Recipe: Balkan Burger (with poll)

You don’t have to know how to pronounce it to enjoy eating it.


If this long, meandering string of letters makes you stutter, just clap your hands, because that’s what Pljeskavica means – the sound of hands clapping as the “Balkan burger” patties are formed.

And this is not just a big word. This is big food.

This is the original “super-size.” Not only are the patties large enough to cover a small plate, they contain as many as 6 cuts of meat from three different animals.  Everyone has their variation and you’ll typically find beef, lamb, and pork (for non-Muslims) in every bite. The entire animal is fair game.

You can’t help but smile as your mouth stretches open with every bite.

While each region (country, town, family, person!) has their own variation, most chow down on pljeskavica with a knife and fork. More recently, tucking the patty inside lepina, or thick pita bread with onion and tomato, is gaining popularity. Either way, don’t forget to slather each bite with roasted ajvar spread!

For more information, check out this fantastic article all about the Balkan burger in the NY Times.

Makes 6 large burgers or 8 standard


1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork sausage
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 a small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 1/2 tsp paprika salt (about 1 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup fizzy water

Standard Accompaniments: tomato, onion, ajvar, pita bread


First of all, fly to Montenegro and find a happy place to make your burgers. This will do just fine. I’ll save you a spot, if you’d like to join me…

St George Island (Ostrvo Sveti Đorđe), in Kotor Bay, Montenegro. Photo by Brian Dell.

Next, combine the three meats (I love the added extra spicy oomph that comes with using ground pork sausage, instead of just plain ground pork) Use your hands to mix in the onion, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, and bubbly water.

Now to lighten things up…

Just like laughter helps lighten the mood, bubbly water helps lighten the Balkan Burger’s texture. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. Meanwhile, enjoy sipping the rest of you drink while watching scenes from Montenegro, the focus of this week’s Global Table learning. When your tummy rumbles so that you can’t wait another moment, cook the patties on a hot grill (3-4 minutes per side for medium rare, or to desired doneness). Serve with a happy mountain of sliced tomatoes, onions, ajvar and soft pita bread (unless you can find the more traditional lepina). This is all kinds of good.

Share with a smile, a friend, a hunger for happiness.

Will you be grilling this weekend?

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  1. OOO that looks sooo gooood….I would substitute Tuna for the pork…
    this weekend I am ready for a real meal…

  2. How much of the bubbly water do you put in the meat?

  3. Yum! Sounds delish. I thought the bubbly water was interesting. Do you know why bubbly water?

  4. Oops, forget it, just saw your comment about texture ;-)

  5. Christina says:

    I want to make this soon. Here in Florida, we can grill year-round, while y’all are buried in snow in the Sooner state. :) I think I will make it with beef, lamb, & veal.

    I am absolutely loving your mini beaker holding the ajvar. Where did you get it?

  6. Definitely going to give this a try! Can’t wait!


  1. […] 8. Balkan Burger | MONTENEGRO | (Recipe) […]

  2. […] made with beef, pork, lamb, paprika, and more. Delish! Arguably, however, the best part about the Balkan Burger is the avjar seasoning that goes on top – a lovely roasted red pepper spread that I could eat […]

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