17 Popular Ukrainian Dishes to Try

Are you curious about the food in Ukraine? If so, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll introduce you to my favorite Ukrainian dishes so that you can experience Ukraine even if you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting. 

Traditional Ukrainian Russian borscht

While Ukraine shares some of its foods with its neighbors, like Poland and Russia, it has many unique national dishes and adds its own twist to some you may have heard of before. Most Ukrainian foods aren’t complete without a topping of sour cream and dill!

You might already know borscht and chicken Kyiv by name. And you’ve probably tried another version of deruni (potato pancakes), holubtsi (cabbage rolls), and varenyky (pierogies).

Ukrainians give these dishes their own flair. Meanwhile, dishes like kutia (wheat berry pudding), Kyiv cake, and walnut stuffed prunes are probably new to you. Learn about these and more below

Below, I discuss 17 of the most popular Ukrainian foods you can try at home to provide a small taste of the delightful cuisine enjoyed in Ukraine.

1. Borscht

While you may think of borscht as a Russian food, many people cite Ukraine as its place of origin. So, if you want to try a quintessentially Ukrainian dish, start here.

It’s one of the most popular Ukrainian foods and the one that you’re most likely to know.

The recipe for borscht differs from kitchen to kitchen, but the basics are the same. Borscht is a beet, cabbage, onion, tomato, garlic, and veggie soup topped with dill and sour cream.

The soup is sometimes vegetarian, but you can add beef or pork, and beef broth is an often-used base. Some cooks add carrots, potatoes, celery, and even sugar.  

I’ve seen people who hate beets be pleasantly surprised that they like them in borscht. Stirring sour cream into the soup cuts the earthy flavor of beets significantly and adds to the overall experience. 

2. Paska

Paska is a beautiful bread serving as an Easter tradition in countries with a religious connection to the Eastern Orthodox faith, Ukraine’s most popular religion.

Part of the Easter tradition involves taking this bread to church on Easter morning to receive a blessing.

Paska is a milky, eggy, yeast-based bread dressed to the nines in decorations. Dough decorations include crosses, swirls, rosettes, or braids. 

My favorite paska decoration involves thin braids around the edges and thick braids in the middle.

The end result looks like eggs popping out of a basket. Perfect for the occasion!

3. Chicken Kyiv

You’ve probably had a chicken Kyiv without considering that the name refers to the Ukrainian city of Kyiv.

The dish most likely originated in Russia, concocted by a French chef. However, oral tradition says it gained popularity as the signature dish at a hotel in Kyiv.

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To make chicken Kyiv, you pound a chicken cutlet until thin, top it with herb butter, roll the chicken around the butter, coat it in egg and bread crumbs, and fry or bake it.

The herb butter generally contains garlic, lemon, and parsley. 

You’re likely to see variations in the herb butter inside a chicken Kyiv, including the addition of dill. However, the American version with cheese inside is not authentic. 

4. Varenyky

Varenyky is the more commonly used name for pierogies in Ukraine. They’re usually vegetarian with a filling that can turn them into a savory main dish or a sweet dessert. 

Here are some of my favorite varenikes:

  • Sour cream, onions, and potatoes
  • Cabbage, potatoes, onions, and cheese
  • Potato, onions, and mushrooms
  • Cabbage, onion, and carrot
  • Cottage cheese, egg, dill, and cumin
  • Dried mushrooms and onion
  • Dried mushrooms, onion, and rice
  • Sour milk cheese, sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin
  • Blueberries, sugar, and cinnamon
  • Cherries and sugar
  • Cherries, sugar, and chocolate
  • Apple, cinnamon, and sugar
  • Ground poppy seeds and sugar

5. Deruni

Deruni is the Ukrainian version of a potato pancake. They’re very similar to the Polish dish, latkes. However, they get a Ukrainian twist with dill and sour cream. 

The basic recipe for deruni calls for grated potatoes, egg, and flour. Sour cream accented with dill is a common accompaniment. (Sensing the trend, yet)?

You’ll find deruni most often as an appetizer or side dish, but Ukrainians sometimes eat them for breakfast.

6. Holodets

Holodets are considered an aspic. If you’re unfamiliar, aspics are savory gelatin dishes.

Holodets is a time-consuming dish because it involves boiling meat for hours to extract the gelatin from it before refrigerating it to set.  

Ukrainian holodets require bone-in meat like pork and chicken, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. The process involves a lot of skimming and straining. 

Making holodets takes a lot of time and work, but prove absolutely worth the effort (unless the idea of congealed meat makes you squeamish). 

7. Nalesniki

A nalesniki is a crepe with a cheese filling that originated in nearby Poland. The Ukrainian version is savory with a dill cottage cheese filling or sweet with a fruit topping. 

The crepes contain flour, eggs, milk, and water. The savory filling is cottage cheese, egg yolks, cream, and dill, while the sweet filling is farmer’s cheese, sugar, and eggs.

Some people even go for a sweet fruit filling. Once you’ve filled the crepes, you will bake them in a buttered casserole dish for about 20 minutes. 

Toppings may include:

8. Walnut Stuffed Prunes

Walnut stuffed prunes are probably the easiest Ukrainian dish to try. 

The simplest version of this dish involves soaking the prunes in hot water for a couple of hours and stuffing the prunes with a walnut. Easy! 

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An even better version that you’re more likely to see at Christmas involves boiling the prunes in red wine, water, and sugar, instead of only soaking them in hot water. 

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, sweetened condensed milk, or whipped cream. I make my walnut stuffed prunes even more special with a sprinkling of grated nuts and chocolate on top. 

9. Kutia

Bahata kutia (rich kutia) is a wheat berry pudding popular on Christmas Eve, schedra kutia (generous kutia) is popular before the Orthodox New Year, and golodna kutia (hungry kutia) is popular on Epiphany.

Hungry kutia contains only tender, cooked wheat berries and honey. For rich kutia, add ground poppy seeds, raisins, dried apricots, and toasted almond slivers.

Meanwhile, generous kutia contains an enrichment of butter, milk, or cream and occasionally an alcoholic beverage like wine or cognac. 

I like to eat kutia piping hot straight out of the oven, but it tastes even better after several days when all the flavors have mingled together in the fridge.

10. Holubtsi

Holubtsi is the Ukrainian version of stuffed cabbage rolls.

You start out boiling a cabbage until the leaves are tender. Then, fill the cabbage leaf with meat, onion, carrot, garlic, ground meat, parsley, rice, and sometimes egg.

Finally, cover the cabbage rolls with a sugar-sweetened tomato sauce and bake until the meat is cooked and the rice is tender. 

As with most Ukrainian dishes, I never serve them without a dollop of sour cream on top.

I especially like leftover holubtsi because they become more flavorful after a day in the fridge.

11. Piroshki

Piroshki are fluffy baked or fried meat pies preferred both as street food and comfort food at home.

The dough usually contains yeast, making it fluffy whether you bake or fry it.

Some cooks even add sour cream to the dough. Fillings vary, but some fillings you might encounter include:

  • Beef liver, carrots, and onions
  • Ground beef and onion
  • Boiled eggs, rice, herbs, and scallions

My favorite is the simple ground beef and onion version, but I like to add a little garlic. Eating just one is a challenge, so bring your appetite. 

12. Salo 

Salo is a delicious Ukrainian cured pork fat dish. Though it’s a hit in Slavic countries, it originated in Ukraine. 

There’s a saying that every man in Ukraine knows how to make salo. However, each family seasons it and preserves it in a different way, often a process handed down through the generations.

I like a simple mixture of garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme.

There are several ways to prepare salo, and most don’t involve traditional cooking:

  • Dry salting
  • Wet salting
  • Hot brining
  • Smoking
  • Deep frying

Most people eat salo with borscht, rye bread, and vodka. 

13. Bublik

Bublik is a boiled and baked pastry, similar to a bagel. They share their origin with bagels in a Jewish community in Poland.

However, the bublik is larger and has a bigger hole than a bagel. Bublik is also denser and easier to chew.

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Bublik contains a dough of flour, salt, sugar, yeast, butter, egg white, and milk. You start out boiling them, then add poppy seeds or sesame seeds and an egg wash on top before baking them. 

I like to eat my bublik plain, dip it in tea, or eat it with jam or cream. 

14. Kyev Cake

Kyiv cake (also spelled Kiev) is one of my favorite desserts. The Karl Marx Confectionery Factory in Kyiv first popularized it in 1956 and still makes the cake today.

However, plenty of home cooks have tried their hand at it!

Kyiv cake has several layers, including sponge cake, jam or fruit glaze, baked meringue, and buttercream frosting.

The baked meringue gives it a unique airy texture inside. Kyiv cakes generally have chocolate icing on top with nuts (often hazelnuts) on the top or side.

There are several variations, and if you’re going to give baking one a try, I suggest watching a video tutorial to understand how all the layers work together. 

15. Banosh

Banosh is a dish that originated with the Hutsul ethnic group in Ukraine. Local shepherds in the Carpathian mountain region of Ukraine often make it over an open fire.

Banosh is a ground corn dish that any lover of grits can appreciate. 

The dish consists of corn grits, brynza (sheep milk cheese), sour cream, and water.

Common side dishes to serve on top of banosh include pork cracklings, sauteed onions, and fried mushrooms.

I’ve attempted this dish with other cheeses, but authentic Carpathian cheeses are best. (And it’s never quite the same cooked on a stove as it is over an open fire). 

16. Syrniki

I know this pancake is my third pancake-like food on the list, but each Ukrainian pancake is unique.

Trust me! However, syrnikis are soft and pillowy cheese breakfast pancakes unlike any pancake you’ve tried before.  

The dough contains farmer’s cheese, eggs, flour, sugar, salt, and sometimes raisins.

You’ll flatten about ¼ a cup of dough into a flat pancake and dredge it in flour before cooking it in oil.

You can serve it with powdered sugar, syrup, honey, whipped cream, or sour cream. I especially like to top mine with fresh fruit or fruit preserves. 

17. Korovai

Korvai is a bread most often found at Ukrainian weddings. Its past is related to pagan beliefs that wheat has magical properties.

Women traditionally made the korovai at the couple’s new home while singing traditional wedding songs.

The bride and group receive the korovai as a blessing before the wedding. Then, they share the bread with guests after the ceremony. 

The bread is as fancy as a wedding cake with ornate dough decorations that may include suns, moons, flowers, plants, birds, animals, or other designs.

I always think they look too pretty to eat (but when you’re hungry, they’re not).

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  1. Don’t forget the delicious poppy seed roll and pampushskys. Ukrainians are also famous for their delicious tortes. Honey and walnut bread, a sweet bread is delicious with coffee or tea.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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