Moldovan Food - 14 Best Traditional Dishes as Recommended by a Local (with Recipes) (2024)

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I’ve been asked by so many people over the years, ‘where is Moldova?’ And then people are shocked to hear Moldova is in Europe of all places.

Located in Eastern Europe, between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is a very small country that generally is not on many people’s travel itineraries.

If you’re lucky enough to visit Moldova, Moldovan food is something you definitely must try. Moldovan people are very welcoming, and they generally express this hospitality with lots of Moldovan food and wine!

Moldovan cuisine draws inspiration from Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Greece, and various other countries. Like many Eastern European cuisines, Moldovan cuisine is heavy in meat, potatoes, and other vegetables.

Traditionally, Moldovan foods have been a bit too bland for many Americans. The past few years have seen a heavier Western food influence in the country, with more Western-style restaurants.

While many people consider Moldovan food delicious, if you try it and it’s not for you — worry not, there are many western-influenced restaurants in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.

14 Traditional Moldovan Food Recipes and Moldovan Dishes to Try

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Under the expert guise of local Olga, here are the top 14 Moldovan foods you must try if you’re planning a visit to Moldova!

1. ‘Mămăligă cu brânză și smântână’– Polenta with Cheese and Sour Cream

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Without a doubt, ‘mămăliga,’ or polenta, is Moldova’s best-known and most traditional dish. Polenta is made from corn flour, to which a little butter is added.

It is generally served with sheep’s cheese or cottage cheese and sour cream. For gourmet lovers, you can also order traditional pork stew that goes well with this dish.

In the countryside, my grandparents used to eat this every day. They would also make ‘mujdei de usturoi,’ which is a sauce made with garlic, oil, water, and vinegar.

They would take a bit of ‘mămăligă,’ dip it in this sauce, and then, dip it in the sheep cheese and sour cream. This combination doesn’t seem too appetizing to most foreigners, but many Moldovan people love it!

The younger generation doesn’t eat polenta daily as our grandparents used to, but it remains Moldova’s most traditional food.

Read more: Mamaliga Recipe

2. ‘Plăcinte’ – Moldovan Pie

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Moldovan pies are a close second when it comes to most traditional Moldovan foods. And unlike mămăliga, pies have retained their popularity among young people.

People still bake Moldovan pies at home, but you can also find numerous pie shops and restaurants, as well as many shops that deliver pies to your door.

There are several types of pies you shouldn’t miss. For a savory taste, try the cheese pies, cabbage pies, and potato pies.

And for those with a sweet tooth, try the cherry pies, apple pies, and pumpkin pies.

Read more: Sour Cabbage Pies Recipe

3. ‘Sarmale’ – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

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Sarmale‘ or stuffed cabbage rolls are one of those dishes that feature heavily in the cuisine of many Eastern European countries.

In Bulgarian cuisine, they’re called ‘sarmi.’ In Ukrainian cuisine — ‘holubtsi.’ In Polish cuisine — ‘golabki.’ They feature in Macedonian cuisine, Serbian cuisine, Croatian cuisine, Lithuanian cuisine, Russian cuisine, Romanian cuisine, and others.

In Moldova, no holiday or party is complete without these Moldovan stuffed cabbage rolls.

These are cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and minced pork or chicken, along with chopped onion and carrots that are slowly simmered. Unlike in some other cuisines, in Moldovan cuisine, they are served with big dollops of sour cream!

Sometimes, they are made with grapevine leaves rather than cabbage leaves. Both versions are delicious, and you should try them both!

Try it: Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipe

4. ‘Ardei Umpluți’ or ‘Chiperi Umpluți’ – Stuffed Bell Peppers

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Stuffed bell peppers have the same ingredients as stuffed cabbage rolls (rice, vegetables, and meat), but the taste is completely different.

This is due to the fact that the peppers are sweet. During cooking, they give the rice a specific aroma.

They are also served with sour cream (sidenote: have you picked up on the fact that sour cream is a staple of Moldovan cuisine?). Most foreigners love this dish, so it’s highly recommended you try it.

5. ‘Zeama’ – Moldovan Chicken Noodle Soup

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Zeama is a traditional Moldovan soup. It is similar to a chicken noodle soup, but its taste is usually a little sour.

The ingredients that go into this soup generally consist of chicken, chopped vegetables (such as onions, carrots, bell peppers, and potatoes), and homemade noodles.

The sour notes are achieved by adding ‘borș acru de casa’ (a liquid ingredient most people buy rather than make at home that consists of fermented wheat or barley bran) or lemon juice.

Zeama is usually served with sour cream, bread, and spicy chili peppers, depending on your taste preferences.

6. ‘Borș’ – Borscht

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Outside of Eastern Europe, borscht is probably most associated with Ukrainian cuisine.

It is, however, very popular in most of Eastern Europe and some other countries, including in Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Romania, and of course, Moldova.

In Moldova, borscht is another beloved soup, after ‘zeama’. While ‘zeama’ (discussed above) has a sour taste and a light color, borscht is a little more on the sweeter side with a deep, rich red color.

Its main ingredient is the beetroot, which gives it that iconic deep red color. To the beetroot soup, Moldovans add various combinations of vegetables. These include carrots, onions, potatoes, cabbage, and tomatoes.

Borscht can also contain meat. Traditionally, however, the vegetable recipe is popular in homes across the country.

Borscht is usually served with sour cream and bread. The rich flavor of all vegetables combined makes it a great dish for wintertime.

Read more: Borsch Recipe

7. ‘Colțunași cu brânză’ or ‘Chiroște’ – Cheese Dumplings

In Moldova, cheese dumplings come in two varieties. The first is ‘colțunași harnici,’ which, if translated literally, means ‘hard-working dumplings.’

The second is ‘colțunași lenoși,’ which translated means ‘lazy dumplings.’ Funnily enough, the names really come from the fact that hard-working dumplings require more effort and take longer to prepare than lazy dumplings.

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Colțunași harnici’ generally consist of homemade unleavened dough wrapped around a filling of cheese. The dough packets are cooked by boiling them in salted water for a few minutes.

In more modern variations of this recipe, you can find various fillings (not just cheese), including sweet jams inside.

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Colțunași lenoși’ or lazy dumplings are made by mixing all the ingredients (cheese, eggs, sugar, butter, and flour) and shopping the resulting dough, cutting them into small pieces.

Read more: Lazy Dumplings Recipe (Coltunasi Lenosi)

The dumplings are then cooked in salted water for a few minutes.

Both versions of cheese dumplings in Moldova are served with a lot of high-quality sour cream. At this point, I feel I should just nickname Moldovan cuisine the ‘Sour Cream Cuisine!’

8. ‘Tort Smetanik’ – Madonna Honey Cake

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Although originally a Russian cake, in Moldova, tort smetanik has become quite popular over time. It is a beloved dessert, and people commonly serve it at birthdays, weddings, and other parties.

You can also buy it in most grocery stores, bakeries, or restaurants. It is a Moldovan dessert enjoyed in households throughout the country.

This multiple-layer cake, topped with a tangy white frosting, is so delicate and moist that it will just melt in your mouth.

One of the main ingredients in the cake filling is sour cream. The sour cream is then sweetened with sugar and flavored with some vanilla.

Related: Russian Honey Cake / Medovik / Smetannik Recipe

9. ‘Cușma lui Guguță’ – Crepes Cake Gugutsa’s Hat

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Gugutsa’s hat is a hearty and indulgent Moldovan dessert. It consists of stacked crepes, layered with sour cherries and glazed with whipped cream.

The crepes are layered to form a pyramid, then sprinkled with dark chocolate flakes from above.

Gugutsa’s hat is a much-loved cake, and it’s one of the top Moldovan foods. Try a slice of this 5-star elegant cake with a cup of coffee, and you won’t regret it.

Read more: Cusma lui Guguta (Crepes with Sour Cherries) Recipe

10. ‘Frigărui’ – Grilled Kebabs

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For meat lovers, a great Moldovan food you’ll enjoy is the grilled kebab. This Moldovan kebab skewers tender grilled meat and vegetables together.

Cooked on a wood or charcoal fire on a terrace, these delicious kebabs are ideal for gatherings and afternoons during the summer.

11. ‘Chifteluțe cu piure’ – Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes

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Meatballs are very popular in many Balkan countries’ cuisines, so it’s no surprise that chifteluțe cu piure is one of the country’s simplest and most loved comfort foods.

In this dish, the meatballs are cooked in an extremely tasty tomato sauce. Paired with mashed potatoes, they make a great combination.

The meatballs are made from minced chicken, beef, or pork. Chifteluțe cu piure is commonly served with a salad of fresh vegetables.

Read more: Delicious Moldovan Pirjoale / Russian Kotleti Recipe

12. ‘Răcitura’ – Meat Jelly

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Răcitura comes from a Romanian word meaning ‘cold,’ which is why it is served as a cold dish. Personally, I think it’s an acquired taste.

Despite growing up in Moldova, I never particularly liked this dish, and not a lot of Westerners love it either. However, most Moldovan people love it. If you want to try something different, go for it!

In Moldova, the meat jelly is generally made from a rooster that is cooked in a broth of garlic, spices, and vegetables.

After cooking the broth on low heat, the broth is poured into individual plates along with the meat and vegetables and allowed to cool for several hours until the jelly forms.

13. ‘Pește (Caras) Prăjit’ – Fried Fish

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Pește prăjit is a tasty Moldovan seafood dish. This fish dish is usually made with Crucian carp, a river fish with plenty of nutrients.

To make this dish, the fish is first coated with cornflour. Each fish is then fried in oil until fully cooked.

It is usually served with polenta (mămăliga) and garlic, oil, and vinegar sauce (‘mujdei’) we talked about above. It is a delicious way to enjoy Crucian carp.

Read more: Moldovan Easy Whole Fried Fish Recipe

14. ‘Prune umplute cu nuci’ – Prunes filled with nuts

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For anyone looking for a lighter dessert to Madonna cake or Guguta’s Hat cake, prunes with walnuts are a worthy choice.

Generally liked by people who prefer healthier foods, this dessert is made of prunes that are soaked in a cognac or wine syrup.

The prunes are filled with walnuts and served in glass cups and glazed with whipped cream.

Read more: Walnut-Stuffed Prunes Recipe

Moldovan Foods Summary

While maybe one of Eastern Europe’s lesser-known cuisines, there is no doubt that Moldovan food offers a wide range of tastes and flavors.

From piping hot stews to rich, decadent cakes, it is clear to see how much love and passion is poured into Moldovan cuisine by cooks and chefs throughout the country.

These 14 traditional Moldovan foods you should certainly try when you visit Moldova. There is so much delicious food to get excited about in this wonderful country.

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Save and Pin ‘Best Moldovan Foods’ for Later

Planning a trip to Moldova? Want to keep this article of delicious Moldovan foods in a place you’ll remember? Save this article and pin it to one of your Pinterest boards. That way, you’ll be able to easily find it in the future.

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Contributor: Olga is a freelance writer from Moldova. She is deeply passionate about Moldovan cuisine and regularly cooks traditional and modern Moldovan dishes in her home kitchen.

Images licensed from Shutterstock

  • Doina Johnson

    Doina Johnson is a recipe developer and writer. Doina has been cooking for most of her life, and her style draws from many different influences. She cooked with her mother and grandma growing up in Eastern Europe, before adding modern, western influences to her style when living in the United States for about a decade. Then, she traveled full-time for several years, trying food in Europe, Asia, and South America, and bringing those influences into her own cooking. She strives to introduce passionate homecooks to world cuisine, generally by trying the food herself abroad and then recreating it at home and, at times, enlisting the help of local foodies and chefs.

    View all posts

Moldovan Food - 14 Best Traditional Dishes as Recommended by a Local (with Recipes) (2024)


What is the traditional food of Moldova? ›

Perhaps the best-known Moldovan dish is also a well-known Romanian dish, mămăligă (a cornmeal mush or porridge). This is a staple polenta-like food on the Moldovan table, served as an accompaniment to stews and meat dishes or garnished with cottage cheese, sour cream, or pork rind.

What do they eat for breakfast in Moldova? ›


You'll always find a slice of sweet, salty, soft, or dry brânză ['brɨnzə] in every Moldovan house.

What do Moldovans eat for Christmas? ›

To figure out where Moldova's national resilience resides, you could do worse than sit down over Christmas with a bowl of hearty red borscht with pork belly and sauerkraut (in the north) or sparrow fricassee (a specialty of the south) and a plate of domcă (festive brioche with walnut) or plachie (rice pudding) for ...

Is Moldova known for cheese? ›

*The south area of Moldova is well known for its local cheese and cottage. Why is this important news for us? The medals awarded put the Republic of Moldova on the map of cheese producers, alongside the most famous ones from countries such as France, Italy and Switzerland.

What is the national drink of Moldova? ›

Wine is deeply ingrained in Moldovan culture and is often enjoyed during social gatherings and celebrations. This preference for wine is reflected in the market, with wine being the most popular alcoholic drink in Moldova.

What is special in Moldova? ›

It's one of the least visited countries on the planet, which is why tourists are likely to attract attention from the locals. Moldova is known for its traditional culture and large production of wine. Agricultural land takes up 75% of Moldova's national territory.

What is Moldova snack food? ›

Women prepare delicious snacks for their families or for their quests. In the summer, the most frequent snack is boiled corn with salt. Another traditional snack is Potato planchie made with oil, wheat flour, onion, water, tomato juice, red whine, potatoes, green chopped parsley and salt.

Does Moldova have Mcdonalds? ›

In 1998, the first restaurant was opened in Moldova, and currently, there are 5 operating McDonald's restaurants in the country.

Do they have Mcdonalds in Moldova? ›

I guess the Golden Arches are popular in Chisinau! After taking a look at the offerings, there were a few items that we wanted to try. Here is what we tried at McDonald's in Chisinau, Moldova.

Is food expensive in Moldova? ›

The assortment is similar to the usual Ukrainians, and the prices do not differ much from ours: apples (1 kg) - $1, tomatoes (1 kg) - $1.7, potatoes (1 kg) - $0.6, eggs (12 pcs.) - $2, milk (1 liter) - $0.8, bread (for two people for one day) - $0.25, a bottle of quality wine - $7.

What language is spoken in Moldova? ›

Article Moldova: Romanian Recognized as the Official Language. (Dec. 23, 2013) On December 5, 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova ruled that the Romanian language is the official language of this country.

What are 5 interesting facts about Moldova? ›

8 things you didn't know about Moldova
  • Moldova is a relatively new country.
  • Being bilingual (or even trilingual) is quite normal in Moldova.
  • Moldova is… ...
  • Moldova had no president for almost 3 years.
  • Moldova is the least visited country in Europe.
  • The national animal of Moldova is an auroch.
  • But Moldova also loves sheep.

What animal represents Moldova? ›

The Aurochs

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