20 Most Popular Belarusian Foods
If you’re planning a trip to Belarus as a food destination to widen your gastronomic horizons beyond the traditional Slavic borscht, then look no further than our complete guide.
A rich historical background and close connections with Russia, Poland, and Ukraine, as well as the impact of various environmental, social, economic, and religious factors, have heavily influenced Belarusian cuisine and made it as we know it today.
The main peculiarity of this cuisine is the abundance and variety of products used; it has therefore always been very diverse and affordable for all classes, from hard-working peasants to the wealthy nobility.
The Belarusian culinary palette is rich in meat, vegetables, and potato, which is considered a distinctive feature of its entire cuisine. Potatoes are so beloved in Belarus that the country ranks first with the highest consumption of potatoes per capita in the world.
If you are craving a taste of traditional Belarusian dishes, here are the top 20 most popular foods you should try. Indulge yourself!
1. Sorrel Soup
Once considered a weed, sorrel became incredibly popular in Belarus and Russia. The soup made from sorrel is deemed nutritious and is consumed mainly in spring or early summer when we most need the vitamins.
The basic recipe includes sorrel, potatoes, carrots, parsley, hard-boiled eggs, and beef or chicken broth as a base, but the vegetarian version is also quite delicious.
2. Nalistniki: Thin Pancakes
Belarusian nalistniki are thin pancakes close to the French crêpe.
Indeed, they have always been popular with Belarusians, both on holidays and in everyday life. In appearance, nalistniki look like ordinary pancakes, but are much thinner than typical pancakes and have little taste on their own so are used for wrapping different fillings.
As an everyday dish, they are typically served with vegetables, cheese, mushrooms, or varenje (sweet berry jam), while for a festive table, nalistniki are often filled with red or black caviar and topped with sour cream.
3. Sbiten: Hot Honey Drink
Sbiten is a traditional Belarusian hot drink, very much loved by people during wintertime. It is often referred to as a Slavic glühwein, although usually doesn’t include alcohol. Sbiten dates back to the 12th century and was very popular till the 19th century, when tea and coffee became widespread, replacing traditional hot beverages.
Like some other popular Belarusian drinks, sbiten’s main ingredient is honey blended with water, spices, and herbs. Some modern recipes may also include various alcoholic drinks, such as red wine, but sbiten is invariably garnished with mint leaves or cinnamon sticks.
4. Olivier Salad: Russian Salad
When a Belgian cook introduced Olivier salad in the 1860s, it quickly gained incredible popularity among the Moscow public. Nowadays, no New Year celebration is complete without Olivier salad, often called Russian salad.
Due to the common historical links with the Soviet Union, this traditional Russian salad became popular in other post-Soviet countries, especially in Belarus. The recipe may differ a bit depending on each family’s preferences.
However, the most common ingredients are diced boiled potatoes, carrots, diced pickles, green peas, eggs, onions, diced cooked chicken, or sausage. The ready-to-eat salad is sprinkled with salt and pepper and dressed with mayonnaise.
5. Sirniki: Cottage Cheese Crumpets
The simplicity and delicious taste of sirniki has made them very popular across the entire Eastern Europe. In appearance, sirniki are small crumpets made of cottage cheese and fried on a hot frying pan on both sides. The dish is usually served for breakfast or dessert with jam and sour cream after a main course .
Apart from cottage cheese, the other ingredients are eggs, flour, and sugar, but many families often add raisins, dried fruits, or poppy seeds. Some new recipes also suggest cooking sirniki with banana.
6. Babka: Grated Potato Pie
One of the most traditional Belarusian foods is a potato babka. The dish has been adored by all classes of people, from peasants to princes.
If you wonder what is so peculiar about a thick potato pie, then the answer is its exquisite taste. The key to success lies in its constituents: a hot frying pan, fresh ingredients, and a drop of love! Crispy potatoes combined with meat, sausage and sour cream will undeniably be appreciated, even by those who usually consider such foods unhealthy.
The recipe requires grating the potatoes, mixing them with chopped onions, meat, salt, and baking in the oven. The result exceeds all expectations!
7. Karavai: Decorated Bread
Karavai has pagan roots and comes from belief in the mysterious features of the seeds. In appearance, it is a big round braided loaf, usually baked from wheat flour and decorated with national ornaments.
Karavai has a significant cultural meaning and is considered something much more valuable than a loaf of bread and is made for special events. It is a sign of respect and honor offered to guests arriving at your home. Karavai has a delicious yet delicate taste, obtained by using numerous eggs and plenty of milk.
By the way, the custom of giving a karavai to newlyweds is still widespread across the country.
8. Vareniki: Stuffed Dumplings
Vareniki are stuffed dumplings that originated in Ukrainian cuisine and spread to Belarusian lands. They are made of a dough stuffed with various savory or sweet fillings. The noun vareniki actually means boiled, as dumplings are cooked in boiling water.
Several centuries ago, vareniki were a typical dish in peasants’ houses. However, they were not consumed daily, more often on Sundays or special occasions like christening or weddings.
9. Holodnoe: Meat Jelly
Holodnoe is a classic Belarusian dish that is served during various celebrations, especially on winter holidays. The word holodnoe originates from the Russian word holod, meaning cold. This may be explained by the fact that the final step of its preparation implies cooling it in the fridge overnight.
Holodnoe is close to a meat jelly with pieces of poultry, pork, and beef together with vegetables and spices. Making holodnoe is a complex and time-consuming task; that’s why it is typically only consumed on holidays.
10. Herring Under a Fur Coat: Herring Salad
Another festive dish widely appreciated by people from post-Soviet countries, including Belarus, is literally herring under a fur coat.
This salad (yes, it is a salad) was created during turbulent revolutionary times more than a century ago uniting the country. Fish salad symbolized the red flag of the Revolution, while herring and potatoes were standard proletarian products.
Due to the substantial filling, the salad prevented guests getting drunk too quickly.
The salad was a huge success, and since the 20th century, it has been a fundamental dish on every New Year table.
The traditional salad version includes chopped grated boiled beets, carrots, potatoes, salted herring fillet, and a mayonnaise top.
11. Kvass: Fermented Drink
Kvass is a traditional fermented Russian and Belarusian beverage typically made from rye bread and consumed mainly during summertime.
Kvass has been widely known since ancient times and was a common drink in Muscovy. Later it gained significant popularity in other East European countries since at least the Middle Ages.
Kvass is produced from the natural fermentation of bread and is sometimes flavored with fruit, berries, or raisins. Modern recipes are often based on dried black rye bread toasts, sugar, and various fruits.
12. Pelmeni: Meat Dumplings
Pelmeni are dumplings from Russian and Belarusian cuisines, and are a seasoned meat filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough. Historically, this dish has an oriental origin, and it’s still unclear when pelmeni joined the Slavic cuisines.
Unlike vareniki, pelmeni are mainly stuffed with meat filling. This can be minced pork, lamb, beef, or a mixture of different meats.
Nowadays, few people in Belarus opt for homemade pelmeni, most preferring to purchase the ready-to-cook product from a convenience store: which is why pelmeni have become associated with students and the college lifestyle.
13. Kolduny: Stuffed Potato Pancakes
In most Slavic cuisines, kolduny are the same dumplings (as described earlier) stuffed with meat. However, in Belarusian cuisine, kolduny usually represent potato pancakes (draniki) stuffed with minced meat.
A distinctive feature of potato kolduny is that an extra liquid is extracted from the finely ground potato so that the mixture becomes thick and keeps its form. Shaped kolduny are fried on both sides and served usually with sour cream.
Across the Polesie region (the southern part of Belarus), kolduny are often made with a stuffing of boiled river fish and hard-boiled eggs.
14. Kletski: Boiled Flour Balls
Kletski can boast the absolute universality and simplicity of cooking. Generally, kletski are made of flour and cooked in boiling water or milk.
Some recipes suggest a meat filling. Others regard kletski as an extra ingredient in various soups.
This dish is famous far beyond the borders of Belarus and its close neighbors. The undeniable advantage of kletski is that they can act both as an independent dish with sour cream and fried onions and as a side, seasoned with fresh herbs and spices.
15. Galushki: Boiled Dumplings
Taken from the Ukrainian menu, galushki were previously a typical rustic dish, which succeeded in becoming an outstanding side dish and an independent dish for many families.
Although the ingredients vary from country to country, the most common recipe in Belarus is flour mixed with grated potatoes to form the batter.
Galushki boasts a fine and delicate taste that goes with various sauces, sour cream, and herbs. Behind their unsophisticated look, there is an exceptional flavor that reveals itself differently depending on the dishes they come with.
16. Holodnik: Beet Soup
Holodnik (meaning cold) is an excellent alternative to borscht and other hot soups for serving during warm summers. It contains beet extract, giving the mixture its unique pink color, blended with sour cream, kefir, or yogurt.
It is served cold, typically over finely chopped beetroot, fresh cucumber, and green onion, together with hard-boiled eggs and sprinkled with freshly chopped dill.
17. Vinegret: Beet Salad
Belarus and Russia have much in common when it comes to foods that became popular in Soviet times.
Vinegret is a traditional East European salad of boiled beets, carrots, onions, pickles, sauerkraut (sour cabbage), and potatoes. It is quick to make and is very popular during various winter fests.
The salad was first mentioned at the beginning of the 19th century, and its name comes from the word vinegar, as this was previously one of the ingredients. The traditional recipe contains no meat, so it was an ideal dish for many religious fests.
18. Smazhenka: Belarusian Pizza
Smazhenka is sometimes jokingly called a Belarusian pizza. Indeed, it resembles pizza in appearance, but it is usually made of a thick batter with several other ingredients on top of it and baked in the oven.
Meat lovers may prefer smazhenka with chicken and mushrooms or the one with ham and cheese. Vegetarian smazhenka is another modern version of the famous dish, which has become no less popular than its original.
19. Tsibriki: Potato Balls
Belarusian cuisine is rich in potato dishes, and tsibriki is one of them, although tsibriki can hardly be called an independent dish; indeed, it’s a good starter. Tsibriki are grated-potato balls with cheese stuffing cooked in a frying pan with plenty of vegetable oil.
Sports fans especially love this fantastic dish, enjoying it with a good pint during friendly matches.
20. Draniki: Grated Potato Pancakes
The first dish that comes to your mind when you think of Belarusian cuisine is draniki. The recipe was borrowed from German cuisine and was described for the first time in the early 19th century.
Interestingly, this traditional dish has always been called potato pancakes, and the origin of its name comes from the old Slavic word to tear.
The traditional recipe is unsophisticated: small round pancakes made with grated potatoes are placed on a hot frying pan with plenty of vegetable oil. At first sight, nothing exceptional, but the taste will always blow you away. Draniki are typically served with sour cream or bacon with additional sauces.
Related: Popular Desserts in Belarus