International Cooking: Food from Bosnia and Herzegovina

I didn’t know much about food from Bosnia and Herzegovina before planning the dishes for this week. However, I did have a general idea of where the country was and I was pretty sure I would enjoy it.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country in southeastern Europe, in an area known as the Balkans. The country takes its name from two regions: Bosnia in the north, which accounts for about 80% of the territory, and Herzegovina to the south.

The land has been occupied by humans for a long time, with evidence of permanent human settlements dating as far back as the final period of the Stone Age. The ancestors of the people that inhabit the area today arrived from the 6th to 9th century. A few centuries later, the Kingdom of Bosnia was officially established.

The Ottoman Empire annexed Bosnia in the mid-15th century and brought Islam to the region, where it is still one of the most popular religions today. Later, Bosnia was part of Austria-Hungary, then Yugoslavia, before becoming independent in 1992.

Bosnia is home to three main ethnic groups: the Bosniaks, the Serbs, and the Croats. One member of each group makes up the country’s three-member presidency.

What Do People Eat in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Bosnian cuisine is similar to that of neighboring Balkan countries. There are some definite Middle Eastern influences, but you can also see features of Mediterranean and Slavic cuisine. It’s an interesting mix which I think has resulted in some delicious dishes.

The most commonly consumed meats in Bosnia are beef and lamb, but chicken is quite common too. Pork is not included as often, since half the country is Muslim. There are plenty of vegetable and bean dishes too, including a wide range of soups and stews. Potatoes are popular, as are a range of other vegetables such as tomato, onion, garlic, and cabbage.

Spices are incorporated into most meals, with paprika being very popular, though dishes aren’t typically spicy.

What I Made

Scroll down to read about other popular Bosnian dishes I didn’t make!

Begova Corba (Chicken Soup)

Begova corba

Begova Corba, also known as Bey’s soup is very simple to make. ‘Bey’ is the name for Turkish nobles, and the soup is named after them because at the time it was first made, only the nobles could afford the ingredients.

This soup did not include any onion, at least the version I made, and I was worried there might not be much flavor. The soup was made up of chicken, celery, carrot, okra, and lemon, for the most part. At the end, an egg yolk and sour cream mixture is stirred in.

As you would know if you’ve been reading all these posts, I don’t like okra that much. But this soup was actually pretty good. I used the recipe from Balkan Lunch Box. I would only suggest you don’t actually boil the soup after adding the egg yolk and sour cream at the end. I’ve been coming across this a lot during this challenge, where a recipe instructs you to ‘boil’ when I’m sure they actually mean ‘simmer’. I’m assuming it’s a language issue. Anyway, I intended to not let mine boil and got distracted, and it did, which is probably why it separated a little. It still tasted good though!

Burek (Meat-Filled Pastry)


Burek is a pastry that is widely available in Balkan countries and surrounding regions and can have a variety of fillings, including meat, cheese, spinach, or potatoes. In Bosnia, however, burek must be filled with meat to be ‘true’ burek.

I got this recipe from Manu’s Menu. To make the burek, I cooked a combination of ground beef and lamb with onion, garlic, parsley, and paprika. This got wrapped in phyllo (or filo depending where you are) pastry, which you roll up and then form into a spiral. The pastry is brushed with egg and sprinkled with sesame seeds before baking. My pastry split a little, either because it was the cheap brand, or because I took too long, or maybe a combination of both. It didn’t matter; this was really delicious!

The original recipe specifies either beef or lamb, but I needed to use a combination later in the week so it worked out better to also mix them here. That way I used up a pound each of beef and lamb. I’m not sure I’ve had this combination before and it works really well.

Somun (Flatbread)


These flatbreads are commonly served with ćevapi (see below). I ran into some confusion as to whether these are the same thing as lepinja, which was showing up in my research as another flatbread served with ćevapi. But some recipes said they were the same thing, and recipes that were specifically for one or the other didn’t seem that different. So I didn’t really reach a conclusion.

These flatbreads are baked in the oven, rather than cooked on the stove, as many are. They are made from yeasted dough and contain yogurt, which I think always adds a bit of extra flavor. For the ćevapi, I cut them open so that they were like pita bread.

If you want to make these, I used the recipe from Chasing the Donkey.

Ćevapi and Ajvar (Meatballs and Red Pepper Sauce)


Ćevapi is considered Bosnia’s national dish. It’s made of little meatballs shaped like sausages, so they aren’t really meatballs I guess, but it didn’t feel right to call them sausages either. The recipe is very simple, consisting only of beef, lamb, garlic, salt, and pepper. They are usually grilled, but I baked mine in the oven. They are served with flatbread, such as somun (above), onion, and sour cream or ajvar. I went with the ajvar.

Ajvar is a condiment found all over the Balkans. It’s made of roasted red bell peppers and eggplant, which is blended with garlic, olive oil, and a little vinegar. The eggplant is listed as an optional component in the recipe I used. I meant to include it, but my eggplant had somehow gone bad when it was time to make the recipe, so I ended up omitting it.

The ćevapi recipe is from Chasing the Donkey, and so is the ajvar recipe.

Čimbur (Meat with Eggs)


Čimbur is a popular dish made of ground beef and eggs, though there are also other versions that omit the beef and add cheese, or just cook the eggs with onions. I ate this for breakfast, but it can be served at any time of the day. The beef is cooked in a skillet with onion, garlic, and paprika, and often tomato sauce or ajvar. Then the eggs are added and the dish simmers until they are done. I topped mine with ajvar and served with some leftover somun. This simple dish was delicious! I got the recipe from The Balkans and Beyond.

Tufahije (Stewed Apples with Walnuts)


Tufahija is a dessert consisting of apples cooked in syrup and then stuffed with a walnut mixture. They are served cold with whipped cream. I used the recipe from Balkan Lunchbox, though some of my measurements weren’t very exact as I was only making one serving. I also didn’t exactly wait for it to cool down before topping with whipped cream and eating. Still, it was delicious!

  • Bosanski lonac – a stew made from beef and vegetables; there are many variations. This is one of the country’s national dishes and is thought to have originated in medieval times, when it would be cooked slowly in a deep clay pot.
  • Sagan dolma – onions stuffed with meat and rice, seasoned with spices such as paprika.
  • Kljukusa – a pie or savory cake made from grated potatoes, eggs, flour, oil, and seasonings. It is thought to have emerged during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Modern versions may include sour cream or milk.

Final Thoughts

This was another great week; I really enjoyed all the food from Bosnia and Herzegovina! My favorites were the burek and čimbur.

Next week, I will be cooking food from Botswana.

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