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Hearty, wholesome, and prepared with plenty of love, Belarusian food is full of fresh, humble ingredients, and both Slavic and European influence.
There are plenty of rich soups, filling staples, and some delicious meat dishes to get excited about. Belarusians love their food, and they take great care and time to prepare it.
Prepare for a fascinating culinary trip to Eastern Europe, as a native Belarusian gives us a unique insight into 15 traditional Belarusian foods you have to try.
1 – Draniki / Дранікі
Draniki are a simple and wholesome Belarusian appetizer or main, made from the nation’s favorite food: the potato.
Potatoes are such an important ingredient in Belarusian cuisine. Neighboring Slovenians have even given Belarusians the nickname ‘bulbash’, as ‘bulba’ means potato in Belarus.
Tasty Belarusian potatoes are mashed and flattened into pancakes. They are then placed in a pan and fried in generous amounts of oil and salt.
Draniki are commonly served smothered in steaming gravy or with a sizeable dollop of sour cream.
Despite being a simple Belarusian food, the fresh taste of the native potatoes gives the dish plenty of flavor.
Draniki are a testament to the resilience of Belarusians who had to find ways to feed themselves during cold winters and times of hardship in the country.
2 – Babka / Бабка
Babka is another potato-based popular food of Belarus. It’s warming, filling, and a much-loved food throughout the country.
Babka is a potato bake, with a range of different ingredients. Commonly, fried lard and onions are added to a mixture of grated potatoes.
From there, a wide range of meats is added. Some Belarusians love to add bacon, while others prefer minced beef.
Babka can be baked in an ordinary deep frying pan or in a clay pot. Baked in a clay pot, the aromas and flavors are enhanced. It’s a delight to taste.
Babka can be served sliced on a plate, or straight from the pot. It is very tasty with sour cream or milk.
You must definitely try the babka if you are visiting Belarus!
3 – Krambambulia / Крамбамбуля
Krambambulia is a strong alcoholic drink, that packs plenty of punch. It’s been served in the Belarusian region for hundreds of years.
This unique Belarusian drink sees honey and spices added to a range of vodkas, native to the region.
As with many cuisines in Eastern Europe, it’s a drink enjoyed in small quantities after meals and on special occasions.
Whether the sun is shining or there’s snow on the ground, it is a seasonal drink that’s enjoyed all year round.
But krambambulia is more than a mere alcoholic drink. Belarusians believe the drink fills you with strength and joy, gives inspiration and determination.
Nowadays, krambambulia is served in many restaurants. Since the drink is very strong, it’s advised you sip, rather than drink. A couple of sips are enough to feel its warming, magical effect.
4 – Zbicen / Збіцень
While krambambulia is a drink for celebrations all year round, zbicen is very much a drink for the winter months in Belarus.
It’s seen as a herbal concoction, given its preparation. Zbicen is a soothing mixture of mint, linden, and hypericum.
For taste and pungency, honey and spices are also added to it. Zbicen is packed with sweet notes and comforting flavors.
Belarusians drink zbicen hot, particularly throughout the cold and snowy Belarusian winter.
My grandfather, like many of the older generation, says this drink is the best cure for the common cold.
For so many Belarusians, nothing warms you up better than holding and sipping a hot mug of zbicen after a long day in the frosty city.
5 – Zacirka / Зацірка
Zacirka are simple, hearty dumplings. An important food prepared by Belarusian peasants in the past, zacirka feature in many Belarusian stories and poems.
Zacirka are prepared by mixing flour, eggs, and water into a dough. The dough is then rolled into delightful little Belarusian dumplings.
These dumplings are then scalded in milk, which is diluted with water. It’s a simple and filling dish, that’s very nourishing.
Nowadays, zacirka is not commonly made. But if you visit a Belarusian village, you’ll find the elder generation still cook traditional zacirka.
Zacirka is a traditional Belarusian dish, and it has an important place in the history of the country.
6 – Lakshini or Milk Soup / Лакшыны
Lakshini is a delicious Belarusian dish that reflects the ingenuity and hard work of Belarusians. Oh, and unlimited love of potatoes!
It takes a long time to make lakshini. First, pancakes from potato starch are baked, then they’re cut into strips. Then, the strips are dried until they look like chips.
In this form, our Belarusian ancestors most likely packed them in linen bags and stored them near the stove, where it is always dry and warm.
The strips are left to sit for a couple of days. Once rested, milk is poured over the mixture, before salt, sugar, and butter, are added.
Once the soup is ready, it is cooked in the oven. It’s cooked for around thirty minutes until the milk soup is tender and full of fragrance.
It’s a comforting Belarusian food that’s loved across the country.
7 – Zhur / Жур
Zhur is a simple and wholesome soup, believed to date back generations. The word “zhur” can be interpreted as fermented oats. Our ancestors ate a huge amount of oats.
With a base of oats, mushrooms and various root vegetables are diced and added to the soup.
Meats, such as beef or pork, are also popular additions. Once cooked, it’s served piping hot with sour cream and a range of herbs.
The word “zhur” can be interpreted as fermented oats. Our ancestors ate a huge amount of oats.
Many joke about the fact that the dominance of oats in the diet made the Belarusians bold and proud!
Belarusians believe this soup has healing agents for colds, exhaustion, and stress.
Some even believe it can help cure insomnia, arthritis, gastritis, and even help quit smoking! It’s a unique Belarusian food with an important history.
8 – Machanka / Мачанка
Machanka has one of the most memorable names in Belarusian cuisine. ‘Machanka‘ means to ‘dunk’ in English.
This thick, creamy stew is has a base of whisked eggs, flour, milk, sour cream, and plenty of cottage cheese.
Once cooked, it’s garnished with crispy fried pork greaves and a generous helping of sour cream.
The recipe varies throughout Belarus. Many home cooks and chefs have their own take on it.
Some like to add vegetable oil or hemp seed flour to the stew. Others prefer to garnish with meatier cuts, such as sausage or pork.
Once ready, the fun really begins. Belarusians love to dunk plenty of foods in the stew, including pancakes, slices of bread, or boiled potatoes.
Machanka is one of the foods of Belarus you simply have to try. It’s full of flavor, and a real crowd-pleaser.
9 – Kalduni / Калдуны
Simple yet flavorsome, kalduni are unleavened dough dumplings. They are similar to Italian ravioli and feature in a number of neighboring cuisines.
The kalduni dough is made of a flour, water, salt and eggs mixture. Once it’s been kneaded to an elastic state, it’s ready to be stuffed with fillings.
Kalduni can be both a main and a dessert. As a main, they’re commonly filled with minced meat, mushrooms, fish, or cheese.
If you’re looking for something a little sweeter, delicious berries and dried fruits are popular flavors.
Once plated, savory kalduni are covered in sour cream or melted butter, depending on the filling. If you have a sweet kalduni, you’ll be treated to the allure of cinnamon and syrup.
‘Kalduni‘ in the Slavik regions translates to ‘sorcerers’ or ‘magicians’. While their origin renames unclear, these delightful dumplings are certainly magical to bite into.
10 – Piachista / Пячыста
Piachista is a traditional Belarusian dish. It’s similar to a meat platter, with pork, beef, and whole chicken commonly used.
The chosen meat is seasoned with salt, pepper, chopped onions, and garlic. The seasoned meat is then baked in the oven, hence the name ‘piachi’, meaning ‘baked’ in Belarusian.
Piachista is often cooked during the festive period. It’s served with horseradish and various sauces such as cranberry or lingonberry.
11 – Grechaniki / Гречанікі
Grechaniki are buckwheat cakes, cooked with a variety of savory ingredients, such as onions, flaxseed, and mushrooms.
Buckwheat is one of Belarus’ most important foods. Vast white fields, rife with buckwheat, are commonly depicted in Belarusian poems and stories.
Hence it’s no surprise that buckwheat, and buckwheat flour, have become important ingredients in the foods of Belarus.
Grechaniki have a firm, crunchy texture, and store for long periods of time. This made them perfect foods for Belarusians through the harsh winters.
12 – Kisel / Кісель
Kisel is a thick, fruity drink, drank both as a drink and as a dessert. The juices of many berries add the sharp, sweet flavor.
The drink is then thickened with corn or potato starch. In some versions, oatmeal is also added.
In Belarus, childhood memories will come flooding back to most people who hear the word kisel.
In the 20th century, it was commonly given to Belarusians in kindergarten to drink with lunch or dinner.
Kisel also contributes to weight loss and improving the condition of the skin and hair. In short, it’s seen as an elixir of youth and health. It’s a Belarusian drink that many across the country drink every day.
13 – Verashchaka / Верашчака
Verashchaka is an iconic dish of Belarusian cuisine. It’s a rich, meat-based dish, seen as a variety of machanka.
Tender pork ribs and homemade pheasant sausage are cooked, and then smothered in a rich, hot sauce.
Many variations of the sauce exist, and it differs from region to region. Commonly, dairy products, beer, and bread kvass, are all used.
Verashchaka is considered a festive dish. It’s served at a wide range of celebratory events, such as weddings, christenings, and Christmas.
Verashchaka is not as popular among the younger generation of Belarusians. But you can still find it in a wide range of traditional restaurants, in the center of Minsk and other cities.
14 – Pancakes / Бліны
Belarusian pancakes are simple, yet so delicious. Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve grandma’s pancakes!
Flour, milk, and eggs are kneaded into a dough, then individual pancakes are rolled out and placed in a large, deep pan.
Belarusians love to eat pancakes with sour cream of fruit jam. Sometimes, if you’re in a rush, a little sprinkled sugar is all it takes to elevate the flavor.
Belarusian pancakes are wholesome and filling. Some people can eat them for breakfast and forget about eating for the rest of the day!
They are a sumptuous breakfast treat and a Belarusian food that help so many throughout the country kickstart their mornings.
15 – Knush / Кныш
A knush is a delicious small round pie with an open top. They are packed with many different fillings until the inside is completely full.
Traditionally, dollops of cottage cheese were used as a filling. Fried onions with buckwheat porridge is also another favorite, along with potatoes.
In the 19th century, such knush were served in middle-class homes as an addition to meat dishes.
This dish was prepared mainly on holidays that fell in Lent (Christmas Eve, Annunciation) and at memorials.
Knush is very tasty to eat with sour cream or served with soup. It’s hearty, comforting, and a traditional Belarusian dish.
Polesie is the ideal place to visit to try knush. Here, many of Belarus’ traditional cooking methods are still practiced to this day.
Belarusian Food Summary
Belarus may be a small country, but its people have big hearts. That is certainly reflected in the traditional foods of Belarus.
As with many Slavic and Russian-influenced cuisines, belly-warming soups, big, meaty dishes, and hearty root vegetables all feature prominently.
All these dishes are prepared with plenty of warmth and passion, and they are a testament to Belarusians’ resourcefulness and ability to make more with less.
Whether you’re traveling to Belarus or looking to bring a little Belarusian magic into your own home, these traditional dishes should help inspire you.
So, one final time, here’s the list of all Belarusian foods we looked at in this article.
If you visit Belarus, be sure to have this list on hand. That way, you can order some of your favorite traditional Belarusian foods at resturants and food vendors.
- Draniki / Дранікі
- Babka / Бабка
- Krambambulia / Крамбамбуля
- Zbicen / Збіцень
- Zacirka / Зацірка
- Lakshini or Milk Soup / Лакшыны
- Zhur / Жур
- Machanka / Мачанка
- Kalduni / Калдуны
- Piachista / Пячыста
- Grechaniki / Гречанікі
- Kisel / Кісель
- Verashchaka / Верашчака
- Pancakes / Бліны
- Knush / Кныш
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Contributor: Rahneda Charnysh is a creative writer from Belarus. Hailing from Minsk, Rahneda writes in a number of different niches, including her native culture and cuisine.
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