The 20 Most Popular Latvian Dishes
Latvian cuisine is mainly based on local agricultural products. As Latvia is located on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, fish and seafood dishes make up a significant part of the cuisine.
The cuisine has also been influenced by countries nearer and further afield, especially Germany. The locally sourced products mostly used are fish, rye, potatoes, wheat, barley, cabbage, onions, eggs, and pork. Latvian national dishes are fatty and hearty, and usually very few spices are used.
Sklandrausis is a sweet pie yellowish-orange in color from the carrots used for the filling. The base is made from a firm rye flour dough. Once rolled out, circles of dough, 8-14 cm diameter, are cut out and the edges are folded upwards.
The base is then filled with boiled potato and carrot filling, potato on the bottom and carrot on top. A layer of cream, cinnamon, or caraway seeds is then spread on top. The flavor of the sklandrausis can range from sweet to very sweet, dominated by carrot, while the pastry base has a very distinct flavor.
2. Rye Bread
Rupjmaize is a traditional Latvian rye bread baked in a wood-fired oven with rye flour, malt, and caraway added to give it its characteristic taste and smell. There are two distinctive types of rye bread determined by the temperature of the water added to the flour when making the dough: regular rye bread and flat rye bread.
Rye bread is delicious with hemp butter, honey, and milk, also with ham or a piece of smoked fish. Rye bread can be eaten in any way you want. It can be eaten with soup, meat, cold cut meat, or just eaten by itself as a snack. The choice is all yours.
3. Grey Peas with Bacon
Grey peas with bacon and fried onions is a classic of Latvian national cuisine. It is not only an everyday dish but is also made for Latvian celebrations; no festive table is without it at Christmas. This dish is unique to Latvian cuisine and is certainly something to be proud of.
These beans are a product of true national pride, as Latvian grey peas were the first Latvian product to obtain the European Union status of protected designation of origin.
Debesmanna is a sweet dish made from whipped sugar and fruit or berry pulp. Manna mousse is also called skymanna and includes whipped egg white, whipped cream, semolina or flour. The egg whites are used to make the mousse firm and chunky. Gelatine may also be added to make it more stable.
Debesmanna is full of every Latvian’s childhood memories. It is, and always has been, the most popular dessert in Latvian cuisine. Every tourist should try it because it is truly the national dessert of the country.
5. Stovered Cabbage
Stovered cabbage tastes best in the cold months of the year, when the frosty wind howls outside the window, the fireplace crackles cozily inside, and a cozy smell wafts from the kitchen. As you know, there are plenty of festivities at the end of the year, and they are just not complete if the national pride—sauerkraut—is not on the table.
This dish has established its status as an integral part of the festive table. It is best paired with meat and is mostly eaten at Christmas.
6. Cold Beetroot Soup
In the sultry summer days that followed each other without respite this year, most cooks tried to avoid spending too much time at a hot stove. There is one dish that will always save the day, even the hottest—cold soup.
Cold soup is made from kefir, or curdled milk, with cooked beetroot, chopped radish, fresh cucumber, boiled eggs, and various herbs. The taste should be a balance between sour, sweet, and salt. This dish is a summer classic in all Baltic kitchens. It is very easy to prepare and a perfect lunch option on a hot summer day.
7. Rye Bread Layer
Rupjmaizes kārtojums is a traditional Latvian dessert made from rye breadcrumbs, blackcurrant or lingonberry jam, and whipped cream. It is topped with grated dark chocolate or cinnamon and often served with fresh berries and cottage cheese ice cream. The flavor bouquet reflects true Latvian flavors, with coarse bread and traditional wild berries. If you visit Latvia, this is a must try.
Rasols is a potato salad with peas, carrots, eggs, pickled cucumbers, roast meat or sausage, and a cream-mayonnaise dressing with mustard and horseradish. It can be enjoyed at any time of the year and is an integral part of the Latvian festive table.
Latvia is not the only country that enjoys this dish. Rasols are also eaten in Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. That is a true testament that speaks for itself.
9. Midsummer Cheese
St John’s cheese has a long history. It belongs to the so-called sour cheeses—the oldest cheese varieties that were once common throughout temperate Europe. Midsummer cheese plays a central role in the celebration of Midsummer, along with a good cold beer.
Cheese was a sacrificial food for ancient Latvians and is now considered a great treat, on offer at all the big celebrations of life, especially weddings.
10. Fried Lampreys
Lampreys are round-bellied fish caught in Latvian rivers using special tanks. They are grilled over hot coals. When ready, they are cut into cubes, pressed, and covered with a marinade, making a delicious jelly. Lampreys have a very specific delicate taste, though it is not so popular with youth or children. They are served with fresh bread and butter and can be garnished with lemon wedges and herbs.
11. Hemp Butter
Hemp butter is a starter made from hemp seeds, which have a high nutritional value and a strong, nutty flavor. The hemp seeds are first lightly toasted to make them crispy, then they are crushed and ground until they form a dark paste, which is added to butter with salt to taste. It is usually eaten with coarse bread.
Hemp is also used in sweets or added to salads. And it produces a valuable oil.
12. Smoked Fish
Smoked fish is typical dish of seaside regions—the famous Baltic Sea sprats, herring, snapper, flounder, salmon, sea bass, mackerel, and other fish brought from further afield are dried in Latvia. Smoked sprats are used to make our golden export—sprats. The fish is smoked both hot and cold. The flavor and aroma of these fish are so distinctive that nothing needs to be added.
13. Smoked Meat
In Latvia, the art of smoking meat in alder wood so that it is succulent, aromatic, not too lean nor too fatty has been perfected over the centuries and is highly valued. Every decent farmer has a smokehouse, used to smoke fresh meat, bacon, and fish. Smoked meat can be served cold, put on bread, fried with eggs, added to soups, or enjoyed with sauerkraut, roots, peas, or beans.
14. Blood Sausage
In the old days, blood sausage or grits were made in almost every country house. People kept a pig and when it was time to slaughter it, the blood was collected in a bowl and used to make blood sausage. Mixed with boiled semolina, and bacon bits, it is a staple autumn and winter dish. The sausage is pan-fried crispy before serving; sweet lingonberry jam is a great accompaniment.
Bukstiņputra is a main lunch course made from barley groats, milk, and potatoes. It is served with roast pork, onions, and sometimes lingonberry sauce. But this oatmeal porridge is also a favorite for breakfast. Or bukstiņputra is the dish you eat at your grandmother’s when you’ve been mowing the grass and chopping wood all day. The porridge is best enjoyed with a glass of kefir.
This is a dish of freshly crisped chop served with salad, rice, potatoes, or other accompaniments for dinner or lunch. Pork chops are fillets seasoned with salt and pepper, rolled in egg and flour, and browned in a frying pan. It is one of the most popular everyday main dishes.
Chops can be found on almost all Latvian pub menus and village feast tables. They are served with a side of vegetables, roots, or salad. Every Latvian eats chops at least once a week, making it a truly popular dish, especially when made by your grandmother.
The Latgale region of Latvia has preserved a strong tradition of local dishes. Klockas are sweet cottage cheese pies made from yeast dough and heated in melted butter or cream. Really good kļockas can only be made with firmly pressed, dry but soft rustic cottage cheese. In the past, they were made the day before a feast, so they only had to be reheated on feast day.
18. Bacon Pies
The smell of bacon pies permeates Latvian homes before the winter and summer solstice. They are also a popular everyday snack. The pies are made from wheat or rye flour yeast dough and filled with smoked, finely sliced, and deep-fried pork with onions. Caraway seeds may also be added for flavor. Bacon pies are iconic at Christmas and New Year celebrations. They can also be filled with cottage cheese and cabbage.
19. Sourdough Bread
During the festivities or holidays, sweet yeast dough is used to bake flatbreads. It is topped with whatever is in season—rhubarb, garden and wild berries, sour apples, cottage cheese or jam—and then topped with whipped cream and egg or crispy crumbs and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
This bread is eaten at any time of the year. It is very easy to prepare and tastes best warm, with vanilla ice cream.
20. Pork Knuckle
Slow-roasted pig’s trotters with braised cabbage are a delight in autumn and winter. The cabbage, which goes so well with pork, is pickled and braised, with sugar, salt, caraway, cranberries, or carrots. This is the perfect meal after a long day’s work that no one would turn down.
Latvian cuisine is full of interesting dishes which will surprise your taste buds throughout the year. Many seasonal dishes will warm your soul at any time. This is what Latvian cuisine is all about. I suggest you try some of the dishes you have read about here to experience some uniquely Latvian food.