South Caucasus Cuisine: Must-Try Dishes and Drinks in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan

Georgian dumplings Khinkali with meat and tomato spicy sauce satsebeli on dark stone background

South Caucasus Cuisine: A Gourmet Tour 

The South Caucasus is a land of breathtaking views, ancient culture, temperamental people and colorful national cuisines. The countries of this region have much in common: their histories and fates intertwined throughout the centuries. Still, each country and cuisine is unique in its own right.

Let us introduce you to some of the most appetizing, unique, and authentic South Caucasus cuisine from the nations of Armenia, Georgi, and Azerbaijan.

Armenian cuisine

Like all of the Caucasian nations, Armenian cuisine tends to be calorie-laden, hearty and satisfying. 

Fish

Although Armenia doesn’t border the sea, there’s no lack of seafood on the menu. Lake Sevan offers up a bounty of fish, including the white royal fish ishkhan (trout). Juicy ishkhan bbq is the most popular dish on the lake shores and a perfect choice for those that prefer not to eat meat. The second most popular fish dish made from ishkhan is a baked version with rice, ginger, and raisins, known as kutap

Meat

There are so many delicious and interesting dishes made from lamb, pork and veal in Armenian cuisine. Undoubtedly Armenian barbecue is on the top of the list. Of course, barbeque is an international dish, but in Armenia, you will have the opportunity to taste it prepared in a unique way – in a tandoor oven. Traditionally, lamb (or any other meat) is hung over the fire in a tandoor. Thus the meat turns so that it will be juicy and tasty.

From dozens of traditional Armenian meat dishes, your next choice should be dolma, made with minced meat and grape leaves. From late June to early September, you can taste summer dolma; stuffed vegetables in tomato sauce.

Another traditional dish unique to Armenia is khash – a thick meat broth eaten at breakfast from September to April. The soup is served with garlic, dried lavash, and homemade vodka. Everyone should try it at least once in a lifetime (even if pig parts aren’t your thing).  To Armenians, khash is much more than a bowl of soup. It’s a culinary and cultural tradition steeped in ceremony and tradition.

Vegetarian

Despite the fact that Armenians love meat, there are plenty of tasty dishes for vegetarians in the national cuisine. The first one to try is pasus tolma. It’s similar to cabbage roles but instead of being stuffed with meat, the cabbage leaves are wrapped around beans, lentils, wheat cereal, and peas, then served with a sweet side of baked plums.

Another interesting and colorful dish to try is ghapama. The traditional stuffed pumpkin with rice and dried fruits are usually served in the fall, as a sign of fertility. For sweet taste and aroma, honey, butter, and cinnamon are added before the squash are baked in the oven.

Traditional sweets and drinks

You can always find a variety of dried fruit and alani (dried fruit with nut filling) on the Armenian table. Such sweets are not only tasty but also very healthy.

For an after-dinner drink, try a glass of Armenia’s legendary brandy. The fertile Armenian countryside produces the most delicious and sweet fruit, resulting in lush, aromatic wines and potent homemade vodka.

Two trout cooking over hot coals
South Caucasus Cuisine: Ishkhan BBQ
Ghapama - Armenian stuffed roasted pumpkin
South Caucasus Cuisine: Ghapama
Armenian BBQ in a Tandoor oven
South Caucasus Cuisine: Armenian BBQ

Georgian cuisine

Georgian cuisine is one of the brightest in the South Caucasus. It is all about spices and colors, much like the Georgian people. And there’s so much more to explore than the popular Georgian khinkali and khachapuri. Here’s a look at some dishes that may be new to you.

Fish

Despite the fact that Georgia is rich in rivers, lakes, reservoirs and has access to the sea, there are very few traditional fish dishes. There is, however, one authentic Georgian fish dish called tzotskhali. It’s made from small yellowfish cooked whole without any spices and served with greens.

Meat

Meat dishes like chashashuli, chanakhi, ojakhuri, chakapuli and kharcho dominate Georgia’s national cuisine. Even the sauces are meat based, usually made from veal with vegetables, hot spices, and greens. Of course, they are all very tasty and satisfying.

Probably the most popular Georgian meat dish is khinkali – a tasty little dumpling stuff with spiced meat.

Satsivi – chicken with a white sauce made from nuts, cloves, cinnamon, and coriander – is also popular. 

Vegetarian

Georgian appetizers are perfect for vegetarians. They have a special place on a traditional table. One of the most delicious is badrijani – rolls of fried eggplants stuffed with walnuts, garlic, and sour cream. Pkhali is another must-try appetizer. These colorful balls of spinach, beet, greens (or any other vegetable), are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate. 

For the main dish, lobio, a traditional red bean sauce, is a great choice. It’s served in clay pots with cornbread mchadi and hot pepper.

Georgians offer special khinkali for vegetarians called kveri. These dumplings are filled with brined Georgian cheese from the Samegrelo region and served with butter and matsoni (yogurt).

Traditional sweets and drinks

The most popular Georgian sweet is churchkhela. It is a sweet “sausage” with hazelnuts or walnuts and berry juice, and it’s a favorite souvenir for tourists.

Like Armenians, Georgians also like dried fruits. Don’t forget to try chiri, a persimmon in powdered sugar.

At New Year’s, the most popular dessert is gozinaki. It’s made from walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame, hazelnuts, and honey. Although it’s synonymous with the celebration of a new year, you’ll still find it on shelves throughout the year.

Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Oenophiles, be sure to add a visit to the Kakheti region where you can see wine stored in ancient pottery jars, a tradition that dates back over 8,000 years.

Another traditional Georgian drink is chacha. A very potent type of moonshine made from grape residue left behind during the wine-making process. Many Georgians believe it has medicinal qualities, and use it in a variety of home remedies.

A bowl of lobio with cutlery
South Caucasus Cuisine: Lobio
Popular South Caucasus Cuisine - Phkali
South Caucasus Cuisine: Phkali
display of Georgian churchkhela
South Caucasus Cuisine: Churchkhela

Azerbaijani cuisine

While Azerbaijani cuisine is similar to that of its neighbors, Armenia and Turkey, we’ll be focusing on cuisine that is unique to Azerbaijan in this post.

Fish

Fish levengi from scomber (a type of mackerel) is a popular fish dish. Its piquant taste comes for the sauce made of sour plums, alcha paste, and walnuts.

Rice also features prominently in Azerbaijani cuisine. Pilaf is served with fish and meat dishes, or between the first and second meal. 

Meat

Azeri mostly eat lamb; sometimes veal. (Pork is prohibited in the country.) One of the most popular meat dishes is lamb kebab. The meat is threaded onto skewers, cooked over charcoal, and served with basil

Meat soups are very popular in Azerbaijan. You can try piti, hamrashi, parcha-bozbash, kyufta bozbash, dovga, and others.

Vegetarian

The main dish in the Azerbaijani cuisine for vegetarians is pilaf. Real Azerbaijani pilaf is cooked with chestnuts, dried fruits, saffron, and other seasonings. It creates a very fragrant and tasty dish.

Qutab is a delicious snack. This is pita bread with different fillings. Vegetarians will love qutab with greens. Different greens are added to the filling and the more variety is used, the more delicious the qutabs.

Traditional sweets and drinks

Azerbaijan sweets are absolutely delicious and their variety is just amazing. Sweets are served during traditional tea drinking. On the local table, you will always see a sweet shakerbur, shaker-churak, baklava, badambura with nut filling, mutaki and Turkish delight.

Finally, do not forget to try the traditional drinks. The most popular alcoholic drink in Azerbaijan is aragh, a distilled spirit made from fermented raisins (also known as Persian vodka). It is mainly used as a medicine.

Fruit sorbet, a sweet, nectar-type drink, is a popular soft drink that perfectly refreshes on a hot day.

fish levengi on a platter with lemon slices
South Caucasus Cuisine: Fish Levengi
large display of various Azerbaijan sweets
South Caucasus Cuisine: Azerbaijan sweets

Conclusion

Of course, South Causacus cuisine is just one of the many fascinating reasons to visit this part of the world. There are many things to do, to see, and to experience in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan including extreme activities, sightseeing, hiking and much more. Plan for at least 10-15 days for travel. A good option is a 2-week classical tour from Arara Travel Agency.

It’s no doubt that, by the end of your Caucasus trip, you will come to the conclusion that this region is one of the warmest, friendliest, and most delicious places in the world!


About the Author

With all the passion and love to explore the world, Anoush is a travel blogger sharing her ideas and thoughts while traveling. She has her list of top favorite dishes still she is always ready to taste and try something new. Above she shared her top tastiest national dishes of the South Caucasus with you. However, for Anoush, Armenian trout barbeque is the winner in this top list. She would be glad to know your favorites.

 

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8 thoughts on “South Caucasus Cuisine: Must-Try Dishes and Drinks in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan

  1. Emmett Bins says:

    The Caucasus is a majestic fragment of nature, every touch of which is a delight … It was possible to see the Caucasus Mountains during walks, and from the train, and from the car, and from the helicopter, and from the plane … Any spectacle is magnificent! Last managed to look at the Caucasus from a height of 10 miles … Impressive …

  2. Ramal says:

    The article is gorgeous. I learned a lot of news about the cuisine and dishes of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. After reading, I want to visit the South Caucasus and try the local cuisine myself.

    • Anoush says:

      Glad you liked the article. Will be happy to help you with any info you need about the South Caucasus

  3. Alexandr Ostapenko says:

    The abundance of spices, which seasoned dishes, simplicity and at the same time elegance unites the cuisine of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. The. who has ever tasted this wonderful food and washed down with delicious wine, remains forever their fan

    • Anoush says:

      Thank you for your comment. With just one sentence you managed to describe all the colors of and tastes.

  4. July says:

    God, what delicious pictures, would love to eat. I did not know that there are so many gastronomic masterpieces in the Caucasus. After reading this article, I wanted to move to the Caucasus.

    • Anoush says:

      Believe me, the dishes taste even better. Make sure to visit the South Caucasus at least once.

Comments are closed.