Kazakhstan is one of the world’s largest landlocked countries. Kazakh people were herders for hundreds of years which left a strong impact on their culture and Kazakhstan food. They raised camels, horses, and lambs and relied on these animals for clothing, transportation, and food.
Traditional Kazakh cuisine is a blend of different meat dishes. Most of the dishes include horses, lamb, goats, camels, and cattle meat. They also have a vast variety of desserts, with milk and dough as the main ingredients.
What Is Special About Kazakhstan Food?
The best word to describe Kazakhstan food is “meat”. Any traditional lunch or meal will contain meat, where the key ingredient will be mostly lamb or horse meat. Meat is usually boiled and served in large uncut pieces.
Kazakhs take special care of their horses, which are intended to slaughter. They keep them separate from other animals. These horses are fed so much that they become fat making it harder for them to move.
If you are a fan of chicken, you might be disappointed as poultry don’t even qualify as meat in Kazakh cuisine. Beef is also very rare to find here. But you can find many dairy products in Kazakh food or desserts.
Most Popular Food In Kazakhstan
Beshbarmak (Boiled Meat With Noodles)
Beshbarmak ranks high in the list of the best and most popular foods in Kazakhstan. It is a common Central Asian cuisine that is considered the national dish of Kazakhstan. This symbolic Kazakh dish is part of almost every feast here.
The traditional Kazakh food includes finely chopped boiled meat with noodles. It is commonly made with horse meat or mutton. Some places also substitute the meat option with beef.
This iconic Kazakhstan food has a salty, rich, and hearty flavor. It is served with broth on a wide platter or tray. The onion slices are placed on top for garnishing and an extra zing.
Kazakhstan Food – Non-Veg/Meat Dishes
Kuyrdak (Roasted Stew Meat)
Kuyrdak, a traditional Kazakh food, is a meat stew dish loved by everyone. This dish is quite common and found almost everywhere in central Asia. It can be served as a main course or more typically as an appetizer before the main meal – especially Beshbarmak.
This satisfying Central Asian food is made from roasted mutton, beef, or other meats. In Kazakhstan, it can be made with sheep liver, kidney, heart, and lungs. All the organs are cooked in oil, onion, flavorful spices, and other veggies.
This hearty and warm dish is tasty in its own way. You can enjoy it with the famous Kazakh bread, called “tandoori naan”. The warm sips of black tea with this tasty dish will further delight your taste buds.
Kazy (Horse Sausages)
Kazy, also spelt as Qazi, is another popular Kazakhstan food. The dish is a common item for festive events in the country. It is also widely eaten in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Traditionally, it is made with horse meat sausages. The mixture is prepared from horse ribs and seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. Then it is filled into the horse intestine and boiled.
The sausages are sliced and served with onions and seasonal veggies. They are common as appetizers and also added to a variety of other Kazakh cuisine. Every bite of this local dish feels heavenly and gives an earthy and smoky taste.
If you have never tried horse meat, this is one way to get a taste of it.
Kazakh Laghman (Pulled Noodles)
Kazakh Laghman is a dish famous throughout Central Asia. The natives of Kazakhstan often claim it as a Kazakh food. However, it is believed that it was the ancestors of the Uyghur group living in Kazakhstan who introduced this food into the country.
Whatever the history is, its incredible taste makes it so special. The main ingredients include long noodles, meat (beef, lamb, or chicken), and veggies. The common vegetables used are bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, squash, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, spices, and herbs.
It is a simple dish but offers a burst of flavors. The noodles feel slightly chewy and are loaded with a thick and hearty sauce. This traditional Kazakhstan food is served with broth, as a soup, or as a noodle dish.
Kazakh Manti (Dumplings)
Manti is a delicious meat dish in Kazakhstan. You can find its different versions in almost every Central Asian and East Asian cuisine. In Kazakhstan, this meat delicacy is also a beloved street food loved by the locals.
These steamed dumplings are filled with minced meat (typically made of beef, lamb, or horsemeat). The filling is seasoned with black pepper, chopped pumpkin, and onions. Then, it is wrapped with the dough.
This delicious Kazakhstan food is topped with sour cream and served with tomato sauce or onion sauce. Some places also offer a vegetarian version in which meat is substituted with potato filling.
Best Kazakhstan Food – Fish And Seafood Dishes
Karmà (Boiled Creamy Fish)
Kazakh cuisine also offers a wide range of seafood varieties. Although fish dishes are not very common here, they always succeed in delighting your taste buds. Karmà is also one such Kazakh food made with fish without small bones.
This seafood dish is prepared using carp or pike perch fish. The fish is cut into chunks, boiled, and mixed with noodles. Finally, it is graced with a generous amount of butter.
This Kazakhstan food is especially popular in the Southern region of the country. It has a creamy texture and has an incredible taste. It is a must-try item if you are visiting the country for the first time.
Koktal (Smoked Carp Fish)
Koktal is the most famous fish dish in Kazakhstan. The name koktal actually means willow, because this Kazak food is smoked on large willow branches. This delicacy is not only tasty but healthy as well.
This food in Kazahkastan is made using carp fish. The fish is cut into halves and coated with chopped tomatoes, pickled cucumber, and potatoes. Then it is cooked on willow branches.
Every bite of this Kazakh food feels juicy and hot. It excites your tastebuds with a burst of flavor. In addition, this fancy treat is often served in a cocktail bowl accompanied by veggies.
Kazakhstan Food – Bread And Pastries
Baursak (Puffy Fried Bread)
Bread products are the most significant part of local Kazakh cuisine. Baursak is a traditional bread of Kazakh, enjoyed commonly by the locals. It is popular in several other Central Asian nations as well.
The sweet-tasting dish includes small chunks of dough made of flour, yeast, milk, eggs, butter, salt, and sugar. Then the sphere or triangular-shaped chunks are fried in oil till the crust goes crispy.
This traditional Kazakh food is served as appetizers and desserts drizzled with sweet syrup and honey. Some people like to have it after the main courses. These light snacks are best to enjoy with Kazakh tea.
Shelpeki (Unleavened Bread)
Shelpeki is a thin unleavened bread of Kazakhstan, that is also commonly found throughout Central Asia. This light flatbread has a soft texture with a rich golden color.
The traditional Kazakh food is made with flour, sugar, milk, butter, and yeast. The mixture is stuffed in dough and shaped in a thin circular shape. Then it is fried in hot vegetable oil until golden brown.
You can enjoy this tasty snack with any meal. It is especially popular as a side dish for soups and pairing for afternoon teas. Some people like to have it with jam, sour cream or cheese for extra flavor.
Tandoor Naan (Leavened Bread)
Tandoor Naan is the most common Kazakh bread. A fun fact about Kazakhstan is that Tandoor Naan is also considered the national bread of the land. This bread is enjoyed with many Kazakh foods or with sour cream and jam for breakfast.
The yeast bread is round and has a distinct stamping pattern on top. It has raised edges with a decorative pattern in the center. The bread is traditionally baked in a clay oven locally known as tandoor.
This Kazakhstan food is topped with sesame seeds to give it an exciting and appealing look. You can easily find it in any local food market. It is especially common in Southern Kazakhstan.
Samsas (Savory Puff Pastries)
Samsas is savory street food in Kazakhstan. It is a puff pastry commonly filled with a mixture of beef, onion, and cheese. Some places also add pumpkin and potatoes to make it more flavorful.
The outer puffy bun is usually made of yeast and unleavened dough. In addition, the dough is stuffed with filling and also baked in the same tandoor clay oven.
You can find this pastry in various shapes, triangular, round, or square. It is commonly served as a hot snack by the street vendor. It means you can easily find this Kazakhstan food while roaming around the streets.
Traditional Kazakhstan Food – Soups And Stews
Sorpo (Meat Broth)
Sorpo is also called shurpa or shorpo. It is considered the most common soup in Kazakh food, mostly created with leftover meat from beshbarmak. Interestingly, yhe soup is served in special Chinese bowls, called kese.
To prepare this Kazakhstan food, lamb or horse meat is boiled and cooked in water. It is then filtered, poured in a bowl and served with chopped meat, potatoes, and carrots. You can enjoy sorpo alongside meat and noodles.
Kespe (Noodle Soup)
Kespe is a famous Kazakhstan food usually containing noodles, herbs, and carrots. As a crowd favorite, it is a well loved soup among Kazakh children and adults.
The meat soup consists of egg noodles, some veggies, and native herbs. All these ingredients are added to a boiled broth, which is created either from horse or camel meat. Sometimes it is also prepared with beef.
This traditional Kazakhstan food is cooked with the bones of the animal which makes it richer and more flavorful. Don’t let its simplicity fool you.
Naryn (Noodle Soup With Horse Meat)
Naryn is another traditional Kazakh food. Typically, it is prepared with finely chopped dough pieces and meat. The broth is usually served separately in a bowl.
In ancient times, the leftover horse meat, noodles, and beshbarmak broth were used to create this delicious dish. Beshbarmak is usually served at holidays and the leftovers are recycled to make this food in Kazakhstan.
Nowadays, beshbarmak is considered an independent dish in Kazakh cuisine. It is prepared with thin noodles and meat broth. The ingredients are then mixed with finely chopped meat.
Nan-Salma (Pasta With Chicken)
Nan-Salma is a Kazakh food, very similar to lagman. This unusual dish from Kazakh cuisine, consists of lamb or beef gravy, meat, and small pieces of cooked dough. The dough prepared for nan-salma is just like the one we get in dumplings.
The preparation of noodles for nan-salma makes it unique. These noodles are hand drawn and require special skills and experience. It is not an easy dish to make it yourself, so you are not just getting the food but also years of traditional practice with it.
Kazakh Food – Dairy Products
Kurt (Fermented Milk Balls)
Kurt is a traditional Kazakh food that resembles dried milk balls. The dish is made from salt, sour milk, and pepper. Sheep or mare’s milk are usually used in the process.
These cute Kazakh balls are of apricot size with 2 to 5 centimeters width. They are tasty as well as healthy with a lot of calcium. Most mothers give these balls to their kids as a healthy evening snack.
Interestingly, this traditional Kazakhstan food is kind of salty in taste. They are often served along with kumis or added to soups, stews, and salads. You can enjoy these savory balls as snacks with the beer.
Kaymak (Soft Cream)
Kaymak is another mouthwatering Kazakhstan food made of dairy. It is a fresh thick cream enjoyed with a variety of Kazakh food. The cream has a soft and fluffy texture with a rich and mild fermented taste.
It is prepared using the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, and sheep. The milk is boiled slowly on low heat. Then it is kept in the fridge to cool for hours to days.
The delicious thick cream is a popular breakfast food in Kazakhstan. It can be served along with honey and bread. The cream can also be eaten with fresh fruits to enhance the richness and flavor of fruits.
Drinks In Kazakh Cuisine
Kazakh cuisine also includes several luscious and unique drinks to boost your energy. Black tea is the most popular and common Kazakh drink, enjoyed at home and is also readily sold in markets. This flavourful tea has a strong base and it is healthy as well.
Mostly black tea is known as red tea in Kazakhstan. It is because of the red hue after the addition of milk. Some places also add lemon, fennel, and cardamom to enhance its flavor.
Traditionally, this black tea is served in a ceramic bowl locally known as Piyala. Natives enjoy this lively tea with their various Kazakh food and snacks. It is also a common drink for family gatherings throughout the country.
Kumys (Sour Mare Milk)
Kumys or kumis is another national and popular summer drink of Kazakhstan. It is a significant part of several Central Asian cuisines including the Kazakh food scene. You are going to love the beverage due to its refreshing and beneficial properties.
This Kazakh drink is traditionally made from fermented mare milk. It is mainly an alcoholic drink featuring slightly sour flavor with a bit of a fizzy character.
This unique Kazakh drink is usually enjoyed chilled. It is traditionally served in a small bowl called a Piyala. You can try this drink before eating any Kazakh food in the morning.
Shubat (Fermented Camel Milk)
Shubat is another healthy and tasty addition to Kazakh cuisine. The drink is also known as chal in several Central Asian countries. It is especially popular in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkismentan.
Shubat is made from fermented camel milk and kefir. Just like kumis, this drink is also nutritious with several health benefits. It is thicker than milk and has a slightly sour taste.
Shubat is mostly known as a popular staple summer Kazakh drink. It is also an expensive treat to relish your taste buds but you should give this tangy Kazakh beverage a try given the opportunity.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Kazakh Food
The lifestyle of people in Kazakhstan ensures that Kazakh food is highly nutritious and can be preserved for a long time.
Most Kazakh cooking techniques and ingredients are influenced by local culture and traditions. They use salting and drying methods to save the food. Similarly, they prefer sour milk, as it is easier to preserve.