Tavče Gravče Recipe: The North Macedonian National Dish
Have you ever heard of North Macedonia food?
No? Neither had we. Tavče gravče isn’t exactly on everybody’s radar.
We didn’t know what to expect when we flew to Skopje. When we asked locals for recommendations, we just got a shrug in response. But we did find a few dishes that were worthwhile. Ladies and gentlemen, we’d like you to meet the national dish of North Macedonia – Gravče na tavče.
In our opinion, there is no better way to get to know North Macedonian cuisine than the recipe for tavče gravče – the standard Friday dish or Macedonian-style baked beans!
Most Macedonians are Orthodox Christians, and in Orthodox Christianity, meals on Fridays must not include meat. That is why tavče gravče has such an important place not only in Macedonian cuisine but also in Macedonian culture. In this article, you will learn how to prepare the delicious North Macedonia national dish.
What is tavče gravče?
The closest equivalent in the English dictionary is white bean casserole, but tavce gravce is more. Tavče gravče is a dish made from white beans baked in a tava(earthenware pot) and mixed with other vegetables.
The main ingredient in tavče gravče is, of course, white beans, but the dish can also include a variety of other vegetables like sweet paprika and sausage if desired (and if not on a Friday!). It’s a great filling dish and an excellent choice for vegans and vegetarians (if you prepare it without meat).
History of tavče gravče
Tavče gravče is a Macedonian national dish that dates back to the 15th century. It’s always been a popular dish among Macedonians and you can’t really visit the country without trying it.
It’s very typically eaten on Fridays during Christmas and Lent, but don’t be surprised if you see Macedonian families cooking tavce gravce every Friday.
How is tavče gravče prepared?
The traditional preparation of tavče gravče can take a whole day and involves three steps.
- Soak the beans in water overnight. If you don’t have a lot of time, 2-3 hours should be sufficient.
- Bring the beans to the boil together with other ingredients for 2-3 hours.
- Transfer the bean mixture to a tava or oven dish and place in the oven for 2 more hours, until the food has absorbed the liquid.
Enjoy our Tavče Gravče recipe😋
Tavče Gravče Recipe: The North Macedonian National Dish
If you interested to try Macedonian food we would highly recommend you the best warming filling TAVČE GRAVČE!
- White kidney beans, washed and cleaned: 500 gr
- Tablespoons of sunflower oil: 3 tbsp
- Paprika: 3 tbsp
- Medium-sized onion: 1
- Tomato sauce or tinned chopped tomatoes: 100 gr
- Black pepper: ½ tbsp
- Cumin: 1 tbsp
- Cloves of garlic: 3
- Stock cubes: 2
- Bay leaves: 5
- Fresh pepper: 1
- Chopped parsley: for garnish
- Dry beans must be cleaned well and left to soak in cold water for several hours (preferably overnight). Some swear by adding baking soda, but we personally didn't. If you're in a hurry, around 3 hours will be enough.
- If there's water left in the pot, drain it out and add fresh water. Make sure to generously cover all the beans. Add a tablespoon of sunflower oil to the water.
- Quarter the onions and add them to the pot, along with ½ tablespoon of black pepper, 5 bay leaves, a tablespoon of paprika, and the 2 stock cubes. Bring to the boil and cook for about an hour on medium-high heat.
- Stir often and add more warm water if the boiling water is absorbed. If you soaked the beans overnight, they should start to get soft after an hour.
- If you want the tastiest tavce gravce ever, you can let the broth brew so that it absorbs all the spices for even longer. Remove beans from the heat when they are soft and let them soak with a lid on for 2-3 hours.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius. While the oven is warming up, take the tava or an oven dish and coat the base with sunflower oil. Heat the dish on a medium heat and then add paprika. Mix well until the oil and paprika combine. Finally, add 3 cloves of chopped (or smashed) garlic.
- Add the rest of the paprika, the cumin, and the tomato sauce to the beans. If desired, you can also add mint, peppers and tomatoes. There is also an option to add salt here, but we find that the stock cubes make the beans tasty enough without needing additional salt.
- Remove some of the water from the beans so that they are only just covered. Spoon the bean mixture into the tava. It should be a stew-like consistency!
- Place the tava in the preheated oven and cook for one hour.
- If you want to follow the Macedonian recipes to the letter, add some chopped fresh peppers after one hour and increase the heat to 220c for 5 minutes. This is optional.
- Add chopped parsley as garnish on the top. You can also add dried peppers and slices of onion, but we prefer it without.
- Give it ten minutes or so to cool down after it's cooked, then Bob's your uncle! You've just made North Macedonia's national dish.
- The traditional dish of tavce gravce goes well with sausages and pork ribs.
- For a vegan version of Macedonian-style baked beans, use vegetable stock cubes.
- Tavce gravce taste good hot or cold, as a side dish or as a main, as a vegan meal or with meat. It is perfectly warming in winter and just the right amount to fill you up in summer.
- If you don't have time, you can use canned beans, but in that case, do not expect the original taste of North Macedonia's national dish.
- A tava does add not only a pleasingly rustic appearance but it also keeps Macedonian-style baked beans warm for longer.
Taste the traditional cuisine
While North Macedonia may not have tons of famous culinary options like you see with Greek food, they do have their own version of moussaka, though we prefer the authentic Greek moussaka with aubergine and creamy béchamel sauce. Even so, North Macedonia has Greece beat when it comes to beans, tavče gravče proves that.
If you want another hot stewy alternative, you could try our beef stifado recipe, or maybe even our special borsht recipe, and make sure you dip our crusty whole wheat bread in the broth!