pastizzi

36 popular types of Maltese food that you need to try

By Julian Canlas

While located right in the middle of the Mediterranean, traditional Maltese food is an amazing blend of different flavors reminiscent of the many cultures that the small but mighty country has interacted with.

Familiar dishes that look like they’re from Malta’s neighboring countries have different tastes to them that renders them truly Maltese. While Italian influences run strong, Maltese cuisine also has hints of Arabic, French, English and even German flavors that truly render this cuisine in a league of its own.

Maltese cuisine is truly uniquely multicultural, rustic and filled with fresh ingredients. At one, there’s the Maltese superstars, the pastizz, the street food that everyone adores and the infamous rabbit stew that is the country’s unofficial national dish. There’s also a type of Maltese bread that locals love so much that they petitioned for it to be part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List. There are also the dishes that remind Maltese people of home, such as the kapunata, Malta’s answer to the French ratatouille.

Excited to find out about Malta’s rich culinary history? Without further ado, here are 36 Maltese foods that render its cuisine truly unique.

Popular Maltese dishes you want to try in Malta

1. Pastizzi

Before fast food came to Malta, a quick snack meant going to a Maltese bakery and grabbing a pastizz on the go.

Now, if you’re talking about heaven in a pastry, this Maltese food may be it. This delicious savory pastry with ricotta or mushy pea fillings is the Maltese street food that both locals and travelers clamor for.

Pastizzi are so popular in Malta that they have a local variation of the expression selling like hotcakes, which is inbiegħu bħall-pastizzi, or selling like pastizzi.

Needless to say, the pastizzi sell out fast, and like hotcakes, you better eat them fresh from the oven, as the dough has the best crunch when it’s still hot and crispy.

Malta also even has its own set of eateries called pastizzeria, which, you’ve guessed it, mainly serves the pastizzi, and the most famous one is located in Rabat, called the Crystal Palace.

Fun fact, this place is open almost 24/7 and used to cater to soldiers during the Second World War. Today, when things have become more peaceful, they mostly cater to old men, tourists who have pilgrimed to eat its world-famous pastizzi and famished students who go there after a night out.

2. Stuffat Tal-Fenek or rabbit stew

The rabbit stew, or stuffat tal-fenek, as locals call it, is Malta’s unofficial national dish.

Rabbit stew is what locals love and foreigners want to try out when visiting the islands.

This Maltese food is served in two main ways, either stewed with rich, tomato-based gravy sauce or fried. When stewed, the rabbit meat becomes incredibly tender from its 2-hour slow cooking process.

3. Fenek Moqli or fried rabbit

While fried rabbit is less popular than the rabbit stew, it is nonetheless as delicious and is normally served alongside a portion of fries!

It is the perfect dish for a nice Sunday lunch, and you can sprinkle it with salt and pepper and add a bit of thyme!

4. Ftira

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The ftira is a Maltese icon. Change our minds. Whether you want a quick snack, or a full meal, it is there for you if you let it. You can fill your ftira with many ingredients, but for us, we prefer to have the traditional way. This open ftira was filled with tomato paste (kunserva), tuna (tonn-taz zejt), olives, capers, onions, sardines and fresh basil. Known as 'schiaccata' in eighteenth century, this ring-shaped flat bread has been part of Maltese diets for ages now. Its texture slightly resembles that of the ciabatta, however its crunchy outside and soft airy body make it unique. In 2018 Malta's Culture Directorate launched a petition to include the technique involved in the manufacturing of the traditional Ftira as part of UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) list. Food Historian Noel Buttigieg explains the importance of the ftira here: https://www.ichmalta.org/post/enjoying-ftira-with-a-spread-of-history We support this initiative. If you would like to see the Maltese Ftira as part of Unesco's Intangible Cultural Heritage list, do like we did and sign the petition below! https://www.change.org/p/the-maltese-ftira-for-the-intangible-cultural-heritage-list #omgfoodmalta #ftira #bread #heritage #unesco #maltafood #lovemaltaeats #maltaeats #maltafoodies #food #foodporn #foodblog #foodie #foodlovers #foodphotography #instafood #foodstagram #eat #foodblogger #visitmalta #lovemaltaeats

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One of the most beloved breads in Maltese cuisine, Maltese locals petitioned for the ftira to be part of UNESCO’s heritage list for cultural artefacts in Malta!

Essentially, the ring-shaped ftira to the Maltese is like what the baguette is to the French.

This Maltese food can serve as a full meal, or a quick snack, can be eaten with delish seafood fillings like sardines and tuna or with fresh tomates, onions, capers, and olives. It’s as versatile as a staple bread can get.

5. Hobz tal-Malti or Maltese bread

Did you know that the word hobz, Maltese for bread, has Arabic roots?

This Maltese food translates into Maltese bread and is a type of crusty, round sourdough bread that’s usually baked in wood ovens.

Qormi is the main city for Maltese bread-making and in almost every bakery there the Maltese bread is available. The favorite way to eat this is by dipping it in olive oil or spreading Kunserva on it (a type of thick tomato paste). And of course, you can eat it with tuna and capers, too!

6. Hobz biz-zejt or bread with oil

Hobz biz-zejt translates into bread with oil, but there’s so much more to it than that.

It is the perfect food to eat before your hearty meal or just to generally snack on. It is often a nibbling food in many local bars and restaurants, too.

Thick slices of Maltese bread, which are fluffy on the inside with crunchy crusts, have on them drizzled olive oil, Kunserva, Maltese capers and tuna or anchovies. Then you can sprinkle a bit of parsley for more taste. So good.

7. Bigilla

This Maltese dip has broad beans and garlic in it, making it the perfect appetizer or snack to eat alongside bread!

And of course, like every Maltese food passed down across generations, every household has its secret version to this dip that gives an extra punch to the flavor, from adding herbs to making it spicier!

Malta’s beloved beverages

8. Cisk

Cisk is Malta’s local beer. It is loved by many, from barhoppers and club-goers to Maltese retirees who want a delicious beer that’s locally-produced.

This local beer has an edge in terms of flavor and freshness over other more international beer brands, because each can of Cisk goes from the local brewery and straight to the bars where they’re proudly served. ⠀

Suffice to say, when you’re in Malta and if you like your beers, then you should definitely order a can of Cisk.

9. Kinnie

If Cisk is Malta’s unofficial national beer, then Kinnie is their national soda. Both of them come from the same company.

Kinnie has an orange aroma to it and has a bittersweet flavor that comes from the bitter oranges and extracts of wormwood. While many locals love this, foreigners might need some time to get used to the taste.

Malta’s delicious seafood dishes

10. Lampuka

Lampuka is the Maltese word for mahi-mahi, or the dorado in other places. The lampuka is largely popular in Malta and is included in many Maltese dishes.

Fishing season for the lampuki (the plural form of the lampuka) happens during autumn, as Maltese fishermen in their colorful luzzu boats catch the lampuki using a technique called kannizzati.

11. Lampuki pie

This Maltese food is essentially history on a plate. While the savory aspect draws British culinary culture, there’s a hint of Arabic influences, too, with the mint, lemon peel and raisins packing a flavorful punch, and Italian, with the tomatoes, olives and capers.

This dish is particularly popular around late-August to mid-November, when the lampuki are seasonally caught.

12. Pasta with sea urchin

Yes, you’ve read that right. Pasta with sea urchins is a local delicacy. Malta is brimming with sea urchins. My Maltese friends recounted how their parents would go snorkelling at St. Paul’s Bay to look for these spiky creatures

They would fill up a plastic bag with sea urchins caught from the seabed, gently open them with a knife and scoop out the insides for food. Today, maybe due to climate change, this practice is not as popular anymore, as sea urchins are becoming less common.

While today any Maltese restaurant with a good seafood menu is bound to have pasta with sea urchins, the sea urchins are mostly imported from Italy.

13. Spinach and tuna pie

Ideal for Lent, this spinach and tuna pie is a local favorite, but it is also perfect for those cold winter months as a perfect Maltese winter food.

It’s a culinary delight for those whole love pies but want to stay healthy.

14. Pixxispad

Maltese for swordfish steaks, this fish is a popular delicacy in Malta. It is best grilled, brushed with melted butter and garnished with lemon wedges.

Delicious Maltese finger foods

15. Maltese olives

The Maltese olives are a delicious finger food that are widely-served in bars and restaurants, and used in many Maltese recipes, such as in rich tomato sauces and rabbit stews.

Olives and olive oil have been common ingredients in the country’s dishes for hundreds of years. In fact, archeological findings prove that Romans used to produce olive oil in the Maltese islands for as long as 2,000 years ago!

Malta also has a species of white olives that are endemic within the islands. What gives Maltese olives an edge over its more popular Spanish or Italian ones is in the way they are grown.

According to olive cultivators, the olives are grown in a Goldilocks state, where the temperate climate, soil pH levels and levels of sunlight and rain have led to flavorsome olives with a distinct sweetness to it.

But it is not just Maltese growers who have stated the special flavors of their olives. These olives have passed official blind testings held by olive oil experts and grandmasters.

16. Qassatat

Alongside the famous pastizzi, qassatat is the go-to savory snack for the Maltese. In almost every village, you’ll find a small eatery serving this Maltese food.

They’re basically a pastry pocket filled with either Maltese ricotta cheese or mushy peas. If you have space in your belly for another savory snack, try this Maltese delicacy!

17. Gbejna

Gbejna is a small round cheese made in Malta that is made from either goat, cow or sheep’s milk and with rennet, a complex of digestive enzymes.

This cheeselet is found in many Maltese cuisines, including in soups and stews. There are also so many ways to prepare gbejna.

It can be fresh, sundried, salt-cured, or even peppered. Fresh gbejna has a smooth texture and a milky flavor, similar to mozzarella.

When sundried, this cheese develops a nutty taste and turns hard. When Maltese households prepared their own versions of this cheeselet, it’d be in a nemusiera, a box from mosquito screens, to allow the gbejniet to dry off naturally and protect it from insects.

18. Maltese capers

Maltese capers are a staple Maltese food ingredient that are included in many traditional dishes and are harvested abundantly in the rural parts of Malta.

They’re a great salty addition to Maltese breads, kapunata and even lampuki pie! Maltese climate allows these capers to grow into enormous sizes!

Maltese foods that taste like home

19. Kapunata

Kapunata is Malta’s answer to the French ratatouille. It’s a delicious vegetarian dish that’s made with bell peppers, capers, eggplants, onions, tomatoes, savory olives and garlic.

They’re also flexible enough that you might be able to add some ingredients of your own or add meat, even. It is similar to the Sicilian Caponata, hence the name.

20. Imqarrun il-forn or baked macaroni

A traditional Maltese food favorite with Sicilian origins, the imqarrun il-forn is similar to baked macaroni.

It’s like lasagna without the ricotta cheese. This dish is an absolute comfort food, and the burnt bits of pasta on the surface with semi-dried tomato sauce are so delicious.

As with most local dishes, each Maltese person has their own secret ingredients, such as adding a dash of nutmeg or fresh peas, that make this dish extra yummy.

21. Timpana

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Maltese 'Timpana' made plant-based! 😋 Proof that everything can be veganised and delicious! ❤️ And since so many reached out to ask for the recipe, I am sharing it here below! . Ingredients: 1 large onion, diced 4 cloves garlic, minced 2 medium carrots, grated 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce 1 tbsp liquid smoke S & P to taste 2 veg stock cubes 1 tbsp tomato paste Pinch sugar 1 bag @tescofood soy mince (450g) 2-3 cans tomato polpa 2 tbsp hot curry powder 1 tsp Italian Herbs 1 can lentils (or soak your own) 500ml soy cream (I used @alpro) 1 kg pasta (E.G. Macaroni or penne) 1 packet @jus_rol shortcrust pastry 2 Flax 'eggs' (2 tbsp Flax seeds mixed with 5 tbsp water in a bowl & rest for 5 minutes to thicken) Optional: Vegan cheeze (I used @greenvie parmesan) . . Method: Fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the mince, carrots & curry powder and cook through. Add the liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, then the tomato paste and sugar, stirring well on medium heat. Add the tomato polpa, lentils, herbs, stock cubes and simmer for about 20mins until the sauce is fragrant & rich. Make sure that the sauce has a strong flavour as you want it to stand up to it being mixed into the cream and pasta in the next steps. In the meantime, cook the pasta as per instructions until 'al dente', meaning that there's still a bite to it. Drain, mix the sauce into the pasta, add the cream and the Flax 'eggs'. Mix until well incorporated. Add cheeze at this point if so desired. Now, prepare your over dish. Roll out the pastry large enough to line the dish and leave the extra hanging onto the sides. *Pro-tip: sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs on the pastry base before adding the pasta mixture so that you ensure the bottom of the Timpana cooks well since the breadcrumbs absorb extra moisture 😉* Pour in the pasta, pressing it down to compact it into the dish. You can now either fold over the pastry, leaving the middle exposed or close the pie with a layer of pastry on top, then folding over the sides. Bake for 40mins at 190°C fan until pastry is cooked. P. S. This makes enough pasta for an extra dish of plain mqarrun too! Just pour the extra pasta in a dish & bake until golden!

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Malta’s answer to the Italian timpano, this Maltese food is a baked pasta pie that’s encased in puff pastry and dressed with spicy tomato sauce.

There are layers and layers of goodness that include mince, bacon and hard-boiled eggs. As for the pasta, those that are widely-used include penne, ziti or macaroni, all tubular pasta that are great for this type of cooking.

22. Qarabaghli Mimli fil-Forn or Stuffed marrows

Stuffed marrows is a local Maltese favorite. The marrows or courgettes are either filled with meat or ricotta and sometimes served in a broth.

This Maltese food can be served warm or cold. But the most popular way to eat them is by baking them in the oven and eating them hot.

23. Bhal fil-forn or oven roast

Translated into oven roast, this simple Maltese food is very popular and consists of, you guessed it, meat and vegetables put in the oven and made into a meal that you can make as unhealthy or healthy as you wish.

24. Bragioli or beef olives

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Bragioli is a typical Maltese meat dish, like most of the region's salty cuisine, where succulent rolled steaks are stuffed with bacon, eggs, herbs and sometimes bread crumbs, cooked in a delicious red wine sauce! 🍲😋 Impossible to eat only one… . O Bragioli é um prato típico Maltês à base de carne, como maioria da culinária salgada da região, onde suculentos bifes enrolados são recheados com bacon, ovos, ervas aromáticas e algumas vezes com migalhas de pão, cozidos em um delicioso molho de vinho tinto! 🍲😋Impossível comer apenas um… . 📷: Pebbles Resort / Reprodução . #VisitMalta #Maltesecuisine #munchies #gastronomia #comida #bragioli #salty #meatrolls #bifeenrolado #byBrunaMaier

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Bragioli has a weird translation. It means beef olives, and there are no olives involved.

Its name refers to the fact that beef is stuffed and looks like olives when cooked.

The beef is slowly braised in wine for a long time, then smothered in rich tomato sauce, and often served with mashed potatoes and peas.

This is a very traditional food in Malta, and often reminds overseas Maltese people of home.

25. Brungiel Mimli or stuffed eggplants

Brungiel mimli is Maltese for stuffed eggplants and it’s a popular local Maltese food.

My Maltese friend recounts that it is the type of food that her mother would make for the family every Sunday.

There would be minced beef inside the eggplants, and a slice of cheese on top. Yummy!

26. Zalzett Malti or stuffed sausages

The Maltese love their traditional sausages, which, I have to admit, pack a bit of flavor in them.

An important part of Maltese cuisine, the making of zalzetta tal-malti actually have a bit of English influence in them, but are also made in accordance to some Portugese traditions.

Traditionally, this Maltese food includes pork and fat in it, and is similar to the Italian salsiccia. Fresh Maltese sausages are also often made with garlic, but dry types are made without it.

There are so many ways to cook these sausages, which include grilled, smoked, steamed, stewed and fried. They can be stewed in rich tomato sauce, too, or even eaten on a bread, alongside sun-dried tomatoes.

Maltese soups

27. Minestra

Minestra is the traditional Maltese version of the very popular minestrone soup from Italy.

It’s the type of Maltese food that’s been passed down through several generations, so Maltese households have their own variations to the delicious meal.

The minestra is full of fresh and local vegetables and is the perfect dish for the mild Maltese winter months and during Easter. And of course, popular ingredients in it include Kunserva, potatoes, kohlrabi, cauliflower and maybe even pasta.

28. Kusksu bil-Ful or broad bean and pasta soup

This traditional Maltese broad bean and pasta soup has all of the quintessential ingredients in Maltese cuisine: there’s the gbejnet, the Kunserva and the small pasta bead, which are known as kusksu.

Different versions of this Maltese food exist, including fish, cabbage and even bacon! But the most traditional version of this soup comes alongside broad beans.

As the meal resembles couscous, this could indicate that the soup became popular during Malta’s Arabic occupation, but official sources on this remain scarce.

29. Soppa tal-armla or widow’s soup

For a dish with such a dark name, almost every household has their own version of the Maltese soppa tal-armla, or Widow’s soup.

In fact, its name derives from the fact that this recipe is so cheap and easy to do that even grieving widows can cook it anytime. Here, you can add cauliflower, gbejna and kohlrabi, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and garnish it with parsley!

And you have a good meal that can be the perfect food during those cold winter months!

30. Aljotta or fish soup

Aljotta is a type of Maltese fish soup made with local ingredients, including fish sold in the fish markets of Marsaxlokk, Maltese olive oil and gbejna.

This Maltese food is rich with flavors from the variety of herbs that you can include in it and the lemon juice, which adds a sour profile to the soup.

This dish is so popular that there’s even a saying that you can judge the cooking of a Maltese cuisine by tasting how delicious aljotta is!

The aljotta is also popular during Lent, especially, when you’re not supposed to eat meat.

Malta’s holiday treats

 

31. Prinjolata

Now, the prinjolata is decadent. This cake is popular especially during carnival season, when locals are ready to indulge in this delicious Maltese food.

During the season, you can see cafes and restaurants display this mad mound on their countertops. The prinjolata gets its name from the prinjol, Maltese for pine nuts, in its filling.

Underneath the polka-dotted layer of glacé cherries, whipped cream and chocolate syrup, there’s a sponge cake, and you can include some whiskey into the cream.

32. Figolla

The figolla is a Maltese pastry that has a marzipan-like filling.

While it used to be a holiday treat to be given to your loved ones on Easter Sunday (it still is popular during this time of the year), it is now sold everywhere all-year around.

Traditionally shaped in various Christian figures, like hearts, crosses and even fish, today, you can shape the figolla into anything the person you’re giving this to is passionate about.

The plural form of figolla, figulli, is said to have ancient Sicillian roots and come from the Sicilian word figulina, which means figure. While the Sicilian equivalent is not popular in modern times, the figolla are still well-received in Malta.

33. Ghadam tal-Mejtin or dead men’s bones

Translated into dead men’s bones, these traditional Maltese treats have religious origins and were meant to honor dead relatives on All Souls Day, November 2nd.

As you might know, Malta is quite a religious country. But, today, they’ve become somewhat of a delicious holiday treat that’s perfect for Halloween or November when they’re usually sold.

In terms of ingredients, they’re identical to the figolla, except for, well, their bone shape.

34. Qaghaq tal-ghasel or honey rings

While traditionally made and shared during Christmas, these honey rings are now available in shop all year round.

But it is during the Christmas holidays when the spices for this Maltese food are available. In any case, these are delicious and look nice.

They are filled with a mix of black treacle, water, semolina, sugar, cocoa powder, aniseeds, and other citrus flavors.

35. Kwarezimal

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Kwarezimal are traditional Maltese lenten cookies that are free from any fats and eggs so that they could be consumed while fasting. They are full of almonds, citrus zest and orange blossom water and they make your kitchen smell AMAZING!! I made mine gluten & refined sugar free this time and they turned out delicious! 👌🏼😋 . << Traditional Maltese Kwarezimal >> . . #malta #maltesefood #ikelmalti #maltesesweets #kwarezimal #traditionalfood #vegansweets #mediterraneanfood #cleaneating #healthyeating #lowcarb #lowgi #sugarfree #norefinedsugar #goodcarbs #pcos #pcosdiet #pcosfriendly #insulinresistance #whole30 #keto #glutenfree #dairyfree #vegetarian #weightloss #goodfats #30daypcosdietchallenge #pcosfighter #grandfraisetmoi #vitalfood_mag

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Kwarezimal was actually brought over by the Knights of Malta and is derived from the latin word quaresima, which refers to the 40 days of Lent.

As such, because you can’t traditionally eat meat-based products during Lent, there are traditionally no eggs or meat fat in this recipe.

The original Maltese recipe results in a chewy biscuit made with spices and ground almonds. It had sugar in it, because back then sugar was considered as a spice.

36. Imqaret

Imqaret are very popular sweets that are sold in Maltese street markets.

Their name is a reference to their diamond shape, but some are sold in a rectangular shape.

Imqaret are deep-fried, date-filled Maltese pastries that are normally infused with the hints of aniseed and bay leaf that are ingredients prevalent in Arab cuisine, too.

If you want to try them out, you can find them in almost every restaurant and café in Malta.These treats are particularly popular during Christmas, alongside warm tea.

Want a Maltese food tour?

Did you enjoy this blog? Are you hungry now? Malta might be a small country, but it has a food culture that is extremely fascinating as it’s essentially a blend of Arabic and European flavors.

If you’re heading over to Malta and want to see the best restaurants in Malta to visit, add my influencer profile on TWISPER. There, I have the best restaurants, eateries and cafés in Malta to visit, alongside my favorite experiences in each of them!

Don’t you want to know where to eat home-made gbejna or delicious pastizzi ;)?

 

Julian Canlas
By Julian Canlas

Julian Canlas leads content and community at TWISPER. He is a 20-something content strategist who loves to travel and write about online culture. You can email him at [email protected] for blog collaborations with TWISPER and other partnerships.

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