Top 5 easiest Romanian cooking recipes

Romania's culinary scene is a kaleidoscope of flavors waiting to be explored. From the joyous celebrations during Orthodox holidays like Easter and Christmas to the unique dining habits across different regions, this country’s way of welcoming family, friends, and travelers with open arms will always be through delicious food! 

Romanian food is a fusion of diverse flavors, reflecting the country's rich history, geographical variations, and cultural influences. Known for its hearty and comforting dishes, this cuisine explores traditional recipes passed down through generations.

We're about to unveil some of the easiest authentic Romanian recipes that will not only transport you to the picturesque landscapes of this Balkan country but also tantalize your taste buds like never before. 

  1. PAPANAȘI

Papanași, pronounced as “papanashi”, represents a cherished traditional Romanian dessert. Resembling a fried donut crowned with a smaller doughnut ball, these delightful treats are typically served generously adorned with dollops of sour cream and jam.

It's worth noting that there are two variations of papanași: the fried and the boiled. 

While the boiled version boasts health-conscious credentials, the undeniable truth is that fried-papanași will always be better. After all, who could resist the allure of the crispy, golden exterior paired with the luscious, cheesy goodness within?

Ingredients

- 200g cottage cheese

- 200g all-purpose flour

- 50g cup sugar

- 1 teaspoon baking powder

- 1/4 teaspoon salt

- 2 large eggs

- Zest of 1 lemon

- Vegetable oil for frying

- Powdered sugar for dusting

- Sour cream and fruit jam for serving

Instructions

1. Prepare the Dough:

Combine the cottage cheese, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients until a soft, sticky dough forms.

2. Shape the Dough:  

With lightly floured hands, shape portions of the dough into round dumplings, creating a slight indentation in the center. The traditional Papanași shape resembles a doughnut with a hole in the middle.

3. Fry the Papanași:

Heat vegetable oil in a deep frying pan or pot to around 350°F (175°C). Carefully place the shaped Papanași into the hot oil and fry until they turn golden brown on all sides. Be cautious not to overcrowd the pan to ensure even cooking.

4. Drain and Dust:

Once golden brown and crispy, use a spoon to transfer the fried Papanași onto a plate lined with paper towels. Allow them to drain excess oil. While still warm, generously dust the Papanași with powdered sugar.

5. Serve with Toppings:

Serve the Papanași while they're fresh and warm. Traditionally, they are accompanied by a bit of sour cream and your favorite fruit jam.

Now, you're ready to enjoy this classic Romanian treat in the comfort of your kitchen!

But if you find yourself in Romania ready to try one from the locals, we suggest you check out restaurants with a traditional menu. 

Recommendation for Bucharest: Caru cu bere

They have a very elegant dish, tasty and authentic. 

2. MICI

Next, we have the sizzling sensation known as Mici or Romanian grilled sausages. The enticing aroma of seasoned meat wafting through the air is enough to make your stomach growl in anticipation. Take advantage of the communal spirit of enjoying Mici with friends and family during summer barbecues! 

Mici, also known as Romanian grilled sausages, is a beloved dish that graces many Romanian tables during social gatherings and barbecues. Here's a simple recipe along with the ingredients to help you make these flavorful sausages at home:

Ingredients:

- 450g ground beef (a mix of beef and pork can also be used)

- 200g ground lamb (optional, but adds a unique flavor)

- 1 medium onion, finely grated

- 3 cloves garlic, minced

- 1 teaspoon baking soda

- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

- 1 teaspoon dried thyme

- 1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)

- 50ml sparkling water or beer

Instructions:

1. Prepare the Meat Mixture:

 In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, ground lamb (if using), finely grated onion, minced garlic, baking soda, black pepper, sweet paprika, thyme, and salt. Mix the ingredients thoroughly until well combined into a paste.

2. Add the Liquid:

Pour in the sparkling water or beer into the meat mixture. This helps to keep the mici moist during grilling. Mix everything together until the liquid is well incorporated.

3. Shape the Sausages:

Wet your hands with a bit of water to prevent sticking, and take portions of the meat mixture to shape into cylindrical sausages. 

4. Grill the Mici:

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Grill the mici for about 10-15 minutes, turning them occasionally to ensure even cooking. 

5. Serve Hot:

Once done, serve the mici hot off the grill. Traditionally, they are enjoyed with mustard, fresh bread, and sometimes a side of pickles.

For an authentic mici experience, we recommend Terasa Obor in Bucharest—an interesting tavern situated for years near the biggest produce market in Romania - Obor Market.

3. MUCENICI

These special treats are associated with celebrating the 40 Martyrs on the 9th of March and come in various regional variations. In most counties this dish is a big soft pastry in the shape of an 8, served in delicious syrup. In some other areas, they are little and boiled with walnuts in sugar water to give them a taste. The result is a fantastic sweet pasta soup with nuts and sweet aromas.

Mucenici is a delightful Romanian sweet treat associated with celebrating the 40 Martyrs. These twisted pastries are typically soaked in honey and often topped with chopped nuts and a hint of cinnamon. Here's a simple recipe and the ingredients to make Mucenici at home:

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

- 300g all-purpose flour

- 200ml warm milk

- 50g sugar

- 25g unsalted butter, melted

- 2 large eggs

- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast

- 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Honey Syrup:

- 200g honey

- 100ml cup water

- Zest of 1 lemon

- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)

For Topping:

- Chopped nuts (walnuts or pistachios) for garnish

- Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Instructions:

1. Activate the Yeast:

In a small bowl, combine warm milk and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes until it becomes foamy.

2. Prepare the Dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the activated yeast mixture with the melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt. Gradually add the flour, mixing until a soft dough forms. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth.

3. Let the Dough Rise:

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm place for about 1-2 hours or until it doubles in size.

4. Shape the Mucenici:

Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Shape portions of the risen dough into long, thin ropes. Form each rope into a twisted figure-eight shape, resembling the number 8.

5. Bake the Mucenici:

Place the shaped mucenici on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Prepare the Honey Syrup:

While the mucenici are baking, heat honey, water, lemon zest, and a cinnamon stick (if using) in a small saucepan. Simmer for a few minutes until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove the cinnamon stick and lemon zest.

7. Soak the Mucenici:

Once the mucenici are out of the oven, immerse them in the honey syrup while they are still warm. Ensure they are well-coated with the syrup.

8. Garnish and Serve:

Place the honey-soaked mucenici on a serving platter, sprinkle them with chopped nuts, and a dash of ground cinnamon.

This treat is seasonal and can only be found during March. It can be found in most bakeries, but we recommend you try it at a local’s home if possible. 

4. BULZ

Bulz is a traditional Romanian dish with a hearty combination of polenta and cheese, usually grilled or baked. It's a flavorful and comforting dish, perfect for those who appreciate Romanian cuisine's rustic and wholesome elements. 

This is a simple and traditional recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation, and that's why there are multiple variations of it. Most of these recipes share similarities, with the main distinction being the filling. In Moldova, people use kneaded cheese, while in Oltenia, people prefer cottage cheese, combining them in different ways, and sometimes they even like including additions such as bacon or other types of meats.

Bulz is a traditional Romanian dish that features a hearty combination of polenta and cheese, usually grilled or baked. Here's a simple recipe to make Bulz at home:

Ingredients:

- 200g coarse cornmeal (polenta)

- 1 L water

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 100g crumbled feta cheese or a similar salty cheese 

- 100g grated smoked cheese (or another melting cheese)

- 30g butter, melted

- Optional: Smoked bacon bits, chopped green onions, or herbs for garnish

Instructions:

1. Prepare the Polenta:

In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt, then gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the polenta thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

2. Add Cheeses:

Once the polenta reaches a thick consistency, remove it from heat. Stir in the crumbled feta cheese and grated smoked cheese until well combined. The heat from the polenta will melt the cheeses, creating a creamy and flavorful mixture.

3. Shape the Bulz:

While the polenta is still warm, shape it into individual balls or patties, incorporating a generous amount of cheese into each portion. You can use your hands or mold them into round shapes using a cup or a mold.

4. Grill or Bake:

Grill the shaped bulz on a barbecue or in a grill pan until the exterior develops a golden-brown crust. Alternatively, you can bake them in the oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 20-25 minutes or until they are cooked through and have a nice color.

5. Brush with Butter:

While the bulz is still hot, brush each piece with melted butter. This adds a rich and savory flavor to the dish.

6. Garnish and Serve:

Optionally, garnish your bulz with smoked bacon bits, chopped green onions, or your favorite herbs for an extra layer of flavor. Serve them hot while the cheese is gooey and delicious.

5. BEAN SOUP WITH SMOKED MEAT

Finally, we have Ciorbă de Fasole cu Afumătură, a hearty bean soup with a smoky twist. This comfort food is perfect for warming your soul on a chilly day. The combination of tender beans, savory smoked meat, and aromatic herbs creates a symphony of flavors that is quintessentially Romanian. Pro tip: Try it in the mountainous regions for an extra touch of authenticity!

Ingredients:

- 450g smoked pork hocks or ribs (afumătură)

- 300 g soaked overnight beans

- 1 large onion, finely chopped

- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

- 1 celery root, peeled and diced

- 1 parsnip, peeled and diced

- 1 red bell pepper, diced

- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

- 250g tomato sauce or 2-3 ripe tomatoes, diced

- 240g cooked rice (optional)

- 2-3 bay leaves

- 1 teaspoon dried thyme

- Salt and pepper to taste

- Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

- Sour cream for serving

Instructions:

1. Prepare the Smoked Meat:

Rinse the smoked pork knuckles or ribs under cold water. Place them in a large soup pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes to 1 hour until the meat is tender and the broth is flavorful.

2. Vegetable Prep:

While the smoked meat is simmering, chop the onion, carrots, celery root, parsnip, red bell pepper, potatoes, and beans. The dried beans, soaked in water overnight, should be rinsed through about three changes of water. 

3. Add Vegetables to the Broth:

After the smoked meat is tender, add all the chopped vegetables to the pot. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked.. When boiling the beans, it's essential to use hot water, and if needed, add more hot water, as otherwise, they might remain firm.

4. Add Tomato and Rice (Optional):

Stir in the tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. If you prefer, add rice to the soup and cook until the rice is tender.

5. Season the Soup:

Add bay leaves, dried thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Allow the soup to simmer for 10-15 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.

6. Serve:

Discard the bay leaves. Ladle the Ciorbă de Afumătură into bowls. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve hot. Optionally, serve with a spoon of sour cream on top.

If you don’t want to make it at home, you can always visit Romania and have it from local restaurants. You can find some great ciorbă de fasole cu afumătură in the big square of Old Town in Brașov, in places like La Ceaun, Taverna Sârbului or Cerbul Carpatin. 

Let’s eat together in Romania

Are you hungry yet? I bet you can’t wait to try some of these Romanian dishes in your kitchen, but if not, why not join us on an unforgettable Balkan adventure!?

Romania is not just a travel destination; it's a culinary odyssey waiting to be savored. Take advantage of this gastronomic adventure; plan your trip with us and indulge in these delightful recipes while making memories that will linger on your taste buds long after you've returned home. 
For more culinary experiences in Romania, check out our article on Culinary Experiences in Romania and explore the country with one of the fantastic tours designed by Balkan Trails.

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