Azerbaijan is a country situated at the boundary of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The Caspian Sea, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, and Iran border the country, which is part of the South Caucasus region.
The country is known for its incredible mountain ranges and the mulberry groves and vineyards that continue to enhance the beauty of its valleys.
Azerbaijan’s population is composed of different ethnicities, including Azerbaijanis (91.6%),Lezgins, Armenians, Russians, Talysh, Avars, Turks, Tatars, Tats, Ukrainians, Tsakhurs, Georgians, Jews, Kurds, and others. The cuisine of Azerbaijan has prospered remarkably because of its diversity of agriculture, as well as the distinctive geographical location of the country.
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Most Popular Azerbaijani Dishes
Staple ingredients of Azerbaijani cuisine include milk products and meats like beef, mutton, fish and game. Many dishes are also influenced by a range of different cultures including Turkic, Iranian, and Eastern European.
Lots of Azerbaijani utilize a variety of different fruits and vegetables, like aubergine, tomatoes, sweet pepper, spinach, cabbage, onion, sorrel, beet, radish, cucumber, green beans, etc. Rice and products prepared using flour are also extensively used in cooking.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Azerbaijan along with recipes for you to try for yourself.
Plov, also known as pilaf, is a rice-based dish prepared using saffron flavored rice which is cooked with aromatic herbs, fried meat and vegetables. Considered to be the national dish of Azerbaijan, plov is often the dish of choice to serve to guests.
Plov is usually consumed with sour drinks like a yarn, black tea with lemon or verjuice. There are many different variations of plov that have been consumed in Azerbaijan for generations. The classic ones include dried fruit plov, mutton plov served along with onion, chilov plov (bean plov with fish), chicken plov and shirin plov (sweet plov).
Shah Plov, also known as khan ashi, is another rice-based dish, served with meat on top and finished with a crust of fried dough. Shah plov also consists of layers of dried apricots, plums, roasted chestnuts, nuts, prunes, and raisins on top of the rice, forming a combination of textures and flavors.
The name “shah plov” translates to “crown rice” in English, referring to the fact that this dish is considered to be a signature of Azerbaijani cooking. It is a dish very often served at weddings, dinner parties and other special events.
Dolma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Dolma is a type of dumpling delicacy prepared using a combination of meat, onion, rice, peas and spices wrapped in grape leaves or stuffed in vegetables like tomatoes, sweet peppers or eggplant. The word “dolma” translates to “stuffed” in English.
Also enjoyed in Eastern Europe and in Mediterranean cuisines, dolma is generally bite-sized and consumed with a large scoop of creamy garlic yogurt sauce However, the dish can also be served with bread, tomato, cucumber, and other greens. During the winter and spring, the dolma is wrapped in vine leaves. During the summer, it uses eggplants and peppers. And during the autumn season, it uses cabbage leaves.
Piti is a typical Azerbaijani lamb stew prepared along with mashed chickpeas and baked chestnuts. Some people also add vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes etc. Other optional additions include plums or quince. Piti is typically slow-cooked for 5-6 hours in a clay pot (also called a topu), which helps to intensify the flavor of the dish.
Invented in the northern city of Sheki, piti was considered to be a worker’s dish. It was believed that just a single serving of this soup was so filling that it could provide sufficient nourishment to get through a long day.
Buglama is a lamb stew dish that comprises of lamb pieces, onions, tomatoes, peppers, many different kinds of spices such as black pepper and bay leaves, and a small quantity of water.
The name buglama in English translates to steamed which denotes that the lamb meat is cooked in its own juices. Buglama can be prepared using fish, chicken or beef. Vegetarians can also use tofu instead of meat.
It is generally served with choban salaty (a “shepherd’s salad” of fresh summer vegetables such as cucumber, tomato and green bell pepper, as well as greens such as coriander, dill, mint, basil and white goat cheese).
A gutab is a kind of pancake that is stuffed with either meat, vegetables, cheese or greens. The dish is generally prepared using thinly rolled dough which is then cooked (for a short time) on a convex griddle known as saj.
Generally served in the shape of a crescent (semi-circle), a gutab is usually accompanied by yogurt with green coriander, fennel and sumac. Often served as a main course or an appetizer, a gutab is often referred to as the “Azerbaijanian fast-food” by the locals.
Lavangi is a meat dish (fish, duck or chicken) stuffed with various ingredients like walnuts, onions and numerous seasonings. The dish is then baked in the oven. Other ingredients used for stuffing include dried cherry-plums, raisins, sour prunes, or “narsharab” (a pomegranate juice syrup) and vegetable oil. Lavangi is generally served as a main course dish.
Prominently found in southern Azerbaijan (especially in Lankaran), lavangi is considered to be one of the most favorite dishes of Azerbaijani people.
Dushbara are small dumplings that are generally stuffed with minced meat and seasonings, cooked in broth. Generally served in a lamb broth, ingredients used include minced meat, tomatoes and onions, served with dried mint, wine vinegar and crushed garlic.
Although there are many different variations of Dushbara, what makes it unique is their tiny, delicate form. People in Baku can often be found competing to place as many of these dumplings onto the spoon as they can!