Georgian cuisine is diverse, although often heavy on the dough and meat. The influence of Europe and it’s Middle Eastern neighbors has resulted in delicious, colorful and somewhat unique meals. Each of the nine regions have their distinct culinary traditions and meals. Wondering what you should try out when you come to Georgia? Here’s the list of most essential meals you have to try.
This meat dumpling is a popular dish in Georgia. Made with minced meat, khinkali is boiled in the water, not steamed. Thus, the meat inside produces a broth making the dish juicy, soft and very delicious. It originated in the mountainous regions of Georgia, but later on spread across the country. Even though the original recipe calls for meat, restaurants make vegetarian options too. You can find potato, mushroom or cheese khinkali as well.
Khachapuri is another favorite meal of many Georgians. It’s a pizza-like dish made from a saltier mozzarella-like local cheese called Sulguni. But unlike pizza, the cheese is not on top, it’s put inside the dough; so when you bake it, the cheese melts inside the two layers of dough.
There are different types of khachapuri depending on a region. They all look alike, just have minor differences. However, only Adjaruli khachapuri is distinguished by shape and presentation. The dough is shaped like a boat and baked in a brick oven. Once the khachapuri is done, the chef cracks a raw egg on top and adds a knob of butter on it. Once served, you have to mix everything, break the crusty ends of the boat-shaped-bread and dip in the cheese-egg-butter mixture.
Mtsvadi, another staple of Georgian cuisine, is a meat cubes on a skewer, grilled over the coals of an open fire. Georgian restaurants offer mtsvadi made from different meats, but most common is pork mtsvadi. Usually, Georgians eat mtsvadi with a local sauce called tkemali, made from sour plums. There are two varieties of tkemali – red (sweeter) and green (sour).
Phkhali is a general term for a meal which consists of minced vegetables in a walnut sauce. Eggplant, cabbage, spinach, beets, and beans are either mixed or rolled up with the sauce made from minced (or crushed in pestle and mortar) walnuts, herbs, garlic, onions, and vinegar. None of the traditional Georgian feasts or supra is complete without it. Phkhali is number one appetizer here.
Lobiani is similar to khachapuri; the only difference is filling. While khachapuri calls for cheese, lobiani is made from boiled and then mashed black kidney beans.
Mchadi is a traditional bread made from a corn flour and water and is eaten with cheese. In old times, when there was a shortage of wheat or family was poor, mchadi served the same purpose as bread. It still plays an integral part in Georgian cuisine. There is another version of mchadi, called chvishtari, which calls for grated cheese mixed with corn flour and water. It’s cheesier and softer.
In Georgian, the word ‘lobio‘ means beans and the meal lobio is made from various beans. Just like khachapuri, there are different varieties of lobio, cold or hot. But the most famous meal is a thick black bean soup, served with pickles and mchadi.
A food paste made from walnuts that is used in different recipes. It’s also used as a generic term for a turkey/chicken meal prepared with this paste, that Georgians make for the New Year’s Eve. One of the varieties of satsivi is bazhe, it’s slightly tart and is made with red wine vinegar.
This dish from Samegrelo region is made from corn flour, cornmeal, and sulguni cheese. Cheese is added after the cornflour and cornmeal thicken in a pot, resulting in a stretchy and cheesy meal. You can eat elarji plain, or pour some bazhe on it. Another variety of elarji is ghomi – plain cornmeal and corn flour meal. You add sulguni afterward on your plate. Similar to elarji, you can eat ghomi as it is, but most of the time it’s a side dish of chicken satsivi.
This is another dish from Samegrelo region and consists of cheese rolls dipped in a mixture of milk, sour cream and nadughi (ricotta-like cheese). Cheese rolls are flavored with salt, pepper, and mint.
This meat-pie is the national dish of Svaneti region. The filling of kubdari contains chunks of meat, which can be pork, lamb or goat, flavored with onions and Georgian spices.
Bread is an essential part of a Georgian meal and traditional bread is made in a clay oven set in the ground. A fire burns at the bottom heating up the oven. Bread dough is slapped on the walls of the oven to bake.
There’s a limited choice of traditional salads in Georgian cuisine. Salad usually means cut up tomatoes, cucumber, and onions flavored with salt and green chilli on the side. However, as Georgians are obsessed with walnuts, they add walnut sauce to this simple salad, making it much more delicious and somewhat unique.
Jonjoli is pickled sprouts flavored with oil and onions. It goes well with lobio, boiled potatoes or together with other pickled vegetables like pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, and garlic to name a few.
Churchkhla, often called Georgian Sneakers, is a local candy, made from toasted walnuts and nuts dipped in a grape juice and hung to dry. This candy is sweet and fulfilling, and a great snack during a long day sightseeing in Tbilisi or elsewhere.