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A charming country that has made Forbes list of the ‘’10 underrated destinations to visit in 2020’’, Armenia is the home of one of the most unique and traditional cuisines.
Each and every dish reflects a certain history of ancient Armenia, showing just how skilled Armenians were – and still are – in making bread, kebab, and other delicious recipes that require some serious techniques. So, if you’re looking to find out all about Armenian food, you’ve come to the right place!
This article features 25 typical Armenian dishes, appetizers, desserts, and drinks that will make your tastebuds tingle!
Armenia is a former Soviet Union, landlocked country bordering Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Influenced by traders and conquers from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Eastern Europe, its cuisine features locally grown fresh ingredients that bring out a distinguished and an unforgettable taste.
If you ever find yourself feasting with an Armenian family on home-cooked meals, you’ll see the table filled with a large variety of colorful dishes, containing vegetables (eggplants mostly), grains, and herbs. The extensive use of these products is explained by the early appearance of agriculture.
There’s also an abundance of meat such as lamb, beef, veal, and pork as a result of ancient cattle breeding on the territory of modern Armenia. No meal is ever complete without Lavash – a delicious flatbread, which is one of the essentials!
Here are the 25 most famous Armenian foods and drinks passed down from generation to generation.
A delicious Armenian food consisting of minced meat and spiced rice wrapped in vine or cabbage leaves. It requires some patience as the leaves are first carefully boiled and dried. The filling is a mixture of minced beef, onions, rice, and tomato paste. For extra taste, fresh parsley, coriander, and dill are chopped and added.
After kneading the stuffing (usually done with hands to feel the texture), the Dolmas are rolled up and filled in a pan of water and cooked over a low flame. They are often served together with Matsun (fermented milk yogurt) mixed with garlic.
A classic Armenian food, Boerags are flaky puff pastry filled with a range of cheeses. Whether homemade or store-bought, some people use puff pastry, while others swear by filo (phyllo) dough. The former is softer and thicker, whereas the latter is lighter and crisper (also more delicate). The dough is cut into small squares and filled with a mixture of feta, kashkaval, ricotta, and egg and then baked or fried to golden perfection!
Topik is best described as chickpea dumplings that create an amazing fusion of taste in your mouth. The dough is made of cooked chickpeas, potatoes, tahini, with a dash of salt and sugar to balance the taste. As with most Armenian recipes, there are different variations of the filling.
The most common filling consists of minced onions, dried blackcurrants, pine nuts, stirred tahini, along with cinnamon, sugar, salt, and ground pimento (allspice). The dumplings are boiled and drained, to be served cold or at room temperature.
Lavash is referred to as the King of the Armenian breads, and is a must-try Armenian food. It is the traditional and national flatbread that you still find on every single Armenian table. Despite the simplicity of its ingredients, which basically consists of wheat flour and water, the preparation of Lavash requires great skills and efforts.
The dough is rolled into thin layers and stretched over an oval cushion, and then slapped against the walls of Tonir – an oven in the form of a deep round hole in the ground – to be baked for less than a minute.
Zhingyalov hats is a traditional fried flatbread from Artsakh, located in the southeast of the Armenian Highlands. The dough, which is made of flour and sour cream, is filled with seasonal greens such as cilantro, parsley, spring onions, dill, spinach, lettuce, and beet tops. It is then fried on a dry pan for about 5 minutes until both sides are golden.
Basturma is an air-dried cured beef that looks like Italian bresaola. It is a popular delicacy, especially among the Armenian diaspora. The main ingredients include beef or lamb filet, fenugreek powder (shaiman), allspice, cumin, turmeric, and red pepper.
It is usually bought from shops that serve basturma as a sandwich in a baguette, with pickles and onions. Making it at home will take more than two weeks! But this Armenian food is certainly worth the wait.
Harissa is a historical Armenian food that symbolizes the courage of Armenians during the Ottoman rule. It is a filling dish made with two simple ingredients: peeled wheat and meat or chicken. Cooking requires at least 4-5 hours as it is stirred until all the chicken or meat is dissolved together with the wheat. Once the consistency is thick like porridge, it is served with melted butter on top.
Khash is a festive soup dish made, especially during the wintertime. The name itself comes from the Armenian word ”khashel”, which means ”to boil”, as its preparation requires boiling parts of cow or sheep, including the head, feet, and stomach. Dried lavash is crumbled into the broth and served for – believe it or not – breakfast!
Manti is one of those dishes that will make you come back for more. Tiny little boats of dough filled with meat. The filling mainly includes ground lamb or beef, shredded onion, and parsley. The mantis are roasted in an oven until golden, leaving you with an Armenian food rich in flavor and texture in abundance.
Red pepper and tomato paste are mixed with water to baste the manti and reinsert it in the oven until the sauce is absorbed completely. The dish is served with yogurt and garlic.
This ”Armenian Pizza” is the comfort food you absolutely need. The dough is round and usually very thin, topped with sautéed minced beef, finely chopped onions, garlic, and peeled crushed tomatoes. The dough is then baked in the oven until the crust is crispy and served with mint leaves and lemon, which must be squeezed on top of the dough before the first bite!
Gata or ‘’Kata’’ is a sweet bread that can be found in different shapes, sizes, and decorations depending on which Armenian town or region you are visiting. This delicious mildly-sweet desert consists of a dough made of milk, heavy cream and eggs, and a filling, which is basically sugar and butter. Gata is baked all year round and on every single important holiday in Armenia.
This is an Armenian food that even has a song in its honor! Ghapama is pumpkin dish very dear to the hearts of Armenian families. A medium-sized pumpkin is filled with cooked rice, dried fruit, raisins, chopped nuts, cinnamon, sugar or honey and then baked until tender. It can even be enjoyed as a dessert, usually served on New Year’s Eve and Armenian Christmas – which is on January 6th.
Considered a delicacy in some Armenian villages, Tjvjik is fried beef liver with a large number of onions that are spiced and seasoned with salt and pepper. The significance of this Armenian food in the country is reflected in a 1962 Soviet Armenian short movie.
Churchkhelas are sausage-shaped candy bars made from walnuts, strung on long strings, and thickly coated in fruit syrup. The main ingredients are grape, apricot, pomegranate, and nuts. It can serve as an ideal snack that gives energy and is considered healthy as it is low in sodium and contains no bad fats or cholesterol.
A truly exquisite vegetarian Armenian dish that is considered a salad for some. Unlike most Armenian recipes, its preparation is quite simple. Eggplant slices are fried until they turn golden brown. A yogurt mixture consisting of sour cream, thick yogurt, grated garlic, chopped walnuts, is spread on the eggplant slices, which are rolled and garnished with pomegranate seeds and chopped dill.
Armenian style mouthwatering lamb kebabs that are cooked on skewers on a grill. The lamb is cut into bite-size pieces and marinated overnight with onion, thyme, basil, and other herbs. There are many variations, and some don’t even marinate the meat, but one thing is for sure – making juicy shashlik that is grilled to perfection requires a lot of practice.
Similar to the Lebanese tabbouleh, the Armenian bulgur salad, called ‘’Itch’’ or ‘’Eech’’, is a refreshing and delicious grain salad that can be enjoyed both as lunch and a side dish. Garlic, onions, green pepper, and tomatoes are sautéed and mixed with cooked bulgur. Once cooled down, lemon juice is added, and the dish is then topped with green onion and fresh parsley.
Kchuch is a rich meat and vegetable stew cooked in a traditional Armenian clay pot called ‘’ kchuch’’ – hence its name. Usually, it’s made of a combination of seasoned pieces of lamb meat, chopped vegetables such as onions, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, along with garlic, spices, and herbs, all drizzled with some robust Armenian wine.
Armenians drink coffee at least three times a day; during breakfast, after lunch, dinner, and certainly when a visitor comes over for a quick chat. You’ll find traditional Armenian coffee in every single restaurant and coffee shop you’d like to make some at home simply simmer dark roast coffee, finely ground, using a Jezve over medium to high heat.
Among the Armenians in the US, this dish is often referred to as “Armenian steak tartare.” “Chikofte’’ is meatball made of ground lamb, beef, or goat mixed with bulgur, onions, spices, and tomato or pepper paste. It is topped with lemon and olive oil and served alongside a fresh mix of chopped tomato, cucumber, onion, and bell pepper. A delicacy and Armenian food worth tasting, that’s for sure!
Kefir, also known as ‘’Tan’’, is a beverage made of fermented milk, similar to yogurt. It is very popular among locals, and it’s a tasty treat, especially on hot summer days. Armenians in Lebanon always drink this when eating a Lahmacun (number 10).
This is a dried bean soup served mostly during wintertime. The dish originates from Lori, an Armenian province bordering Georgia in the north. The main ingredients include dried red kidney beans, which are cooked, mashed, and stirred with a tomato and pepper paste mixture.
Once the consistency is thick, spices, herbs, garlic, and walnuts are added. The dish is served with a few day-old bread. Not your average soup!
This dish is good news for vegetarians! It is also light, nutritious, and very easy to make at home. Vosbov kofte is basically a patty made of red lentil and burghul, which are first separately cooked and then mixed with sautéed onions, butter, and salt.
Once cooled down, the mixture is kneaded with wet hands until well combined. The dish is usually served alongside a refreshing summer salad – which contains a lot of cumin.
You’d think that it won’t be necessary to mention a dish as simple as rice in this list, but think again, as nothing is ever simple when it comes to Armenian recipes. To make this creamy and rich rice dish, you’ll need to melt butter in a saucepan and stir in vermicelli until golden brown.
The rice is then added to the mixture together with chicken broth and bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until all the liquid is absorbed: Yummy!
Armenians are well known for naturally drying all sorts of fruits – anything you can think of: figs, prune, peach, apricot, cherry, plum, and the list goes on. It’s a long-time tradition, and it’s all about quality.
In the capital of the country, Yerevan, you’ll find dried fruit stands at almost every corner. Make sure to stop by and enjoy the most delicious healthy snacks you’ll ever taste. Dried fruit is an Armenian food staple, that’s for sure.
That’s a rap for Armenian food. From appetizers to desserts, together, we’ve covered a wide range of delicious Armenian foods, all bringing their unique flavor and fascinating history to the table in a variety of forms.
Before we go, one final time here’s the full list of all foods covered in the article. Be sure to have this list of Armenian food handy when you visit, so that you can try one or more of these delicious foods from a street vendor, at a restaurant, or from a bakery.
1 – Dolma
2 – Boerag
3 – Topik
4 – Lavash
5 – Zhingyalov Hats
6 – Basturma
7 – Harissa
8 – Khash
9 – Manti
10 – Lahmacun
11 – Gata
12 – Ghapama
13 – Tjvjik
14 – Sujuk (Churchkhela)
15 – Armenian Eggplant
16 – Shashlik and Kebab Assortment
17 – Armenian Bulgur Salad
18 – Kchuch
19 – Armenian Coffee
20 – Cig Kofte
21 – Kefir
22 – Fasulya / Lobahashu
23 – Armenian Lentil Kofte (Vospov Kofte)
24 – Armenian Rice Pilaf
25 – Dried Fruits
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Images licensed from Shutterstock
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