Ukraine is a country located in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by countries including Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova and has a coastline along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The country is best known for its amazing landscape, well-preserved culture and most importantly, its architecture.
The population of Ukraine is composed of several ethnicities, including Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Belarusian, Crimean Tatar, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Polish, Jewish, Pontic Greeks and others. The country’s cuisine is a combination of several cooking traditions of the locals of Ukraine, which tends to be one of the biggest and most populated countries in Europe.
Table of Contents
Most Popular Ukrainian Dishes
The cuisine of Ukraine is deeply influenced by the rich dark soil (chernozem), which is the main source of its ingredients. Traditional Ukrainian dishes are often prepared using a complex heating process that involves frying or boiling the ingredients first, and then stewing or baking them. This method is considered to be the most typical element of Ukrainian cuisine.
Borscht, the popular beet soup, is considered to be the staple and national dish of the country. Other commonly consumed dishes include varenyky (boiled dumplings similar to pierogi) and a kind of cabbage roll also called holubtsi. Below are some of the most commonly consumed traditional dishes in Ukraine.
Paska (Easter Bread)
Paska is a traditional Ukrainian sweet bread prepared using milk, butter, eggs, flour and sugar. Apart from Ukraine, it is also considered to be a traditional component of the Easter holidays of countries like Armenia, Belarus, Romania, Russia, Georgia, Moldova, some regions of Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran and Slovakia.
The bread is also decorated with certain religious symbols and is traditionally taken to church on Easter morning in a basket to be blessed. One can find this East European delicacy in almost every small or large market throughout the country during the holidays.
Borscht is a typical Ukrainian beetroot soup, prepared using red beetroots as one of the chief ingredients. Other ingredients include vegetables (such as white cabbage, carrots, parsley root, potatoes, onions and tomatoes) and meat (most commonly beef, pork or a combination of both).
Borscht generally exists in different shades of red, depending on the type of beet added. As far as the flavour is concerned, this dish is somewhat sweet and sour in taste. Usually flavoured with sour cream or classic yogurt, borscht is often consumed along with garlic doughnuts. The dish is normally consumed on holidays, weekdays, and even funeral wakes.
Vareniki are stuffed dumplings prepared using basic cottage cheese, mashed potatoes or sauerkraut. Some of the recipes also include ingredients like olives, pumpkin, nettle or strawberries.
Generally garnished with fried onions and accompanied by sour cream, these dumplings come in both sweet and savory flavors depending on the ingredients used. The preparation is time-consuming, but many people also buy the frozen ready-made versions from the supermarket.
Holubtsi are basically boiled cabbage leaves filled with ingredients such as meat, boiled rice, and vegetables. There are many different variations of this roll. Some are strictly vegetarian, while others contain only meat, and still others are a perfect combination of meat and vegetables.
While a variation of this Ukrainian delicacy uses boiled vine leaves instead of the cabbage for the rolls, some also prefer beet, lettuce, or spinach leaves. Many recipes also substitute the rice with cereals, mushrooms, Korean carrots, etc.
Apart from being commonly consumed in Ukraine, holubtsi are popular in the Balkans and are also found in several Asian and African cuisines.
Salo is a dish prepared using pork fat as the main ingredient. It can be consumed raw as well as cooked. The residents often fry or coarsely mince it with garlic and accompany it with the traditional borscht. Ukrainians generally serve salo with horilka (a popular Ukrainian beverage). One can also slice the meat thinly and serve it over garlic-rubbed rye bread.
Salo is a perfect combination of unique taste and nutrition as the dish is known for its health benefits. Pork fat is known to be packed with vitamins D and A, which support brain function, digestion, and detoxification.
The dish is so popular in the country that the residents tend to hold two annual festivals in its honour, one in February and the other in September.
Holodets (Meat Jelly)
Holodets, also known as kholodets, are a gelatinized pork dish generally consumed with horseradish. Apart from being prevalent in Ukraine, this dish is also widely enjoyed in other Eastern European nations. Ukrainians are often seen using beef chuck, pig’s feet, hocks and bone broth to obtain the typical flavour of this meat jelly dish.
The name “holodets” originates from the Ukrainian word “holodnyii”, which means “cold”. One can easily spot this dish at important events like New Year’s Eve. It is believed that in the past, locals had to cook meat for a very long time until it turned into jelly. However, nowadays, people usually prefer to use store-bought gelatine, which makes it less time-consuming to prepare the dish and, at the same time, more convenient.
Olivye is a Ukrainian salad prepared using diced veggies, eggs, dill pickles, and different types of meat. After combining all the ingredients, the mixture is coated with mayonnaise and seasoned with mustard, salt, and pepper.
It is believed that the original version of this salad was invented in the 1860s by a Belgian-born chef named Lucien Olivier. He served this appetizer to the customers of his restaurant, named the Hermitage, which is considered to be one of Moscow’s most well-known restaurants.
The salad is believed to be an instant hit and became the best-loved at the Hermitage. It ultimately became the restaurant’s hallmark dish and, at the same time, became one of Ukraine’s most loved appetizers. Today, it is one of the main dishes found at important events such as a New Year party, wedding or birthday.