Traditional Albanian Food: The Best Albanian Cuisine

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Post author Vedran

Written by our local expert Vedran

Vedran is a total food lover from Croatia. He creates recipes from his kitchen in Zagreb using fresh produce from his garden.

Wondering what to eat in Albania? In this post, we’ll show you the best Albanian food, from hearty Albanian appetizers to Albanian desserts.

Albania Travel Blog_Things to do in Albania_Best Traditional Cuisine and Drink To Try in Albania

If you’re planning a trip to Albania, arguably one of the most “unknown” countries in Southern Europe, you might want to know what to eat in Albania.

This country is packed with incredible cities, like its bustling capital, Tirana or Saranda on the sun-soaked Albanian Riviera. There are also more than a dozen national parks in Albania, gorgeous places to retreat into nature.

Located on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas coasts, both sub-seas of the much larger Mediterranean Sea, Albanian cooking is representative of the widely revered Mediterranean cuisine. This particular cooking style has been recognized as the healthiest diet in the world for years.

What Is Albanian Food?

Albanian Riviera Guide - Gjipe beach

Albanian cuisine is primarily based on healthy ingredients such as vegetables, fruit, fish, and seafood, like the renowned Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is the most popular—and by far the oldest, dating from Roman times—cooking fat used in traditional Albanian dishes.

Herbs are also widely used, adding distinct and delicious flavor to food in Albania. Garlic is a staple, as are onions, which may be the most popular ingredient in the entire country.

Albanian cuisine has its fair share of vegetarian dishes. Meats like beef, lamb, pork, and poultry are common ingredients in meals, too. They are, however, not necessarily a part of all traditional Albanian food recipes.

Albanian Foods History

Balkan Flags_Albania 2

Historically, the openness of the Albanian culture has always resulted in the combination of gastronomy and hospitality. Being welcoming and friendly is a fundamental aspect of Albanian society, whether it’s to friends or strangers.

It has been this case for centuries, shown in “besa,” the typical medieval code of honor in Albania. This ancient behavioral code dictates that people should always look after guests as well as they can. Sharing food is, of course, an integral—if not the best—part of that.

Some Albanian ingredients go back thousands of years. Olive oil, as mentioned earlier, dates from Roman times and is still as popular as it ever was. Much of the present-day Albanian food culture is younger, though.

Modern dishes have roots in the Ottoman Empire, and Turkish influences are pretty noticeable. Other modern-day culinary influences include Italian and Greek.

Regional Differences In Albanian Dishes

THINGS TO DO IN TIRANA - Skanderberg statue in the center, Tirana, Albania

In culinary terms, Albania has three distinct regions: north, central, and south.

Northern Albanian Food

In northern Albania, you’ll find traditional Albanian food to have its origins both in the mountains and on the coast, as well as in rural areas. This results in varied cuisine, with many different fruits and (root) vegetables.

The main staples include potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, beans, garlic, and nuts. The most popular ingredient, however, is corn (maize). It is ground down and used to bake typical Albanian bread and various sweet and salty treats.

Meat and vegetable casseroles are popular in this region. On the other hand, in places like Shkoder, you’ll see that fish and seafood are featured heavily on restaurant menus.

Distinctive features of northern Albanian cuisine: ground corn, root vegetables, nuts, and meat

Central Albanian Food

If you’re wondering what to eat in Albania’s central region, you’ll probably be delighted by its immense variety. Like the north, this region encompasses everything from mountains to farmlands and the coast. These fertile lands, which include the area around Tirana, can grow pretty much everything.

Culinary specialties in central Albania range from hearty meat dishes to plenty of different fish and all kinds of desserts. Poultry is a much-used ingredient in central Albanian dishes, including chicken, duck, and turkey.

Distinctive features of central Albanian cuisine: poultry, fish and seafood, and desserts

Southern Albanian Food

Many of Albania’s cattle and stock farms are in the south. As a result, dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, milk, and butter are popular ingredients. Additionally, the warmer climate in southern Albania allows for the growth of various citrus fruits and olives. Albanian meat grown locally is, unsurprisingly, very popular here.

On the other hand, you’ll find a plethora of fish and seafood dishes on the Albanian Riviera.

Distinctive features of southern Albanian cuisine: cheese and other dairy products, citrus fruits, olive oil, and fish and seafood

Traditional Foods Of Albania

“So what do Albanians eat specifically?” you might wonder. Below, we’ve listed a bunch of the best Albanian food. Split up into categories like appetizers, vegetarian, meat, and desserts, you’ll quickly find the best Albanian dishes for you to try during your visit.

Albanian Appetizers & Albanian Snacks


Albanian Food - Tarator
Photo Credit

Both a dip and a cold soup, tarator is among the most well-known and popular Albanian food specialties. It’s also known as tzatziki in Greece and is a typical dish across Southeastern Europe and the Middle East.

Because it’s a cold dish, it’s most often eaten in summer. Essentially, it’s nothing more than strained yogurt mixed with cucumber, salt, olive oil, garlic, and herbs like parsley, dill, and/or mint.


One of Albania’s most popular cheese types, kaçkavall is a typical Albanian cheese often served as a side dish or snack. Many an Albanian restaurant will serve this cheese, either fried or raw, as an appetizer before your main course, often free of charge. Pick the fried option if you can—it’s incredible!

Albanian-Style Meze

You’ll see Albanian-style meze on offer at parties and in the best restaurants in Tirana and other towns. This is nothing else than a selection of typical Albanian appetizers, which can include everything from hard-boiled eggs, cured meats, and cheeses to pickled vegetables and cooked vegetable salads.

Dolma Japrak

How To Make Japrak Recipe In English

Another popular snack or appetizer in Mediterranean and Albanian cuisine, dolma japrak, is a dish consisting of stuffed vine leaves.

The leaves are stuffed with onions, rice, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, herbs and seasonings, and sometimes meat, then rolled up to make a fun dipping snack.


Regarded as the one traditional dish from Gjirokaster, qifqi is challenging to find anywhere else, even in Albania. In that sense, it is one of the most authentic and typical Albanian dishes imaginable.

As a UNESCO World Heritage-listed town, Gjirokaster is visit-worthy as it is, but the presence of this delicious savory finger food makes it even more attractive. Qifqi are small balls made with boiled rice, eggs, herbs, salt and pepper, and occasionally cheese.

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Albanian Meat & Fish Dishes

Speca Te Mbushur Me Oriz 

Kosovo Food_stuffed peppers

Green bell peppers stuffed with rice are a very popular traditional dish, especially in the countryside. Often lamb or tomatoes are mixed in with the rice, and adding a spicy kick with chili peppers or black pepper is ubiquitous in Albania.

These stuffed peppers are served hot with feta and Greek yogurt on the side.

Tavë Kosi

If any dish can be considered the Albanian national dish, it has to be tavë kosi. Originally from the town of Elbasan, this is one of the most beloved dishes in Albania. From tiny eateries in rural Albania to the best places to eat in Tirana, this dish is the epitome of Albanian cooking.

Don’t leave Albania without trying this Albanian classic! It is a quiche-like dish prepared in a low, round clay pan. It gets a fluffy top and a soft and creamy interior when baked in the oven. Ingredients include eggs, rice, lamb, and yogurt.


These cabbage rolls filled with meat and rice are featured all over the Balkans, but each country has a different way of preparing them.

You can find this dish in the northern region of Albania, and it is prepared simply, with cabbage, rice, and shredded meat either boiled or made into a stew.


Similar to the Middle Eastern kofta, qoftë are grilled, baked, or fried meatballs made with minced meat—beef, chicken, lamb, and/or pork. Other ingredients may include herbs, spices, and vegetables.

Qoftë is a traditional Albanian food but is also found all across Southeastern Europe and the Middle East, as far as India. You can eat it as a snack, with a salad, dipped in yogurt, with bread, or as a side during dinner. Meat lovers must give these Albanian meatballs a try when exploring Albania.


CEVAPi - Serbian Food from Serbia

Also known as cevapcici or cevapi in nearby countries like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia, qebapa is a dish of skinless sausages made by grilling minced meat.

This is a typical Balkan dish, often served in pieces of 5 to 10 per plate and with sour cream, onions, and cheese. Sometimes, it comes as stuffing in a flatbread for an easy on-the-go snack.

Tave Mishi

This is the perfect option when you can’t decide what meat to try! Tave Mishi is a mixed meat platter loaded with all kinds of juicy, grilled meats with a splash of lemon juice.

Grilled Fish

Food in Slavonia_Fried Fish

Although many Albania tourist attractions lie inland, in Tirana and the mountains, a visit to the Albanian Adriatic and Ionian coasts is essential to fully understand what this country is about. After all, Albania has a relatively long coast lined with beaches, coves, and cliffs. Additionally, there are also a few fantastic rivers and lakes, most notably Lake Skadar.

You’ll find some of the best places in Albania to eat and drink in cities located near water, such as Saranda and Shkoder. While you’ll find fish prepared in many different ways, grilled fish is the most popular. Albania’s common fish and seafood dishes include trout, carp, eel, sea bass, prawn, octopus, and calamari. All this, of course, results in an abundance of fish and seafood in Albania.

Gjel Deti Me Përshesh

This baked turkey with bread mash is often prepared for Christmas and New Year, especially in the central region of Albania.

The turkey and përshesh (cornbread crumbled into turkey cooking juices combined with meat, liver, onion/leek, and herbs) are cooked separately, then served together with melted butter drizzled over everything.

Vegetarian Albania Dishes


A super-popular Albanian national food, fërgese is made with skinned tomatoes, cottage and feta cheeses, onions, and bell peppers. After receiving a generous seasoning with lots of spices, this one-pan dish is put in the oven and baked until it’s thick.

This mouthwatering dish is also known as fërgese tiranë, a portion of typical slow food in Tirana. You can eat this typical Tirana food on its own or with bread.

Speca Te Mbushur Me Salce Kosi

In markets, countryside restaurants, and grill houses, you will find this popular side dish – pickled green peppers stuffed with cream cheese. It’s a unique combination of flavors that pairs well with heavy foods like potatoes, rice, and meat.

Patëllxhan Të Mbushur

If you visit Albania from May to early Autumn, you will find these stuffed eggplants on offer. Eggplants are in season during this time of year, so many restaurants will have them on the menu.

For these stuffed eggplants, the vegetables are filled with a mixture of fried onions, tomatoes, peppers, meat (if you want it), and spices, then baked in the oven. They are genuinely filling and delicious!

Jani Me Fasule

Food In Bulgaria - Bulgarian Bean Soup - Bob Chorba

This white bean soup is a top-rated dish in Albania and is perfect when you want to avoid meat. 

The hearty soup is prepared with tomato sauce, onions, and white beans. Commonly, you will find it served with pickled vegetables or Greek yogurt, along with a healthy portion of crusty bread.


Another typical Albanian food that doesn’t call for meat is pispili. Found in all three culinary regions in Albania in different varieties, this makes for a beautiful, light, and healthy dinner option. The dish is made with cornbread and green leafy vegetables, typically spinach, leek, or even nettles. Some people like to add mint as well for some extra flavor.

Making a list of what to eat in Albania? This dish definitely belongs on it! You’ll find many varieties throughout the country, from pispili with a cornbread bottom topped with vegetables to a baked mixture of the two topped with cheese.

Perime Në Zgarë

Grilling things is a massive part of Albanian food culture. As popular as grilled meat and fish may be across the country, grilled vegetables are. And no vegetable escapes the grill in Albania!

From zucchini and eggplants to onions, tomatoes, and peppers, perime në zgarë is a fantastic option for vegetarians and vegans eating in Albania. Even most grill houses, which are meat-focused, will offer grilled vegetables on their menu.

Traditional Albanian Pies

Byrek Or Pite

Macedonian traditional food in Macedonia_Burek

Depending on where you are in the country, this famous Albanian food is known as either byrek or pite. This is a triangular-shaped type of pie with a thin and flaky crust filled with a bunch of hearty ingredients. Fillings may vary but generally consist of cheese, onions, spinach, cabbage, tomato, and sometimes ground meat. You can eat this hot or cold as a snack, an appetizer, lunch or dinner, and even breakfast.


An empty layered pie—pretty much byrek or pite without any fillings—covered with garlic and yogurt before being warmed up, bakllasarëm is what to eat in Albanian and Kosovo for lunch if you’re looking for authentic Albanian cuisine.


Albanian Food - Fila
Photo Credit

In terms of traditional Albanian food, it doesn’t get more authentic than flia. A typical dish eaten at celebrations like birthdays and weddings, this is a sizeable multi-layered pancake made with butter, flour, water, salt, yogurt, and olive oil. Flia is such a unique dish due to how it’s prepared. The crepe-like layers are baked in a large metal pan called a “sac” before being served with sour cream, honey, jam, and cheese.

Popular Albanian Desserts

Do you have a sweet tooth? Then these Albanian desserts are for you:



Fried dough balls are a quick and easy snack you can find at many food stands throughout Albania. The dough is heavier in consistency than a doughnut, but you will find it has the same crispy outside and soft inside.

The fried dough can be topped with chocolate or strawberry jam for a sweet treat, and if you decide you want something savory, try shredded Kackavall cheese, ketchup, or Greek yogurt & garlic.


As far as Albanian desserts go, kabuni is among the most popular. This sweet dish consists of butter-fried rice, raisins, salt, and mutton broth. It’s topped with sugar, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Once finished, it’s a delicious kind of rice pudding.


Albanian Food - Baklava

If you have a sweet tooth and are wondering what to eat in Albania, this is a dessert you cannot go wrong with. This is a popular dish throughout the Balkans, Turkey, the Caucasus, and the Levant. It’s a typical Albanian Christmas food.

Made with layers of phyllo dough that are separated from one another with butter, filled with chopped nuts like hazelnuts, pistachios, and walnuts, and held together by honey or syrup, this is always a crowd-pleaser.


This dessert porridge of grains, fruit, and nuts is a healthy choice when you have a sweet craving. The sweet porridge has a gelatin consistency and is traditionally served during the first month of the Islamic calendar. Still, not to worry; you can find it in many pastry shops all year round.


Albanian Food - Ballokume
Photo Credit

A typical Albanian cookie, ballokume has its origins in the town of Elbasan, just like tavë kosi above. It’s made with eggs, cornflour, butter, and sugar.


Albanian Food - Trilece - Balkan Dessert

An Albanian version of the popular Spanish tres leches sponge cake dessert, traditional trileçe is literally made with three different types of milk—cow, goat, and water buffalo milk. Nowadays, a mixture of cow’s milk and cream is more common, though.

Popular Drinks In Albania


A popular and healthy summer beverage, dhallë is a mixture of spices, yogurt, and water or milk. It’s super refreshing and pairs exceptionally well with spicy Albanian food.



Many consider Albania’s national beverage; raki is the country’s most popular hard liquor. You’ll find a wide range of different kinds of raki throughout the country. The most common types are grape, plum, white oregano, and blackberry raki.

Sometimes, it’s also served heated, with spices, or sweetened with sugar or honey.


Blond Woman Drinking Red Wine In Restaurant

Although Albania is not the world’s most renowned wine-making country, wine is a super-popular drink. And it has been for many thousands of years, the origins of wine-making traceable back to 4,000 B.C.

You’ll find wineries on slopes all over the country, often making for fun day trips from places like Tirana, Saranda, or Durres.


What Albanian food is popular?

Popular Albanian foods include Byrek (savory pastry), Tavë Kosi (baked lamb with yogurt), and Fërgesë (pepper and cottage cheese dish).

What is traditional Albanian food like?

Traditional Albanian food is characterized by the use of fresh ingredients, Mediterranean influences, and a variety of meat and dairy-based dishes.

What traditional foods in Albania are good for kids?

For kids, Albanian dishes like Byrek (with cheese or spinach filling) and Kërpudha të Mbushura (stuffed mushrooms) are popular and child-friendly.

Are there traditional foods of Albania that are gluten-free?

Yes, some traditional Albanian dishes like Tavë Kosi (baked lamb with yogurt) and Fërgesë (pepper and cottage cheese dish) can be made gluten-free.

Which Albanian dishes have fish?

Seafood is a common ingredient in Albanian coastal cuisine. Dishes like Grilled Fish (peshk i pjekur) and Fish Stew (peshk me salcë) are popular.

Are Albanian foods spicy?

No, Albanian cuisine is generally not known for its spiciness. It relies more on natural flavors and seasoning.

Does Albanian cuisine have anything unique about it?

Albanian cuisine features a blend of Mediterranean and Balkan influences, creating a unique culinary experience with a wide variety of flavors.

Which Albanian dish can’t I skip trying?

Tavë Kosi, a delicious baked lamb and yogurt dish, is a must-try when experiencing Albanian cuisine.

Which food in Albania is the most famous?

Byrek, a traditional savory pastry filled with cheese, spinach, or meat, is one of the most famous foods in Albania.

What are Albanian snacks?

Albanian snacks include Kërpudha të Mbushura (stuffed mushrooms) and Qofte (meatballs).

Popular Albanian foods for vegetarians?

Vegetarians can enjoy dishes like Byrek with cheese or spinach filling, Fërgesë (pepper and cottage cheese dish), and Tavë Kosi (baked lamb with yogurt).

What to eat in Albania on the coast?

On the coast, you can enjoy fresh seafood dishes like Grilled Fish, Fish Stew, and Shrimp Saganaki.

What is the Albanian national dish?

Tavë Kosi, a delicious baked lamb and yogurt dish, is often considered the national dish of Albania.

Where can I find the national dish of Albania?

You can find Tavë Kosi in traditional Albanian restaurants and eateries throughout the country.

Do traditional Albanian foods have options for vegetarians?

Yes, traditional Albanian cuisine offers various vegetarian options, including dishes with cheese, vegetables, and dairy products.

So, now that you know all about the yummiest traditional foods in Albania – what will you eat first?

Comments (4)

  1. I loved every thing you have wrote ,is such a great work you have put together . I just want to thank you !
    Ina from Albania

  2. I am so glad I came across your blog. Me and my friend Maddie will be visiting Albania in June, from Seattle WA. Une mezi pres qe Maddie te shikoje dhe shijoje Shqiperine. Perfect description and details, even for us Albanians. I have shared this with all my friends. Thank you so much! Keep up the great work.

  3. “Join us at Lakror’Ane, your passport to authentic Albanian cuisine! Step into a world of flavors where the star of our menu is the mouthwatering lakror, a traditional Albanian specialty. Savor the rich heritage of Albanian culinary traditions, served with a modern twist in a cozy and welcoming ambiance. Whether you’re a seasoned fan of Albanian food or new to this culinary journey, our chef’s expertise will transport your taste buds to the heart of Albania. Come and experience the warmth of Albanian hospitality at Lakror’Ane – where every bite is a taste of tradition. We can’t wait to serve you!” Follow as at @Lakroane1

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