Looking for the best halal food in Bucharest? You’ve come to the right place! Admittedly, there aren’t many halal restaurants in Bucharest that also serve traditional Romanian food, so this list includes a mix of halal restaurants and those that aren’t strictly halal but still offer non-pork options.
When I asked fellow travelers what food would be like in Romania, the answers were two-fold: really hearty and not particularly spectacular. Not promising. Fortunately, they were only half right. Yes, the dishes are filling, but Romanian cuisine is complex and vibrant, melding together a mix of flavors and spices from its neighboring countries – most prominently, Turkey. There are the classic Romanian restaurants, but I was impressed to find a plethora of modern Romanian restaurants as well– trendy, yet unpretentious eateries showcasing talented chefs around the city.
While I initially intended to include Romanian cuisine as part of my city guide to Bucharest, I decided it deserves a post of its own. Keep reading to learn which pork-free halal(ish) Romanian foods you have to try plus where to eat them in Bucharest.
Note: Romanian cuisine is fairly pork heavy, which was limiting, but not to the point where I couldn’t eat anything. Many traditional dishes are offered with chicken or in vegetarian form, so I didn’t have too much trouble eating. The following is a list of the non-pork iconic dishes to eat in Bucharest but the food is not halal certified.
Table of Contents
Traditional Romanian Food to Eat in Bucharest
Ciorbă de văcuţă and ciorba de burtă (beef soup and tripe soup)
Seriously guys, Romanians LOVE soup. If you go to a traditional restaurant, you’ll find at least four varieties on the menu. While the most common traditional soup is made with smoked pork, I recommend the beef soup (ciorbă de văcuţă) from Caru’ Cu Bere and the tripe soup (ciorba de burtă) if you dare from Mahala.
Salata de vinete (smoky eggplant salad)
Think of this as baba ghanoush with a Romanian twist. It’s the almost creamy consistency that you’d associate with a dip and is best consumed with bread.
Fasole bătută (creamy bean salad)
Surprise! Romanians also have their own version of hummus. The difference is, theirs is made with white beans instead of chickpeas and is topped with caramelized onion. Just wait until the American hipsters discover this.
Salata de icre (caviar spread)
I was definitely more than a little unsure about this fish egg salad with mayonnaise. Although I wasn’t a huge fan the initial time I tried it, I warmed up to it by my last day in Bucharest. I still say Mahala makes the best one, but since it’s often served as part of a starter, there’s ample opportunity to try it in multiple restaurants.
Sarmale (cabbage rolls)
If I had to choose one dish that is quintessentially Romanian, I’d probably say sarmale, cabbage stuffed with…pork. Sad times. Thankfully, there are a variety of non-pork versions, usually stuffed in vine leaves rather than cabbage (I’ve noticed it’s usually “sărmăluțe” on the menu). The chicken version at Vatra was tangy and well-flavored so no FOMO here – just be sure to double check with the restaurant before ordering.
Chicken breast with mashed potatoes
I don’t know if this is actually a traditional Romanian dish or not but I saw it on pretty much all the menus (sometimes the chicken was served with polenta instead). Without question, the one at Mahala is the way to go.
Rasol de văcuță (braised beef)
This classic dish really emphasizes Romania’s penchant for fresh and seasonal ingredients. It’s a pretty simple dish of braised beef served with sautéed vegetables and spices, but it’s hearty enough to leave you in a happy food coma for a few hours. Get it at Caru’ Cu Bere.
Fish in all forms
As much as Romanians love pork, fish seems to be popular as well. My hotel had a variety of smoked fish with breakfast every morning, and most menus also included several fish options. My friend Nathan and I split this giant whole seabass from Beca’s Kitchen and it was delicious! Even if you aren’t a seafood person, I encourage you to try it in Bucharest.
Mămăligă cu smăntănă (polenta with sour cream)
Before I came to Romania, I asked a bunch of people what Romanians ate and the general consensus was “hearty food and lots of potatoes.” While I admit that the food is hearty, I’d say that polenta is the shining star of most dishes, not potatoes. Polenta is cornmeal porridge that can be cooked in various forms, although I exclusively ate it mashed potato style. In the case of this dish, it’s topped with sour cream and cheese…kinda hard to go wrong with this mix of yum, am I right? Try it at La Mama.
Momite (veal gland croquettes)
When I tried Googling this dish I couldn’t find any information about it, so I’m thinking it’s more modern Romanian. I tried this while I was on a food tour and while the flavor was pleasant enough, the texture wasn’t one of my favorites. My philosophy is to try everything twice though, so get it for yourself from the luxurious Concerto.
Papanași (Romanian donuts)
I ate one dessert in Bucharest and I loved it so much that I ate it twice. Papanași, the Romanian donut, is THE dessert to eat here. I’m not really much of a sweets person but this chunk of fried dough topped with berries and sour cream is heavenly. You can find it on most menus, but I liked the versions at La Mama and Caru’ Cu Bere. Note: The order at Caru’ Cu Bere comes with two…bring a friend or an empty stomach!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do a tour de carbs, but I spotted SO many bakeries all around the city. Same with stalls that sold pizza slices…totally a thing here. A few carbs a day keep the hunger pains away, am I right? 😉
The Best Halal(ish) Restaurants in Bucharest
For traditional Romanian food
Caru’ Cu Bere: I’m normally not one to recommend touristy restaurants but this one is SO good. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to find traditional Romanian restaurants since everyone is on the trendy-yet-delicious fusion train. Caru’ Cu Bere sticks to its Romanian roots by offering all the traditional dishes (and a few slightly fusion ones) in giant portions and with decent prices. Is this the cheapest place to eat? Nope. Is it expensive? Also nope. I came here and literally just ate soup and dessert (holla papanași!) and was full, so I recommend bringing some friends and sharing a few dishes. Order ciorbă de văcuţă (beef soup) and papanași (Romanian donut).
La Mama: I’d best describe the cuisine at La Mama as modern Romanian. They have a lot of the popular traditional Romanian dishes but also offer them in alternate flavors – for example, lamb knuckle (instead of pork), turkey soup, and poultry grills. This is also an excellent place to try an individual portion of papanași – the one at Caru’ Cu Bere comes with two per serving. Definitely worth a visit!
Vatra: I came here after a friend recommended it and the service and food were both excellent. I got my first sampling of traditional Romanian food here and I recommend it as a good second option to Caru’ Cu Bere. Vatra has fewer options on the menu but is way less crowded and offers the highlights of Romanian cuisine.
For modern Romanian food
Beca’s Kitchen: When a foodie friend told me that Beca’s Kitchen was his favorite restaurant in Bucharest, my expectations immediately rocketed. Despite this proclamation, Beca’s did not disappoint. It was my last dinner in Bucharest so I went on a bit of a #TreatYoself binge and ordered the mushroom soup, the fish carpaccio, and split two mains (sea bass and turkey) with my friend. Everything I ate was amazing. Beca herself came to our table and explained how she cooked the dishes and which ingredients she used, emphasizing that she only uses fresh seasonal ingredients. This restaurant is small and the menu changes often so I highly recommend making a reservation.
Supapa: The farm to table movement is big in Bucharest, but Supapa takes it a step further as a zero-waste restaurant. They offer a different menu every day depending on available ingredients, but I went specifically for a special garlic themed dinner with My Secret Romania. Our meal was mouthwatering, despite being garlicky enough to ward off the entire cast of Twilight. I’m sure their regular menus are just as good.
Mahala: Mahala is trendy AF but that doesn’t stop the food from being high-quality. I’d categorize it as contemporary and slightly Romanian. I was starving and on a #TreatYoself binge when I ate here too and ordered both the fish soup and the herbed cockerel. Side note: I wanted to be cultured and order the tripe soup but the waiter talked me out of it. I tried my friend’s and while I liked the flavors, tripe is not my thing…so kudos Mahala waiter! Our starters came with some salata de icre (caviar salad) – the best I had in Bucharest. Great food, beautiful ambiance (both indoor and outdoor) and reasonable prices for “fancy” fare…this place gets my stamp of approval.
Simbio: If you’re a bit tired of Romanian food and are craving some classic “Western” food (for lack of better word), be sure to check out Simbio. They have everything from fancy brunch to sandwiches to smoothies. Plus, they have a cute outdoor garden setting where you can bask in the sun when the weather’s nice out.
Lulu’s Social Bistro: Lulu’s does international cuisine and it does it well. I mean, you can get steak, fish and chips, a quesadilla and pizza all in the same place. But the real highlight of Lulu’s is the food events they host. If you check their Facebook page, you’ll see that they host specialty food nights…like the lamb roast pictured below! *Drool.* If you’re visiting Bucharest, be sure to check out their page to see if they’re throwing any cool events.
Food Hood: Food trucks are still cool and totally a thing, right? They are in my book: small portions of fusion food occupy a little spot in this girl’s heart. Bucharest feels the same obviously, and the food truck party is happening at Food Hood, complete with an outdoor seating area, and occasionally, live music.
Lastly, Arabic and Turkish food are a big thing here. There are tons of restaurants scattered in the center and in the Old Town. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to sample any but it’s worth noting for those looking for additional options.
Actual halal restaurants in Bucharest
Unfortunately, there aren’t any halal restaurants in Bucharest serving traditional Romanian food, but if you’re strict about eating from certified halal-only places, here are a few great options.
- Habibi Kebab: A Mediterranean quick-serve restaurant in Old Town Bucharest serving specialties such as shawarma, falafel, kebabs and more.
- Saray: A Turkish restaurant in Old Town Bucharest serving delicious Turkish eats. Complete with a terrace and great music.
- El Bacha: Pretty solid Lebanese restaurant with fast service and a varied menu. Located in the Dudesti neighborhood.
- Haveli: An Indian-Pakistani restaurant with delicious and authentic dishes and beautiful decor.
- Fatafit: A quick-serve Lebanese stall specializing in a variety of fresh sandwiches to-go.
- Arome: A vegetarian bistro-cafe serving healthy, seasonal sandwiches, salads, soups, and more.
- VegUp: A vegan-vegetarian restaurant with a huge selection of items served in a mix-and-match-style buffet.
The Best Food Experiences in Bucharest
So I told you what to eat and where to eat but there’s more to food than just restaurants, right? Check out the two food experiences I attended while I was in Bucharest.
Bucharest Food Tour: This food tour took us on several stops, through markets, shops, restaurants and cafes to sample some of the best of artisan Romanian cuisine. Our guide also covered some historical and architectural information and stories as well, which was awesome. I particularly loved the focus on farm-to-table and farmer’s market cuisine. Note: Although I enjoyed the tour, I did find it to be a little pork and alcohol heavy for my liking (although they did a good job of accommodating me). If you’re interested in doing it and have dietary restrictions, be sure to notify them at least a day in advance. Book it here.
The Garlic Culinary Workshop: My Secret Romania hosted a group of us at Supapa for this garlic-packed meal. We were treated to three garlic-infused (infused being more of a euphemism) dishes and dessert (sans garlic). But this wasn’t just an eating experience. We also learned about the magical properties of this vegetable (according to the Romanians) AND were schooled on Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula). Be sure to come hungry and armed with some heavy-duty breath mints.
The Best Cafes in Bucharest
If you’re like me, you love ultra-trendy cafes, where the ambiance is just as important as the coffee. Luckily for you, Bucharest has plenty of Instagram-worthy places to get your caffeine fix.
- Origo: one of the first places in Bucharest to brew specialty coffee
- Gradina Eden: the outdoor garden café hidden behind the dilapidated Palatul Știrbei that doubles as a lounge/nightclub. Yeah, it’s as cool as it sounds.
- The Urbanist: for some quality coffee served with a side of clothes shopping, if you’re keen to do both at the same time *shrug*
- Carturesti Carusel: possibly the prettiest bookshop in Bucharest for your not-so-inner nerd, complete with a café on the top floor
- Acuarela: an outdoor and indoor garden home to colorful umbrellas, water coloring, and of course food and coffee. And just in case you missed it the first time, let me repeat it for your inner child: water coloring.
There you have it. The best halal food in Bucharest plus where to find it. Since there aren’t any traditional Romanian food restaurants in Bucharest that are also halal, I’ve included restaurants serving non-pork options for those who don’t strictly eat halal. For an even more in-depth guide to Romanian food, check out 28 Romanian Foods the Whole World Should Know.
More Romania ResourcesPlanning a trip to Romania soon? Check out ALL my posts on Romania below:
- Romania Travel Guide
- The Best Cultural Things to Do in Bucharest, Romania: A First Timer’s Guide
- The Halal(ish) Romanian Food Guide + Best Restaurants in Bucharest
Tell me: which one of these dishes would you want to try? Share in the comments below!
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