Russia is the great bear. It’s a massive country with a rich, although at times misunderstood, history. It is a proud and tough land that breeds proud and strong people, and those people have to eat! When the locals in Russia get hungry they turn to delectable Russian food to satisfy them!
What Is Special About Russian Food
Russian cuisine is commonly misunderstood. Locals in Russia eat far more than potatoes and vodka! The food here is complex and inspiring.
The flavors in typical Russian foods play on every part of your taste buds and the style here is rooted firmly in fine dining techniques. Local cooks have mastered seasonings to create a truly unique style of cooking that has inspired so many other European nations.
Given the size of Russia, there are local variations to many of the traditional Russian dishes based on what is agriculturally available. Only about 14 percent of Russia is suitable for agriculture, but foraging is popular throughout the country.
That said, some things remain the same across Russia, like their love of sour flavors and root vegetables. Mushrooms, sour cream, beef, and buckwheat are Russian food staples.
Most Famous Russian Food
Pelmeni (Russian Dumplings)
This traditional Russian cuisine dates all the way back to the indigenous Siberian people. Pelmeni are Russian dumplings and they are one of the most beloved foods in the country. In fact, many consider this the national food of Russia.
Russians eat Pelmeni all the time as they are super versatile! You will be able to find this typical Russian food in restaurants and street vendors throughout Russia.
These delicious dumplings come with a wide range of fillings, but they always start the same. Pelmeni begins with flour dough, rolled into thin rounds, and then stuffed with luscious fillings.
Common fillings include mincemeat, mushrooms, or a blend of the two. Russian dumplings are included in other dishes like soups and stews, but they are also enjoyed in sauce or on their own.
This Russian national dish is the perfect way to get a feel for how the locals eat!
Traditional Russian Food
Russia is home to the Caspian Sea, which is renowned for the sturgeons that live there and the caviar that they produce. Caviar is an essential part of Russian cuisine.
Red caviar is enjoyed by locals in Russia all the time, but black caviar is reserved for special occasions. This famous Russian food is often enjoyed with crepes or small toasts for a rich and decadent snack.
Smetana (Sour Cream)
Most Russians cannot picture mealtime without this rich dairy product. Smetana is a popular dairy product similar to sour cream only with much higher fat content.
This creamy Russian food can have as high a fat content as 42 percent! All that milkfat makes this sour cream extra thick and luscious. Smetana is eaten by Russians with breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
Stroganina (Russian Raw Fish Delicacy)
This delicious food in Russia celebrates the wonderful Siberian fish available to locals. It is the product of ice fishing during the early fall.
Chefs expertly cut raw frozen fish off the bone in tasty ribbons. This traditional Russian dish is a true delicacy that may be rare to find. If you get a chance to try it, Stroganina is simply delicious!
Gribnoy Zhul’yen (Mushroom Julienne)
Mushrooms are an amazing food that can thrive virtually everywhere, even in the cold climate of Russia, this makes them a common ingredient in Russian cooking.
One of local Russians’ favorite ways to eat mushrooms is in Mushroom Julienne; a luscious dish made from mushrooms baked in smetana and finished with a thick topping of cheese. The cheesy topping gets wonderfully thick and crisp when baked and the smetana and mushroom mixture is lush and creamy.
You can easily find this typical Russian food in restaurants and homes throughout Russia.
Borodinskiy Khleb (Russian Rye)
This wonderful Russian bread is found in households and restaurants nationwide. It takes some serious baking know-how to make rich Russian rye bread, but well worth the effort.
This delicious bread uses rye flour and a touch of beet sweetness, but the real trick is the starter. This dough for this classic Russian food staple is made using a starter dough that adds loads of depth and a slight sour note to the rye. Russians eat this bread at all times of the day. It is used for cold-cut sandwiches, toasts, and more!
Holodets (Meat Jelly)
Russia is home to a huge population of Orthodox Christians and this means that Christmas and Easter time are extra special. Many special dishes are made around these holidays, including Holodets or cold meat jelly.
This traditional Russian cuisine has been served on special occasions in the country for centuries. It is typically made with pig’s feet that are cooked down in liquid and then set in a special mold. The natural gelatin in the animal’s feet helps this mold set into a meaty jelly that can be enjoyed on rye bread or crackers.
Russian Food: Salads
Salat Olivye (Olivier Salad)
This awesomely flavorful potato salad has been exported all around the world and is beloved for its delicious vegetable flavor!
Olivier salad is typically made with boiled potatoes, peas, pickles, carrots, onions, eggs, apples, and sometimes meat. It is dressed with mustard, seasonings, and mayo to make one of the most flavorful mash-ups in history.
It is a must-have dish when celebrating New Year’s Eve, or Novy God, but no matter the day this classic food in Russia is a sensation!
Seld Pod Shuboi (Herring Salad)
Russian cold salads are world-renowned and for great reason, they’re amazing! One deliciously layered salad locals love to eat is Seld Pod Shuboi. Its literal translation is “Herring under a Fur Coat,” and that funny name helps capture the spirit of this crowd-pleasing Russian cuisine.
This local favorite is made by layering pickled herring and cold vegetables, typically carrots, onions, and beets. The whole salad is dressed with mayonnaise and seasoned with spices and herbs like dill. This popular dish in Russia is a fixture at most local gatherings and special events.
Vinegret (Beet Salad)
Russians know that the key to a good party is food and that is why the tradition of zakuska or a celebratory buffet is so popular. Many traditional Russian foods are designed to be part of a zakuska like Vinegret, or cooked beet salad.
This colorful cold salad is a delicious and naturally vegan appetizer that locals cannot get enough of. The salad features beets, cooked potatoes, carrots, onions, and either sauerkraut or pickles. It has all the pickled flavors and crunchy textures you could dream of in a salad!
Salat Mimoza (Mimosa Salad)
One famous Russian food that always completes the party is Mimosa salad. This delectable cold salad is a mainstay at Russian celebrations and get-togethers. This party-ready dish is made up of layers of canned fish, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and onions, and it’s all dressed in mayonnaise.
This classic Russian dish is a must-have for any Easter celebration. Its fun flavor and bright color will make you bloom with springtime joy!
Russian Food: Pies
Kulebyaka (Fish And Egg Pie)
This beautiful dish is a classic piece of Russian cuisine. Kulebyaka is a traditional Russian pirog or pie made with a wonderful savory filling. This traditional Russian food will fill you for hours with its rich, protein-packed filling.
The basis of this pie in Russian is always sturgeon, often sourced from the Caspian Sea, mixed with buckwheat, eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. Kulebyaka is considered a high-end dish and elevated versions of this pie can be found in restaurants throughout Russia.
This dish is so well-loved that famous French chef Auguste Escoffier had one bite before deciding that this Russian delicacy become one of his specials!
Kurnik (Chicken Dome Pie)
Pies are staple foods in Russia, but they may not look like what you’re expecting. Russian pies tend to be domed or even occasionally free-form, like their sensationally comforting Kurnik or chicken pie. This delicious dish is what Russians eat when they want comforting and casual flavors, like chicken, eggs, onions, buckwheat, or rice.
Locals have a love affair with this pie that runs so deep that they typically make it for weddings. Two pies are gifted to the couple, one for each spouse. The kurnik are decorated and served to the new couple as a show of their love and bright future.
Luckily, you don’t have to get married to try this delicious pie. It is served at restaurants and homes across Russia so everyone can enjoy this tasty goodness.
Karelskiy Pirozhok (Karelian Pie)
The region of Karelia is on the Finnish edge of Russia and this region is known for some of its unique food traditions. One of the most famous dishes to come out of this area is the Karelskiy Pirozhok or Karelian Pastry. This flavorful hand-held pie is enjoyed throughout Russia, Finland, and beyond.
This wonderful savory pie is made with a rye crust and filled with rice, potatoes, and butter. It is enjoyed as a snack or breakfast in Russia. They are a wonderful testament to all the great regional dishes of Russia.
Rasstegai (Savory Hand Pie)
This popular Russian food dates back to the times of Russian Tsars. The name translates to “unfastened” which is the perfect name for these open-filling pies. They are shaped into knot-like forms that burst with luscious fillings made from fish, meat, liver, rice, or mushrooms. One bite of this perfect hand-sized pie and you will feel like a Tsar!
Russian Food: Dinner
Befstroganov (Beef Stroganoff)
People around the world are familiar with this famous Russian cuisine. It’s a humble dish traditionally made from seared beef, mustard, and smetana, but many variations exist. The most common addition to this Russian dish is mushrooms.
This is a local classic that is enjoyed in households and restaurants throughout Russia. Its simplicity makes it endlessly accessible and wonderfully delicious to all Russians.
Kotleta Po-Kiyevski (Chicken Kiev)
During the 1800s Russian nobility took to the French style of cooking, and started to popularize dishes with a more French influence. One of the most famous of these French-inspired Russian dishes is Kotleta Po-Kiyevski or Chicken Kiev.
Chicken Kiev is made up of a pounded chicken cutlet that is breaded and then stuffed with garlic, butter, and herbs. It’s a flavorful dish that is sure to get your mouth watering! This luscious Russian food can be found at high-end restaurants throughout Russia.
One of the fun facts about Russia is that Chicken Kiev actually originated in France, but was made by a chef who was from Kiev.
Golubtsy (Stuffed Cabbage)
What Russians eat when they want a bite of nostalgia is Golubtsy or stuffed cabbage. It is a friendly dish that fills you with comforting flavors and textures.
This easy yet full-flavored dish is traditionally made by steaming cabbage to soften the leaves, then filling them with a delicious filling. The leaves are rolled shut and baked in a rich sauce, often including smetana.
The fillings are usually rice or buckwheat based with pork, vegetables, and herbs, so your taste buds and appetite are satisfied for hours!
Makarony Po-Flotski (Navy-Style Pasta)
As the name implies, this popular Russian food began at sea. Navy-style pasta was originally invented to satisfy the appetites of Russia’s Navy, but today it is eaten far beyond the barracks!
Navy-style pasta is basic in preparation but luxurious in flavor. It is made of minced meat, onions, and noodles. Macaroni and spaghetti are the favorite shapes of pasta for this dish, but other variations exist. This is the perfect Russian meal for a cool evening in Moscow.
Pozharskaya Kotleta (Breaded Chicken Patty)
Russian cuisine has been the inspiration for so many chefs worldwide. Some of the richest and most elegant dishes in French cookbooks are actually adaptations of classic Russian dishes, like the Pozharskaya Kotleta, or chicken cutlet.
The cutlet is made from minced chicken, and sometimes veal, but what’s so special about this dish is butter. This lush dairy is added to the minced chicken before it’s breaded to make it rich and tender.
This famous Russian food has been inspiring fine dining chefs for centuries, but if you want to taste it for yourself find this delicious dish at restaurants throughout Russia.
Telyatina Po-Orlovski (Veal Orloff)
This classic veal dish is a sumptuous delight that features some of Russia’s favorite flavors. The dish was originally made for the Russian ambassador to France, and it’s so delicious that when you eat it you too will feel like a dignitary.
Veal Orloff consists of braised veal, mushrooms, and onions all thinly sliced and layered. To make it truly decadent the layers are covered with creamy bechamel and then baked. Some modern variations swap the bechamel for mayonnaise to make the dish more accessible and affordable.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Russian Desserts And Sweets
Morozhenoe (Ice Cream)
Don’t let the cold weather fool you, Russians eat ice cream in all weather all year long! Morozhenoe or ice cream is a national treasure. You can find small ice cream shops throughout Moscow where you can satisfy your craving for Russian sweets.
This classic dessert is even better in Russia because they use high-quality, fresh dairy and you can find plenty of flavor options for not too much money. This is the perfect street snack when in Russia.
Pashka (Lenten Dessert)
Russia’s large population of Christians means that Easter is the cause for huge feasts and lots of special treats. One excellent Russian food served throughout the Lenten season is Pashka.
Pashka is made with fresh cheese curds, dried fruit, nuts, and honey. It is often shaped into beautiful towers of cheese, fruit, and nuts. It is a cheesy delight with a flavor worth waiting all year for.
Karavai (Russian Wedding Bread)
This iconic Russian food is synonymous with love and happiness.
Karavai is the traditional sweet bread that is served at Russian weddings. It is beautifully decorated with leaves, flowers, and symbols of the couple and their families.
This special bread is a once-in-a-lifetime treat that Russians wait to share with their special someone!
Kutia (Traditional Grain Dessert)
This traditional Russian food is common to see at Christmastime. It is a simple dessert made from wheat berries, poppy seeds, dried fruit, nuts, and honey. In some Russian households, they will leave this dessert out on Christmas Eve night with spoons left in so their dead ancestors can enjoy a bite of this flavorful treat.
Discovering Traditional Russian Foods
Russian cuisine is interesting, unique, and truly special. Getting to know local food is a journey into the heart of a people, and there is so much to learn about the heart of the Russian people. Their food is delicious, refined, and creative in ways that will inspire you. Explore Russia and get ready for an elevated culinary adventure into the heart of Russian cuisine!