If there is one food that you are guaranteed to see on your very first day in Bulgaria, it’s their cheese!
This crumbly delight is a national treasure, and although it looks like feta, don’t call it that!
Why You Shouldn’t Call Bulgarian Cheese Feta
Yes, I’m serious about this.
When in Bulgaria, do not – I repeat – do NOT, comment on their “feta.”
I’ve done it.
We were in the country for the first time and making small talk with our translator (for our adoption):
“Your feta cheese is so good!” A stupid tourist exclaimed. (Me.)
“…Your feta cheese. It’s the best I’ve ever had!”
“This is not feta.” The tone implied what I already felt in my soul, feta is dumb, and I was dumb.
“Oh? What is it?”
“It’s Bulgarian cheese.”
“What kind of cheese?”
“We call it: Cheese.”
What is the Difference Between Feta and Bulgarian Cheese
As you can see from the story above, the biggest and most important difference between feta and Bulgarian cheese, is the name.
Bulgarian white cheese is “cheese.”
Feta is something lame that Greek people eat. Often feta is consumed on salads. These salads are very similar to the Bulgarian salads that would have Bulgarian cheese on them.
Because calling it simply “cheese” when even Bulgaria has other forms of cheese can be confusing, sometimes it is differentiated as “sirene cheese.”
Sirene cheese is a catch-all name for Balkan cheese in brine.
Feta vs Bulgarian Cheese Ingredients
Both Bulgarian “cheese” and Greek feta are traditionally made with sheep’s milk. Either can sometimes be made with a mix of sheep and goat’s milk.
Here in North America, Feta is commonly made with cow’s milk.
What Does Bulgarian Cheese Taste Like
Of course most people are familiar with feta, so that is the easiest comparison to make.
It’s a little difficult to explain the difference in taste between feta and Bulgarian cheese, because I have only had cow’s milk feta. Maybe real feta in Greece is more similar to Bulgarian cheese than what is readily available here.
Bulgarian cheese tastes like feta, except a little softer and creamier. Feta cheese is sharper, firmer, and more crumbly.
Bulgarian cheese also has another taste that is hard to describe, it’s almost earthy.
I have read a few times that Bulgarian cheese is saltier than feta, but I don’t find that to be the case. They seem similar to me in that respect.
Basically, Bulgarian cheese is like feta, but better.
How To Eat Bulgarian White Cheese
There are a LOT of Bulgarian foods that involve their treasured cheese, but it can also be eaten on it’s own.
It isn’t uncommon to have cheese in slices at breakfast with tomatoes, cucumbers, salami, and hard boiled eggs.
Bulgarians will probably tell you to have cheese with rakia, because they think that goes with everything!
In Bulgaria on almost every restaurant menu you will find Shopska Salad. Shopska is tomatoes and cucumber with lots of cheese grated or crumbled on top. About half the time shopska also has red pepper in it.
Banitsa is a simple baked phyllo pastry with egg and cheese in it. It is often served for breakfast.
Check out my article about more than 30 Bulgarian Foods.
How Bulgarian Cheese is Made
Bulgarian cheese is made by adding cultures to the milk and cooking it. Enzymes are added afterwards that help the product to curdle.
After the milk sets it is broken up into curds and put into moulds to drain and set. The resulting brick of cheese is cut into pieces, salted generously, and left out at room temperature to cure.
After the initial one day of curing at room temperature, the cheese is cured for an additional 5 – 7 days in a cool place. After this the cheese is added into a container of brine which has been made out of previous whey and salt.
How to Get Bulgarian Cheese in North America
Look for a feta cheese that has at least some sheep’s milk. The closest thing I have been able to find here is Krinos sheep’s milk feta.
I have had Bulgarian cheese from the European specialty store, but it tasted like Greek feta and nothing like the Bulgarian cheese I have had.
Sheep’s milk is the way to go!
Fun Fact: Bulgaria’s Cheese is exported by the government yogurt company: LB Bulgaricum.
Other Kinds of Bulgarian Cheese
The only other kind of cheese that is very popular in Bulgaria is Kashkaval. This literally translates to “yellow cheese” probably to discern it from the white cheese, which we have established is just cheese.
Kashkaval is what Bulgarians use on pizza mostly, or sliced at breakfast with the white cheese.
The Bulgarian yellow cheese is a mild flavored cheese somewhere between a mozzarella and gouda. It has more flavor than mozzarella, and is a little smoky like gouda, but nowhere near as powerful.