In travelling to 24 European countries, you can imagine I’ve had my fair share of meals. From traditional European food to quick eats, these are my top 10 European Foods you need to try… along with a few others you can’t miss out on!
My Top 10 European Foods You Gotta Eat
Have you ever had a meal that really sticks out in your memory? Maybe you do and maybe you don’t, but these meals are those for me. I remember eating each and every one of these foods of Europe. Just thinking about them makes me drool! While it’s hard to pick just ten, these are the top dishes you must eat.
Döner in Germany
It may have originated in Turkey but the Germans perfected döner. This food is delicious, hearty and best of all – CHEAP! A freshly made pita bread is stacked high with either beef, chicken or veal and topped with a plethora of veggies. Typical toppings include lettuce, red cabbage, onions and tomato but the best places have cucumber, carrots, feta cheese and even potatoes. It’s honestly the best food in Europe in my opinion, which I’m sure you think I’m crazy for saying. While döner is everywhere in Germany, not all döner places are the same. I’ve had some really good ones as well as some really bad ones. If you’re in Berlin though, be sure to stop at Mustafa’s Döner Kebap. I’ve had it more times than I’d like to admit and it’s hands down the best döner in the country!
Escargot in France
I’m sure I’m not alone in that the thought of eating a snail isn’t the most appetizing. France has made it a delicacy though so when I visited Paris, I knew I had to try escargot! My friend I was staying with took me to a local French restaurant where we shared the dish. Even though she was born in France she had never tried it herself! Naturally, I forced her into it and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t know if it was the fact that it was smothered in pesto and garlic butter… actually yes that was probably the reason now that I re-read that statement… but it was delicious! The escargot itself was a little chewy, but not unlike that of squid. I definitely devoured my fair share, and I would try it again! Although my opinion may change if prepared differently, but for now it makes the list of top 10 European foods.
Paella in Spain
You knew at least one of the national dishes of Europe would make it on this list. It’s been years since I was in Spain and I still dream about the amazing paella I had there. Named after the shallow, wide traditional pan used to cook the dish, it’s prepared over an open fire. It consists of rice, a variety of beans, rabbit, chicken and even sometimes duck. Though I personally enjoy having prawns or shrimp in it! What really makes this dish extraordinary is the seasonings – especially saffron. The flavour profile is just extraordinary and I have yet to have paella as good as the one I had in Barcelona! Although I didn’t make it to Valencia where this dish hails from, so that just might change.
Ćevapi in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ah, the national dish of Bosnia and Herzegovina! I actually don’t know how many people know I visited the country during my 3 month long backpacking tour of Europe, but it’s true! And one of the first things I did when I arrived? Order some ćevapi! Also known as ćevapčići, these bundles of minced beef deliciousness are grilled and usually served with flatbread. It’s not uncommon to see ćevapi accompanied by chopped onions, sour cream, clotted cream called kajmak, a pepper-based condiment called ajvar or feta cheese. It’s simple but delicious and one of the top European meals in my books!
İskender kebap in Turkey
Okay so the country straddles both Europe and Asia. HOWEVER since there is SO much delicious food to eat in Turkey, I had to include them. Also known as Bursa kebabı or Uludağ kebabı, the İskender kebap is a must-eat. This saucy dish has succulent lamb smothered in flavourful tomato sauce. Paired with garlic yoghurt, it’s seriously a delight for the tastebuds. I had it a few times while I was in Turkey because I just couldn’t get enough. Don’t forget to clean up the leftover sauce with some pita pieces!
Pierogi in Poland
I’ve only really experienced Poland for less than a day – 6 hours to be exact. As soon as I landed, I hit the ground running because there was no way I wasn’t getting out of the airport on my long layover! After taking a quick stroll around Plac Zamkowy in Warsaw’s old town, I knew I had to find some pierogi. Yeast-less dough is wrapped around various fillings, though the most popular is cheese and potato. Sounds simple but as they say, when in Rome… so I had to get some while in Poland. Lucky for me it was Christmas time and I caught the tail end of their holiday markets! There’s nothing better than snacking on some freshly made pierogi while wandering through the beauty of old town Europe.
Svíčková in Czech Republic
As one of the most popular dishes in the country, I immediately understood why after my first taste of svíčková. Steak is smothered in a creamy sauce made of celery and parsley root, carrots, onion and spices all boiled with double cream. Bread dumplings round out this dish to make it one hearty meal. It’s savoury, delicious and definitely high on my list of top 10 European foods. How much did I enjoy svíčková? I was only in the Czech Republic for three days and I had this dish pretty much once a day. Yes, it’s that good.
Schnitzel in Austria (or Germany)
The first time I ever had an authentic wiener schnitzel was in Austria. I remember it fondly as this was the first time I ordered a meal using the German I learned in school. However, I was disappointed when the server responded to me in English, but he understood my request so I called that a win in my books! A traditional schnitzel consists of a thin veal cutlet which is then breaded and fried. While it’s the national food of Austria, it’s not uncommon to see schnitzel in Germany, Switzerland and all over the globe. I’ve personally eaten it the most in Germany where you can get it with a variety of sauces. The fact that you can enjoy schnitzel in so many ways is a big reason why it’s one of my top 10 European foods! My favourite is the Jägerschnitzel or “hunter” schnitzel which comes with a mushroom sauce.
Goulash in Hungary
I have yet to find a goulash recipe that even comes close to the goulash I had in Hungary. While you can get this dish across the globe, it’s Hungary’s national dish so you know it’s going to be amazing. Tender beef mixes with onion and spices like paprika to create this savoury dish. It’s not uncommon to see additional vegetables added such as carrots, celery, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Vegan versions are also quite common for those avoiding meat. If you have a recipe that rivals goulash you’d get in Hungary… hit this girl up.
Additional Must Try Foods in Europe
These dishes didn’t quite break the top 10 European foods but they’re still seriously delicious. I highly recommend indulging in each of these meals at least once in your life!
Pizza in Italy
As arguably the most popular food in Europe, I think eating pizza just goes without saying. The entire time I was in Italy, I don’t think I ever had a bad one. It didn’t quite make the top 10 European foods mainly because it’s so common. You really can’t go wrong with pizza and so you definitely need to eat it where it was created. My personal favourite is Capricciosa which has tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, artichokes and olives. Prosciutto e funghi is a close second (tomato sauce with mozzarella, ham and mushrooms) for me. However, both can be ruined if canned mushrooms are used. That’s just blasphemy!
Karjalanpiirakka in Finland
My time in Finland was powered by these tasty little morsels – I just couldn’t get enough! Karjalanpiirakka (or Karelian pies) are actually very simple as they have a thin crust (usually rye flour is used) and are stuffed with potatoes, rice or carrots. They can be found in pretty much any grocery store and are seriously delicious. To this day I’m not exactly sure if the filling I had was sweet potato or carrot. All I know is that it was orange and a number of my meals in Finland consisted solely of Karjalanpiirakka. The only thing keeping Karjalanpiirakka from cracking the top 10 European foods is that it’s more of a snack than a meal.
English Breakfast in the UK
Whether you’re looking for hearty fuel for a long day or to feed your hangover from a previous night of fun, an English breakfast will do the trick! A traditional or “full” breakfast typically includes eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, baked beans, tomatoes and mushrooms. Yep, it’s a whole lot of food! I personally dodge the black pudding (you’ll understand why below) but otherwise everything is delicious. If you’re not stuffed to the brim after this “fry-up” then you have one serious appetite.
Borscht in Russia
I only had a small day trip to Saint Petersburg as I visited Russia when they only had the 24-hour visa-free program. While borscht originally comes from Ukraine, it has become one of Russia’s most famous dishes. This soup’s main ingredient is beets (hence the purple colour) but is full of other items. You’ll find meat, cabbage, carrots, onions and potatoes, making it the perfect dish to warm up with on a chilly day. While it can be served warm or cold, I prefer the former. Don’t forget a dollop of sour cream to complete the dish!
Angulas in Spain
Probably one of the more creepy-looking foods I’ve eaten, but surprisingly delicious! It was love at first bite and I had angulas every chance I could while in Spain. These little baby eels have a very mild taste, not fishy at all, often lightly sautéed in garlic before being served. When I first had it, they were served on some fresh bread with a tempura zucchini, but when served alone, a special wooden fork is given to you as the metal of a traditional fork can take away from the taste! As long as you can get past how they look, you’ll enjoy these tasty little morsels. While they can be bought in a grocery store, I advise against it. Fresh is better!
Frites in Belgium
So for someone who isn’t a huge fry person (unless they’re sweet potato fries, then I’m ALL in), I still say frites are must-have when visiting Belgium. What makes them different from most fries you’ll find in North America is that most Belgian frites are fried in animal fat. If they’re called “pommes frites”, the likelihood of your fries being friend in lard, duck or goose fat is high.
Blini (and Vodka) in Russia
When in Russia… you have to eat the most popular dish in the country! Blini are thin pancakes (similar to crepes) made with wheat or buckwheat flour. They’re normally served with smetana (a type of sour cream), tvorog (Russian cottage cheese), smoked salmon or caviar. From what I saw, it’s not uncommon to see a shot of vodka included! While the blini are delicious, it’s also an excuse to enjoy a shot of the smoothest vodka you’ll ever indulge in.
Köttbullar in Sweden
While you can get “Swedish meatballs” pretty much anywhere in Canada and the USA, it’s still not the same as having them in Sweden. Maybe it’s the seasoning they use? Maybe it’s the gravy the köttbullar are smothered in? Maybe it’s the delicious lingonberry jam that you have to eat with them? Whatever it is, you have to enjoy these tasty little morsels in Sweden.
Pasta in Italy
I’m an absolute pasta fiend. Seriously, I could eat pasta almost every day and not be sick of it. Pasta is one of those ‘duh of course’ dishes that I think everyone will have at least once on a trip to Italy. Despite the commonality of it, I thought I should still include it. Florence was also the first place I ever had gnocchi… and I didn’t like it. I know, don’t shoot me! This was also a decade ago so I might just have to return and give it another go.
Now For the Sweet Stuff
Let’s be honest, if there’s any time to always get dessert… it’s when you’re travelling. Here are a few of my favourites sweets and treats from my European travels!
Apple Strudel in Austria
Flaky pastry and spiced apples are cooked to perfection to create this Austrian dessert. I try to resist eating this as much as possible – only because I can’t have just one. Though my fondest memory of apple strudel (aka apfelstrudel) is from the streets of Vienna. I realized my mistake during the ordering mishap I spoke about earlier and successfully ordered a strudel for a snack. The woman who owned the cart could see I was thrilled… until my deer-in-the-headlights face appeared. I realized she asked me a question but I didn’t know how to answer! She got a good giggle from that and while I was embarrassed, my strudel was still delicious. Apple strudel is tasty on its own but I have to say it’s extra delicious when paired with vanilla ice cream!
Kunefe in Turkey
I ate more than my weight of Kunefe while in Turkey and I’m not sorry about it. Also known as kunafa, this delicious dish is made of unsalted cheese topped with finely shredded phyllo dough known as kadayif. This is then smothered in a sweet syrup to create a traditional Turkish masterpiece. It is best enjoyed while hot and I love me some melted cheese. Kunefe is a little on the heavy side so I’d recommend saving this treat for after dinner – the food coma is real!
Looking for more tasty Turkish eats?
I’ve got a list of everything you need to eat in Turkey!
Waffles in Belgium
You can’t go to Belgium and not enjoy a waffle. My favourite memory from Belgium is enjoying this bad boy while listening to a busker in Brussels’ Grand Square. Oh how I’d love to visit again one day soon!
Food from Europe You Only Need to Try Once
…and I mean it. You can find some seriously crazy food in Europe and there’s a reason these aren’t on my top 10 European foods list. However, I do believe you should try everything once. At the same time, there is some food in Europe that I wouldn’t blame you for skipping out on.
Véres Hurka (Blood Sausage) in Hungary
For anyone who is a meat and potatoes kind of kid, Hungary is most definitely the place for you. My love for paprika was sparked by the amazing chefs of Budapest, although the blood sausage (the dark one on the top left) of Hungary is a strange little creature. It is exactly as it sounds… blood boiled into more of a paste and made into a sausage. With a smokey yet burnt taste, it’s a fairly heavy dish. I personally wasn’t a fan and only got through half the portion, and even that came back to bite me later… so I say enjoy at your own risk.
Haggis in Scotland
Oh haggis – the name of it is as unappetizing as the dish itself. This is one I had trouble choking down, but it wasn’t so much for the taste as it was the texture. Haggis is a mixture of sheep innards (primarily heart, liver & lungs) that are seasoned with onions, spices & and boiled into a paste-like consistency. Traditionally served in a sheep’s stomach, I had it as a chicken stuffing. I don’t mind paté items, but haggis was just too out there. It was almost slimy as well as mushy. In all honesty, I can’t even describe how it tastes as I was so distracted by the texture. It is said to have a savoury nutty taste, but I didn’t get that at all… maybe I didn’t have it prepared properly? Though I don’t think I’d ever try it again to find out.
Hákarl in Iceland
Now while Iceland isn’t exactly mainland Europe, it’s a part of the Schengen area so I’m including it. Plus those Vikings ate some weird things! Iceland’s traditional dish, hákarl, consists of a sleeper shark that’s been prepared with a traditional fermenting process and then hung to dry for 4-5 months. It has a very recognizable ammonia scent, and boy can you smell this thing coming! The actual shark itself doesn’t have much taste, but it’s hard to choke down with the smell attacking your nostrils. I’d say this is definitely not for the faint of heart. Also, don’t let the picture fool you – the dish is about the size of the one you’d get for dipping sauce. When you have it, you’ll understand why!
Sviðasulta in Iceland
Another odd dish to come out of the little island is Sviðasulta, or Sheep Head Jelly. About as appetizing as it sounds, it’s another traditional Icelandic dish that’s served during their traditional mid-winter celebration. Sviðasulta is made by taking the boiled meat from a sheep’s head and pressing it into moulds. This paté is another acquired taste I’d say, and one that I don’t really wish to have again. You can also try this delicacy in another form – the actual sheep’s head. Even though it’s served as is (eyeballs and all), the texture of the sheep head jelly is mainly what got to me. It’s easier to eat when eaten with turnip and the other fixings it was served with at Café Loki in Reykjavik.
Currywurst in Germany
Everyone says currywurst is one of those things you have to eat when in Germany. Honestly? Of anything in this top 10 European foods article, this is the most lacklustre dish. All you’ll get is cut up sausage with ketchup sprinkled with curry powder. Yes the sausage is good but of course it is, it’s Germany! It makes a good drunk snack after a night at the bar but otherwise, you’re not missing anything.
What Tops Your European Cuisine List?
Just reading through all of these delicious eats is making me hungry! Have you indulged in any of these meals on a Europe trip? I should note that I haven’t explored all of the continent just yet. That means this list could change depending on what delectable delights I find on future adventures! Is there something I missed that you think should be one of the top 10 European foods? Any of these items on your must-eat list? I’d love to hear in a comment below!