Azerbaijani food is a rainbow of flavorful and satisfying dishes. Pilafs, herbs, fresh vegetables, kebabs, soups, sauces and snacks will tempt you to leave your heart in Azerbaijan forever. Even seemingly light foods can fill a hungry diner, and most travelers find it hard to leave an Azerbaijani meal half-eaten.
We set out to discover what traditional foods in Azerbaijan remain popular with local residents and visiting tourists. Read on to find out what is eaten in Azerbaijan today!
Azerbaijan has over 30 types of soups, including everything from rich meat broths with vegetables to sour milk soups with dumplings, grains, herbs, beans and even dried fruits.
Azerbaijani soups can be quite original. Take piti soup, made by boiling each serving in a separate clay pot. Its key ingredients of lamb and chickpeas are complemented by cherry plums, vegetables and seasonings.
Dushbaru is a dumpling soup in which lamb bones are boiled to create a broth and the mutton is minced and stuffed into the dumplings
Dovga, one of several popular vegetarian foods in Azerbaijan, is eaten hot in winter and cold in summer. Fermented milk products such as matsoni yogurt, sour cream, curdled milk or kefir are used as the base ingredient. Egg and flour create a creamy texture, while boiled chickpeas and rice provide additional satiety. Chopped parsley, cilantro, mint and spinach may be added before serving.
Umach is a flavorful soup made with beaten eggs diluted with salt water. The liquid is mixed with flour to form sticky pieces of dough which are cooked in a fried onion broth and seasoned with saffron and mint.
Azerbaijani Meat Dishes
Meat is nearly omnipresent in Azerbaijani food, as evidenced by the huge variety of kebabs, cutlets, pilafs and other Azerbaijani meat dishes which await you in country.
Local kebabs are usually prepared from the meat of young ewes, whose tenderness and low cholesterol content make it more nutritious and satisfying than beef. The salted meat is marinated in mineral water, wine vinegar and pepper and is traditionally cooked on a skewer with chunks of tail fat, which help the meat to remain juicy during roasting. Azerbaijani kebabs are served with hot bread and pickled onions.
Kourma khingal is a speical Azerbaijani recipe prepared from mutton stewed with sautéed onions. A dough of flour, eggs and water is rolled out and cut into medium-sized diamonds called khingals. After the khingals are boiled and spread with oil, the cooked lamb is placed on a dish which is garnished with the bread. Kourma khingal is sprinkled with grated cheese and served with garlic yogurt or matsoni.
Also recommended are tender kufta cutlets stewed in a spicy broth; appetizing cabbage or grape leaf rolls called dolma; and hamrashi, a hearty soup with mutton meatballs, red beans and thin noodles.
Azerbaijani Poultry Dishes
Original and satiating, local poultry dishes remain a popular food in Azerbaijan.
Be sure to try tender chikhirtma, large pieces of boiled chicken lightly fried in a pan. Onions, tomatoes and a beaten egg are stewed in a broth and poured over the cooked chicken, which is served with fresh herbs.
Azerbaijani poultry dishes often involve whole chickens or wild poultry meat. When cooked in this manner, a plucked and washed carcass is seasoned with salt and pepper and skewered before being baked in a clay tandoor oven or fried over an open fire. The bird is served with a garlic and sour cream sauce.
Azerbaijani Fish Dishes
Azerbaijani fish dishes may be fried, stuffed, formed into cutlets, baked in a tandoor oven or rolled in grape leaves for fish dolma. Salmon, sturgeon, carp, kutum and stellate sturgeon are the most common varieties.
Famous Azerbaijani fish dishes include:
- Tandoor carp - Fish carcasses are gutted, baked whole and served with a salad of greens, chopped onion and lemon juice;
- Sturgeon barbecue - The fish is cut into pieces, smeared with sour cream and seasoned with salt and pepper before being skewered and grilled. Sturgeon barbecue is served with onions and fresh tomatoes;
- Fish dolma - Carp or kutum is minced, seasoned with cilantro and onion and wrapped in large, boiled grape leaves. Fish dolma are served with a fish bone broth and matsoni yogurt.
- Fish cutlets - Balls are made from minced sturgeon mixed with onions and white bread soaked in milk. The cutlets are then breaded, fried in oil and served with fresh vegetables.
Azerbaijani Breads and Pastries
The most common of all Azerbaijani breads and pastries is churek, a flatbread which is served in Azerbaijan for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Wheat flour, vegetable oil, yeast, sesame seeds and salt are used to make churek, which traditionally is baked in a tandoor oven.
No less savory is an Azerbaijani street food called qutab, a thin, crescent-shaped dough filled with spinach, meat, cheese, onions or even pomegranate seeds. Qutab is cooked on a griddle and is usually served hot.
Cigarette borek are rolls of delicate dough usually stuffed with cheese, although borek made with herbs, potatoes, minced meat or fish can also be found.
An Azerbaijani snack called chiborek is a fried pastry filled with meat, coriander, onions and parsley.
Pilaf is the national dish of Azerbaijan and the most common food in the country. There are no less than 200 varieties of Azerbaijani pilaf (plov), some of which are prepared in very unusual ways.
Shah-plov (king’s pilaf) is cooked in a thin bread which is cut open when served to reveal a hot mass of meat, rice and dried fruits inside. The crispy bread doubles as a delicious edible baking dish.
Another signature Azerbaijani dish is toyug pilaf, which is often served for special events. Marinated chicken pieces are fried while an onion is sautéed and dried apricots, raisins and prunes are rinsed and cooked. Kazmag - a flatbread made from flour, eggs and water - is laid in a pot greased with melted butter. Rice is then added and cooked before all the ingredients are layered on a large dish.
Chigirtma pilaf is a popular Azerbaijani plov recipe made with chicken. Eggs, eggplant, cherry plums and saffron are added to the rice for flavor. Melted butter is poured over the finished dish, which is served with fresh herbs and vegetables.
You would need to stay in country for an extended time in order to taste every type of Azerbaijani pilaf, yet during your visit it is worth trying several varieties of this signature dish of Azerbaijani cuisine.
Anyone with a sweet tooth will enjoy Azerbaijani desserts, which are often served with a cup of tea.
Baklava, the most famous of Azerbaijani sweets, is a melt-in-your-mouth delicacy made from thin layers of honey-soaked dough and chopped nuts.
Shaker churek is made from powdered sugar, melted butter, egg whites, flour and vanilla. The dough is rolled into small balls that are smeared with egg yolk and baked.
Baku kurabiye is a crumbly jam-filled biscuit made from flour, butter, egg whites and powdered sugar.
The preferred drink of Azerbaijanis is black tea, which can fill you with energy after just one cup. Various herbs (mint, thyme, lemon balm) and spices (cinnamon, allspice, cloves) are often added for extra taste and a fragrant aroma. Unlike in neighboring countries, coffee is rarely drunk in Azerbaijan.
Iskenjebi is a traditional Azerbaijani drink prepared from syrup, honey and a bit of vinegar. This slightly tangy drink quenches thirst while aiding digestion after a heavy meal.
Azerbaijanis love fruit drinks such as khoshab (a homemade fruit drink), palud (resembling jelly), gyandab and syalab (fruit and berry drinks) and doshab and bekmes (sweet drinks of beetroot or watermelon juice).
Drinks made from fermented milk products are also common, as they make a great accompaniment to Azerbaijani food. The most common fermented drink is ayran, which quenches both thirst and hunger. Also popular are tan and atylama, sour-salty drinks made from either goat's or cow's milk.