Traditional Christmas Dishes in Romania

Christmas in Romania is more than just a holiday; it’s a time when cherished traditions and culinary delights take centre stage. The festive season brings families and friends together to celebrate with a rich tapestry of traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations. In this article, we’ll embark on a culinary journey through Romania, exploring the mouthwatering and culturally significant Christmas dishes that grace the holiday table.

Romanian Christmas cuisine is a treasure trove of flavors, traditions, and shared experiences. It is a reflection of the country’s history, cultural diversity, and the warmth of family gatherings. Each dish is not only a culinary masterpiece but also a carrier of deep-rooted meanings and traditions that have been woven into the fabric of Romanian society.

Table of Contents

1. Sarmale

No Romanian Christmas feast is complete without Sarmale. These cabbage rolls are a delicious blend of minced pork, beef, or sometimes chicken, mixed with rice and spices, all lovingly wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves. Sarmale symbolize abundance and unity and are often enjoyed as the main course on Christmas Day. They are meticulously prepared and take time, signifying the importance of patience and tradition.

Sarmale represents the essence of Romanian Christmas cuisine – a harmonious blend of flavours and tradition. Each roll tells a story, and the combination of savoury meat, rice, and the tangy cabbage is like a taste of the past, bringing generations together.

Christmas Dishes in Romania
Photo by slavulete ovidiu on Flickr

2. Mămăligă

Mămăligă is a cornmeal porridge that has been a staple of Romanian cuisine for centuries. It is especially popular during the Christmas season. Served as a side dish, Mămăligă is both comforting and filling. It represents the agricultural roots of the country and the importance of the harvest in the lives of Romanians.

Mămăligă is more than just porridge; it’s a symbol of the sustenance that the land provides. The simple yet hearty dish evokes a sense of belonging and a deep connection to Romania’s rural heritage.

3. Ciorbă de Perisoare

Ciorbă de Perisoare is a classic Romanian soup enjoyed on Christmas Day. It features meatballs made from a mixture of minced meat (typically a combination of pork and beef), rice, and spices, all served in a sour broth. This soup is a beloved comfort food and is believed to bring good fortune in the year ahead.

Ciorbă de Perisoare is not just a soup; it’s a testament to the blending of flavours and the importance of balance. The sourness of the broth is harmoniously complemented by the richness of the meatballs, creating a symphony of taste that resonates with Romanian traditions.

4. Cozonac

Cozonac, a sweet bread, is a centrepiece of Romanian Christmas desserts. It is rich, braided, and often filled with ingredients like walnuts, cocoa, and various spices. Cozonac is a symbol of prosperity and is typically enjoyed throughout the holiday season. It takes time and patience to prepare, signifying the love and care that go into creating this delectable treat.

Cozonac is more than just bread; it’s a symbol of the abundance that surrounds Christmas in Romania. The sweet, soft layers and the delicious fillings represent the warmth and unity of family and the anticipation of sharing in the joy of the season.

Traditional Christmas Dishes in Bulgaria
Photo by Marco Verch Professional Photographer on Flickr

5. Mucenici

Mucenici are a unique Romanian tradition. These are sweet pastries shaped like the number eight, symbolizing both infinity and the sacrifice of the Martyrs. Mucenici are typically boiled and then garnished with a mixture of honey, crushed walnuts, and ground cinnamon. This dish is a special treat on the 9th of March, known as “Mucenici Day.”

Mucenici represent the intertwining of tradition and spirituality in Romanian culture. The intricate shape and the sweet, aromatic garnish are a delicious reminder of the country’s rich history and heritage.

6. Salată de Boeuf

Salată de Boeuf is a traditional Romanian salad that graces many Christmas tables. It’s a medley of boiled vegetables, usually carrots and potatoes, mixed with pickles, peas, and mayonnaise. The salad is often garnished with hard-boiled eggs and is a refreshing addition to the Christmas meal.

Salată de Boeuf adds a vibrant touch to the Christmas table. The combination of vegetables and mayonnaise is a reflection of the diversity and harmony of life, reminding everyone that Christmas is a time for joy and celebration.

7. Mămăligă cu Brânză și Smântână

Mămăligă makes another appearance, this time as a delightful dessert. In this variation, Mămăligă is mixed with brânză (cheese) and topped with smântână (sour cream). It’s a sweet and savoury combination that is beloved by many Romanians during the holiday season.

Mămăligă cu Brânză și Smântână represents the duality of life – the sweet and the savoury, the simplicity and the indulgence. It’s a reminder that Christmas is a time to saver the contrasts and the richness that life has to offer.

Top Places in Romania to try Mamaliga - A Traditional Cornmeal Dish

8. Coliva

Coliva is a sweet dish often associated with religious celebrations, including Christmas. It consists of boiled wheat berries mixed with honey and walnuts. Coliva is typically prepared for the commemoration of the deceased, but it also finds its place on the Christmas table, symbolizing the idea of continuity and the connection between generations.

Coliva is more than just a dish; it’s a symbol of the cycle of life and the bonds that tie families together. The grains of wheat, the sweetness of honey, and the richness of walnuts all come together to create a deep and meaningful connection with the past and the future.

10. Fasole cu Ciolan

Fasole cu Ciolan is a hearty Romanian dish consisting of white beans cooked with smoked pork knuckle. It’s a warm and satisfying dish, often served on Christmas Eve. Fasole cu Ciolan is a symbol of comfort and the simple pleasures of life, and it resonates with the notion of gathering around the table to enjoy the warmth of family.

Fasole cu Ciolan is more than just a meal; it’s a testament to the importance of coming together during the holiday season. The slow-cooked beans and the smoky pork knuckle are like a warm embrace, reminding everyone that Christmas is a time to share and appreciate the joys of life.

In Romania, Christmas is a season of tradition, togetherness, and culinary excellence. The country’s rich history and diverse cultural influences have led to a unique and flavourful Christmas cuisine. Each dish is a testament to the values and customs that have been celebrated for generations. These traditional Romanian Christmas dishes embody more than just flavour; they encapsulate the spirit of the season.

The preparation and enjoyment of these dishes are steeped in tradition and symbolism, making every bite a cherished memory. Whether it’s the savoury Sarmale that signifies unity and abundance, the sweet Cozonac that brings a touch of prosperity, or the hearty Fasole cu Ciolan that warms the soul, each dish has a story to tell.

In the heart of Romania, the Christmas table becomes a tapestry of flavours and traditions. The entire family gathers to share in the preparation and celebration of these cherished recipes. The act of cooking and enjoying these dishes is not only a culinary experience but a cultural one, passed down through generations.

Christmas in Romania is a celebration of life, family, and tradition. The traditional dishes that grace the holiday table bring warmth, joy, and a sense of connection. They are a reminder that Christmas is more than just a date on the calendar; it’s a time to come together, share stories, create memories, and celebrate the culinary treasures that have been cherished for centuries.

As you partake in the Romanian Christmas feast, remember that each dish is more than just food; it’s a symbol of heritage, love, and unity. These traditional Christmas dishes have stood the test of time, and they continue to be at the heart of the holiday season in Romania. So, savour every bite and cherish the time spent with loved ones during this magical time of year.


Romanian Christmas cuisine is a delightful fusion of tradition, culture, and culinary excellence. As the holiday season approaches, the spotlight shifts to the evolving trends that shape the way Romanians celebrate Christmas. In this article, we’ll delve into ten trending topics that add a contemporary twist to the country’s time-honoured Christmas dishes.

Romanian Christmas cuisine is a testimony to the country’s rich history and the values cherished by its people. Each dish carries profound cultural significance and serves as a reminder of the importance of tradition and unity.

Modern Interpretations of Classic Christmas Dishes
One of the most prominent trends in Romanian Christmas cuisine is the modern interpretation of classic dishes. Chefs and home cooks are exploring innovative ways to reinvent traditional recipes. For example, you may find modern renditions of Sarmale using alternative ingredients to cater to dietary preferences, such as vegan or gluten-free versions. These contemporary adaptations breathe new life into time-honoured dishes, making them appealing to a broader audience.

Modern interpretations bridge the gap between the old and the new, ensuring that Romanian Christmas cuisine remains relevant and inclusive. It honours the past while embracing the diversity of today’s culinary landscape.

Fusion of International Flavours

Romania’s openness to global influences is evident in the fusion of international flavours with traditional Christmas dishes. Romanian chefs are experimenting with global spices, ingredients, and cooking techniques to create unique and exciting fusion dishes. For instance, the incorporation of Asian or Mediterranean elements into classic recipes adds a delightful twist to the holiday feast.

The fusion of international flavours reflects Romania’s growing connection to the global culinary community. It demonstrates the country’s culinary curiosity and willingness to explore new tastes and experiences.

Health-Conscious Christmas Dining

As the importance of health and wellness gains prominence, Romanian Christmas cuisine is adapting to accommodate dietary preferences and restrictions. Health-conscious individuals are looking for options that align with their dietary choices. Traditional dishes are being modified to include healthier ingredients and cooking methods, making it possible for everyone to enjoy the festive meal without compromising their well-being.

The trend of health-conscious Christmas dining signifies an increasing awareness of personal health and wellness. It ensures that the holiday feast remains inclusive and welcoming to all.

Traditional Christmas Food in Romania
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Rediscovering Forgotten Recipes

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in rediscovering forgotten or lesser-known Romanian Christmas recipes. Families are revisiting their culinary archives to unearth hidden gems that might have faded into obscurity over time. These forgotten recipes provide a connection to the past, reminding people of the diverse and rich culinary heritage of Romania.

The revival of forgotten recipes is a testament to the country’s commitment to preserving its culinary heritage. It ensures that no dish, no matter how obscure, is left behind in the pursuit of modernity.

Sustainable Christmas Practices

Sustainability has become a global concern, and Romanian Christmas cuisine is not immune to this trend. Sustainability in Christmas practices includes an emphasis on sourcing local, seasonal ingredients, minimizing food waste, and adopting eco-friendly cooking methods. These practices not only reduce the environmental impact of the holiday feast but also honour Romania’s natural resources.

Sustainable Christmas practices reflect the country’s responsibility towards the environment and its commitment to preserving the beauty of Romanian landscapes for future generations.

The Art of Food Presentation

In recent years, there has been a heightened focus on the presentation of Romanian Christmas dishes. Food has become an art form, with chefs and home cooks paying meticulous attention to plating and garnishing. Dishes are no longer just delicious but also visually stunning, turning the Christmas table into a work of art.

The art of food presentation adds a creative dimension to Romanian Christmas cuisine. It underscores the idea that food is not just about taste but also about aesthetics, creating a multi-sensory dining experience.

Christmas Food and Culinary Tourism

Romania’s unique Christmas cuisine has begun to attract culinary tourists from around the world. The country’s rich culinary traditions, combined with the warmth of Romanian hospitality, make it an enticing destination for those looking to experience a traditional Christmas celebration firsthand. Culinary tourism during the holiday season offers visitors a chance to savour the flavours and traditions of Romania.

Culinary tourism celebrates Romania’s culinary heritage and provides a platform for sharing its traditions with a global audience. It’s a testament to the country’s culinary wealth and the appeal of its holiday traditions.

Digital Recipe Sharing

The digital age has transformed the way recipes are shared, and Romanian Christmas cuisine is no exception. The internet is teeming with websites, cooking apps, and social media platforms where people can access and share recipes. The convenience of online recipe sharing makes traditional Romanian Christmas dishes accessible to a broader audience, including those living abroad who want to maintain their connection to their culinary roots.

Digital recipe sharing ensures that Romanian Christmas cuisine is not confined to borders. It celebrates the country’s culinary traditions on a global stage and connects Romanians worldwide.

Traditional Culinary Workshops

Traditional culinary workshops have gained popularity in Romania, especially during the Christmas season. These workshops offer individuals the opportunity to learn how to prepare classic Romanian Christmas dishes from experienced chefs and culinary experts. Participants can explore the traditions and techniques that have been passed down through generations.

Traditional culinary workshops celebrate the value of culinary education and the desire to pass down traditions to future generations. They empower people to take an active role in preserving Romania’s culinary heritage.

Online Food Photography and Social Media

Social media platforms have become hubs for sharing culinary experiences, and Romanian Christmas cuisine is no exception. The trend of sharing beautifully captured photos of Christmas dishes on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest has amplified the appreciation for the aesthetics of Romanian Christmas cuisine. Food enthusiasts and photographers are turning each dish into a work of art, celebrating the beauty and creativity that goes into creating these traditional recipes.These are powerful tools for showcasing Romanian Christmas cuisine to the world. They allow people to appreciate the artistry and tradition that underlie each dish, fostering an enduring appreciation for Romania’s culinary heritage.


Romanian Christmas cuisine is an embodiment of history, culture, and unity. The traditional dishes that grace the holiday table are more than just food; they are symbols of a shared heritage and a celebration of cherished traditions. As Romania embraces modernity and new culinary influences, these trends enrich the country’s Christmas culinary scene.


The trends in Romanian Christmas cuisine demonstrate that tradition and innovation can coexist harmoniously. From modern interpretations of classic dishes to the fusion of international flavors, the holiday feast evolves while preserving its cultural significance. The importance of health-conscious dining, the revival of forgotten recipes, and the adoption of sustainable practices reflect the country’s commitment to a better future.


Culinary tourism, digital recipe sharing, and traditional culinary workshops ensure that Romanian Christmas cuisine remains a dynamic and accessible tradition, shared not only within the country but across borders. The art of food presentation and online food photography have turned each dish into a canvas of creativity and beauty, reinforcing the idea that culinary experiences are not just about taste but also about visual delight.


Romanian Christmas cuisine is a testament to the enduring connection between the past and the future. These trends are shaping the way Romania celebrates and shares its unique culinary heritage, ensuring that the flavours and traditions of Christmas continue to be passed down through generations. Whether embracing modernity or preserving time-honoured customs, Romanian Christmas cuisine remains a celebration of life, family, and unity. It’s a reminder that the holiday season is not only about the food on the table but also about the love, memories, and traditions that surround it.

Find the best restaurants near you