What is Ukrainian cuisine famous for? What are the iconic dishes not to miss on your visit to Ukraine?
At first glance, the local food may not seem to be the lightest fare: it offers a plenty of fried and dough-based dishes, gives preference to red meat, and often requires a complex mixture of ingredients. Simultaneously, Ukrainian cuisine is keen on vegetables, especially stewed and boiled. It is curious, but there are almost no traditional recipes based on fresh veggies. The ingredients are usually heat processed, sometimes – in several steps (f.i., first boiled or fried and then stewed).
Ukrainian gastronomy is mainly complex, including a wide range of ingredients and seasonings, preparations and cooking steps. Thus, dishes of Ukrainian cuisine are not fast to prepare. For instance, the entire process of borscht making would take you from 2 to 6 hours. The deliciousness of Ukrainian food leaves no room for doubts. Hence, on your visit to Ukraine, don’t miss a chance to taste the local meals.
Ukrainian dishes not to miss
On a short trip, it would be challenging to get familiar with all Ukrainian culinary traditions since they vary a lot from region to region. The dishes below are on the must-try list as they would give you an insight into what Ukrainian cuisine is like.
Borscht – Ukrainian beetroot soup
No other dish represents Ukrainian culinary traditions as explicitly as borscht does: it’s complicated, challenging to cook, nourishing, and suspiciously delicious. Borscht is a beetroot soup, often served with sour cream and garlic bread (so-called pampushky). Beetroot gives the dish its distinctive saturated red color. Actually, beetroot is the only mandatory ingredient of the meal. The rest varies depending on the region, family recipe, or personal preferences. Beef or pork broth is a base for the soup, other ingredients include cabbage, carrots, potatoes, beans, parsnip, parsley, etc. Borscht can be also cooked without meat. The list is as long as 10-20 ingredients. Ukrainians joke: every girl should learn how to cook it before getting married.
Another traditional Ukrainian soup is the mushroom soup. This soup originates from the Carpathian mountains, where a wide variety of mushrooms grows. The most typical ones for the broth are Porcini mushrooms (called “white mushrooms” here), but you can encounter the variation of the recipe. The mushrooms give the soup a distinctive aroma and goldish color. Tasty and nourishing, it will bring you a sense of warmth and coziness.
Varenyky – Dumplings
Along with borscht, varenyky is the most well-known dish of Ukrainian cuisine. Made of dough and filling, varenyky resemble dumplings, but the dough type and their shape make them different. At first glance, all varenyky look identical, but it’s their filling responsible for the endless variety. Meat, mashed potatoes, mushrooms, curd cheese, buckwheat, cabbage, cherries, blueberries, apples – only your imagination limits the list of sweet and salty fillings. Varenyky are usually served with sour cream, while the salty ones could be also served with fried onions or crispy pork.
Deruny – Potato pancakes
Deruny is a local name for potato pancakes. Made of thoroughly grated potatoes, deruny are usually fried, but could also be baked. To cook the dish, you would need only potatoes and the most basic seasoning like salt and black pepper. But the original recipe could be modified: depending on the region and personal preferences, Ukrainians add mushrooms, onions, or even meat. Usually, they are served with sour cream and topped with green onions or parsley.
Salo – Cured pork belly
In Ukrainian, salo stands for lard, a pig fat. Since ancient times, salo has been a symbol of hospitality and wealth. It’s availability at the house meant that a family could afford to keep livestock, namely, pigs. Centuries ago, salo was an ideal, sterling lunch for those who worked in the fields. Salo is often served as an appetizer, but it could be a separate snack too. On the table, it usually appears in thin slices seasoned with salt, black pepper, vinegar, onions or garlic, and accompanied with rye bread.
Nalysnyky – Crepes
Nalysnyky are Ukrainian crepes, very thin simmered pancakes. Similar to varenyky, nalysnyky is a base that you are free to fill with whatever you want. The list of fillings includes cream cheese with salmon or caviar, fried mushrooms with onions, all kinds of chopped meat, apples, curd cheese with raisins, poppy seeds, honey or any kind of berries or jam. Your imagination is the one to guide you. Often, nalysnyky are served with sour cream.
Holubtsi – stuffed cabbage rolls
Holubtsi are stuffed cabbage leaves with the minced meat and parboiled rice. They are usually served with sour cream or tomato sauce. But it is not the only recipe of holubtsi – they can also be prepared without meat – with rice, onions and carrots or with buckwheat and grated potatoes – all depends on your tastes.
If you are looking for the most popular Ukrainian recipes in English, we highly recommend you to look for “Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and beyond” cookbook by Olia Hercules.