Albanian cuisine. All you need to know about it

Food in Albania is characterized by the fact that here you can taste the national, European, and Mediterranean cuisine. In addition, local cafes, bars, and restaurants will delight you not only with delicious dishes but also quite low prices.


The roots of modern Albanian cuisine

Albanian cuisine has been greatly influenced by Roman, Greek, Byzantine, and Slavic gastronomic traditions: in the mountainous areas the meat dishes are widespread, usually cooked on the grill, the coast is worth tasting fish and seafood, and in the south – mussels, grown in Butrinti, which are considered one of the best in the world.

Since the end of the 14th century Albania was conquered, the Turks. They dominated the territory of Albania for almost five centuries and brought variety to the cuisine of Albanians. Meat began to be served with spicy sauces, and for dessert, sugary sweets. Only the townspeople could afford such delicacies. The villagers cooked meat only on feast days. But both villagers and city dwellers could not resist oriental coffee. 

The wealthy townspeople adopted the Oriental way of life. The areas inhabited by the Albanians were engaged in cattle breeding and agriculture.

There was an abundance of dairy products on the cattleman’s table, and only vegetables and olives on the farmer’s table. They exchanged provisions with each other. For many centuries, the basis of the food of Albanians from the mountainous areas was corn bread.

Traditionally, guests were treated to meat roasted as a whole carcass on a spit.

Since the Albanians raised sheep, they used sheep’s milk to make excellent cheeses. Many dishes are prepared using sheep’s cheese. 

  • Corn grows in the warm climate of the country. 
  • Its cobs are boiled, baked, and canned. 
  • Corn flour is used to bake the national dish “celje”.


The modern diet of Albanians

Nowadays, the diet of Albanians consists of vegetables, which are available all year round: fresh vegetables prevail in summer, and canned vegetables are eaten in winter. One cannot do without seasonal fruits, of course, meat (veal, lamb, beef, chicken), by-products, seafood (shrimps, squids, mussels), rice, soups (fish, vegetables), dairy products. 

The Albanians season their dishes with various herbs and spices, natural vinegar, lemon juice, red and black pepper, garlic, mint, parsley, bay leaf, rosemary, marjoram, basil. The most popular of these is rosemary. Albanians believe that rosemary keeps you young, so they add it to meat, fish, sauces, and salads. And of course, locals drink coffee flavored with marjoram.


Traditional Albanian dishes

Snacks are represented by flour products made of unleavened dough and sheep cheese.



The most famous food in Albania (and the rest of the Balkans) is byrek, a delicious salty pie made from fillet. You will find it everywhere in the country, in different sizes and types. One of the most famous is spinach berek, but bars, food trucks, and pastry stores also sell byrek, often with cheese or gjize meat. All versions are delicious!


Fërgesë verore me speca dhe domate

Fërgesë is one of the most delicious and best Albanian foods made from peppers, tomatoes, and curd. You will find it mostly in Tirana and surrounding areas, because it is a typical dish in the central region of Albania.


Speça me gjize

Speça me gjize is one of the country’s most colorful and delicious foods, made from yellow, orange, green, and red peppers stuffed with rice, curd, and spices before baking in the oven. It’s a healthy choice and a great vegetarian dish (there are many vegetable options in Albanian gastronomy, as you can see).


Fried Kachakaval

Kachakaval or cacacaval is a typical cheese used in the southern Balkans as well as in southern Italy. It is a yellow, salty cheese that is usually served in restaurants. Menus offer various options, such as cacavaval salad and baked cacaval, but the best is fried cacaval, one of the most delicious dishes in the region.



Located right on the sea, Albania is famous for its seafood. In restaurants along the coast and in the main cities across the Riviera, such as Vlora and Saranda, you can eat fresh, excellent fish for less than 10 euros ($12). Fresh seafood restaurants while in Albania, admiring the fabulous sea panoramas from the terraces of the restaurants is a must.

All seafood is served with lemon. The Albanians also sprinkle meat with lemon; they even add lemon juice to the soup along with vinegar. Sometimes a too sour taste of the soup is not understood by tourists, it is a local feature.

In Albania, a wide variety of fish is caught from the sea and served to the table. Most fish varieties are low-fat. Fans of fatty salmon here will have to get used to the drier varieties. The fish is cooked for 5 minutes. You can buy it at the market or in a store and just fry it in the pan at home. In the store or even at the market the fish will be cleaned for you (it is included in the price). Also in a fish store, you may be offered to cook the fish. You go to the store, choose a fish or shrimp, they weigh it, you pay, and then you come and get the dish ready to go at the time you say. It’s convenient for different events at home when you don’t have time to cook yourself.


Meat dishes

In an ordinary Albanian home, however, seafood is not common. Albanians are meat-eaters. The fact that part of the Albanian population (about 60%) is Muslim has still had some influence on the types of meat sold in the stores: you can find pork, but it is not very common. Veal, specifically veal and not beef, is most often sold. Dairy calves are slaughtered, and the carcass is more similar in size to a lamb than to a cow. In general, any local meat here is young: veal, lamb, piglet. Imported meat is cheaper here than the local (“mish vendi”) because it is of lower quality and comes frozen. Local meat is always sold fresh. As a rule, the butcher’s shop buys a whole carcass and sells that carcass in pieces by the end of the day. 

Meat dishes are very popular in the country, and they are usually served with rice and a variety of greens.


Kofta o Qofte

Qofte, or grilled meatballs, is one of Albania’s most popular meat dishes. Typically, qofte are seasoned with spices and mint and served with raw onions and lettuce. A variant of qofte is kernaçka, another type of meatball typical of Korca, one of Albania’s most important cities.


Grilled meat

Throughout Albania, one of the most famous dishes is grilled meat, mostly known as zgara. You will find it everywhere, even in restaurants by the sea, but mostly in typical grill houses. Order a big plate of mixed grilled meat with salad and local beer and enjoy!


Tave Kosi

Another food to try in Albania is tav kosi, one of the favorite dishes of the locals. It is typical of Elbasan, a town near Tirana, but you will find it everywhere in the country, from mountain villages to coastal towns. Tavë Kosi is a delicious dish similar to tiche, made with lamb, eggs, and yogurt.


Vegetarian dishes


Perime ne Zgare

Roasted vegetables are popular in Albania as well as in other Balkan countries. Eggplant, zucchini, onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc. etc., are used as an appetizer or to accompany main dishes. If you like to eat vegetarian, don’t worry, even in grill houses, you will find perime ne zgare.



A simple dish made of corn flour, originating from the ancient Albanian settlements and still loved and revered by the Albanians. Usually they add herbs and seasonings to taste, it is said that every Albanian grandmother has her own special recipe for proja.



Vegetarian summer cold cucumber soup, with dill, yogurt, olive oil.


Dessert in Albania

And sweet tooth in Albania will enjoy baklava, various puddings made of sheep’s milk, sweet rice cakes, candied fruit and cakes with honey, the local ice cream “acculore”.



Baklava is the star of Turkey as well as the Balkan Peninsula: you’ll find it everywhere when you visit Albania and of various sizes and types. The typical Albanian variety of this famous pie is made with nuts, but bakeries and pastries have a pistachio version that tastes even better.



Another excellent cake that is well known in Albania is trillese. The word comes from Spanish and means “cake with three milks”; indeed, trilice is made with milk, cream and concentrated milk. Calling it “delicious” is not enough. Trilece is a delight to taste and fresh cake, perfect for warm Albanian days.

In Albania, you can also try deep-fried frogs’ legs or, for example, roast hedgehogs. These dishes are not traditional for Albanians, but you can find a place in Albania.


Drinks in Albania

For drinking, we recommend the young wine that locals serve with most dishes, Birra Tirana beer, and fruit-based, rather strong rakija (local grape moonshine). Locals believe that rakija unites people of all nationalities.

Popular drinks of Albanians are coffee, ayran, Trebeshina mineral water, boza (sweet drink made of wheat and corn), rakija, wine, ouzo (anise liqueur), fruit liqueurs, herbal liqueur “fernet”, cognac (“Skendenberg”).

Wine lovers can try Rilindja, Tokai, Merlot, Kallmet in Albania, and beer lovers – the legendary local lager Korca.


Tipping in Albania

Locals, in general, are not yet used to them (in comparison Turkey – there are everywhere begging for money for anything). In one restaurant you can give 50 lek to the waiter for a pizza order worth 550 lek, that is the usual 10% of the bill, but you make a very happy waiter. 

Tip! In all cafes and restaurants we recommend leaving a tip of 50 or 100 lek (less than 1 euro), so you will make the local people who do the hard work happy and they will be happy to welcome you as a distinguished guest next time. 

Then even on the street, if you meet them by chance, they will smile thankfully and say hello. But, by the way, they will not bore you and ask for more.