What kinds of foods would you find Russian people eating for breakfast on a typical day? While hotels and bed & breakfasts usually provide American-style breakfasts with cereal, eggs, and orange juice, these types of foods are highly atypical for most Russian homes.
The reason you won’t find “traditional” Russian foods in most hotel breakfast spreads is that Russian breakfasts tend to be simple, filling, and not particularly appetizing (to someone who is not used to these foods at breakfast). Personally, I find a Russian breakfast delicious and comforting, but then again I ate it growing up for many years!
Rye Bread and Sausage
The most common foods on the Russian breakfast table are rye bread, (optional) butter, and sliced sausage. With these, a sort of open-faced sandwich is created, although that name is really too ornate for what it actually looks like. The sausage is usually a simple soft sausage similar to Bavarian sausage, not a harder one like salami; although some Russian people do prefer a more salami-style sausage.
Rye bread is a staple in most Russian homes; it is a dark brown color and is called “black bread” in Russian. It has a strong, sweet flavor and is quite tough, not soft like typical white or brown bread. Some Russian families do eat white bread, but it is rare to see “whole-wheat” or brown bread on a Russian family table.
Eggs – particularly scrambled eggs – are also sometimes made on the weekends, and you will definitely find them in hotels and restaurants. These are usually not served with hash browns as is typical in America; normally eggs are simply eaten alone or with bread. Some Russian people put mayonnaise on their eggs although ketchup is usually available.
Some people, and especially children, eat “porridge” for breakfast, much like the American oatmeal. Porridge is made from semolina, millet, buckwheat or barley and is cooked with milk and sugar. Sometimes it is also eaten with jam and can be served cold or hot. Oatmeal is not eaten very often.
Pastries and Sweets
Fruit, jam, and other sweet foods are typically not eaten at breakfast. However, many school and office cafeterias serve sweet buns with raisins as a mid-morning snack which some people eat instead of breakfast.
Although pastries such as croissants are almost never seen on Russian family tables, you will probably find them in hotels and restaurants.
Pancakes and Crepes
In hotels, cafes, and in some Russian homes on the weekends and on special occasions, you may see more elaborate food being served. For example, you will probably find Russian pancakes (blini). These are about the same size as – but more substantial than – French crepes, although they are less thick than Dutch pannekoeken and much thinner and wider than American-style pancakes. Russians also have a version which is small and thick like American pancakes; these are called "оладьи" (oladyi). Both blini and oladyi are served with butter and sour cream, jam, or caviar.
The reason these are not served every day in Russian homes (other than being fattening, of course!) is that they are a bit cumbersome to make and require a lot of time and attention, which most Russian people do not wish to dedicate to making breakfast in the morning.
Tea and Coffee
Usually, Russian people drink black tea with their breakfast; some drink coffee, but tea is definitely the more common and traditional drink. Juice of any kind is usually never present at the breakfast table.
Breakfast at Restaurants and Cafes
Not many Russian restaurants serve breakfast. Instead, look for coffee shops and cafes such as “Кофе Хауз” (Coffee House), which often offer breakfast in the morning, and head to restaurants for dinner or lunch instead.