The food in Albania is one of our favorite aspects of visiting this fascinating country that was once under the rule of a Communist dictatorship for decades. Albanian cuisine is a demonstrative of the food of Eastern Europe. It shared physiognomies with other Balkan cuisines and Turkish culture due to the geographical factors, such as climatic conditions.
Albanian cooking traditions are diverse. Prepare to eat until your heart’s content, because Albanian food is tasty, fresh and filling! It’s characterized by the various empires and ethnic groups that have passed through here. As a result, it’s a mixture of Italian, Greek, and Turkish, and cuisine.
Top 5 foods to try in Albania
Tavë Kosi -arguably the national dish of Albania, it consists of baked lamb, rice, and yoghurt sauce. Another variant of this dish involves boiling an animal head (usually pig, cow, or sheep) until the meat tenderizes and comes off. It’s then made into a stew with onion, garlic, and other spices.
Kofte – The Albanian version of former Yugoslavia’s famous ćevapčići and Romanian mititei, Kofte is the perfect side dish to a glass of cold Albanian beer on a summer day. Kofte is often served with Albanian salad or Tirokafteri which is a Greek origin dish. Kofte itself is an oblong piece of grilled minced meat, usually a mix of pork and beef, with spices like black pepper and cumin added to the meat, for a mildly spicy taste.
Moussaka – This classic dish is enjoyed in many variations throughout the Balkan region. The Albanian version involves potatoes, eggs and minced pork meat and is a known favourite of Albanian men, among whom it is a popular joke that they cannot marry a woman who is unable to cook the perfect moussaka. While the Greek variety of musaka may be based on eggplant, the Albanian dish relies strictly on potatoes to layer the meat. The whole thing is traditionally covered with thick Albanian yoghurt on top.
Tarator – In the summer, many Albanians opt for a soup called Tarator. This refreshing dish is made with vinegar, cucumber, garlic, walnut, fennel, and spices. It’s a great relief from the Albanian summer heat and is great for digestion.
Albanian stews – During winter, Albanians prefer to opt for a heart stew instead. The country had plenty of stews to choose from. Our personal favorite is sataras, which is a lighter stew made with tomatoes, onions, and paprika. For the standard meat and onions stew there is the classic dish Chumlek. The vegetarian version of this, with potatoes, is called Guvech.
Alcohol in Albania
Although Albania has a large Muslim population, alcohol is still very popular here. As a result, like many Balkan countries, Albania is home to a variety of different alcoholic drinks with many of them dating back hundreds of years. The following are our top three favorite alcoholic drinks to try when in Albania:
Raki – Of course, the most iconic drink of Albania is the classic and lethal tipple of Raki. It’s a fruit brandy made out of various types of fermented fruit. In Albanian, the most popular variety is grape raki, though plum, apple, apricot, peach, and cherry. In other Balkan countries the drink is called Rakia, whereas in Albania it’s simply Raki.
Wine – Wine has been made and drank in Albania since ancient times thousands of years ago. Grape growing flourishes in practically every corner of the country. However, Albanian wine is largely undiscovered by the world, which is a shame as it’s very good! To visit Albania and not try the wine would be a mistake, trust us, it’s excellent!
Beer – the classic beverage is a popular one in Albania and the country makes a few great brands of their own such as Tirana, a blonde beer with a sweet taste, Stela and the best of all, Korça, produced in the city with the same name. These beers can be easily found everywhere across the country as well as imported beers.
Top 3 non-alcoholic drinks in Albania
Coffee – No list of Albanian food and drinks would be complete without the staple drink of Albanian day-to-day life: coffee! The classic starter drink of the day is very important for Albanians and for their lifestyle. It’s in bars, instead of offices, where lots of deals are closed. Coffee can also be drunk at homes. There it is served as Turkish coffee. While in bars the Italian express is the most frequent. It is consumed all day long.
Dhallë – This is a traditional yogurt drink similar to the Turkish Kefir and is great for digestion. It can be also considered like salty, liquid yogurt. It’s mainly consumed cold during the summer alongside a hearty Albanian meal.
Bozë – A drink that features heavily all over the Balkans, but the Albanian version slightly differs from the Boze in Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia etc. This drink has four ingredients, corn and wheat flour, sugar and water. It’s often drunk at breakfast or alongside meals on the go as an aid to digestion.