If you are wondering what good is to eat in Albania , stop for a moment because the question is not correct. In fact, you should be wondering how many recipes of Albanian cuisine you will be able to try during your stay.
Because in Albania you eat well, indeed, very well, and there is really a lot to taste so arm yourself with patience and go hunting for typical Albanian dishes among local restaurants and fast food restaurants trying to try as much as possible. We are sure that upon your return you will regret the cuisine of the Land of Eagles!
Albanian cuisine: what to eat in Albania?
Let’s start by saying that Albanian cuisine, in addition to being excellent, is deeply linked to the country’s past and its many dominations. It is therefore a cuisine that is influenced by Turkish, Greek and Italian influences that create a delicious and surprising mix.
Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat and very fresh fish: the recipes of the Albanian cuisine have everything you need to satisfy even the palate of the most demanding traveler. All accompanied by large portions but never too elaborate.
So what should you taste in Albania?
Each region has its own specificities but below you will find a partial overview of the cuisine of the Land of Eagles and some of the dishes to taste absolutely. If instead you want to try to experiment in the kitchen we also leave you a book dedicated to the preparation of the most popular Albanian recipes .
Food in Albania: things to know
Let’s start with some things to know about eating in Albania.
Every meal in Albania is preceded and then accompanied by meze , i.e. tastings of various dishes consisting of cheeses, olives, pickled vegetables, fresh sauces, vegetable puree, yogurt and other more complex dishes such as sarma (cabbage rolls) or dolma ( rolls with meat, rice and oriental spices “wrapped” in the characteristic vine leaf.). Meze is widespread throughout the Balkans and is often accompanied by a glass of rakija , a traditional drink similar to grappa.
Rich and very fresh, made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers, Albanian salads are dressed with olive oil and served in a common dish for all diners.
The Albanian cheeses come in many flavors and delicious, by fresh ones, similar to feta or seasoned yellow. One of the most famous is the kaçkavall which is cooked for example grilled like meze and gjizë , the typical Albanian ricotta.
Bread, byrek and street food in Albania
The bread , especially outside the cities, it is quite simple and you will find mainly white bread loaves but very famous is the byrek.
The byrek or borek is typical of Turkish cuisine and you will often come across the “fast food” places to taste it at any time of day in different versions. It is a kind of savory pie made with a very thin puff pastry (called yufka ) layered and alternated with minced meat and vegetables, such as leek and spinach but also cheese.
Other very popular snacks are grilled corn on the cob , practically omnipresent even on the beaches, shish kebab , or sandwich with a grilled meat skewer inside, and sufllaqe , consisting of bread, vegetables and meat, which you will find in particular along the Albanian Riviera and in the south of the country and testimony of the strong Greek influences.
Beach food in Albania
If you spend long hours on the Albanian beaches, especially in Ksamil and Saranda , you will immediately realize that at any time of the day there will be street vendors with different specialties . In addition to grilled corn , a must, you will find sellers of wild blackberries and dogwood , as well as some kind of sweet pancakes .
It is mainly women and children who are responsible for selling food on Albanian beaches and you will often see the ladies passing by carrying trays containing these delicacies on their shoulders. Obviously you will not be able to resist! 😉
Albanian recipes to try
Here are some Albanian recipes to absolutely try during a trip to Albania.
The Albanian meat
The main courses are often based on lamb, pork and veal. Among the traditional Albanian dishes there are the tasqebap (a kind of stew of veal morsels with vegetables) and the tave dheu (beef stew cooked in an earthenware container together with ricotta gjizë, tomato, bay leaf and oregano which in the traditional version of Tirana contains the liver). Then there are the shishkebab , skewers based on lamb and beef flavored with spices and qofte (veal meatballs)
Dishes often cooked for holidays are tave kosi , or lamb stewed with yogurt, but also ferlik , or lamb on a spit cooked for long hours. While a very particular preparation is kukurec , a kind of tripe cut into long strips and wrapped in the intestine of the lamb and then cooked on the grill.
Fish in Albania
The fish in Albania is great and is located by the lakes or along the coast where you will run smoothly in restaurants who prepare for it. Crustaceans, molluscs, sea urchins and even dates are widespread in restaurants in Albania by the sea, but excellent are the fried squid, grilled fish, stewed octopus and salad and pasta with seafood.
Albanian desserts are very influenced by the Turkish influence and are very sweet, rich in syrups, honey and nuts. Popular are baklava made with phyllo dough, shëndetli , similar to baklava but, instead of using phyllo dough, you make a normal dough with flour, combining honey, butter, nuts, eggs and a teaspoon of cocoa powder and the tullumba , a fried batter covered with syrup.
A traditional dessert from the mountains in the north of the country is flija , a cake made up of many layers, accompanied with yogurt and walnuts while typical of the Ottoman tradition is the kadaif made up of special noodles soaked in attar , a very thick mixture based on honey and sugar.
A typical Albanian dessert prepared to celebrate spring are the ballokume , the typical biscuits while the trilece is a soft sponge cake dipped in “three milks”, that is cream, condensed milk and cow’s milk. It is an Albanian dessert of uncertain origin, perhaps South American, as the name “ tres leches ” would testify .
Finally there are the llokum , very sweet and gelatinous, in different variations, with powdered sugar, coconut, walnuts, pistachios … It is a traditional Albanian dessert that should never be refused if offered by a married couple because it is like predicting that the relationship will not work.
Finally, even if it is not exactly an Albanian dessert, we mention the buk fike , literally fig bread. You will often see it selling on the side of the streets, and it’s a kind of pie made of dried figs.
The Albanian coffee and the typical drinks of Albania
The coffee in Albania is simply good everywhere and Tirana and Durres will see bars everywhere and people sitting to drink at any time of day. Espresso is very popular , served exactly as in Italy if it weren’t for the glass of water that is normally brought to the table together with the cup. In the south and inland, especially in the less touristy places, you will find Turkish coffee , to be drunk patiently, waiting for the bottom to settle. While another way to enjoy coffee, especially on the beach, is frappe , a sort of shaken coffee that is drunk cold in summer (with or without milk).
Other very popular drinks in Albania are beer , in particular that of Corizza, and rakjia or raki , a kind of very alcoholic Albanian grappa. A drink called dhallë is also very popular : it is natural white yogurt elongated with natural mineral water and a little salt, which is drunk cold especially in summer. Be careful because it is also found in the supermarket fridge counter and it is very easy to mistake it for milk!
Local Albanian specialties not to be missed
Then there are some Albanian specialties that originate from some areas of the country and that you absolutely must not miss if you include them in your itinerary in Albania .
An example is the Permet gliko , based on fruit and vegetables, and included among the Slow Food Presidia of Albania. Koran fish comes from Lake Ohrid , on the border between Albania and Macedonia, a variety of highly prized trout served in restaurants such as tave korani me arra (terracotta fish with walnuts) or simply grilled.
The Llogara Pass is famous not only for lamb, but also for yoghurt with artisanal honey and mountain tea. From the area of Vlora , and in particular from the Karaburun Peninsula, comes the Lamb of Karaburun , a prestigious race that you can enjoy the nearby restaurants while in Lake Skadar are fishing the carp , Karp, prepared stewed with tomato or grilled.
In Korça, on the other hand, in addition to the beer produced in the city, there are two local specialties: kernacka and lakror ne sac . The former are grilled meatballs similar to qofte, but in the shape of a cylinder without bread in the dough. Lakror, on the other hand, is a version of byrek cooked in a traditional oven and stuffed with wild herbs, fresh cheese and vegetables.
Meals in Albania and Albanian cuisine
The management of meals in Albania is a bit particular: breakfast is substantial and salty, lunch is the main meal of the day while dinner is usually lighter and late in the evening. Of course everything is different in the tourist resorts, but if you stay in a traditional inland guesthouse, expect to find fried eggs, bread and butter, homemade jam, seasonal fruit and a salty cheese similar to feta for breakfast.
Restaurants in Albania and the markets
The restaurants of Albania are truly for all tastes and for all budgets, although generally the prices will be good, even in the most touristic places. Virtually all beaches have their own restaurant where excellent fresh fish is served but pizzas are also very popular. Then there are the markets, where you can buy fresh fruit (and that tastes of fruit!) But also many Albanian specialties such as olives and cheeses.
Obviously there is no shortage of traditional Albanian restaurants serving typical Albanian cuisine, especially in the north and inland and excellent are the Italian dishes, cooked to perfection also because the chefs have often returned home after working for years in the restaurants of the Beautiful country. So if you want a good plate of pasta, don’t worry: in Albania they will know how to cook it to perfection! 😉