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Ukraine is home to many internationally known popular dishes, from pierogi dumplings to delicious buttery chicken Kyiv.
While Ukrainian cuisine is lesser-known, if you are a foodie and eager to visit this beautiful country, you have come to the right place.
Gear up for a truly magical culinary journey as a native writer gives a unique insight into 23 popular Ukrainian foods, their history, and why they are so delicious.
Introduction to Ukrainian Food
Ukraine is the second-largest European country – and one of the most diverse. The Carpathian Mountains boast Hungarian culinary influence, and Lviv’s multicultural palette includes Jewish, Austrian, and German cooking traditions.
The capital, Kyiv, represents the classics of Ukrainian cuisine, while Odesa brings in the seafood goodies.
Many Ukrainian dishes include meat, but vegetarians will find plenty of options too.
Potatoes, cabbage, pickles, and carrots prevail in savory foods, while cottage cheese is often used in desserts.
Now that we are a little more acquainted with the cuisine, here are 23 mouth-watering traditional Ukrainian dishes that are not to be missed during your trip to Ukraine.
23 Traditional Ukrainian Dishes To Try During Your Trip
1 – Paska
Paska is a special dish prepared in Ukraine for Easter. This sweet bread is usually taken to church to be blessed on Easter morning.
The classic paska shape is cylindrical, with creamy frosting and sprinkles on top. It is made with yeast, milk, eggs, butter, and sugar.
Cheese paska is made from cottage cheese, and its shape imitates the Tomb of Jesus.
2 – Chicken Kyiv
Chicken Kyiv is one of the most famous dishes in Ukrainian cuisine, known far beyond the country’s borders.
While in the classical version, the chicken bone is retained, nowadays, the boneless version is more popular.
To prepare this Ukrainian dish, the chicken fillet is first flattened and wrapped around cold butter.
Then, the chicken is first coated with a mix of grated cheese, parsley, dill, mushrooms, and pepper, dipped in beaten egg yolk, and fried. It is traditionally served as a main dish.
Read more: Chicken Kyiv Recipe
3 – Olivier Potato Salad
The staple cold appetizer of the Ukrainian New Year celebration, the Olivier Salad, is a pretty old dish: the first documented recipe dates back to 1894.
Nowadays, the salad includes five key elements: meat (usually boiled sausages), eggs, potatoes, pickles, and mayonnaise.
Eggs and potatoes are boiled and cut into cubes. Meat and pickles are cut into cubes as well and then mixed in with mayonnaise. The dish can be stored in the fridge or served immediately.
Read more: Rustic Olivier Salad (Potato Salad) Recipe You Need to Try
4 – Kapusniak
Kapusniak is one of the oldest and most significant dishes in Ukraine. It used to be prepared for weddings, funerals, and Christmas dinners. Nowadays, Ukrainians enjoy this soup throughout the year.
The key ingredient of kapusniak is sauerkraut, which is thoroughly washed before cooking to give the soup its transparent color.
It is cooked in meat or mushroom broth with potatoes, onions, carrots, and bay leaves. Traditionally kapusniak is served with sour cream and chopped parsley.
Read more: Ukrainian-Inspired Sauerkraut Soup Recipe (Kapusniak) for a Nourishing and Earthy Dish
5 – Varenyky
Ukrainian varenyky are commonly known as “pierogi,” which originates from Poland.
Varenyky dumplings are usually made with savory fillings, like meat, potatoes, mushrooms, and cabbage. Cottage cheese or cherries are typically served for sweet varenyky.
Cherry varenyky are considered a classic of Ukrainian cuisine. They are commonly served with sour cream and sugar on top.
Read more: Varenyky Recipe (Dumplings from Ukraine with a Surprise Sweet and Sour Filling)
6 – Piroshki
Also known as “pyrizhky,” these patties are often considered Ukrainian comfort food.
The boat-shaped pastries have an impressive range of fillings, from sweet fillings such as cherries or apples to savory fillings such as ground meat and mushrooms.
Piroshki are typically baked, though some families in Ukraine opt for frying. The preparation includes making the dough, which is then flattened, filled with a preferred filling, and pinched around the edges.
After about 25 minutes in the oven, the piroshki batch is ready. This delightful Ukrainian food is enjoyed by people from all walks of life.
7 – Holubtsi
Holubtsi are traditional Ukrainian cabbage rolls, especially beloved in the Carpathians.
While holubtsi are usually stuffed with minced meat, the dish can be made vegetarian with plain rice or buckwheat.
Cabbage is boiled to soften the leaves, which are then filled with minced pork or beef, browned onions and carrots, mushrooms, and cooked rice.
Afterward, holubtsi are braised and served garnished with dill. The serving usually includes 2 to 3 pieces, as holubtsi are very filling.
8 – Holodets
Along with the Olivier salad, the holodets is a staple New Year dish for Ukrainians. The name of the dish derives from the Ukrainian word cold, “holodnyii.”
Holodets is usually made of pork with retained bones, but meat can be substituted with fish, such as pike. Onions, garlic, carrot, bay leaves, and black pepper are added to the meat broth and boiled.
Meat is then cut, added back to the mixture, and the holodets is put in the fridge to congeal.
9 – Deruny
Deruny, or potato pancakes, are an extremely popular dish in Ukrainian cuisine restaurants across the country. These small pancakes are very filling and easy to make.
First, the potatoes are grated into a homogenous mass. Then, the egg, flour, salt, and pepper are added to the mix, and the resulting mixture is fried in oil.
Deruny are traditionally served with sour cream. While the dish is not seasonal, it tastes the best when the temperature drops.
Read more: Deruny Potato Pancakes Recipe
10 – Walnut-Stuffed Prunes
Prunes are a common filling in Ukrainian desserts. Especially beloved in western Ukraine, walnut-stuffed prunes are easily prepared and often served as a summer dessert.
First, the prunes are soaked in water for a couple of hours to make them soft. Then, they are stuffed with toasted walnuts.
The next step is adding the whipping cream with sugar. Finally, the prunes are mixed with heavy cream and sprinkled with crushed walnuts and chocolate.
Read more: Walnut-Stuffed Prunes Recipe
11 – Nalesniki
Nalesniki or nalysniki is the Ukrainian version of crêpes. These thin pancakes are traditionally prepared during Maslenitsa, Orthodox Cheesefare Week.
Nalesniki can be filled with meat, salted fish, caviar, pâtés, or cottage cheese. The latter is considered the classic dessert of Ukrainian cuisine.
After stuffing the crêpes, the nalesniki are fried with butter or baked in the oven with sugar, oil, or sour cream to taste.
Read more: Nalesniki Recipe
12 – Kasha Porridge
While the Ukrainian word “kasha” can mean any porridge, it usually is used for a specific dish – buckwheat porridge.
The flavors are versatile. This dish can be sweet when served as a main dish, or savory as a side dish served with meat or fish.
The classic buckwheat kasha recipe is simple. Buckwheat is boiled for 10 minutes and mixed with milk. Kasha is then boiled for another 10 minutes.
A slice of butter and sugar are added at the very end for an extra creamy texture.
Read more: Buckwheat Recipe (Kasha)
13 – Kutia – Christmas porridge
One of the most well-known Ukrainian foods is kutia. This Ukrainian Christmas porridge is served the first out of twelve traditional Christmas Eve dishes.
To make kutia, wheat is boiled for a couple of hours, and poppy seeds are ground either with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder.
Afterward, the ground poppy is added to the softened wheat along with honey, walnuts, and raisins.
14 – Salo – Traditional Snack with Pork Fat
This unusual snack is often considered one of the main symbols of Ukraine. It is made of fatback slabs, salted with spices.
While usually the skin is retained, many Ukrainians prefer to eat salo without the skin.
The slabs are rubbed with salt and spices, such as black pepper, garlic, dried dill, bay leaf, marjoram, cardamom, and cumin.
The meat is then placed in a Tupperware sprinkled with spices and put in a fridge for 3-4 days.
Salo is traditionally served with rye bread, borscht, and Ukrainian alcoholic drink horilka.
15 – Polenta
Polenta is a dish with many names – in central Ukraine, this porridge is commonly known as Mamalyga, while in the Carpathians, it is often called “Kulesha.” The recipe for this Ukrainian cuisine dish, however, stays the same.
Polenta is made with cornflour, water, butter, and salt. The corn flour is slowly boiled with butter and salt until thick.
The dish is considered ready for consumption once it can be cut with a knife. Hearty polenta is typically served with pork rind, bryndza cheese, mushrooms, or bacon.
Read more: Mamaliga Recipe
16 – Garlic pampushki
Pampushki are small, round buns made from yeast dough. These shiny pastries are traditionally served with Ukrainian borscht but can also be a small snack.
Before baking pampushki in the oven, the batch is greased with whipped egg to give it extra shininess and a crunchy brown top.
After the pastry is baked, the pampushki are covered with olive oil, parsley, and garlic sauce. The latter gives it spiciness and complements borscht.
17 – Borscht
Borscht is the original staple of Ukrainian cuisine. This hearty soup is made from meat broth, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and beets, which give borscht its signature red color. Traditionally borscht is served with sour cream on top.
Every region and nearly every family in Ukraine has its own spin on the classic recipe. There is also a summer version of borscht, called “green” for its distinctive color.
In this case, the broth is thickened with fresh sorrel, potatoes, carrots, and boiled eggs.
Read more: Borscht Recipe
18 – Lazy dumplings
Linyvi varenyky, or lazy dumplings, are a quick version of Ukrainian varenyky.
Thanks to its easy preparation that got this dish its peculiar name, lazy dumplings are incredibly popular with Ukrainians even nowadays.
To make the dough, fresh cottage cheese is mixed with egg, sugar, vanilla powder, and flour. The dough is then cut in small slices, sprinkled with flour, and boiled for a couple minutes.
Lazy dumplings can be served with sour cream, yogurt, honey, condensed milk, jam, or fresh berries.
Read more: Lazy Dumplings Recipe
19 – Syrniki
Syrniki (syrnyky) is a staple Ukrainian dessert that you can try in most cafes and restaurants of the country. The recipe dates back to the 18th century and remains much unchanged.
The key ingredient is cottage cheese, which should be fresh and fragrant.
Cheese is mixed with egg, salt, sugar, and flour. Sometimes raisins and poppy seeds are added for grainier texture. Syrniki are then shaped in small circles, sprinkled with flour, and fried. This dessert is often served with raspberry jam.
Read more: Sweet or Savory Farmer’s Cottage Cheese Pancakes Recipe (Syrnyky)
20 – Salted fish
Thanks to access to the Black Sea, the Ukrainian cuisine is abundant in fish dishes. Salted herring is by far one of the most popular dishes.
The recipe demands boiling fish with bay leaves, black pepper, cardamom, and carnation. Afterward, the herring is cured with the spiced marinade in the fridge for two days.
Salted herring can serve as a main dish or an ingredient for Forshmak. This classic Jewish-Odesan dish is a paste made from minced herring, bread, eggs, sour cream, and onions.
The Forshmak can be served hot or cold, usually on top of rye bread.
21 – Kiev cake
Ukrainian food is plentiful with the country’s capital namesakes. Unlike Chicken Kyiv, Kiev cake is a sweet dish.
This dessert cake was first made in 1956 and ever since gained undying popularity in the post-Soviet countries.
The origin of the classic recipe is still debated to this day. However, the key ingredients are mostly agreed upon: meringue, hazelnuts, buttercream, eggs, sugar, and cocoa.
The Kiev cake is known for its airy texture and colorful flower ornaments on top of multiple meringue layers.
22 – Varenye (Jam)
Varenye or varennya is the Ukrainian homemade jam. Its name originates from “varyty,” the Ukrainian word for “boil.”
To make varenye, fruits are boiled in homemade sugar syrup. Common flavors include apricot, quince, viburnum, strawberry, and gooseberry.
Another popular type of varenye is called “dried jam” or candied fruit. The snack used to be a Kyiv brand delight that received numerous awards back in the 19th century.
Berries or cut fruit were covered with sugar syrup, boiled, and chilled. The process was repeated until the jam got its chewy and juicy consistency.
Read more: Varenye Recipe
23 – Homemade Sausages
A traditional recipe of the Ukrainian Carpathians, the homemade sausage demands patience and accuracy. The ingredient list includes pork, Ukrainian fatback salo, garlic, black pepper, and a casing made from a pig’s small intestine.
The meat and the salo are mixed with garlic and spices, minced, and stuffed inside the pig’s small intestine casing, which is thoroughly cleaned beforehand.
The sausage can be separated into smaller parts with a thread. Afterward, the sausage is boiled and fried.
This dish is commonly sold on Ukrainian food markets and served in national cuisine restaurants all over the country.
Traditional Ukrainian Food Summary
We’ve come to the end of our list of Ukrainian cuisine classics. Most Ukrainian dishes are best when they are homemade, so making friends or sampling hearty borscht at your host’s house will become an authentic Ukrainian experience of its own.
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Contributor: Kate Pryliuk is a content writer and translator from Kyiv. She has written for various Ukrainian publications and is eager to share more about Ukrainian cuisine and cooking with the rest of the world.
Images licensed via Shutterstock
Joanna Kwalik Keener
Friday 2nd of July 2021
I stem from 4 Polish grandparents and a lot of the foods took me thru memory lane. Thank you