The best Russian foods you have to try!

The Best Russian Foods that Will Touch Your Heart

I was born and raised for 20 years in Russia. With traditional babushka (grandmother in Russian) and her Russian foods. And wherever I live or travel I’ve been always missing those dishes. In my opinion, Rusian cuisine is very rich and famous all around the world. Yet still, not all the people know what to try coming here except a few well-known dishes.

My goal in this article is to guide you through the whole options you may find and will have to try during traveling in Russia. Again a disclaimer: I don’t want to argue here about the real roots of each dish. Like if borsch is Ukrainian or Russian. I want to show you what we’ve used to eat as Russian people. But the origins of those foods can be from a completely different place.

Breakfast time!

A lot of Russian people for breakfast eat some Bread with butter and sausage or cheese on it. For some special days, it can be also with caviar, so yes, Russian people eat caviar. We eat different types of porridge: from oats, rice, semolina or millet. But since we talk about something more tradition First I would mention Syrniki (Сырники) (1 picture). It is small quite pancakes made from a special type of cheese – tvorog (творог). You may find this also in some other Slavik countries. You mix it with flour and eggs, add a bit of sugar and fry. Almost from the same type of dough is our second dish – Tvorozhnaya zapeaknka (Творожная запеканка) or cheese pie/casserole (2). You can add there some dry fruits, like raisins as you might see in the picture. Also in Syrniki from time to time you can find the same. And the third, most famous one is Blini (Блины) or crepes (3). No specific difference from other world’s crepes. Yet still, Russia is pretty well-known by those cuties.

You eat all these dishes (and many more) with Smetana (Сметана) which is sour cream. Russian people for some reason like it and eat everything with it. Later you will know what I am talking about. Also, you can add different jams or honey since none of those foods are sweet by purpose.

Warming your soul – Russian soups

You will answer instead of me the most famous Ukrainian and Russian soup. Borscht (Борщ) or beetroot soup. In Russia, we have saying: you are a good cook if you can make borscht. Or if you can cook borscht, then you can already get married. Every family has its own recipe for borscht. But mainly it is a range of veggies like beetroot, potatoes, cabbage, carrot with a long boiled meat broth. The main ingredient comes later. Sour cream. Many people add sour cream into borscht, but only a few spoons right before eating.

We’ve got a lot more Russian soups. Sweet and sour Solyanka (Солянка), an easy soup made from everything you have in the fridge. But the main ingredient there is meat. Different types of: sausage, ham, beef, chicken.

The oldest Russian soup, soup of peasants. Rassolnik (Рассольник). A weird combination of pearl barley (Russian food of horses as some people call it) and pickles. How is that? I don’t know who’ve got to create this combination, but it’s damn good.

There are more interesting soups, like Ukha (Уха) or fish soup. Or for example Shchi (Щи) or sour cabbage soup.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan of traditional Russian soups when I was young. My 2 favorites from that were Pea soup (Гороховый суп) (1) and Soup with meatballs (Суп с фрикадельками) (2). Up until now, I like to cook them. All the Russian soups are pretty heavy and sick, so usually, we eat it as the whole lunch together with bread. When my mom was in Slovakia, she was shocked that people eat soup and the main dish as lunch. For her, it was too much. The same was for the fact, that some people eat soup for dinner. It is strongly a lunch meal.

But let’s talk about one soup, which simply blows the minds of many foreigners. Okroshka (Окрошка). A mix of raw vegetables, boiled potatoes, eggs, and cooked meat or ham. You put it either in kvas (a popular Russian fermented drink made from black rye) or in kefir (another typical drink, made from milk, but sicker and sourer). It is a soup which people eat during spring and summer since it’s served cold. I recommend you to try a bit if it’s possible. Because not every person would like this combination.

Main dishes

The kings of the main dishes are definitely Pelmeni (Пельмени) (1) and Vareniki (Вареники) or dumplings (2). The main difference between them is first a shape. In the first picture, you can see Pelmeni and on second Vareniki. Vareniki are more oblong and Pelmeni has a round shape.

Pelmeni is a very typical dish that came from Siberia. Traditional Ural pelmeni are stuffed with three kinds of meat – beef, lamb, and pork. Nowadays it can be both luxury food and cheap meal for students. You can find different variations of Pelmeni in restaurants. And also a lot of already made but frozen ones in shops.

I like more Vareniki because of their fillings. That is the second main difference since the dough is basically the same. Vareniki can be stuffed with:

  • potato and caramelized onion
  • fried cabbage
  • previously mentioned tvorog (творог)
  • different fruits and berries (strawberry, cherry, apple)
  • I also saw variations with mushrooms or poppy seeds, but those are not traditional for me.

Ah sure, forgot to mention: of course, you again eat it with sour cream.

I will mention a few more favorite Russian dishes. Or, at least, what we are used to it here. In our family, we cooked a lot of Stewed Cabbage (Тушеная Капуста) (1). It’s very easy to cook: you chop the cabbage, onion, and carrot and stew it for some time with tomato paste. It can be done with pieces of meat or sometimes my mom was doing a vegetarian option with mushrooms. But it can be also served as a side dish, for example, to Kotleta (Котлета) or cutlet. It is oblong meatball made from a different type of minced meat.

I guess, Russian people like cabbage. Since one more Russian food we have made from that and called Golubtsi (Голубцы) or cabbage rolls. You take the leaves out from cabbage, make the filling from minced meat. Then stuff it into the leaves and stew for some time, also with a bit of tomato paste. Guess what you can eat it with? I will not repeat it anymore.

Beef Stroganoff (Бефстроганов) (2) with a warm soft potato puree (Пюре) is one more favorite. It has a legend that it was called after Stroganoff family, successful Russian merchants. However, the meal was done for that family by French chefs, so again, no clue who got the recipe first. Yet still, this is very popular and tasty food here. Sour cream goes in the sauce, of course.

Last but not least is Plov (Плов). You can also hear versions as Pilaf. As many people are saying originally dish from Uzbekistan. Plov is a dish with carrots, onions, and spices, tender chunks of meat and fluffy rice with lots of aromatic flavors.  It is made in some special pot called kazan and steamed there for some time. Of course, not everybody (me as well) has kazan at home, so people get used to cooking it in a normal pot.

Meat in jelly? Eatable? Not only I tell you. It was always on all our celebration tables. Kholodets (Холодец) or Aspec. It is the same story as with Okroshka. You either love it or hate it. It’s been done from animal limbs, usually pig. Slowly boiled and then added with some gelatin. I don’t like it. But all my family does.

For meat lovers, I recommend trying Shashlik (Шашлык). It is skewered and grilled cubes of meat, like shish kebab. It came to us from the Caucasus and Central Asia. And then became popular from the 19th century. You may find it in the restaurants. But Russian people love to go out in nature or gardens and prepare it there by themselves.

Russian salads as one more main dish

When I was telling people, that we can eat salad as a main dish, nobody understood how. But Russian salads are so complex and thick so it’s hard to eat it with something.

New Year is not a New Year without Olivie (Оливье) salad (1). In some other countries, it is even called “Russian salad”. And again the history of it is basically somebody cooked it for us. We liked it. We called it after his name. Lucien Olivier. He was the Belgian chef of Hermitage, one of Moscow’s most celebrated restaurants. He started to make it there and it became popular pretty fast. But, the original salad was based on high-quality expensive ingredients. And to make it affordable, one Russian guy stole the recipe and remade it in what we are used to eating now.

The usual for us Olivie consists of: boiled potatoes and eggs, pickles, peas, ham, onion and a lot of mayonnaise. The mayonnaise should be of good quality so the salad will have its own taste.

Vinegret (Винегрет) is not just a traditional veggie salad. The combination of beetroot and sauerkraut makes it special. Adding boiled potatoes, beans or peas, pickles, onion, and olive oil. Yum!

About Shuba (Шуба) salad (2)or Dressed herring there are thousands of legends. I guess it’s the weirdest type of salad you might ever see. It’s done in layers of sliced pickled herring, onion, potatoes, carrots and beetroots. Each layer is covered with a good mayonnaise. A final layer should be always a beetroot covered with mayo. It gives the salad its characteristic rich purple color. It is also often being cooked for the New Year table.

The last salad called Mimosa (Мимоза) (3), another fish-based Russian salad. Got its name from the flower so it counts as a spring salad. Made usually also by layers from cheese, eggs, potato, canned fish, onion, and mayonnaise. It looks like a flower because people put the shredded yolk of the egg on the top.

Snacks and desserts

My childhood treats were Chocolate Salami (Шоколадная колбаса) and Pirozhki (Пирожки). The first was easy to make. Crushed up milk biscuits and walnuts were mixed with a chocolate sauce made from cocoa, milk, butter, and sugar. Then it is scooped up into a freezer bag, rolled into a shape of a sausage and then placed in the fridge overnight to set.

Pirozhki are baked or fried yeast-leavened boat-shaped buns with a variety of fillings. My grandma was always doing them with minced meat, stewed cabbage or home-made jam. Yet you can find many more varieties of fillings.

You may also want to try some Russian sweets like Zefir (Зефир) or Pirozhnoe (Пирожное). Check this article to find out what else you could try as a Russian sweet.

Bonus: Russian sushi

Yes, yes, I know, sushi didn’t come from Russia. However, traveling to many countries, I realized, that Russians created very different types of sushi. We call them Rolls (Ролы). They are much bigger than some simple maki. And they consist of a variety of things. They can be deep-fried or with some sauces on top. From what I’ve heard, the Japanese always had it very simple. But in Russia, it became the whole new culture.

In case you like this kind of articles, let me know (because I like them). I’ve done an article about the traditional food recipe of Slovak dumplings. And also where you can eat the best halusky in Bratislava. In case you are wondering about the places to try the best Russian foods, I will guide you through that in my next articles.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.