A nice and refreshing summer salad made of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers and topped with white cheese: Shopska is probably the most famous Bulgarian salad. It is so easy to prepare and can be made in different variations, so you can enjoy it in almost any part of the Globe!
How was this salad invented
This is not an old traditional recipe, as many people might think. The Shopska Salad was invented in the 50s by chefs from “Balkantourist” - the Bulgarian state tour-operator of the time. It is not a coincidence that the colours of the salad resemble the national flag: this was made intentionally.
The salad soon became popular around the whole country since it was very simple and tasty and used very common regional ingredients.
Recipe tips and variations
Probably the only one ingredient of Shopska salad that might be uncommon outside of Bulgaria is sirene: a kind of salty white cheese. It is similar to feta cheese so you can use feta instead. Alternatively you could use grated cheddar or another cheese that you like or you may simply skip the cheese. Both alternatives will make the salad taste differently but will still keep its nice fresh taste.
Regarding the peppers, you can use fresh green peppers (like bell peppers) or baked red peppers which are very typical in Bulgaria. I personally prefer it with fresh ones as they are nice and crispy but if you like baked peppers, feel free to use them instead.
As for the onions, some people prefer it with red ones, others with white. There is no particular rule which kind is better for the salad, so choose the onions you like.
There are also different garnish variations. The most common one is just parsley but some people like to add also black olives. With them the salad becomes more similar to the Greek one so I believe they were not part of the original idea. Another typical garnish is a green spicy pepper on top. If you like spicy peppers, they would be a great addition to your salad.
In Bulgaria salad is normally served as a starter, typically accompanied by rakiya: a strong liquor made of grapes or other fruits. However I usually don’t follow the Bulgarian rules and normally have it as a side or as a light meal before a decadent slice of cake. No matter how you decide to have it, this salad will impress you with its freshness and taste: especially if you make it with nice seasonal produce.
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- 3 medium tomatoes
- 1 large cucumber
- 1 medium onion
- 1 green sweet pepper see notes
- 3,5 oz / 100 g Bulgarian cheese or feta
- 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil see notes
- 1-2 tbsp vinegar optional
- chopped parsley to taste
- salt to taste optional
- black olives optional
- hot peppers optional
- Dice the tomatoes, onion and pepper. Peel the cucumber and dice it as well.
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Cover the salad with grated Bulgarian or feta cheese. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
- Alternatively garnish with olives or a hot pepper on top (just a serving possibility, not really necessary).
- Sprinkle with oil and vinegar after serving. Mix well. Add salt if needed.
- The most common Bulgarian green peppers look more like poblano peppers but are sweet. You can use any kind of sweet green peppers such as bell peppers. Red peppers are also acceptable. Another alternative for this salad are the baked red peppers.
- I recommend using extra virgin olive oil, being one of the healthiest oils in the world. However the most commonly used Bulgarian oil for this salad (and in general) is the sunflower oil.
- You might not need salt for this recipe if you use Bulgarian white cheese (sirene) as it is quite salty. Taste the salad after mixing it, before adding salt.
- The salad can stay in the fridge for up to 1 hour before serving it. Just make sure you add the vinegar right before serving.