From Bulgaria With Love: A Must-Try Shopska Salad Recipe 

 Last Update December 11, 2023

By Jenny Zhang

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Originating from the sun-kissed lands of Bulgaria, Shopska Salad is a true celebration of freshness and simplicity. Its vibrant medley of flavors and textures captures the essence of summer, making it a beloved staple on tables across the Balkans. With just a handful of ingredients, this Bulgarian salad effortlessly transforms into a harmonious symphony of colors and tastes, leaving your taste buds craving for more.

Every delightful bite of Shopska salad unveils a culinary gem that encapsulates the essence of summer. The crisp cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, and tangy feta cheese dance together in perfect harmony, while a drizzle of olive oil adds a touch of Mediterranean magic. But it's not just about appearances – the Shopska Salad delivers a delightful array of flavors with each mouthful, and it pairs perfectly with a big feast of grilled meat. 

Fortunately, the Shopska salad is surprisingly simple. With just a handful of fresh ingredients, a dash of creativity, and a pinch of love, you can bring the magic of the Balkans to your own kitchen.

What Is a Shopska salad

A Shopska salad is a traditional Bulgarian dish that has become a beloved staple in Bulgaria and across the Balkans. It is a refreshing and colorful salad known for its simplicity and vibrant flavors that showcase abundant fresh vegetables and dairy products. The salad comes from the Shopi people, an ethnic group inhabiting the Sofia region of Bulgaria.

The key ingredients of a Shopska salad are fresh and readily available, making it a popular choice during the summer months when ripe vegetables are abundant. The salad typically consists of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and bell peppers, arranged in a visually appealing manner. The vegetables are often topped with crumbled feta cheese and sprinkled with parsley, giving the salad a burst of flavor and an irresistible finishing touch.

As a side dish, Shopska salad is a fantastic complement to a ray of delicious meals, especially meat dishes. It's refreshing flavor truly shines when paired with succulent steaks, juicy grilled chicken, or delectable pork roasts.

The Shopska Salad Dressing

Shopska salad traditionally features a simple and light dressing that enhances the ingredients' natural flavors without overpowering them. The dressing typically consists of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, which adds a smooth and fruity richness to the salad. 

Shopska Salad Recipe

Prep Time
10 minutes

Cook Time
0 minutes

Rest Time
0 minutes

Total Time
10 minutes

  • Cooking Method: N/A
  • Cuisine: Bulgarian
  • Servings: 2
  • Calories: 346
  • Courses: Salad
  • Best Season: Any

Ingredients

  • 4 Ripe medium tomatoes
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 Red or green bell pepper
  • 1 Large red onion
  • 200 Grams of feta cheese

Dressing And Garnishes

  • Fresh parsley (for garnish)
  • Sunflower Oil (Or Extra-virgin olive oil for dressing)
  • Red wine vinegar (optional)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions

1. Begin by cleansing and prepping the vegetables, ensuring they are fresh and vibrant. Carefully dice the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, and red onion into bite-sized pieces, ready to be incorporated into the salad. You can adjust the quantities of the vegetables according to your preference.

2. In a generous salad bowl, unite the chopped tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, and red onion. Give the ingredients a gentle toss, ensuring a harmonious blend of flavors and textures.

3. Sprinkle the crumbled feta cheese delicately over the vegetable medley, ensuring its even distribution, allowing each bite of the salad to be graced with the creamy and salty goodness of the cheese.

4. Season the salad with a pinch of salt and a grind of fresh black pepper, tailoring the flavors to your personal preference. Be mindful that the feta cheese adds some saltiness to the dish, so adjust the seasoning accordingly.

5. Drizzle the salad with a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil. The oil enhances the flavors and helps bind the ingredients together.

6. Gently toss the salad, ensuring that all the ingredients are lovingly coated with the dressing, allowing the flavors to meld together in perfect harmony.

7. Garnish the Shopska salad with fresh parsley leaves, adding a vibrant green touch and an additional flavor.

8. Serve the salad promptly for immediate enjoyment or, if desired, refrigerate it briefly to allow the flavors to harmonize and mingle.

9. When ready to serve, transfer the salad to individual plates or a large serving dish, and let the vibrant colors of the vegetables shine.


Notes/ Tips

Dress Just Before Serving: To maintain the crispness of the vegetables, dress the salad with olive oil just before serving. This ensures that the salad stays fresh and vibrant.

Proper Vegetable Prep: Dice the tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and red onions into bite-sized pieces for consistent and enjoyable bites. Try to keep the vegetable pieces relatively uniform in size for a visually appealing presentation.

Swap Your Oil: Traditional Shopska salad is made with sunflower seed oil. Feel free to swap for extra virgin olive oil or oil of your choice for health or taste reasons.

Nutritional Facts

Nutrition Facts

Servings: 2


Calories

201


% Daily Value*


Total Fat "7.1g"

"9%"


Saturated Fat "1g"

"5%"


Cholesterol "0mg"

"0%"


Sodium "233mg"

"10%"


Total Carbohydrate "34.2g"

"12%"


Dietary Fiber "4.2g"

"15%"


Total Sugars "20.1g"

"0%"


Protein "1.9g"

"0%"


Vitamin D "0mcg"

"0%"


Calcium "46mg"

"4%"

Iron "3mg"

"14%"

Potassium "604mg"

"13%"


*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.


What ingredients will you need to make Shopska salad

Ripe tomatoes

The best variety of tomatoes to use for making a Shopska salad is one that is ripe, flavorful, and firm. While personal preference may vary, popular recommendations for this salad are Roma or Heirloom tomatoes for the best taste.

Roma tomatoes are medium-sized, oblong-shaped tomatoes with a rich, sweet flavor and dense flesh. Roma tomatoes are known for their meatiness, making them a popular choice for salads like Shopska salad.

Heirloom tomatoes, with their diverse range of shapes, sizes, and vibrant colors, are renowned for their exceptional flavor that delights the taste buds with every bite. They offer a unique and vibrant flavor profile, making them a fantastic choice to add a touch of novelty to your Shopska salad.

Cucumber

Look for fresh and crisp cucumbers. English, Kirby, or Persian cucumbers work well for this salad.

English cucumbers are also known as hothouse or seedless cucumber, and it is a popular choice for salads. It has a thin skin, mild flavor, and minimal seeds, and the flesh is tender and crisp, making it ideal for slicing and adding to the Shopska salad.

Similar to English cucumbers, Persian cucumbers are small, thin-skinned, and have a crunchy texture. Compared to other cucumber varieties, they tend to possess a sweeter and more delicate flavor profile, providing a delightful and subtle taste experience. Persian cucumbers work well in the Shopska salad, adding a refreshing crunch without overpowering the other ingredients.

Kirby cucumbers, also known as pickling cucumbers, are smaller in size, have slightly bumpy skin, and have a crisp texture and a refreshing taste. While they are commonly used for pickling, Kirby cucumbers can also be sliced and added to salads, including the Shopska salad.

Red or green bell peppers

Select a bell pepper of your choice to add vibrant color and mild sweetness to the salad.

Red onion

Use a small red onion, which gives the salad a mild yet slightly pungent flavor.

Bulgarian Feta cheese

Crumbled Bulgarian feta cheese is a crucial component of the Shopska salad, and it adds a creamy and salty element that complements the vegetables. When selecting feta cheese for your Shopska salad, choose high-quality feta that is fresh and authentic. The brine-packed variety tends to be more flavorful, but if you prefer a milder taste, you can opt for a block of feta cheese and crumble it yourself.

If you prefer a milder taste, you can opt for less salty feta cheese or even substitute it with a similar crumbly cheese, such as goat cheese, sirene cheese (white brine cheese), or queso fresco. These cheeses provide a similar texture and can still deliver a creamy, tangy note to the salad. You can also use Greek feta, adding a more salty taste to the salad. 

Fresh parsley

Sprinkle fresh parsley leaves over the salad for a pop of vibrant green color and a hint of herbal freshness.

Sunflower oil

Traditional Shopska salad is dressed with sunflower seed oil as the olive tree is not as plentiful in Bulgaria as in other Mediterranean regions. However, you can swap this ingredient with extra virgin olive oil, and it will still bring the flavors together while adding a silky richness.

Salt and pepper

Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper, enhancing the flavors of the vegetables and cheese.

How to elevate Shopska salad

If you want to elevate your Shopska salad and add some extra flair to the dish, here are a few ideas:

Add fresh herbs

Consider adding chopped mint or basil leaves to the dish for a refreshing and aromatic twist. Just before serving, generously sprinkle them over the salad, infusing it with a burst of herbaceous goodness that will awaken your senses.

Roasted red peppers

For a touch of smokiness and complexity, include roasted red peppers in your Shopska salad. You can either roast them yourself or use store-bought roasted red peppers. Cut them into strips or dice them and mix them with the other vegetables for added flavor and color.

Toasted nuts or seeds

Consider adding some texture and nutty flavors to your salad by including toasted nuts or seeds. Toasted pine nuts, slivered almonds, or pumpkin seeds can bring a delightful crunch and a nutty depth to the dish. Sprinkle them over the salad as a garnish.

Drizzle balsamic glaze

To add a touch of sweetness and tang, drizzle a balsamic glaze over your Shopska salad. The rich and syrupy glaze complements the fresh vegetables and feta cheese beautifully, enhancing the overall taste experience.

Grilled vegetables

Take the salad to the next level by grilling some vegetables before adding them to the mix. Grilled tomatoes, bell peppers, or even grilled zucchini can make the salad smoky and caramelized, creating a delightful contrast with the raw vegetables.


Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.