Cevapi

5 from 1 vote

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It’s no secret that in the Balkans, we loooove our meat! Cevapi, or Ćevapi (if you want to be legit 😉), is a staple Balkan dish that’s not only a popular street food but also a must-have at every Balkan gathering or barbecue. In Bulgaria, we refer to these small meat sausages as Kebapcheta (same ingredients, but slightly longer to resemble a kebap), and I have been enjoying these ridiculously tasty little meat sausages since I was a mini Sneji.

With grilling season just around the corner, I knew I had to pay homage to my Balkan roots with this recipe. This has been a long time coming, so, idemo (let’s go) 🇧🇬🇧🇦🇭🇷🇷🇸🇷🇴🇦🇱🇸🇮🇲🇪🇽🇰🇲🇰!

Why You’ll Love Cevapi

Crispy on the outside and incredibly tender and juicy 💦 on the inside, cevapi are are Balkan staple for a reason. These little sausages are made with a simple blend of spices and a hefty portion of garlic 🧄, giving them their distinct savory and garlicky flavor.

The mix of meats ensures the right ratio of fat to keep the cevapi moist, and grilling them adds a smoky flavor, taking them to the next level. Once you try cevapi, you’ll understand why Balkans love this dish, and I guarantee you’ll become just as obsessed 😍.

What are Cevapi?

Ćevapi are small hand-shaped grilled sausages made from a mix of beef, lamb, or pork, often seasoned with a simple blend of garlic, paprika, salt 🧂 and pepper. Ćevapi are traditionally served with warm lepina or somun (a type of pita bread), chopped onions 🧅, ajvar (a red pepper-based spread), and sour cream or kajmak (a type of clotted cream).

Each region in the Balkans has its own variation and name for these meat sausages, but the name Ćevapi is specific to ex-Yugoslavia, where they date back to the 1500s and are a national dish. In Bulgaria 🇧🇬, we call them kebapche (plural: kebapcheta). Kebapcheta are made with a slightly different spice blend, often including cumin, although I always leave it out because I’m not a fan of it 😅. Similar to ćevapi, kebapcheta are a staple in Bulgarian cuisine, and you can always find them at barbecues, restaurants, and street food vendors.

How to Prepare Cevapi

🥣 In a large bowl, add the pork, beef, egg, grated onion, garlic, paprika, and salt and pepper.

✨ In a small bowl, mix the baking soda and the sparkling water.

⏲ Add the baking soda mixture to the meat mixture and, using clean hands, mix well to combine. Then, cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours.

🔥 The next day, when you’re ready to cook, preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat.

🌭 Take a large spoonful of the meat mixture and form it into a bowl. Then, using your hands, form it into a 4-inch log, similar to the shape of a sausage.

🧑‍🍳 Cook the cevapi over indirect medium-high heat (400F on the grill) or until grill marks appear on all sides of the cevapi. They are ready when a kitchen thermometer inserted in the center reads 165F.

Nonna’s Tip

Don’t skip the baking soda: it produces a springier sausage and helps bind all the ingredients together.

Cevapi

Variations and Substitutions for Cevapi

  1. Cevapi are also delicious when made with ground lamb. For a lighter, healthier version, try ground turkey and chicken. You can use any combination of ground meat that you love 🍗🦃🐑.
  2. If you want to make the Bulgarian kebapcheta version, you can add some ground cumin to the meat mixture, along with paprika. One teaspoon is all you need.
  3. In a pinch, any variety of onion will do: red, yellow, sweet, or even shallots 🧅.
  4. Feel free to use your favorite beer 🍺 instead of sparkling water. You can enjoy the rest of the drink while you prepare the recipe.

Similar Recipes

Best Served With

  • Cevapi are traditionally served with fresh pita bread called lepina. If you want to try making something similar, you can use the dough (omit the cheese) from my pita recipe.
  • A Shopska Salad is the perfect addition to grilled cevapi 🥗.
  • French fries often accompany kebapcheta as a side dish. Make them Bulgarian by topping the potatoes with crumbled feta cheese. 🍟
  • If you want to eat like a real Balkan, serve the cevapi with lepina or somun (a type of pita bread), chopped onions 🧅, ajvar (a red pepper-based spread), and sour cream or kajmak (a type of clotted cream).

Common Questions

Can i make this with other meats?

Certainly! You can make this with ground lamb, or for a lighter meal, try ground turkey or chicken.

Why do you add baking soda and sparkling water?

The combination of sparkling water (or beer) and baking soda gives the cevapi a distinct spongy texture, which distinguishes it from other grilled meat dishes.

ISn’t it traditional in buLGARIA to add cumin?

You’ll find cumin included in many kebapcheta in Bulgarian restaurants. I’m not too fond of cumin, so I don’t typically add it.

I don’t have an outdoor grill; can i still make this?

Cevapi is traditionally made on the grill, but you can also make it on a grill pan on the stove, or make a non-traditional version in an air fryer or oven preheated to 400F until the meat is 165F (although neither will give you grill marks).

Do i really have to wait 24 hours Before cooking?

It’s best to let the meat sit and for all the flavors to marinate for at least 24 hours. However, you’re welcome to shorten the refrigeration time, but the results will not be the same.

Can I freeze the cevapi raw?

Absolutely you can, once shaped, place them on a baking dish lined with parchment paper and put the baking sheet in the freezer. Once you freeze the cevapi, transfer them into a freezer bag. Feel free to add a piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) in between each one so they stay separated. They will last you frozen for 3 months and you can cook them on the grill straight from the freezer!

Can you freeze cevapi after you cook them?

Although I prefer them fresh, yes you can. Let the cooked cevapi cool, and place them in a freezer safe bag. You can reheat them on the grill or in the oven when you are ready to enjoy them again.

Cevapi

Cevapi

Crispy on the outside and incredibly tender and juicy 💦 on the inside, cevapi are are Balkan staple for a reason. These little sausages are made with a simple blend of spices and a hefty portion of garlic 🧄, giving them their distinct savory and garlicky flavor.
5 from 1 vote
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Balkan
Servings: 23 Cevapi
Author: The Modern Nonna
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Resting Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg , optional, can leave it out
  • ½ yellow onion, grated
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons sparkling water, or beer

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, add the pork, beef, egg (egg is optional), grated onion, garlic, paprika, and salt and pepper. The measurements for the salt and pepper are just a suggestion; measure with your heart.
  • Note: we don't typically add egg to cevapi but depending on the meat, ill add it in as a binder. If you're egg-free, leave it out completely.
  • In a small bowl, mix the baking soda and the sparkling water.
  • Add the baking soda mixture to the meat mixture and, using clean hands, mix well to combine. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Take a large spoonful of the meat mixture and form it into a ball. Then, using your hands, form it into a small log, similar to the shape of a sausage. Mine were 4 inches long.
  • Place each one on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can freeze them if you wish (instructions in Q&A) or grill them right away.
  • When you're ready to cook, preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat (400F on the BBQ). Be sure to oil the grill grates prior to cooking.
  • To cook the cevapi, grill them over medium indirect heat until grill marks appear on all sides. Use a kitchen thermometer to check that the internal temperature reaches 165°F, which should take about 15-20 minutes. The total cooking time will vary based on the size of the cevapi you have formed.
  • Remove from the grill, let rest for a few minutes, and enjoy!
  • Enjoy with: fresh pita, fries, ajvar, kajmak, shopska salad, onions, or any sides you like!

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 107kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 35mg, Sodium: 227mg, Potassium: 122mg, Fiber: 0.1g, Sugar: 0.1g, Vitamin A: 55IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 10mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Balkan
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Hi! I'm Sneji. Nice to meet you!

I am more commonly known as “The Modern Nonna” on social media where I create easy home cooked meals with a modern twist. I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria and learned how to cook at the best culinary school in the world – my grandma’s kitchen. I lived in Greece on the Island of Crete with my parents for a while and then moved to Toronto, Canada when I was in grade 5. I started to really cook and experiment with food 11 years ago when I was 21 years old. Everything I currently know is a reflection of some part of my life…

Keep up to date with me on social media! Follow @themodernnonna

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Sneji, thank you for the recipe. How do I make the dipping sauce? Or is it something I can buy? I live in Toronto.

    1. Hi Elaina, you can use the air fryer, but the outcome will be different (and not traditional) as grilling.