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If you’re eager to try Macedonian food and learn more about Macedonian cuisine, our guide to the top 15 Macedonian dishes, expertly described by local Melina, will have your mouth watering and your tastebuds tingling in no time at all.
North Macedonia, a hidden gem of a country, located in the center of the Balkan peninsula, is a small and colorful nation; definitely not your typical travel destination. If you visit North Macedonia, you’ll be captivated by the numerous archaic monastery landmarks, picturesque lakes, and the alluring cuisine. The rich and vibrant traditional recipes, some dating back centuries, will conjure up food that’s some of the most delicious you’ll ever try in your life.
Most Macedonian dishes are a perfect combination of organic produce, quality meat, and dairy. The climate allows you to eat a raw tomato as it is, and you’ll be blown away by the taste. But, pastry is also a key staple in Macedonian cuisine. In fact, Macedonians eat bread with almost everything you can think of.
The locals enjoy salads before meals, along with a homemade Rakija: a traditional alcoholic drink, that’s described on the list. Highlights include juicy meat mixed with fresh organic vegetables and served with different varieties of pastry and bread. Macedonians are known for their hospitality, so you can often see neighbors and friends inviting each other over for a glass of rakija.
Here are the most popular Macedonian food and Macedonian dishes you must try when you visit this beautiful country.
Cabbage rolls with meat and rice, or as Macedonians want to call it sarma, is a winter dish made of fermented cabbage leaves, rice, and ground beef. The stuffed cabbage rolls are baked in the oven, and they are the ultimate comfort food that will electrify your taste buds. The vegetarian version of sarma removes the ground meat and instead includes rice and leek. There’s also a summer version of this typical winter dish, but instead of fermented cabbage rolls, it’s made of vine leaves. The summer version is usually served with sour cream. It’s a great Macedonian food, steeped in heritage, that you should definitely try.
This is probably the most traditional dish in Macedonia that has an incredibly rich flavor. It’s made of boiled beans seasoned with a roux that includes dry red pepper, and it’s baked in a pan or skillet. Macedonians like to combine it with sausages or ribs and fresh paprika and eat it with bread. According to the tradition, tavce gravce is usually prepared as a Friday lunch.
Musaka is the perfect dish when you crave meat and potatoes, and it’s usually served right out of the oven. It’s made of ground beef meat, and fried onion spread on layers of potato slices, seasoned with salt, red pepper spice, pepper, and topped with an egg crust that gives it a crispy texture and golden color. It’s baked in the oven, and it’s a real firework of flavors. A Macedonian food that takes a traditional recipe and puts a Macedonian spin on it.
You can hardly find a Macedonian that doesn’t love pastrmajlija. It’s a baked dough pie in an oval shape that’s neither too thick nor too thin. It’s topped with small chunks of salted diced pork or chicken meat and believe it or not, some pork fat.
The reason why Macedonians love to make their pastrmajlijas with pork fat is that it makes the dough soft and tender, at the same time giving it an amazing aroma. In some parts of the country, it’s topped with eggs as well. Pastrmajlija is usually served with green fermented hot peppers called feferonki.
Ajvar is like a legend to Macedonians that keep the tradition alive no matter how long it takes to prepare it. It’s a pepper spread made of roasted red paprika and eggplants that are then mashed and slowly fried with salt and oil for several hours. To prepare homemade ajvar, you need an entire day’s worth of time. But, the moment you try it with some cheese and bread, you realize it’s worth the effort.
Macedonians eat it for breakfast or as a spread-dip. Every person that has tried this traditional pepper spread has been stunned by its extraordinary taste and creamy texture. Families gather to make tens of kilos of ajvar, and store it in jars for the winter period. If you only try one food during your visit to Macedonia, make sure it’s aivar! A Macedonian food you simply have to try!
This main dish is made of red or green bell peppers stuffed with ground meat and rice. Sometimes it’s also prepared with regular paprika. After removing the top of the paprika or bell pepper, the paprika is filled with a mix of ground meat and rice and is baked in the oven. Macedonians often use a slice of potato to cover the open paprika. Stuffed bell peppers are usually served right out of the oven with plenty of slices of bread.
This is one colorful, tasty, filling, and comforting dish made of plenty of different organic vegetables and pork or beef meat pieces. The dish consists of chunks and slices of potatoes, paprika, eggplants, peppers, okras, tomatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, and courgette that are first fried and then baked in the oven. If you want a vegetarian version, just exclude the meat, and you will get a nice and filling turlitava that’s highly nutritious.
This is a very popular relish in Macedonia during the summer period. It’s made of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. People here enjoy it while warm with some cheese and bread for lunch or dinner.
Does the thought of a pie stuffed with chopped fried leeks that’s semi-crispy on the outside but soft and tender on the inside get your taste-buds tingling? If so, zelnik is a dish you simply must try! Some Macedonians stuff it with chopped meat, spinach, cabbage, or cheese instead of leeks, and even add a scrambled egg between the layers of dough to make it even tastier. It’s usually served with sour cream. Whatever variety of zelnik you order, you won’t regret it.
Mekici is a typical Macedonian breakfast served with cheese or sour cream. It’s a fried dough that includes yogurt – the secret to the irresistible and chewy texture. Many Macedonians enjoy it with jam.
Cevapi, or as locals like to call is, kebapi, is grilled minced meat mixed with onions, salt, and pepper composed into the shape of sausages, but much smaller. You can find them in almost every restaurant in Macedonia, but locals here like to cook them on the barbeque while on a picnic with their friends or family.
This is a beef or pork dish with a rich, filling, and tasty flavor prepared in an earthenware clay pot. It’s made of smoked meat, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and spices. Order selsko meso with nafora and Shopska salad, and you’ll have a meal to remember. A simple, but delicious and filling Macedonian food you have to try.
Shopska salad is the prelude to every Macedonian dish, bringing together the finest cheese and the best produce in the country. It consists of chunks of tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, and some olive oil and salt. It’s a really refreshing and nutritious salad that’s ideal for the hot summer days.
Burek is one of the most popular breakfast dishes in Macedonia and a remnant from the Ottoman era. The crispy thin, and layered pastry contains either cheese or meat, but nowadays, you can find pizza burek as well, containing the toppings of a regular pizza. It’s usually served with yogurt to help wash the excess fat from the pastry.
Last but not least, rakija is the traditional alcoholic drink in Macedonia, also drank in other countries of the Balkans region. It’s also known as the Macedonian brandy, but has many more uses than a regular brandy. Macedonians prepare hundreds of kilos of rakija in their homes and use it not only for drinking but also for alleviating the symptoms of a sore throat, cold, and muscle pain.
Macedonians believe rakija can kill bacteria and viruses, so they use it to disinfect wounds as well as clean their homes. Macedonians enjoy rakija before or after lunch and dinner, and sometimes they warm it up with some sugar. They usually enjoy this warm beverage during the cold winter days.
Macedonian cuisine may be influenced by many different cultures, but it’s truly one of a kind in terms of diversity and flavor. Every dish has something unique and is tasty enough to impress you with each bite you take. When you visit Macedonia, I strongly recommend you try as many Macedonian foods as you can. In fact, the food alone is reason enough to visit Macedonia. Bon appetite!
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