Tulumba - sm - © macedoniancuisine.com

Expedition to Macedonia II: Breads, Pies and Desserts

Yesterday, we surveyed the most popular Macedonian mains. Today, we’ll look at classic Macedonian Pies, Breads and Desserts. And they have cookbooks full of ’em! Some of these delightful culinary gems are shared with other cultures; many are unique!

Ravanija - © macediniancuisine.comRavanija: An ancient and beloved, sugar syrup-drenched, sherbet-topped cake…

On the menu today:

Many Macedonian baked goods come down to the modern national cookbook from the Ottomans who occupied what is now the Balkans and Greece in pre-Roman times. And it’s clear that the Greek sweet tooth is a direct descendant of its Ottoman-Macedonian ancestor!


Zelnik-Phyllo: Phyllo pastry – so popular across the Middle East and in neighbouring Greece – is again in the spotlight in Macadonia. Except this time, we learn that Greece inherited the Phyllo tradition from ancient Macedonia, and not the other way around!

Zelnik - © nomadparadise.com

Zelnik is a phyllo-crusted pie stuffed with chopped leeks. There are many variations; some are stuffed with chopped meat, spinach, cabbage, or cheese, and some even include a scrambled egg layer.

Burek: Similar to Zelnik, Burek is also a Phyllo pie filled with meat or cheese – but this one is a top breakfast favourite that can also stand up to grab-and-go dining dynamics on the morning commute or at lunch. Burek comes down from the Ottomans, who prized foods that could either be made easily in the field by soldiers, or stand up to the rigors of life on deployment.


Whole Wheat Bread: A favourite in Macedponia, for any and all applications. Hint: Macedonians traditionally serve most mains with stacks of buttered bread. It can be used for scoping stews or dipping, or topped with tomato or pepper spread as a snack or appetizer. This great recipe also includes oatmeal and sesame seeds, and produces ‘Super healthy, soft, aromatic and tasty‘ loaf that stays fresh the next day.

Kozinjak: A Christmas and Easter specialty, this braided loaf will remind some of Challah (Jewish Egg Bread) which is a Passover tradition. It owes its unique flavour and texture to milk, yogurt, butter and eggs. Kozinjak is a sweet dough loaf which uses a fair amount of sugar and often includes raisins.

Pogacha: Is a traditional special occasion bread, designed to pull apart into single-serving spiral-shaped rolls.

Pogacha - © macedoniancuisine.com

It can be made plain or filled (at the centre of each spiral) with cheese, or whatever you like – usually savoury. The rich dough gets its unique character from milk, butter and eggs.

Ohrid Gjomleze: This unique pie is actually a stack of ‘crèpe’ layers baked one on top of the other. It takes time, but it’s considered a special treat in Macedonia. Like crèpes, this dish is made with a thin batter rather than a dough. It takes only 4 ingredients – flour water salt and oil – but the result is a complex flavour and texture like nothing you’ve ever eaten before!

Babka: Popular throughout the Balkans, this yeast-raised loaf is also referred to as a ‘cake’. It’s traditionally baked in a what we would call a Bundt pan. One of the most popular varieties is Kuglof – a version with chopped olives and seeds.


Mekici: This fried dough specialty is usually consumed for breakfast or a snack. The secret to the light, fluffy texture is yogurt.

Mekici - © macedoniancuisine.com

Mekici are cooked like pancakes on a frying pan or a griddle, or deep-fried like doughnuts.

Ravanija: Your sweet tooth will love you for the rest of your life! Ravanija is a universally popular cake made from semolina, eggs and sugar, and soaked with a vanilla-flavoured sugar syrup. If that wasn’t sweet enough, it’s usually topped with Sherbet!

Sutlijash: Macedonian Rice Pudding is widely beloved across the Balkans, and easy to make. Traditionally made from Rice cooked in milk until it forms a rich, creamy sauce. One modern recipe I’ve seen suggests you just cook the rice until very soft and add instant Vanilla Pudding to sauce-up the mixture quickly. In any case, vanilla and raisins are usually included in the dish which is traditionally topped with Cinnamon.

Tulumba: Many folks will immediately see a resemblance to Mexican Churros. Just a coincidence, I assure you!

Tulumba - © macedoniancuisine.com

These luscious little nuggets start with a baking powder-leavened dough that’s squeezed out of a piping bag or fancy cookie syringe, with a serrated tip. They’re deep fried and drenched in sugar syrup. You’ll discover that many Macedonian-Balkan deserts are soaked in syrup…

For such a small country…

… Macedonia has such a huge, colourful culture with a cuisine to match! I encourage you to explore Macedonian dining further. They have a rich tradition of sauces, condiments and dips, and we have only scratched the surface!

~ Maggie J.