The local cuisine is a big part of the culture. We always love to try the typical food of a country. It’s also a welcome change from our camping food like bread, cheese, fruits and raw veggies or, when we’re able to cook, spaghetti or egg fried rice – we’re not very creative when it comes to cooking for ourselves. Since not many people know much about Georgia – we’re planning on changing that – I decided to write a yummy post about the Georgian cuisine.
The Georgians are very hospitable people. Whenever they invite you for a meal – which happens often – you won’t leave the table feeling hungry. We often got invited for dinner by Georgian friends and every time we finished our meal – which would usually take a couple of hours – my belly was bursting out of my pants and I had the feeling that Niko could roll me home like a ball.
He never had the energy to do that because he was also wobbling home – although, that might have been due to the extensive consumption of delicious Georgian wine. After an evening like that, we were always thinking we would probably skip breakfast, lunch and maybe dinner the day after! My mum definitely doesn’t have to worry about me dying of hunger in Georgia!
So what have we been eating in Georgia in the past five months? Here’s an overview of our favorite Georgian foods and dishes!
* Note: not all the pictures are mine as I was mostly focused on eating the food instead of taking photos of it… Proper attributions are given to the rightful owners below the pictures.
Khachapuri is one of the most popular and traditional Georgian dishes. It’s a gooey cheese-filled bread that looks a little like pizza. Rich in carbohydrates and dairy, it could cause a lot of trouble to lactose-intolerants but they might find the cramps worth it because it’s finger-licking delicious!
There are three different kinds of khachapuri. The standard one is the Imeruli khachapuri. There is also the Megruli khachapuri, with cheese added on top and the Adjaruli khachapuri, which is made of puffy hot bread with cheese melted in the middle and topped with hunks of butter and a cracked egg. As soon as it’s served, you have to swirl the ingredients together with your fork until the egg and butter are completely blended with the mass of cheese. Then tear a piece of the bread and dunk in!
Tip: always order a small one to start with. I’ve never been able to even finish the smallest size but loved every bite of it!
Imeruli Khachapuri – source Georgian Recipes
Megruli Khachapuri – source Georgian Recipes
Niko demonstrating how to eat Adjaruli Khachapuri
Khinkali is another iconic Georgian dish. It resembles the soup dumplings you can find in China but they aren’t the same, thanks to the distinctive use of Georgian spices. Khinkali are artfully twisted knobs of dough stuffed with spices and lamb, pork or beef. They are served boiled or steamed. When the dumpling is cooked, the meat juices are trapped within.
The proper way to eat them is to grab the dumpling from its topknot, turn it upside down and take a small bite from the side. Slurp out the juice first before eating the rest. This way you’ll be able to eat the khinkali without getting covered in meaty juices (talking out of experience). Don’t worry if you’re a vegetarian, they also serve khinkali with potato, cheese or mushroom fillings.
Making khinkali – source: Turistuli
Khinkali – source Georgian Journal
The first time I saw churchkhela, I thought it was some kind of decoration. Maybe people liked to hang colored sausages in the front windows of their stores? I later found out that it’s a traditional Georgian candy. The main ingredients are almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts or sometimes raisins that are threaded onto a string. The string is repeatedly dipped in concentrated fresh grape juice which dries into a chewy gelatin-like coating around the nuts. It’s packed with protein and sugar and it often served at home with coffee. A healthy candy for a sweet tooth like me!
Badrijani Nigzvit are Georgian fried eggplant rolls with walnut (sometimes mixed with garlic) filling. I’m not a big eggplant fan but I love this dish! It tastes sweet and salty at the same time and it’s a dish I would definitely add to our usual spaghetti and egg fried rice meals on the road!
Source Georgia Philes
Lobio (which means kidney beans in Georgian) is a mix of bean soup and various kinds of cooked or stewed beans. The tastes vary depending on if it’s prepared with coriander, walnuts, garlic or onion. There are many varieties of lobio, depending on the region you’re in. When we were living in Tbilisi, our landlady often knocked on our door to hand us a big bowl of lobio which we gratefully devoured!
Source The Mighty Aubergine
You might see the resemblance of the word Lobio with Lobiani, that’s because Lobiani is a bean-filled bread. It looks like an Imeruli khachapuri but with beans instead of cheese. It might sound like a weird combination but it’s super delicious! The bread is baked in a wood-fired oven and when you bite into it, you’ll first feel the crispy texture of the bread on your tongue but wait until you taste the spiced, bacon-scented beans! A real mouth-gasm!
Source Argo Bakery
Feeling hungry already? Wait, there’s more to come!
Mtsvadi, also called the dish of kings, is an extraordinary dish. The preparation is a ritual on its own. Mtsvadi, made with chunks of pork, mutton or veal, is first abundantly marinated in pomegranate juice or rubbed in a good dose of salt before it’s threaded onto a skewer and roasted on an open fire. Warning: you’ll definitely be reaching for a few glasses of water (or wine) after eating this tender and juicy meat!
Ready to prepare mtsvadi
Threading the mtsvadi on skewers
Source Georgian Journal
Sacivi is a chicken dish served with a thick sauce containing onion, garlic, walnuts, spices and herbs. This dish must be prepared in advance and chilled for 24 hours before it is served. It has a particular taste, especially when some coriander is added, but definitely worth trying! I always loved to fill my plate with sacivi especially after eating a load of cheesy dishes.
Source Image Cooking
You better first taste kuchmachi and then know what it is made of… Well, I’m going to tell you anyway but promise you still give it a go. Kuchmachi is a traditional dish made with the heart, liver, kidneys, spleen and sometimes lungs of pigs, young beef or chicken. The one I ate had only liver in it. It’s often served with walnuts and garnished with pomegranate seeds. It might not sound so tasty but it’s definitely worth trying!
Source Georgia About
Kharcho is a traditional Georgian beef soup made with chopped walnuts, rice, cherry plum puree and often served with coriander. The soup has a spice mix that depends on the region of Georgia where it is prepared. It’s a hearty dish and definitely a good meal to have on a cold winter night(which they have often here in Georgia).
Source Georgian Recipes
As an extra, here are a few side dishes we can’t forget to mention:
Tkhemali is a sour plum sauce that is often served with cheese, meat or even fish dishes. Every family has a jar of this sauce in their house as it’s also said to be a cleanser. I don’t particularly like the sour taste of this sauce but ever since Niko has had a taste of it, there’s been a bottle of tkhemali in our backpack…
Puri (Shotis Puri)
Puri means bread in the Georgian language (remember khacha – puri). You’ll often see people walking around with several loaves of this huge flatbread that has the shape of a canoe. The puri is baked in a specific bakery that has a “tone”, a traditional clay oven, in which the bread is baked. The puri comes out tainted with brown edges and black bits from the oven and is both crispy and soft. Very delicious in combination with the salty Georgian cheeses!
Mchadi is another popular Georgian bread. It’s a cornbread that is traditionally eaten with lobio and cheese. Our Georgian friends in Tbilisi often made it especially for us.
Source Georgian Recipes
I hope I could enrich your culinary knowledge about the Georgian cuisine and hope I’ve triggered your curiosity to try out all these mouth-watering dishes (I understand if you’d want to skip the Kuchmachi after knowing its ingredients).
Feeling inspired to go on a trip to Georgia? Check our Backpacker’s Guide to Georgia!
Have you ever heard of any of the foods I’ve mentioned? Which one appeals to you the most? Or do you know another yummy Georgian dish that we definitely have to try? Let us know in the comments!
Special thanks to the lovely Andriadze family for inviting us weekly for dinner in Tbilisi, treating us like royalties and teaching us so much about the Georgian culture and food!