10 Russian Foods You Have To Try

10 Russian foods You Have To Try
10 Russian foods You Have To Try

Bread, potatoes and cabbage. The fact that Soviet food shortages have not been forgotten by contemporary Russians is clearly visible through their grocery lists. But although they might not be the world’s biggest experimenters, I can’t bring myself to call the Russian way of cooking unimaginative.

Who else could transform the most basic ingredients into hearty dishes, which can knock you off your feet faster than a swig of vodka? Crisp dough, sticks of butter, rich cream and fatty meat are the distbinguishing characteristics of Russian cuisine – and combined with a sprinkling of dill, they can brighten up even the coldest winter nights. These ten Russian foods you have to try will leave you  leave you hungry and possibly surprised that there is more to Russian cuisine than potatoes and vodka!

1. Pelmeni (Пелмени)


pelmenivia Mika Meskanen

Pelmeni are the ultimate drunk food – a meat-stuffed, smetana-covered light at the end of the proverbial tunnel of robotically shaking my booty in an overpriced club. I want to say that they are like tortellini – only better – but this should be taken with a grain of salt, as I don’t recall ever eating them sober.

If you have a sweet tooth or are vegetarian, you might prefer vareniki – a similar dish, which comes filled with potatoes, apple puree or sweet cottage cheese.

2. Blini (Блины)


blinivia Bolshakov

Blini are a lot like crêpes, only slightly thicker and possibly greasier. They are also incredibly versatile – they can be filled with meat, covered in cheese or dusted with powder sugar. But the traditional condiments are smoked salmon, caviar, smetana (a thick and heavy sour cream) and dill (a truly disgusting green herb Russians love to put on everything).

3. Beef Stroganoff (Бефстроганов)


beef stroganoffvia Jeffrey W

Beef stroganoff is made with strips of beef and a thick, creamy sauce. I should be able to give you more juicy details, but the truth is that I haven’t tried this dish yet. I know, I know – I should practice what I preach. But that fact that this dish is popular in faraway places like Japan and Iran makes me feel like it’s an international crowd-pleaser.

4. Pirogi (Пироги)


pirogivia Nemo’s Great Uncle

Pirogi or the smaller pirozhki are baked sourdough dumplings, which can be stuffed with pretty much anything – minced meet, onion, eggs, potatoes, cabbage, diamonds or unicorns. Well, I’m still waiting for confirmation regarding the last two, but anything is possible in Russia. Pirogi are a perfect snack and you can get them really cheaply, often for less than $1.

You can buy pirogi almost anywhere – you will inevitably find at least one dingy bakery in any bigger metro station. These are fine, but if you’d like to sample some of the most succulent pirogi the world has ever seen, visit Pirog House near the Maryina Roshcha metro station in Moscow.

5. Golubtsy (Голубцы)


golubtsyvia Natural Noshing

Golubtsy (which, oddly enough, means pigeons) are stuffed cabbage leaves. They are usually filled with meatballs, but I’ve tried vegetarian versions with mushrooms and rice and those were delicious too. They’re not always served with tomato sauce on top like in the picture, but they look rather unappealing without it. Google it, I dare you.

6. Salad Olivier (Оливье)


salad oliviervia The Kitchenmaid/Lucy Corry

When I arrived in Russia for the first time, I made a binding pact with myself. “I will eat healthily from now on,” I would announce to anyone willing to listen. I intended to follow through and so I ordered a salad on my first trip to a restaurant, feeling smug and self-satisfied. But when it arrived, my eyes widened in horror. There wasn’t a vegetable in sight – all I could see was a gigantic mountain of mayonnaise.

The moral of this story? Just because it’s called a salad, it doesn’t mean it won’t add five inches to your waist circumference. And who cares if it does – it’s delicious and you’re beautiful just the way you are.

7. Plov (Плов)


plovvia Evgeni Zotov

I could call this dish “seasoned rice with meat” and make it sound like the world’s most boring concoction. Or I could just tell you to get your purse and try it for yourself. This Uzbek specialty is the best thing that ever happened to rice and who knows – it could also be the best thing that ever happens to you. So get your purse and let’s go!

8. Solyanka (Солянка)


solyankavia Roland Geider

Aside from being a popular Muscovite nightclub, solyanka is also a delicious spicy and sour soup. The list of ingredients sounds a little incongruous – pickled cucumbers, olives, sausage, lemon and cabbage, anyone? – but just trust me on this one.

9. Borsch (Борщ)

borschvia Paul Arps

Borsch hardly needs an introduction – this humble beetroot soup is a bit of an international celebrity. Many countries have tried to claim it as their own and while I’m inclined to say borsch is originally Ukrainian (whoops, there go all my Russian readers…), it hardly matters after you eat the first spoonful. You won’t care if the Martians cooked it after this delicious broth tickles your taste buds!

10. Kvass (Квас)


kvassvia Konstantin Ryabitsev

Oh boy, do the Russians love their kvass! In the summer, you cannot miss the rusty trucks driving around, distributing sticky cups of it in exchange for petty change – and I’m pretty sure the fact that the liquid would freeze mid-pour is the only reason they don’t operate in the winter.

Kvass is a fermented drink made of rye or bread and it contains malt, just like beer. Unlike beer it supposedly has minuscule levels of alcohol, which is why Russian children are allowed to consume it in copious amounts. Then again, Russia did only label beer as an alcoholic beverage in 2011 – so who really knows?

Have you ever been to Russia or tried Russian food?
What do you think of these Russian foods you have to try – would you like to taste them? 

  • Mmmm I love perogis! My best friend Kim is in Moscow right now, I am extremely jealous! This is a wonderful list!

    • Ohhh yes, pierogi are so amazing & affordable. Such a great street food 😀

  • Everything looks so delicious. I’ve had pirogi and loved them but am going to need to hunt down some Russian restaurants to give more of these a try. Thanks for sharing.

    • Definitely worth the effort! I recently went to a Russian restaurant in Manchester & some of the food was exactly as I remember it from Russia 🙂

  • Dill is such a tasty herb, I still can’t believe why the rest of the world finds it disgusting:(

    Golubtsy don’t really mean pigeons:D They got their name in the 17th century when french cuisine made its way to Russia and pigeons on the grill was a popular dish. Golubtsy used to be prepared on the grill as well and even though the dish never contained pigeons, the name was transformed into sounding similar to pigeons.

    Plov is not Russian cuisine, neither is borsch. The rest are as well very debatable, as origins of pelmeni, golubtsy etc go to different ethnic groups. But all these dishes are very popular in Russia and I can guess can be called Russian.

    Sorry for the lecture, was sort of in the mood:)

  • I have never been to Russia, but I am seriously stunned how similar polish and russian food is. We also have pierogi, golabki, barszcz and salads stuffed with mayonaise – plus few more delicious and healthy dishes 😉 The salad is one of my old time favorites. Damn, you made me miss home Sabina!

  • YUM! I will have one of each (and all of the pelmeni)!

  • I asked a Russian friend of mine what his last meal would be and he said pelmeni, so I’m not surprised to find it at the top of this list. 🙂

    I went to Russia in 1990 and my most interesting memory revolved around food, though for something decidedly less Russian — a Big Mac. I hope you don’t mind me posting it here but it’s pretty funny. 🙂

    http://www.willflyforfood.net/2014/08/14/moscow-by-foot-all-for-the-love-of-a-big-mac/

  • I recently taught homeschool class to a bunch of Russian students. I have to be honest and admit that eating their mom’s tasty homemade food was one of the most rewarding parts of teaching. Pirogi is absolutely delicious. Stuffed cabbage and borsht are both unbeatable. Oh man. My mouth is watering… look what you’ve done.

  • Barcelona Experience

    Kvas…..oh my. That was one of those experiences where, in one gulp of the stuff, you could hate it and love it at the exact same time! Shaslik was one of our favorites while we were there. It’s definitely NOT like Barcelona eats, but Russian food is delicious in its own right! So happy to see blini on this list, too! St. Petersburg is home to an amazing little blini house….

  • Allison

    Oh my, #2 looks amazing! I’ve only tried Russian good once but I’d be keen to try it again! Also if that’s your jacket in the featured pic, I’m loving it!

    http://www.headelsewhere.com

  • I think the blinis are also known as bilintzes. My grandmother was from Riga, Latvia and she made some of these dishes. Great list as some she never made. Thanks!

  • william yao

    Wow! You made me feel hungry at once! The Pelmeni is a little like the dumplings of China. I have a classmate now from Russia. I’ll try to have his family to prepare these delicious foods for us!

  • Roxanne Bamboat

    This sounds incredibly interesting. I love to travel specially for the food and Russia has been on my wishlist for a while..

  • All of these dishes sound delish. 🙂 You’re right about the beef stroganoff being an international delight. I’ve been curious for awhile if it’s actually Russian or German (or maybe there are variations?), because we have a family recipe that’s passed down on my German side of the family. And yes, you should totally try it! When I was little I didn’t like it so much, probably because it was served at every. single. family. get-together. lol But, now I love it. And it definitely brings about a feeling of nostalgia every time I eat it. 🙂
    And, it can be served with either rice or noodles.

    I haven’t tried borscht before, but I intend to someday. Mostly because it’s mentioned so often in the classic movie Talk of the Town (1942). The secret ingredient (at least in the movie) is to serve it with an egg in it. Weird, huh?