Traditional Romanian Zacuscă Recipe

During my time in Romania last year – I fell so hard and fast for Transylvania. The foliage. The castles. The folklore. Oh yeah, and the incredible food. Comforting, carb-heavy, pork-centric, and loads of savory herbs like basil, parsley, bay leaves, and more. No visit to Romania is complete without a hearty serving of zacuscă at every meal. Bonus points if it’s followed by ciorbă de burtă (beef tripe soup) or a hearty filling of sarmale (stuffed cabbage). This is why I couldn’t resist putting together a traditional zacuscă recipe for you to enjoy a bit of Romanian spirit right in your home. This zacuscă recipe is made up of roasted eggplant and peppers and stewed in sunflower oil with fragrant peppercorn, bay leaves, and my personal addition – chili pepper.

It’s perfect on toast, with crackers, with cheese or if you’re like me, by the spoon.

In this recipe, we are making everything from scratch – even the tomato pureé. Most recipes will call for a food processor and tomato sauce, but I prefer to stick to the old school Romanian methods of chopping everything by hand and preparing my own puree. While eaten year-round and on just about every restaurant menu across the country, at its heart, zacuscă is an autumn dish. It’s usually made in late summer with fresh eggplants, and gogosari (Romanian bell peppers) then preserved through the winter months. This is ideal since zacuscă only becomes more flavorful with time.


  • 4 medium eggplants (aubergine)

  • 8 medium red bell peppers

  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes

  • 2 spicy peppers such as jalepeno, serrano or 1 tbsp crushed chili flakes

  • 3-4 bay leaves

  • 1 1/2 cup sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)

  • 1 tbsp salt

  • 1 1/2 tbsp peppercorn (around 25-30)

  • 2 medium red onions


  • Preheat oven to 220C/430F. Poke eggplants and bell peppers all over with a fork. Roast in the center of the oven for 45 minutes (eggpla