Taste Challenge: Top 10 Culinary Delights in the Balkans

by Christopher Franks

The Balkans is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse regions in all of Europe, and this is perfectly reflected in the wide variety of mouth-watering cuisine available at each destination. Sampling a country’s cuisine is not just an enjoyable treat for your taste buds. The simple act of observing the passion in which people prepare and eat their native food is a fundamental way to experience a culture and a fantastic way to learn about a nation.

Turkish man carrying bread
In Turkey, good food is everywhere! Photo by Troy Peden

It's difficult to pay homage to all the flavors of the Balkans in just one article, but your mouth will be watering by the end all the same. Although countries tend to have specialties, most dishes are available throughout the region - studying abroad in the Balkans will leave you and your taste buds satisfied! 

Main Courses

Ćevapi – Bosnia & Herzegovina. 

A favorite of many travelers, this delight can be purchased for between $2 to $4 USD in traditional Bosnian food outlets. The dish is grilled sausage combined with onions, sour cream, and flatbread. Students studying in Bosnia will find it is simple, affordable, and really hits the spot, especially when accompanied by Sarajevo beer.

Gulyás – Hungary. 

Gulyás is an iconic Hungarian stew made from meat, noodles and vegetables, then seasoned with paprika. Gulyás is widely available throughout the Balkans but is especially tasty in Hungary, which is renowned for its association and use of paprika. Take your first taste of Gulyás at Vörös Ördög Étterem (The Red Devil Basement and Garden Restaurant) in Budapest while being serenaded by a violinist to ensure a memorable night. 

Punjena Paprika Stuffed Peppers – Croatia. 

This is a must try for spicy food fans studying abroad in Croatia. The dish is made up of a combination of peppers stuffed with minced meat, spices, and rice in a tomato sauce. It is typically accompanied by cabbage and potatoes.



Moussaka – Greece. 

Moussaka has become more varied and versatile than it originally started and is typically a baked casserole of layer upon layer of cheese, eggplant, and meat. Variations include potatoes and other vegetables. The dish is covered in creamy béchamel sauce which includes a dash of nutmeg. It is a staple on lists of Greek Must Eats.  

Duveč – Serbia. 

This dish is the perfect welcome for students studying abroad in Serbia. Look for one of the many comfortable taverns packed wall-to-wall with local patrons and order Duveč; a savory oven-baked beef and vegetable stew that is overflowing with spices and accompanied by a hearty cabbage and onion salad. The soul-warming meal is made even better by washing it down with a glass of the local firewater called Rakija.

Desserts & Confections

Baklava – Bosnia & Herzegovina. 

Those with a sweet tooth must try Baklava, a flaky pastry that combines nuts, sugar and honey. The best places in Bosnia to enjoy these are in the coffee shops and bakeries just outside of the Turkish district in Sarajevo. 

Rozata – Croatia. 

The historic Venetian town of Dubrovnik is a great place to try this Croatian delicacy. Rozata is a Croatian custard pudding that includes a local rose liquor that gives it an amazing aroma. 

Turkish Delight – Turkey. 

Turkish Delight is a descendant of the Ottoman Empire and is served as a confection that often accompanies Turkish coffee. Known in some places as Lokum, the confection is made from starch, sugar, nuts, and fruit flavorings and is a must try for all international students studying in Turkey



Kabuni – Albania. 

Kabuni is a traditional Albanian dessert made of fried rice, butter, meat, sugar, and cinnamon. It's a bit mysterious how those ingredients manage to work together to create a tasty dessert — but they do! Students will find this to be an irresistible treat during their time in Albania

Sok od Šipka – Montenegro. 

No study abroad trip to Montenegro is complete without trying Sok od Špika; a syrup made from fresh pomegranate and used on a wide variety of desserts.

No Shortage of Choices

The Balkans caters to absolutely every taste. Whether you’re into sweet or spicy, you’ll find plenty of choices while studying abroad in the Balkans. For vegetarians, traveling through the Balkans can be a challenge in some remote places because mutton and beef are extremely popular. Nevertheless, there are a number of salad options and vegetable stew dishes such as Sataraš in Bosnia (made from paprika, tomatoes, and onions).

Passionate Tradition

The people of the Balkans are extremely passionate about food; in many cases they still cook with traditional utensils such as the SaA, a large metal covered dish used to cook over coals. Just like anywhere else in the world, mealtimes are about getting together with friends and families, exchanging stories, and counting blessings.