Despite Albania being well-known for its medieval-era castles, exotic beaches, and being the birthplace of Mother Teresa, its also known for its national dish Tavë Kosi.

Tavë Kosi is the beloved national dish of Albania, which is enjoyed throughout the country. The speciality is a simple dish of baked lamb and rice, served with a flavoured yoghurt sauce.

While it is difficult to pinpoint an exact historical origin for Tavë Kosi, it’s deeply rooted in Albanian culinary traditions and has been enjoyed by Albanians for generations.

Combining yoghurt with meat to create Tavë Kosi is thought to have emerged due to its availability. Albania has a rich agricultural tradition, and sheep and cattle farming has long been practised in the country. The abundance of lamb and beef, coupled with the widespread use of yoghurt, led to the creation of Tavë kosi as a flavourful and hearty dish.

Yoghurt is believed to have been introduced to the Balkans by nomadic tribes who roamed the region thousands of years ago. These tribes used animal milk to produce yoghurt, which was a valuable source of nutrition and had a longer shelf life compared to fresh milk. Over time, yoghurt became an integral part of Albanian cuisine, used in various dishes and enjoyed as a standalone food.

While Tavë Kosi has become a treasured national dish in Albania, it is also enjoyed in other countries in the Balkan region, such as Kosovo and North Macedonia, where Albanian communities reside. The dish has evolved over time, with variations incorporating different spices or ingredients. Each household or region may have their own spin on how to make Tavë Kosi,  but its essence remains deeply tied to Albanian culinary heritage. 

Albanian cuisine has its own distinct taste but has been heavily influenced by its surrounding countries and regions. Its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea has contributed to the abundant use of olive oil, seafood, vegetables, and aromatic herbs in Albanian dishes. Similarly, Albania was conquered by Ottoman rule in the 14th century, which is thought to have increased the use of lamb and spices in Albanian dishes. 

The preparation of Tavë Kosi typically involves marinating the meat in a mixture of garlic, salt, and black pepper, which is then layered in a baking dish and covered with a sauce made from yoghurt, flour, and eggs. The dish is baked until the meat is tender and the yoghurt sauce forms a golden crust on top. Tavë Kosi is often served hot, accompanied by fresh bread or rice.

Today, Tavë kosi represents not only a delicious and nourishing meal but also a symbol of Albanian cultural identity and traditions. It is a dish that has withstood the test of time and continues to be cherished by Albanians both at home and abroad.