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Ready for a delicious blend of Baltic and Northern European cuisine? Lithuanian foods are full of fresh ingredients and rich in flavor.
From expert agricultural techniques to Lithuanian noblemen bringing chefs from France to the country, there are plenty of different styles and flavors in Lithuanian food.
Join us on a grand food tour of Lithuania with a native writer, as we explore 15 traditional foods of this beautiful country.
Dark bread has been the most important food in all Lithuanian households for centuries.
In the past, people ate it for breakfast every day, and they also took it with them to eat during their work in the fields as a snack for added energy.
These days Lithuanians still cannot imagine their daily life without a slice of dark bread.
There are many types of dark bread but the most traditional is considered rye bread.
People eat rye bread with butter, various types of cheeses, smoked ham, or fresh seasonal vegetables.
The traditional snack in Lithuania that pairs well with dark bread is salo – cured slabs of pork fatback on the rye bread with fresh pieces of cucumber, spring onions, and a bit of black pepper on top.
One of the most unique Lithuanian desserts is Curd snack, known as Varškės sūrelis.
It is a rectangle shape dessert, made of soft cheese curd and covered in dark chocolate.
The traditional one has a taste of vanilla, but there are many other types: cacao, poppy seeds, chocolate chips, condensate milk filling, or even pistachios.
Sūrelis has been widely popular in the country for decades – people have been eating them as a snack between main meals as well as for breakfast or as a dessert with coffee or tea.
This product is so popular that it‘s also exported abroad. Therefore if you cannot go to Lithuania now, there is a unique opportunity to find it in a special Polish or Russian supermarket all over Europe.
Lithuanians have many different dishes in which potato is the main ingredient.
One of the most popular of them is potato pancakes. Crunchy and full of taste – these pancakes are very easy to make at home or try at the local Lithuanian pub.
The traditional recipe is very simple: potatoes, onion, eggs, and a bit of salt. Just do not forget a golden rule: eating them with sour cream is a must.
Restaurants and pubs have been looking at how to add something new to this dish by making it more interesting. Therefore, they now often serve it with pieces of salmon or mushroom sauce.
For meat lovers, potato pancakes with minced meat filling is a great choice.
This soup is the best known Lithuanian soup and has a unique bright pink color.
Šaltibarščiai has been the most popular cold soup in the country during the warm season for decades.
When the outside temperature goes up, Lithuanians go to the local markets to buy the required ingredients or use the ones they have grown themselves.
The recipe is very easy to make and it is a very refreshing dish, especially on the hot summer days.
The main ingredients of cold beetroot soup are kefir (fermented milk drink), chopped cucumber, boiled egg, and the most important – grated boiled beetroot.
Since this is a seasonal dish, it is common to add a pinch of fresh spring onions and dill. Usually, it is served with boiled or baked potatoes.
If Lithuania‘s cuisine is to be represented by only one dish, there is no doubt it would be cepelinai.
Named after a Zeppelin airship, this dish is made of grated potato mass with a meat or cottage cheese filling.
The most popular filling is minced pork or beef meat, but some places can offer dumplings with venison.
Other people like to eat it with cottage cheese inside. Even if they have never been as popular as the ones with meat, they are very interesting to try.
These Lithuanian potato dumplings are served with various sauces: sour cream, butter, and onions, bacon bits, mushrooms, or curd cream.
This is a pretty heavy meal, but worth trying at least once while visiting Lithuania.
When it comes to salads in Lithuania, white salad is by far the most popular.
It is a mix of various vegetables: boiled unpeeled potatoes and carrots, marinated peas and pickles, boiled eggs, a pinch of salt and pepper, finally – everything mixed with mayonnaise.
This salad gives you a feeling of fullness and it is worth trying.
It can be eaten as a starter with a slice of bread before the main course or as a side dish next to grilled chicken or other pieces of meat.
White salad is a very common dish in Lithuania to eat daily or prepare it for special occasions, such as Christmas, a wedding, or a birthday.
This is similar to the Olivier salad, commonly served in Russia, Ukraine, and other post-Soviet countries.
Since bread is so important to Lithuanians, it is very common to eat bread served as a snack.
If you are visiting Lithuania, there is a huge possibility that you will be eating small pieces of baked bread at the bar because it is the most known snack there.
Bread is sliced in small pieces, mostly sticks and covered by melted cheese or mayonnaise sauce.
It is not necessarily a healthy and diet-friendly snack, but it is a great snack to munch on while hanging out with friends.
Usually, pieces of bread are rubbed in with fresh garlic and sprinkled with salt, which is a perfect match and creates an amazing taste.
Baked bread is offered by bar staff when people are ordering beers, and it is a must-try food while watching basketball in Lithuania.
Potato is the most common vegetable in Lithuania, but locals do not only eat baked or boiled potatoes.
Over the years, they have come up with many interesting ways to cook them and have brought them on way more creative levels.
Švilpikai or baked whistlers is a great example of that. They are small potato dumplings baked in the oven. In the oven, they acquire a golden roasted look.
These dumplings are made from mashed boiled unpeeled potatoes, mixed with egg, flour, and a bit of salt.
The whole dough is cut into many 3-4 cm rhomb-shaped pieces and baked in the oven.
Usually, Švilpikai is served with a traditional sauce made from sour cream, onions, bacon pieces, or forest mushrooms.
The name of Šakotis in Lithuanian language means something with many branches and when you see it, you realize why it is called that.
Because of its size, Šakotis can be considered the king of Lithuanian cakes and desserts. Usually, this cake is 30-100 centimeters tall.
It has been a tradition for many years, to have it on the table for a special occasion such as a wedding, birthday, and others.
Šakotis can be soft or crunchy, and it is served with tea or coffee because its texture reminds you more of a cookie than a traditional cake.
The recipe for this cake is very simple: eggs, sugar, flour, butter, and sour cream.
Meanwhile, the appearance of Šakotis is yellow, but it can also be decorated with chocolate icing or colorful flowers made from sugar.
Even though the cake looks big, it is hollow because the technique of baking is to pour the dough on the special cylinder that is attached to a huge spit.
Kibin is a pastry dish filled with meat or curd. It has been brought to Lithuania in the 15th century by the Karaite nation and has become one of the most popular dishes in the country.
It is made by putting the filling in the dough and rolling up the edges on the top, so it does not break while baking in the oven.
There are various types of fillings used in Kibin recipes: minced pork, beef, chicken, lamb, or venison mixed with onions, salt, and pepper.
There are also Kibins without meat but with curd and spinach or even chocolate.
This dish is often served with hot natural chicken broth.
When visiting Lithuania, the best place to try this dish is in Trakai – a small town about 30 km far from the capital Vilnius.
This dessert has not only an interesting name but a very rich history as well.
The idea of this dessert was brought to Lithuania in the 15th century by the Tatars, of which a small community still lives in the country.
The cake is made from big yeast pastry sheets, covered in sweet, sugary poppy seeds and raisins filling.
The whole pastry is twisted and formed into a circle, then cut into slices.
Šimtalapis is pretty popular to make for special occasions, but you can also find it and try this dessert in cafes, restaurants, and bakeries.
This cake has been the most popular in the southern part of Lithuania, where the biggest Tatars community lived.
These days bakers are making cake not only with poppy seeds but also with curd filling and even the ham, that converts this dessert into a new savory pastry snack.
Curd is very common in Lithuania. There are a lot of popular dishes in Lithuanian cuisine created by using curd as the main ingredient. Varškėčiai is one of them.
Curd pancakes are made of curd mixed with a bit of flour, eggs, and a pinch of sugar. Small pancakes are formed of the mass and baked in the pan.
Usually, they are served with sour cream, different types of jams, fresh berries, sugar powder, or ice cream.
This is a food beloved by children, and most eat them for breakfast or dinner.
Adults also like them because it gives them a nostalgic memory of childhood.
Even though it is a very common homemade meal, you can also order the pancakes at cafes and restaurants while visiting Lithuania.
While trying Lithuanian food, know that herring has a special role in traditional cuisine.
Light or heavy marinated, salted, it is eaten amongst Lithuanians daily as well as on special occasions.
It is a tradition to eat herring on Christmas Eve in Lithuania because on that day, Christians keep the fast.
At that time, the creativity of people awakens. Families cover tables with all types of different herring dishes: layered with beetroot, egg, and mayonnaise or mixed with baked onions and carrots, beans, raisins, or mushrooms. Herring in Lithuania can be eaten almost with everything.
There is always a way to try traditionally made herring: lightly marinated, served with a few slices of onion and pepper, freshly-baked potatoes, or rye bread.
This mostly 10-12 % strong alcohol drink has been known for centuries in Lithuania.
It is made of fermented honey mixed with water and various fruits or berries.
Beekeeping is a very common activity in Lithuania. Therefore to get fresh, natural honey for the mead makers has never been a problem.
Despite old traditions, Lithuanian Mead is still a very popular drink in the country. Meanwhile, modern companies are creating new drinks, based on the mead recipe, which are 18, 30, or even 50 % strong.
Mead is also very commonly used by locals as a cure for fever and body aches.
The name says it all – potato pudding is a Lithuanian dish made of grated potatoes mixed with some milk, salt, and pepper.
Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside – this meal does not look special at first sight, but it is very delicious indeed.
It is pretty common to put small pieces of bacon or chicken wings inside the potato mass.
Traditionally, it is served with popular local sauces – like sour cream with baked onions and bacon pieces or mushrooms.
This meal is the most popular during the cold season because it warms you up.
You can also try it at most of the traditional food restaurants and pubs in Lithuania.
From German migrant to French chef influence, it’s clear to see there’s so much excitement going on in Lithuanian cuisine.
Lithuanians have always been resourceful people. From growing potatoes and beets in the northern climate to pickling food for preservation in the winter, food has always been grown well and cared for.
Add to that a range of northern European influence, and you get a hearty cuisine that throws up plenty of surprises.
The love and care of Lithuanians for their food is reflected in the country’s low obesity levels. Lithuania has one of the lowest rates in Europe.
This is surprising, given the number of carbohydrate-heavy foods popular in Lithuania.
But it is also a testament to how many fresh and healthy crops and ingredients are grown in the fields of Lithuania.
Lithuania is a beautiful and humble country, and its wholesome cuisine very much reflects that.
From the vibrant color and intense flavor of beetroot soup to the fruit-infused, spongy texture of poppy seed cake, there’s so much color, flavor, and texture to try in Lithuania.
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 Lithuanian food handy when you visit so that you can try one or more of these popular and traditional foods.
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Author: Ieva Cicirkaite is a translator and writer from Lithuania. Fluent in several languages, Ieva writes on a number of Lithuanian topics, including its fascinating history and diverse cuisine.
Featured Photo: YuliaKotina / Shutterstock
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