Malta’s culinary specialities are made up of a cuisine with many influences, brought about by its history. Maltese cuisine is a delicious blend of Mediterranean, Arabic and Italian influences, reflecting the rich and varied history of the Maltese archipelago. Situated in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta has been a crossroads of cultures and civilisations for centuries, which has greatly influenced its cuisine.

Mediterranean influences are reflected in the basic ingredients used in Maltese cuisine. Fresh produce such as vegetables, aromatic herbs, citrus fruit and seafood are used extensively. Olive oil, a mainstay of Mediterranean cuisine, is also an essential ingredient in many Maltese dishes.

The Arab influence dates back to the time of Muslim domination of the Mediterranean. The Arabs introduced exotic spices such as cinnamon, cumin, saffron and pepper to Maltese cuisine. These spices add a depth of flavour and an exotic note to traditional dishes.

The Italian influence is also very present in Maltese cuisine. Because of Malta’s geographical proximity to Italy, many Italian dishes have been adopted and adapted by the Maltese. Pasta, pizza, ravioli and risotto, for example, are an integral part of the Maltese culinary landscape.

Malta’s culinary specialities: starters!
  1. Pastizzi: Pastizzi are flaky, stuffed pastries that are a real must in Malta. They are usually filled with two types of filling: ricotta (irkotta) or a pea puree (qarabaghli). Pastizzi are often eaten as a snack or light starter.
  2. Bigilla: This is a thick purée made from broad beans (ful) or dried beans (xewwieġ) mixed with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, herbs and spices. Bigilla is usually spread on toasted bread and can be served as a starter or dip.
  3. Ġbejniet: ġbejniet are fresh or ripened sheep’s milk cheeses, often prepared by hand. They are often eaten raw or used in traditional Maltese dishes. Fresh ġbejniet are mild and creamy, while matured ġbejniet have a more pronounced flavour.
  4. Hobz biz-zejt: This simple dish is a slice of Maltese bread rubbed with garlic, then topped with a combination of ingredients such as fresh tomatoes, capers, onions, olives and anchovies. It is often drizzled with olive oil and can be served cold or lightly grilled.
  5. Kapunata: Kapunata is a salad of aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olives and capers, cooked in olive oil. This tasty starter is often served at room temperature and can be enjoyed with fresh bread.
  6. Zalzett tal-Malti: This is a traditional Maltese sausage, made with pork and spices including pepper, salt, coriander and fennel. It is usually smoked and dried, then sliced and served with bread or as an accompaniment to other dishes.
  7. Bragioli: Bragioli are beef rolls stuffed with bacon, hard-boiled eggs, parsley, garlic and sometimes carrots. The meat rolls are simmered in a tasty tomato sauce and are often served as a starter or main course.
Malta’s culinary specialities: the dishes!
  1. Fenkata: Fenkata is a traditional rabbit stew, considered one of Malta’s national dishes. The rabbit is simmered with vegetables such as onions, carrots, tomatoes, aromatic herbs, wine and spices. It is a hearty and tasty dish, often accompanied by potatoes.
  2. Stuffat tal-Fenek: This dish is also a rabbit stew, but with a different preparation. The rabbit is marinated with red wine, garlic, thyme and other spices, then slowly simmered in a rich, thick sauce. It is often served with fresh pasta or rice.
  3. Timpana: Timpana is a pasta pie made with macaroni or rigatoni, mixed with a sauce of minced meat, tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices. The pasta mixture is then covered with puff pastry and baked until golden and crispy.
  4. Ross il-Forn: This dish is a Maltese version of the famous Italian lasagne recipe. It is prepared by layering sheets of pastry with a meat sauce, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, vegetables and herbs. The whole thing is then baked in the oven until the top is golden and au gratin.
  5. Aljotta: Aljotta is a traditional Maltese fish soup, often made with local fish such as scorpion fish, snapper or grouper. It is flavoured with garlic, tomatoes, onions, parsley, lemon juice and other Mediterranean herbs. Aljotta is usually served with toasted garlic bread.
  6. Brungiel mimli: This dish consists of aubergines stuffed with a filling of minced meat, breadcrumbs, tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices. The stuffed aubergines are then baked in the oven until tender and golden. A tasty and comforting dish.
Malta’s culinary specialities: desserts!
  1. Kannoli: Kannoli are Sicilian pastries that are very popular in Malta. They are tubes of fried dough, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, filled with a sweet ricotta-based cream. The cream is usually flavoured with vanilla and sweetened with caster sugar. Kannoli can also be decorated with candied fruit, chocolate chips or nuts. It’s a deliciously sweet and crunchy dessert.
  2. Helwa tat-Tork: Helwa tat-Tork is a traditional dessert made from sesame seeds, sugar, honey and rosewater. The sesame seeds are roasted and then mixed with the sugar, honey and rosewater to form a thick paste. This paste is then cut into squares or diamonds and served as a delicious sweet and fragrant candy.
  3. Figolli: Figolli are Maltese Easter pastries in the shape of characters or symbolic shapes such as lambs, hearts or eggs. They are made from a sweet dough of flour, butter, sugar and lemon zest. The figolli are then filled with sweet marzipan and decorated with coloured icing. They are often exchanged between friends and family during Easter celebrations in Malta.
Traditions at the table

Malta has a rich culinary tradition and table manners that reflect its Mediterranean heritage. The Maltese are renowned for their warm and welcoming hospitality. Family meals are very important, offering moments of sharing and strengthening family ties. Mealtimes can vary, with lunch taken late in the afternoon and dinner served later in the evening. Maltese cuisine emphasises local and seasonal produce, with a preference for fresh ingredients such as vegetables, fruit, fish and meat. Maltese bread, called “Ħobż tal-Malti”, is an essential part of the Maltese table. Maltese wines, produced locally, often accompany meals. Culinary festivities and village festivals are special occasions when local specialities are celebrated. These traditions bear witness to the importance of cooking, sharing meals and conviviality in Maltese culture.

Christmas traditions

When it comes to Maltese Christmas culinary traditions, an interesting one is the ‘Qagħaq tal-Għasel’, which literally translates as ‘honey cake’. This is a typical sweet pastry at Christmas time in Malta.

Qagħaq tal-Għasel is a type of biscuit with a filling made from carob molasses, honey, candied orange peel, nuts, spices (such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) and lemon zest. The biscuit dough is usually shaped into a half-moon or rectangle, and the sweet filling is wrapped inside before being baked.

This pastry is often made at home during Advent and Christmas, and is also available in local bakeries and patisseries. Qagħaq tal-Għasel is considered a traditional delicacy and is an integral part of Christmas celebrations in Malta.

It’s also worth noting that Maltese don’t appreciate you using their cuisine at all; it’s like Italian culture, and you have to respect it 🙂

Convinced that your next work placement abroad should be in Malta? Then all you have to do is contact the International Horizons team! If you like, you can also read the testimonials of François and Jeremy, who went on an internship in Malta through International Horizons.

For more general questions, visit the International Horizons Internships Abroad FAQ.