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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Bulgaria

Culinary Influences

Bulgarian Food - Christmas meal
Christmas meal

Bulgarian food is fairly loyal to its roots as the mountainous country hasn't had a great number of foreign influences nor has it adopted many of those that arrived. Even today much of the cuisine is based on local fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and grilled meats. Even cooking techniques are generally traditional as grilling and slow boiling or heating foods in a single pot remains common.

The greatest outside influences have come from the Greeks, Turks, and other Slavic groups. Of these, the Turks have the most noticeable influence as many Turkish desserts were introduced during Ottoman Turkish occupation and remain on menus today.

Staple Foods

There is no true staple food in Bulgaria, although most dishes are served with a starch like bread or potatoes.

Regional Variations & Specialties

Cheverme: roast lamb
Kapama: baked meat and vegetable stew

Dining Etiquette

Bulgarian Food - Kebabs

Dining in Bulgaria is fairly relaxed and, although there are some rules, the people are generally forgiving and won't hold any missteps against you. The Bulgarians are welcoming people and you are more likely to be invited into a person's home here than in many places, this includes business meetings. If you are lucky enough to get this invitation, be sure to bring a gift; it doesn't have to be expensive, but it does have to be thoughtful. If you're jetlagged and can't think, a bottle of wine is always appreciated.

The few dining rules that do exist are no different than much of Europe; such as keeping your hands within sight by resting your wrists on the table, waiting to eat until your host or the eldest person there begins, and using the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left).

Unlike many places, in Bulgaria your napkin will generally remain on the table as people use it to dab their mouths, although in more formal situations they may place their napkins on their laps so follow your host's lead. Also, taking a second serving in a home is a great compliment so be sure to begin with a small portion so you have room for seconds.

Wine is a common drink with meals in Bulgaria and it does tend to be a bottomless glass so if you don't want your glass refilled, be sure to leave it at least half full or it will be topped off.

At most restaurants in Bulgaria a tip of about 10% is expected, however poor service does not demand a tip and at nice restaurants catered to foreigners, generally a tip of up to 15% is expected, however the service is also generally better.


Bulgaria offers soft drinks, juices, milk, and any other non-alcoholic drink one desires, but none that are especially local or unique. Coffee is perhaps the most common pleasure of the people in the morning or with desserts.

The country's pride comes in the form of wine and they produce a shockingly large amount or wine each year, generally helping supply the Russian and Eastern European markets. Some of the more local varietals include "red plonk," "dimyat," and "misket," although more well-known varietals like merlot and riesling are also common. Despite the wine industry, the national drink is still considered rakia, which is a distilled liquor similar to brandy, which is generally distilled from plums or grapes, but can be produced from just about any fruit. A couple other local specialties are rosaliika (a rose-colored liquor) and mastika (anise seed liquor similar to ouzo). Local breweries are also growing in popularity and all popular international drinks are also available, including beers, wines, and hard liquors.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Bulgaria, but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: March, 2013