Located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, the country of Georgia is a small but proud country of about 3.7 million with rich cultural and culinary influences from Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. Because food styles range from region to region, each Georgian dish can be made several different ways. Exploring the food of these regions offers great insight into the many Kingdoms and eras that have morphed into what makes modern day Georgia. From cheesy pastries to juicy and meaty stews to candle-shaped fruit and nut candies, there’s a dish for everybody in Georgian cuisine, and you’ll want to try them all.
This cheese-filled bread is the national dish of Georgia, and a carb load you won’t be able to get enough of. The shape, style, and ingredients of khachapuri vary depending on the region, but it’s most commonly seen as a yeasted bread stuffed with Imeretian cheese, salt, and sometimes egg yolks. Other iterations include boat-shaped bread with feta or mozzarella, tons of butter, potato, or layered like a cheese lasagna. You can try several versions of this dish at Sakhachapure #1, which offers large portions for a fair price.
Ostri is a hot and spicy beef stew, made with tomato sauce, mushrooms, garlic, herbs, red pepper, and spices to create a comforting, filling, and hearty meal. Sometimes you might see this dish confused with chashushuli, which is similar only the meat is cooked separately and then the tomatoes and mushroom sauce is added later. With ostri, all of it is cooked together, which adds a lot of meaty flavor to the dish. Try ostri at Racha Tavern, a very local, authentic spot in Tbilisi that will keep your wallet and your belly full.
The national dish of the Svans (Svaneti is in the northern region of Georgia), kubdari is pastry of leavened bread stuffed with chunky meat like lamb or pork and seasoned with onion, garlic, and spices like coriander, red pepper, and thyme. It’s then fried on both sides in a pan and baked in the oven and served hot. Try this dish at Restaurant Lushnu Qor for a nice outdoor meal and great service.
Hailing from the Samegrelo region of Georgia, Elarji is made from cornmeal and cornflour with sulguni cheese that’s cooked for about an hour and served with bazha (a walnut sauce). The consistency is thick and very elastic, which makes it super stretchy (like when you’re stretching out pizza dough). Try this mouth-watering cheesy delight at Mapshalia, a hidden gem that’s decorated with super cool carvings on the wall.
Pkhali basically translates to “chopped salads,” and is typically composed of whatever veggies are around (like eggplant, carrots, spinach, cabbage, beans, or beets) and then mixed in with walnuts, onion, garlic, cilantro, and vinegar or lemon juice. It can be eaten as a side dish, served over bread, or as a combo with other types of pkhali. Try some at Shavi Lomi in Tbilisi.
Shaped like a candle or large carrot, this Georgian candy is made of grape juice-coated nuts and also happens to double as a decoration. Though there are many different varieties for these sweet treats, the process for making them is typically to thread walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts along a string and then dip the formation into grape juice, sugar, and flour so it gets super soaked and coated with a thick layer. Then the candied nuts air dry for several days. Try it at any of the local markets or their unique take on churchkhela at Barbarestan.
These Georgian meat dumplings are as delicious as any other and are typically stuffed with veal or pork and fresh herbs, chili pepper, and onions. Khinkali originated in the mountains of Georgia—specifically Pshavi, Mtiuleti and Khevsureti—before spreading to the rest of the country. Broth is usually added to the meat, making this dish very juicy (so don’t try eating it with a fork!). You can try the khinkali at Maspindzelo.
Sort of like the Georgian ratatouille, this vegetarian vegetable stew can be served cold or hot. It includes veggies like eggplant, red pepper, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, and garlic, and can be served with bread. It makes an excellent summer dish—light, healthy, yet still satisfying. Try it at Cafe Tiflisi, a cozy and romantic spot that serves tons of great traditional Georgian national dishes.
Like many Georgian dishes, there’s a wide range of ways to make lobio. A common version of it is served cold and made with dark red, cooked kidney beans mixed and mashed with garlic, walnuts, chili pepper, onions, coriander, and vinegar. It can also be prepared with meat, and ranges in levels of spiciness. Try lobio at Salobie Bia, which comes with vegetables and Georgian cornbread.
Sort of like a Georgian take on a fruit leather, this rolled fruit snack is made with pureed fruit like fig, plums, cherries, or apricot, and is sometimes used to add flavor to stews. They make a fun quick bite and you can easily find them along the side of the road, so just stop at any number of these little stands and get one as an afternoon pick me up.