Most people don’t think of Russia as a foodie destination, but if you don’t give these incredible foods a chance, you will miss out on a whole new world of flavor. Check out flight deals to Moscow or St. Petersburg, and get out there and try these top 23 most delicious (and unusual) Russian foods!

Russian food in general is delicious, whether you get it at a cozy cafe, an upscale restaurant, or the kitchen of a friendly babushka (grandmother). There is a lot of diversity because of the country’s long history, enormous land area, varied climates, and the influx of other national cuisines during the Soviet period. Popular flavors include: dill, mayonnaise, beets, sour cream, and slow cooked meats!

Breakfast

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Yummm, anyone for kasha?

image: tastespace.wordpress.com

1.Rice porridge

Filling, sweet, versatile, and so easy to make!

2. Kasha

A classic favorite, a sort of cereal made from buckwheat. Its rich, nutty taste can be somewhat polarizing, but for those who like it there is no better way to start the morning!

3. Syrniki

A small, dense pancake made from tvorog to give a slightly sweet finish. They can be topped with sour cream, jam, honey, or just plain butter.

4. Oladi

Buttermilk pancakes, fluffier than the American version, they go great with fresh homemade jam.

5. Blini (also a dessert)

The Russian version of crepes, made with yeast unlike the French version. They can be sweet with sour cream, fruit, and jams, or savory with chicken, cheese, mushrooms, or anything else!

Soups

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Don’t be surprised if you crave more than one bowl of borsch!

image: old.taritravel.com

6. Borsch

World famous Ukrainian-Jewish vegetable soup, the main ingredient is beetroot, and each family has their own variation – beef, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, and generous handfuls of dill are all common. Borsch should always be topped with a thick dollop of sour cream!

7. Schi

A cabbage soup ideal for summer, sometimes served cold. Packed with healthy and delicious greens!

8. Okroshka

A refreshing cold summer soup, with a broth made of kvass (see below!) and stuffed with raw vegetables, meat, and sometimes boiled eggs. Also usually garnished with dill and sour cream.

9. Ukha

The name comes from the Russian word for “ear.” Ukha is a thick, clear fish broth, usually containing root vegetables, greens, and rich spices. Excellent for an end of summer, late afternoon meal at the dacha.

Salads

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Vinegret salad on repeat, please!

image: wholemadeliving.com

The Russian word “salat” both translates to “lettuce” and refers to the unique style of salads enjoyed in the former Soviet Union. Usually chopped vegetables in a mayonnaise base, these are a unique meal best enjoyed in Russia!  

10. Olivie/Stolichniy

The central dish on the New Year’s Eve table, stolichniy salad, also known as Olivie, is a mayonnaise base containing potatoes, carrots, hardboiled eggs, ham, pickles,onions, and spices.

11. Crab

Another holiday favorite, crab salad is typically a mayonnaise base with imitation crab meat, hard boiled eggs, peas, carrots, corn, and sometimes rice. Swapping mayonnaise for sour cream is also delicious!

12. Vinegret

A cold and tart beet salad, which typically includes pickles, carrots, sauerkraut, and onions. A tasty primer to any meal!

Meat-Based Dishes

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You’ll find plenty of comfort in pelmeni.

image: russianbites.com

13. Pelmeni

Small dumplings made with thin, stretchy dough and filled with spiced meat. The best comfort food for a cold winter is pelmeni “with a hat” – baked in a clay pot and topped with hot, gooey cheese!

14. Golubtsi

Meaning “pigeons,” golubtsi are cabbage rolls filled with rice and minced meat, often cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with a dollop of sour cream. The “lazy” version is to mix up with all the ingredients along with shredded cabbage rather than wrapped up in cabbage leaves!

Caucasian

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BRB, diving into this order of shashlik.

image: russia-ic.com

15. Lavash

Thin, soft bread originating in Armenia, you can often find this wrapped around kebab meat or stuffed with greens and coated in butter, topped with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers!

16. Shashlik

Often called “Caucasian barbeque,” the Russian version is just slightly modified with a different type of marinade, but the general plan is raw lamb, chicken, or beef chunks skewered and roasted over an open flame. Shashlik is more than just a food, it is a culture and a weekend tradition. People love to go into the countryside with friends, cook shashlik, have a few drinks, and toss a frisbee!

Desserts and Pastries

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Pirozhiki – you can’t go wrong with one (or two or three) of these.

image: goodfood-recipe.com

17. Pirozhki

Soft, baked pastry pockets stuffed with various ingredients – sweet or savory. Check out the massively popular restaurants Stolle and Pirogovy Dvorik in Russia’s major cities!

18. Tvorog

The lost dairy product of the east. I am obsessed with this stuff! It’s somewhere between cottage cheese and quark/farmer’s cheese. It can be mixed with raisins and used to fill or top pastries as a sweet treat or mixed with garlic and dill as a tangy dip or spread.

19. Plombir

Soviet ice cream – often described as “regular” or “milk” flavored, it is a mild, creamy treat you can pick up in grocery stores or from street carts for just a few cents!

20. Napoleon Cake

The Russian take on a classic mille-feuille, it is made of seemingly endless layers of flaky pastry dough and vanilla cream. A thick slice of Napoleon and a cup of black tea is the perfect way to spend a morning, sitting in a cafe overlooking the Neva River in Saint Petersburg.

To Drink

Russian-Vodka

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21. Vodka

Come on, we all know this one…

22. Kvas

A barely alcoholic summer drink made from fermented dark rye bread, cold and fizzy!

23. Tarkhun

A carbonated soft drink made from tarragon. Most varieties have dye added to turn the drink a neon green!

Authored by: Samantha Guthrie – STA Travel Student Ambassador

Samantha Guthrie is an STA Travel Student Ambassador and grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. After returning to the United States in middle school, the homogeneity and ethnocentrism of small town suburbia fueled her love of travel and exploration, searching for challenges to her own perspectives and way of life. She earned her B.A. in Russian and Eastern European Studies from the University of Virginia, and is currently a class of 2017 MPP candidate there. As a Boren Scholarship recipient, she spent most of 2014 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Samantha has held internships at the Parliament of Georgia, the Georgian National Tourism  Adminstration, and the US Embassy, Tbilisi. Next on her travel list: The Netherlands, Cuba, road trip through the Balkans! Follow along over on her blog: http://loveatfirstlayover.blogspot.com/