Romanian food: a lot of meat

Let me start by saying that Romanian food is synonym to meat: pork is usually the main star for steaks and BBQs. But chicken is a more popular choice in cooked dishes. Beef has its shine too, so you will find it on every menu, usually in the grill section. Other meats are fish, lamb, and sometimes duck or turkey.

So, the main dishes are mostly meat-based, but some recipes can be done with meat. The food is almost never spicy (only a few soups are served with a side hot pepper). But can be quite oily and heavy.

Vegetarians will usually look for their options in the sections of starters, soups and side dishes. There are tasty so don’t worry. Btw in some menus, you will find vegetarian burgers, so keep an eye open for them.

Romanian dishes – what to choose?

🌢 – spicy 🌱 – vegetarianπŸ”» – oily and heavyβš– – almost diet♨ – grill

Which dishes are 100% Romanian by tradition is hard to say, as the culture has had a lot of cultural influences in the past few hundreds of years. But I will tell you what’s common to eat in Romania, so you can try out the ones that make your mouth water. 🀀

Starter & spreadable

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  1. Eggplant salad 🌱 [RO: salata de vinete] – Yes, we call this spreadable eggplant paste a salad. The eggplant is roasted on a grill and smashed, and served with fresh onions or sweet red bell pepper. It can have sometimes mayonnaise.
  2. White beans hummus 🌱 βš– [RO: fasole batuta] – It comes with caramelized sweet onions on top. And sometimes has a bit (or more) garlic in the composition.
  3. Zacusca 🌱- A delicious paste very popular in every Romanian house. It’s made of roasted red peppers and roasted eggplant, with cooked onions and tomatoes.

If you have to pick one to try, choose zacusca. Or look for a plater with all 3. You won’t regret it, especially if you love (toast) bread.

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4. Fish eggs salad πŸ”» [RO: salata de icre] – Another spreadable we call a salad, for some reason. It’s delicious for fish lovers, but a bit heavy, so eat it with enough bread (thank me later). It’s usually served with fresh onions and lemon.
5. Beef salad πŸ”» [RO: salata de boeuf] – A boiled mix of veggies and beef, tied together with mayonnaise. The element of delight and surprise are the bits of pickled cucumber you’ll taste inside. Have the bread ready for this one.
6. Pork cracklings πŸ”» [RO: Jumari]. They are pork meat with a lot of fat, fried in the fat that melts. They are considered a snack and be crispy or juicy, a bit salty and though tasty. They are quite hard for your diet, like the overall Romanian food.

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7. Platters: mixed types of meats, cheese, grills and some veggies or spreadables. They are usually made to be shared between 2-3 people. Some platters can be vegetarian.
8. Fried cheese coated with breadcrumbs [RO: cascaval pane] – an attractive snack to try, but it can fill you up quite fast.

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9. Bulz – Bacon and/or sausages, egg, cheese all wrapped in polenta. It brings the joy of discovering the mix of flavors inside that polenta ball, like an easter egg surprise!
10. Polenta with salty hard cheese and sour cream. βš– Sometimes with bacon or sausages and even a fried egg. So many combinations and each restaurant seem to be doing it differently.

🌽 Polenta is a popular East European type of bread. It’s made of cornflower (hence the color) and it’s super easy to make, plus cheaper than wheat bread. It’s softer and a bit saltier, with a corn flavor, so it’s quite delicious. Polenta is a must try in this part of the world.


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11. Beef or chicken soups βš– are the most popular choices, but you can find lamb or fish ones too.
In most places, you can get veggies soup too. 🌱
12. Meatballs soup βš– – a light salty soup, with very few veggies to accompany the main star: the meatballs. This is one of the favorite soups in Romanian families. Most moms have made thousands of meatballs in their lifetime.
13. Sour tripe soup served with sour cream and a 🌢- a delicacy in Romania. Maybe because it requires a bit more cooking talent than the rest. It’s made of beef tripe, garlic, sour cream, eggs and vinegar. So imagine the novelty of that taste. Or, better yet, try it!
14. Bean soup with smoked pork in a bread bowl – quite thick for a soup, but very tasty. This recipe is from the Transylvanian region.

Grill & meat

As previously mentioned, Romanian food can be easily explained as: meat dishes (with bread). Most locals eat it at every meal. Bbqs are everyone’s favorite, but as it’s hard to make them at home, pots, frying pans and ovens are the honor guests.

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15. Mici β™¨ [in RO] or often translated as skinless sausages or grilled mince meat roll. Which is exactly what they are. Usually pork & sheep meat or sheep & beef mix, with garlic, spices and then grilled. Served with mustard sauce and bread.
This is the top choice for all Romanians when they have a bbq. Because you can only do them right on a coal bbq. Never ever try cooking them in a pan or fry them, because that’s similar to blasphemy, yikes!
16. Skewers ♨ [RO: frigarui] – The Romanian kebabs, usually made of overnight marinated chicken cubs and a few veggies, all spiked on a metal stick and grilled. But the meat can differ, but the garlic sauce should accompany them.
17. Sausages ♨ [RO: carnati] – they come in many sizes, both in length or thickness and in different meat combinations. Unlike the mici, these ones you can fry them all you want at home too. But the bbq ones will always be the best ones.

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18. Steak ♨ [RO: friptura] – pork, beef or chicken, the steak is one of the top choices, alongside fries, a coleslaw salad or a tomatoes salad.
19. Ribbs [RO: coaste] – even though steaks and ribs are an international choice, you can enjoy tender and juicy ribs, with a local touch.
20. Lamb chops ♨ [RO: cotlete de berbecut] – are a local grill delicacy, with a higher price, but they won’t disappoint. In households, they are oven cooked and they are just as delightfull.

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21. Meatballs [RO: chiftele] – a household delight for Romanians! Deep fried, they are crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. They go well with mashed potatoes, a salad and never forget the garlic sos!
22. Chicken liver [RO fiecatei de pui] – fried with onion saute or garlic, this dish is not for everyone. You either adore it or hate it. But you should definitely try it out.
23. Fish βš– [RO: peste] – either grilled ♨ or oven cooked, every menu will have sweet water fise. Most common is trout [RO: pastrav], but also perch and carp (in Romanian is crap, same-same-but-different). Most menus will have imported fish like salmon or Gilt-head bream.
When it comes to more fish varieties or seafood, you will need to find specific restaurants or go to the Romanian seaside.

Main dishes

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24. Smoked pork chop with baked beans [RO: ciolan cu fasole] – if you love pork, this is the dish to try. The beans baked in tomato sauce are an excellent side dish.
25. Duck on cabbage [RO: rata pe varza] – this duck dish doesn’t come cheap, but it’s a local delicacy one should try. The cabbage is cooked in tomato sauce and it’s sweet and salty at the same time.
26. Stew [RO: tocanita] – in some parts of the country this is a popular dish (for example in Moldova). Usually a mix of meats, like pork, lamb, and chicken. So better check the menu, as each restaurant can have its own recipe.

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27. Sarmale [in RO]: minced meat rolled in cabbage leaves and boiled in tomato sauce. Served usually with polenta. This would be the second most popular Romanian dish after Mici (the skinless sausages). They are one delicious dish you wouldn’t want to miss while in Romania.
28. Chicken stew in a creamy sauce [RO: ciulama de pui] – this white creamy sauce can be used for mushroom stew 🌱 as well. Served with polenta or you can ask for mash potatoes.
29. Potato stew βš– [RO: tocana de cartofi] – another one of the many stews you can find in Romania. This one is potatoes based, and can be with or without meat (sausages or pork meat).

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30. Braised cabbage βš– [RO: varza calita] – the pickled cabbage gets boiled in tomato sauce and this delicious dish comes to life! It can be served as a main course with sausages or chicken meat or as a meatless 🌱 side dish. Add it to your tasting list.
31. Stuffed sweet peppers [RO: ardei umpluti] – they are filled with minced meat or mushrooms (for the veggie 🌱 option), rice, a few veggies, and herbal spices, then boiled in tomato sause. Served with sour cream and you might ask for a spoon for the delicious sauce. Or better yet, bread!
32. Soft rice βš– [RO: pilaf] – rice full of veggies, soft and sticky, it can be a 🌱 vegetarian option or a side dish. But in many places, it’s a main dish, as it has meat cubs.

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33. Papanasi [in RO] – are some sort of donuts made out of sweet cheese and deep fried. They always come with jam and sour cream on top. Yum!
You can’t say Romanian desserts without thinking about papanasi!
34. Pancakes [RO: clatite] – Thin and round, they are usually filled with jam, chocolate cream or sweet cheese and raisins and then rolled (some places fold them in triangles).
35. Chocolate cake with sour cherries [RO: tort de ciocolata cu cirese] – soft and creamy, this cake slice is such a delight for a sweet tooth. The cherries can be alcohol soaked.

You will almost always find homemade ice cream in the dessert menu. Other popular choices are sweet cheese or apple pie, pavlova cake (not Romanian, but quite popular), profiterole or tiramisu.

This list can go on and on for a long while. Romanian food is quite diverse and tasty, if you love meat, of course. But many dishes can be adapted to a vegetarian diet.
You have here enough options and inspiration to try some of the best dishes in Romania.

Now that you got hungry only by scrolling through this article (am l right?) let’s see where you can go in Bucharest to try them out.
Note that not all dishes you saw here can be found on the same menu. So check the menu before going to a restaurant, if you have your eye (and heart) on one of the local dishes.

Where to eat Romanian food in the Old Town:

There are a lot of restaurant options in Old Town Bucharest. But when it comes to the best cooked traditional dishes there are 5 great restaurants you should consider.

β€’ Manuc Inn $$ – vast menu, great service, the location is a landmark in local history. The atmosphere is so jolly, as they play live music and 4 performers dance around the tables (only in the main indoor restaurant). If you want to be able to talk at the table you should ask to be sited on the terrace.
Check menu.
β€’ City Grill $$ – on the ground floor they have a huge grill in the middle of the restaurant (it’s spectacular and no, it’s not smelling much in the room). On the top floor is a big dining area, cozy, quiet and quite colorful. Good prices, with a decent service (when it’s crowded they can be a bit slow). Check menu.
β€’ Caru’ cu bere $$ – thanks to the decor it feels like stepping back in time, more than 100 years ago, in a busy royal venue, or in a museum with painted walls and impressive architecture. They have their own craft beer you should definitely try. Check menu.
β€’ Curtea Berarilor $$ – where a cold beer seems to work with everything they have in the menu. It’s a good choice for sharing a meat platter and grills, but vegetarians will look at the menu and cry. Have a look at the menu.
β€’ Lacrimi si Sfinti $$ – 100-year-old Romanian recipes are now reinterpreted in a contemporary style. All the ingredients are from local productions and organic. Even the decor of the location respects the organic and slow living philosophy: reconditioned furniture, and upcycled wood. See menu.

Bonus: Bodega “La Mahala” $ – a small rustic bodega, with traditional dishes for a budget pocket. They are tasty and fresh, but non-pretencious. Kind of like home-cooked meals. But those are the best, right?

Where to eat Romanian food in the central area:

β€’ La Mama – Amzei Market

La Mama restaurant has 6 locations in Bucharest. The closest to the center is the one in Amzei Market, but you can also check out the one inside MTR (The National Museum of the Romanian Peasant). Check the menu.

β€’ Hanu’ Berarilor Casa Oprea Soare

The traditional Romanian food blends with the beautiful location. A 100 years old neo-Romanian style mansion. The menu will satisfy even the most pretentious foodie.