Delicious foods from Albania main

Is food in Albania good?

 

This is a question I was asking myself before the trip. We have all heard about the cuisine of pretty much every Mediterranean country, but can you name any food from Albania? Neither could I.

 

Hopefully after reading this article you will be familiar with the most delicious Albanian dishes and will head out to Google to search for your nearest Albanian restaurant, the dish’s recipe or, better yet, a flight to visit the country!

 

While Albania may not be known for its gastronomy it has some of the simplest yet yummiest foods using the purest ingredients in season, and this is probably its secret.

 

Food in Albania is uncomplicated.

Influences in Albanian food

What are the influences I noticed in Albanian food?

Like the country as a whole, its food has benefited from a rich heritage and centuries long exchanges with nearby cultures.

Albanian gastronomy embraced elements from all of the people who lived within its borders. From the times of the Illyrian tribes in Antiquity to the 21st century Italian, Greek and German occupation, all through the centuries under Ottoman rule.  

As you can imagine, the local cuisine is a melting pot of East meets West, similar to what I found in Azerbaijan. But the Turks had the most impact, and if you have traveled across the Middle East or Turkey you will notice many similarities with Albanian food.

Aside from the obvious multicultural background, Albanian food also shows differences between the coast and the interior.

Fish is predominant in the coast, where it is brought in daily by the fishermen, but harder to find inland, although distances could be a mere one hour drive. Meat is easy to find everywhere, but more exclusively available inland. Cheese is a darling across the country and the fresh ingredients used always follow the seasons.

Some of the most common items featured in Albanian cuisine are tomatoes, onions and other vegetables like aubergine, peppers, leeks and cabbage. Nuts are common, notably almonds and walnuts, and everything is cooked and doused with generous amounts of olive oil, produced locally.

Albanian gastronomy is a great example of Mediterranean cuisine from the Levant and reminiscent, in essence, of Lebanon, Turkey or Greece.

How to read an albanian menu

Albania is still a relatively undiscovered country in Europe, perhaps one of the least visited, and as such, tourism is still incipient.

Thankfully, most restaurants have a rough English version of the menu, often times inaccurately or approximately translated.

This usually means that they keep the Albanian title but add a description of the dish’s ingredients underneath in English. Sometimes you also get the English title, although the translation may not always be accurate. I have left the original name in the local language to help you recognise each dish.

Note that the spellings of each dish may vary from place to place. For example, when spelling “ë” in Albania, the letter is usually translated into an “a” in English because this is the closest sound. But sometimes an “e” is used. So you might see an “ë” as “e” or “a”. Bear that in mind when looking at the menus you can find at restaurant across Albania.

Secondly, English translations for ingredients are not always accurate. Something may be fried on a menu but grilled in reality, or corn and wheat may be mistakenly used, or the type of cheese you are getting may vary from cow to sheep, from white to yellow, from hard to spreadable.

You get the gist. Just take menus with a pinch of salt and use the Albanian names in this list to understand what you are ordering.

Most delicious food in Albania

I have decided to split this article into three sections, one about the best Albanian foods, one about Albanian sweets and desserts and one about wine, beer and raki.

While there is quite some variation in the food section, the number of different desserts in Albanian is not extensive and you will usually find the same everywhere.

Fërgesë – Cheese and red peppers


Fërgesë

Fërgesë

Together with the next item, Byrek, this is the most common and widely available food in Albanian cuisine. It is easy, it is tasty and it is delicious.

Fërgesë is baked cheese, peppers and sometimes tomato that is usually eaten on its own or with bread. The cheese is generally made of a local Albanian version of feta cheese, sometimes mixed with a softer one like cottage cheese, and made into a thin spreadable mix.

Generous amounts of olive oil usually coat the mix and the pieces of pepper are usually quite big, so you might have to cut them with a knife. It is absolutely delicious and one of my most favorite Albanian dishes.


More fërgesë

More fërgesë

Fërgesë is eaten as an appetiser and ordered first, though, because Albanian meals tend to be in a sharing format, it will probably come to your table together with the mains.

This is great because then you can dip the grilled meats or kebabs in the Fërgesë for the tastiest combination.

If you are not very hungry, Fërgesë and bread is a filling enough meal. Add a local beer or a glass of Albanian wine and you have a winning combination.

Traditionally, Fërgesë was cooked in clay pots and many restaurants still serve it like that, with a spoon so you can serve yourself.

Byrek – Stuffed phyllo pastry


Cheese and spinach byrek

Cheese and spinach byrek

The second best known Albanian food is Byrek. This is both an appetiser, a snack and even a breakfast staple in Albania and I have seen it sold and eaten at any time, even as a late night snack.

While Albanians usually spell it Byrek, Montenegrins call it Burek and Turkish Börek. However the spelling, the recipe and the food is largely the same and refers to any wheat based phyllo pastry made of layers and filled with vegetables, meat or cheese which probably originated in the Ottoman Empire and extended to its many territories.

The most common Albanian byrek is filled with cheese or tomato, sometimes spinach and meat can also be added. It is cooked in a large pan in the oven and then cut into square, triangle or rectangular shapes for serving.


Tomato byrek

Tomato byrek

Individual byrek are also available and usually are either in the shape of a pain au chocolat or long like sticks. Because byrek is such a popular food in Albania, you can find it in bakeries across the country and on the menu of most restaurants.

No matter how your byrek looks and what it has inside, it is always a good choice and goes fabulously well with Fërgesë, a marriage of Albanian foods made in heaven.  

Pispili – Cornbread and vegetables


Pispili with yogurt

Pispili with yogurt

Pispili is another Albanian food you can find in many restaurants. It is made with cornbread and green leaves, usually leeks or spinach. The thickness of the cornbread varies from place to place.

Some of them have a thin layer like a shortbread, others make it more consistent and thick, like a sponge cake.

We ordered it several times in restaurants across the country and it turned up different every time, albeit in keeping with the spirit and ingredients it is meant to have.

Pispili is usually a bread base topped with vegetables and baked but sometimes, the vegetables are layered in between the cornbread or the two are mixed together, like in the photo above. Feta cheese can be sprinkled on top.

As cornbread can be quite filling and dry, pispili is best enjoyed with the fennel yogurt that it is usually served with, or with Fërgesë, so that the smooth and moist cheese helps chew the bread.

As you can see, Fërgesë was my favorite Albanian food and I added it to any other dish!

Qoftë – Meatballs


Qoftë

Qoftë


Qoftë is like the Middle Eastern kofta, and refers to humble but tasty meatballs. The word originated in Persia and referred to pounding, as qoftë is usually made with ground meat.

Grilled meatballs are common across many countries, from Turkey to Iran or even India and Malaysia, and are served and cooked in many different ways.

Some have more herbs like mint, others are eaten with yogurt, some are made with lamb, others with beef, some are fried others grilled. In india, they can be vegetarian and have no meat in them instead using potatoes or lentils.

In Albania, qoftë can look very different from restaurant to restaurant. Sometimes they are grilled, others they are fried and sometimes they come baked, with tomato sauce. Even the shape varies, more rounded at times or more cylindrical others.

To understand how exactly they are cooked, you will have to see the ingredients or check the English translation. Google translate also helps if everything else fails. Or just take the plunge! All qoftë are pretty tasty.

What is sure is that you are unlikely going to see qoftë made with pork, as Albania is mostly a Muslim country. It is still possible to find but less common than the lamb and beef versions.

Unlike in other countries in the Middle East, Albanian qoftë is not served on a flatbread but usually with vegetables or salad. Yogurt with cucumber and fennel may also accompany.

Qifqi – Rice balls


Qifti cheese and rice balls

Qifti cheese and rice balls

Qifqi is a traditional dish from Gjirokaster that is hard to find elsewhere so if you visit the UNESCO town make sure to order it, it features in most local menus.

Qifti is incredibly simple and very tasty, prepared with just boiled rice, egg and herbs that are combined and fried in a specifically made pan that preserves the rounded shape. Sometimes, cheese can be added to the mix too and this was my favorite version.

Qifti are best eaten with, you guessed it, Fërgesë!

I was kidding. Actually qifti is good on its own as it is quite filling and moist, especially when it is made with some cheese. I found it very nice and a good change from the Albanian food we found everywhere else.

Frog’s legs

You say frog’s legs are part of the Albanian gastronomy? That’s right, we saw them on the menus of Gjirokaster while we were there, as in, on every menu not just one.

At first I thought it was just the imagination of the chef at that particular restaurant, although it was a family-run really casual eatery, but then I realised frog’s legs are a staple food in that part of Albania.

The frogs are mostly caught wild and considered a delicacy, so their price is usually higher. If you are curious about trying them, Albania might be the place for it.

Patëllxhan të Mbushur – Stuffed aubergine


Stuffed and baked aubergine

Stuffed and baked aubergine

This dish sometimes may be translated into English already in menus and is one of my most favorite Albanian dishes because it is truly yum, creamy and oh so simple. In fact, I used to cook a similar dish to this back home because it is also traditional from Spain.

Aubergines are a star vegetable of the summer months enjoyed from May to Autumn. As Albanians usually eat what is in season you are guaranteed to find the dish everywhere at that time.

For this dish, aubergines are cut into halves and emptied then filled with a mixture that generally includes fried onions and other vegetables (usually tomatoes and peppers) plus meat, spices and the aubergine meat. This may sometimes be referred to as ragu.  

After they are filled with the mixture, the aubergines are baked in the oven. This means that the final dish you get could well look like the one above, which does not resemble an aubergine because the filling has overflown and covered the entire clay dish.

Stuffed aubergines are a very filling meal so they are usually eaten on their own as mains and do not need any accompaniment. Add some bread to soak the juicy sauce.

Speça të mbushura or Speça me gjize – Stuffed peppers


Stuffed peppers in Albania

Stuffed peppers in Albania

That’s right, another mouth-watering Albanian dish consisting of stuffed vegetables, this time with cheese, meat, rice or vegetables. Or a combination. The version with gjize cheese is vegetarian and the one with mbushura has meat.

Stuffed peppers are exactly what you would expect. Emptied of their seeds and filled with a baked mix of cheese, vegetables or rice. I preferred them filled with cheese, a similar blend to the one used for fërgesë, like the ones in the photo.

The meat filling can be similar to the one used for the aubergines and often times, includes rice too. It is also a bit drier because it lacks the creaminess of the aubergine.

As peppers don’t have the meat that aubergines have, the filling needs to be more abundant and rice tends to be added.

Like with aubergines, peppers are a warm weather vegetable so mostly enjoyed from Spring to Autumn.

Kaçkavall – Fried cheese

Yes, this is exactly as crazy as it sounds, hard yellow cheese that is deep fried and it is one of Albania’s specialty foods, so common that you are sure to find it in every menu.

The resulting dish is gooey and delicious, and necessitates some bread of course, but what tastes better than fried, warm cheese?

Pizza


Albanian pizza, pretty much like Italian pizza

Albanian pizza, pretty much like Italian pizza

Albanian cuisine has a lot of Italian influence. The two countries have been close since the times of the Roman Empire. And, of course, there is the Italian invasion under Mussolini before WWII that formalised these ties.

The country was under Italian rule from 1939, when the troops invaded in a rather peaceful and politically strategized scheme, until 1945 when the Germans took over.

Many Albanians escaped to Italy during the time of Hoxha’s regime, or tuned into Italian TV. After its fall, many emigrated to Italy in search of better opportunities, and ended up working in the service industry. Or found their way to New York to open some of the most traditional pizzerias in the city.

When they returned to Albania, they brought their recipes with them, among which the pizza everyone loves. A few of the service staff we met through our travels had worked in Italy before.

Pizza in Albania is therefore the real deal and made the same way you find in Italy: thin crusted and without silly ingredients on top. And it tends to be cooked properly, in a pizza oven even.

It also features in many menus, alongside other traditional Albanian dishes, and several pasta options.

Grilled meat


Grilled sausage

Grilled sausage

Grilled meat is perhaps the most omnipresent of Albanian main dishes. You will find it on every menu across the country and in every shape and form.

There are grilled lamb chops, ribs, chicken, sausages, beef, pork, I even saw huge 1kg Florentine steaks on the menu of organic Uka Farm. And the meat is always finger-licking good, and best enjoyed with your hands.

Albania is an agricultural country and it is not unusual to see herds of sheep or goats freely roaming in the countryside, cows too, sometimes in the middle of the road, on their own, finding their way back home before sunset.

With such great conditions, it is no surprise that the meat in Albania tastes so good, even if simply grilled on an open fire with nothing more than some olive oil.

Kebabs


Grilled chicken kebabs

Grilled chicken kebabs

Talking of which, kebabs are a type of grilled meat that is extremely popular in Albania. Like in the many other countries where it is also eaten, kebabs are usually served on a skewer, in between pieces of vegetables, and that differentiates them from regular grilled meat.

Kebabs can be made of beef, pork, lamb or even chicken, like in the photo above, and you can usually choose how many you want.


Turkish style kebab in Berat

Turkish style kebab in Berat

Sometimes, you can also find the straight Turkish kebab version, with meats stacked up on a turning grill, sliced when ordered and stuffed inside a pita bread with onions, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and mayonnaise or sour cream.

Perime në Zgarë – Grilled vegetables


Perime në Zgarë, grilled vegetables with balsamic vinegar

Perime në Zgarë, grilled vegetables with balsamic vinegar

Vegetables are incredibly tasty in Albania and because locals like to grill, it is common to have plates with a mix of colorful, grilled vegetables to go with the mains.

These can be drizzled with balsamic vinegar for flavor, or can be marinated beforehand, either way, they are a delight, especially to someone like me who is used to bland veggies that come in frozen trucks or by air.

Grilled fish


Baked whole sea bream fish

Baked whole sea bream fish

While most of Albania’s touristy spots are inland and prime meat destinations, Albania has great beaches along the Riviera and with them, a long coastal region where you can enjoy the fresh seafood and fish of the Adriatic coast.

Likewise, the country also has great rivers and lakes, most notably Lake Skadar, which is shared with Montenegro, and where you can sample freshwater fish.

How do Albanians like their fish?

Like with meat, relatively simply cooked, usually grilled or baked whole in the oven, with tomatoes, peppers and some herbs and a generous dose of olive oil.

I thought grilled fish and seafood was one of the healthiest dishes you could eat in Albania and because the produce and ingredients were so fresh, it was also really flavourful. The fish above we enjoyed sitting on an open garden by Lake Skadar, a very pleasant lunch.


Fried calamari under the warm sun

Fried calamari under the warm sun

Aside from fish, the Albanian coast is the entry point for some delicious seafood. Prawns, squid and calamari are brought in daily by the fishermen in the many fishing villages and towns and grilled with olive oil, lemon and garlic, or fried.

For example, in Saranda, where the fishing boats moor next to sunbathing tourists, you can eat seafood caught that same day at a very affordable price and peel the freshest grilled prawns with your hands.

Fish seemed less abundant in Tirana and inland, despite not being that far from the coast, so if you are popping by any of Albania’s beaches, you should make sure to order some.

Tavë Kosi – Baked meat, eggs and yogurt


Tavë Kosi

Tavë Kosi


One of the most satisfying dishes I tried in Albania was its national dish. Tavë kosi is a meat, yogurt and egg dish that is baked in the oven and looks and feels very much like caneloni minus the pasta.

It is usually cooked and served in a clay dish and is best enjoyed when shared with others as it is quite filling just for one person.

The meat used for this dish is usually lamb but can also be goat, and does not tend to be chopped in small pieces, instead coming in relatively large chunks you would probably want to cut smaller before eating.

Tavë kosi is offered in almost all menus across Albania and is definitely the star dish of Albanian gastronomy so you can’t leave without trying it.

Salcë kosi

Similar to Greek tzatziki, salcë kosi is sour cream which is is usually mixed in with cucumber and garlic that is served traditionally with Albanian bread, a sort of thicker version of pita bread.

While you can well eat it on its own, and I love to, salcë kosi is a great friend to many Albanian grilled meat dishes because it tempers their richness and fattiness with a bit of freshness and sharpness.

Lakror


Lakror

Lakror

Lakror is a type of byrek usually with meat and sometimes made to look more like a pie. I enjoyed it in the UNESCO-listed town of Gjirokaster, in a very pleasant yet terribly slow restaurant that had the most scenic terrace.

The mutton meat the pie was filled with oozed in slow-cooked onion and was simply delicious. The pie is usually served in the clay pot it was baked in for a more picturesque serving.

Liver and other innards


Fried liver

Fried liver

Albanians love to eat innards, usually those of the lamb, a favorite meat, or veal. They tend to be fried, with onions and herbs, and maybe some tomato.

I am no fan of liver or any other part of an animal that is inside, but my best friend loves them and found the liver pretty tasty. It looks good in the photo above doesn’t it?

Tirokafteri


Tirokafteri

Tirokafteri

Tirokafteri is another cheese-based starter/snack that is made with a combination of cheeses (feta, cottage cheese, other soft white cheeses), peppers, garlic, pepper and olive oil and turned into a spreadable mix which is scooped with bread as if you were eating hummus.

This Albanian dish originated in Greece, where it is more common and tends to be spicy because of the red pepper used. You can easily find it in the southern parts of the country, closer to Greece.

Djathë i bardhë


Feta cheese

Feta cheese

By now you must have realised that Albanians eat a lot of cheese. I like cheese, and I love to eat pretty much any kind, but Albanians, like Montenegrins and maybe Greeks, really LOVE their cheese, in particular the kind similar to feta which in Albania is called djathë i bardhë.

Most restaurant menus have entire sections for cheese. Fried cheese, baked cheese, raw cheese, cheese salad, cheese pies, etc. and ordering cheese as a starter is something I became accustomed to.

On the other hand, you are not going to see cheese in the dessert section of a menu as that is usually reserved for sweets and maybe some yogurt.

Djathë i bardhë is a cheese which is a common staple in the Albanian diet and served at pretty much all the restaurants across the country, usually drizzled with some olive oil and maybe accompanied by some olives.

It is similar to feta although technically, it cannot be called feta because that is a protected denomination that can only be used to refer to cheese made in some parts of Greece.


Albanian baked cheese

Albanian baked cheese

Because my friend traveling with me across Albania likes cheese, we ordered djathë i bardhë at pretty much every meal. My favorite was baked in the oven, like in the photo above. It is hard to find another dish in Albania that so consistently tasting the same across the country.

Greek Salad


Greek salad

Greek salad

Believe it or not, salads are a very common dish in Albanian cuisine. Fresh ingredients are easily available and olive and vinegar are of high quality, so you will always find lots of different types of salads on every menu.

Needless to say, cheese is a common ingredient along with juicy tomatoes, onions, lettuce, olives and peppers.

Perhaps the crunchiest of the Albanian salads is the Greek version, with cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, olives and a generous dose of olive oil. This has to be the healthiest of Albanian foods and good when it is really hot outside and you just feel like having a refreshing meal.

Petulla


Petulla with feta cheese and honey

Petulla with feta cheese and honey

Albanians tend to have byrek and a cup of strong Turkish coffee or espresso for breakfast. But another common breakfast item, especially in the south, is petulla.

Petulla is nothing more than humble dollops of fried dough, similar to churros, and is best and most commonly enjoyed with honey or jam and, of course, feta cheese.

The girl at the reception of our hotel in Gjirokaster suggested I try it for breakfast one morning, and recommended the local version with honey and cheese.

I very much enjoyed the combination of salty and sweet, soft and crispy and had it every morning it was available at the hotel we were staying.

Lamb


Grilled lamb

Grilled lamb

I mentioned grilled meat and kebabs before, both of which can be (and are more often than not) made with lamb, but I needed to make special mention to lamb as a specific Albanian food because it is perhaps the most pervasive.

You can find all sorts of lamb in every menu. Baked in the oven, fried, grilled, stewed, baked with eggs, made into meatballs. You can eat ribs, shoulders, liver, heart and other inners. My favorite way to eat lamb was either baked in the oven or grilled on an open fire, both cooking methods bring out the best flavors in the meat.

Jufka pasta


Jufka pasta

Jufka pasta

Jufka is a type of tagliatelle pasta made with whole wheat durum that is traditionally handmade in Albania. The dough is rolled and then left to dry for several days so it can ferment naturally.

Because of this artisanal and time-intensive preparation it is a very hard to find dish only served in traditional restaurants like Mullixhiu, in Tirana, which specialises in bringing back the local lost recipes.


Jufka left to dry at Mullixhiu

Jufka left to dry at Mullixhiu

The pasta is rather simple, but handmade like grandma used to, then hung in the restaurant’s workshop, so you can see the long strips as you come in.

Tarator soup

Although this Albanian dish looks more like the yogurt sauce that is often served with some meat dishes and breads, tarator is actually a cold summer soup made with yogurt cucumber, fennel, garlic and other spices. It is thinner than the dressing version but not too different.

Best Albanian desserts

Albanians love desserts and they like them extra sweet, so they pair well with the strong coffee and the extra-strong raki liquor. They are also a great ending to the grilled meat and cheese meals.

As expected, the Turkish and Middle Eastern influence also brought with it a lot of sweetness, in particular honey, sugar and the many nut-base sweets that are common in those cultures, so expect to see a lot of similarities with those countries.

Lokum


Walnut lokuk and raki

Walnut lokuk and raki

Lokum is the prime example of Albanian food that came into the country through Turkish influence and stayed. It is basically the equivalent of a Turkish delight.

Lokum is most typically from the southern parts of Albanian, where the Turks spent most of their time, and is the name used to refer to a family of sweets made of starch gel and sugar and filled with nuts.

The gel is prepared with gelatine and cornstarch, though it can sometimes be made with other types of starch. They come in various colors and shapes, and are sprinkled with powdered sugar. Rose water is usually involved too.

I tried lokum in Berat where they make a special one wrapped around walnuts and served with fig raki, typical of the area, which has the largest fig orchards in the country.

The sweetness of the lokum and the alcohol strength of the raki, which can sometimes reach 60%, are a fantastic combination and a great way to end a meal or enjoy an afternoon tea break.

Sultjash – Rice pudding


Albanian rice pudding

Albanian rice pudding

Rice pudding is a dessert that is typical of many countries, we very much love it in Spain where it is sold on the fridge shelves of the supermarket alongside yogurt and other milk-based products. It is a dessert I have come to love, so I was happy to see it in Albania too.

The local version, like in Spain, is sprinkled with cinnamon and is not too sweet. Perfect ending to a delicious Albanian meal.

Salep


Salep with some cheese and baklava

Salep with some cheese and baklava

Salep is a type of sweet drink made with orchid tuber flour. Yes, you heard it right, orchid tubers that are grown, dried and ground finely into flour.

As you probably guessed, the dish came with the Ottoman Empire and is traditionally from Turkey. The Turks invented salep as a warm milky drink to be enjoyed when the weather is cold.

Orchids have always been venerated as beautiful and for their respiratory properties. But to make one kilogram of salep flour it takes 1,000 orchid tubers, making it an expensive product. So commercial, flavored versions are also used.

Baklava


Baklava

Baklava

Baklava is a layered crunchy sweet made with honey or syrup, walnuts and layers of phyllo pastry. It is as sweet as it gets but the Albanian version seemed lighter to me.

While Baklava are very typical of many countries from Turkey to Azerbaijan, Iran to Morocco, I found the ones in Albania extra good because instead of the peanuts that are more commonly used, Albanian baklavas seem to be made more often with walnuts.

The bitterness of the walnuts makes the baklava a bit less sweet and the use of watered down honey, which is freshly farmed in Albania, lightens them versus some other really sweet syrupy versions.

While I still cannot have more than a couple of mouthfuls, Albanian baklavas are worth trying and go great with raki.

Shëndetli


Shëndetli

Shëndetli

Shëndetli is one of the most typical desserts in Albania and is made with honey and nuts, making it an incredibly rich and sweet dessert.

The dessert is actually more like a baked cookie that is soaked in honey and syrup for a long time to turn it into a sponge looking cake. Sometimes, the cookie can be left in the syrupy liquid overnight.

While it can be made with other types of nuts, walnuts are the most commonly used for shëndetli, and they tend to be ground rather than whole or in pieces, like the one we had. This is the reason why it is so dark in color.

This is an Albanian dessert only for those with the sweetest tooth.

Albanian wines, beer and liquors

All menus in Albania have a section for wines and beers plus raki. These are always local brands, except for some Italian and Kosovar wines. And this is great for me because I always want to eat and drink 100% local.

Albanians like to drink both wine and beer with their meals, and in large servings. When you order a beer you are more likely going to get half a liter. Wine is sold in carafes of a quarter or half a liter, as well as bottles.

There is also a third type of drink that is really typically Albanian, and also Montenegrin, and widely popular, a distilled grape liquor calle raki which can have as much as 55% alcohol and which I mentioned before.

Albanian wines

You may have never heard of Albanian wines, but they are fantastic. While wine production was practically stopped during the communist times because of collectivisation and simplification of wine production to just red and white. Since the fall of the regime, production has restarted stronger than ever.

The local wineries are working to bring back the autochthonous and native varieties of grapes that are not grown elsewhere with success and you can find some excellent wines, especially red.

However, at around a million bottles a year, wine production volumes are still low and Albanian wine is hard to find outside the country. So while you are visiting, make sure to order some of the local wines with your meal.

Look out for the local red grape varieties of shesh i zi, kallmet, and the white grapes puls and shesh i bardhe.

Here is a list of the most important wineries in Albania. You will not find them all in each menu, but you are sure to find one or two. If only house wine is available, you will probably get a table wine equivalent which tends to be quite sweet in nature.

Çobo Winery


Çobo Winery 2013 Kashmer

Çobo Winery 2013 Kashmer

Çobo Winery, located near Berat, is one of the best wineries in Albania growing both local and international grapes and producing some of the most premium wines.

The family has been in the wine business for generations and has returned from the communist time with a will to grow and experiment with the native grape varieties. This is a winery that can be visited on tour if you contact them in advance.

Try the Kashmer red wine with the local grape shesh i zi, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. More info on the winery and the tours here. I tried reaching out to them for a tour three times but never got an answer, I hope you are luckier!

Nurellari Winery

This is another great local winery that can also be visited on tours. They produce both white wine with the puls grapes as well as a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and montepulciano grapes.

You can find more info on the winery here. I did reach out to them and they were open to tours but we could not make it.

Uka Winery


Chimaera wine from Uka

Chimaera wine from Uka

Uka Farm also has a winery producing biodynamic wines. While they are not as readily available across the country as the other wines on this list, you can enjoy them if you visit the farm and in some restaurants in Tirana.

Try the red wines Kallmet or Chimaera or the white wine Ceruja. More info on their Facebook page (they do not have a website).

Kallmeti Winery


Kallmet Prestigi wine from Kallmeti

Kallmet Prestigi wine from Kallmeti

This winery takes the name from the village of Kallmet which gives its name to one of the most famous Albanian native red grapes and the winery itself.

Their wines are pretty good, as I discovered when enjoying a fine 2013 aged bottle while having dinner at restaurant Mullixhiu.

You can find more info on their website which also has an option to organise a visit.

I had Albanian wine for lunch and dinner every day of my trip and was never disappointed, but the more premium wineries above were not always available, especially in the smaller restaurants away from Tirana where the most common option was the young house table wine.

Albanian beer

Korca Albanian beer

Korca Albanian beer

Elbar Albanian beer

Elbar Albanian beer

Albanians love beer and there are three local brands you will find everywhere, Korca, Tirana and Elbar all three of them are blonde beers, quite mild in taste and usually sold in bottles.

Raki

We cannot talk about food in Albania without mentioning the potent and clear raki.

Raki is a distilled spirit, a kind of brandy, made from grape pomace although raki made from other fruit pomace can also be found, most notably fig or apricot. It is incredibly strong, and can easily reach 50% alcohol or more.

Raki is eaten at the end of most meals and you may even get a complimentary shot from the locals in the small villages. It is clear and does not have much flavor or color but it can revitalise the dead.