Pyrlenka recipe & story

Pyrlenka (пърленка) is a sort of traditional Bulgarian pastry, as well as mekitsi, banitsa, tumannik, pita and katmi. Roughly speaking, pyrlenka is a flatbread cooked in a special way, something between pancake, loaf and flatcake. Few people know that pyrlenka name came from Bulgarian word «пърлене», which means «scorch». Most of the Bulgarians are quite conservative, especially when it comes to food, so none of the local holiday feast is complete without homemade pyrlenka.


Speaking about the story of any Bulgarian dish appearance, we should note a fact, that a large number of different nationalities lived on the country territory, which contributed to the cooking traditions formation. Even now, neighboring countries have a quite big influence: Bulgarian chefs are travelling around the European Union and upon return, cook native cuisine with slight modifications for the better.

It is believed that pyrlenka is a variation of Turkish pastry, mainly because Bulgaria was in occupation of the Ottoman Empire for several centuries. It's also easy to imagine, that pyrlenka is a «close relative» of Greek pita (πίτα), Italian focaccia and Jewish matzo bread (‏מַצָּה‏‎). Checking the cookbooks all over the world, it's easy to notice, that Bulgarian flatbread have many analogues: tortilla in Mexico, matnakash in Armenia, obi-non in Uzbekistan, puri in India. No wonder, because a flatbread is probably the one of first meals, which human learned to cook, right after «he left the cave».

Greek pita, Italian focaccia, Turkish doner in a flatbread


Traditionally, pyrlenka is served with a salad or soup. Sometimes it can be a part of an appetizer, a base for a paste or mousse, similar to bruschetta. Unfortunately pyrlenka doesn't have any cooking standards, or rather, it has, but in each region of Bulgaria there is a special one. Moreover, every cook is convinced that his recipe is the proper :)

Sometimes pyrlenka is baked with grated white or yellow Bulgarian cheese (пырленка с сирене / кашкавал), or garlic oil (чесново хлебче). Less commonly, you can find it with meat or olives. Also, pyrlenka can be served with lutenitsa (local squash). Every restaurant adds spices by their choice: dry dill, basil, rosemary. If pyrlenka prepared very soft and thin, like a pancake, the stuffing is usually wrapped inside.


As for me, most of the Bulgarian dishes are pretty simple and pyrlenka recipe is not an exception. So, to prepare a local flatbread, you will need:

  1. Flour: 500 g
  2. Bulgarian yogurt (кисело мляко): 400 ml
  3. Egg: 1
  4. Yeast: 20 g
  5. Oil (sunflower or olive): 3 tbsp
  6. Salt: 1 tsp
  7. Sugar: 1 tsp
  8. Baking soda: pinch
  9. Traditional seasonings: marjoram, charena salt (шарена сол), basil

Knead the dough from listed products, then leave it for a half of an hour in a warm place. Then, separate the dough into balls (as much as fits into hand palm) and roll flat each of them. Traditionally, it has to be made with fingers and hand palm, but rolling pin also can be used. Then dip it into the flour on both sides. Bake it in grill or oven, frying pan or even in fireplace until the crust appears. Finally, add some white or yellow cheese and leave it till melt. Add some garlic if you like it. Bulgarian yogurt can be replaced with water. Baking time is around 5-8 min.

Try local

The average Bulgarian menu doesn't contain many photos, so you will find out how their pyrlenka looks like only when the waiter returns with the order. Unfortunately, the taste and appearance of pyrlenka is also depends not only on the region of Bulgaria, but also from the cook's mood.

Traditional cuisine restaurants, such as "mehana", usually cooks pyrlenka on a grill (на скара bulg.). What makes it look like a soft and thick pancake. Frequently pyrlenka comes to the table a little burned, in such case waiters pretending that it was the idea. In some regions, pyrlenka is made in the form of irregular oval. Small sizes are usually baked in a pan (на тиган bulg.). If several pyrlenkas on your plate are similar like twins sister, you can be sure it's far from handmade and probably bought in a supermarket and heated for you.

While, European type restaurants are usually offers a thin and crispy pyrlenka like Italian focaccia. It cooked in the oven and reaches the diameter of a pizza, served on a large plate.

Each region of Bulgaria has its own pyrlenka recipe

Average cost for pyrlenka is around 1–5 BGN (0,5 –2,5 €). Unfortunately, the price doesn't always depend on the restaurant level or chef qualification. Generally, visiting a Bulgarian restaurant in some way reminds me of a Russian roulette, except the “shot” doesn't strike the head, but the stomach. Risky, but fortunately not fatal, however, you never know what awaits you, even if you had the pleasure of dining in this place quite recently.


Ordering pyrlenka, do not expect a culinary masterpiece, because the cooking process in Bulgaria is usually quite simple. If your flatbread is browned, but not burned, consider it quite successful. However, locals say, that pyrlenka is showing «a face of the restaurant». Therefore, we advise you firstly to order a flatbread, and ask for the rest, only if you like it. Some of conservative locals don't even eat at the restaurants without pyrlenka in the menu.

Do you know the place with perfect pyrlenka?