Georgia is a country famously nestled between Europe and Asia, with a culture that represents the best of both continents. Food plays a massive role in Georgian society and most locals and visitors agree that the best word to describe it is hearty.
Georgian food can fulfil multiple roles, of being comforting on a rainy, mid-week evening and of being the centerpiece of celebrations at weddings or festivals. Perhaps the most notable part of Georgian cuisine is that, for a country whose population numbers just under 4 million, the sheer wealth of different dishes and the diversity of them is overwhelming.
Most Popular Georgian Dishes
Typical Georgian dishes are influenced by flavors from across the Mediterranean, Greece, Persia and Turkey. Meats, breads, cheeses, fresh tomatoes, walnuts and chili are common ingredients utilised in Georgian cuisine.
Georgia has many distinct regions, each of which have their own unique culinary traditions that contribute to Georgian cuisine. Of course, this list showcases the absolute foodie highlights you can experience throughout the country but it is important to acknowledge how distinct the regions can be in the ingredients they use and the preparation of dishes.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try dishes of Georgia, along with recipes should you wish to try making them yourself.
Khachapuri, also known as the Georgian Cheese Bread is quite simply an oval shaped bread, topped with cheese, butter and an egg.
The dough is leavened and given some time to rise and can be formed in different sizes and shapes. The outside dough is made into a crust that can be pulled off in and dipped.
Mtsvadi (Shashlik, Meat Skewers)
Mtsvadi, also known as Meat Skewers, is a traditional barbeque dish made with cubes of meat placed on a skewer and grilled.
Marinating the pork and veal first helps to achieve the desired juiciness and tenderness of the meat. Mtsvadi is most popular in the region of Kakheti.
Puri (Georgian Flatbread)
Puri is simply the name used to refer to Georgian flatbreads, a very distinctive feature of Georgian cuisine.
The dough of Georgian flatbreads is baked in a ceramic circular oven which in turn makes the puri moist with a slight brush of sourdough flavour on the outside.
Tonis Puri tastes somewhat like a matzo, a crisp unleavened bread because of its oven exposure which results in the browning of the edges of the bread.
Churchkhela is a sweet candy made out of nuts and chocolate, moulded into a candle shape. It is often mistaken for sausages because of its texture and color but is in fact a widely popular sweet treat.
Making Churchkhela requires a lot of patience and practice as it can be quite tedious and tricky to get right. It is also known for being popular with the Georgian military because of how rich it is in protein. It is often paired with coffee and postprandial.
Khinkali (Georgian Dumplings)
Khinkali is a type of Georgian dumpling, which is quite simply a twisted knob of dough stuffed with meat and spices and boiled or steamed.
Eating Khinkali is fun and messy, with the slight risk of spilling the hot broth that is inside the dumpling! The process of eating Khinkali is to first sprinkle it with some black pepper, turn it upside down, take a couple of small bites, and slurp the tasty broth inside.
Ajapsandali is an eggplant stew, similar to the French ratatouille in that it consists of vegetables stewed together for a long time.
The main ingredients used in making Ajapsandali are eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes.
Because of the abundance of tomatoes and eggplants in Georgia, Ajapsandali was traditionally used to keep the body warm and clear out the sinuses from congestion during the winter season. Georgian Ajapsandali has a strong garlic flavor and can be a little spicy.
Lobio, also known as the Georgian Bean Stew, is a stew made out of red kidney beans (often mashed with a mortar and pestle).
Lobio consists of ingredients such as dried marigold, cilantro, vinegar, chillies and onions. It can be eaten alongside marinated vegetables and a Mchandi.
Tklapi (Plum Fruit Leather)
Tklapi, or Plum Fruit Leather, is a fruit puree that is cooked and spread thinly on to a tray and left to dry in the sun for a few days before being rolled up.
Whilst plums are the most common fruit used to make Tklapi, it can also be made using figs, pears or apples.
Lobiani is a flatbread filled with a spiced bacon-scented bean in the buttery centre of the dough. The outer edge of the bread is made brown using a wood fire, making it look and taste like a croissant because of its flaky texture.
Lobiani is made in one of the oldest bread factories near the Tbilisi History Museum and is considered to be a quick and cheap snack.
Kharcho is a hearty beef soup containing rice, walnuts and plum purée. It is also widely popular in Russia during the winter time. It is often eaten with a side of shoti bread.
Kharcho can be prepared using beef or chicken as the main ingredient, which is then infused with garlic, cilantro, and the famous five-spice blend called khmeli suneli. The meat is first seasoned with various spices and seared before it is stirred into a sauce of plum puree, walnuts and tklapi.