Albania is situated in the Western part of the Balkans with a coastline on the Mediterranean sea. Bordering Greece and being of such close proximity to Italy, it is no wonder that Albanian cuisine is inspired by traditional Mediterranean flavors and those of neighboring Balkan states.
Most Popular Albanian Dishes
Individual regions within Albania each have their own culinary identity. From the mountainous areas to those on the coastline, geography and the availability of ingredients play a crucial role in the typical Albanian diet.
Traditional Albanian dishes are made out of fresh, seasonal ingredients that are sourced locally. Dishes tend to be simple to prepare and grilling is one of the most common cooking methods.
So without further ado, here are the most popular traditional dishes of Albania, along with our favorite recipes for you to try for yourself.
Jani Me Fasule (White Bean Soup)
Jani me fasule is a white bean soup which varies in style depending on the region it is prepared in. The preparation starts with soaking the white beans overnight. Diced onion is then sauteed in olive oil until it reaches a golden brown texture, tomatoes are then added along with parsley and a little bit of the bean stock to add more flavor.
When the sauce reaches its thick texture the boiling beans are combined with fresh mint leaves and simmered on a low heat for a few hours. Once the beans are soft and are covered in a thick aromatic sauce, the dish is ready to be served.
Qumështor is a simple dish of baked custard, made from eggs, milk, flour, butter, and sugar to create a sweet tasty dessert. This dish is typically eaten by the Orthodox population of southeastern Albania before the Lent season.
The recipe is simple and easy to prepare. Eggs are beaten and mixed with sugar, butter, and flour. Milk is then carefully added and mixed before being baked in the oven until it develops a golden brown colour.
Qumështor is then cut into individual portions and served chilled. Some variations include specific flavorings such as vanilla extract, lemon and orange, but the original version remains the most popular.
Fërgesë Tirane is one of Albania’s national dishes and consists of baked vegetables and cheese. Originating in the Albanian capital of Tirana, the dish traditionally uses bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, locally made salted cottage cheese (or feta cheese as a substitute), basil, butter, flour, and olive oil.
The vegetables are sautéed while a roux is made in a separate pan using butter and flour, and the cheese is set to melt over it. All of the ingredients are combined, seasoned, then baked in the oven inside little clay pots. The dish is served with crusty bread on the side once it has slightly cooled.
Flija is a type of layered pancake made by using 2 different types of pancake mix, cooked for a number of hours.
Flija is traditionally cooked using something called a saç which is a large, round pan sat on hot coals and covered by a lid. After the long cooking process is complete, it is sliced up and served with sweet toppings such as honey.
Tavë Kosi, named Albania’s unofficial national dish, is a casserole dish made of seasoned lamb meat and rice, and topped with kos (soured goat milk).
The meal originated in the town of Elbasani in the 15th century but has become popular across Albania, Kosovo and Turkey, where it is known as Elbasan Tava and is garnished with bechamel sauce instead of kos.
The original dish has been modified over time and now tends to be coated with a sauce composed of yogurt and eggs, rather than soured milk. Another popular variation, tavë kosi me mish pule, substitutes chicken meat for lamb.
Gjize is a dry curdled cheese prepared with yogurt and citric acid. Gjize has the texture and flavor of sour ricotta, but it can be seasoned with garlic, herbs, salt or other spices.
Making gjize can be done in two ways. One method is to mix the ingredients together, place them in a cheesecloth and hang them for five to six hours.
The other approach includes heating the yogurt and citrus juice mixture in a pan and gently simmering it over low heat. Because the proteins join together faster and release part of the extra liquid, yogurt curdles and becomes cheese in less time. Gjize can be eaten on its own, as a filling for burek, or as part of Fërgesë.
Qofte fërguara are fried meatballs that are served as a main course or as an appetizer in both Albania and Kosovo. Turkish and Middle Eastern influences on the dish are clearly evident, particularly in the ingredients and method of preparation.
The meatballs are made by combining minced lamb, beef or chicken meat with feta cheese, garlic, onions, breadcrumbs and mint leaves. Seasonings include salt, pepper, oregano, and cinnamon.
Shapkat is a corn pie dish that is typically stuffed with feta cheese, dill and spinach. The dish is named after Gjirokastra, a city in Albania. Although spinach is commonly used to stuff the pie, it can also be replaced with leeks, wild cabbage or various other local greens.
Corn flour, olive oil, green onions and milk are among the other ingredients used in preparing the shapkat. It is then baked until it is golden brown on top and served warm with yoghurt on the side.
Sarma is a dish of Turkish origins that consists of a filling surrounded by leaves or leafy vegetables. There are many variations of sarma but typical fillings include minced meat, rice or bulgur, various herbs, seasonings, red pepper, paprika, ground sumac or tomato sauce.
The typical wrapping includes vine, cabbage, sauerkraut leaves or a variety of leafy vegetables such as collard greens and swiss chard.
Sarma, which has its origins in the Ottoman Empire, is also traditionally consumed in the Balkans, Central Europe, the South Caucasus and the Middle East. Sarma is typically prepared for special occasions and holidays, or as a hearty meal during the winter.
Ayran is a yogurt-based drink made from yogurt, iced water and salt. Optional ingredients also include black pepper, lime juice and herbs such as dried mint. Generally served chilled, ayran is often served along with grilled meat or rice and is most commonly consumed during summer.
Tulumba, also known as Pomba, Bamiyeh or Balaḥ ash-Shām, is a deep-fried dessert.
It prepared using an unleavened dough lump, which is shaped as a small ovoid and includes ridges lengthways. It is shaped with the help of a pastry bag or cookie press, which has a fitting end part.
Tulumba is initially deep-fried to give this dessert a golden colour, and then sugar-sweet syrup is added on top while it’s still hot.