Shopska salad, or shopska salata, is a simple yet elegant Bulgarian side dish you can make with a handful of pantry staples.

Close up shot of shopska salad with tomatoes, herbs, olives, and grated cheese.
Photo Credits: Mariam Hamdy

Shopska salad is a cousin to Mediterranean cucumber and tomato salads but with its own distinct personality. Like Greek salad or Shirazi salad, it swaps lettuce for bright parsley, crunchy cucumbers and juicy tomatoes.

Bulgarians–brilliantly, I must say, add sweet, silky, and smoky roast pepper and a tangy grated cheese that's similar to Greek feta. Each gives the vibrant salad yet another layer of flavor and texture. 

I’ve taken a few liberties with the traditional Shopska salad recipe to accommodate the ingredients I can easily find at the supermarket. The result is a simple side dish that goes with just about everything! It’s fresh meets smoky, bright meets creamy, briny meets sweet, and crunchy meets silky all in one. 

Roast the peppers yourself for the boldest, sweetest flavor. From there, it’s on your table in under 10 minutes! Shopska salad is easy to make and packed with nutrition, color, flavor, and texture. Get your veggies in on a weeknight, or serve as a no-fuss side for a casual dinner party.

Table of Contents
  1. History of Shopska Salad
  2. Shopska Salad Ingredients
  3. How to Make Shopska Salad  
  4. What to Serve with Shopska Salad
  5. Less Lettuce More Crunch! Mediterranean Salads
  6. Shopska Salad Recipe

History of Shopska Salad

"Shopska salad" was first named in a Bulgarian cookbook in 1940 as a variation on lyutenitsa, a Bulgarian vegetable relish. The dish we know as Shopska today was created in 1955 as part of the state tourist agency. It got its name from the Sopski region in western Bulgaria, where it is said to have originated. 

Shopska salad was developed and popularized by Petar Doychev, a pioneer in Bulgarian tourism. The ingredients resemble the colors of the Bulgarian flag (though they’ve also been staples of the Bulgarian diet for centuries). The easy-to-make salad became a staple of Bulgarian home cooking, later earning its place as an emblem of the country’s cuisine.

Ingredients for Shopska Salad, including cucumbers, tomatoes, white cheese, parsley, olives, olive oil, salt, red pepper, and vinegar.

Shopska Salad Ingredients

Shopska salad comes together with ingredients that most Mediterranean kitchens keep stocked. Luckily, they’re all easy to grab at your local market, aside from a few near-identical swaps which I find just as delicious. 

  • Roasted bell pepper: Freshly roast the red pepper yourself for the best flavor and texture. Or you can use a store-bought jar of roasted peppers to save time. 
  • Tomatoes: Use ripe, juicy tomatoes from a sweet variety like campari or Roma. Or substitute with halved grape tomatoes. 
  • Cucumber: Smaller varieties, like English or Persian, have delicate skin and tend to be less bitter than slicing cucumbers. If thin cucumbers aren’t available, you can substitute with conventional cucumbers and peel the skin before slicing.
  • Parsley: Opt for flat-leaf Italian parsley as it tends to be more flavorful and less bitter.
  • Onion: Shallots or red onion add a sweet-meets-savory flavor. White onions would be too dominant, so I would recommend substituting with scallions or red onions. 
  • Seasoning: Season simply with kosher salt to enhance the flavor and red wine vinegar to balance the vegetables’ natural sweetness.  
  • Olive oil: Use a high-quality, smooth extra virgin olive oil that’s flavorful but not too bitter. I love super-smooth Italian Nocellara, or Spanish Hojiblanca for a subtly peppery kick. For a more traditional Shopska salad, use sunflower oil (olive trees aren’t as abundant in Bulgaria).
  • Cheese: Traditionally, a sprinkle of "sirene," a Bulgarian cheese similar to Greek feta but usually made from cow’s milk, finishes the salad. It has a mild, creamy flavor that adds saltiness to the salad without dominating. It’s hard to come by where I live so I substitute with my favorite creamy feta. 
  • Olives: Olives are not an essential ingredient in traditional Shopska salad, but I love the rich, fruity, and briny flavor that kalamata olives bring to the table. You can leave them off if you prefer, or substitute them with a similar, high-quality variety like Taggiasca or Nocellara del Belice. 
close up shot of a spoonful of shopska salad in a wooden serving spoon with a large platter in the background.

How to Make Shopska Salad  

This traditional Bulgarian salad couldn’t be easier. Roast your bell pepper and all you need to do is chop and toss:

  • Get ready. Roast one bell pepper or drain and chop one 6-ounce jar. If you have a gas stove, roast the pepper directly over medium-high flames, turning with a pair of tongs every few minutes until the pepper has softened fully and charred well on all sides (about 15 minutes). Or, roast on a sheet pan in a 450°F, turning until charred on all sides (about 15 minutes). Transfer the charred pepper to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10 minutes while you work on other things. One charred, roasted red pepper in a bowl.
  • Prep the veggies. While it’s steaming, quarter 5-6 tomatoes. Slice ½ of an English cucumber into ¼-inch half moons. Finely chop enough parsley to yield ¼ cup. Chop 2 shallots (or 1 small red onion). Tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, and shallot in a mixing bowl.
  • Peel the roasted pepper. When the pepper is cool enough to handle, peel off its charred skin. Pat it dry with paper towels and coarsely chop into bit-sized pieces.One roasted red pepper on a cutting board with its skin peeled off.
  • Mix. To a medium salad bowl, add the pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and onion. Sprinkle with a big pinch of kosher salt. Add 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a good drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons). Toss to combine. 
  • Finish. Transfer the salad to a serving platter. Top with ½ cup of crumbled feta cheese and ¼ cup of pitted olives. Serve.Overhead shot of shopska salad with a sprinkling of white cheese in a large serving platter with wooden serving spoons, more herbs, and olives on the side.

What to Serve with Shopska Salad

Shopska Salad is like table wine: it’s economical and simple yet perfect for brightening up a weeknight dinner. And it goes with everything! Serve this nutritious “table salad” with other weeknight-friendly dinners, like our 15-minute Broiled Salmon or easy sheet pan Chicken and Potatoes.

For a dinner party, serve family-style along with a showy main like whole Roast Chicken, Branzino, or Cauliflower (must love feta!). Roast a few extra bell peppers while you’re at it and welcome your guests with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus or Muhammara with a side of homemade pita. It’s a convenient two-for-one situation, but the flavors are so different no one will be the wiser!

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This traditional Bulgarian salad is weeknight-friendly, nutritious, and absolutely bursting with flavor and texture. Roast the bell pepper at home for the best flavor, just be sure to give yourself about 30 minutes of extra time.
Prep – 10 minutes
Total – 10 minutes
Cuisine:
Bulgarian
Serves – 4
Course:
Salad, Sides/Salad

Ingredients
  

  • 1 large red or orange bell pepper, roasted, skin removed, and coarsely chopped (see step 1, or use one (6-ounce) jar of roasted red peppers)
  • 5 to 6 campari tomatoes (or 3 Roma tomatoes), quartered
  • ½ English cucumber, sliced into ¼-inch half moons
  • ¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 shallots or 1 small red onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup feta cheese, grated or crumbled
  • ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives

Instructions
 

  • If you’re using fresh bell pepper, begin by roasting the pepper. If you have a gas stove, roast the pepper directly over medium-high flames, turning with a pair of tongs every few minutes until the pepper has softened fully and charred well on all sides (about 15 minutes). Or, roast on a sheet pan in a 450°F, turning until charred on all sides (about 15 minutes). Transfer the charred pepper to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10 minutes while you work on other things. When the pepper has cooled enough to handle, peel the charred skin off and coarsely chop into bite sized pieces.
  • Mix: In a medium salad bowl, add the pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and shallot. Sprinkle with a big pinch of kosher salt. Add the vinegar and a good drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons). Toss to combine.
  • Finish: Transfer the salad to a serving platter. Top with feta cheese and olives. Serve.

Video

Notes

  • Try to get smaller cucumber varieties like Persian or English. If the larger waxy cucumbers are the only option, peel their skin for better texture and flavor.
  • Look for blocks of feta packed in brine as they tend to be higher quality and more flavorful than pre-crumbled feta.
  • This recipe calls for one roasted pepper, but I like to roast a batch to keep on hand. I use the remaining to bring the flavor party to sandwiches, salads, hummus, and Muhammara or Spicy Greek Feta Dip all week.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oilshoneyjams and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 101kcalCarbohydrates: 9.6gProtein: 4.4gFat: 5.7gSaturated Fat: 2.7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1.9gCholesterol: 16.7mgSodium: 355.4mgPotassium: 382.2mgFiber: 2.5gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 2045.1IUVitamin C: 55.8mgCalcium: 122.9mgIron: 1mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. A friend from work sent me this recipe and it’s DELISH! I do wish I knew what the serving size was because I could eat the entire bowl lol. If anyone knows do let me know!

    1. So glad you loved this one, Ashley! Once made, this particular recipe can be divided by 4 to get the approximate "serving size". The exact serving size measurement (by grams, cups, etc) is another layer that's harder for us to precisely calculate at the moment, but we're working on it!

  2. 5 stars
    Shopska salad, where have you been all my life? I just made this wonderful salad for the first time ever and it's remarkably delicious and refreshing - not to mention healthy! For sure, I'll be making shopska on a regular basis from here on out. Many thanks for this simple, delightful recipe, Suzy 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Just made for lunch for my husband and me, had Italian bread and hummus along with it as we are out of pita. We are both sad there isn’t more! The roasted red pepper added a subtle, very subtle sweetness to balance out the red wine vinegar and feta. This will be in heavy rotation. I am so burnt on romaine based salads. So happy I ear marked this delicious salad. I followed the recipe to the letter. Parsley, for me, tends to overwhelm salads for me, in the amount here it is definitely an enhancement. Same for feta, perfect amount, all the ingredients played well together. Not sure I’d double the recipe to use later simply because I think it would be more on the mushy side after a few hours. Who knows though, maybe I’ll do that later this week when I make it again as it’s already been requested. Keep these great recipes coming, Suzy!

  4. 4 stars
    I love this salad. It is easy to make and the ingredient to make the salad and dressing is fresh and tasty. I love to serve this on a bed of romaine lettuce.

  5. 5 stars
    Tonight I made chicken souvlaki on pita and tzatiki. Shopska salad and grilled asparagus on the side. Fantastic. I love your cookbook and your other recipes too. So proud to be able to serve healthy, beautiful whole foods to my guests.

  6. In Bulgarian cafes (little restaurants) it is calles Shopski salad (Шопски салат). The cheese is Bryndza (Брындза), it's like feta but firmer and saltier. The peppers aren't roasted. Also English cucumbers aren't small and thin skinned 🤔 Overall I like the recipe and will try it as I loved this salad and was eating it twice daily when visiting Bulgaria. Oh and you could try to find the Bryndza cheese at the ethnic stores, here it is sold at Costco (MD), but yes, feta blocks in brine are quite close. Thank you for reminding me of those times in Bulgaria! A wonderful country to visit with very nice friendly people!

  7. 5 stars
    Excellent with the Pastitsio i made today. Very fresh and light. I did cheat with jar roasted red peppers and used balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. Got rave reviews from my dinner guests.

  8. Excellent with the Pastitsio I made. Very fresh and light. I was out of red wine vinegar so used basalmic instead. Everyone loved it.

  9. 5 stars
    I first had this salad in Macedonia and then Bulgaria. Trying it tonight, for the first time in years, has me clapping and cheering! I didn't roast the peppers, as they were fresh in both countries, and it's less work. This is fantastic!!!

    1. Hi, Phillip. Of course this would depend on your personal preference for salt, but I would start with 1/2 tsp. and add more if needed.