I was lucky to grow up in a country that is very serious when it comes to sweets. Romanian desserts are not only delicious, there is also an extensive range to choose from, namely sweet breads to deep fried delights, chocolate decadence to the most delicate fruit cakes and simple milk based recipes to traditional cookies related to different religious holidays. We have summer desserts and winter desserts, cakes that we eat only on certain days of the year, Christmas and Easter treats, we even commemorate the memory of a departed loved one, through a specific sweet cake called coliva. One thing is certain: if you visit Romania, you will have plenty of desserts to indulge in!
The Most Delicious Romanian Desserts:
If you asked me which is the most traditional Romanian dessert, I would say papanasi. And I would also say that everyone should try papanasi at least once in their life, to experience that divine taste of happiness, because these heavenly little balls covered in sour cream and cherry jam are the most delicious thing you will ever taste.
Papanasi are similar to doughnuts, but they are made with cottage cheese. This makes them very fluffy on the inside and extremely crispy on the outside. Papanasi are usually served hot, covered in sour cream, and topped with sour cherry jam.
When you order papanasi at a restaurant in Romania, you will usually have to wait for about 20 minutes as they make them fresh to order. And every single minute is worth the wait.
If you want to make papanasi at home, check out my recipe by clicking here.
The other major traditional Romanian dessert is the cozonac. This is a sweet bread filled with different ingredients, that is usually served during all the big holidays in Romania, as well as for big events such as weddings, christenings, or funerals.
Cozonac needs to have cocoa and walnuts, and extra fillings such as raisins, Turkish delight, even dried fruits. My favourite cozonac has a lot of filling and a fluffy texture. If cozonac is dry, it means that it hasn’t been kneaded enough. The more you knead the dough, the better the cozonac will be. As a rule of thumb, you need to knead for at least half an hour.
Whilst you can buy cozonac, the best ones are homemade. You can read my recipe of cozonac here.
Pasca is a traditional Romanian dessert that we only make during the Easter celebrations. There are different variations of pasca and many recipes. I like the one without dough, which is like a giant baked cheesecake. The traditional pasca is made with the same dough as the cozonac, and filled with a mixture of sweet cottage cheese and raisins.
Pasca is a symbol of Easter and takes its roots from religion. In the beginning, pasca was just a simple bread, a symbol of sacrifice and eternal life. The sweetness of the bread signifies the strength of the soul for completing the Easter fast. Pasca is usually decorated with a cross in the middle and braids on the edges, both religious symbols associated with the death of Jesus. Traditionally, pasca is taken to church, in order for the priest to bless it.
Mucenici are a special Romanian dessert that is eaten only on the 9th of March. They are eaten to remember the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, which is a religious holiday, as well as to celebrate the beginning of the agricultural year. There are two types of Mucenici, which will depend on which part of the country you are in. In Moldova, mucenici are made from a bread-like sweet dough, soaked in a sugar syrup, glazed with honey and topped with chopped walnuts.
Click here for my mucenici recipe.
In the south of the country, we have a different type of Mucenici. The only thing in common with mucenici from Moldova is their shape, which is the number eight. In the south of the country, mucenici are very small and are served in a sweet soup.
The broth Mucenici Muntenesti is served with is a delight for every taste bud. Dried mucenici are boiled inside water with sugar, vanilla, rum essence, lemon zest, and chopped walnuts. The soup is then served with more cinnamon and walnuts.
Placinta cu Mere – Apple pie
Apple pie is a classic Romanian dessert. It is a very common pie that is made often in pretty much every household. The classic apple pie has a generous amount of grated apples between two soft shortbread layers.
The apples are cooked with sugar and cinnamon, and left to cool down before assembling. The dough is usually left in the fridge to rest for 12 hours before cooking.
Click here to see my mom’s apple pie recipe.
Placinta cu Branza Dulce – Sweet Cheese Pie
Sweet cheese pie is another delicious Romanian dessert. You will find these pies to buy in the pastry shops all over the country, but the best ones are made at home. My grandma would often bake this pie for me.
This pie has the same dough as the apple pie, but the filling is different. Cottage cheese is first drained, then mixed with sugar and raisins soaked in rum essence.
This is one of my favourite Romanian pies.
You can click here to see my Romanian sweet cheese pie recipe.
Prajitura cu Visine – Sour Cherry Cake
Sour cherry pie reminds me of my grandma too. She used to make it for me every summer, with sour cherries from our own tree. I used to arrive for the long summer holidays and she would welcome me with warm sour cherry pie. I was always looking forward to it.
This pie can be made with different fruits, depending on the season, but in my opinion, it tastes best with sour cherries. This is because the sourness of the cherries balance the sweetness of the pie. This is not your classic pie though, it’s a very soft sponge cake dotted with fruits. The pie is dusted with powdered sugar.
Cornulete cu Nuca – Walnut Cookies
This is another Romanian dessert that reminds me of my childhood and the school holidays spent with my grandma. If not the sour cherry pie, she would make these walnut cookies as a welcome gift when arriving at her house.
The walnut cookies are in the shape of a half moon and are extremely soft, with a melt in your mouth texture. The dough is a mixture of flavours: chopped, roasted walnuts, vanilla, lemon zest and icing sugar, all mixed with eggs, flour and butter. These cookies are very easy to make, which is a good thing, as they will disappear very quickly once they are ready.
Cornulete cu Gem si Rahat – Jam and Turkish Delight Cookies
The jam and Turkish delight cookies have a soft shortbread like texture and are filled with either jam, Turkish delight, and even jam and walnuts. They are so good that you won’t be able to eat just one. Whilst these cookies are a bit more complicated to make than the walnut ones, they are worth the effort. They look very impressive once they are ready as well. And the little surprise inside will makes everyone who tastes them smile.
Salam de Biscuiti – Biscuit Salami
Salam de biscuiti is another Romanian classic dessert. I remember making this recipe for the first time at school, in the life sciences class. Each of us brought one ingredient and then we made the dish together. The wait for the biscuit salami to set was the longest, as everyone wanted to try it.
The biscuit salami, as the name suggests, is a roll made from biscuits that looks like a salami. It doesn’t require an oven to make, and it’s relatively a very simple recipe. All you have to do is mix all the ingredients together, roll, and let it set. Among the ingredients, besides biscuits, is cocoa, Turkish delight, rum essence, milk, butter, coconut and raisins.
Gris cu Lapte – Semolina Pudding
This is another Romanian dessert that reminds me of my childhood. My mother used to make it quite often for us, as a treat. We used to eat it topped with cinnamon or sour cherry jam.
Semolina pudding is a very simple dessert, made with very few ingredients: semolina, milk, sugar and vanilla. The secret of this pudding is in the milk – the more fat it has, the creamier this dessert will be.
Fidea cu Lapte – Angel Hair Pasta With Milk
Whilst at home I would eat plenty of semolina pudding, my grandma would make me angel hair pasta with milk. This is another simple dessert that can satisfy every sweet tooth.
It’s very easy to make this Romanian dessert. All you need is angel hair pasta, milk and sugar. Optional, you can add vanilla, but back then, just after the revolution, vanilla wasn’t an easy ingredient to find. Just thinking about this dessert I can still feel the taste of the sweet milk on my tongue, and the delicate flavour of the cooked pasta.
Orez cu Lapte – Rice Pudding
Rice pudding is a classic Romanian dessert, as an alternative to the semolina pudding and the angel hair pasta with milk. It is made in a similar way and usually served hot. I love to eat it when it’s hot – cold just isn’t the the same. I like to top the rice pudding with plenty of sour cherry jam.
Some other toppings include cinnamon or cocoa or different syrups.
Colac Secuiesc – Kurtos Colac
No matter where you have tried the so-called chimney cake first, its origins are in Transylvania. The kurtos colac is a sweet dough wrapped around a wooden cone baking spit, and roasted over an open fire. When it’s almost ready, it is coated in melted butter and sugar, which gives the cake that shiny, delicious, crunchy crust. When it is ready, it’s rolled in cinnamon, walnuts or coconut.
To eat the cake, you need to start unrolling it from the top and break it in strips. You will find kurtos colac mostly around Transylvania and at fairs in Bucharest. As it’s a street food, you won’t find it in the shops.
Budinca – Pudding
Pudding is a very easy and simple dessert that is made with milk. The classic flavour is vanilla, which is very similar to custard. For a quick pudding, we usually use packet from Dr. Oetker, which only requires it to be mixed with milk and the left to be cooled down. There are different flavours, among the most popular being chocolate and strawberry.
Paste cu Pesmet si Zahar – Pasta with Breadcrumbs and Sugar
Another childhood classic dessert. I can’t remember the first time I tried the pasta with breadcrumbs and sugar, but it was love at first bite. This Romanian desert might sound strange, but it’s actually delicious. Once the pasta is boiled, it is mixed with breadcrumbs and sugar, sometimes with cinnamon and chopped walnuts as well. The result is so good, sweet, with a delightful crunchy texture!
Clatite – Romanian Pancakes
Romanian pancakes are the best, and I can’t be convinced otherwise. Romanian pancakes are thin, like the French crepes, but much smaller. We serve the pancakes usually with sour cherry jam, or simply with sugar – yes, naughty but so delicious!
Pancake day was always an exciting day in my family. Me and my sister would help rolling the pancakes, and filling them with jam. We would always keep a few to fill with sugar as well.
The most iconic dessert from the Moldova region of Romania is poale’n brau. There isn’t really a translation for this Romanian dessert, so I’ll just call them cheese pies. But they are not your ordinary cheese pie. The dough for this dessert is similar to the one for cozonac. The cheese filling is sweet, made with vanilla and raisins.
This is an iconic Romanian dessert, a very old, traditional recipe. These cheese pies are fluffy and flavoursome. Once you try one, you will want to eat them again and again.
Galuste cu Prune
This is an odd Romanian dessert. You either love it or hate it. The dough is made from boiled potatoes, eggs, and flour, which is wrapped around an entire plum. It is boiled, then rolled in fried breadcrumbs mixed with sugar and cinnamon.
This is a dessert that you will find mostly around Transylvania. This dessert actually came from the Germanic speaking countries, and made its way into the Romanian traditional cuisine. You will rarely find it though in other parts of the country.
Crema de Zahar Ars – Burnt Cream
The name of this Romanian dessert doesn’t do it justice. I remember the fuss around the kitchen when my mom was making this dessert. Mostly because once it was ready and cooling down, we could stick our fingers in the burned sugar syrup trickling down the side of the pot, to taste it before being allowed to cut into it.
The big reveal of the cake was when it cooled down completely, and the pot was coming out, revealing a perfectly round dessert covered in the most delicious sweet syrup. The base of the cake is a thick, sugar syrup, which hardens in the pot this dessert is made in. The core of the cake is a milk and eggs based custard, which cooks over a bain marie in the oven until it gets a silky, creamy but firm consistency. Whilst the custard cooks, the sugar melts, creating that delicious sauce that covers this dessert.
I ate so many merdenele during my part time job, when I was at uni. I used to go to classes in the morning and to the office in the afternoon, buying merdenele from the pastry shop in the bus station, to keep me going until I got home for dinner.
The merdenele are salty cheese pies typical to the south of Romania. The dough for these delightful pastries is made in a similar way as the one for croissants, with butter layered between it, rolled, and then rolled again, then left to chill in the fridge. The filling is made from different types of Romanian cheeses, mixed with eggs and dill.
They are the perfect snack for when you are feeling a little peckish.
Dulceata de Visine – Sour Cherry Jam
You will have undoubtedly noticed throughout this article that we serve many of the Romanian desserts with sour cherry jam. And I think that the sour cherry jam should have its own place on this list of Romanian deliciousness. The sour cherry is not very common outside Eastern Europe, and I do crave it a lot, especially since I grew up with a tree in my garden. The beginning of summer was always a joy – I would climb up the garage and eat the sour cherries directly from the tree. My grandma would make sour cherry jam and pie, and we would enjoy the fruits for a good couple of weeks, until they ripened.
Sour cherry jam is more like a preserve, with the entire fruits and a runny consistency. Even if it’s a caloric bomb it tastes incredible, so every teaspoon is worth it! Whilst these days I don’t get the luxury of enjoying homemade sour cherry jam, I still buy a jar here and there, from the Romanian or the Turkish shop.
For more Romanian traditional food, check out my other articles:
- The Most Delicious Traditional Romanian Dishes
- The Most Delicious Traditional Romanian Soups
- The Most Delicious Classic Romanian Cakes