Built in the 16th century by the Knights of St. John, Valletta’s winding streets and golden-hued buildings take guests on a journey through the past. It’s a place where the past and present merge, and nowhere is this more evident than in the food. Maltese cuisine is rustic and reflects the land, as well as the people who have lived on it.
You’re going to have so much fun on our European cruises that you may forget to plan for your day in Malta. We have you covered with this list of the best things to eat in Valletta. Make sure you try at least one of them as part of your unique, Maltese experience.
1. Brungiel Mimli
This stuffed eggplant dish proves that vegetables can be tasty. The classic filling combines ground meat and grated cheese with onions, garlic and mint. Olive oil brushed on the outside of the eggplant helps it crisp perfectly under the heat of the oven.
Bragioli is a traditional Maltese dish that’s popular across the island, including Valletta. It starts with a savory filling made from breadcrumbs, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, parsley and grated carrot. It’s spread on thin slices of beef that are then rolled into shapes that roughly resemble stuffed grape leaves, just before braising in a tomato-based sauce.
3. Helwa tat-Tork
You don’t have to look far to satisfy your sweet tooth when you cruise to Valletta, especially if you’re there during the holidays. Helwa tat-Tork is a traditional confection based on the classic combination of nuts and vanilla. You’ll find it in bite-sized portions of sweet crumbly perfection.
4. Hobz Biz-zejt
Maltese bread is in a category of its own, and one of the best ways to sample it is on the street. Hobz biz-zejt is fairly popular, so you should have no trouble finding a vendor serving up this sliced bread topped with extra virgin olive oil. Tomato paste, tuna and capers turn this quick snack into a light lunch.
Go anywhere in the Mediterranean, and you don’t have to search long before finding some form of ratatouille. Malta’s version of this vegetarian comfort food has plenty of eggplant, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, olives and capers. You can eat it hot or cold, but make sure you have a slice of bread so you don’t miss a drop of the rich sauce.
Spend enough time in one of Valletta’s bakeries and you notice how popular pastry is in the town. Imqaret is a sweet treat, a piece of fried pastry dough filled with an impressive layer of date paste. Despite its simplicity, this delicacy can zap your sugar cravings without spoiling your dinner.
7. Imquarrun il-Forn
Thanks to its proximity to Italy, it’s fairly common to find Italian-inspired dishes in Malta. This macaroni and cheese dish is no exception. It earns its spot on the list of what to eat in Valletta because of the creamy cheese sauce that’s mixed with the pasta. The casserole goes in the oven long enough to blend the flavors and crisp the top.
Kannoli in Valletta are similar to the pastries you find in Sicily (and other parts of the world). Try a Maltese version of the crispy fried tube of pastry stuffed with decadent fillings. You’ll find traditional ricotta as well as treats flavored with chocolate, cherries, citrus and nuts.
9. Torta tal-Lampuki (Lumpuki Pie)
Lampuka is a type of dolphin fish that’s often called Mahi-mahi in other parts of the world. It’s also a popular catch of the day during the annual fishing season that runs from the middle of August until the end of December. You will also frequently find it served in a pie filled with spinach, black olives, onions and capers.
You’ll work up an appetite exploring the streets of Valletta. If you don’t want to sit down for a full meal, pick up some of the local street food like pastizzi. These fluffy pieces of pastry have ricotta cheese or pea paste filling that will hold you over until you’re back on the ship.
11. Soppa tal-Armla (Widow’s Soup)
Soppa tal-Armla is one of those traditional Maltese dishes that every family has personalized. The star of this soup is gbejna cheese, a local goat cheese paired with cauliflower, but you may find variations with potatoes, carrots, garlic and peas. Just make sure your bowl has a cheese ball.
12. Spinach and Tuna Pie
Spinach and tuna pie is a popular dish all across Malta, especially during Lent. The flaky pastry crust balances the rich flavors of the fish and vegetables seasoned with onions, anchovies, olives and garlic. Take a cue from the locals and pair your slice with a cup of tea.
13. Spaghetti Rizzi (Spaghetti with Sea Urchins)
Valletta has stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea, but you can also taste it in this Maltese pasta dish. A combination of sea urchin roe, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley and onions forms the sauce coating the pasta. It’s a light and flavorful dish that you may even try making for yourself at home—if you can get your hands on fresh sea urchin.
14. Stuffat Tal-Fenek (Rabbit Stew)
Malta’s national dish has deep roots in the country, dating back to the days of the Knights of St. John. The traditional recipe highlights the fresh vegetables and herbs grown across the island, including tomatoes, onions, bay leaves, garlic and cloves. This rich and warm stew is a true taste of the island that no one should miss.
15. Zalzett Malti (Homemade Sausages)
Traditional Maltese sausages are homemade delicacies filled with flavor. Seasoned with generous portions of crunchy sea salt, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, parsley and garlic, these sausages appear in a variety of local dishes. Try thin slices as an antipasto or top a piece of bread with chunks of sausage and sun-dried tomatoes.
Eating in Valletta, Malta can be just as exciting and culturally rich as exploring the historic sites or shopping within the city’s boundaries. From sweet confections, pastries and breads to savory dishes of sea urchin, sausage, fish, rabbit stew and more, Valletta is a culinary tour de force that will add to the fun memories of delicious food you’ll make on your European Carnival cruise.