food & drink
3 iconic Maltese foods that delight the locals and why
Pastizzi, Twistees & Kinnie: we grew up with them and turn to them for comfort. Here's why every visitor has to try these iconic Maltese foods.

Melanie Drury

How is it that a stuffed pastry, a packet of snacks and a bottle soda can bring so much joy to an entire nation? Surely there are more complex, tastier traditional foods to delight on in Malta, so why are the Maltese so attached to their pastizzi, Twistees and Kinnie?

You see, it’s not just about the taste. It’s about a whole range of emotions that are tied in with each of these Maltese foods. It is what makes them a quintessential part of Maltese culture.

Pastizzi – the sinful pleasure

Pastizzi is that go-to food in Malta when… well, any time really. Out on errands and no time to stop for lunch? Get pastizzi. Heading over to meet your friends at a picnic? Get pastizzi. Got the munchies after a night of boozing on the town? Get pastizzi. Stuck for something to bring to a friend’s get-together? Get pastizzi. Ran out of breakfast and late for work? Get pastizzi. Been a long day and you don’t feel like cooking dinner? Get pastizzi. Not the healthiest of foods, but certainly delicious at any time of day.

It all began with small folded flaky pastries stuffed with ricotta cheese or mushy peas - the traditional pastizzi. Still these aren't all you'll find in the local pastizzi shop, or as locals call them, pastizzerijiQassatat are a bigger variation that come closer to a pie - apart from ricotta and pea options, spinach qassatat are also popular. We must also not forget the plump, square pizzas coated with cheese, tomatoes and olives. For years, these made up the traditional Maltese street food, though over the last few years, many pastizzi shops have begun to spoil us with even more choice, with everything from chicken pastizzi and a variety of pies to Sicilian arancini and even baked pasta. They're tempting, mouth-watering and definitely worth the indulgence from time to time - it's one of life's pleasures.

Twistees – the home comfort

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For many of us, Twistees are the taste of childhood. Before the days of a choice between hundreds of snacks from around the world, Twistees dominated the market in Malta, and thankfully, they are delicious, so nobody cared that there was little else! In fact, even with a market saturated with snacks, parents and kids alike still love Twistees. Plus, Twistees are made from rice, are gluten-free and are baked ,not fried – that makes them kind of healthy(-ier), right?

For a Maltese person, the taste of Twistees means home and comfort, so, we often send them to our loved ones abroad to offer a taste of home. Pack half-a-dozen in a box and it still weighs next to nothing, while offering an abundance of happiness to the receiver on the other side. Even the mere sight of the packet is heart-warming – the essential design of the packaging hasn't changed in over 50 years!

Kinnie – the local taste

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When you’re a child growing up in Malta and it’s a scorching hot day, while the adults indulge in an ice-cold Cisk, they hand you a Kinnie. At first it tastes bitter to your delicate taste buds, but as you grow up, you acquire a taste for it, such that there is nothing quite as tasty and refreshing!

Kinnie is also quite unique - there is no other soda on the market that’s like it. Even Fanta doesn't compete with its Chinotto. The unique blend of spices and local bitter oranges is what gives Kinnie its entirely local flavour. Even if it may taste a little strange to the unacquainted, once you acquire its taste, you never go back. One could say that an expat has become a local once he’s ordering Kinnie when the others are having a Coke.

A stay in Malta is just not complete without trying the three most iconic foods that the Maltese themselves most closely associate with Malta. And the best part is that it’s so easy to find them – they're everywhere!


Melanie Drury
Written by
Melanie Drury
Melanie was born and raised in Malta and has spent a large chunk of her life travelling solo around the world. Back on the island with a new outlook, she realised just how much wealth her little island home possesses.

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