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Traditional Romanian Food: 15 Most Popular Recipes

I got introduced to traditional Romanian food through a friend I met online. Alina’s tales of bustling family dinners won my heart and soon enough I was following her grandmother’s scrumptious sarmale recipe in my kitchen.

Traditional Romanian Food featured image | Girl Meets Food

Although it’s a secret recipe I can’t share, I can promise these Romanian dishes are just as worth your time.

From the hearty mămăligă to the delicate cozonac, each taste transports you to Romania’s landscapes, painted monasteries and mysterious castles.

So let’s dig in and enjoy!

15 Traditional Romanian Food Recipes

Explore this selection of recipes: appetizers, side dishes, mains, soups, desserts and more!

🥙Romanian Appetizers and Side Dishes

Plate of noodle latkes | Girl Meets Food
Noodle Latkes (Romanian Chanukah Tradition)
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The joyful atmosphere of Chanukah ingrained into traditional Romanian food makes these noodle latkes a delicious twist on classic potato latkes.

Fine noodles, egg, raisins and a pinch of spice are fried to golden perfection in this unique recipe.

Enjoy the nostalgic taste of these hot and crispy latkes for a snack or dessert. I think you’ll enjoy other classic Romanian snacks as well!

Romanian Mămăligă (Golden Cornmeal Porridge)
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Mămăligă is Romania’s soulful staple, full of history and flavor. Romanians love this golden cornmeal porridge as a simple side dish or main course.

Mămăligă is made with just three ingredients: coarse cornmeal, salt and water. Its subtle sweetness and comforting taste belie its humble look.

To make it even better, sprinkle some telemea, a feta-like white cheese, on top.

This Romanian dish is very similar to Italian polenta, almost that you won’t find much difference.

Romanian salata de boeuf | Girl Meets Food
Romanian Salata de Boeuf (Beef Salad)
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Diced cooked potatoes and carrots, pickles, peas, olives, and meat are tossed in creamy mayonnaise in this salad.

Although it’s called a beef salad, the meat used in salata de boeuf can vary. It can be made with chicken, ham, and of course beef.

You can serve this salad as a sneak peek into traditional Romanian food—a perfect appetizer or light main meal.

Fasole batuta in a bowl | Girl Meets Food
Fasole Batuta (Romanian White Bean Dip)
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Fasole batuta, a creamy white bean dip from Romania, is a delicious find you can’t walk past. This healthy dip is made from delicate white beans, aromatic garlic, onions and paprika.

This classic dip is versatile enough to serve as a zesty appetizer with crusty bread or crackers or a healthy spread for sandwiches and wraps.

Rye crispbreads are my go-to snack food, and I love eating this dip with them. 

🥘Romanian Main Dishes

A bowl of Romanian cabbage rolls (Sarmale) on a table | Girl Meets Food
Sarmale (Romanian Cabbage Rolls)
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Sarmale is the epitome of Romanian traditional food. Sour cabbage leaves are filled with a delicious blend of ground pork, rice, onions, and aromatic herbs like thyme.

Sarmale is a national dish distinguished by its superb taste and generations-old ritual of preparation. These cabbage rolls are cooked in a tomato-based broth until they are soft and delicious.

Sarmale is best served hot with sour cream, the perfect accompaniment just like with Ukrainian holubtsi, which you can find among Ukrainian food traditions.

Alina loved my holubtsi recipe as much as I loved sarmale so it’s a draw 1-1. Not that it’s a competition or anything 😀

Romanian stuffed peppers served with sour cream | Girl Meets Food
Romanian Stuffed Peppers
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Romanian stuffed peppers merge fresh bell peppers with minced meat, rice, and aromatic spices.

Each pepper is hollowed out and filled with the mixture to be then cooked in a delicious tomato stock.

This version of the recipe uses minced pork and veal but you can find other ideas, even vegetarian ones.

🍲Romanian Soups and Stews

Romanian meatball soup | Girl Meets Food
Ciorba De Perisoare (Romanian Meatball Soup)
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Ciorba de perisoare is a hearty Romanian sour soup with soft meatballs cooked from ground pork or beef, egg and spiced stewed in a tangy broth with carrots, celery, bell peppers and tomatoes.

If you like meatball soups, this recipe should make it to your meal plan. I added it to mine and discovered a new favorite.

Serve it with some greens, sour cream and chilies, and you’ll have a light and healthy lunch or dinner.

Romanian fish soup | Girl Meets Food
Romanian Fish Soup
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Romanian Fish Soup, or ciorba de peste, simmers soft chunks of fresh fish like mackerel, trout, zander and pike in a fragrant broth of vegetables, herbs, and spices.

The superb flavor of this soup is complemented by white vinegar, which adds delightful acidity, sour cream and herbs.

I also enjoyed Romanian tripe soup (ciorba de burta) based on tripe, veggies and eggs.

Varza calita, a Romanian sour cabbage stew | Girl Meets Food
Varza Calita (Traditional Sour Cabbage Stew)
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Varza calita, a Romanian sour cabbage stew, is a comforting recipe that has delicate cabbage cooked in a rich broth.

Sour cabbage gives varza calita its acidic, powerful flavor. It’s the best option for this stew, though I tried using sweet cabbage like the recipe’s author mentioned and it also worked.

Romanian lamb stew | Girl Meets Food
Tocanita de Miel (Romanian Lamb Stew)
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Tocanita de miel, a delicious lamb stew, represents Romanian cuisine’s grace. This rich recipe has soft lamb chunks cooked in a broth flavored with vegetables, wine and spices.

This luxurious stew can be served with fluffy bread, mamaliga or mashed potatoes for a truly satisfying traditional dish.

Tochitura, a Romanian pork stew | Girl Meets Food
Tochitura (Romanian Pork Stew)
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Soft pork chunks are cooked in wine and spices and slowly simmered in a thick broth with bay leaves, paprika, dried thyme and tomato paste.

Serving this stew with polenta, burduf cheese or telemea, and a fried egg shows how traditional Romanian food elevates humble ingredients.

🍰Romanian Desserts

Romanian Diplomat Cake (Charlotte Torte)
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The Romanian Diplomat cake, also known as Charlotte torte, is a sumptuous dessert with a light base and creamy filling.

You’ll enjoy ladyfinger biscuits piled with whipped cream, homemade custard and canned or fresh fruit.

The addition of the whipped cream and fruits on top makes it so stunning!

You can check out other mouthwatering Romanian cakes I discovered to get more into Romanian gastronomy. They’re irresistible!

Papanasi (Romanian Cheese Doughnuts)
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Papanasi are another reason why traditional Romanian food has my full attention. If you are like me, and doughnuts rank high on your list of favorite sweets, prepare to like this recipe a lot.

Papanasi are a lovely type of doughnut consisting of dry ricotta cheese or cottage cheese, flour and eggs. They’re flavored with some sugar, vanilla and citrus zest.

One of the things that sets Papanasi apart from other desserts is the surprise that is waiting for you inside—soft and light despite the crispy outside.

Sliced cozonac on a cutting board | Girl Meets Food
Cozonac (Romanian Sweet Bread)
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In Romania, cozonac—sweet bread with a festive flavor—is a cherished treat. With its wealth of spices, chocolate, and walnuts, this loaf is a holiday staple—warm and fragrant.

A beautiful chocolate or nut whirl is achieved by delicately rolling or braiding the dough.

Cozonac is really one of those traditional recipes you use as a roadmap to the local holiday scene.

Sliced Romanian biscuit on a grey plate | Girl Meets Food
Salam de Biscuiti (Biscuit Salami)
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Romanian salm de biscuiti makes me feel childhood nostalgia because it’s something my mother used to make for special occasions, and still makes now.

While her recipe wasn’t entirely Romanian, I can’t help but associate it with this traditional dessert.

This no-bake dessert is made with crushed biscuits, cocoa powder, sugar, butter, rum essence, and sometimes nuts or dried fruits. The mixture is then shaped into a log and rolled in coconut flakes to resemble a salami.

If I were you, I’d probably enjoy all these dishes and desserts paired with a traditional Romanian beverage to experience the cuisine to the fullest.

Of course, Romanian cuisine has more beautiful desserts to offer, so don’t miss out on trying them all when you get the chance.

Have fun exploring traditional Romanian foods and share your favorite dishes in the comments!

Romanian salata de boeuf | Girl Meets Food

Traditional Romanian Food: 15 Most Popular Recipes

From sarmale to mămăligă, explore must-try traditional Romanian food in this collection of the best classic recipes.


Romanian Appetizers and Side Dishes

  • Noodle Latkes (Romanian Chanukah Tradition)
  • Romanian Mămăligă (Golden Cornmeal Porridge)
  • Romanian Salata de Boeuf (Beef Salad)
  • Fasole Batuta (Romanian White Bean Dip)

Romanian Main Dishes

  • Sarmale (Romanian Cabbage Rolls)
  • Romanian Stuffed Peppers

Romanian Soups and Stews

  • Ciorba De Perisoare (Romanian Meatball Soup)
  • Romanian Fish Soup
  • Varza Calita (Traditional Sour Cabbage Stew)
  • Tocanita de Miel (Romanian Lamb Stew)
  • Tochitura (Romanian Pork Stew)

Romanian Desserts

  • Romanian Diplomat Cake (Charlotte Torte)
  • Papanasi (Romanian Cheese Doughnuts)
  • Cozonac (Romanian Sweet Bread)
  • Salam de Biscuiti (Biscuit Salami)
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