Gibanica – cheese pie

Gibanica – cheese pie

Gibanica is, without a doubt, one of the most well-known Serbian specialties. Have you ever thought about the etymology of the word “gibanica”? You will be surprised how many different interpretations there are. Almost as many as gibanica recipes.

The etymology of the word “gibanica”

One interpretation says that the word gibanica comes from the Egyptian Arabic language. Namely, it comes from the Arabic word “gubn” which means cheese, its plural being “giban”.

According to the other interpretation, our synonym for the term gibanica is cheese pie. If we know that the Jewish for cheese is givn (גבינה), then we could say that this word is of Jewish origin. 

According to Etymological Dictionary of Slavic Languages, the word “gibanica” comes from gibati, meaning to move, bend, fold.

Vuk Karadžić says that gibanica is a type of pie with a filling of cheese, milk, skorup and eggs between stacks of dough sheets. It is also called gibanac (and gibanka), and a pastry with two buns and a filling – gibančica.

In Macedonia and Bulgaria gibanica has been shortened to – banica. This word has a few derivatives as well. For example, gibaničar – someone who makes gibanica, someone who likes to eat gibanica, one who likes to be invited as a guest and one who likes to eat and drink at someone else’s account.

There is also a saying to make someone gibanica, meaning to do him harm. In Macedonian baničar is someone who likes gibanica, but also a lazy person.

In Levač and Temnić there is a shepherd game called gibankanje. We shouldn’t forget the verb gibanisati meaning to make and eat gibanica often and abundantly.

Chetnik gibanica is a term used for traditional Serbian gibanica. In this way gibanica became anti-communist dish. Even though rumor has it that it was one of Tito’s favorites.

There is a simple rule for the chetnik gibanica recipe, because the real Serbian gibanica has to be rich, thick and greasy, i.e. calorific ( Baš )

Gibanica is the symbol of traditional Serbian cuisine and a favorite dish on our table

Gibanica, a widely known Serbian specialty, is appropriate for all kinds of occasions. For a good start every day serve it for breakfast with some yoghurt or milk, for lunch as an appetizer, but for dinner as well. It could be made for no particular reason, for celebrations, unexpected guests, for all occasions and in all seasons. It’s tasty both warm and cold, though I like it warm.

I made my first gibanica at the age of nine. It was one of the first appetizers I learned to prepare.

My aunt and her friend, a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy, praised my culinary skills. I admit the compliments I received meant a lot to me and I haven’t stopped experimenting in the kitchen ever since, more or less successfully.

Sofija Maksimović in her cookbook from 1913 revealed the secrets of preparing 17 types of gibanica: with poppy seeds, sour cherries, spinach, pumpkin, noodles, but also the recipe for real Serbian gibanica with cheese, kajmak (dairy cream) and handmade dough sheets. One of these is almost forgotten today, it’s called jufkara and it used to be made with toasted, crispy dough sheets boiled in milk.

How do we make gibanica nowadays?

Real gibanica is made with homemade cheese, a stack of dough sheets, eggs, water and oil. You determine the ingredients and their quantities to your taste.

Every housewife has a recipe of her own. The most important thing is to prepare it with lots of love and fresh, homemade produce. Real, homemade cheese, free-range eggs, and if you have handmade dough sheets, it’s a feast for the palate.


1 stack of dough sheets (1/2 kg)

1/2 kg of cheese

4-5 eggs

1 teaspoon of salt

1 dl of oil

2 dl of sparkling water (mineral carbonated water)

Instead of sparkling water you can use tap water and add two teaspoons of baking powder

A little bit of yogurt if the mixture is too thick



Mix eggs with salt, sparkling water (mineral carbonated water) and oil.

Add cheese and salt to taste.

Mix the filling and the cheese slowly so that there are some cheese bits left. Add some yogurt if the mixture is too thick.

Put three dough sheets at the bottom of an oven pan. Fold the rest of dough sheets, sheet by sheet, dip them into the filling and place them in the pan. Repeat the process until you have used all the sheets. Pour the rest of the mixture over the folded sheets.

Cover with a few sheets and put in the oven preheated to 180°C and bake for about 50-60 minutes.

Once gibanica is ready, turn off the oven and leave it in for 5 more minutes, and then take it out. While it’s still hot splash some sparkling water over it and cover it with a dishtowel. Let it cool down for a while.

Cut it into small cubes while it’s still warm and put them on a plate. Serve them with yogurt or sour milk, better yet if it’s homemade. 

Bon appetite!

Translation: Marija Đurđević 

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