Romanian cuisine is a diverse blend of different dishes from several traditions with which it has come into contact, but it also maintains its own character. It has been greatly influenced by Ottoman cuisine, while it also includes influences from the cuisines of other neighbours, such as Germans, Serbs, Bulgarians and Hungarians.
Quite different types of dishes are sometimes included under a generic term; for example, the category ciorbă includes a wide range of soups with a characteristic sour taste. These may be meat and vegetable soups, tripe (ciorbă de burtă), and calf foot soups, or fish soups, all of which are soured by lemon juice, sauerkraut juice, vinegar, or traditionally borş. The category ţuică (plum brandy) is a generic name for a strong alcoholic spirit in Romania, while in other countries, every flavour has a different name.
Romanian recipes bear the same influences as the rest of Romanian culture. The Turks have brought meatballs (perişoare in a meatball soup), from the Greeks there is musaca, from the Austrians there is the şniţel, and the list could continue. The Romanians share many foods with the Balkan area (in which Turkey was the cultural vehicle), with Central Europe (mostly in the form of German-Austrian dishes introduced through Hungary or by the Saxons in Transylvania) and Eastern Europe. Some others are original or can be traced to the Roman or other ancient civilizations. The lack of written sources in Eastern Europe makes impossible to determine today the punctual origin for most of them.
One of the most common meals is the mămăliga, a type of polenta, served on its own or as an accompaniment. Pork is the main meat used in Romanian cuisine, but also beef is consumed and a good lamb or fish dish is never to be refused.
Before Christmas, on December 20 (Ignat’s Day or Ignatul in Romanian), a pig is traditionally sacrificed by every rural family. A variety of foods for Christmas prepared from the slaughtered pig consist of the following:
- Cărnaţi — sausages
- Caltaboş — sausages made with liver
- Tobă and piftie — dishes using pig’s feet, head and ears suspended in aspic
- Tochitură — pan-fried pork served with mămăligă and wine (“so that the pork can swim”).
- Piftie – inferior parts of the pig, mainly the tail, feet and ears, are cooked and served in a form of gelatin
- Jumari – small pieces of pig meat are fried and tumbled through various spices
The Christmas meal is sweetened with the traditional cozonac, a sweet bread with nuts and rahat for dessert.
At Easter, lamb is served: the main dishes are roast lamb and drob de miel – a Romanian-style lamb haggis made of minced organs (heart, liver, lungs) wrapped and roasted in a caul. The traditional Easter cake is pască, a pie made of yeast dough with a sweet cottage cheese filling at the centre.
Romanian pancakes, called clătită, are thin (like the French crêpe) and can be prepared with savoury or sweet fillings: ground meat, white cheese, or jam. Different recipes are prepared depending on the season or the occasion.
Wine is the preferred drink, and Romanian wine has a tradition of over three millennia. Romania is currently the world’s 9th largest wine producer, and recently the export market has started to grow. Romania produces a wide selection of domestic varieties (Fetească, Grasă, Tamâioasă, and Busuioacă), as well as varieties from across the world (Italian Riesling, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Muscat Ottonel). Beer is also highly regarded, generally blonde pilsener beer, made with German influences. There are also Romanian breweries with a long tradition.
- Borş is fermented wheat bran, a souring agent for ciorbă. Borș is also used today as a synonym for Ciorbă, but in the past a distinction was made between borș and ciorbă (acritură), the souring agent for the latter being the juice of unripe fruits, such as grapes or mirabelle, or woodsorrel leaves.
- Borş de urechiuşe wild mushrooms sour soup
- Ciorbă is the traditional Romanian sour soup
- Ciorbă de burtă (tripe soup) soured with sour cream
- Ciorbă de perişoare (meatball sour soup)
- Ciorbă de fasole cu afumătură (bean and smoked meat soup)
- Ciorbă de legume (vegetable soup)
- Ciorbă de peşte “ca-n Deltă” (fish soup prepared in the style of the Danube Delta)
- Ciorbă de praz is a leek soup
- Ciorbă de pui is a chicken soup
- Ciorbă de lobodă is a red orach soup
- Ciorbă de salată cu afumătură (green salad and smoked meat soup)
- Ciorbă de sfeclă also called Borș de sfeclă or Borș rusesc
- Ciorbă ţărănească (peasant soup) made with a variety of vegetables and from any kind of meat (beef, pork, mutton, fish)
- Supă (generic name for sweet (usually clear) soups, made out of vegetables alone or combined with poultry and beef). The difference between Supă and Ciorbă is that from Supă meat and most vegetables are removed, the resulted liquid being served with dumplings or noodles. There are also a number of sour soups which use lemon juice as a souring agent, called Supe a la grec (Greek soups).
- Supă (de pui) cu găluşte (halušky, clear dumpling soup with chicken broth)
- Supă (de pui) cu tăieţei (clear noodle soup with chicken broth)
- Caltaboş/chişcǎ – a cooked sausage made of minced pork organs and rice, stuffed in a pig casing
- Cârnaţi – a garlicky sausage, as in Fasole cu cârnaţi
- Chiftele – A type of large meatball covered with a flour crust or breadcrumb crust
- Ciulama – white roux sauce used in a variety of meat dishes
- Ciulama de viţel – veal ciulama
- Ciulama de pui – chicken ciulama
- Drob de miel – a lamb haggis made of minced organs wrapped in a caul and roasted like a meatloaf; a traditional Easter dish
- Frigărui – Romanian-style kebabs
- Limbă cu măsline – cow tongue with olives
- Mititei (mici) – grilled minced-meat rolls
- Musaca – an eggplant, potato, and meat pie
- Ostropel – method of cooking chicken or duck
- Papricaş – Goulash
- Pârjoale – a kind of meatball
- Piftie – preparation is similar to the French demi-glace. Pork stock reduced by simmering is placed in containers, spiced with garlic and sweet paprika powder along with the boiled pork meat and left to cool. The cooled liquid has a gelatinous consistency.
- Pleşcoi sausages
- Slănină (şuncă) – pork fat, often smoked
- Şniţel – a pork, veal, or beef breaded cutlet (a variety of Viennese schnitzel)
- Cordon bleu şniţel – breaded pork tenderloin stuffed with ham and cheese
- Mosaic şniţel – a specialty of Western Romania, two thin layers of different meats with mushroom or other vegetable filling
- Sniţel de pui – breaded chicken breast cutlet
- Stufat – lamb, onion and garlic stew
- Tobă – sausage (usually pig’s stomach, stuffed with pork jelly, liver, and skin)
- Tocană/tocaniţă – stew
- Tocăniţă vânătorească – venison stew
- Tochitură – a Romanian-style stew
- Varză călită – steamed cabbage with pork ribs, duck or sausages
- Sarmale – minced meat with rice, wrapped in either pickled cabbage leaves or vine leaves
- Salata de icre – roe salad, traditionally from carp, pike or various marine fish species, called tarama, and onion
- Plachie din peşte – ragout of river fish with vegetables
- Saramură de crap – carp in brine
- Pană de somn rasol – catfish in brine with garlic
- Chiftele de peşte – fish cake
- Papricaş de peşte – fish paprikash
- Crap pane – breaded carp fillet
- Ghiveci cu peşte – vegetable stew with fish
- Macrou afumat – smoked mackerel fillet
- Ardei umpluţi – stuffed bell peppers
- Dovlecei umpluţi – stuffed zucchini
- Gulii umplute – stuffed kohlrabi
- Vinete umplute – stuffed eggplant
- Sarmale – stuffed cabbage rolls, also made with grape, dock leaves or other leaves
- Ghiveci – vegetable stew or cooked vegetable salad similar to the Bulgarian gjuvec and the Hungarian lecsó
- Ghiveci cǎlugaresc – vegetable stew prepared by the nuns in the monasteries
- Iahnie – beans, spiced up, cooked until there’s no more water and a soft sticky sauce binding beans together has formed
- Fasole batută – boiled beans that are mashed up, spiced with salt, pepper and a bit of garlic. It’s served with diced and fried onions and tomato paste or sauce.
- Mămăligă – cornmeal mush, also known as Romanian-style polenta. Mămăligă can be served as a side dish or form the basis of further dishes, such as “mămăligă cu lapte” (polenta with hot milk), bulz (baked polenta with Romanian sheep cheese and cream), “mămăliguță cu brânză și smântănă” (polenta with telemea (Romanian cheese similar to feta cheese) and sour cream) etc.
- Mâncare de mazăre – pea stew
- Mâncare de praz – leek stew
- Pilaf – rice, vegetables, and pieces of meat (optional), often wings and organs of chicken, pork, or lamb. Cooking method is very similar to risotto.
- Chifteluţe de ciuperci – chiftele made of mushrooms instead of meat
- Sniţel de ciuperci – mushroom fritter (şniţel is the Romanian spelling of the German word schnitzel (breaded boneless cutlet), but it may be used to mean any sort of fritter)
- Plăcintă aromână – pie with spinach and white cheese
- Tocană de ciuperci – mushroom stew
- Tocăniță de gălbiori – chanterelle stew
- Ardei copţi – roasted peppers salad, with vinegar and sunflower or olive oil
- Castraveţi muraţi – pickled small cucumbers
- Gogonele – pickled green tomatoes, it is the simple version of murături asortate
- Varză murată – cabbage pickled in brine, flavoured with dill stalks
- Murături asortate – pickled mixed vegetables – a combination of any of the following: onions, garlic, green tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, kohlrabi, beet, carrots, celery, parsley roots, cauliflower, apples, quince, unripe plums, small unripe watermelons, small zucchini, and red cabbage. It is most often cured in brine (Turkish version), but also in vinegar (German version).
- Mujdei – crushed garlic sauce
- Salată de boeuf – minced boiled vegetables with meat mayonnaise and a dash of mustard
- Salată de vinete – roasted and peeled eggplant, chopped onion, salt, mixed with oil or mayonnaise
- Salată orientală – potato salad with egg, onions, olives
- Salată de sfeclă – beet salad
- Salată de roşii – tomato salad, with sliced onions, bell peppers, and cucumber. Flavoured with dill or parsley.
- Covrigi – pretzel
- Gogoşi – literally “doughnuts”, but more akin to fried dough
- Rahat – Turkish delight
- Plăcintă – pie
- Colivă – boiled wheat, mixed with sugar and walnuts (often decorated with candy and icing sugar; distributed at funerals and/or memorial ceremonies)
- Cozonac – a kind of Stollen made with leavened dough, into which milk, eggs, sugar, butter, and other ingredients are mixed
- Orez cu lapte
- Griş cu lapte
- Lapte de pasăre – literally “bird’s milk”, vanilla custard garnished with “floating islands” of whipped egg whites
- Cremă de zahăr ars
- Clătite – pancakes
- Turtă dulce – gingerbread
- Chec – coffee cake
- Papanași – a kind of doughnut made from a mixture of sweet cheese, eggs, and semolina, boiled or fried and served with fruit syrup or jam and sour cream
- Şarlotă – a custard made with milk, eggs, sugar, whipped cream, gelatin, fruits, and lady fingers; from the French Charlotte
- Prăjituri – assorted pastries
- Savarine – savarina
- Amandine – chocolate sponge cake with almond and chocolate filling, glazed in chocolate
- Joffre cake – invented at the Casa Capşa restaurant in Bucharest
- Mucenici – sweet cookies (shaped like “8”, made of boiled or baked dough, garnished with walnuts, sugar or honey, eaten on a single day of the year, on 9 March)
- Pelincile Domnului
The generic name for cheese in Romania is brânză, and it is considered to be of Dacian origin. Most of the cheeses are made of cow’s or sheep’s milk. Goat’s milk is rarely used. Sheep cheese is considered “the real cheese”, although in modern times some people refrain from consuming it due to its higher fat content and specific smell.
- Brânză de burduf is a kneaded cheese prepared from sheep’s milk and traditionally stuffed into a sheep’s stomach; it has a strong taste and semi-soft texture
- Brânză topită is a melted cheese and a generic name for processed cheese, industrial product
- Brânză în coşuleţ is a sheep’s milk, kneaded cheese with a strong taste and semi-soft texture, stuffed into bellows of fir tree bark instead of pig bladder, very lightly smoked, traditional product
- Caş is a semi-soft fresh white cheese, unsalted or lightly salted, stored in brine, which is eaten fresh (cannot be preserved), traditional, seasonal product
- Caşcaval – A semi-hard, yellow cheese that derives its name from the Italian cheese “Caciocavallo”. It is particularly popular in Eastern Europe and Mediterranean region
- Năsal, with a pungent aroma, traditional product
- Penteleu, a type of Cașcaval, traditional product
- Șvaițer, industrial product (Schweizer Käse)
- Telemea, cow’s or sheep’s milk white cheese, vaguely similar to feta. The traditional “Brânză de Brăila” (a type of telemea which has become quite scarce) is spiced with Nigella damascena seeds, which give it a unique flavour.
- Urdă– made by boiling the whey drained from cow’s or ewe’s milk until the remaining proteins precipitate and can be collected, traditional product
- Afinată – blueberry liqueur
- Horincă is a plum brandy, produced near the border with Ukraine
- Pălincă is a strong, double-distilled plum brandy, produced in Transylvania
- Rachiu is a fruit brandy. Whereas “rachiu” can be made from any fruits (except plums), “țuică” is reserved exclusively to brandy made of plums.
- Secărică is a caraway fruit flavoured vodka, similar to the German kümmel
- Şliboviţă is a plum brandy, produced near the border with Serbia
- Socată is a non-alcoholic beverage made of fermented elderflower (Sambucus nigra) blossom
- Spumă de drojdie is a brandy produced from grapes that have been used in wine production, very similar to the Italian grappa
- Ţuică is a plum brandy
- Turţ is a strong, double-distilled plum brandy, named after the village of Turţ in northwestern Romania
- Vişinată is a sour cherry liqueur
- Pelin de mai is a wine specialty, usually produced in the spring, flavoured with Artemisia dried plants
- Zmeurată is a raspberry liqueur
- Ceai – either various plant tisannes (cammomille, mint, tilly flower, a.s.o.) or common black tea, mostly called “ceai rusesc” – Russian tea, usually served at breakfast.
- Sirop – syrup made of fir tree, pine, buckthorn, blueberry, raspberry or strawberry with different types of honey or sugar