Food & drink
A fool's guide to traditional Maltese food & where to find it
The time for food indulgence is approaching. Do it the Maltese way.

Melanie Drury

Yuletide, the season for get-together dinners -  from work dos to family gatherings - is fast approaching. Why not make the occasion particularly special and do it with true Maltese flavour? Not that any reason is needed to indulge in Malta’s very own local specialities. It's always a pleasure to relish the unique taste of authentic, traditional Maltese food.

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Maltese cuisine

Maltese cuisine is a quirky version of true Mediterranean cuisine, combining flavours from Europe and North Africa. To further enhance the variety of flavours, Maltese recipes vary from family to family. Yet, all will agree on which are the traditional Maltese dishes.

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Typical Mediterranean ingredients, such as olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, gbejniet (sheep or goat’s cheeselets), ricotta and an abundance of olive oil, are widely used. Specific local ingredients and preparations include the Maltese sausage, bigilla and caponata

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The staple food is potatoes and vegetables, and wheat products such as bread, pasta or pastry. Rice is also widely used. 

Favourite local dishes

Many Maltese dishes have evolved from a frugal past. You’ll find several dishes made with a handful of very simple farm ingredients, such as Soppa tal-Armla (Widow’s soup). 

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Or the main preparation is baked in a pastry to make it more filling, like timpana (baked pasta pie) or torta (any of a variety of pies, traditionally fish pies, meat and vegetable pies, spinach and anchovy pies, and ricotta and pea pies).

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Maltese food also includes a variety of baked stuffed vegetables, usually involving rice with tuna or bolognese sauce, such as the stuffed courgettes, stuffed tomatoes or stuffed aubergines. Baked potatoes are well-loved too, sliced in a dish known as patata l-forn; the alternative would usually mean fries.

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Typical seafood dishes would include octopus stew, fried octopus in garlic, deep-fried calamari rings or stewed stuffed calamari. The lampuka (mahi-mahi) is Malta’s favourite fish, if only seasonal, with a variety of recipes: grilled, fried, in soup (aljotta) or in a pie. 

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Among the meats, fenek (rabbit) and laham taz-ziemel (horse meat) are perhaps the most particular. There are many different rabbit preparations, such as rabbit stew, fried rabbit or made into spaghetti sauce. Bebbux (snails) were a farmer’s easy meat and also have many different preparations. 

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Pork and beef are popular, usually cooked like a typical English roast or in a stew. Bragioli (stuffed beef rolls or 'beef olives') is a very unique typical dish. If perhaps a little gruesome, liver (fwied), tripe (kirxa) and brain fritters (yikes!) are also a thing.

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Stuffat (stew) is typically tomato based and rich with root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots and onions, with anything from pork to octopus making it into the pot. This is heartily enjoyed with Maltese bread, of course. 

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Malta’s ravjul (stuffed ravioli) made with a tomato and garlic sauce, and imqarrun (baked pasta), timpana (baked pasta pie) and ross il-forn (baked rice) made with a bolognese sauce are also popular with Maltese families. 

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Pastizzi (ricotta or pea-filled pastries known as cheese or pea cakes) are Malta’s favourite street food and party food. Malta’s own pizza - the ftira t'Ghawdex (Gozo ftira) - comes on a bread base with thinly sliced onions and potatoes, and a variety of other ingredients.

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A wide variety of Maltese sweets lend a Sicilian influence towards an almond or sweetened ricotta base. However, imqaret (date cakes) and qaghaq tal-ghasel (honey rings) are perhaps the most common.

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Where to eat local food

For a true immersion in Maltese folklore and tradition, dine at Ta’ Marija or the Limestone Heritage Park and Gardens, both of which include Maltese folklore dancing and singing as entertainment. Alternatively, these are our favourite Maltese restaurants.

  1. Gululu - Spinola Bay, St. Julian's
  2. Ta’ Kris Restaurant & Maltese Bistro - 80, Fawwara Alley, Sliema
  3. Tal-Familja - Gardiel Street, Marsascala
  4. Diar il-Bniet - 123, Main street, Dingli
  5. Ta’ Marija Restaurant - Constitution Street, Mosta
  6. Capistrano Restaurant - 61, Old Bakery Street, Valletta
  7. The Boathouse Restaurant - Xlendi Seafront, Gozo
  8. Noni Restaurant - 211, Republic Street, Valletta
  9. Nenu The Artisan Baker - 143, St Dominic Street, Valletta
  10. Maltese Mama - 19, Paceville Avenue, St Julian's
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How to make Maltese dishes

A Maltese Mouthful by Marlene Zammit is a wonderful source of Maltese recipes. From homemade gbejniet to hearty stuffat, Marlene makes age-old traditional Maltese recipes come alive in your own kitchen. Enjoy the best of Maltese home cooking!

16th November 2019


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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