roots in ancient Rome. The pastry is stuffed with fillings such as spinach, eggs, cheese, leeks and sour cream. There are also sweet versions with fillings such as apple or chocolate. The pastry is baked in the oven after getting a brushing with lard to make sure the top crust is nicely crisped. The pie is often served for breakfast with yogurt on the side.

Romanian Peasant Omelette – Omletă Tărănească

What to Eat in Bucharest: Romanian Peasant Omelette
Romanian Breakfast – Peasant Omelet (Credit: i_alina)

In Romania, an omelette is made by pan frying the ingredients, such as sausage and vegetables first. The egg cheese mixture is then added, so the ingredients are incorporated into eggs rather than being stuffed inside an egg envelope. 

Cozonac – Sweet Bread with Walnuts

Traditional Romanian Food: Cozonac - Romanian Walnut Bread
Cozonac – Romanian Walnut Bread

Cozonac is a traditional Romanian sweet bread with walnuts and raisins made during Christmas and Easter. But this bread has become quite popular and it is now often available any time of the year.

Traditional Romanian Appetizers

Mezeluri – Appetizer Spread of Salami, Sausages and Cheeses

Romanian Dishes: Mezeluri platter with meat, cheese and spreads
Romanian Mezeluri platter with Cold Cuts, Cheese and Spreads (Credit: PhotoNXT)

Most traditional Romanian restaurants will have their own version of a meat and cheese platter as a starter on their menu. It is a great way to sample local cheeses and cured meats, and develop an appreciation for artistry that goes into crafting each ingredient.

Salata de Vinete – Romanian Eggplant Salad

Bucharest Food: Romanian Eggplant Salad

While this eggplant dish is called a salad, salata de vinete is actually more of a spread. It is made simply with cooked eggplant mixed with onions, garlic and often mayonnaise or sunflower oil. 

Zacusca – Vegetable Spread

Zacusca - Romanian Eggplant Spread
Zacusca – Romanian Eggplant Spread

Zacusca is another eggplant based spread whose beautiful red color comes with the addition of bell peppers and tomatoes. The vegetables are all simmered together to form a thick spread that is most frequently served cold. Zacusca smeared over bread is a common appetizer, but Romanians often also enjoy the tasty spread on bread for breakfast.

Ovă Umplute – Eggs with Duck Liver Pate

A very traditional Romanian food: Stuffed Eggs with Duck Liver
Romanina Stuffed Eggs (Credit: Sebastian Studio)

Stuffed eggs are pretty familiar summer backyard barbecue dish, but ones that use liver pate as part of the stuffing was a new concept for me. Some recipes include the addition of finely chopped onions, grated horseradish and mayonnaise. 

Fasole Bătută – White Bean Dip

What to eat in Bucharest? White bean dip
White Bean Dip with caramelized onions

Fasole bătută translates from Romanian to “Beaten or Mashed Beans”.  The simple dip is made by boiling dried beans and sometimes vegetables, such as onions, carrots. The ingredients are mashed together and then additional garlic and oil and sometimes lemon juice are added to the mix. 

Traditional Romanian Salads

White Cabbage Salad – Salatǎ de Varzǎ

Traditional Romanian Food: White Cabbage Salad
Romanian White Cabbage Salad

Salatǎ de Varzǎ is a simple salad with grated white cabbage mixed with a little chopped parsley dressed simply with vegetable oil and white vinegar. The cabbage is kneaded to give the salad a softer pleasant texture.  

Winter Salad

Romanian Cuisine: Winter Salad
Romanian Traditional Winter Salad (Credit: i_alina)

The essential ingredients in this dish are potatoes, hardboiled eggs, gherkin pickles and mayonnaise. 

Salată de Sfeclă – Beetroot Salad

This simple salad combines boiled or steamed beets with fresh grated horseradish and a little oil and vinegar. It’s served cold as a side, and is a must for any beet-lover.

Salată de Boeuf – Minced Meat Salad

Bucharest Food - Salată de Boeuf

Salata de boeuf is another traditional Romanian food that is often prepared during Christmas, Easter and New Years. Root vegetables and chopped beef (or chicken) are combined with pickles and dressed with mayonnaise and a dash of mustard.

Salata de Icre – Fish egg salad 

Traditional Romanian Food: Salata de Icre - Fish Roe Salad
Salata de Icre – Romanian Fish Roe Salad (Credit: Cristina:A)

Romanians love their spreads, and salata de Icre, or fish roe salad, is another favorite. The caviar is mixed together the garlic, oil and lemon juice, and slathered on bread or sliced vegetables. 

Romanian Street Food and Snacks

Covrigi – Romanian Pretzels

What to eat in Bucharest - Covrigi - Romanian Pretzels
Covrigi – Romanian Pretzels

Covrigi are a very common Romanian snack, easily found in Bucharest’s markets and cafés. They are very similar to a large doughy pretzel and are similarly topped with poppy seeds or sesame seeds.

Frigărui – Romanian Shish Kebabs 

Bucharest Food: Romanian Shish Kebabs

Romanian’s version of the shish kebab usually contain cubes of meat (pork, lamb, beef or chicken) skewered along with vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, peppers or mushrooms. The skewered meat is seasoned with pepper and garlic other herbs such as rosemary and thyme.

What makes Romanian Kebabs extra tasty is the frequent addition of a salty fatty meat, such as bacon or sausage.

Poale-n brâu

Romanian Dishes: Cheese Bread
Romanian Cheese Bread (Credit: Gabriala)

Poale-n Brau, or Brânzoaică, are soft sweet rolls soft filled with cheese. They originated in the region of Moldova. The salty pastries are made with sheep cheese and eaten as a snack, served with side of sour cream. If they are being served as a dessert, they are sweetened by adding farmers cheese, dried fruit, nuts, honey and/or powdered sugar.

Gogosi

Romanian Dishes: Chocolate Cream Filled Gogosi - Donuts
Chocolate Cream Filled Gogosi – Romanian Donuts

The Romanian donuts are fried and then dusted with powdered sugar. Some varieties also have sweet fillings such as chocolate or fruit. They are perfect with a nice cup of strong Romanian coffee.

Shoarma 

What to eat in Bucharest: Shoarma
(Credit: Aquariagirl1970)

Shoarma is Romania’s version of shawarma, or Middle Eastern döner kebab. Slices of marinated meat, most often pork in Romania’s version, are layered together on a steel rod. The rod is then installed in front of a grill vertically, and the meat is grilled rotisserie style. Meat is shaved off and served with a garlic and yogurt sauce and tucked into a pita or bun. 

Kürtőskalács – Chimney Cakes

Traditional Romanian Cuisine: Chimney Cakes
Romanian Chimney Cakes (Credit: Sal73it)

These crispy cakes are made by winding the sweet dough around cooking it on a cone shaped baking spit. The resulting hollow cake is slightly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The cakes are often covered in cinnamon and sugar, adding a little extra sweetness and a wonderful aroma that alerts fans of the dish that a vendor cooking up Kürtőskalács is near.

Sărățele – salty cheese sticks

Romanian Food: Sărățele – salty cheese sticks
Sărățele – salty cheese sticks

Light and buttery bread sticks that are both salty and cheesy. What could be better? Well, I guess if they are served with a cold locally produced beer or a nice glass of wine – which why you’ll often see locals enjoying these with alcoholic beverages.

Pufuleţi – Cheesy Corn Puffs

Pufuleţi - Romanian Cheesy Corn Puffs
Pufuleţi – Cheesy Corn Puffs (Credit: Teodor Costachioiu)

When Romanian’s are looking for a crunchy snack, they often reach for a bag of Pufuleti. The puffed corn treats are similar to Cheetos cheese puffs, just with a little less cheese dust. I recognize here that cheese dust isn’t necessarily a word, but you know what I mean. 

Traditional Romanian Soups

Romanian Goulash Soup 

Traditional Romanian Food: Goulash Soup
Goulash Soup (Credit: AS Food Studio)

Goulash is a really a Hungarian dish. Since large parts of Romania were part of the Hungarian empire, goulash is appreciated and enjoyed here as well. The key to this dish is Hungarian paprika, which is smoked to give it a deep, rich color and distinct flavor which is imparted to the soup.

Ciorba de Perisoare – Meatball Soup

“Ciorba” in Romanian refers to sour soups. They are made sour with the addition of lemon juice, fermented wheat bran (bors), sauerkraut juice, or sometimes even vinegar. The broth of this soup is made with onions, carrots, celery and tomato juice. The meatballs are added to soup to finish cooking in the broth and absorb the aromatic flavor of the liquid.

Romanian Dishes: Meatball Soup
Romanian Meatball Soup Ciorba de Perisoare (Credit: Ghiuz

Storceag (Fish soup)

This fish and vegetable stew is from the Danube delta, and the fish is a firm white variety such as sturgeon. The addition of egg and sour cream add a richness and creaminess which offsets the sourness.

Tripe Soup (Ciorba de Burta)

What to eat in Bucharest: Ciorbata de Burta Romanian Tripe Soup
Ciorba de Burta, Romanian Tripe Soup (Credit: Sabastian Studio)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of tripe. But lovers of Ciorba de Burta extoll this dish as a Romanian marvel of beef tripe, garlic, sour cream and vinegar. When made properly, the soup should be creamy and garlicky, and the tripe well cooked – chewy, but certainly not rubbery. You can order this soup at most restaurants in Bucharest, since it’s a favorite of locals.

Ciorbă de Fasole cu Afumătură (Bean and Smoked Meat Soup) 

Bucharest Food: Romanian Bean Soup
Romanian Bean Soup (Credit: Fanfo)

This hearty bean soup with chunks of smoky sausage is a meal in itself. You’ll most likely find this on restaurant menus with the option of serving it in a bread bowl. In some restaurants the bread can be the size of a whole load of bread, hollowed out and filled with soup. If the soup doesn’t fill you up, you can then munch away on your bowl!

Romanian Breads

Kalach

Kalach is a type of sweet bread popular throughout the region – there are different traditions revolving around Kalach in Romania, Hungary, Russia, and the Ukrain. In Romania traditional colac is a braided bread, and is a typical gift given during Christmas Eve celebrations.

Romanian Cuisine: Kalach
Kalach (Credit: elenovsky)

The name originates from the Old Slavonic word kolo (коло) meaning “circle” or “wheel”.

Pită de Pecica

This pita is a round bread which is roasted directly on the hearth. It originates from the town of Pecica (which is obvious from its name). The bread became famous during the communist regime. Politician Nicolae Ceaușescu loved the flavor of the bread so much that he had it delivered to Bucharest on a weekly basis via helicopter.

Pască

Bucharest Food: Pasca - Romanian Easter Bread
Pasca – Romanian Easter Bread (Credit: Sebastian Studios)

It seems every holiday has its own typical bread in this part of the world. There are many types of Easter bread, but Romanian Pasca is particularly decadent. The ingredients include sweet cream and sour cream along with eggs, sugar, raisins. To make it even better, rum is often added to the mix!

Romanian Country Bread – Romanian Tara Paine

This country bread is made with a combination of cornmeal and all-purpose flour, giving it a great texture. You’ll often find this served prior to your meal in traditional Romanian restaurants.

Romanian Side and Vegetable Dishes

Mămăliga (Polenta)

What to eat in Bucharest? Romanian Polenta
Romanian Polenta (Credit: Valerio Pardi)

Romanian polenta (mămăliga) is a popular alternative to bread. Historically this was a peasant food, basically a filler in the form of a porridge made from grains. These days, it is such a staple that many Romanians wouldn’t think of serving a meal without a side of mămăliga.

If the idea of cornmeal porridge doesn’t sound very tasty, don’t worry – it’s typical full of lots of butter and even cream which adds creaminess and flavor.

There are also numerous dishes in which the polenta is incorporated in the recipe. One popular Romanian dish based on mămăliga is bulz.  It consists of mămăliga with butter and cheese which is roasted and melted together in the oven.

Balmoș

Romanian Dishes: Bultz - Romanian Cheese Polenta
Balmos – Romanian Cheese Polenta (Credit: Edith Frincu)

Balmoș is another Romanian tradition similar to mămăligă, but its preparation is more elaborate. To make Balmoș, the cornmeal must be boiled in sheep milk, as opposed to boiling it in water, as is mămăligă. Butter, sour cream, and a unique mixture of cheeses add richness and flavor.

The cheeses include telemea (similar to feta), cas (a fresh cheese that is sometimes called “green cheese”), and urda (a curdled cheese may from whey), all added at specific times in the cooking process.

Stuffed Squash/Bell Pepper (Dovlecei/Ardei Umpluti

Traditional Romanian Food: Stuffed Squash/Bell Pepper
Stuffed Bell Peppers (Credit: Bratwustle)

These peppers are stuffed with a combination of herbs, ground meat and rice. Like many of the ground meat dishes in Romanian cuisine, the stuffing can be made with a variety of different meats. Our favorite is pork.

They are cooked in a tomato based sauce that gets infused with all the flavors of the meat and herbs, so make sure you have some crusty bread on hand to sop it up.

Varza Acra Calita – Sour Cabbage

Romanian Dishes: Pork Knuckle sitting on pickled cabbage with colorful peppers
Pork Knuckle sitting on Vaza Acra – Traditional Romanian Sour Cabbage

You’ll notice that the Romanian palate seems to include a lot of “sour” as you read through this list. “Sour Cabbage” is essentially the same as Sauerkraut in Germany. It’s made by pickling cabbage in a similar way to how pickles and kimchi are made.

The cabbage is finely shredded, layered with salt, and left to ferment. The result is a sour vegetable mix that goes great with all sorts of things, particularly fatty sausages with mustard.

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Roasted pumpkin – Dolveac Copt

Roasted pumpkin is an Autumn specialty that can be a side dish or dessert, depending on how it’s prepared. Simply roasting the pumpkin like squash in the oven, and it makes a great addition to a meal. Add brown sugar and cinnamon during the roasting process, and the pumpkin turns into a delicious dessert.

Traditional Romanian Cheeses

Traditional Romanian Food: Cheese
Romanian Traditional Cheese

Caș

Caș is a type of semi-soft white fresh cheese produced in Romania. The cheese can be unsalted or lightly salted. It is typically stored in brine, similar to Greek feta. This cheese serves as a base to prepare other Romanian cheeses as well.

Năsal

Traditional Romanian Cheese Platter
Traditional Romanian Cheese Platter

Năsal is a traditional Romanian cheese, named after the village where it is produced. This cow milk cheese is still produced in a natural cave, as it has been since the middle ages. The unique bacteria in the cave give the cheese its distinctive flavor during the ripening process. The consistent temperature and humidity of the underground cave make a perfect environment for making this cheese.

Telemea

Made from either cow’s, sheep or buffalo milk, Telemea is the most popular cheese type in Romania. A salty cheese, it can be sold fresh or aged, usually cut in big cubes and immersed in a salty brine.

Cheese in fir tree bark – Branza de Burduf in Coaja de Brad

Romanian Cheese Aging in Container Made of Fir Bark
Romanian Cheese Aged in Bark from a Fir Tree

This unique cheese originates in southeast Transylvania, and its history goes back hundreds of years. The bark of local trees was used to help preserve the cheese. To make this delicacy, small pieces of cheese are placed a fir tree bark cylinder and then they are left a day to drain over a grate. The cylinders are then smoked for at least two weeks. The fir tree bark gives this authentic Transylvanian cheese its unique flavor.

Traditional Romanian Sausages & Smoked Meats

Of all of the variety in Romanian cuisine, the simple sausage holds a place of honor on menus throughout Bucharest.

And of course, often the sausages are not simple – combinations of meats, herbs, fillings, cooking techniques and preparations result in numerous varieties of cured and smoked sausage options. All of them are delicious, especially accompanied with spicy mustard. Here are a few of our favorites.

Pleșcoi

Romanian Cuisine: Sausages

Pleșcoi sausages are handmade sausages made by artisan chefs in the Pleşcoi village and the Berca commune. The recipe contains mutton, chili peppers and garlic. Some versions can contain beef, but since this product is a certified EU traditional product and the ingredients are regulated, the mutton must be over 50% o the meat.

Since the sausages are produced in small batches in the village, these sausages aren’t available in large quantities and this limits their availability. If you find some available on the menu, don’t miss the opportunity.

Nădlac sausage 

This smoked and dried pork sausage has been around since the sixteenth century, when it was popularized in Germany. The Romanian version is larger and contains a variety of spices to augment the smoky flavor. It’s quite a dry sausage, being cured between four and six months. This is also registered with the EU as an official Romanian traditional food.

Mici or Mititei – Mini Sausage Rolls Without Casings

Mici sausages are on every traditional Romanian restaurants’ menus. They are essentially small, case-less sausages made from a combination of pork, beef, and lamb.

Romanian Dishes: Mici Sausage
Romanian Mici Sausage

They also have an entertaining origin story. Supposedly, a famous sausage restaurant ran out of sausage casings during a dinner rush in the 19th century. Under pressure, a chef grabbed the sausage stuffing and formed it into a tube without the casing, grilled and served it. The patrons loved what they called the skinless “little ones” (Mititei), and a new Romanian favorite was born.

Sibiu Salami

Sibiu Salami, also known as Salam de Sibiu, is another protected national product in Romania. This uniquely Romanian salami is made with pork meat and fat, salt, and spices, following a hundred year old recipe. The salami should be sliced extra thin when serving.

Banat Sausage

What to eat in Bucharest: Sausages
Banat Sausage (Photo credit: banedeki)

Banat are pork sausages that are dried and smoked. They can be eaten as is, but more often are fried in oil or lard, making for a heavier meal – especially when served with french fries!

Tobă

Tobă, or pig head cheese (caş de cap de porc) is deli meat originating in the Transylvania region. It contains pork jelly, liver, and skin, all stuffed into a pork stomach and suspended in aspic. This is shaped into a wide (4 inch diameter) tubular sausage.

Traditional Romanian Desserts

Papanasi – Dessert Donut with Jam

Traditional Romanian Food: Papanasi

What happens when you take a light, fluffy donut, and fill it with sour cream and fruit? You get a delicious and (rightly so) incredibly popular Romanian dessert. The sourness of the cream cuts through the sweetness of the donut, so this isn’t a sickly sweet treat. You can choose a number of different fruit toppings, but our favorite is the sour cherry.

Plăcintă cu mere

Traditional Romanian Desserts: Plăcintă cu mere

Plăcintă cu mere in Romanian is literally “apple pie” but this isn’t what you’d expect. It’s not a pie, but more of a cross between a strudel and a pastry. It does share some of the characteristics of a traditional apple pie, though. It has delicious spiced apple filling, and is equally good hot or cold. And, especially when hot, it goes great with ice cream!

Salam de Biscuiti – Chocolate Salami

Bucharest Food: Romanian Chocolate Biscuit
Chocolate Biscuit (Credit: Felix Furo)

These entertaining chocolate salamis are a popular dessert not just in Romania, but throughout Europe. Of course, there’s no salami in the ingredients – the confection is made in a long tube, and sliced thin to serve, resembling a salami. The chocolate cake looks like the red meat and the bright bits of cookie resemble the white flecks of fat in salami.

Joffre Cake

Joffre Cake - Traditional Romanian Dessert
Joffre Cake

Joffre Cake is my now all time favorite chocolate cake. This beloved Romanian dessert is so thick and moist that eating a piece is almost like having a slice of chocolate truffle. The rich chocolate dessert is also laced with rum, making it all the more delicious!

Albinuta – Layered honey cake

The word Albinuta in Romania is “bee” so it’s no surprise that honey is a major ingredient in this dessert. Layers of cake are alternated with layers of honey and sour cream filling creating a decadent sweet snack.

Amandine

Traditional Romanian Food: Amandine
Traditional Romanian Dessert – Amandine (Credit: Elena Crk)

Amandine is another chocolate lovers dessert. Layers of chocolate cake are alternated with chocolate buttercream, and then glazed with shiny chocolate fondant. These are very popular, and can bee found in any specialty bakery. You can buy a whole cake, or get a single serving version.

Vargabéles – Noodle Cake

Vargabéles is a dessert often though of as Hungarian, but it actually originated in Transylvania. The cake consists of a filling mixture of cottage cheese and vermicelli pasta between layers of phylo-like dough.

Turta Dulce

What to eat in Bucharest: Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread in the market (photo: Cristina Ionescu)

We’re used to seeing gingerbread primarily around Christmas time, in the form of edible houses made from sheets of gingerbread. In Romania, “turta dulce” is a year-round phenomenon. Visiting any fair or market, and you’ll find at least one vendor selling gingerbread. The spicy cookies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, many elaborately decorated with icing.

Găluște cu Prune – Plum Dumplings

Bucharest Food: Plum Dumplings
(Credit: Dan Tautan)

Plums are a big deal in Romania. In fact, Romanian national liquor Tuică is made by fermenting plums. So it’s no wonder they have a popular dessert centered around plums as well. In this dish, potato dough is wrapped around luscious plums, then rolled in sweet, buttery breadcrumbs. Depending on the size made, they can be a single bite, or multiple bite, treat.

Clătite

Romanian Cuisine: Clatite Vendor
Romanian Clatite Vendor

Clătite, or crepes, are a popular quick snack, which is quite obvious when you see the number of mobile crepe restaurants dotted around downtown Bucharest. While it is possible to find savory crepes, the majority of locals go for the sweet variety – filled with chocolate or fresh fruit.

Mere Coapte – Baked Stuffed Apples

Traditional Romanian Food: Baked Stuffed Apples
Romanian Baked Stuffed Apples with Raisins (Credit: Olga Miltsolva)

The simple baked apple also has a home within Romanian cuisine. There’s nothing complicated with this dessert: Ground nuts mixed with sugar, vanilla, a pinch of cinnamon, along with a Turkish white raisin called he sultana are the stuffing. This mixture is packed into cored apples, and baked. They can be eaten alone, but are SO much better with ice cream or whipped cream.

Romanian Savarin Cake – Savarina

Bucharest Food: Romanian Savarina Cake
Savarina (Credit: Ana Photo)

Ask anyone who grew up in Romania about their favorite childhood dessert, and you’ll hear about savarin cakes. I find this hilarious, since one of the most important steps in making a savarina is soaking the cooked cake in rum, usually overnight.

Like many Romanian desserts, this is prepared either as a large cake, cooked in a bundt pan, or as individual sizes, in a cupcake pan. Once the cake has been completely soaked in the booze, it is filled sweet whipped cream and topped with fruit.

Romanian Drinks

Romanian Wine

Romanian Wine  - Vineyard
One of the many Romanian vineyards

Romania is one of the top wine producers in the world. This region also has one of the longest histories of wine-making, dating back 6,000 years. And while the quality of the wine produced suffered greatly during Communist times, today Romania produces some delicious (and award-winning) wines.

Better known Romanian white wine wine grape varieties are Fetească albă, Crâmpo?ie and Fetească regală. For red wine, try a hearty wine made from Feteasca neagră in the Uricani region.

Romanian Beer

Romanian Beer - Ursus

Ursus Beer is the most popular Romanian beer by far. You’ll find Ursus on tap at most restaurants and pubs, as well as in bottles and cans in every supermarket, and it’s pretty good. But in the last few years, more and more small craft breweries have popped up offering everything from stouts, to IPA’s, to Pilsners, and everything in between. It’s always worth wandering by the taps at the bar and trying something new.

Tuică

Tuică is a home-brewed liquor, and officially Romania’s national drink. Yep, that’s right – Romania’s national drink is essentially moonshine. Tuică is made by fermenting plums for two months, and then distilling the resulting liquid. This alcoholic drink has a long history in the region, originally being invented in medieval times.

In Maramures there is very strong variety of tuică called Horinca. In traditional villages you can visit a Horincie, meaning a small construction used by the whole village to prepare their beverage.

Palinca

Traditional Romanian Drinks: Palinka
Palinka – pretty potent stuff

Another popular drink is called Palinca which is simply double distilled Tuică. The second distillation results in a higher alcohol content.

Fruit liqueur/Brandy

Plums aren’t the only popular distilled fruit drinks. Viinată is made with sour cherries, and is probably the most popular fruit liqueur. Afinată is made with blueberries, and originated in the mountain regions, although you can find it throughout the country. Other varieties include caisată made from peaches, and zmeurata from cherries.

Lemonade (Limonata)

Bucharest Food - Lemonade

Need a refreshing non-alcoholic drink on a hot summer day? Go for a limonata. Romanian restaurants will typically serve this freshly squeezed juice one of two ways. The first is in a glass with lemon juice and honey, with a side bottle of water so you can choose your desired strength. The second (and more popular) is the with the honey squeezed at the bottom of a carafe of lemonade, unmixed. You use your straw to mix the honey into the mix, and sip directly from the carafe.

Where to Eat in Bucharest

Traditional Romanian restaurants are really easy to find in Bucharest. They exist throughout the old town, and of course, there are plenty that are more local-focused. And often the latter are the better, and more affordable, options.

Regardless of where you go, in Bucharest the restaurants are friendly to tourists, and even if you don’t know the language, you can likely find a helpful English speaking waiter. Here are our favorite traditional Bucharest restaurants:

Caru cu Bere

Hanu’ lui Manuc

Hanu’ Berarilor Casa Oprea Soare

Need More Bucharest Food?

Really?!? We’ve outlined over 70 food and drinks to try in Bucharest. And, one way or another, we recommend them all. That said, Bucharest has an incredible culinary scene, and it is likely we’ve missed something! If you travel to Romania and find we have left out your favorite Romanian dish, send a message and let us know. We would love to hear from you.

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