Last Updated January, 2020
There are so many different traditional foods of Ukraine I would recommend to try to understand the nation better. A lot of foreigners mainly know about borscht, chicken kiev, cabbage rolls, and pierogi. But there is still so much more to Ukrainian cuisine.
I could write a list of hundreds of different dishes that you may find in Ukraine. But in this post, my goal is to highlight less-known and tried foods of Ukraine, so when you visit you can try what most visitors never try.
Yes, you should definitely eat borscht, pierogies with cherries, local potato salad, crepes with various fillings, and cabbage soup. If you are visiting Lviv, you should also drink some of the finest coffee in one of the cafes I wrote about here. But the following dishes are very popular among locals too.
By the way, those who are planning to travel to Russia will find some of the items on this list there too. Ukrainians and Russians are similar in many aspects and the food is one of them. So if you happen to travel to the biggest country in the world, you can definitely find most of the same foods there as well.
So here is the list of Ukrainian foods you probably didn’t know about:
1. Lazy Pierogi (or Lazy Dumplings)
I bet you’ve heard and most likely tried pierogies but lazy ones? Ukrainians call them ‘lazy’ because it doesn’t take much time to make them. They usually cook this dish when kind of want pierogies but do not have much desire to cook all evening long.
In reality, this meal doesn’t have anything in common with pierogies as Polish food for instance. But it’s still delicious and pretty light on a stomach.
So lazy pierogi in Ukraine come in different variations. They can be made with cottage cheese, flour, eggs, a little bit of sugar and vanilla. Or with potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, cabbage or peppers. The most common ones are with cottage cheese. Usually, sour pierogi served with sour cream or some type of sauce, sweet ones with honey.
WHERE TO TRY: Lots of restaurants and cafes around Ukraine serve lazy pierogi, just look for word ‘ledachi’ or ‘linyvi varenyky’. Puzata Hata, local fast-food restaurants often have them in their buffet. If you are in Kiev, visit Favorite Uncle cafe, where lazy dumplings are on the menu as breakfast food all day long.
2. Buckwheat Cutlets or ‘Grechaniki’
Have you tried buckwheat at all? It is one of the most nutrient-packed, gluten-free seeds. Yes, buckwheat is not a grain, but a seed. Ukrainians love it and eat often. Usually, they cook it as a porridge but in Western Ukraine, people make cutlets out of it.
Grechaniki are made with ground beef (sometimes chicken,) buckwheat porridge, eggs, a bit of flour, onions, and carrots and fried on a pan. Sometimes a cook can add mushroom or other veggies. And many times they can be vegetarian. They are served with or without sauce.
WHERE TO TRY: In local fast food cafes or casual dining restaurants that serve Ukrainian food only.
3. Potato Cutlet
Locals call it ‘zrazy’ or ‘kartoplyanyky’. They differ from potato pancakes that many people take for hashbrowns. These are fried cutlets made with mashed potatoes, eggs and flour, and always have a filling. The filing may be different – meat, cheese, rice with egg, stewed cabbage, a slice of ham or mushrooms.
When I was a little girl, my mom and grandma often cooked this dish for me for breakfast or lunch. But I think it’s any time of the day dish.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Zrazy dish is considered to be more of the Rivne region but I was able to find them in pretty much every town in Western and Central Ukraine. Puzata Hata and similar chains always have it on their menu.
4. Liver Pie
If you are not a fan of the liver then this dish is probably not for you. But I think in a pie you barely taste liver and can’t really tell what exactly you are eating.
Ingredients include beef liver, eggs, milk, flour, carrots, onions, garlic and sour cream (sometimes mayonnaise.)
The liver pie is quite fulfilling. Usually, you eat a little bit of it and get pretty full. It’s better to have it with a side of mashed potatoes, salad or piece of bread.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Ukrainians tend to cook this dish for parties, New Year celebration, Christmas or any other big holiday. It is not really a meal for daily life so you won’t find it around each corner. But still, many restaurants and my favorite Puzata Hata have it on their menus.
5. Jellied Beef Tongue
This food in Ukraine is considered to be a delicacy. It is rather expensive and an average Ukrainian does not cook this dish on a regular basis. Usually, people make it for the New Year table together with meat jelly, weddings or birthday celebrations. It is a common item for many eateries and restaurants though.
WHERE TO TRY: Look among restaurants that offer only traditional Ukrainian food. If they don’t have it right away, you can order to make it for the next day.
6. Eggplant Caviar
This is one of my favorite side dishes or even snacks in Ukraine. Eggplant caviar is light, nutritious and very delicious.
Ingredients are roasted eggplants, tomatoes, raw garlic, onions, oil, and salt. They are pureed in the food processor and voila, ready to eat. Some people cut all the products instead of pureeing them.
WHERE TO TRY: You can find it on a menu as an appetizer or in the salad section. Cafes and restaurants that offer Ukrainian traditional food often serve this dish too. It is better to eat eggplant caviar with crackers, a slice of bread or as a side dish.
7. Rabbit Stew
When I lived in the States, I met a lot of people who were freaking out every time I mentioned how much I love rabbit meat. They told me that eating a rabbit is not aesthetical. Perhaps that’s common for America, but many nations in Europe consume rabbits. Ukraine is not the only one.
However, I wasn’t able to find this dish in many places outside Ukraine.
If you have never tried it before (even if you did,) love food adventures then I recommend to try rabbit stew in Ukraine. The meat is very soft and simply melts in your mouth.
I know in some regions in Germany and France people cook this stew with red wine, vegetables and/or tomato sauce. In Ukraine, it is always in the sour cream sauce.
WHERE TO TRY: I would say that usually casual dining, premium casual and fine dining restaurants serve it as the main course meal.
8. Lard Spread With Garlic, Parsley, and Dill
Ukrainians’ food obsession is cured pork fat, in other words, lard or in local language ‘salo’. I am Ukrainian American and yes, as a true Ukrainian in my heart I love, love, love salo. I actually don’t eat it often (maybe like once a year) but when I do, I choose only a specific type.
So what is a lard spread? It is basically a paste (or spread) made from smoked pork fat, garlic, pepper, sometimes dill and some other spices.
Generally, you eat it on a slice of bread or with pita chips. It is an appetizer or snack food. Lard is heavy and you can’t eat a lot of it.
I know, for some of you, guys, it may sound disgusting, but try at least a little bit to know what this traditional food of Ukraine is all about. Chances are you will like it.
WHERE TO FIND IT: In destination-restaurants and full-service restaurants. Some places offer chocolate-covered lard as a dessert but that’s a totally another thing.
9. Pea Mash
This side dish is considered to be comfort food and Ukrainians love to eat it during colder months. It may look like mashed potatoes but in yellowish or greenish color, depending on what type of peas is used.
It’s very plain and except peas, a cook usually uses oil, salt and broth (or just water.) Pea mash is light and goes well by itself or with any other food.
WHERE TO TRY: Any type of restaurant can have this dish on a menu. Traditional fast food places regularly offer it to their patrons.
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10. Pickled Tomatoes and Beet-Horseradish Relish
During my time in the U.S., I was always finding pickled cucumbers on the shelves of a store. But to find pickled tomatoes I had to go to Russian type grocery store. There I could get tomatoes, pickled in Latvia, Russia or even Poland but never saw any from Ukraine. They always had a bunch of preservatives on the ingredient list and never tasted the same as those ones I am used to eating in Ukraine.
For some of you, pickled tomatoes may not be on the list of foods of Ukraine to try. But if you love everything pickled I suggest trying a pickled tomato. Ukrainians pickle and do canning every summer to have veggies for the winter, and tomato comes second after cucumber in popularity.
Beet-horseradish relish is another food to try. It goes well with jelly meat, other types of cooked meat, mashed or fried potatoes and anything else you want to try it with.
WHERE TO FIND IT: In any grocery store, you can find both of these items. Many cafes and restaurants serve main dishes with horseradish relish and mustard.
Have you visited Ukraine yet? What traditional Ukrainian dishes did you try? Share your thoughts about what you think about the food in Ukraine and don’t forget to pin this post, in case you enjoyed it!