Stuart Forster provides an overview of popular Maltese drinks and traditional food in Malta.
Disclosure: Some of the links below and banners are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Malta is a popular, year-round destination. In part, that’s because of its sun-kissed landscapes and beaches, plus its rich and varied history. Arabic, Italian, French and British influences plus Mediterranean ingredients have helped shape a delectable cuisine whose dishes are often under-rated in discussions about European gastronomy.
Traditional Maltese food is rich in flavour and pairs well with locally produced wine.
This post looks at some of the best traditional Maltese food and drinks to try while visiting Malta and Gozo.
Traditional food from Malta
Though by no means exhaustive, the following suggestions are well worth getting your teeth into if you enjoy trying local cuisine when travelling:
Hobz biz-Zejt or Ftira biz-Zejt
Looking for lunch or a light bite? Ħobż biż-Żejt and Ftira biż-Żejt are types of sandwiches served with traditional Maltese bread and olive oil. Ħobż biż-Żejt is an open sandwich while the Ftira biż-Żejt is closed.
Traditionally baked in a wood-fired oven, the bread is delightful. It’s a pleasure to dip in high-quality Maltese olive oil and nibble while sipping local wine.
Rubbed with garlic and topped or filled with archetypal Mediterranean ingredients such as tomatoes, olives, capers, tuna or anchovies, Ħobż biż-Żejt and Ftira biż-Żejt are ideal for providing a flavour-packed energy boost.
Pastizzi are savoury pastries reminiscent of pasties. They are the staple snack of Malta and a must-try dish if you want to return home saying that you have experienced Maltese cuisine.
Filled with ricotta cheese or a type of mushy peas, pastizzi are flaky and delicious. They are ideal as a quick snack or to pack as food on the go while hiking or enjoying a beach picnic.
A popular Maltese delicacy, bigilla is a smooth and creamy bean paste traditionally made from Djerba beans, which are known locally as tic beans or Ful ta’ Girba. When made elsewhere, fava or broad beans tend to be used. Garlic, chilli, marjoram, mint and parsley combine to provide flavour.
Bigilla is often served with freshly baked crusty bread. It’s a tasty dish to share while sipping drinks or browsing a menu to choose a main course.
Kapunata is a Maltese take on caponata, the Sicilian favourite that’s much like ratatouille. Featuring aubergine, peppers and tomato along with garlic, olives and capers it’s packed with flavour and plant-based goodness. It’s ideal if you are looking to try a traditional meat-free dish while visiting Malta.
Torta tal-Lampuki or Lampuki pie is a traditional Maltese dish featuring a meaty white fish that’s landed at local fishing ports. Encased in flaky pastry, the ingredients also include vegetables such as spinach, onion, peas and cauliflower. Lemon, mint and marjoram add flavour.
Rabbit is a widely used ingredient in Malta.
Stuffat tal-Fenek or rabbit stew is the hearty Maltese dish that embodies the island’s culinary heritage. Slow-cooked with red wine, tomatoes, garlic and herbs, you have to try Malta’s national dish at least once.
Keen to try traditional desserts in Malta? Maltese almond torte (Torta tal-Lewz) is certainly a dish worth looking out for.
The Sicilian influence on Malta means that a cannoli-type dessert is served in many places. Kannoli tal-Irkotta is the Maltese take on the Sicilian favourite.
Fried date pastries, known as Imqaret or Mqaret, are a legacy of the Arabic influence on Malta.
Remember that tired old joke; If you want to save water you should drink beer? If you are committed to sustainability, it makes sense to eat and drink local produce while travelling.
Here’s a look at some of the popular drinks from Malta that are worth trying if you want to get a sense of local flavours:
Kinnie Maltese drink
Kinnie is a popular Maltese soft drink. Bitter-sweet, its flavour is orange with a herbal hint of wormwood. It represents a refreshing alternative to branded carbonated drinks with a far broader international presence.
Sip it on the terrace of a bar or buy a bottle in one of the local shops to drink in your hotel room. It’s also available via Amazon:
Travel around Malta and you’ll undoubtedly see the Cisk brand on canopies and crates outside of cafés and bars. Cisk Lager Beer was first brewed in 1929. Served across Malta, Cisk lager is a refreshing drink that quenches thirst, making it ideal to sip as the sun sets after a day of sightseeing.
Malta’s long history of winemaking can be traced back to the time of the Phoenicians, almost 3,000 years ago. The islands’ soil and climate are ideal for growing grape varietals including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscato as well as Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Yet it’s wine made from the indigenous Ghirghentina and Gellweza grapes that stands out because they are rarely seen elsewhere.
That’s down to the domestic consumption of Maltese wine leaving little left for export. It ranges in character from fruity whites to robust reds. Nonetheless, in recent years the quality of Maltese wines has been gaining international recognition.
Visiting Maltese vineyards presents opportunities to learn more about production methods and varietals. It also brings an opportunity to sample wine and purchase a bottle or two to take home or consume while in Malta.
The Delicata and Marsovin wineries were both established more than a century ago. The Ta’Mena winery, on Gozo, utilises terracotta jars to age a selection of its wines. Meanwhile, back on the main island, visiting the Ta’Betta estate can be combined with a day out in Mdina.
Made with carob, Hanini is a digestive that is distilled in Malta. So too is Lumincetta, a lemon-based liqueur.
Another alcoholic beverage unique to Malta is Bajtra, a drink alternative spelt as Bajtira, a liqueur distilled using the fruit of prickly pears. Prickly pears can be seen blooming with red flowers in the springtime. The sweet fruit becomes available in the summer and can be bought from markets around the islands.
Maltese food and drink
Just as strolling the streets of Valletta, Mdina and Victoria are part of getting to know Malta and Gozo, trying traditional Maltese food and drink is a key element of the experience.
Got a favourite dish that I haven’t mentioned? Feel free to outline what it is in the comments field below.
Books about Malta
Planning a trip to Malta? You can buy the following books from Amazon by clicking on the links or cover photos:
Malta: Mediterranean Recipes From The Islands by Simon Bajada:
Travel to Malta
Air Malta, British Airways, easyJet and Jet2 are among the airlines operating direct flights between airports in the United Kingdom and Malta.
Map of Malta
Zoom into the map of Malta below to see more detail:
Travel in Malta
Local taxis are one way of reaching places to eat and drink in Malta. Alternatively, download the Uber app to book rides in Malta and Gozo.
The comprehensive bus network in Malta and the island nation’s compact size combine to ensure that it’s viable to get around using public transport. Visit the Malta Public Transport to plan journeys and find ticketing information.
Visit the UK Government for travel advice relating to Malta.
Hotels in Malta
Search for accommodation in Malta and Gozo via Booking.com:
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post providing an overview of popular Maltese drinks and traditional food in Malta. If you enjoy exploring culture-rich European destinations, you may also appreciate posts on 48 hours in Lisbon, Portugal and a Bari food tour by rickshaw.
‘Like’ the Go Eat Do Facebook page to see more photos and content.
If you enjoyed this post why not sign up for the free Go Eat Do newsletter? It’s a hassle-free way of getting links to posts on a monthly basis.