Food in Albania

  • 2019

Albanian cuisine is excellent, with both Ottoman and Italian influences evident. There are many good restaurants throughout the country, although obviously in smaller towns the choice is more limited than in the cities. Vegetarians will find themselves eating a lot of salad; luckily for them, Albanian tomatoes and cucumber are delicious.

Albanian vineyards produce high-quality wine, some from indigenous grapes such as Kallmet (red) and Shesh (red and white). Grapes are also used to make raki, a clear spirit which is the country's national drink.

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Regional specialities:

Mediterranean fish such as sea-bream and sea-bass, as well as eels.
Koran (a species of trout unique to the Ohrid and Prespa lakes).
Traditional dishes often use vegetables and yoghurt or curd cheese to make the meat go further.
Paçë koke (sheep's head soup).
Kukurec (sheep's innards in a gut casing).

Dairy Products

Milk from goats and ewes is made into kos and many varieties of cheeses. Fluid fresh milk and butter are seldom used. Kos is used alone or eaten with other foods.

Fruits and Vegetables

Oranges, lemons, and figs are the main available fruits; some grapes and wild berries are made into fermented beverages. Mixed garden vegetables are used seasonally and as available. These include: cucumbers, onions, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, marrows, okra, squash (kungull), potatoes, and tomatoes. With the establishment of canneries, there has been a gradual increase in the consumption of canned fruits and vegetables in the Albanian food.

Meats and Alternates

The favored meats in the Balkan area (where meat is used) are lamb and mutton and sometimes chicken. Liver is considered a delicacy Albanian food. Meats are usually prepared in types of stews or as pilafs with rice, or skewered and roasted over open fires. There is also a variety of nuts grown locally: walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, and hazelnuts. These may be used as nibbles, crushed (sometimes with garlic), and as sauces over meats and/or vegetables.

Breads and Grains

The most successful crops of the Albanian farmer have for centuries been grains. Predominantly corn, but also wheat, rye, oats, and barley are harvested. These grains have been used to produce a variety of flours for breads that are consumed mainly in coastal areas and cities. But the main type of bread - indeed the main food - is a flat pancake-shaped corn bread broken into pieces and enjoyed with kos or cheese.

Sweets and Snacks

Albanians enjoy very sweet and rich desserts made with nuts and syrupy sauces. The combination of thin, crisp pastries (identical to the Greek phyllo) with nuts, sugar or honey, cinnamon, and cloves, and finished with a heavy syrup, or very sweet puddings, are as beloved by the Albanians as they are by the Turks and Greeks.

Seasonings

People who favor very sweet desserts will almost certainly also enjoy highly seasoned Albanian food, and the Albanians are no exception. Generous portions of garlic and onions, tart touches of lemon juice or lemon grating, and the more subtle enhancement of dill and parsley as well as cinnamon and cloves waft through Albanian food. The combination of crushed or chopped nuts with garlic and oil, to be served with greens or chicken, as well as the combination of nuts and raisins either for nibbling or as part of exotic sauces, are all typically Albanian food.