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A Guide To Russian Food – What To Eat In Russia


by Cayla Dowd



Russia, the largest country in the world, is known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and diverse cuisine. Russian food offers a unique blend of flavors and ingredients that have been influenced by a combination of Eastern European, Central Asian, and Siberian traditions. From hearty soups to indulgent desserts, Russian cuisine has something to satisfy every palate.


When it comes to traditional Russian food, there are a few dishes that stand out. Borscht, a beetroot-based soup, is one of the most iconic and beloved dishes in Russia. It is often served with sour cream and accompanied by hearty black bread. Another favorite is pelmeni, small dumplings filled with meat or cheese and served with a dollop of butter or sour cream. Blini, thin pancakes often served with caviar or smoked salmon, are a staple of Russian cuisine.


Aside from these classic dishes, Russian cuisine showcases a variety of other exciting flavors. From the hearty and comforting main courses like beef stroganoff or chicken Kiev to the diverse selection of side dishes like pickled vegetables and sauerkraut, Russian cuisine caters to all tastes.


It’s not just the savory dishes that are worth exploring in Russian cuisine; the country is also famous for its delectable desserts. Indulge in the sweet delights of honey cake, a layered sponge cake filled with honey-infused cream, or try the creamy and rich ptichye moloko, a marshmallow-like dessert coated in chocolate. And let’s not forget about the traditional Russian beverages, such as the warming and aromatic samovar tea or the refreshing kvass, a fermented beverage made from barley or rye.


Whether you’re an adventurous foodie or a casual traveler looking to explore new culinary experiences, Russian cuisine offers a tantalizing journey into flavors and traditions. In this guide, we will delve deeper into the various aspects of Russian food, from breakfast dishes to main courses, desserts, and more. Get ready to embark on a gastronomic adventure as we introduce you to the diverse and delicious world of Russian cuisine.


Traditional Russian Breakfast Dishes

In Russia, breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. It sets the tone for the rest of the day and provides the energy needed to kick-start the morning. Russian breakfast dishes often consist of hearty and filling options that keep you fueled throughout the day.


One popular traditional Russian breakfast dish is kasha, a creamy porridge made from grains such as buckwheat, oatmeal, or semolina. It is typically served hot and can be sweetened with sugar or seasoned with butter and salt. Kasha is not only nutritious but also provides a warm and comforting start to the day.


A classic addition to any Russian breakfast table is tvorog, a type of cottage cheese. Tvorog can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, including on its own with a drizzle of honey or mixed with fruits and nuts for a wholesome and delicious breakfast bowl. It is packed with protein and makes for a nutritious and satisfying morning option.


No Russian breakfast is complete without some assortment of bread and pastries. Blini, thin and delicate pancakes, are a staple of Russian cuisine and are often enjoyed for breakfast. They can be served with a variety of sweet or savory fillings such as jam, sour cream, caviar, or smoked salmon.


If you prefer something more savory, then syrniki might be the perfect choice. Syrniki are fried cheese pancakes made from a mixture of cottage cheese, eggs, flour, and sugar. They are crispy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside, and are typically served with sour cream or jam.


For those who enjoy a heartier breakfast, oladushki, or Russian-style pancakes, are another popular option. They are thicker than blini and can be made with a variety of fillings, such as apples, berries, or even meat. Oladushki are typically served with sour cream or honey and are a delicious and filling way to start the day.


Overall, traditional Russian breakfast dishes offer a range of options to suit every taste preference. Whether you prefer a sweet or savory start to the day, there is a breakfast dish in Russian cuisine that is sure to satisfy. From warm and comforting porridge to delicate blini and hearty syrniki, exploring traditional Russian breakfast dishes is a delightful way to experience the country’s culinary heritage.


Popular Russian Soups

Soups are an integral part of Russian cuisine and are enjoyed throughout the year. They are not just appetizers but often serve as a complete meal, packed with flavors and nutritious ingredients. Russian soups are known for their hearty nature and ability to warm the soul, making them a perfect choice for any occasion.


One of the most well-known Russian soups is borscht. This vibrant soup is made with beets, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and onions, giving it a beautiful deep red color. Borscht is traditionally served with a dollop of sour cream and a slice of dark rye bread. It is a true symbol of Russian cuisine and a must-try for any visitor to the country.


Another popular soup is solyanka, a thick and tangy soup made with a variety of meats such as beef, sausage, or ham, and pickled cucumbers. The combination of savory and sour flavors creates a unique taste experience that is both comforting and satisfying. Solyanka is often enjoyed with a side of sour cream and fresh dill.


For seafood lovers, ukha is a delightful choice. This traditional Russian fish soup is made with a combination of freshwater fish, vegetables, and herbs. Ukha is light and refreshing, often flavored with dill and served with a slice of lemon. It is a popular summer soup, enjoyed for its delicate flavors and nourishing properties.


If you’re looking for a more substantial soup, shchi is a classic option. This cabbage soup can be made in various ways, with or without meat. It is filled with cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, and other vegetables, creating a rich and flavorful broth. Shchi is typically served with a dollop of sour cream and a slice of crusty bread.


Rassolnik is another unique Russian soup that is worth trying. It combines pickles, barley, and meat (usually beef or pork) in a tangy and flavorful broth. The addition of pickles gives the soup a distinctive taste that is both refreshing and savory. Rassolnik is often enjoyed with a sprinkling of fresh herbs on top.


From the hearty and robust flavors of borscht to the tangy and unique combination of solyanka, Russian soups offer a wide range of flavors and textures. They are a reflection of the country’s culinary traditions and an essential part of the Russian dining experience. Whether you’re seeking comfort or exploration, indulging in popular Russian soups is a delightful way to discover the flavors of this diverse cuisine.


Classic Russian Main Courses

Russian cuisine is known for its hearty and comforting main courses that showcase a rich blend of flavors and ingredients. These classic dishes are often enjoyed with a side of bread or potatoes and are perfect for satisfying hunger and warming the soul.


One iconic main course in Russian cuisine is beef stroganoff. This delicious dish features tender strips of beef sautéed with mushrooms and onions, then finished in a creamy sour cream sauce. It is typically served over a bed of egg noodles or rice. The combination of savory beef, earthy mushrooms, and creamy sauce makes beef stroganoff a timeless favorite.


Chicken Kiev is another beloved Russian main course. This dish consists of a chicken breast rolled around a generous amount of herbed butter, then breaded and fried until golden and crispy. When sliced open, the melted butter oozes out, creating a mouthwatering experience. It is commonly served with mashed potatoes or a side of vegetables.


For those who enjoy seafood, try the classic Russian dish called shashlik. Shashlik is essentially marinated and grilled skewered meat, often made with chunks of lamb or pork. The meat is typically marinated in a mixture of vinegar, onions, and spices, which infuses it with a delicious flavor. Shashlik is a popular choice for outdoor barbecues and is often enjoyed with a side of fresh vegetables and a glass of chilled beverages.


Pelmeni is a traditional Russian dish that is popular as a main course or as a side dish. These small dumplings are typically filled with a mixture of ground meat (such as pork, beef, or a combination) and spices. Pelmeni are boiled and served with a dollop of butter or sour cream. They are a versatile and comforting option that can be enjoyed on their own or added to soups or stews.


Another noteworthy main course is golubtsy, stuffed cabbage rolls filled with a mixture of ground meat and rice. The cabbage leaves are blanched, then wrapped around the filling and simmered in a fragrant tomato sauce. Golubtsy are often served with a side of mashed potatoes or buckwheat, making for a satisfying and wholesome meal.


Classic Russian main courses provide a range of options that cater to different tastes and preferences. Whether you’re craving tender beef in a creamy sauce, juicy grilled meat skewers, or comforting cabbage rolls, these dishes offer a delightful journey into the heart of Russian cuisine. So pull up a chair, grab a fork, and savor the flavors of these time-honored main courses.


Famous Russian Side Dishes

In Russian cuisine, side dishes play an important role in complementing the main course and adding depth of flavor to the meal. From pickled vegetables to hearty potatoes, Russian side dishes are known for their versatility and ability to enhance any dining experience.


One iconic Russian side dish is pickled vegetables, often referred to as “selyodka.” This assortment of pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, and cabbage adds a tangy and refreshing element to any meal. The process of pickling preserves the vegetables and delivers a delightful combination of sourness and crunch. Selyodka is a ubiquitous addition to the Russian table and pairs well with main courses such as meat or fish.


Sauerkraut, or “kvashenaya kapusta,” is another popular side dish in Russian cuisine. It is made by fermenting finely shredded cabbage with salt, resulting in a tangy and slightly sour flavor. Sauerkraut is not only tasty but also provides numerous health benefits, as it is rich in vitamins and probiotics. It is often served alongside meat dishes or used as a filling in various traditional Russian recipes.


Boiled or mashed potatoes are staples in Russian cuisine and make for satisfying side dishes. “Kartofel’ v mundire,” or dressed potatoes, are boiled potatoes that are peeled and then tossed with butter or sour cream. Mashed potatoes, known as “kartofel’noye pюре,” are whipped with butter and milk until smooth and creamy. These simple yet flavorful potato dishes are a favorite accompaniment to many Russian main courses.


Rice pilaf, or “plov,” is a fragrant and hearty side dish that has its roots in Central Asian cuisine but is widely enjoyed in Russia. It typically consists of rice cooked with meat (such as lamb or chicken), onions, carrots, and spices. Plov is often garnished with fried onions and served as an accompaniment to meat or vegetable dishes. The combination of tender meat, aromatic rice, and savory flavors makes plov a satisfying addition to the Russian dining experience.


Mushroom julienne, or “gribnaya yusters,” is a beloved Russian side dish that showcases the earthy flavors of mushrooms. Sautéed mushrooms are mixed with sour cream, cheese, and herbs, then baked until golden and bubbling. The rich and creamy texture of mushroom julienne is the perfect complement to meat or poultry dishes.


Whether it’s the tangy pickled vegetables, the comforting mashed potatoes, or the aromatic rice pilaf, Russian side dishes add depth and flavor to meals. They provide a balance to the main course and offer a delightful range of tastes and textures. So, don’t forget to explore the variety of famous Russian side dishes to complete your culinary journey through this diverse cuisine.


Delicious Russian Desserts

Russian cuisine is renowned for its delectable desserts that capture the essence of sweet indulgence. From decadent cakes to delicate pastries, Russian desserts offer a delightful ending to any meal.


One of the most famous Russian desserts is Medovik, also known as “Honey Cake.” This layered cake is made with thin and moist honey-infused cakes stacked together with a luscious cream filling. The combination of honey, cream, and caramelized edges creates a harmonious blend of flavors and textures that is truly irresistible.


An absolute must-try dessert in Russian cuisine is ptichye moloko, which translates to “bird’s milk.” This soft and creamy dessert consists of delicate marshmallow-like foam covered in a layer of rich chocolate. The contrast between the light and fluffy center and the smooth chocolate coating makes for a heavenly treat.


No exploration of Russian desserts would be complete without mentioning syrniki. These cottage cheese pancakes are a popular indulgence, often enjoyed for breakfast or as a dessert. The pancakes are made with a mixture of cottage cheese, eggs, flour, and sugar, and then fried until golden and crispy. Syrniki are typically served with a dollop of sour cream, honey, or jam, resulting in a delightful combination of flavors.


If you have a passion for pastries, try the traditional Russian treat called Napoleon. This flaky puff pastry dessert is comprised of numerous layers of buttery pastry, separated by a sweet and creamy filling, often made with vanilla custard or a combination of butter and condensed milk. The result is a dessert that is both light and indulgent.


Russians also have a love for blini, thin pancakes that can be enjoyed in various ways. One popular dessert variation is blini served with sour cream and jam, offering a delightful balance of tanginess and sweetness. Blini can also be filled with sweet ingredients like cottage cheese, berries, or even chocolate for a more decadent dessert.


For a refreshing treat, try kissel, a fruit-based dessert with a jelly-like consistency. It is made by simmering berries or fruit in water, then adding sugar and starch to thicken the mixture. Kissel can be served warm or chilled and is often enjoyed with a dollop of sour cream or a drizzle of sweet syrup.


The world of Russian desserts is filled with a wide range of flavors and textures, from rich and creamy cakes to delicate pastries and fruity delights. Indulging in these delicious treats allows you to experience the sweet side of Russian culinary traditions. So take a moment to savor the delights of Russian desserts and treat yourself to a truly memorable culinary experience.


Well-known Russian Beverages

Russian cuisine is not limited to food alone; it also encompasses a variety of beloved beverages that are deeply ingrained in the country’s culture and traditions. From warming teas to unique fermented drinks, Russian beverages offer a wide range of flavors and experiences.


One of the most well-known Russian beverages is samovar tea. A samovar is a traditional Russian tea urn, which is used to heat water for tea preparation. The tea is typically served in a glass, and the hot water from the samovar is poured over a concentrated tea extract, creating a strong and aromatic brew. Samovar tea is often served with a slice of lemon or a cube of sugar, and is a symbol of hospitality and socializing in Russian culture.


Kvass is a popular and unique Russian beverage made from fermented grains, typically barley or rye. It has a slightly sour and tangy taste and is often enjoyed as a refreshing drink during hot summer months. Kvass can also be used as an ingredient in various recipes, such as soups or marinades. It is commonly sold in bottles or from street vendors, and is a beloved staple of Russian beverage culture.


Russian vodka is internationally renowned and holds a prominent place in the country’s beverage tradition. It is a clear and strong distilled spirit made from grains or potatoes. Vodka is often enjoyed straight in small shot glasses, but it can also be used as a base for various cocktails or enjoyed with traditional Russian food, such as pickles or smoked fish. It’s worth noting that while vodka is appreciated in Russian culture, it should be consumed responsibly.


Mors is a fruit-based drink commonly enjoyed in Russia. It is made by simmering berries (such as cranberries, lingonberries, or raspberries) with sugar and water, then straining the mixture to create a refreshing and tangy beverage. Mors can be served chilled or at room temperature and is a popular choice during the summer months.


Russians have a longstanding appreciation for various types of beer. Traditional Russian beer, known as “pivo,” can be found in a range of styles, from lighter lagers to darker and stronger brews. Beer has become increasingly popular in recent years, with craft breweries and beer festivals gaining popularity across the country.


For those who prefer non-alcoholic options, kvas is a great choice. It is a non-alcoholic fermented beverage made from bread, sugar, and yeast. Kvas has a slightly sweet and tangy taste, and is often enjoyed chilled during the summer months as a refreshing and unique alternative to carbonated soft drinks.


Russian beverages offer a diverse array of flavors and experiences, from the traditional samovar tea to the unique fermented drink kvass. Whether you’re seeking a warm and comforting beverage or a refreshing summertime drink, exploring the well-known Russian beverages will undoubtedly enrich your culinary journey through this captivating cuisine.


Unique Russian Snacks

When it comes to snacks, Russian cuisine offers a variety of unique and flavorful options that are perfect for satisfying those midday cravings or accompanying a cup of tea. From savory to sweet, here are some distinctively Russian snacks that are worth trying.


One popular savory snack in Russia is the pirozhki. These small pastries are filled with a variety of ingredients, such as meat, cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, or cheese. Pirozhki can be baked or fried, resulting in a deliciously crispy exterior and a flavorful filling. They are commonly enjoyed as a quick snack or as a light meal on-the-go.


Sushki are another distinctive Russian snack that is both crunchy and addictive. These small, dry bagel-shaped biscuits are typically made from a simple dough of flour, sugar, and water. Sushki are often eaten as a snack with tea or used in traditional Russian games, where participants attempt to string and eat as many sushki as possible without using their hands.


For those with a taste for the sea, try the beloved Russian snack called vobla. Vobla is a type of dried fish, usually from the Caspian Sea or the Volga River. It is traditionally seasoned and then air-dried, resulting in a crispy and flavorful snack. Vobla is often enjoyed with cold beer or as an accompaniment to other appetizers.


If you have a sweet tooth, then try the classic Russian treat known as pastila. This soft and chewy fruit candy is made by slowly baking a mixture of sugar, honey, and whipped fruit puree. Pastila comes in a variety of flavors, including apple, cherry, and strawberry. It is enjoyed as a sweet snack or as a dessert, often paired with a cup of tea.


Another unique and tasty Russian snack is halva. Halva is a sweet confection made from ground sunflower seeds or sesame seeds, mixed with sugar or honey. It has a distinctively crumbly texture and comes in various flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, or nut. Halva is commonly enjoyed as a bite-sized treat or crumbled over desserts and breakfast dishes.


Lastly, no discussion of Russian snacks would be complete without mentioning the ubiquitous sunflower seeds. In Russia, it is common to see people cracking open and enjoying sunflower seeds, especially during social gatherings or while watching sports. Sunflower seeds are a popular and addictive snack that provides a satisfyingly salty and crunchy experience.


Russian snacks offer a delightful range of flavors and textures, from the savory pirozhki to the sweet pastila and halva. Whether you’re seeking a quick bite or a treat to satisfy your cravings, these unique Russian snacks deliver a taste of the country’s culinary heritage. So, be sure to explore these delicious treats and experience the joy of Russian snacking culture.


Russian Food Etiquette

When dining in Russia or enjoying Russian cuisine, it is important to be aware of the cultural food etiquette to show respect and appreciation for the traditions and customs. Here are some key points to keep in mind:


First and foremost, it is customary to say “Priyatnogo Appetita” (enjoy your meal) before beginning to eat. This polite gesture demonstrates your appreciation for the food and also acknowledges the efforts of the cook.


In formal dining situations, it is customary to wait until the host or the eldest person at the table begins eating before you start. This shows respect for hierarchy and is considered good manners.


When sitting down at the table, it is customary to keep your hands in plain view, resting them on the table. This signals that you are not hiding anything and are ready to engage in the meal conversation.


When toasting with alcoholic beverages, it is important to maintain eye contact with the person you are toasting, clink glasses gently, and take a sip of your drink after the toast. It is also customary to accept every toast that is offered, even if you have just a symbolic sip.


When eating soup, it is best to use your spoon rather than slurping directly from the bowl. It is also polite to avoid making noise while eating and to eat at a moderate pace, matching the pace of others at the table.


While dining, it is courteous to keep your elbows off the table. Rest your wrists on the edge of the table, but not your forearms.


It is polite to try a bit of everything on your plate, even if you have dietary restrictions. It shows appreciation for the efforts made in preparing the meal. However, if you are unable to eat certain dishes due to allergies or dietary restrictions, it is acceptable to politely decline.


When you have finished eating, place your utensils parallel to each other on your plate with the handles facing to the right. This signals to the server that you have finished and are ready for your plate to be cleared.


Lastly, it is common to offer compliments to the host or cook after the meal. Expressing your appreciation for the food and the dining experience is a way to show respect and gratitude.


By observing these etiquette guidelines, you can ensure a respectful and enjoyable dining experience in Russia. Embracing the cultural customs and traditions surrounding Russian food not only enhances your culinary journey but also fosters meaningful connections with the people you share the meal with.



Exploring Russian cuisine is like embarking on a culinary adventure filled with rich flavors, hearty dishes, and cultural traditions. From traditional breakfast options like kasha and blini to iconic soups such as borscht and solyanka, Russian food offers a diverse and satisfying range of flavors.


When it comes to main courses, Russian cuisine impresses with dishes like beef stroganoff, chicken Kiev, and shashlik. These hearty and flavorful options showcase the country’s culinary heritage and are sure to satisfy even the most discerning palate.


No Russian meal is complete without a taste of the famous side dishes like pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, or dressed potatoes. These accompaniments add depth and tang to the dining experience, elevating the flavors of the main course.


For those with a sweet tooth, Russian desserts like Medovik, ptichye moloko, and syrniki provide the perfect indulgence. These delectable treats offer a delightful combination of flavors and textures, leaving a lasting impression.


And let’s not forget the well-known Russian beverages that add a touch of authenticity to the dining experience. From the traditional samovar tea to the unique flavors of kvass and the renowned Russian vodka, these beverages provide a refreshing way to complement the flavors of the food.


Throughout your culinary journey, being mindful of Russian food etiquette ensures a respectful and enjoyable dining experience. Following customs like saying “Priyatnogo Appetita” before starting a meal or waiting for the host to begin eating demonstrates appreciation for the culture and traditions of Russian dining.


In conclusion, Russian cuisine offers a rich tapestry of flavors, traditions, and cultural heritage. Exploring the traditional breakfast dishes, iconic soups, hearty main courses, famous side dishes, delicious desserts, well-known beverages, and unique snacks of Russian cuisine is a delightful way to connect with the culture and immerse yourself in the rich culinary traditions of this diverse country.


So, whether you’re planning to visit Russia or simply looking to expand your culinary horizons, embrace the flavors, embrace the warmth, and embrace the richness of Russian cuisine.