15 Ukrainian Foods You Need To Try

Ukrainian foods are rich, hearty, and delicious. Dishes from the second-largest country in Europe (via Nations Online) are centered around family, faith, and respect for the land. Known as "The Breadbasket of Europe," Ukraine is renowned for its baked goods which double as a labor of love and a beautiful work of art. Homes are known to have smells of fresh-baked bread waft through the air. 

From the Ukraine mountains to the Black Sea in the south, you'll find unique taste combinations that reflect the land, inspired from fertile grounds where cattle graze and wild mushrooms grow. Ukrainians cherish the land for its "Chernozen" which means "black soil" in English. Earthy soups with mushrooms or beetroot, served with handcrafted sausages and potato dumplings are pure comfort foods.

Culinary influences from its Eastern European neighbors are found here, yet Ukrainian foods are distinct in taste and culture. Dishes are made with care and handed down from generations. Warm soups, fresh-baked breads, handcrafted meats, and local vegetables like cabbage, mushrooms, and potatoes nourish. From sweet and sour, to savory and rich bites, raise a fork! Here are 15 Ukrainian foods you need to try.


Borsch is one of the most popular foods on this list. This bright-red soup is a must-try Ukrainian dish that gets its color from beets found in the broth. According to All Things Good, Americans usually use the word "borscht" with a "t" and reference this as a chilled beet soup although it can also be served hot. Cold Ukrainian winters require steaming bowls of this beetroot soup to warm bodies. 

While the dish is popular across Eastern Europe, Ukrainians have their own distinct version of the famed soup. For starters, Ukrainian borsch often uses pork and cabbage (via Yo Baba). Then, the soup is traditionally topped with a helping of fresh sour cream. Other vegetables such as onions or garlic are also added, but the beetroot is always present. Ukrainians will often serve their borsch with a side of traditional Ukrainian buns, also known as pampushky (more on those later). 


This delightful Ukrainian custom is as beautiful as it is delicious. Korovai is a Ukrainian wedding bread, a masterpiece with special meaning and preparation (via Encyclopedia of Ukraine). Made from wheat flour, the dough is twisted and sculpted to create symbols for the married couple. This tradition is said to date back to ancient times when grain was considered to have mystical powers. According to Ukrainian food blogger Petrosha, old ways required everything to be done with the number seven; seven happily-married women to make the bread, seven different wells for water, and seven different fields for wheat. 

These traditions have evolved, but the Ukaranian korovai bread is every bit as meaningful today. Petrosha, who bakes this special bread, explains the meaning of the classic designs found on the korovai: The two doves in the center are a symbol of the happy couple, while the pinecones symbolize fertility. For her koravi, ingredients such as wheat and poppies as well as other symbols are baked into the bread for wishes of love, peace, family, and faithfulness.  Korovai is subtly sweet with hints of vanilla, and it's traditionally served with a side of salt. These intricate, circular breads represent a tasteful gift of best wishes that can be eaten together as a couple.  


Deruny is essentially a potato pancake that is served mainly for breakfast or lunch. These hearty fried potato patties are made with basic ingredients like potatoes, eggs, onion, baking soda and salt (plus oil for frying). In her blog, Olga in the Kitchen, Olga shares her favorite way to prepare this beloved family favorite. Above all, she emphasizes that keeping with the old ways of preparation (and not taking any shortcuts) is the secret to producing the best tasting deruny. That means grating the potatoes by hand in order to produce better tasting pancakes. 

Olga recommends using Yukon potatoes and grapeseed oil for frying to highlight the taste of the potato. The finished potato pancake should have a golden, crispy outside and fluffy interior. Deruny is usually accompanied with a garnish such as green onion and a dollop of sour cream. This hearty, wholesome side is both comforting and filling. 


Easter in Ukraine is celebrated with a pretty, traditional sweet bread called paska. Ukrainian paska is similar to brioche and is cake-like, though this sweet bread is not just served for dessert. During Easter, the tasty and visually-appealing holiday dish is traditionally eaten first with the main course since it often replaces other breads (via Gourmetpedia). Adding nuts and dried fruits is popular, and each family usually has their favorite add-ins which can include walnuts, almonds, and raisins. Tatyana from Tatyana's Everyday Food notes that her family's recipe for paska includes a mix of dried cranberries and apricots.

The final touch is the icing (which can be decorated with brightly-colored sprinkles) to ensure that the bread looks festive on the family's Easter table. Keep in mind that this isn't a dish you can whip up in an instant. Paska takes hours to prepare, and the rising and baking alone need to be done well in advance. 

Kutia (Kutya)

Kutia, or kutya, is a sweet wheat berry, walnut, and poppy seed pudding that holds special meaning to the Ukrainian people. This colorful, satisfying dessert is part of a Ukrainian Christmas Eve tradition.  Sweet dried fruits combine with savory nuts to produce a perfect bowl to cherish. Common kutya ingredients are nuts, grains, poppyseeds, honey, and raisins (via Bois de Jasmin). A delicious bowl of kutya is warmth and comfort on a cold winter's night. 

A bowl of kutya is not only delicious, but a serving is also central to Ukrainian faith and customs. The Christmas Eve dish is meant to be a time for reflection. According to Bois de Jasmin, tradition holds that one shares, or offers, the dessert first to loved ones who have died. Simple acts like the eating of the kutya are meant to be savored with thoughtful consideration before the celebration of Christmas Day. 


Varenyky are Ukrainian stuffed dumplings that are stuffed with any number of ingredients — potatoes, cheese, meats, mushrooms, and other wholesome fillings. Then, the contents are carefully folded, crimped and twisted to make perfect little enclosed pockets. Americans may be familiar with the Polish name of these dumplings, "pierogi," than the Ukrainian varenyky. 

Many times, the art of making these dumplings is passed down through the generations. In her blog, The New Baguette, Alex writes about how her mother patiently taught her the art of making these dumplings. She writes that of all the dishes she learned, varenky holds a particularly special place in her heart because it reminds her of her childhood, family, ancestors, and home. Family recipes like these are passed down and made from scratch. Fillings can range from savory to sweet and the different options often reflect the region. The dumplings can be boiled or fried and accompaniments include fried onions, and, of course, sour cream. 


Banosh is more than cornmeal mush. This warm, corn dish of comfort and rich texture is a love story from long ago. According to Ukrainian Recipes, a group of men known as the Hutsuls worked as sheepherders in the Carpathian Mountains. To show their affection for the woman they loved, a Hutsul man prepared and served this dish, also known as "tokan." To be an authentic Hutsul token meant that the cook must be an expert in dairy, mushrooms, and salo (a traditional pork fat). Also, the man should be born a Hutsul.

This comforting, sustainable meal is popular in Western Ukraine where cheeses are made fresh. Those not familiar with Ukrainian banosh might be familiar with similar dishes like Italian polenta and Polish/Moldavian mamaliga. Today, this finely-ground cornmeal meal dish, served warm and topped with flavorful cracklings and brynza (regional cheese), can be found in almost every Carpathian restaurant not to mention backyards throughout the region (via Ukrainian Recipes).


Holubtsi is not only a popular Ukrainian meal, these filled cabbage rolls are another testament to the care given to traditional food preparation (via Encyclopedia of Ukraine). Wrapping fresh cabbage leaves around fillings is laborious, yet most find that the extra time is worth the effort. Using buckwheat or millet grits, the cabbage rolls can be vegetarian, but they are also versions that are stuffed with meat (depending on the occasion). Sometimes, sauerkraut is used in making the holubtsi. Hutsul region and Hukovyna make a variation on holubtsi, instead using dough and baking them in sour cream.

This special treat is one of the 12 dishes served on the Ukrainian Christmas Eve. In her blog Traveling Appetites, the author speaks of her first time making holubtsi and how it centers around "Sviatyi Vechir" or "Holy Evening." Since the meal is vegetarian, she likes to prepare her family's holubtsi using a marinated mushroom mixture. They start the meal when the first star appears in the sky.

Holodets (Aspic)

Aspic is a gelatin meat broth that suspends foods for an artistic presentation. For modern Americans, this technique, also called kholodets in the Ukrainian, can seem unusual. However, this form of food was trendy in the U.S. during the 1950s and 1960s (via The Daily Meal). In Ukraine, kholodets have withstood the years and are still enjoyed today. To make the gelatin firm, pigs feet are used (via Ukrainian Classic Kitchen). Gelatin flavors can be combinations of chicken and pork. Then, any number of ingredients like carrots, onions, greens, and meats, can be used inside the gelatin to create a colorful presentation.

In her blog, Natasha's Kitchen, she discusses the process her husband took in making this classic dish for their Ukrainian parents. Natasha writes that she resisted making this for many years because she found it bizarre. Her husband insisted on reviving the custom and making it from scratch just as their parents did. The couple served meat gelatin to their parents for Sunday supper, and the parents loved it. Natasha mentions in her blog that she is glad her husband persevered in giving this dish a try to bring back cherished family customs. 


While crepes may be a particular French favorite, Ukrainians love to prepare thin pancakes as well. Their similar version called nalysnyky is a treasured dish. Ukrainian crepes are usually stuffed with cheese and folded. Ukrainian food retailer Yo Baba recommends this as the perfect dish for people to try. The store suggests taking the moisture from the cottage cheese using a cheese cloth, then mixing in egg yolk, salt, and dill weed. It is simple, but like most Ukrainian food, nalysnyky takes time to prepare. The crepes served with sour cream.

According to Ukrainian-Canadian Jamie, whose blog Claudia's Cookbook is dedicated to her mother's cooking, her family traditionally prepared nalysnyky during the holidays. Beyond adding cheese, she also recommends using plenty of butter to prepare the crepes. Although making her mother's nalysnky takes an hour to complete, Jamie finds staying connected through traditional foods keeps her Ukrainian heritage strong. 


Once again, "The Breadbasket of Europe" demonstrates its baking prowess. Pampushky are soft buns baked to a golden brown. The warm, yeasty buns are the perfect accompaniment to any Ukrainian meal. Traditionally, these warm buns are brushed with a garlic sauce and are served alongside borscht. According to Ukrainian Recipes, the beet soup isn't complete without a side of pampushky.  

Garlicky pampushky is a classic, yet the dough can also switch from savory to sweet. Some enjoy pampushky as a dessert with sweet fillings. Jamie from the blog Claudia's Cookbook shares her family's love of Ukrainian pampushky made more like doughnuts filled with either poppy seeds or prunes. The dough is subtly sweet, and while she prefers these pampushky doughnuts plain, they can also be dusted in icing sugar. Like most Ukrainian foods, pampushky takes no shortcuts. The food is prepared with family and the efforts are reflected in these nourishing, delicious creations.


In Ukraine, winters are long and cold, so soups are a favorite staple. Warm broths with rich, meaty vegetables like mushrooms are classic dishes for everyday and special occasions. Of course, no Ukrainian soup gets the same attention of borscht, the red beet soup known for its bright red color. (A Ukrainian proverb states, "Without bread, it's no lunch; without cabbage, it's no borscht.") However, soup in general is popular in Ukraine. According to Etnocook, yushka is one of the country's more notable soups since mushrooms provide a distinct, meaty flavor. 

Mushrooms for the soup vary by region, but white mushrooms from the Carpathian Mountains are favored. These fresh mushrooms are harvested from the mountains during the warm months when the soup can be enjoyed fresh. Otherwise, the mushrooms are dehydrated and saved for winter yushka soup. For the traditional Ukrainian Christmas dinner, Ukrainian cooks must rely on using the dehydrated mushrooms. Utilizing their resources like canning, pickling, and dehydration throughout the seasons offers nutrition and nourishment.


Salo is salted pig's fat, and it's a popular Ukrainian meat used in a variety of different ways (via Encyclopedia.com). This cured pork fat is versatile since it can be combined with garlic, onion, or used in soups. What's more, salo, which is similar to bacon, is another example of a food served for gatherings. Restaurants frequently will provide sides of salo to go with a meal. It can also be used to make cracklings and lard. 

According to Culture Trip, another unusual, but nonetheless popular variety is chocolate salo. The combination is savory and sweet. In this dish, salted salo is coated with bitter dark chocolate, walnuts, and ground cinnamon. This creation is served frozen since the frozen salo is dipped in chocolate with butter and sprinkled with nuts and cinnamon. Eating frozen salo plain is common as well. The varied ways to consume this popular pork shows the versatility of Ukrainian cooking.


These sweet cheese pancakes are served for breakfast or dessert. For the most part, the curd cheese used to make syrniki is homemade and similar to cottage cheese. Widely used in Ukraine, curd cheese is used in all kinds of dishes both savory and sweet. (The Ukrainian name for "cheese" is "syr.") Ukrainian cookbook author Olia Hercules notes that this cheese is common and her mother and grandmother make it regularly (via Food52). According to Hercules, the cheese is made by collecting drops of whey into a bowl that pass through white muslin.

Besides cheese, syrniki may also include other ingredients stirred inside the batter like nuts, raisins, or other dried fruits. The finished syrniki is served with fresh sour cream. Then, bright whole fruit preserves often add the finishing touch to this wholesome favorite. Although the dish uses simple ingredients, making everything from scratch makes it especially enjoyable. 


Krovyanka is a traditional Ukrainian blood sausage served as a snack or main dish. According to Kyiv Post, the preparation consists of pig intestine stuffed with a blend of blood, lard, and buckwheat. Pork sausages are a prime staple in Ukrainian cuisine and are served alongside cabbage or as part of a tray for guests. Other popular Ukrainian meats include headcheese (salteson), smoked bacon, and salt pork (via Encyclopedia of Ukraine). Chicken prepared with sour cream is another favorite. Pork, however, remains the most popular meat, and it is often crafted into flavored sausages like krovyanka.

Ukrainian-American delis and restaurants often carry these traditional meats and other foods for those who want a taste of home. One such restaurant in New York, Veselka, has become a place where people gather for varenyky, potato pancakes, and borscht. Restaurants like Veselka continue to share Ukrainian food and culture with others.