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Albanian Food: 10 Traditional Dishes to Look For in Tirana

EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Sep Simborio shares with us ten of the most delicious traditional dishes to try on your next visit to Albania.

Planning a trip to Europe can be a bit challenging with all the gorgeous countries to visit. As a Traveleater, it’s a must to tick the more popular countries off the list. But once the attention is shifted to the in-betweens, that’s where the trip could be a lot more interesting.

Sure, France, Italy, Spain, and Greece are on the top of that list for their stunning views and downright delicious food. But for the more adventurous, their neighboring countries in the Balkans are worth a visit. They’re such pleasant surprises if one just goes “off the beaten path,” so to speak.

One of the underrated countries to visit for another epic gastronomic quest is nestled between Greece and the azure waters of Italy. Albania, a country with a captivating history, natural beauty, and eccentricity waiting at every corner, is an attractive option for epicureans looking to elevate their palatal experience.


If you’re planning a trip to Albania and want to really dive into the cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour.


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Tave kosi

Photo by lenyvavsha


From its location on the map, traditional Albanian food is largely a Mediterranean cuisine with roots dating back to the ancient Ottoman Empire. The combination of its fertile soil, long coastline, and cultural influences from its neighboring countries have given rise to modern Albanian cuisine that’s simple yet diverse.

But when it comes to traditional Albanian food, fruits, vegetables, grilled meat dishes, grilled fish, and fresh seafood are typically served along with the abundant use of olive oil. Garlic and onions are the most widely used ingredients in Albanian cooking while different types of meat often make their way into many dishes.

When it comes to regional Albanian cuisine, the country is divided into three – the north, central, and south – and ingredients are primarily based on the area, climate, and land where the produce is grown.


Arguably one of the most underrated countries in Europe when it comes to food, Albania is a country worth visiting to satiate that palate. Here are some of the best traditional foods that Albanian cuisine has to offer.

1. Tarator

After a long night of throwing back raki in Albania, mornings can be rough. A good hangover remedy is a refreshing bowl of tarator.

Tarator is essentially cold cucumber and yogurt soup. It also has dill, salt, and garlic added to the mix to elevate the flavor. One of the easiest ways to enjoy this traditional dish is with a side of feta cheese, grilled vegetables, and fresh bread. Fruits, olives, nuts, and hummus with pita bread also go well with it.

Bowl of tarator, an Albanian cucumber soup often enjoyed with feta cheese and bread

Photo by voltan1

2. Dolma

Dolma is a dish of Ottoman origin that means “to stuff” in Turkish. It’s a typical dish popular in many Balkan countries, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Essentially, dolmas are stuffed grape leaves that can be served cold or warm. The traditional dolma recipe involves meat fillings and is served warm with garlic-flavored yogurt sauce. Local traditional restaurants in Albania will often serve them as part of larger meze platters with cured meats, hard-boiled eggs, cheeses, and pickled vegetables.

Also known as japrak, Albanian dolma uses cabbage if there are no vine leaves available and is stuffed with minced lamb meat, rice, onions, herbs, and seasoning. The rolls are simmered until tender and commonly served with cold yogurt soup.

Dolma, a stuffed grape leaf dish popular in Mediterranean and Albanian cuisine

Photo by ezumeimages

Have you seen those bell peppers stuffed with rice? Aside from dishes wrapped in vine or cabbage leaves, dolma can also refer to dishes made from hollowed-out and stuffed peppers, onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables.

Bell peppers stuffed with rice is one of the most common but pictured below is kungulleshka të mbushura, a type of Albanian dolma made with zucchini stuffed with feta cheese, egg, and spices.

Kungulleshka të mbushura, a type of Albanian dolma made with zucchini

Photo by fanfon

3. Qifqi

Gjirokaster is a lovely southern Albanian town well-known for two things – one, its old town is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and two, it’s the home of qifqi – rice balls fried in olive oil. Qifqi is hard to find anywhere else in Albania making it one of the most interesting and typical Albanian dishes imaginable.

Qifqi is made with boiled rice that’s shaped into balls or spheres. They’re held together by eggs, seasoned, and then fried in olive oil which gives the dish a distinct and delicious flavor. Occasionally, cheese is known to be added.

Resembling risotto balls, this delicious savory finger food is one of the most interesting vegetarian dishes in Albania. It’s sure to hit the spot when you’re looking for a quick, tasty meal in Gjirokaster.

Qifqi, Albanian rice balls fried in olive oil

Photo by shinylion

4. Byrek

A Traveleater never leaves a country without indulging in street food. If it were the street food Olympics, Albania would have byrek as one of its Olympians. It’s one of the most popular Albanian foods and a must-try in Tirana.

Also known as borek, burek, bourekas, or lakror, byrek is a family of baked or fried stuffed pastries made of thin flaky dough called yufka or phyllo (filo pastry). It’s such a popular food in many Balkan countries that each country has its own version of this delectable pie.

Albanian byrek is often filled with savory ingredients, with spinach the most common. In the city capital of Tirana, cheese and eggs are options, with meat and sweet pumpkin also a choice filling. The final form could be one big pie cut into smaller pieces before serving, or smaller triangular pieces commonly sold by street vendors.

Byrek, one of the most popular Albanian foods

Photo by Wirestock

5. Fergese

This rustic dish in a rich tomato sauce is a national dish and one of Albania’s most traditional foods. Fergese is a very popular local dish made with bell peppers, tomatoes, and salted cottage cheese (feta cheese can be used as a substitute). It originated in the country’s capital of Tirana and is widely consumed in central Albania.

This traditional dish is made by sauteing the bell peppers and tomatoes while butter and flour are mixed to make a roux with melted cottage cheese set over it. All the ingredients are combined and seasoned in a clay pot before baking in an oven. Once it has slightly cooled down, the dish is ready to serve with a side of homemade baked bread.

Another version of fergese is made by adding chopped liver and garlic to the tomato sauce. The vegetarian version is usually prepared as a side dish while the meaty variant is served as the main course. You can often find this typical Albanian dish at countryside restaurants that serve traditional food.

Fergese, an Albanian dish made with bell peppers, tomatoes, and cottage cheese

Photo by fanfon

6. Tavë Kosi

Tavë kosi is one of Albania’s national dishes. It has a rich history, thanks to the Ottoman Empire, that greatly influenced Albania’s cuisine.

The Islamic traditions of the country’s occupying rulers prompted Albanians to adjust their customs. As a result, lamb became the staple meat in place of forbidden pork, giving rise to tavë kosi – a delicious and very traditional Albanian casserole dish.

Today, tavë kosi is one of the most popular Albanian foods. The dish’s translated name gives away the recipe – tavë in English means “casserole,” and kos refers to goat or ewe milk yogurt. Other base ingredients such as eggs and rice make up the dish with garlic and oregano added for more flavor.

The lamb meat is mixed with the rice and topped with creamy flavored yogurt sauce. It’s baked in the oven till golden brown and commonly served hot with a side dish of vegetable salad. Tavë kosi is a delicious and very filling meal that’s sure to satisfy any appetite.

Tavë kosi, an Albanian national dish made with lamb

Photo by lenyvavsha

7. Petulla

Who doesn’t like doughnuts? Children around the world cannot resist the allure of this delicious fried dough treat during snack time, which is also the case for many police officers.

Albania also has its own traditional version of this chewy, fried dough snack that kids learn to prepare with their parents as an afternoon treat called petulla. They’re also commonly sold at food stands throughout Tirana.

Petulla is the Albanian version of fried dough and can be eaten sweet with powdered sugar, just like donuts, or savory with feta cheese. It’s a popular dish eaten not just in Albania, but in many countries throughout the Balkans.

Plate of petulla or Albanian fried dough with olives, cheese, and tomatoes

Photo by allasimacheva

8. Trilece

From the name itself, trilece is essentially a cake made of three kinds of milk and topped with caramel. It’s a delightfully light Albanian dessert that’s popular across Europe.

Similar to tres leches, trilece appears as a simple cake, but one bite of its melt-in-the-mouth goodness reveals its mystery. It has a light, airy texture with a creamy and sweet combination due to the eggs, milk, and caramel. If you happen to walk by an Albanian pastry shop in Tirana, then you need to walk in and try this dessert.

While the modern version has many iterations due to the different combinations of milk and dairy products used, the classic version of this sweet dessert is made with goat milk, cow milk, and buffalo milk.

Trilece, a popular Albanian dessert made with three types of milk

Photo by Alp_Aksoy

9. Kadaif

Another delicious dessert on this list is kadaif, a sweet and crispy traditional food in Albania made of shredded phyllo dough. It’s also a popular Middle Eastern and Turkish dessert where some kadaif recipes use cheese. However, Albanian kadaif calls for chopped walnuts sprinkled with vanilla sugar and baked to perfection.

Woman eating kadaif, an Albanian dessert made with shredded phyllo dough

Photo by eskymaks

10. Boza

All these mouthwatering traditional Albanian dishes deserve a delicious drink to wash everything down, and that beverage is boza.

Boza is an ancient drink that first came to be in Mesopotamia around 10,000 to 11,000 years ago. The invading Turks later introduced it to the Balkans. Derived from the Persian word buze, which means millet, the early version of the drink was sour and contained small amounts of alcohol. This evolved to the sweet non-alcoholic Albanian boza that’s popular across the country.

This thick Albanian malt drink is made by fermenting grains such as corn, barley, millet, wheat. It’s served either hot or cold. Most first-time drinkers may be surprised and say it’s an acquired taste, but this drink won’t last for millennia if it isn’t good.

Glass of boza, an albanian drink made from fermented grains

Photo by stoyanh


It goes without saying that no one knows Albanian food better than a local, so what better way to experience the best of Albanian culture and cuisine than by going on a guided food tour?

A food-obsessed local will take you to the city’s best spots so all you have to do is follow, listen, and eat. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of Albanian food tours in Tirana and other cities throughout the country.


Albania has never looked more enticing after going through this Albanian food guide. There are so many exciting flavors to experience in Albanian gastronomy. Perhaps it’s time to book a trip and experience what this “less popular” country can offer. It’s like an underdog winning a gold medal.

Delicious, historical, and perfect for the curious Traveleater – this is how one could describe a gastronomic adventure to this underrated country in the Balkans. See the stunning sights of Albania and let the country tell its fascinating story through its delectable cuisine.


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Cover photo by lenyvavsha. Stock images via Depositphotos.

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