If you ever visited the Balkan or were somehow introduced to Balkan cuisine, you’ll know that this fascinating cuisine is where Ottoman, Mediterranean, and European flavors meet. And just like the rest of the Balkan cuisine, Balkan desserts and sweets are just as delicious and bring out the best of both worlds! So, if you’re a person who likes sweets and often have sweet cravings, it’s safe to assume that you’ll fall in love with Balkan desserts; they have everything from simple cookies and pastries to sophisticated pies, cakes, and even preserves that take weeks to prepare.
So, whether you’re planning to visit the Balkans soon or want to try to bring Balkan flavors to your kitchen, here are the 40 best Balkan desserts.
Technically, baklava is a Turkish dessert (even though there are arguments that the origins of this delicious sweet are Byzantine) but it’s just as popular in the Balkan countries. The dessert became very popular in this part of the world when the Balkan was under Ottoman rule. In its essence, baklava is a rich sweet pastry that consists of several very thin dough layers covered in sherbet (liquid sugar) and ground pistachios that give the pastry a nice crunchy texture.
Ravanija is another dessert that consists of a dough covered in sherbet. This sweet is equally popular in most countries that were under Ottoman rule and is very similar to the basbousa sweet that’s very popular in Egypt and the Middle East. In some countries, you’ll also find this delicious dessert under the name revanija or revani.
Kadaif is the Balkan version of the traditional Middle Eastern dessert kunefe. The dessert consists of buttery shredded filo dough topped with a nutty filling. The recipe for kadaif was likely brought to the Balkans by the Ottomans but throughout the years, locals developed its own twist on the recipe. Typically, kadaif is coated in lemon-flavored sherbet and topped with cinnamon and/or clove.
Halva is a confection recipe that has many variations in different parts of the world, including Turkey, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean but in its essence, this sweet consists of toasted semolina. Every country in the Balkans has its own version of halva (even though most of them are similar) and there are even different ways of preparing it in different regions within the same country.
Sutlijash is another one of the popular Balkan desserts that originate from Turkey. In its essence, sutlijash is a rice pudding that has a very simple preparation method; it’s made of rice, milk, sugar, vanilla, and rice flour and is often topped with hazelnuts/pistachios, and (sometimes) with other fresh fruits, and cinnamon.
If you ever visited Greece, you know how much they love their yogurt. In fact, they love it so much that in some recipes, they use yogurt instead of milk. In the case of the yiaoutorpita cake, it’s the yogurt that gives the cake an extra moist and fluffy texture and tenderness. The cake is usually topped with cognac syrup and/or fresh fruits and powdered sugar, making it a perfect, refreshing summer dessert.
Loukoumades (Greek Donuts)
I know we already mentioned donuts above (krofne) but Greek donuts or Loukomadies are quite different and have a different flavor and texture. Greek donuts are very tiny, crispy dough balls covered in flavorful sweet syrup and sprinkled with chopped nuts and cinnamon powder. It’s one of the most popular and addictive Balkan desserts and once you try one, it’s practically impossible to stop there.
As its name suggests, portokalopita is a traditional Mediterranean orange pie. At a glance, it looks like a moist cake but it’s actually prepared with phyllo pastry, eggs, milk, sugar, and orange juice, and zest. Like many other Balkan desserts, the cake is topped with sweet syrup, a thin orange slice, and either mastic ice cream or vanilla powder.
Tatlija is a slightly forgotten Balkan dessert that was much more popular in the past. Tatlija consists of a baked dough topped with sherbet and is basically a less crunchy and softer version of baklava that melts in your mouth. Its name derives from the Turkish word ‘tatlisi’, meaning dessert but interestingly, this sweet is more popular in the Balkans than it is in Turkey.
Gurabija is a delicious shortbread cookie prepared by pressing sugar cubes inside the dough before baking the cookies. The recipe is at least a few centuries old and the dessert is equally popular in Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania. However, there are several different variations of the recipe in different parts of the Balkan. For example, in Bosnia, the cookies are flavored with dried fruits, nuts, and lemon zest and are decorated using a fork or a knife. In Macedonia and Albania, people usually use apple pekmez (boiled apple juice) Traditionally, gurabija is served alongside a cup of black tea or Turkish coffee.
Tulumba is a dessert that consists of a sweet, syrupy, deep-fried dough soaked in sherbet. The dough is made of semolina flour and corn starch which gives the sweet a crispy texture. In Turkey, tulumba is one of the most popular street food sweets but it’s also very popular in the Balkans and you can commonly see people serving tulumba for major holidays and special occasions, such as weddings and celebrations.
Kožinjak is a sweet bread that originates from Macedonia. As you may or may not know, bread is very popular in the Balkan. People in the Balkan like bread so much that they even have several sweetbreads that are popular dessert choices. One of those is Kožinjak, a sweet bread topped with sugar and stuffed with sweet fruit jam. In Macedonia, this is considered festive food and is always traditionally prepared for Easter, Christmas, and other important occasions.
Celufki or puslici are simple, easy-to-make crunchy sweets whose name translates to “kisses”. This dessert is made of beaten egg whites and sugar. The end result is a sweet that looks like whipped cream but it’s actually not creamy but chewy even though it’s pretty soft and melts in your mouth.
This dessert was inspired by French eclair but there’s something different and special about the Balkan version of this sweet. It’s one of the most universal and popular Balkan desserts and many people make it at home but you can also find a prepared version of it in most supermarkets (and of course, pastry shops).
Macedonian Apple Pie
Macedonian apple pie also commonly referred to as lazy pie is a traditional Macedonian recipe that’s also quite popular in other ex-Yugoslavian countries. The pie consists of two layers of dough and one layer of apple sandwiched in between. Traditionally, this is an autumn dessert but nowadays, people enjoy it throughout the year.
Palacinke is the Balkan version of crepes. The recipe for preparing the batter isn’t very different but the way they are served is. Balkan crepes are probably the heaviest crepes you can find in the world. They’re served with a lot of whipped cream, a lot of chocolate, and a lot of fruits. I have personally witnessed a few people claiming that they’re too full to finish just one crepe, so if you have the sweet tooth, you can consider tasting Balkan crepes as a challenge.
Mlečnik is another traditional Macedonian recipe that consists of phyllo dough with a very thin crust, mixed with milk, eggs, vanilla powder, and sugar. The final result is a soft, delicious sweet that melts in your mouth. This dessert looks like a combination of proja and zelnik but don’t let its appearance fool you; unlike the other two, this one is a dessert.
If you like pumpkin pie, you’ll surely like the Balkan version of it. Tikvarnik is one of the most popular autumn Balkan desserts. In its texture, tikvarnik looks a lot like a pumpkin cheesecake but the preparation method is actually quite different than making a cheesecake. This recipe consists of dough and pumpkin and it requires baking but can still be made in less than an hour.
Green Fig Preserve
Unless you come from the Balkan, you might not be familiar with sweet preserves. In the past, people in this part of the world used different techniques to preserve fruits (and vegetables) in ways that will allow them to keep receiving their nutrients in the winters when fresh fruits and vegetables were not available. Obviously, things are different today but preserves are still some of the most popular Balkan desserts.
People in the Balkans can make a preserve out of any kind of fruit. There’s an apricot preserve, a pear preserve, a strawberry preserve, a plum preserve, a cherry preserve but personally, my favorite is the plum preserve. The preserve consists mostly of figs, sugar, and water, but it takes at least a few weeks for the fruits to soak in the sugar and gain a slightly crunchy texture.
This is an interesting Bosnian dessert that is basically a date-shaped biscuit, hence the name hurmašica (meaning little date). The biscuit is covered in lemon-flavored sherbet (sugar syrup) and can be served either as a coffee cake or as a dessert on its own. Hurmašice are traditionally served during important religious holidays, such as Ramadan Bayram (after a month of fasting) but they’re not strictly tied to religious festivals and can be eaten throughout the year.
This one is a little confusing because if you tried Balkan barbecue you probably associate uštipci with delicious meatball stuffed with cheese (and in some regions wrapped in bacon) but there’s actually a dessert that for some reason, has the same exact name. Uštipci (the dessert) is a fried dough ball topped with vanilla powder, sugar, and cinnamon and served with honey and jam. In Dalmatia, this dessert is also known as fritule.
Ćetenija is one of the most difficult Balkan desserts to prepare but the end result is totally worth it. The best way to describe this tasty dessert is as a very sweet nest of elaborately woven sugar. It’s one of the most popular winter desserts in this part of the world. To make Ćetenija, you need to dry bake some flour and let it cool overnight and mix some sugar with water and lemon juice and let the mixture cool in the snow. After that, the baked flour and syrupy liquid are mixed by hand, usually by 5-6 people. Unfortunately, this tradition seems to be disappearing which is just another reason to try this incredible dessert.
The preparation is somewhat similar to that of pismaniye, only more complex. If you would like to see how that looks like, you can check out this video.
Jabukovača is another popular Bosnian dessert that originates from Sarajevo, the country’s capital and the melting pot of former Yugoslavia. This dessert is slightly similar to baklava; it’s also made with filo dough but inside, it’s stuffed with chopped apples, walnuts, and vanilla powder. Jabukovača is usually served in circular pieces doused in sherbet made of honey, sugar, and lemon juice.
Orašnica, as its name suggests is a novel little dessert whose main ingredient is walnuts. To make these delicious cookies, you’ll also need are (only) egg whites and sugar. One of the things that make these tasty treats so unique is their interesting crescent/horseshoe shape and the extra crunchiness of the walnuts. The secret for the later lies in using finely chopped walnuts instead of ground ones and adding the walnuts after the rest of the batter is whisked together.
Šampita is a whipped meringue dessert with egg yolk crust that can be found in most bakeries in the former Yugoslavian countries. In some regions, this dish is also known as krem pita but in its essence, it’s the same sweet. Šampita consists of a puffy base topped with a lot of whipped cream and sugary lemon syrup.
Tufahija is one of my favorite Balkan desserts and one that most foreigners seem to be fascinated by. Its preparation is quite simple; it consists of hollowed-out apples stewed in a mix of sugar and water. After stewing, the apples are stuffed with a filling made of walnuts and baked and topped with sugary syrup and whipped cream.
Ruske Kape (Šubarice)
This dessert has a very interesting name; it actually translates to Russian hats and the idea behind the name is that the cookies resemble traditional Russian Ushanka hats. The dessert is very popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia and it consists of a round sandwich cupcake with vanilla filling covered in coconut sprinkles on the sides and around the edges, topped with chocolate.
Krofne is the Balkan version of donuts. Balkan donuts are also round but don’t have glazing and a hole in the middle. Instead, they’re stuffed with jelly, marmalade, chocolate, butter, Nutella, and cinnamon. Alternatively, they can also be filled with custard or cream but this is not very common. If you like bite-size sweets, there are also very tasty mini-krofne that are deep-fried, crunchy, and usually topped with hot chocolate.
Šnenokle is a Serbian dessert that’s inspired by the French sweet Île flottante. This dessert is basically a meringue poached in vanilla custard, topped with caramel sauce and toasted shredded almonds. This dish was likely introduced to the Balkans during the Habsburg monarchy when a large part of the Balkan Peninsula was under Habsburg rule.
Vasa’s Cake or Vasina Torta is a classic of Serbian cuisine and one of the tastiest Balkan cakes you can ever find. The cake has a very soft base with a creamy filling made of chocolate, oranges, walnuts, and topped with chocolate and šaum (a mixture of sugar, water, and egg whites). The cake was invented in 1908 when it was prepared for one, Vasa Čokrljan as a gift from his mother-in-law. I guess even they didn’t expect that this cake will turn out to be so popular even a hundred years later.
Gomboce also known as knedle sa šljivama are dumplings with whole plums rolled inside the dough. The dough is made of eggs, flour, and mashed potatoes. The plums are added in the middle of every dough square which is later rolled into a dumpling. After that, the dumplings are boiled and finally, rolled in a mixture of sugar, butter, and breadcrumbs before serving.
Reform torta is another rich cake that consists of multiple layers. Even though it looks complex, this cake is easy to make which is why it’s one of the most popular Balkan desserts. Reform torta has multiple layers but in its essence, it’s just two layers that keep interwinding. The base is a sponge-like texture topped with walnuts and the next layer consists of a creamy chocolate filling. The sides and the top are frosted and chopped walnuts are often used as a topping.
The name of this dessert translates to ‘little bombs’. It’s a no-bake dessert that’s very easy to make and it can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. The best way to describe it is as truffle balls made with different ingredients. So, if you’re looking for a recipe that’s authentic, quick, easy, and delicious, this is a perfect choice.
Oblande is another easy, no-bake Balkan dessert that’s very tasty and quick to prepare. The thing oblande is most similar to is probably waffles but it’s still different enough to be considered its own thing. It’s prepared by combining ready-to-use waffle-like biscuits and layering them with chocolate, walnuts, caramel, and/or jam, honey, or marmalade.
As you can probably tell from the name, vanilice are small, tasty vanilla cookies but don’t let this fool you; their taste is much more complex than just vanilla. The cookies are usually stuffed with chopped walnuts and sometimes, apricot jam. The cookies originate from Serbia but are also very popular in other Balkan countries like Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and some other Slavic countries too.
Čupavci is another tasty Balkan sponge cake that’s filled with custard, dipped in hot chocolate, and completely covered in coconut powder from all sides. This sweet originates from Croatia but is equally popular in all former Yugoslavian countries. Its name derives from the word ‘Čupavi which means furry.
Bajadera is a Croatian no-bake dessert that consists of a layered nougat with almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts. The recipe was officially invented by the Kraš confectionery from Zagreb but you can find this dessert in many pastry shops and it’s not uncommon to see people preparing it at home as well.
Kroštule is probably one of the oldest dishes on this list of Balkan desserts. Its name derives from the Latin word ‘crustulum’ that was used to describe a pancake-like treat that was given to Roman soldiers during the war. Today, this dessert is especially popular in Croatia and is usually served for celebratory occasions, such as Easter, Christmas, or during the carnival season.
Are you a fan of pancakes? Then you may also want to check out our syrniki recipe.
Stonska Torta or Ston Cake is a seemingly unusual Croatian cake that contains penne pasta (yes, you read that correctly). It’s a thick, layered cake that consists of a dense filling of pasta, sugar, chocolate, vanilla, ground walnuts, and almonds. If you think it sounds weird, I can’t blame you (so did I) but I’ll just say don’t judge it until you try it. And if you do decide to try it, a piece of friendly advice- don’t do it after a heavy meal.
Speaking of slightly bizarre Balkan desserts that contain pasta, Trogirski rafioli are also quite popular in Croatia. In case you’re wondering, yes rafioli is a reference to Italian ravioli and yes, Croatians have a sweet version of that too. This treat is especially popular in Dalmatia. The main difference is that this rafioli has a crescent shape and has a sweet almond filling.
Mađarica is another popular Croatian dessert with a rather unusual name (mađarica means a female Hungarian in Croatian). This cake is a chocolate-filled delight that will probably leave you craving for more. The preparation is simple- it consists of alternating layers of dough and chocolate filling, topped with chocolate butter glaze.
During summers, figs are one of the most widely-available fruits and locals had no choice but to find many alternative ways of using them. One great example of this is the Dalmatian Smokvenjak- a cake that consists of a sweet-tart with a filling of figs, cream, and honey. On appearance, it looks like a nice, light summer dessert but looks can be deceiving- this dessert is actually quite heavy. Keep that in mind when you decide to try it for the first time.
Makovnjača is the Croatian twist of the popular Central European sweet trdelnik. It’s a typical sweet roll filled with poppy seeds, jam, and hazelnuts, or walnuts. This dessert is always present at big celebrations and festivities but it can also be found in many restaurants and local bakeries across the Balkans.
Dubrovnik Rožatais one of the most popular local desserts in Dubrovnik. It’s a local twist on the French crème caramel custard dessert. It’s a very light and sweet dish that contains eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla powder, lemon zest, and dark rum. It’s a must-try when visiting Dubrovnik but if you’d like to make it at home, please keep in mind that the preparation is somewhat complex and you need at least some cooking skills to pull this off.
Ajdovi Krapi is a traditional Slovenian recipe that consists of buckwheat dumplings filled with a mixture of millet porridge and cottage cheese and topped with sour cream or vanilla sauce and sprinkly cracklings/hazelnuts. In addition to being a great dessert, ajdovi krapi is also very nutritious and is also often eaten as a light meal.
You might be surprised to hear this but yes, Slovenians do have an omelet as a dessert. If Croatians can have sweet pasta, why couldn’t Slovenians have a sweet omelet? The dessert originates from the Slovenian region of Pohorje and it consists of eggs, sugar, vanilla powder, salt, flour, cranberry jam, whipped cream, and mint liqueur. However, this isn’t a classical omelet. Instead of frying, the omelet is prepared by baking and afterward, it’s spread with jam and decorated with whipped cream and mint liqueur.
Prekmurska gibanica is a variation of the gibanica recipe. Traditionally, gibanica is stuffed with cheese and has a salty flavor but the Slovenian variation is very sweet. Prekmurska gibanica is basically a combination of a strudel and a layered pie filled with fruit preserves or marmalade. The oldest written records of prekmurska gibanica date back to the 1700s, making it one of the oldest Balkan desserts.
Trileče is the Balkan version of the popular Italian dessert Tres leches cake. The dessert is very simple, it consists of a sponge butter cake soaked in condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy creme (hence, the name three milk cake). The dessert was likely brought to Albania by Albanians who immigrated to Italy and today, this is one of the most popular desserts in Albania and Macedonia.
Tespixhe is another very sweet Albanian dessert that consists of a sugary cake prepared from a simple baked dough soaked in a lot of sherbet. What’s fascinating about this dessert is that it’s very soft and at the same time it has a somewhat nutty-crunchy texture even though the preparation doesn’t include any nuts.
Arra Të Mbushura Me Fik
This is another dessert that has fig as a centerpiece. The name of the dessert sounds like an earful but its translation is rather simple- it means walnut-stuffed fig and that’s a very accurate description of this dessert. Arra Të Mbushura Me Fik consists of a crunchy walnut stuffed inside a soft fig and topped with fig syrup.
Banitsa is another Balkan dessert that’s a variation of a salty snack that’s commonly eaten for breakfast. Banitsa is a popular Bulgarian/Macedonian pastry that’s usually stuffed with cheese but some people thought it might be a good idea to make a sweet version of banitsa that uses chocolate (or jam, marmalade, or apples) instead of cheese. Some variations even include small crumbles of Turkish delight in the filling.
As its name suggests, medenka is a traditional Bulgarian soft, spiced cookie, dipped in chocolate that makes up a perfect holiday treat. The signature sign of medenki is the crunchy texture and the combination of chocolate, honey, and cinnamon. Because of their durability, these sweets can be easily packaged and exported which is why you can find these delicious treats pretty much anywhere in Eastern Europe, as well as parts of Eastern Europe, and even in the US (in some places).
Did you like our list of Balkan desserts? Did you ever get the chance to try any of them? Which one seems most appealing to you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below?
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