10 Meals That Shaped Russian Culinary History

Take a gastronomic tour of Russia with these delicious dishes

By Google Arts & Culture

Okroshka by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

Russian national cuisine spans cultures, ethnic groups, and influences across borders to include dishes with depth, from salads to skewers, dumplings to dips, hailing from Southern regions to the Siberian Peninsula. 

Scroll on for a culinary journey through 10 dishes that shaped Russian contemporary and traditional cuisine. 

Vinaigrette Salad by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

1. Vinaigrette Salad

Across Russia, the vinaigrette salad is a colorful favorite. A medley of diced beetroots, potatoes, carrots, onions, sauerkraut and brined pickles, it's a sweet, bitter, gorgeous plate.

Vinaigrette with herring by Dinara GimaldinovaFederal Agency for Tourism

This curious name is thanks to the famous French chef, Antoine Carême, who came to Saint Petersburg in the early 19th century on the invitation of Tsar Alexander I. When he saw how the court cooks were pouring vinegar onto a salad, Carême asked, “Vinaigre?” The cooks decided that that was just the right name for the dish.

LIFE Photo Collection

A popular addition to this vegetable salad in Saint Petersburg is Baltic sprats – small salted fish caught in the Baltic Sea.

Stolichny Salad by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

2. Olivier Salad

This is a salad with a deep-rooted tradition spanning Russia, Ukraine, and other countries such as Turkey, Iran, Israel, Mongolia and much of Latin America.

Ensaladilla rusaReal Academia de Gastronomía

It's a dish as intense and varied as its storied past, and its deep ties to Russian culture are reflected in the fact that, in many countries, it is known as Russian Salad.

Olivier salad (21st Century)Federal Agency for Tourism

It's made with potatoes, carrots, pickles, green peas, eggs, celeriac, onions, diced chicken or sausage and tart apples, all combined and flavored with mustard-mayo, salt, and pepper.

Syrniki by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

3. Syrniki

These pancakes are as sweet as they are small, and are made mainly from tvorog (quark, or farmer’s cheese) with very little flour. They're sometimes also called tvorozhniki. They're important in the culinary culture of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, and Serbia.

Cooking (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

4. Pelmeni

Said to be "the heart of Russian cuisine," these dumplings are made with thin dough and packed with delicious fillings! Traditionally originating in either Ural or Siberia, they're usually filled with minced meat. 

Dumplings (Pelmeni) (21st Century) by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

But there is more to pelmeni than just a piece of minced meat wrapped in dough and boiled in water. Pelmeni can be boiled, yes, but also fried, and mixed with sour cream, ketchup or vinegar.

BorschtFederal Agency for Tourism

5. Borshch

Borshch has a centuries-long history, but during the twentieth century, this hearty soup became a key element of cafe menus in several countries, including Russia.

Borscht with cherries and croissants with foie gras (21st Century)Federal Agency for Tourism

Cookbooks featured different versions, including Ukrainian borshch (with ground salo, or fatback, and garlic), Moscow-style borshch (with assorted meat – bacon, sausages, boiled beef), and even flotsky (navy-style) borshch (with red pepper and smoked pork).

Borscht in bread (21st Century)Federal Agency for Tourism

With time, other ingredients were added borshch or barszcz became generic terms for any sour-tasting soup.

Buckwheat porridge with parmesan (21st Century)Federal Agency for Tourism

6. Buckwheat porridge, or kasha

A simple and popular breakfast dish, kasha is made with grain either baked or boiled in milk. It's a real comfort food, a staple enjoyed across all of Russia and beyond. It is linked to traditional Jewish dishes like knishes. 

Beef Stroganov (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

7. Beef Stroganoff

The Stroganov family were the wealthiest merchants of Tsarist Russia, and the dish which bears their name is fittingly rich, hearty, and bold.

Beef Stroganov (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

It's based on traditional Russian stews, and given a bit of French flair by the Stroganov's personal Parisian chefs. The key ingredients are stewed beef and a sauce based on smetana, a type of soured cream.

Okroshka by Proximity RussiaFederal Agency for Tourism

8. Okróshka

For those long, lazy summer days, Okróshka is the perfect chilled dish. It's a cold soup of raw radish and spring onion served with cooked meat, boiled potatoes, and egg. The sauce is based mainly on kvass....

Kvass (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

...which is also known as "black bread". It's a non-alcoholic fermented drink made using rye bread, giving it that characteristic thick, dark, color and a wholesome taste!

Pancakes with ice cream and condensed milk by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

9. Bliny

The most popular dish in Russia! The versatile buckwheat flour gets another iconic use in bliny, which are thin pancakes often served with smetana, tvorog, butter, caviar and more.

Shashlik (barbecue) by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

10. Shashlik or shashlyk

Just look at these mouthwatering shashlik! A forerunner of the globally beloved shish kebab, these skewered cubes of meat are a firm favorite across the Caucasus region and beyond. 

Grilled or barbecued, paired with cubes of vegetables or fruits, this is a true icon of Russian culinary culture.

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