Bulgarian Lyutenitsa Deroni

Lyutenitsa – the Mouth-watering Relish

One could hardly imagine that something so simple can be so delicious. Even a person armed with a rich English vocabulary would be challenged to describe it. Delectable, lip-smacking, toothsome, appetising – lyutenitsa is all of that and even more.

Lyutenitsa, ljutenica, or lutenica (Bulgarian: лютеница) can be described as a vegetable relish, paste, spread, or chutney. It can be consumed as a snack food or as an appetiser on toast, crisp bread, or crackers. It is also eaten with different kinds of meat, kebapcheta, or meatballs.

The ingredients of lyutenitsa may vary by region but generally, it is composed of (bell) peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic, vegetable oil, and condiments such as sugar, salt, and black pepper.

A Recipe for a Delectable, Home-made Bulgarian Lyutenitsa


  • 1 kg (2 lbs) tomatoes
  • 1 kg (2 lbs) red peppers
  • 400 gr (14 oz) aubergine (eggplant)
  • 1/4 onion
  • 30 ml oil (olive oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil – anything will work)
  • 2 bunches fresh parsley
  • salt
  • sugar


  1. Bake the peppers and aubergine (eggplant) on a stove (oven, grill, or barbecue work, too).
  2. Peel them, remove the stems and the seeds, and let them stay for a while.
  3. Grate the tomatoes with the wide side of the grater. Lose the skin and put the sauce in a deep vessel to boil. You can substitute the grater with a food processor.
  4. Boil until the liquid evaporates. Start the boil on a high heat and gradually reduce it. When the mixture starts to thicken, stir constantly.
  5. Meanwhile, coarsely grind the peppers and the aubergines with a food processor or a meat grinder. When the water in the tomatoes has evaporated, add the coarsely ground peppers and aubergines, as well as the juice from the peppers (dispose of the juice from the aubergines). Until it starts to thicken, constantly stir to avoid burning.
  6. You will know the density is perfect when while stirring, the stirrer leaves a trace on the bottom of the tray that does not close.
  7. Add the oil in which the onion has been fried (however, the onion serves only for flavouring the oil, don’t put it in the lyutenitsa).
  8. Continue stirring and gradually reduce the heat. When it thickens again, add parsley, salt, and sugar to your liking.
  9. If you are a worshipper of spicy food, toss in a few chilli peppers (chopped).
  10. The lyutenitsa is ready when the remaining trace of the stirrer does not close. Pour the hot mixture into jars and sterilise for 20 minutes.

A Drop of Scrumptious History

When August meets September and when the sun has become less scorching, it is time to prepare the winter supplies. One of the most important home-made products in Bulgaria is lyutenitsa. The tradition of its making can be traced back to the last century.

Lyutenitsa, which is prepared only with natural products, is not only delicious but also carries with it the nostalgia attributed to the end of the summer. It reminds of a rural fireplace and the comfort of a home. There is nothing compared to spreading freshly made lyutenitsa on a warm slice of bread.

Home-made lyutenitsa is a unique Bulgarian product and is considered one of the country’s national symbols, at least in the culinary sphere. Gastronomic peculiarities in different cuisines almost always reveal contrasts in the mentality of individual nations.

Lyutenitsa is not only an appetiser or a side dish. It is an essential part of the Bulgarian mentality – coarse homemade lyutenitsa is something sustainable, primordial. In times of crisis, there is nothing more uplifting than opening a jar of home-made lyutenitsa.

The word lyutenitsa calls in many people’s minds the images of plump housewives who, in late September, wander around smouldering fires and frequently stir the red mixture with wooden spoons, while discussing the new TV shows.

Three decades ago, this picture could be observed in the early autumn not only in villages but also in districts of major cities. Boiling the red relish bore an essential part of the specific atmosphere of the moderate wellbeing of the 70s and 80s. At the time, the stores were selling only one kind of lyutenitsa – “Horo”.

Bulgarian Lyutenitsa Horo
The first Bulgarian mass-produced lyutenitsa – Horo

With the fall of the Iron Curtain, the market was over flooded with dozens of variations, but their taste was different. In the last several years, however, more and more “home-made” varieties have been introduced which very closely match the good ol’ taste.

The stores nowadays also offer the distant cousins of lyutenitsa – Pinjur, Ajvar, and Kyopolou. They are part of the culinary traditions of other Balkan countries – Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey – but their composition, method of preparation, and taste cannot be compared to the Bulgarian chutney.

An Appetising Salvation in the Crisis

In its familiar form, lyutenitsa appeared during the economic crisis in the first decades of the last century. Around 1930, Bulgaria embarked upon an intensive production of tomatoes and red peppers for the canning industry – both for domestic consumption and for export. During the Second World War, the government started producing lyutenitsa en masse and, as a result, it quickly gained popularity.

Industrial production began in the early 50s of the 20th century. The Bulgarian State Standard for lyutenitsa appeared soon after that. It stipulated that the relish should be made only with tomato and pepper paste, onion, salt, sugar, and oil. The release of this standard and the presence of industrial technology made lyutenitsa a product for mass consumption.

Stupefying Health Benefits of Lyutenitsa

There is a general belief among Bulgarians that lyutenitsa, in its classic unadulterated form, has a very high health index with nutritional and dietary properties. Many of the elements therein are essential for the proper development, maintenance and restoration of the human body. The fruit sugars, acids, vitamins, mineral salts, trace elements, and other substances, found in the relish, are easily digested and are a great source of energy. It is also believed to help metabolism and to lead harmful substances out of the body.

Lyutenitsa’s main health benefits can be found in the tomato lycopene, which increases its amount when tomatoes are processed – that is how the relish is made. Lycopene is a non-provitamin A carotenoid that can be blamed for the red/pink colours of tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and other foods. Studies suggest that the consumption of foods, containing lycopene, may be beneficial for the treatment of cancer or cardiovascular disease.


“This food is like a narcotic: it is so delicious that after trying it once, one gets addicted and cannot stop eating and wanting it

* The historical part was paraphrased from the following article.

Have you tried this magical, Bulgarian relish? Did you become addicted?

33 comments on “Lyutenitsa – the Mouth-watering Relish

  1. Anthony

    Damn genius, thank you so much for your article. Really interesting!!!

  2. Lidiya Guleva-Valyavicharska

    Excellent job, Svet! Can’t wait to eat a home-made bread with home-made lyutenitsa 🙂

  3. Marjorie

    This is the first time I’ve heard about Lyutenitsa, it’s so refreshing to know about it, including its history. I hope to eat this someday.

    • Svet

      I am happy that you enjoyed it. By writing this article, I hope to reach more people to indulge in this delectable relish 🙂

  4. Roaming Renegades (@Travel_Explore1)

    Ohh, this sounds amazing! I love a good relish and I love that this is not only tasty but historic too!

  5. Taste Serbia Food Tours

    Thank you Svet for this amazing summary of Belgrade, it really reflects Belgrade spirit!

    Hope we’ll have a chance to meet next time you’re in Belgrade!

    • Svet

      You are very welcome, but I think you may have clicked on the other article :))

      I will love to meet you there too!

  6. Shirley

    Thank you so much for this article. I am eager to learn all there is to learn and appreciate of the lovely Bulgaria.

  7. NTripping

    Svet, I can’t believe you’ve managed to capture all the emotions, taste and the whole experience, called “lyutenitsa”, in just one post! 😀

    Keep writing those amazing posts!


    • Svet

      Naddya, you are very welcome! Thanks for your kind words. I will try to write even more amazing blog articles! 🙂

  8. Jen Morrow

    YUM! I think I have eaten variations of this vegetable paste. I would love to try various traditional recipes. Delicious on crackers as a spread.

    • Svet

      Yes, you probably have tried pinjur, ajvar, or kyopolou. Or may be something similar. Lyutenitsa goes well with anything :))) And it is quite affordable here.

  9. thetravelpockets

    I have never heard of this and it sounds absolutely amazing. And what a bonus that it has health benefits. I wish I could just get up right now and buy some at my local grocery store!

  10. Beth Daubner

    The brief history about lyutenitsa is very informative, thanks for the great information! 🙂

    • Svet

      You are very welcome. I am happy that you enjoyed reading about this amazing relish with tonnes of health benefits. Have you heard of it before?

  11. thewordhermit

    Well, that’s something to try for sure. I love how you included the historical background of lyutenitsa and a recipe. I’m totally making it. Now, can you tell me how to pronounce lyutenitsa?

    • Svet

      Thanks very much, Tara! Would you share with me the result as soon as it is ready? If you live in the States or somewhere in Europe, there are many stores where you can purchase it, too.

      Lyu would be like the French “lieu”. Ten – like 10, and “itsa” like the second part of “Chichén Itzá” 🙂

  12. Chantell

    I really enjoy chutneys so I think I would love this! I am hoping to visit Bulgaria next year so this would be a delicious treat to really look forward to when I go there 🙂

    • Svet

      Chantell, you are going to loooove lyutenitsa! I have a French friend who is absolutely crazy about it.. and not only. You can contact me if you need advice and tips in regards to your visit. 🙂

  13. Laura Nalin

    Thanks for sharing the health benefits and everything! Seems really interesting and I would like to try lyutenitsa as it looks like something I will be borderline obsessed with.

    • Svet

      You are very welcome, Laura! Believe me, you will be dripping saliva every time you smell or see it. It’s scrumptious!

  14. Paige Wunder

    I love reading about local delicacies. I’ve never tried this, but I’m totally intrigued. I love that you put the history of this in the post! I know I won’t miss out on this when I’m in Bulgaria! Cheers, Svet!

    • Svet

      Thanks very much, Paige! I am so happy you loved what I have compiled :))) Let me know when you are coming and I will make sure you get the best of the product 🙂

  15. eatlivetraveldrink

    Thanks for sharing. This sounds amazing. I love trying new foods so this is now on the list.

  16. Christina

    I enjoy discovering local food and culture. This is an interesting read, especially as I’ve never heard of Lyutenitsa. It’s good to know it might cure cancer too!

    • Svet

      Hehe, so glad that you like it 🙂 Yeah, lyutenitsa is absolutely amazing a food and has tonnes of health benefits 🙂

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