Balkan Baking: Must-Try Macedonian Food
If you’re like me, chances are when you started hearing the buzz about Macedonian cooking you raised an eyebrow (or two) and tried to dig through your world geography knowledge to figure out where Macedonia even is. Macedonia is a region that includes North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and Greece. The Balkan states have some fabulous recipes due to their soft climate and access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Skopje is the capital and largest city of North Macedonia. The country also boasts some beautiful views, especially in Ohrid. Think clear blue skies, crystal blue water, and rolling green hills. It’s pretty picturesque. Matching these beautiful views is some delicious cuisine! Now that we’ve had a crash course in where Macedonia is, it’s time to have a crash course in what Macedonian food is.
There is a lot of overlap between Mediterranean cuisine and Greek cuisine. Essentially there is a focus on fresh food paired with fresh grains and fresh meat. Below you will find some of my favorite recipes!
Balkan Baking: Must-Try Macedonian Food
Macedonian Recipe 01: Burek
First, we start with a traditional appetizer. This Macedonian recipe uses the flavors of spinach and feta together to create this delightful dish. The layers of phyllo dough create a crispy crust that sandwiches the filling perfectly. This recipe would be fabulous as an appetizer or main dish at any party.
Spinach and Feta Burek
- 10 sheets phyllo dough thawed
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- ½ c. skim milk
- 1 large egg +2 egg yolks, divided
- 2 Tbsp plain yogurt
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 20 oz. spinach washed and dried
- 1 medium onion peeled and chopped
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- 1 c. feta cheese crumbled
- Start by whisking together the olive oil, milk, 1 egg, yogurt, salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined, then set aside. Next, heat up the olive oil in a pan and cook the chopped onion until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes, before adding in the spinach and salt and pepper. Cover and cook on medium heat until the spinach wilts, about 5 more minutes. Then turn off the heat and allow to sit, covered, for an additional 15 minutes.
- Next, strain the spinach mixture to remove all the juices before gently folding in the feta cheese. Then line a baking sheet with parchment paper and give it a gentle spray with cooking oil. Now it's time to put together your dish! Begin by layering 2 sheets of phyllo dough and brushing it with 3 tablespoons of the milk mixture. Repeat one more time before placing one sheet of phyllo on top and spreading the spinach-feta filling evenly over the top. Make sure to leave about a ½" border around the outside.
- Continue this process twice more, minus the feta-spinach filling. Place the last sheet on top and brush with the last of the milk mixture. Cover the whole thing and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- When you're ready to bake, heat your oven to 350°F. Slice the borek in your preferred pattern, then brush with 2 egg yolks and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Macedonian Recipe 02: Shopska Salata
After wowing your guests with the burek, it’s time to lighten things up. This traditional salad is available year-round in the Balkan states and showcases some of their best flavors. The combination of crisp veggies with creamy cheese and tangy vinaigrette makes for a perfect salad! Grab a veggie chopper like this to make this dish a breeze!
- 4 tomatoes chopped
- 1 large cucumber chopped
- 4 large green or red peppers roasted or raw, and chopped
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley chopped
- ½ c. sunflower oil
- ¼ c. red wine vinegar
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- ½ c. feta cheese
- Start by washing and chopping the vegetables. Then place the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, parsley, and onion into a bowl and toss until combined. In a separate container, mix the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper by shaking heartily until mixed. Then toss the dressing with the vegetables and place in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Before serving, top with feta and serve!
Macedonian Recipe 03: Macedonian Fruit Salad
Continuing on our journey, it’s time to bring a little bit of natural sweetness to our meal. This is a fabulous recipe to bring a little sunshine home. Feel free to sub any of the fruits out for ones that you prefer, just keep the quantity the same. Serve your salad in this darling bowl! It will brighten your salad and your day.
Macedonian Fruit Salad
- 2 c. pineapple bite-size chunks
- 2 c. mango bite-size chunks
- 2 c. papaya long strips
- 2 c. kiwi quartered and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 25 cherries pitted and cut in half
- 2 c. peaches bite-size chunks
- 1 c. oranges segmented, seeded, and cut
- 1 c. tangerines segmented, seeded, and cut
- 4 tbsp. lime juice fresh-squeezed
- 4 tbsp. sugar
- 10 tbsp. water
- 1 tbsp. lime zest
- 2 tbsp. tequila, rum, or cognac
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 c. heavy cream
- sugar to taste
- ½ pod vanilla bean scraped
- Start by making the marinade. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. The sugar should completely dissolve and create a syrup. Allow the syrup to boil for 3-4 minutes before removing from heat and adding in the lime juice, zest, and alcohol. Stir to combine completely, then allow to cool.
- In a large bowl, combined all of the fruits with a pinch of salt and toss to combine. Next, add the syrup, give another gentle toss, cover, and place in the fridge for at least two hours so that the flavors mellow. Before serving, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla together until soft peaks are formed. Serve each serving with a hearty dollop of whipped cream.
Macedonian Recipe 04: Tulumba
Finishing up our journey through Macedonia is this yummy dessert. This dessert is a distant relative of the donut and is comprised of crispy dough that’s covered in sweet syrupy goodness. You can find many variations of this dish served fresh on the street or in restaurants. The traditional shape uses a star tip, but you could definitely make it with any tips that are readily accessible. The nice part about using the star tip (like this one) is that you get all the crispy ridges to soak up the honey goodness. The other tool you’ll need is a good fryer like this one.
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 c. water
- 2½ c. flour
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tbsp. semolina
- 2 tbsp. cornstarch
- 2-3 c. vegetable oil for frying
- 3 c. sugar
- 3 ½ c. water
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- Start by making the syrup. Combine the sugar and water together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Then reduce the heat and allow the syrup to simmer for about 15 minutes before adding the lemon juice and simmering for another minute more. Then turn off the heat and allow to cool.
- To make the batter, combine the butter, sugar, and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until butter is melted. Then stir in the flour using a wooden spoon until a dough forms. When the dough starts to come together, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Next, add the eggs one at a time and mix in with the wooden spoon before adding in the semolina and cornstarch. Continue stirring until you have a uniform batter. Then transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.
- To finish the Tulumba, fill your deep fryer or pan with about 3 inches of oil. Bring the oil to 350°F and verify it with a thermometer. When the oil is at temperature, squeeze out small lines of dough directly into the fryer. Using a spoon, turn the dough to ensure an even cook. When the tulumba is golden brown, remove and allow to dry on paper towels. When you have the tulumba cooked, add them to the syrup and gently toss. Serve and enjoy!
Hopefully, these recipes will help you enjoy a little bit of the flavors from Macedonia! Happy baking!