Ukrainian cuisine is unique, varied, but at the same time very specific. If you’ve never tried any Ukrainian dishes you should definitely try some when travelling to Ukraine. There’s a traditional dish for everyone. Meaty dishes for carnivores, traditional vegetarian and vegan dishes are widely available during lent, sweet cakes and desserts are finger-licking-good here too, so you’re bound to find a new favourite in Ukrainian cuisine.
If you’ve ever heard of Ukrainian food this is probably the very first dish people mention. It’s a delicious beetroot based soup, but it also contains other vegetables like cabbage and potatoes and the classic version usually has beef in it, but there are variations with other types of meat and a vegetarian variation that’s very commonly served during lent. Borsch is also often served with pampushky which is like a savoury garlic bread bun.
Varenyky are Ukrainian dumplings. There are many variations of this dish and it can be made sweet or savoury. You also might’ve heard of pierogi, it’s essentially the same thing. The most classic varenyky are made with mashed potato filling, they’re then boiled and served with sour cream. Other popular variations of varenyky are made with cabbage filling, cottage cheese, and the most popular sweet ones are made with cherries, apples or blueberries. Sweet varenyky are usually served drizzled with honey instead of sour cream.
Deruny are savoury pancakes made from grated potatoes, onions and eggs. They’re essentially hashbrowns, but so much better and way more flavourful. The classic deruny are made with just potatoes, but there are many other ways to make them that are popular around the country. People often add parsley and dill into the potato mix to add flavour, others like to add some mushrooms to the mix too.
Holubtsi is a traditional Ukrainian dish that’s very popular and is often served during the Christmas holidays, but they’re not limited to just the holiday season. You can make these whenever but they are more popular during the winter month. They’re basically cabbage rolls with rice and meat filling. But during the lent they’re made without meat, instead, the filling consists of rice, carrots, and onions.
Kholodets is one of the weirder dishes that foreigners might encounter. It can be made from various types of meat. Sometimes it’s made with veal, sometimes pork, but the most common kind is made with chicken or specifically rooster. The idea is to boil the meat with bones, onion, pieces of carrot and spices to create a really potent broth. The meat is then separated from the bones and placed in a bowl along with boiled pieces of carrot and then covered with a broth. The bowl is then left in a cool (but not freezing) place to cool down and broth solidifies into jelly. If you’ve never tried anything like it — Ukraine is definitely the place to give kholodets a try.
Banosh is a dish specific to the very western part of Ukraine. It’s a cornmeal porridge that’s cooked in milk or cream rather than water and is always served with cheese made from sheep’s milk and bits of bacon. Traditional banosh is meant to be cooked in a big cauldron on an open fire outside and only stirred with a wooden spoon. Every family has their own preferred recipe of banosh and they’re always very proud of it and guard that secret recipe because they believe it’s the most delicious one.
Swiftly transitioning to sweet dishes — Paska is a special sweet bread that’s traditionally made for Easter. It’s soft and sweet and often beautifully decorated with dried fruit, nuts and a sugar glaze. You can only find it in stores around Easter, so everyone always looks forward to Easter all year to have as much Paska as they want until it disappears off the shelves.
8. Lviv Syrnyk
Lviv Syrnyk is a type of cheesecake that originated in the west of Ukraine. It’s made from fatty cottage cheese and covered in chocolate. If you think of yourself as a cheesecake aficionado we highly recommend you try Lviv Syrnyk. It’s light, it’s delicious, it’s nutritious, and it tastes like no other cheesecake you’ve ever tried.