Monday, August 16, 2010

Roland's First Lyutenitsa Recipe

Roland's First Lyutenitsa Recipe

It's not easy to find Bulgarian recipes on the internet, and the recipe in my cookbook is lacking detail on this one recipe. I had lyuntenitsa several times in Bulgaria, and all of the versions had spices or herbs included, but none of the recipes I've found so far, do. I had to improvise.

My favorite version was at Skara Bar, in Sofia. I heard that theirs is not traditional, but that's fine. It included cinnamon, which was different from all the others, and that's fine, too.

Skara Bar's beef, misc stuff, and lyutenitsa
It's good for dipping a potato wedge or for spooning over grilled meat and sausage, but Bulgarians also just eat it with a spoon.


Originally, I used four tomatoes and a pint of cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomotoes were very ripe and very good, but talk about a mistake. Despite the fact that the skins do slip right off after the boiling water treatment, you do not want to skin thirty little tomatoes. Just make sure to buy tomatoes that are actually good and ripe, and adjust your numbers according to their size. 8 large, 12-15 roma, etc.

Serves: a lot when used as a condiment, a lot less when you eat it as a vegetable.


8 large tomatoes
3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt to taste
vinegar to taste


Skin the tomatoes by dropping them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then fish them out. Make an X with a sharp knife on the stem end and peel with your fingers and/or a paring knife. The skin should pretty much slip off.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil until hot. Cook the onion, garlic, and peppers until soft and until the onions are translucent. Stir in the tomatoes and cinnamon, then bring it to a simmer.

Allow it to slowly simmer  forever, or at least overnight.

Traditionally, this stuff would simmer all day and night, in huge cauldrons, thickening and breaking down until it's nice and thick and rich. To mimic this you have to be around, watching the uncovered pan simmer and thicken. A slow cooker tends to hold in a lot of the moisture, so going that route might mean putting on the stove for the last hour to reduce a bit. Doable, but extra steps.

Salt to taste. Vinegar to taste. Just a bit at a time and taste as you go. I started with one tsp at a time, finally settling on 3 tsp in the end.

Serve hot, warm, or cold.  Serve as a dip, a sauce for meat, or as a side dish.

My lyutenitsa was great. Sweet and tangy and lot of flavor. Not Skara Bar great, but great none-the-less.

I meant to ask politely for the recipe when I was at Skara Bar, but I was full and satisfied, so I forgot. I'll have to write them when I get tired of not getting mine just right.


  1. It's not sweet!

    Just kidding. You are my hero.

  2. Oh, it's sweet alright!

    I just noticed I forgot the eggplant in the recipe! I mean this would be awesome and all, but awesomer still with the eggplant that's actually in there! Must update later... In the meantime, peel and chop an eggplant and stick it in the pot when you add the tomatoes.

  3. man, U are missing the most important - pre-boiled carrots and black pepper :-)
    The chalga guy

  4. I'll try the carrots and pepper on the next batch. Are carrots common in this stuff?

    The stuff went over well with the parents as a veggie dish and as a dip for the kebabcheta, but after sitting in the jar for 12 hours, it was like the salt and vinegar almost went away. I had to add more of both before it was great again.

  5. Great job with the lyutenitsa!
    I myself made some lyutenitsa last weekend and it turned out great!
    I added some red and black pepper spice-wise & skipped the cinammon (whick i think would be a nice addition) & the vinegar.
    Carrots - I don't think I've ever tasted lyutenitsa with carrots, but roasted peppers & eggplant are a must. Also, some ground chilli peppers add a nice spicy touch :)

  6. Milena, I have to say that the black pepper made a huge difference. I took the last bites of my last batch and played around with small changes. Pepper was a biggie.

    I'm going for the carrots, next time! We will see!


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