Romani cuisine (Romani: Kherutni xabe) is the cuisine of the ethnic Romani people. There is no specific "Roma cuisine"; it varies and is culinarily influenced by the respective countries where they have often lived for centuries. Hence, it is influenced by European cuisine even though the Romani people originated from the Indian subcontinent. Their cookery incorporates Indian and South Asian influences, but is also very similar to Hungarian cuisine. The many cultures that the Roma contacted are reflected in their cooking, resulting in many different cuisines. Some of these cultures are Middle European, Germany, Great Britain, and Spain. The cuisine of Muslim Romani people is also influenced by Balkan cuisine and Turkish cuisine. Many Roma do not eat food prepared by a non-Roma.[1]


Romani dishes are usually made hot and spicy with the use of spices, such as paprika, garlic and bell peppers. Stews are common.[2] Potatoes are also a staple in their diet. Another traditional dish cooked by Romani people is sarma, salmaia or sodmay, which is made from cabbage stuffed with meat and rice.[3] Romani people consume dishes consisting of stuffed peppers, especially on holidays and special occasions. Romani people also cook pufe (made from fried flour), xaritsa (fried cornbread), bogacha (baked bread) and xaimoko (a meal consisting of rabbit meat). They serve their meals with kafa (coffee) and chao (tea) with sugar and milk or fruits such as strawberries, peach slices, apple slices, or lemon.[4][5] There are several spicy Romani soups. Fusui eski zumi is a Romani butter bean soup often made with ham. Pertia is a soup made with jellied pig’s feet and pig’s ears. Romani stews are usually made with green and red peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, and some meat. There are a variety of stews in Romani cuisine, like one Romani chicken paprikash called puyo. Whole meats, like spit-roasted pigs or lambs, are commonly prepared for Romani rituals. Large hams and lamb steaks bought wholesale and barbequed with a customary hot sauce called chile mole are also eaten at Romani feasts. The fat crust of ham is many Roma's favorite part of the meat. The Roma have their own method of making coffee and tea. Romani coffee is often boiled with the groats and often dipped off the top with a spoon. At Romani feasts, sarmi, meats, hot sauces, celery sticks (often eaten by the Roma for virility), salads, pirogo, saviako, and a stew or two are usually served. Romani people only serve fruit on the table at pomana feasts.[6]

Romani food may be cooked outdoors in cauldrons atop a wooden flame.[7] Bread forms an essential part of any meal. Romani cuisine is also, often out of necessity, inexpensive to prepare and centers portable ingredients. Potatoes, peppers, cabbage and rice are often the building blocks in Romani cuisine. Beef and pork are rare inclusions, while traditional proteins like chicken, lamb, and goat; game animals like rabbits and hares; wild birds such as quails and partridge; and snails are more common proteins of the Roma.[8] The Roma also consume roasted apples, almond cakes, rabbit or hedgehog stew, clay-baked hedgehog and trout, snails in broth, pig stomach, and fig cakes.[9] Rabbit stew is made with rabbit meat, innards, bacon and onions.[10] Baked hedgehog is flavored with garlic, and is called hotchi-witchi or niglo, in Romani.[11] To prepare the dish, the hedgehog is wrapped in clay and placed on white-hot stones. When the roasting is done, the quills attached to the clay are pulled off and the hedgehog dish is served wrapped in leaves.[12]

The use of red pepper in some traditional Romani dishes is influenced by the Rajputs.[13]

Due to the lack of Romanipen and assimilation to Turkish culture and Islam as religion, Turkish Roma eat chicken and eggs and have their own special recipe for it which is well-known in Turkey[14]

Nomadic Roma collect young nettles in the spring.[15]

Cornmeal is a staple for the Kalderash.[16] Romani slaves were fed cornmeal during slavery in Romania.[17] Romani people also make an unleavened bread using cornmeal mush called ankrusté flavored with cumin and coriander.[18]

Coffee is a prized drink among Romani people. Wild fruit, berries, leafy plants and small animals formed the bulk of Romani people's diet.[19] Some Roma prepare Turkish coffee.[20]

Eggplants are cooked in tomato sauce. The Roma pickle gherkins, cabbage, beets, ripe olives and a cabbage-cauliflower mixture. The Roma also cook pogača bread. Romani people prepare borscht with beets, cabbage, bay leaves and soup bones. It is often served with sour cream and extra vegetables.[21]

Romani people pick mushrooms and berries from forests.[22]

Since their migration from India through Armenia in the 1300s, the Romani people have acquired extensive knowledge about the nutritional and medicinal properties of various natural ingredients. They have mastered the art of utilizing berries, nettles, beech leaves, and herbs in their cuisine. Living near the sea, they also gather limpets and mussels to supplement their grocery purchases, which are often funded by horse trading. In their quest for flavorful meat, the Romani people prefer geese, goats, pork, and wild salmon over beef and mutton. They have a stock of dried mushrooms that add a distinct flavor to their ragouts, while dandelion roots serve as a strong ingredient for their coffee, which is further enhanced with wild honey.[11]

The Romani people value recipes that incorporate ingredients such as butter and eggs from free-range hens, molasses, unrefined sugar, and wholemeal flour. In their cooking, they believe in using generous amounts of bread, garlic, pepper, salt, and vinegar for good luck. They also engage in hunting and gathering activities, collecting dulse, eels, sea kale, game, seabird offal, gooseberries, and mulberries to create flavorful soups and boiled puddings. A beloved recipe among children involves hollowing out a potato and filling it with elderberry jam before baking it in embers.[11]


A traditional Romani dessert is pirogo, which is similar to Jewish kugel. The recipe consists of eggs, raisins, walnuts, pineapple, sugar, butter, egg noodles and cottage cheese.[23]

Szaloncukor is a Romani dessert that is fastidiously mixed flour and sugar and made the dough into shapes like sugar cookies, then they are baked, wrapped, and hunged on a tree by the Roma until January 6 for the feast of the Epiphany.

The Roma also have own version of wheat pudding for Christmas. After husking wheat, soaking the berries in water, warming them in an oven, and smashing the soft hulls with tools that were available, Romani cooks put the pudding through a sieve, then mixed the remaining gelatinous substance with milk, flour, and eggs, and then they sweetened it with honey, sugar, or molasses. The Roma also added dried fruits, cream, butter, and homemade rum or brandy to the pudding. Romani bakers place a token of good luck which is often a silver coin in a loaf of sweet Christmas bread or cake. Romani tradition has it that whoever gets the coin in their piece will have a good year. The dough for the cake is similar to the Balkan kozunak.

Romani people also have their own version of poppy seed moon cake.

Plum dumplings are sweet holiday fares that demonstrate the practicality of the Roma who were doing the cooking. Plum dumplings are made dough of mashed potatoes, eggs, butter, and salt, which are rolled out and cut into small circles. The Roma carefully place a plum, topped with cinnamon and sugar, on the dough just before they folded, sealed, and boiled the dumplings in salt water. When the plum dumplings were finished cooking, the Romani cooks rolled them in buttered breadcrumbs and sprinkled them with more cinnamon and sugar. The Roma also transformed potatoes, cherries, and dried bread into desserts and treats.[24]

Food beliefs

The Roma believe some foods are auspicious and give luck (baxt) like the Rajputs. American Roma believe red pepper, black pepper, salt, vinegar, garlic, onions and a sacrificed animal such a lamb to be lucky foods.[25]

Certain foods are traditionally considered marime (ritually unclean) and therefore are avoided. Horse, cat, and dog meat are forbidden. Frog meat and snake meat are considered unlucky by the Christian Roma and are associated with the Devil. Peacock meat is forbidden. The Christian Roma associate peacocks with the evil eye.[26] The Christian Roma tend to not eat at restaurants and avoid food prepared by non-Roma.[27] A Romani woman menstruating can’t cook or serve food to men.[28]


Although many Hungarian restaurants tend to feature Romani musicians, there is only one Romani restaurant in Hungary called Romani Platni ("Roma Stove") which opened in Budapest in 2012.[29] In Maribor, Slovenia, there is a Romani restaurant called Romani Kafenava.[30]

List of Romani dishes

See also


  1. ^ Crowe, David; Kolsti, John; Hancock, Ian (22 July 2016). The Gypsies of Eastern Europe. Routledge. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-315-49024-3.
  2. ^ Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia: [4 Volumes].
  3. ^ Vishnevsky, Victor (30 September 2011). Memories of a Gypsy. Salo Press. ISBN 978-0-9787728-2-6. Retrieved 29 March 2023 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Sutherland, Anne (1 July 1986). Gypsies: The Hidden Americans. Waveland Press. ISBN 978-1-4786-1041-0. Retrieved 29 March 2023 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society. p. 56.
  6. ^ Sutherland, Anne (July 1986). Gypsies: The Hidden Americans. Waveland Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-4786-1041-0.
  7. ^ "Taste of Romani (Gypsy) Cuisine". Goodreads. Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  8. ^ Hancock, Ian F. (2002). We are the Romani People. Univ of Hertfordshire Press. p. 81. ISBN 9781902806198.
  9. ^ Byghan, Yowann (2020). Sacred and Mythological Animals: A Worldwide Taxonomy. McFarland, Incorporated. p. 133. ISBN 9781476679501.
  10. ^ "Inside the Culinary Traditions of the Roma people". Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  11. ^ a b c Mary Ellen Snodgrass (2012). World Food: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture and Social Influence from Hunter Gatherers to the Age of Globalization. Routledge. ISBN 9781317451600.
  12. ^ Harry E. Wedeck (2015). Dictionary of Gypsy Life and Lore. Open Road Media. ISBN 9781504022743.
  13. ^ Ian Hancock (2010). Danger! Educated Gypsy: Selected Essays. Univ of Hertfordshire Press. ISBN 978-1-902806-99-0.
  14. ^ "En Yeni Roman Yemekleri -". Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  15. ^ Albala, Ken (25 May 2011). Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia [4 volumes]: [4 volumes]. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 978-0-313-37627-6.
  16. ^ The Story of Corn. p. 236.
  17. ^ Alex Drace-Francis. The Making of Mămăligă: Transimperial Recipes for a Romanian National Dish.
  18. ^ Kohn, Bernice (1972). The Gypsies. Indianapolis, Indiana: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. p. 42. Retrieved 25 May 2024.
  19. ^ The Gypsies. p. 33.
  20. ^ Kalderas in eastern Canada. p. 198.
  21. ^ Kalderas in eastern Canada. p. 198.
  22. ^ Slovak Republic: Living Standards, Employment and Labor Market Study. 2002.
  23. ^ Zanger, Mark (29 March 2001). "The American Ethnic Cookbook for Students". ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 29 March 2023 – via Google Books.
  24. ^ Sweet Treats Around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture.
  25. ^ Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia - Volume 2. p. 175.
  26. ^ Yaron Matras (2015). The Romani Gypsies. p. 92.
  27. ^ Ethnic American Food Today: A Cultural Encyclopedia. p. 250.
  28. ^ Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia: [4 Volumes. p. 171.
  29. ^ Diekmann, Anya; Smith, Melanie Kay (15 January 2015). Ethnic and Minority Cultures as Tourist Attractions. Channel View Publications. ISBN 978-1-84541-485-6.
  30. ^ Sullivan, Meghan Collins (16 May 2014). "Introducing Roma Cuisine, The Little-Known 'Soul Food' Of Europe". NPR.
  31. ^ Gypsies: The Hidden Americans. p. 63.
  32. ^ Ethnic American Food Today: A Cultural Encyclopedia. p. 251.
  33. ^ "Çingene Yumurtası -". (in Turkish). Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  34. ^ "ÇİNGENE TAVUĞU -". (in Turkish). Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  35. ^ "African Americans and the Gypsies: a cultural relationship formed through hardships". San Francisco Bay View. 27 September 2013.
  36. ^ "Joe Grey Soup (Traditional Gypsy Recipe) | Gypsy Magick and Lore". Retrieved 29 March 2023.
  37. ^ "Kent - Romany Roots - Try a traditional Gypsy recipe". BBC.
  38. ^ "Cigánytúró with bodag ("Gypsy" cheese with traditional Romani bread)". 22 October 2015.
  39. ^ "Vegyes Nyakleves (Roma Mixed Neck Soup)". 22 October 2015.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s We are the Romani People. p. 86.

Further reading