Albanian Food

Albanian cuisine is celebrated for its delicious and hearty dishes, featuring an array of fresh produce and enticing spices. This article provides a ‘culinary essential’ — a concise overview of Albania’s most important and recognisable culinary offerings. We aim not to cover the topic exhaustively but to introduce you to what we consider the most distinctive and interesting aspects of Albanian cuisine.


The most important dishes of Albanian cuisine

Let’s begin with what is most important for tourists: the main dishes. Albanian cuisine offers a fascinating and original blend of Balkan and Mediterranean influences. Here, you will discover dishes that are entirely unique, as well as those that, in identical or very similar versions, can also be savoured in other countries, particularly Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East.


Tave Kosi

… Known in Greece as Tave Elbasani. This traditional and popular dish originates from what is now Albania and is widely available in many local restaurants. It consists of lamb or mutton baked with yoghurt and eggs. Albanians typically serve it hot, accompanied by rice or potatoes.

To prepare Tave Kosi, start by cutting the lamb or mutton into small pieces. Brown these in a pan and cook thoroughly. Next, add spices and transfer the meat to a baking dish. Combine yoghurt and eggs with rice and pour this mixture over the meat. Bake until the meat is tender and the surface turns golden brown, much like a casserole. The yoghurt and egg mixture lends a uniquely creamy texture to the dish. For a creative twist, Albanians sometimes include additional ingredients such as onions, potatoes, or tomatoes, adding them to the dish before baking. In some variations, chicken is used as an alternative to lamb.



Fërgesë is a simple yet popular dish from central Albania, comprising peppers, tomatoes, onions, and cheese. It is enjoyed both hot and at room temperature and is commonly served with bread or other side dishes. In Albanian cuisine, fërgesë is typically treated as an appetiser or as a side to meat dishes.

To prepare fërgesë, begin by frying onions and peppers in olive oil until the onions are slightly caramelised and the peppers are soft. Next, add diced tomatoes to the pan and cook until the tomatoes soften and release their juices. Once the vegetables are cooked, mix them with grated cheese—typically a local variety called kashkaval—and bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly.


Qofte, traditional Albanian spiced meatballs, are typically made from minced beef or lamb combined with onions, garlic, and a blend of herbs and spices. These ingredients are usually formed into small patties and then either fried or baked. Qofte is commonly served with a variety of side dishes such as rice, salad, or bread. Notably, the similarity in name and preparation to ‘kofte’ or ‘köfte’ from the Middle East and Turkey is not a coincidence, reflecting shared culinary influences.



When discussing Albanian food, we must not overlook Byrek. Often considered a staple of Albanian street food, byrek can be enjoyed as a snack or a light meal. It is available in bakeries and restaurants across Albania.

Byrek is crafted from filo pastry, which is rolled into thin sheets. These sheets are then layered with various fillings, folded, and rolled into a spiral shape before being baked until crisp and golden. A traditional Albanian byrek is typically filled with cheese and spinach and is often served with yoghurt or salad. Other popular variations include fillings of meat and potatoes, which are usually offered as a main course. The “pastry” version, which is essentially a pastry stuffed with the same ingredients, is just as commonly found.


Albanian Deserts – Foundation of Albanian Cuisine

Albanian food makes no concessions, especially when it comes to desserts, which are unapologetically sweet. Much like their neighbours in Greece and Turkey, Albanians enjoy a variety of rich desserts.

The most popular among these is undoubtedly baklava. It is the same beloved sweet pastry found throughout the Balkans and the Middle East. Its primary ingredients are filo pastry, honey, and nuts, combined in various delicious ways.

Another cherished dessert is shendetlie, a traditional cake made from walnuts and honey soaked in sugar syrup. Although it may resemble a chocolate cake in appearance, it is much moister and considerably sweeter.

Lastly, flija is worth mentioning. This traditional Albanian dish consists of large, thin pancakes layered with cream and cheese. Typically served as a breakfast or brunch item, Flija is adored by Albanian culinary enthusiasts at any time of day.


Coffee is Albanian cuisine too

Albanian cuisine is synonymous with coffee, which is as central to its food culture as any other culinary element. When we imagine a Mediterranean coffee paradise, our thoughts often turn to Italy. Yet, Albania stands on par with its Adriatic neighbours in its coffee prowess. Here, the day doesn’t start with the sunrise but with the first cup of robustly roasted espresso.

Statistically speaking, up to 18% of all businesses in Albania are cafés and restaurants. There is one café for every 154 people, a testament to the country’s vibrant coffee culture. As you travel through Albania, you might stumble upon what seems like remote, deserted spots, only to find them centred around bustling cafés. These establishments, often nothing more than an old house, come alive each morning with the sound of conversation, predominantly fuelled by coffee.

What type of coffee do Albanians drink?

On average, an Albanian statistically consumes about 300-400 cups of coffee per year. This equates to roughly one cup per day. While this figure might appear moderate, it’s important to consider that children typically do not drink coffee. This means that per capita consumption among adults is likely much higher.

Coffee in Albania closely resembles the classic, heavily roasted Italian espresso. In the mountainous northern regions, it is usually roasted even more strongly than what is typically found in classic Mediterranean cafés.

Besides traditional espresso, Albanians also enjoy Balkan-style coffee. This is simply classic coffee prepared in the Turkish manner, brewed in a pot, and known by various local names throughout the Balkans. For instance, it’s called Bosan coffee in Bosnia, kafa in Serbian in Serbia, and simply coffee in Croatian in Croatia.

We hope this has inspired you to explore the delights of Albanian cuisine! If you’re planning a visit to the region, make sure to download our guide to Albania, complete with an audio guide to Butrint.

And here is what the official Albania website has to say about Albanian cuisine.

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