10 Russian Dishes You Have to Try
Traditional Russian fare
Russian food is often underappreciated, but anyone who’s had a big plate of pelmeni or a hearty soup on a cold day will disagree. Russian food includes a variety of dishes from various areas and traditions, so it’s impossible to run out of new dishes to try in Russia. Both meat-lovers and vegetarians will find plenty of russian dishes to satisfy any craving, plus many dishes that can be made both with or without meat.
Though many of these dishes are available in countries other than Russia (or even came from other countries), these dishes are the most popular in Russia, and are some of the best dishes to try while traveling in Russia. Use this list as a starting point as you explore the best Russian food has to offer.
And while it’s nice to read about all of these dishes, it’s even better to start eating! Check out our list of the top ten dishes to try in Russia, and get ready to start craving a few yourself.
When you think about Russian food, pelmeni are probably the first dish that comes to mind. Pelmeni are bite-sized dumplings made with ground meat (usually beef or lamb), that are boiled and then most commonly served with sour cream (though they can come as a soup or served with butter, mustard, or vinegar). Though pelmeni have made most traditionally in the Ural Mountains for over 600 years, this dish is famous across Russia and beyond. Try a bowl of pelmeni in soup, topped with a dollop of thick sour cream and a sprinkling of dill.
For those that love pickles, solyanka is a dream come true. Starting with a base of bouillon, solyanka includes all sorts of salty and sour tastes, such as pickles, olives, brine, or lemons. Add some meat, fish, or sausage and mushrooms and other vegetables, and solyanka makes for a whole meal by itself. Solyanka is an unusual dish, with an interesting combination of many tastes and textures together in one soup, so make sure to taste it for yourself.
Shchi is a deceptively simple soup with a complex taste. What may look like a simple cabbage soup is actually a filling but light soup made from sauerkraut, cabbage, or other green leaves. Shchi is an integral part of Russian cuisine, and has been eaten almost daily for centuries in Russia. Enjoy a bowl of shchi with sour cream and a slice of dark rye bread for a dish straight from Russian history.
Not much is more refreshing than a bowl of okroshka on a hot summer day. Okroshka is made from either a milk base (buttermilk or kefir) or a kvass base (a traditional drink made of fermented bread). Add a bunch of vegetables and some meat, and okroshka is a refreshing meal ready for the hotter months. With a unique, slightly bitter taste, okroshka is perfect for those wanting to try a new taste from a dish not well known outside Russia.
Once a dish of the tsars and a sign of rank and riches, sturgeon is a perfect dish to try in Russia. Try baked sturgeon with vegetables, or spread some black caviar on dark bread or savory pancakes. Sturgeons are now raised on fish farms, as they are endangered in the wild.
Borscht is undisputedly the main soup of the Slavs which has long been present in traditional Russian and Ukrainian cuisines. Its place of prominence should come as no surprise, for the history of borscht likely dates back to 14th-century Kievan Rus’. While countless varieties of borscht can be found today, the most traditional version is based on a beef or pork broth to which beets, cabbage, carrots and potatoes are added. Cream or sour cream is often mixed in just before eating this healthy, filling soup. In Russia, a savory slice of pie or some fried bread may be served alongside borscht, while in Ukraine borscht is commonly eaten with rye bread and bacon.
Meat jelly, or aspic, has been a staple around the world for centuries, and is a popular dish served with salads or as an appetizer. Certain cuts of meat contain a lot of gelatin, and so these parts are boiled overnight, and the resulting liquid is mixed with meat and vegetables and cooled to a solid. Try kholodets with carrots, garlic, and boiled egg as an appetizer before your meal.
Think of French crepes, but often more savory. Blini are thin pancakes served with meat, caviar, cabbage, or something sweet. Blini with honey, jam, or condensed milk make for a sweet breakfast, while several blini with minced meat and sour cream is a satisfying dinner. Find blini in small stands on the street for a snack, wrapped with anything from a single filling to a whole meal.
It’s impossible to try Russian foods without trying some pierogies. You can find pierogies that are open or closed, and that are sweet or savory. Take time to explore all different types of pierogies to find the ones you like best - there are so many different types that anyone is sure to find something to suit their taste.
Pickles in Russian cuisine don’t just stop at pickled cucumbers - think mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, meat, fish, and more. Pickles can be included into a variety of other dishes (including soups like solyanka), or can be served alone. Pickles were especially important in Russia as a way of preserving vegetables through the long, cold winters. If you decide to indulge in some vodka, pickles are also a great snack as you drink.
This list certainly is not complete. There are plenty of other dishes that are just as delicious that you should try - don’t limit yourself or your palette! And as they say in Russia, Приятного аппетита!