European Dishes That Everyone Needs To Try At Least Once

A trip to Europe wouldn’t be complete without visiting all the famous attractions and taking a gander at the beautiful landscapes. The continent is a mix of so many different cultures with people who take pride in their customs and traditions. One of the most important traditions is food.

There are countless traditional European dishes packed with lots of flavor and history. Dishes such as strudel from Austria, gyros from Greece, or pizza from Italy will surely make your mouth water. If you have the opportunity to try at least one of these tasty foods, then consider yourself lucky.

Ratatouille Is A Healthy And Delicious French Dish

ratatouille vegetable stew
Anjelika Gretskaia/Getty Images
Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

One of the most authentic French dishes is a vegetable stew called ratatouille. Some may remember it from the Pixar movie of the same name. The word “ratatouille” translates “to stir up” and dates back to Nice, France in the late 18th century.

The modern version features several colorful vegetables including eggplant, bell peppers, garlic, onion, zucchini, tomato, basil, fennel, and a mix of various other leafy green herbs. Most chefs agree the best way to make ratatouille is to cook each ingredient separately and then combine them all at the end to slowly roast.

There’s Nothing Like Eating Authentic Italian Pizza

a chef taking a cheese pizza out of an oven
Marco Cantile/LightRocket via Getty Images
Marco Cantile/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pizza has become a top dish around the world, but the best place to try it is Italy. The first record of pizza was during the 10th century. It was found in a Latin manuscript in the small town of Gaeta. The dish was brought to the United States during the late 1800s by Italian immigrants.

Pizza as the world knows it today originated in Naples, making it the pizza capital of the world. An authentic Neapolitan pizza only requires a simple dough, raw tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and olive oil. Also, Neapolitan pizza is not meant to be served by the slice.

Gyros Is A Classic Greek Dish Cooked In An Unusual Way

gyros sandwiches with pita bread, tomatoes, tzatziki, french fries, and onions
Alékos Greek Kitchen/Facebook
Alékos Greek Kitchen/Facebook

Something that makes gyros stand out is how it’s prepared. The dish, made of various meats including lamb, chicken, pork, or beef, is cooked on a vertical rotisserie. It’s usually wrapped in pita bread and stuffed with fillings such as onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.

Vertical rotisserie cooking started in the 19th century during the Ottoman Empire, but the version most known today was created shortly after World War II by Turkish and other Middle Eastern immigrants. By the 1970s, gyro wrap sandwiches had become one of the most popular fast food items in Athens, Chicago, and New York.

Austrian Strudel Needs To Have Perfect Dough

strudel with a red filling and flaky crust
Resep Masakan Eropa/Facebook
Resep Masakan Eropa/Facebook

The oldest strudel recipe came from a handwritten Austrian cookbook in 1696. Strudel first became popular in the 18th century throughout the Habsburg Empire. The name for strudel comes from the Middle High German translation of “whirlpool” or “eddy.” These flaky pastries are often filled with fruit such as cherries, apples, apricots, or plums, but can also have seeds or nuts.

The savory options can contain sauerkraut, pumpkin, potatoes, cabbage, or spinach. A perfect strudel dough has to be very elastic and is usually made from high-gluten flour, water, oil, and salt. It needs to be kneaded so thin that people can see through it.

Karelian Pies From Finland Can’t Be Made Everywhere

karelian pies made from potatoes
Jari Leppä/Facebook
Jari Leppä/Facebook

In Finland this pastry is referred to as a “Karjalanpiirakka,” but when translated to English it is called a Karelian pasty or pie. These are cooked with a rye crust and fillings of rice, mashed potatoes, and carrots. Before the dish is served it’s usually topped with a combination of butter and chopped up hard-boiled eggs.

If Karelian pies are made outside of specific regions in Europe they must be referred to as rice or potato pasties, depending on the filling. This rule falls under the Traditional Specialty Guaranteed Status in Europe, which promotes and protects certain agricultural products.

Fish And Chips Will Always Remain A Part Of England

fried fish and french fries in a basket
Dickson Lee/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Dickson Lee/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

A common food staple in England is fish and chips. The combination of fried fish in a batter served with french fries was first seen in London in the 1860s. Several fish and chips shops started to pop up over time, but the trend has started to decline as recently as 2009.

British author Charles Dickens mentioned the dishes in both Oliver Twist (1838) and A Tale of Two Cities (1859), but only separately because fish and chips weren’t sold together yet. Also, when England was forced to ration food during World War II, one of the few they did not limit was fish and chips.

The Right Way To Eat A Spanish Paella

paella with rice, seafood, peas, and lemon slices
Prisma by Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Prisma by Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The vibrant colors and ingredients in paella should be enough to make anyone want to give it a try. Paella is one of the most well-known Spanish dishes and usually includes short-grain rice, meat or seafood, vegetables, saffron, beans, olive oil, and herbs.

The dish originated in Valencia and is named after the traditional frying pan used to cook the food over an open fire. A traditional fire in Valencia must have orange and pine branches with pinecones to give the paella an aromatic smoke. Diners are technically supposed to eat it straight out of the pan, instead of eating it on separate plates.

Switzerland Brought Cheese Fondue To America

People eating a cheese fondue as they swim
Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images
Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images

One dish that can help bring anyone together is cheese fondue. The cheese is usually from Switzerland and is heated over a portable stove. People dip cubes of bread on long-stemmed forks to get an even bread and cheese combination. The earliest cheese fondue recipe dates back to 1699.

Fondue started to become popular in the 1930s after it was promoted by the Swiss Cheese Union. It reached the United States around the 1960s and became an instant hit at parties and various social gatherings. As Betty Crocker used to say, “A fondue party can be great fun.”

Why Many Americans Eat Belgian Waffles

Close-up of Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream on white plate
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

If you want to know how to tell the difference between a Belgian waffle and any other ordinary waffle, look out for a lighter batter, larger squares, and deeper pockets. Belgian waffles were first seen in Brussels, Belgium in 1958 and were quickly brought to Seattle, Washington four years later.

Although the Belgian waffle originated in Belgium, they didn’t become popular until they were sold at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. They were topped with whipped cream and strawberries and sold for only a dollar.

Köttbullar Is The Swedish Name For This Delicious Dish

three young men eating Köttbullar
Bill Wippert/Getty Images
Bill Wippert/Getty Images

Several countries have their own versions of meatballs, but one that stands out is köttbullar, better known as Swedish meatballs. They have a crispy brown exterior and are usually on the smaller side. The first Swedish meatball recipe is likely from a 1754 cookbook, but meatballs have been around since at least 221 BC.

Köttbullar is a beef meatball mixed with pork or veal and can include breadcrumbs, finely chopped onions, broth, salt, pepper, and a few other spices. The meatballs can be eaten with pasta, cabbage, salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, or lingonberry sauce.

Try A Smørrebrød In Denmark

Sliced beetroot marinated salmon sandwiches with rye bread, cucumber, basil and lemon served in stack on wooden cutting board over grey blue texture background
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This colorful Scandinavian dish is called smørrebrød, which is an open-faced sandwich that contains buttered rye bread topped with cold cuts, fish, cheese, sauce, and other garnishes. Any time that smørrebrød is made it needs to have sour-dough rye bread because almost all Scandinavians have it on the table at all times.

It was invented in the 19th century by Scandinavian agricultural workers who packed themselves sandwiches made out of their leftovers for lunch. These are very popular in Denmark during holidays such as Easter and Christmas. There are hundreds of combinations to make that include liver pâté, eel, roast beef, salmon, and pickled herring.

Lefse Is Norway’s Version Of A Tortilla

Rolled Lefse with a dip on a oval plate
Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Norwegian food lefse may look a bit like tortillas, but there are some big differences that set them apart. Lefse is a flatbread usually made with potatoes, flour, butter, milk, or cream and is cooked on a large, flat griddle. In order to cook it just right, it needs to be flattened and flipped with special tools including long wooden turning sticks and rolling pins with deep grooves.

Lefse can be eaten with butter, cinnamon, sugar, cheese, salad, seafood, or meat. Americans can find lefse in states with large Norwegian populations such as Minnesota, North Dakota, and Washington.

Pretzels Are An Iconic Symbol In Germany

A man sells pretzels in front of the Reichstag in Germany
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

There are a few different opinions on the true origin of the pretzel, but historians are certain that they were seen in German bakeries at least since the 12th century. The loops on pretzels were very practical for bakers who could hang them vertically on sticks.

Pretzels are considered to be one of Germany’s most iconic symbols. They contain flour, salt, malt, yeast, and water, and the dough is tied into a knot and dipped in a lye solution before they’re baked. Pretzels are usually topped with salt, but can also include spices, cheese, and sauce.

Irish Stew Is Simple, Yet Tasty

a chef holding up an irish stew of meat, carrots, and potatoes
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images

During Ireland’s early years cooking from a large cauldron was the norm, so stews and soups became some of their first dishes. One that has been passed down for generations is Irish stew. It was first made with goat, but is now cooked with lamb or mutton. It also includes root vegetables such as potatoes, onions, and carrots and is topped with parsley.

The recipe is rather simple but has strong flavors that make it a hearty comfort meal. There are certain Canadian regulations for Irish stew to be commercially produced, such as it must have at least 20 percent meat, 30 percent vegetables, and can include gravy, salt, seasoning, and spices.

Haggis Is One Of Scotland’s Proudest Accomplishments

a woman holding haggis next to an old man playing a bagpipe in a kilt
David M. Benett/Getty Images
David M. Benett/Getty Images

Haggis is a Scottish delicacy that’s been around since the 1430s. It’s a savory pudding with sheep heart, liver, and lungs mixed with onions, oatmeal, animal fat, and various spices and flavorings. The dish is traditionally cooked inside a sheep’s stomach and produces a nutty texture and flavor.

Those who are bold enough to try haggis can expect it to be served with neeps and tatties (cabbages/turnips and potatoes). It’s usually served as part of the traditional Burns supper in reference to Scottish poet Robert Burns, who wrote the famous poem “Address to a Haggis.”

The Dark Meaning Behind The Czech Republic’s Utopenci

vegetables inside a brine in a glass jar
Mike Mangrum/Pinterest
Mike Mangrum/Pinterest

When going to a pub in the Czech Republic people will often find some utopenci. This dish contains pickled sausage or hot dogs in a brine with bay leaves, onions, black peppercorns, salt, and other spices. Those who want it to be on the spicy side can add in some chili peppers.

When the name is translated to English it is called drowned men, which refers to the inventor of the dish who drowned when working on his mill. The name is also a way of saying that the sausages are drowning in the marinade.

Iceland’s Skyr Is Not Actually Yogurt

skyr yogurt on display
Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Although Skyr is often thought of as a yogurt, it’s actually a fresh sour milk cheese with the consistency of Greek yogurt. Skyr hails from Iceland and has been around since the medieval period. When it’s translated to English it means “to cut,” in reference to how the dairy product turns from liquid to solid.

In Iceland, Skyr is usually served with a sugar topping and a glass of cold milk, but now that it’s mass produced it comes with new flavors and toppings such as vanilla and fruit. Americans who want to try it can sometimes find it at their local grocery store.

How Poffertjes In The Netherlands Differ From Pancakes

poffertjes inside a baking pan
Julian Stratenschulte/Getty Images
Julian Stratenschulte/Getty Images

Poffertjes are the Dutch version of pancakes. These are small and fluffy with a light and airy feel and are made with yeast and buckwheat flour. In the Netherlands, it’s rare to eat these for breakfast because they are usually consumed as a snack. Poffertjes are most commonly topped with butter and powdered sugar, but sometimes include whipped cream, fruit, or chocolate.

These round treats are most likely seen around holidays such as summer festivals and Christmas markets. They aren’t too difficult to make, but require a special pan with shallow indents (pictured).

The Many Flavors Of Pierogi In Poland

various flavors of pierogi dumplings displayed
Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There isn’t an exact origin of pierogis, but most historians guess that they were brought to Poland in the early to mid-1200s and mainly eaten by peasants. These dumplings can be savory, spicy, or sweet with common fillings that include fruit, mushrooms, cheese, meat, potato, or sauerkraut. Diners will usually top them with onions, sour cream, or butter.

In Poland, pierogis are usually served as the 12th course during Christmas Eve dinner and they can also be found in eateries called pierogarnias. If you plan on going to Poland, mark your calendar for Pierogi Day on October 8.

Caldeirada In Portugal Is Perfect For Seafood Lovers

a soup with fish, potatoes, herbs, and seafood
Horacio Villalobos/Getty Images
Horacio Villalobos/Getty Images

Portugal’s caldeirada is a true fishermen’s dish that changes depending on what they are able to catch. Most versions have about half lean and half oily fish, shellfish such as clams, mussels, and shrimp, and squid or octopus. Caldeirada also contains potatoes, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, and various herbs and spices.

The name comes from the pot that it’s cooked in and is best served with some slices of toasted bread. In Portugal it’s common to eat this in a large group setting.

Baklava Spread From Turkey To All Over The World

baklava filled with chopped walnuts and pistachios
Mehmet Akif Parlak/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Mehmet Akif Parlak/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

One of the most well-known Turkish desserts is the rich and flaky baklava. This pastry is incredibly sweet and filled with layers of chopped nuts, syrup, frosting, or honey. Modern-day baklava comes from Turkish origin because it spread throughout the Ottoman Empire by Turkish invaders during the 16th century.

The dough that’s used in baklava is called phyllo, which when translated means “as thin as a leaf.” Other countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Armenia, Lebanon, Jordan, Macedonia, and Israel all have their own variations of the dessert and will often serve it during important holidays.

Making Flija Isn’t An Easy Task In Albania

flija dough being made in a big silver pot
Armend Nimani/AFP via Getty Images
Armend Nimani/AFP via Getty Images

When flija is translated to English it means “to sacrifice,” which references the limited amount of ingredients it takes to make one. Flijas in Albania are similar to crêpes and only require flour, water, butter, yogurt, eggs, oil, and salt. The batter is brushed with a sweet cream when it cooks and is topped with sour cream.

Although the recipe is rather simple, it’s prepared using advanced techniques such as shaping the batter into triangles, heating it over an open fire, and adding several layers with individual coatings. In Albania, March 20 is recognized as Flija Day where families and friends will gather together to prepare and eat flijas.

Indulge In Some Dolmas In Armenia

stuffed leaves inside a pot
EyesWideOpen/Getty Images
EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

Armenia is part of both Europe and Asia and many of their signature dishes are a blend between the two continents. One that is commonly seen throughout Armenia is dolma. The traditional way to prepare dolma is stuffing grape leaves with rice, vegetables, and ground meat and cooking it with olive oil.

It began as early as the 7th century, so there are at least 50 different varieties around the world that use other vegetables and stuffings. Cooking dolmas has to be very precise in order for the dish to absorb all the juices. They are usually cooked on low heat for a long time so the flavors stay intact.

Mititei Is Romania’s Most Popular Dish

a old romanian woman cooking mititei sausages
Marco Secchi/Getty Images
Marco Secchi/Getty Images

One of Romania’s most popular dishes is called mititei, which is a ground meat roll consisting of beef, lamb, and pork and several spices. Mititei means “little or small ones” in Romanian, referring to the size of the small sausages. Authentic mititei is barbecued and often served with french fries, mustard, and pickled green vegetables.

The idea for mititei came from a chef in the late 19th century who had run out of casings for his sausages, so he just prepared the fillings on their own. It’s estimated that about 440 million mititeis are consumed in Romania each year.

The Hungarian Name For Goulash Reveals Its True Origins

goulash with meat, lettuce, croutons, and potatoes
Brinckmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Brinckmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Goulash is the national dish of Hungary and has existed since the medieval period in the 9th century. This stew contains chunks of meat and vegetables and is typically seasoned with paprika. In Hungary, goulash is served with bread or pasta, but there are several other versions in many countries in Europe, Asia, and North America.

The dish was originally made by cattle herders and stockmen, so the Hungarian word for goulash means “herd of cattle.” During the medieval period the meat was dried by the sun and packed into bags made of sheep’s stomach, similar to haggis.

Ajvar Is Serbia’s Vegetable Caviar

ajvar red relish in a jar and spread on a piece of bread
Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images
Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images

In Serbia, ajvar is known as “Serbian salad” or “Serbian vegetable caviar” and has become one of the most popular spreads in Europe. It is made from roasted red bell peppers and oil and usually consumed as a spread on bread. Serbia used to be one of the main suppliers of caviar, but as production slowed down they came up with ajvar.

Ajvar tastes very smoky because the vegetables inside are roasted over a wood fire before being turned into a chunky paste. On average, Serbia makes about 640 tons of ajvar each year.

Trdelník Will Melt In Your Mouth In Slovakia

a Trdelnik cake with ice cream inside
Michael Heitmann/picture alliance via Getty Images
Michael Heitmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

Trdelník is the Slovak version of funnel cake, which is made by winding soft dough topped with fruit, sugar, and nuts around a roller. These are hollow and usually filled with vanilla ice cream during the summer months. The dish originated around the 18th century on the border between Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

A Hungarian general was traveling with a Transylvanian cook who introduced the recipe to the people living around the border and it soon spread across Europe. The flavors are so sweet that the dish usually melts in your mouth.

Croatia’s Black Risotto Will Make Your Teeth Turn Black

black risotto in a white bowl topped with herbs
Dixie D. Vereen/ Getty Images
Dixie D. Vereen/ Getty Images

Your teeth may turn black after indulging in some black risotto along the coast of Croatia. It gets its dark color from squid ink and is usually combined with rice, fish, seafood, olive oil, garlic, and various herbs. Black risotto is typically served as a light lunch and is most commonly found in Dalmatian taverns.

Squid ink is used in other dishes to turn them black such as pasta and sauce. If you’re ordering black risotto in Croatia, it is then referred to as crni rižot.

Ukraine Takes Pride In Borscht

borscht soup with beets and meat
Deb Lindsey/Getty Images
Deb Lindsey/Getty Images

A dish someone can expect to try while in Ukraine is borscht. It’s a sour soup made with mostly beetroots and can include meat or bone stock, vegetables, and some sour cream. Borscht is often served with hard-boiled eggs or potatoes.

The soup originated from a hogweed soup made by the Slavs in Eastern Europe a few centuries ago. It was considered to be a poor man’s food, but the recipe soon spread as the Russian Empire began to expand. Now, it’s often associated with religious and ethnic traditions and is eaten on special occasions in places such as Ukraine, Russia, Poland, and Lithuania.

Kasha Is A National Russian Dish

kasha in a bowl with butter in the middle
Romekkaminski/Pinterest
Romekkaminski/Pinterest

Kasha has been part of Russian cuisine for centuries. It’s a dish made out of grains, usually buckwheat, and is boiled in milk or water to make a porridge. The average Russian eats about 33 pounds of kasha each year and Ukraine follows close behind at 26 pounds.

Shchi and kasha are the two national dishes of Russia, which goes along with the famous Russian saying, “Cabbage soup and porridge are what we eat.” Adults tend to go for the savory version with fried onions, salt, and butter, while children prefer the sweet version with milk and sugar.