Bulgarian cuisine (Bulgarian: българска кухня, romanized: bǎlgarska kuhnja) is a representative of the cuisine of Southeast Europe. It shares characteristics with other Balkan cuisines. Bulgarian cooking traditions are diverse because of geographical factors such as climatic conditions suitable for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruit. Aside from the vast variety of local Bulgarian dishes, Bulgarian cuisine shares a number of dishes with Persian, Turkish, and Greek cuisine.
Bulgarian food often incorporates salads as appetizers and is also noted for the prominence of dairy products, wines and other alcoholic drinks such as rakia. The cuisine also features a variety of soups, such as the cold soup tarator, and pastries, such as the filo dough based banitsa, pita and the various types of börek.
Main courses are very typically water-based stews, either vegetarian or with lamb, goat meat, veal, chicken or pork. Deep-frying is not common, but grilling - especially different kinds of sausages - is very prominent. Pork is common, often mixed with veal or lamb, although fish and chicken are also widely used. While most cattle are bred for milk production rather than meat, veal is popular for grilling meat appetizers (meze) and in some main courses. As a substantial exporter of lamb, Bulgaria's own consumption is notable, especially in the spring.
Similarly to other Balkan cultures the per capita consumption of yogurt (Bulgarian: кисело мляко, kiselo mlyako, lit. "sour milk") among Bulgarians is traditionally higher than the rest of Europe. The country is notable as the historical namesake for Lactobacillus bulgaricus, a microorganism chiefly responsible for the local variety of the dairy product.
Bulgarian cuisine shares a number of dishes with the Middle Eastern Cuisine as well as a limited number with the Indian, particularly Gujarat cuisine. The culinary exchange with the East started as early as the 7th century, when traders started bringing herbs and spices to the First Bulgarian Empire from India and Persia via the Roman and later Byzantine empires. This is evident from the wide popularity of dishes like moussaka, gyuvetch, kyufte and baklava, which are common in Middle Eastern cuisine today. White brine cheese called "sirene" (сирене), similar to feta, is also a popular ingredient used in salads and a variety of pastries.
Holidays are often observed in conjunction with certain meals. On Christmas Eve, for instance, tradition requires vegetarian stuffed peppers and cabbage leaf sarmi, New Year's Eve usually involves cabbage dishes, Nikulden (Day of St. Nicholas, December 6) fish (usually carp), while Gergyovden (Day of St. George, May 6) is typically celebrated with roast lamb.
Turshiya (also torsi) — pickled vegetables, such as celery, beets, cauliflower, and cabbage, popular in wintertime; variations are selska turshiya (country pickle) and tsarska turshiya (king's pickles).
Mussels in butter — with onion and fresh herbs, traditionally from Sozopol
Kyufte (meatballs of minced pork meat, seasoned with traditional spices and shaped in a flattened ball)
Kebapche (similar to meatballs, but seasoned with cumin and shaped in a stick)
Parjola (pork steak, chop or flank)
Shishcheta (marinated pieces of chicken or pork and vegetables.)
Karnache (a type of sausage with special spices)
Nadenitsa (a type of sausage with special spices)
Tatarsko kyufte (stuffed meatballs)
Nevrozno kyufte (very piquant meatballs)
Chicken in caul
Cheverme (used in celebrations such as weddings, graduations and birthdays: a whole animal, traditionally a pig, but also chicken or a lamb, is slowly cooked in open fire, rotated manually on a wooden skewer from 4 to 7 hours.)
Meshana skara (mixed grill plate): consists of kebapche, kyufte, shishche and karnache or nadenitsa
Grilled vegetables (usually a garnish or a side dish)
Grilled fish (salt water or freshwater)
Traditional Bulgarian grill (Skara)- Tatarsko kufte
Vacuum packed Kashkaval cheese in Bulgarian store.
Bulgaria has a strong tradition of using milk and dairy products. Bulgaria even has a namesake strain of bacteria used to make many of its cheeses and fermented foods which gives it a distinct in its flavor. This strain is called Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
Sirene — soft and salty white brine cheese; appears in many Bulgarian dishes
Katak — a "traditional fermented curd/yogurt-like product"
The name Halva (халва) is used for several related varieties of the Middle Eastern dessert. Tahan/Tahini halva (тахан/тахини халва) is the most popular version, available in two different types with sunflower and with sesame seed. Traditionally, the regions of Yablanitsa and Haskovo are famous manufacturers of halva.