North Macedonia is a landlocked country located in Southeast Europe. It is surrounded by Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. The country is known to be the only country that gained independence from Yugoslavia with no bloodshed whatsoever.
North Macedonia is also famous for being home to countless ancient monastery landmarks and scenic lakes. Macedonian cuisine is heavily influenced by Ottoman Turkish cuisine and also includes several features of other Balkan cuisines.
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Most Popular Macedonian Dishes
The fact that North Macedonia has a comparatively warm climate allows great growth conditions for several vegetables, herbs and fruits. The country’s food is also known for the diversity and superiority of its dairy products, wines, and local alcoholic drinks, like rakija.
Tavče gravče and mastika are considered to be the national dishes and drinks of the country, while pastry is believed to be a main staple in Macedonian cuisine.
Here is a list of some of the traditional, must-try dishes of North Macedonia.
Sarma (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
Sarma is a dish prepared using fermented cabbage leaves, rice and ground beef. Considered to be one of the country’s most popular foods, sarma is generally known to be a winter dish, but many people consume it throughout other times of the year too.
It is generally accompanied by sides and sauces, but can also be eaten on its own. There also exists a vegetarian version of this dish that eliminates the ground meat and, as a substitute, includes rice and leek.
There is also a summer version where fermented cabbage rolls are substituted with vine leaves, usually consumed with sour cream.
Tavce gravce is a dish prepared using boiled beans and a roux made from dry red pepper. The prepared combination is then baked in a pan or skillet.
It is most often accompanied by sausages or ribs, fresh paprika and bread and tradition dictates that tavce gravce is generally consumed as a Friday lunch.
Also considered to be the national dish of north Macedonia, tavce gravce has an incredibly rich flavor and is popular throughout the country.
Musaka is a dish prepared using ground beef and fried onions. These ingredients are then added to layers of potato slices. It is flavoured with salt, red pepper spice, and black pepper, and an egg crust is finally placed on top. This helps to provide the dish with a crispy texture and a golden colour.
Generally served right out of the oven, musaka is originally an Ottoman dish. However, over the years, it has become one of North Macedonia’s most cherished foods.
Pastrmajlija – Macedonian Pizza
Pastrmajlija is an oval-shaped Macedonian baked dough pie, similar to pizza. It is generally topped with small chunks of salted diced pork or chicken. A slightly less-common topping is pig fat.
It is believed that pork fat helps to make the dough softer and, at the same time, provides the dish with an incredible aroma. Some Macedonians also add eggs. Pastrmajlija is generally consumed with green fermented hot peppers, also known as feferonki.
Ajvar is a pepper spread prepared using roasted red pepper, paprika and eggplant. All these ingredients are combined, mashed and fried along with salt and oil for quite a few hours.
This dip is creamy in texture and compliments many other dishes. Local people consume it for breakfast or as a spread or dip. Macedonian families sometimes get together to prepare tens of kilos of avjar and store it in containers for the winter time.
Polneti Piperki is a dish prepared using red or green bell peppers that are filled with ground meat and rice. The stuffed bell peppers are then baked.
Sometimes people also use a slice of potato to cover the open pepper. Polneti Piperki are typically consumed right out of the oven with a lot of slices of bread. Generally served as a main dish, people find this Macedonian delicacy to be filling and flavourful at the same time.
Turlitava is a traditional Macedonian stew prepared using a lot of different organic vegetables and chunks of pork or beef. Turlitava is considered to be a real comfort food.
Other ingredients include slices of potatoes, paprika, eggplants, peppers, okra, tomatoes, onions, carrots, garlic and courgette. All these ingredients are first combined and fried together and then baked. One can also prepare a vegetarian version of turlitava in which you can simply exclude the meat.
Pindjur (Tomato and Red Pepper Spread)
Pindjur is an extremely popular spread in Macedonia prepared using roasted eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Generally consumed during the summer period, it is typically eaten along with some cheese and bread for lunch or dinner.
Zelnik is a Macedonian filo pastry pie that is stuffed with chopped, fried leeks. It is known to be semi-crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. Some people also add chopped meat, spinach, cabbage or cheese instead of leeks in the filling.
Occasionally, people add a scrambled egg in between the layers of dough. It is generally accompanied by sour cream.
Tulumba, also known as bamiyeh, is a deep-fried dessert 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.
It is initially deep-fried which gives it a golden colour, and then sugar-sweet syrup is added on top while it’s still hot.
It is most commonly associated with Turkey but is also eaten across the Middle East and South East Europe.
Börek (also known as Burek, Byrek or Boureki) covers a range of pastry dishes made by layering thin phyllo dough, with fillings such as cheese, minced meat, spinach and seasonings, along with a creamy egg yogurt mixture which is baked into a crispy and flaky pie-like dish.