Meza, Balkan meat and cheese tray, is a tapas-style appetizer platter filled with local savory finger foods! This tasty charcuterie board consists of cured meats, cheeses, veggies, pastries, and a few other surprises. Shall we?
Inspired by the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern mezze (mezeh, mezzeh), meza is a type of Balkan tapas. But instead of Spanish and Middle Eastern delicacies, meza is all about the best Balkan finger foods.
There are no rules about when and where meza is served. In fact, mezetiti is a verb meaning to have a small bite, or to have some company over. Meza brings people together.
You can have meza:
- For breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack;
- Before lunch or dinner;
- In a restaurant;
- At a family or friend get-together;
- At a dinner party;
- For holidays;
- During a football game;
- At a picnic, barbecue, or potluck;
or whenever you feel like it!
Meza is predominantly a meat and cheese tray, although veggies, pastries, and a few surprise items find their way onto this amazing appetizer platter.
The type of meat on this meat and cheese tray depends on the region. For example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, many people are Muslim, so they'll skip pork. Meanwhile, on the Croatian Dalmatia coast, you'll encounter more fish and seafood.
Below are some (but not all) ingredient ideas for meza appetizer platter.
Most people put this meat and cheese tray together with whatever they have in the fridge at the moment. It is usually only for holidays, or important soccer games that people go to the store with the exact meza ingredients in mind.
Before reaching for substitutions, check Amazon or your local International food store(s).
- Suho meso: biftek, ramstek, ruža, zarebnica, etc., (smoked (dry) beef);
- Substitute with bresaola or pastirma.
- Pršut, slanina, etc., (pork prosciutto and bacon);
- Substitute with Italian prosciutto.
- Pastrma, stelja, etc., (smoked sheep).
- Kulen, sudžuka, etc., (different types of sausages);
- Substitute with Italian dry-cured sausages like Mortadella or Soppressata.
- Ćevapi (famous local small grilled sausages).
- Sudžukice (sausages similar to ćevapi but spicier);
- Substitute with kielbasa or chorizo.
- Grilled lamb and veal.
Chicken and eggs:
- Grilled chicken.
- Hard-boiled eggs.
Cheeses and dairy:
- Kajmak (regional creamy spread similar to clotted cheese);
- Substitute with a mix of cream, feta cheese, and sour cream. Not the same, but it'll do when in a pinch.
- Travnički sir (a type of Bosnian feta cheese, also called vlašički sir);
- Substitute with feta.
- Mladi sir (regional mild young cow or sheep cheese);
- Substitute with fresh mozzarella or queso blanco.
- Kačkavalj (local Serbian and Bosnian cow or sheep hard cheese);
- Substitute with Monterey jack.
- Škripavac, kozji sir (tangy goat cheese from Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina);
- Substitute with Belle Chevre.
- Paški sir (phenomenal sheep cheese coming from the Croatian island of Pag);
- Substitute with Manchego.
- Trapist (semi-hard, yellow cheese from Trappist monks in Bosnia and Herzegovina).
- Substitute with Havarti or Gouda.
- Sour cream.
- Ajvar (Balkan red pepper and eggplant spread).
- Substitute with roasted blended pepper spread, (it's not very close to the real thing, but it's as close as you'll get without actually making it).
- Pindjur (similar to ajvar but chunkier, made with red peppers and tomatoes).
- Lutenica (a type of spicy ajvar).
- Turšija (fermented vegetable salad including tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, pickles, gherkins, etc.).
- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage).
- Fresh cabbage salad.
- Cherry tomatoes and tomatoes.
- Scallions (green onions).
Fish and Seafood:
- Fried salted girice (smelt), or srdele (pilchard).
- Grilled shrimp and sardines.
- Octopus salad.
- Seafood salad.
- Marinated or salted anchovies.
Bread, pies, and pastries:
- Uštipci (fried dough balls).
- Pogacha bread.
Fruit is not traditionally a frequent meza item, but it's becoming more popular.
Like fruit, nuts are not traditionally meza ingredients, but times are changing.
- Rakija: šljivovica, kruška, jabuka, lozovača, marelica, etc., (local fruit brandies).
- Substitute with fruit brandies, ouzo, or grappa.
- Višnjevača (homemade sour cherry liqueur).
- Juices, homemade and store-bought, (elderflower cordial, mint cordial, etc.).
- Homemade coffee.
Except to slice the smoked meat thinly, there are no rules for arranging a meza appetizer platter. However, putting a meat and cheese tray together has become a global art form.
Here are some ideas for laying out your meza:
- Group food items by type in a symmetrical design: Arrange meats and cheeses (and other items) into groupings by type, however, try to keep it in a symmetrical design.
- Start in the middle: Start by placing an item (like a bowl with ajvar) in the middle of your tray, and then arrange other items n a circular or rectangular shape around it.
- Play with different serving items: Use a couple of different-sized trays, and bowls and divide the items between them.
- Group items by color: Instead of just the type, group items based on color.
Meza in the Balkans. Meze, mezzeh or mezeh in the Middle East and the Mediterrannean.
Meza consists of finger foods served before a meal, as a snack, or as an entire meal. It's great tailgating and picnic food.
More or less. Meza is Balkan, while mezze Middle Eastern version of tapas.
Mezze, or meza-style food serving is all about delicious finger foods. It can be as simple as throwing together what you already have in the fridge, or as elaborate as you want to make it. Think charcuterie meat and cheese boards.
Meza consists of several finger foods that can be hot, cold, or a combination.
If you made meza (Balkan appetizer platter or meat and cheese tray), and liked it, please consider giving it a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5-star) rating. This helps others find the recipe more easily!
Also, feel free to leave a comment (I read each one!), and don't forget to tag a photo #balkanlunchbox, or us @balkanlunchbox, on IG.
Prijatno and bon appetit!
Balkan Meza: Tapas-Style Appetizer Platter
- one large serving tray or several small ones large enough to hold your ingredients
(Per taste and eating needs) An assortment of Balkan cured meats
- suho meso, pršut, slanina, pastrma, stelja, ham, cracklings (substitute with bresaola, Italian prosciutto, and bacon as needed) about 1.5 ounces (50 grams) per person of each
- kulen, sudžuka (substsitute with Italian dry cured sausages such as Mortadella or Soppressata) about 1.5 ounces (50 grams) per person of each
An assortment of grilled meats and eggs
- grilled chicken, veal, ćevapi sausages, sudžukice or hard-boiled eggs about 1.5 ounces (50 grams) per person of each
An assortment of Balkan cheeses
- travnički sir, mladi sir, kačkavalj, škripavac, kozji sir, Paški sir, and Trapist (substitute with: feta, Monterey jack, Belle Chevre, Manchega, mozzarella, queso blanco, havarti and gouda) about 1.5 ounces (50grams) per person of each
An assortment of spreads
- ajvar, pindjur, lutenica, kajmak, honey about 1.5 ounces (50 grams) per person of each
An assortment of fresh and fermented vegetables
- fresh tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, scallions, onions, and olives about ½ ounce (30 grams) per person of each
- turšija (medley of fermented vegetables), sauerkraut, pickles about ½ ounce (30 grams) per person of each
(Per taste and eating needs) An assortment of fish and seafood
- fried smelt or pilchard, salted marinated anchovies, grilled shrimp, and sardines per taste
- fresh octopus or seafood salad, mussels per taste
An assortment of carbs
- homemade bread, crescents, fried dough balls, pogacha bread, and crackers several ounces (50-150 grams) per person
- burek several ounces (50-150 grams) per person
(Optional) An assortment of fresh fruit and nuts
- apples, grapes, figs, pears, almonds, walnuts, peanuts about ½ ounce (30 grams) per person of each
- rakija, višnjevača liqueur, beer (substitute with fruit brandies, grappa or ouzo) optional, and as per taste, to get tipsy and not drunk
- juices, sodas, coffee, tea homemade or store-bought, per taste
- Before putting the meza together, slice and dice all your ingredients appropriately (bite-sized). There is only one hard rule: slice cheese thinly, and meat very thinly! In fact, the smaller everything is, the better.
Meza arrangement ideas
- There are also no hard rules for putting the meza together. However, below are a few suggestions.
- Option 1: Group food items by type in a symmetrical design: Arrange meats and cheeses (and other items) into groupings by type, however, try to keep it in a symmetrical design.
- Option 2: Start in the middle: Start by placing an item (like a bowl with ajvar) in the middle of your tray, and then arrange other items n a circular or rectangular shape around it.
- Option 3: Play with different serving items: Use a couple of different-sized trays, and bowls and divide the items between them.
- Option 4: Group items by color: Instead of just the type, group items based on color.
- Option 5: When in doubt, go to Pinterest for ideas. 🙂
Serving, making ahead, storing
- Serving: Meza is best served at room temperature. Serve with small plates, utensils, and napkins. Encourage guests to try a bit of everything. Preparing ahead: you can prepare the meza ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Storing: store leftovers in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Do not freeze!
- Nutrition and Servings
- Preparation Time
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