15 Macedonian Foods You Need to Try
Macedonia is a popular gourmet destination for people of the Balkans and beyond. Visitors love the hearty dishes made with tasty local ingredients.
While some of the dishes you will see below are popular throughout the region, some are exclusive to Macedonia and are worth making time for when traveling there.
While this can be found all over the Balkans, Macedonians pride themselves in producing the tastiest Ajvar. The secret? The mild, warm climate and the 300 sunny days per year that enable growing the most perfect red peppers – the main ingredient of this dish.
Ajvar is a spread made of carefully chosen red peppers that are grilled, peeled, minced, cooked, and seasoned to perfection. It is made in late summer in big batches so that it can last through the winter.
Producing it is a family activity that requires a lot of effort, but the result is totally worth it. Best way to enjoy it? With freshly baked bread and Macedonian white cheese.
Macedonia’s favorite comfort food and every grandma’s specialty – the name is an endearing term for a pan of beans. It is made with brown kidney beans that are first boiled and then baked. The buttery texture of the beans is enriched with the flavorful combo of onions, garlic, carrots, salt, black pepper, and sweet paprika.
A secret ingredients, which might be controversial among healthy food devotees, is Zaprshka – a mix of oil, flour, and sweet paprika that is boiled and then mixed into the dish. If you think it might be hard on the tummy, we’ve got that covered too – we add a bit of fresh mint.
The Macedonian pizza, one might say – and the towns of Shtip and Veles are in perpetual disagreement on which of the two makes it better. It is a simple-tasting dish with very few ingredients: basically pastry and meat.
The pastry, thicker and softer than pizza, is shaped into an oval and pieces of fried meat are indented into it. The most common choices of meat are pork or chicken. Coming from a long line of non-bakers, I am not familiar with the details of the baking process, but I know it is best accompanied with a hot pepper pickle.
For this tasty spread, the two best vegetables growing in Macedonia join forces – the red pepper and the tomato. Usually produced at the same time as Ajvar (see above), this is another treat that is produced to last through the winter months.
The preparation process is almost the same as Ajvar, with the difference being that, along with the peppers, tomatoes are also baked, peeled, minced, and cooked, and mixed in with the peppers of course. The tomato adds a different, fresher flavor, so it can be used as a sort of salad, topped with parsley and eaten as an accompaniment to other dishes.
People in the Balkans are crazy about Sarma, and Macedonia is no exception. The ingredients are fairly simple: basically you need minced meat, rice, and cabbage leaves (usually picked), as well as the obligatory onions, black pepper, and paprika.
A sarma is a cabbage leaf carefully rolled up with a mixture of meat and rice inside. Once the pot is filled with them, they are cooked. For extra richness, some of the notorious Zaprshka is added. This is a traditional winter dish, so during the summer we consume the Greek version – the same thing but with vine leaves instead.
This is a typical summer dish that provides excellent freshness and hydration during the long hot Macedonian summer days. The ingredients are simple so you won’t break a sweat while making it. Seen as a salad, it is the perfect appetizer, but can also be eaten along with other dishes.
Fresh cucumbers are diced or grated, and the extra cucumber juice is drained away so that the Tarator is not watery (smart cooks don’t throw away the cucumber juice, but rather drink it!). Then we just add sour cream and/or yoghurt, garlic, some mint, and it’s done!
Something more exotic, coming from the town of Kumanovo, is a speciality called Mezal’k that is often served in the Kumanovo inns. The cooking process is long and requires experience and craftsmanship to get it right. The main ingredient is pork intestines. The final product looks like a thick stew best enjoyed with bread.
While the dish has many fans, some visitors may be put off by the list of ingredients before even tasting it. You can easily obtain the necessary courage by first drinking a glass of rakija (a Macedonian alcoholic beverage containing 50% alcohol).
Another one in the line of foods we store for winter (in the past, you could not always buy everything you wanted at the supermarket). Turshija is a term used for a combination of vegetables that are so abundant they can’t all be consumed during the season. The vegetables are pickled and stored in jars for later enjoyment and as an alternative to fresh salad.
The most common choice of vegetables is cucumbers (cornichons), cauliflower, carrots, peppers, and green tomatoes. Perfect alongside sarma!
This is translated as stuffed peppers. With so many peppers lying around, we had to get creative. The stuffing is the same as you will find in the Sarma, so perfecting it is really a kind of must for people living in Macedonia.
The seeds are removed from big, fresh peppers, which are then filled with the stuffing and topped with a slice of tomato. They are carefully arranged and cooked in a big cooking pot. Again, for best results add Zaprshka when no-one’s watching.
If you have the chance to go to a Macedonian village, you will see many houses decorated with long strings of red peppers hanging on the walls. These decorations are not only edible they are very tasty too. The vezenka is a popular type of pepper growing in our country; it is long, thin, red and it has thin white stripes across its surface. It is slightly sweet and slightly hot.
While they are also enjoyed fresh and in dips, drying them in this way is very popular and certainly more interesting to visitors. The dried vezenka can accompany many cooked dishes.
This is a dish specially made for one of the biggest Macedonian religious holidays. It is made with pork meat, particularly the thighs and knees. The meat is cooked for at least 8 hours until gelatin is formed. The meat is separated from the bones, chopped or pulled into small pieces and put into soup dishes. Garlic is added and the liquid in which the meat cooked is poured on top.
The dishes are left overnight when the liquid solidifies and the next day it is cut up. We recommend enjoying this dish with some bread.
This is another tasty spread that we enjoy with bread and white cheese or as a dip or side dish to other specialties. The malidzano probably got its name from the Italian word for eggplant (melanzana), which is the main ingredient.
The eggplants, along with some peppers, are baked, minced and mixed, and seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper. Some people choose to add mustard too. This dish can be made in big batches and stored for later.
Borrowed from our neighbors, the Greeks, the Musaka enjoys great popularity in Macedonia. And how can it not – it’s made from meat and potatoes!
What makes it special is that the meat is minced and previously seasoned and fried, the potatoes are sliced and then both are carefully layered before cooking. It is rare to find someone who doesn’t love it.
Selsko meso (roughly translated as meat from the country) is a rich, hearty dish consisting of pork and mushrooms. We usually add several types of pork: pork chops, smoked bacon, and meatballs. The mushrooms can be sliced or cooked whole.
It is typically seasoned with onions, garlic, pepper, salt, bay leaf, and wine. Water is added and then it is baked in a clay pot.
No-one does dessert better than the Turks. Baklava came to the region with the Ottomans and it is definitely here to stay. The beloved dessert is widely made, sold, and consumed in Macedonia.
It consists of layers of puff pastry, chocolate and walnuts, and a lot of sherbet, baked to perfection. To be consumed with moderation!
Did we miss something? Tell us in the comments!
Related: Most Popular Macedonian Desserts
Check out our list of most popular foods in neighboring countries: