This Bulgarian salad (Shopska salata) is delicious, refreshing, and very simple. Ready in just 10 minutes, this salad is the perfect addition to your garden party or dinner party, especially if you are serving grilled meat or fish!
Why To Try This Bulgarian Salad
Shopska salata is one of my favourite salads of all time. I love making it all year round, but most enjoy eating it in the summer, when the vegetables are fresh and ripen. Here are some of the main reasons you will love it too:
- It is super easy to make – this crunchy summer salad contains only 8 ingredients, all of them widely available in shops and supermarkets.
- It’s great for batch cooking and making ahead – which is ideal if you are entertaining or hosting a birthday, kids party or gathering with your friends and loved ones. Plus, it will keep fresh for up to a day.
- Bulgarian salad is refreshing, colourful and delicious – because, you know, feta cheese makes everything better!
- Thanks to the high vegetable content, it is also packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Make the most of the fresh vegetables’ texture and rich flavours when they are in season.
What Is The History Of Shopska Salad?
Shopska salad was invented in the fifties by the state tourism company in Bulgaria. The goal was to create a ‘traditional’ national dish that will feature the finest vegetables grown in Bulgaria. The colours of this salad dish resemble Bulgarian flag colours –white, green and red. The sirene cheese is usually grated or crumbled on top.
The salad became quickly popular in Bulgaria and is available on all restaurants’ menus until this day. Many neighbouring countries in the Balkan region also claim the recipe is ‘theirs’.
When visiting Bulgaria, be sure to order this salad – it’s a great side dish and makes a fantastic light lunch or dinner too.
Key Ingredients for Bulgarian Salad
Bulgarian salad contains only eight basic ingredients, which are:
- Tomatoes – rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they provide this salad with a soft texture and a good amount of juices. Use fresh salad, beef, plum or cherry tomatoes – almost any variety will work, including yellow and orange cherry tomatoes which will add more colour to the salad.
- Bell peppers – add on crunchiness and boost the salad with many important nutrients, and are rich in vitamin C. Use fresh or roasted peppers, all colours (yellow, red, orange or green) will work in this Bulgarian salad recipe.
- Cucumber – classic salad cucumber (also known as European, English, seedless or greenhouse cucumber), Persian cucumber or garden cucumber work great in this recipe. Taste the cucumber before slicing it – if the skin isn’t bitter, then you can leave it on. If it does taste bitter, peel the cucumber first. Use the leftover cucumber for cucumber sandwiches, cucumber-infused water or Pimm’s.
- Red onion adds a bit of spice to the salad, but less than a typical brown (yellow) onion.
- Feta cheese – is added instead of traditional Bulgarian white cheese (Sirene), which is almost alike, but generally only available in specialist shops, or locally in Bulgaria. Feta is similar in both flavour and texture. This creamy and tangy cheese is the true highlight of this salad. This crumbly cheese transfers its saltiness taste to the salad, so there is no need to add extra salt to the salad’s dressing. If you are looking after your sodium intake, rinse the cheese under running cold water – some of the salt will be washed off. When you visit Bulgaria, make sure you purchase the original though! 😊
The salad dressing is made of sunflower oil and white wine vinegar. Add a pinch of black pepper to add another dimension to the taste.
The salad is usually served with some fresh parsley on top, which adds a hint of beautiful green colour and its typical delicate flavour.
Substitutes & Variations
Although the main ingredients in this recipe are traditional (making this salad what it is), you can swap some of them for their close substitutes:
- Brown onion, or shallot for red onion.
- Yellow chile peppers, or Romano (cooking) peppers instead of sweet bell peppers.
- Use the original Bulgarian sirene cheese or goat’s cheese as a replacement for feta.
- Lemon juice (fresh or concentrated) will be a good swap for white wine vinegar.
- Olive oil, or rapeseed oil works in the dressing too.
How To Make Shopska Salad
This Bulgarian salad is ready in 3 easy steps:
- Wash and cut the vegetables and transfer them into a salad bowl.
- Prepare the dressing, add it to the bowl with chopped vegetables and mix thoroughly.
- Grate or crumble the feta (sirene) cheese on top and serve.
For exact measurements and detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- If you are looking for ways how to reduce the sharpness of the raw onion – soak the diced onion in white wine vinegar for 30-60 minutes prior to making this salad. This will help break up the enzymes that cause the onion’s sharp taste.
- Add the grated or crumbled cheese right at the end, after all ingredients have been mixed together – otherwise, you will get a mushy vegetable mix. It will still taste good, but won’t be as visually appealing.
- If making this Balkan salad ahead, then add the cheese just before serving, to help it stop going dry.
This fresh Shopska salad will keep in an airtight food container in the fridge for a maximum of 2 days. However, it is best to consume it within 12-24 hours of making it – the vegetables will still be firm and crunchy. After 24 hours, the salad will still be edible, but can become more watery and mushy.
When preparing this salad in advance, mix the vegetables with the dressing and store the salad in a sealed container, keeping the cheese separately - add it just before serving for best texture and to prevent it from going dry.
This salad is not suitable for freezing.
Shopska salad was invented in Bulgaria in the 1950s, it quickly became popular and reminds on restaurants’ menus until this day. The name most probably comes from town called Shopluk, however, the salad first appeared in a town called Druzhba, near Varna on the Black sea coast.
Shopska salata (sometimes called Bulgarian salad), is a crunchy and refreshing vegetable salad consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion, parsley and sirene cheese. It is usually served chilled.
This Bulgarian salad goes well with grilled meats (chicken, pork or beef), sausages (including kielbasa), and kebabs. You can also enjoy a larger portion of it as a main meal - with a slice of crusty bread.
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📖 The Recipe
Bulgarian Salad (Shopska Salata)
- 8 salad tomatoes, or 2 large beef tomatoes (4 handful cherry tomatoes)
- 2 bell peppers
- ½ cucumber
- ½ red onion
- 100 g feta cheese, or Sirene cheese, Greek-style salad cheese
- 2 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- handful fresh parsley for serving
- black pepper, to taste
- Wash and pat dry the vegetables. Finely chop the onion, remove seeds and white membranes from peppers. Cut the tomatoes, cucumber and peppers into dices or same-size pieces (wedges)and place them into a salad bowl.
- Prepare the dressing: mix sunflower oil with vinegar and chopped parsley, add the dressing to the bowl with chopped vegetables, and toss thoroughly.
- Grate or crumble the feta cheese on top and serve.
- Brown onion, or shallot.
- Yellow chile peppers, or Romano (cooking) peppers.
- Sirene cheese or goat’s cheese.
- Lemon juice (fresh or concentrated).
- Olive oil, or rapeseed oil.