15 Traditional Russian Foods You Must Try

Plove or Pilaf (pilau) with lamb meat

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Russia may not be the first to come to mind when you think of a food destination, but the country has plenty of delicious traditional dishes to try. Visitors to Russia are often surprised at the variety and flavors of Russian cuisine, which is influenced by Russia's connection to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The most classic Russian recipes are made of veggies and wheat, such as soups, porridges, and stuffed dough.

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Borscht

Borscht
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Borscht is a beet soup that originated in Ukraine and was quickly adopted as a Russian specialty. Beets may seem like a strange base for soup to many Westerners, but there are plenty of reasons that this hearty soup is one of Russia’s most famous dishes. It is full of meat and sautéed vegetables, including cabbage, carrots, onions, and potatoes. It can be served hot or cold and is best served with a dollop of fresh sour cream on top.

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Shchi

Rice and smothered cabbage soup
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Shchi is a typical cabbage soup made from either fresh or fermented cabbage. While different recipes call for various ingredients, shchi often contains potatoes, carrots, onions, and possibly some meat such as chicken. The cabbage can also be replaced with sauerkraut, called sour shchi.

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Solyanka

Russian food: Solyanka - spicy and sour soup
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Solyanka is a thick soup that is plentiful enough to be a meal in itself. This soup is made with various types of meat, including sausage, bacon, ham, and beef, as well as vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Chopped pickles and the traditional lemon slice garnish play an essential role in giving this recipe its sour flavor. It is often also made with fish and pickled cucumbers.

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Ukha

Uha. Fish soup.
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If you like seafood, try ukha, a fish soup with a clear broth. Many different kinds of fish can be used to make this soup, including bream, wels catfish, northern pike, and ruffe. The remaining ingredients are not unlike what you might find in a traditional chicken soup—think root vegetables, parsley, leeks, and dill.

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Pirozhki

Russian pirozhki on baking tray
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You may have already heard of pirozhki (also known as piroshki or pyrizhky). These little baked or fried puff pastries are packed with potatoes, meat, cabbage, or cheese. The stuffed pockets are popular all around Russia and Ukraine.

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Pelmeni

Pelmeni
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Pelmeni is considered the national dish of Russia. They are pastry dumplings are typically filled with minced meat and wrapped in a thin, pasta-like dough. They can be served alone, slathered in butter and topped with sour cream, or in a soup broth. A favorite in Russia and Eastern Europe!

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Blini

Tasting traditional Russian cuisine
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Blini is a wheat pancake rolled with various fillings: jam, cheese, sour cream, caviar, onions, or even chocolate syrup. It is Russia's equivalent of a crepe. At any restaurant where you aren't sure of any of the other dishes, blini are always a safe bet. Blini are such an important part of Russian cuisine that a festival called Maslenitsa celebrates the beginning of spring with them.

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Shashlik

Chicken breast and vegetables skewers
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Russian kebabs are called shashlyk or shashlik. Like any kebab, they consist of cubed meat and veggies grilled on skewers. They have roots in the Caucasian Mountains, where 19th-century tribe members would prepare them over an open flame.

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Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff
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Beef stroganoff consists of sauteed beef strips served in a creamy sauce with mushrooms or tomatoes, often served with rice, noodles, or potatoes. This recipe has a long history, and many variations for its preparation exist, but its roots are in mid-19th-century Russia.

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Ikra

Russian food: a rice and fish salad with red caviar
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Caviar, or ikra, is really something to get worked up about in Russia. Briny and sharp, it is often served on dark, crusty bread or with blini, which are like pancakes or crepes. Caviar on buttered bread is a popular zakuska.

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Smetana

Eastern European tea traditions
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You can expect to find sour cream or smetana, accompanying almost any Russian traditional food—with crepes, soups, and even sometimes in dessert. This sour cream is fresh and melts into any warm dish, adding to its distinctive flavor. (You will likely often see it in beef stroganoff.)

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Vodka

Bottles of Russian Vodka
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Russia is well-known for vodka, so you can expect to find many varieties throughout the country, such as Russian Standard Gold, Moskovskaya Osobaya, Kauffman, and Beluga Noble. Russian beverage menus can also include tea, mineral water, beer, and soda.

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Kvass

Cold kvass from rye bread
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Kvass is a refreshing fermented beverage with slight carbonation. Although it has a very slight alcohol content, it is not considered an alcoholic beverage. It is made from black or regular rye bread or dough and can be flavored with a variety of different things, ranging from honey to berries to herbs.

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Morozhenoe

Morozhenoe
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Russians love ice cream, called morozhenoe. It is common to find it on many restaurant menus with various toppings​ , like fruit, nuts, or chocolate. Unlike more traditional Western ice cream, morozhenoe is much creamier, thanks to the fresh milk and a higher ice ratio to dairy.

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Pashka

Traditional cottage cheese Easter paskha . Russian paskha. Easter dessert. Easter table. Still life. Cottage cheese dessert
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Paskha is a festive dessert that is commonly made around Easter in Eastern Orthodox countries. This sweetened cheesecake dessert is decorated with Christian symbols as a part of the holiday feast.