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A Guide To Georgian Traditional Food: Iconic Dishes You Need to Try

Join us as we explore Georgian traditional food, a foodie journey we’ve loved embarking on over the years spent in this incredible country. Georgian cuisine, with its creative use of cheese, dough, and Georgian spices, transforms every meal into a celebration. We’ve tasted countless dishes, each with its own story and place in Georgia’s rich heritage.

In this guide, we’ll share the must-try foods of Georgia, highlighting what makes each one special.

Key Takeaways

  • Khachapuri is more than just cheese bread; it’s a symbol of Georgian heritage. Different types like Imeruli, Megruli, and Adjaruli each provide a unique cheesy experience.

  • Khinkali are soup dumplings that are a big part of Georgian culture. They have a special way of being eaten (keep those knives and forks away!) and are best enjoyed with friends. They come with various fillings like meat, cheese, and mushrooms.

  • Georgian cuisine treasures its traditional sweets like Churchkhela and robust dishes such as Lobio, offering a diverse range of flavors that reflect the nation’s culinary history.

Khachapuri: The Cheesy Delight

Georgian Traditional Food: Khachapuri Adjaruli
Georgian Traditional Food: Khachapuri Adjaruli

Imagine a dish so essential to a nation’s identity that it reflects the economy’s health. Enter Khachapuri, Georgia’s beloved cheese-filled bread and national dish. This culinary icon has spread from the mountains to the bustling streets of Tbilisi, where its enticing aroma fills cozy cafes and lively street corners. Across Georgia, Khachapuri isn’t just a traditional Georgian dish; it’s a celebration of the country’s love for hearty, cheesy comfort food. mmmmm sooooo good!

Khachapuri on a spit - must try Georgian food

Khachapuri comes in various forms, each with a unique twist from different regions. Imeruli, Megruli, and Adjaruli are among the popular varieties, each showcasing the diversity of Georgian cooking and the creativity of generations of Georgian cooks.

Ready to indulge? Let’s dive into the world of Khachapuri, where cheese is the star and every bite is a harmonious blend of flavors.

Imeruli

From the heart of Georgia’s Imereti region is the simple yet irresistible Imeruli khachapuri. This traditional Georgian flatbread proves that less is more, with its round, double-crusted appearance encasing sweet-ish, curdy chkinti (squeaky) cheese. Imeruli’s allure lies in its simplicity, making it a beloved staple across the country, perfect for pairing with a glass of Georgian wine.

Megruli

Megruli khachapuri takes the love for cheese to new heights, with not just one but two layers of cheesy goodness enveloping the bread. This variety hails from the Samegrelo region, where the appreciation for cheese runs deep, and the desire to double up on delight is evident with every slice. The Megruli is a cheese lover’s dream, with the first layer of cheese baked into the dough and a second layer added mid-baking, which caramelizes to perfection, creating a rich, golden crown atop the bread.

Adjaruli

Georgian Cheese Boat - Khachapuri Adjaruli
Georgian Cheese Boat – Khachapuri Adjaruli

Sailing from the shores of the Black Sea, the boat-shaped Adjaruli khachapuri is a Georgian dish that delights both the eyes, Instagram feeds, and the stomach. This unique variant features a warm, melted cheese filling, like a molten pool of comfort, topped with a raw egg yolk and a generous chunk of butter.

It’s more than just cheese bread; it’s a hands-on experience that is a must try when visiting Georgia.

To enjoy, break the crust and mix the egg and butter into the cheese. Sometimes the waiter will even mix it for you so you don’t have to worry about that part and just get right down to the eating!

Khinkali: Georgia’s Iconic Dumplings

Georgian Khinkali
Georgian Khinkali

Khinkali are Georgia’s answer to the world of dumplings. These traditional dumplings, with their twisted tops and succulent fillings, capture a burst of broth with every bite. Here’s how to enjoy them:

  1. Eat with your hands.
  2. Sprinkle with black pepper.
  3. Take a careful bite, slurp the broth, then enjoy the meaty filling.

Eating Khinkali is a cultural experience, where friends and family gather around a steaming plate, sharing stories and savouring every drop of broth. Whether at a bustling restaurant or a quiet mountain retreat, Khinkali is a staple of Georgian dining.

Traditional Meat Filling

The traditional filling of khinkali combines minced meat, usually a mix of ground beef and pork or occasionally lamb if you’re in the mountains, with diced onions and a splash of water. This mixture creates a juicy and flavorful filling. The meat can alos be seasoned with spices like cilantro, caraway seeds, and a for hint of heat – red chili flakes.

Khinkali combination pork meat and beef meat filling
Khinkali combination pork meat and beef meat filling

Cheese and Mushroom Variations

For those seeking vegetarian options, Khinkali offers super tasty options like cheese, mushroom, and potato and cheese variations.

Cheese Khinkali features a creamy blend of sulguni or Georgian cottage cheese and butter, sometimes with a touch of milk for a velvety texture.

Mushroom Khinkali provides a rich, earthy taste with finely chopped mushrooms, perfectly seasoned and sometimes mixed with other fillings to enhance the flavor.

Whether you’re a meat lover or vegetarian, everyone gets to enjoy Georgian dumplings. nom nom nom

Eating Etiquette

To fully enjoy Khinkali, follow these steps:

  1. Grasp the dumpling by the top knot, which you don’t eat.
  2. Take a small bite to release the broth and carefully slurp it. (careful it’s hot!)
  3. Eat the rest of the dumpling, savoring the filling and dough.

Keep the leftover top knots or knubs as I like to call them to count how many you have devoured in one sitting. (unless you’re eating with my 3 year old and then they will be snatched up and eaten before you even know what’s happened. What can I say….he loves the knubs lol)

Churchkhela: The Georgian Candy

Making Churchkhela - traditional Georgian Foods
Making Churchkhela – traditional sweet

As we move from savory to sweet, Churchkhela awaits—a traditional Georgian ‘candy’ that’s both visually striking and nourishing. Often called the “Georgian Snickers,” this treat is made by threading walnuts onto a string and dipping them in thickened grape juice. The result is a chewy, flavourful candy enjoyed year-round.

Churchkhela is more than a treat; it’s a symbol of celebration, especially during New Year and Christmas. It’s also a popular snack between meals and with coffee.

Fun Fact: Historically, its energy-packed contents made it a perfect snack for soldiers.

Lobio: A Bean Lover’s Dream

Georgian Lobio
Georgian Lobio

This traditional dish is a slow-cooked medley of soaked beans and spices, a hearty meal that can be found stewed or refried and is often served with cornbread, known as mchadi. Lobio’s charm lies in its regional diversity, with each part of Georgia offering its own twist on the dish, from the tartness of Megrelian Lobio with tkemali juice to the robustness of Rachan Lobio with ham.

The flavor profile of Lobio ranges from aromatic to spicy, with coriander, walnuts, and garlic often taking center stage. It’s a dish that can be garnished with pomegranate seeds or served with a variety of pickled vegetables, elevating the bean soup to new heights.

Badrijani Nigvzit: Eggplant Rolls with a Twist

Georgian eggplant rolls (nigvziani badrijani)
Georgian eggplant rolls (nigvziani badrijani)

Exploring Georgian cuisine, you can’t miss Badrijani Nigvzit, a dish that brilliantly combines roasted eggplant with rich walnut paste. These eggplant rolls balance the smoky eggplant with a sweet and savory walnut filling. The process is precise: eggplants are sliced thin, seasoned, and baked until tender, then spread with a garlic and spice walnut mix.

Badrijani Nigvzit is finished with fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds, adding vibrant color and fresh flavor. Often served as an appetizer or side, these rolls offer a delightful burst of Georgian flavors in every bite.

Mtsvadi: Fire-Roasted Goodness

Mtsvadi - Georgian Pork BBQ
Mtsvadi – Georgian Pork BBQ

As the sun sets over the Georgian hills, the scent of Mtsvadi, Georgia’s fire-roasted meat delight, fills the air, drawing everyone in. This traditional Georgian dish of skewered meat, marinated with nothing but local salt, celebrates both flavor and bbq technique. Mtsvadi has graced the tables of highlanders, hunters, and kings, and remains a favorite at family celebrations, its aroma a hallmark of the Georgian feast known as Supra.

Satsivi: Chicken in Walnut Sauce

Satsivi - Georgian Chicken Meat Dish
Satsivi – Georgian Chicken Meat Dish

During festive occasions, particularly Christmas, Satsivi is a must-have on Georgian tables. The Satsivi sauce, a blend of ground walnuts and garlic enriched with aromatic spices like blue fenugreek and coriander, is the soul of the dish, its creamy consistency embracing the poultry in a flavorful hug.

The preparation of Satsivi involves:

  1. Cooking the chicken.
  2. Broiling the chicken for a crispy exterior.
  3. Bathing the chicken in the rich walnut sauce, which is simmered to reheat the meat before serving.
  4. Chilling the dish for 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld and deepen.
  5. Serving the dish cold, setting it apart from other traditional Georgian dishes.

Puri: The Bread of Georgia

Making Georgian Puri Bread in a Tone Oven
Making Georgian Breads (puri) in a Tone Oven

This traditional flatbread is as essential to Georgia’s culinary identity as the grape is to its wine. A staple in Georgian cuisine, this bread symbolizes the country’s rich bread-making tradition. One of the most cherished varieties is tonis puri, which boasts a crispy exterior and a soft interior, thanks to being baked in a circular hearth oven known as a tone.

In Georgian culture, breaking bread is more than just a physical act; it’s a gesture of sharing and togetherness. Puri is no exception, torn apart by hand and savored with the same warmth and affection it was baked with. Puri is a testament to the traditional Georgian bread that has graced tables for generations, a beloved component of Georgian feasts that continues to bring people together.

Kharcho - Georgian Main Dish
Kharcho – Georgian Main Dishes

On a chilly evening in Georgia, nothing warms the soul like a bowl of Kharcho, the spicy beef stew that is as hearty as it is flavorful. This hearty dish is a symphony of ingredients, from tender beef to tangy tkemali (sour plum sauce) and rich walnuts, all simmered together to create a stew that is both comforting and complex. otic.

Georgian Condiments: Ajika and Tkemali

The vibrant tapestry of Georgian cuisine wouldn’t be complete without its condiments, the fiery Ajika and the tart Tkemali.

Ajika, from western Georgia, is a spicy paste similar to a spicy Indian pickle, showcasing Georgia’s love for bold flavors. It’s traditionally made by crushing ingredients on a flat rock, reflecting ancient Georgian cooking practices.

Tkemali is a sour plum sauce that adds a tangy kick to dishes like fried potatoes and grilled meats. Made from sour plum or alucha, garlic, and herbs like dill and coriander, Tkemali is versatile and essential.

Whether drizzled over fish or served with cheese or popular Georgian meat dishes, Ajika and Tkemali are the dynamic duo of Georgian cuisine, making every meal a feast for the senses.

Drinks in Georgia: Wine, Brandy, and Chacha

Georgian Amber Wine / Orange Wine
Georgian Amber Wine / Orange Wine

Georgian culture is all about celebration, and its beverages are no exception. Wine is the most popular drink in Georgia, with a winemaking history that goes back 8,000 years. It’s not just a drink; it’s part of the nation’s soul. You’ll find everything from light and refreshing Tsinandali, made from Rkatsiteli and Mtsvane grapes, to full-bodied reds made from the Saperavi grape. Georgian wine showcases the country’s diverse land and the passion of its winemakers.

Georgian Chacha
Georgian Chacha

But let’s not forget Chacha, the Georgian grape brandy that packs a punch with its high alcohol content and toasty flavors. Chacha is as much a part of Georgian social toasting rituals as wine, a fiery spirit that warms the heart and soul.

Whether you’re sipping on a glass of wine with some traditional dishes or raising a toast with Chacha, Georgia’s beverages offer a glimpse into the nation’s soul, reflecting its rich traditions and culture.

Desserts and Sweets: Gozinaki, Pelamushi, and Tklapi

In the world of Georgian sweets, Gozinaki is a standout treat. This traditional confection combines crunchy walnuts with sweet honey and symbolizes hope for a sweet year ahead. Making Gozinaki is a special ritual: honey is boiled with sugar until just right, then toasted walnuts are mixed in. Once set, it’s cut into diamond shapes and served, bringing good fortune and prosperity during New Year’s Eve and Christmas celebrations.

Georgian Desserts
Georgian Desserts – Pelamushi

Pelamushi and Tklapi may be less known, but they are key parts of Georgian desserts. Pelamushi is a pudding-like dessert garnished with walnuts or pomegranate seeds, offering a sweet and nutty finish to any meal. Tklapi is a traditional Georgian fruit leather, if you ever ate fruit roll-ups as a kid it’s like that – but more natural.

These desserts aren’t just the end of a meal; they invite you to linger at the Georgian table and enjoy sweets that have delighted Georgians for generations.

Sampling Georgian Food Around the World

For those eager to sample the authentic flavors of Georgian cuisine, the world offers a few great Georgian restaurant options, including:

  • Kinkally in London, which provides a cozy nook for those in search of quirky takes on Georgian dishes

  • Oda House in New York, which serves as a beacon for Georgian cooking in the heart of the Big Apple

  • Rezo Chef in Brisbane, is more of a caterer offering home delivery and private chef services.

  • Georgian Tavern Tbilisi in Tallinn, which offers a taste of the country’s culinary heritage

But for the ultimate gastronomic experience, nothing compares to visiting Georgia itself.

Here, dishes are more than just meals; they’re stories on a plate, reflecting the land and its people. Every bite is an adventure, and every sip takes you through Georgia’s vineyards and history. Whether you’re eating at a Georgian tavern in Tbilisi or tasting wine at a vineyard in Kakheti, you’re invited to enjoy authentic Georgian cuisine, where every meal is a celebration of life and good food.

Traditional Georgian Food
Traditional Georgian Food

As we wrap up our culinary journey through Georgia, we gain a deep appreciation for the richness and variety of Georgian cuisine. From the comforting warmth of the famous Georgian cheese bread Khachapuri to the hearty goodness of Kharcho, each dish is a part of Georgia’s vibrant culinary heritage. These traditional dishes are more than just food; they reflect a culture that treasures the art of cooking and the joy of sharing meals.

Frequently Asked Questions – Georgian Traditional Food

What is Khachapuri and why is it significant in Georgian cuisine?

Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian cheese-filled bread and is considered the national dish. It holds significant cultural importance and is a staple of Georgian cuisine, reflecting the country’s love for hearty, comforting meals.

How do you eat Khinkali without making a mess?

To eat Khinkali without making a mess, you should hold the top knot, take a small bite to sip the broth, and then eat the rest of the dumpling without spilling the juices. Remember to leave the top knot on the plate as a count of how many dumplings you’ve enjoyed.

What makes Churchkhela a unique Georgian sweet?

Churchkhela is a unique Georgian sweet because it’s made by threading nuts onto a string and dipping them in thickened grape juice, creating a natural and energy-packed candy that’s enjoyed as a snack and popular during festive occasions like New Year and Christmas. Try it for a delicious and energizing treat!

Can you recommend a vegetarian dish from Georgian cuisine?

Try Lobio, a flavorful bean dish served with cornbread, or consider trying cheese and mushroom Khinkali as delicious vegetarian options from Georgian cuisine. Enjoy!

What are some traditional Georgian beverages to try?

You should try traditional Georgian beverages like wine and Chacha, a grape brandy, to experience the rich history and culture of the country. Cheers to that!


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