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Romanian Christmas Food You Need to Try This Year

I’ve always been fascinated by Christmas foods from around the world, and one country that stood out to me is neighbouring Romania. Romanian Christmas food is all about gathering the whole family around a table laden with goodies.

Romanian dishes for the holiday season are homemade and traditional, usually passed down from generation to generation. Some options include pork, caltaboși, sarmale, cozonac and other classic Romanian foods.

Let’s explore the essence of the most beloved festive meals and find out what makes them so memorable.

The Traditional Romanian Christmas Foods

Wherever you are for Christmas, don’t hesitate to try some of these traditional recipes.

Sarmale are a staple in Romanian cuisine and naturally a must-have for the Christmas season. These delicious cabbage rolls are made by stuffing cabbage leaves with a mixture of ground meat, rice, onions, and spices.

Romanian cabbage rolls are traditionally cooked with smoked bacon or other meat. They’re simmered in a tomato sauce until soft and juicy.

Of course, cabbage rolls are served with sour cream and a side of mamaliga. It’s a delicious taste of Romanian tradition.

Cozonac is a festive treat that is often enjoyed during the Easter and Christmas seasons in Romania. This sweet bread is similar to a brioche, filled with walnuts, poppy seeds, raisins or even Turkish delight.

Cozonac is typically braided or twisted into a loaf before baking, creating swirls of delicious filling throughout the bread.

My introduction to cozonac was through a recipe I bumped into online. During the holiday season, I decided to try it on a whim and quickly learned that making cozonac is no easy feat. But the smell of the fresh dough baking in the oven and the taste of a warm slice with a cup of coffee made all the effort worth it.

Other popular Romanian sweets for Christmas include salata de fructe, a fruit salad with fresh fruit and whipped cream, and cornulete, a crescent-shaped biscuit with jam or nuts.

Romanian salata de boeuf | Girl Meets Food
Salată de Boeuf
Check out this recipe

I can’t imagine Christmas without what Romanians call salată de boeuf (beef salad). This traditional dish is a festive favorite, made with boiled vegetables (potatoes, carrots, peas), pickles, hard-boiled eggs and meat (usually chicken or beef) mixed with mayonnaise.

In Ukraine, we call this salad Olivye—it’s a staple at New Year’s celebrations. I make it with chicken, ham or hot dogs, but in Romania, salată de boeuf typically features beef.


Bundt shaped piftie, Romanian meat jelly,  | Girl Meets Food

Unless you’re a vegetarian, pork is an essential part of Christmas culinary traditions. Similar to how it’s done in my country, Romanians traditionally procure pork to prepare a variety of traditional foods like roast, sausages, or even offal specialties.

Piftie de porc, or pork jelly, is a popular Romanian delicacy served on festivals and special occasions. Boiling pig trotters, ears, and tails transforms the collagen in the bones and skin into gelatin, providing a jelly-like texture when cooled.

After straining, you put the liquid into a mold and add meat and veggies. Shredded meat, carrots and boiled eggs are the most common ingredients.

Cold piftie is garnished with fresh herbs or pickled vegetables. It’s usually served with bread and strong Romanian alcoholic drinks like palinca or tuica.


Toba, Romanian offal sausage | Girl Meets Food

Tobă is a unique Christmas Romanian dish. It’s a sausage made from pork offal like liver, heart, and lungs, then spiced and cooked in a stomach casing.

Tobă is a prized meal in Romanian culture even though it might not appeal to everyone. The texture is soft and creamy, with a rich flavor that pairs well with pickles and mustard.


Caltabos, Romanian sausages, serves on a platter | Girl Meets Food

Caltabos is a traditional sausage with pork meat, liver, garlic, and spices. Some recipes incorporate rice or bread crumbs to improve sausage texture.

The mixture is stuffed into natural casings and roasted or boiled until done. Caltabos can be sliced and eaten alone or as a filler for sandwiches, appetizers, or main dishes.

Many online recipes can help you make caltabos to experience Romanian Christmas food at home. I can’t wait to try it when the festive season rolls around.

Pickled vegetables

Muraturi, Romanian pickled vegetables, in jars | Girl Meets Food

Pickled vegetables are a popular appetizer or side dish for the Romanian Christmas table. They’re called murături in Romanian.

You can make pickles from many locally grown vegetables, including cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, green tomatoes, and cauliflower. I can eat pickles with almost anything I serve for Christmas because they add a tangy and crunchy element to any dish.

Romanian Christmas food often features heavy meats, and pickles make the perfect accompaniment.

Would you like to rejig your holiday feast this year? Consider adding more Eastern European dishes to the table. Here are more ideas: try some Ukrainian lean recipes for Christmas and have festive Slovak cookies for dessert!