5 Best Ukraine traditional Foods

What best Ukraine traditional foods do you know? Is it the borshch that first pops up in your head? No doubt, it is the main representative of Ukrainian culinary talents abroad, beside pierogi or varenyky, as they are called here, and vodka or horilka.

However, Ukrainian cuisine extends much farther than that! You won’t find the scrumptious gems in most restaurants or cafes. Ukraine’s top secret foods are best cooked at home, by the hard-working hands of our babusya (more commonly known as babushka), and in the welcoming guesthouses of rural Ukraine.

Having recently joined the Local Travel Movement – a not for profit platform started by people from companies founded on a passion for Local Travel and commitment to Local Travel values – we are proud to encourage our travelers to go off-the-beaten track, join the local families, visit the local houses and experience the real, genuine and unspoiled Ukraine – “…Europe’s greatest unknown”.

1 Borshch

We absolutely have to start with borshch! There is a scary saying, speculating that no Ukrainian girl will be able to get married, if she does not know how to prepare borshch. And oh my – we all make sure we do!

This traditional soup, made out of beet root and up to 20 other ingredients, is a staple dish in every Ukrainian family. We love our borshch with all the depth of our Ukrainian hearts – hot and cold, fresh and stale, for lunch or for breakfast, as a meal or even as a healing medicine against the winter colds. Every housewife has its own secret version of borshch, and no restaurant trial can ever compete with the real, steaming hot home-made borshch.

Traditionally borshch recipe is a basic stir-fry of grated beet root with tomatoes, added to a generous soup of vegetables – onions, carrots, fresh or pickled cabbage, peppers, and whatever else is available from our house garden. For the true state-of-art samples of this dish you have to head to the hidden-away villages of Carpathian Mountains, where borshch is cooked not on the gas stove, but is left to simmer for hours in the coziness of wooden oven.  Pour it in the clay pot, drip in a spoon of fresh sour cream, snack up on a garlic-sprinkled pampushky and you’ll be able to understand what the true Ukrainian heaven looks like!

2 Varenyky

Just like borshch, traditional dumplings spearheaded the voyage of Ukrainian cuisine across the globe. Quite a common site in many supermarkets, varenyky or more commonly known as pierogis are what bread is to most other nations. Combined with the piping-hot plate of borshch, those two are Ukrainians’ food of choice in sickness and in health.

Conveniently varenyky can be made out of the cheapest ingredients available. Dough is a simple mix of flour, water and salt. And stuffing can be anything: from mashed potatoes with mushrooms and fried onions, pickled cabbage, minced meat and even cherries!  The sweet version of varenyky is usually served with sour cream and honey, and is a tasty and healthy substitute for the calorie-counting sweets lovers.


3 Banosh with brynza

The highlands of Carpathian Mountains and the far-away areas of Transcarpathia are revered to as the kingdom of Ukraine’s most luscious dishes. Bordering with no less than 4 countries (Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova), Carpathian cuisine brings together the best tastes of each land. However, region’s most famous contribution to Ukrainian menu is banosh.

This traditional food of highland shepherds is essentially corn flour, cooked in sour cream, with the tasty additions of brynza – local salty sheep cheese, wild white mushrooms (preferably hand-picked from the nearest forest!) and shkvarky (scrunchy bits of pork fat). Those, caring about the calories, can easily omit the last one. The true banosh is cooked on fire, thousands of meters above the sea level in the midst of impressive Carpathian peaks and flourishing valleys, and always by men.

The best and closest recipe of traditional banosh is mentioned in the Gastronomical Me blog.

4 Uzvar

We pass on Coca Cola. 

Uzvar is traditional Ukrainian drink of choice! It’s typically served during Christmas Dinner, and is regularly cooked in the local households. This refreshing beverage is actually a compote, made out of dried fruits. Most popular ingredients are dried apples, pears and apricots, with some grandmas adding prunes, raising and honey to sweeten the already savory drink.

A relatively close recipe of Uzvar is here. Just skip the apple cider!

5 Paska

Don’t stare at the monumental and tantalizing roll of kielbasa in the background! The king on this photo is actually the round, decorated bread – or the famous Ukrainian Easter dish ‘paska’. This sweet egg bread is the rightful companion of the grand meat sausage. Paska is the favorite staple of Ukrainian Easter breakfast tables and is loved by both adults and children. Baked in dozens, it’s a popular give-away during Easter family visits.

Curiously enough, one has got to try 12 different paskas for Easter to get plenty of good luck for the next year. And the task could not be easier! This mouth-watering bread is made of eggs, flour, sugar, butter and yeast. The best paskas are usually baked in wooden ovens, and with as little disturbances as possible.

Great Ukrainian housewives instruct that during the baking of paska, no one should be allowed into the kitchen, except the housewife herself – to avoid the unnecessary noise and not to distract the bread from molding up into the most delicious pastry of Ukrainians.  Keep in mind that paska is baked only once a year, on Orthodox Easter!

But whether you want to try borshch, or yearn for a plateful of yummy varenyky, keep in mind to skip all the fancy restaurants, and loud coffeeshops. Join one of our tours where we put you together with the best Ukrainian housewives and healthiest home-grown garden veggies. Expected result? Taste buds gone wild and a mind that forgot all about the calories and your New Year diet resolutions!


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