Ukrainian dishes to try in Kyiv

Kyiv is a foodie city. There are restaurants everywhere serving a huge range of food from all over the world. You’ll see pizza and sushi everywhere, lots of Georgian food and even Asian. However, you are in Kyiv to try the local food, right? There are some delicious local Ukrainian dishes you should eat here.

Ukraine is a huge country, and food in Ukraine is regional. As we live in Kyiv, we’ll focus just on what Ukrainian cuisine we think you should try from this city. Here are our recommendations of the Ukrainian food in Kyiv you should eat.

Kyiv is a foodie city and there are so many Ukrainian dishes that you have to try here. We're letting you in on all the Ukrainian food that we think you should try on your trip to Kyiv, including what to eat for Ukrainian breakfast, borscht, verenyky and all the other Ukrainian cuisine in Kyiv, Ukraine #Ukrainiandishes #Ukrainianfood #Kyiv #Kiev

Disclaimer: Apologies if you feel I’ve spelled any of these foods wrong. There are Ukrainian, Russian and other spellings and I’m not sure which is which. If I’ve mixed them around, sorry.

Borscht – one of the most famous Ukrainian dishes

A well-known Ukrainian food in Kyiv is, of course, borsch. This soup is on every menu and you are bound to eat it at least once in Kyiv. There are actually two common types of borsh:

Red Borsch

This is the borsch you’ve probably seen before, with its typical red colour coming from beetroot. It’s often made with pieces of meat in it, so be careful if you are vegetarian, and served with sour cream (smetana) and small bread rolls soaked in garlic called ‘pampushki’.

A bowl of the Ukrainian cuisine borscht, a red soup in a brown bowl with a bread roll next to it.

Green Borsch

An alternative to the red borsch comes with sorrell, giving it a green colour. It is often served with hard boiled eggs, as well as the sour cream.

Where to eat borsch in Kyiv: Kanapa Restaurant on Andryivski Descent serves borsht in a hollowed out cabbage, which is quite funky, especially for photos.

Okroshka

Okroshka is a cold soup, like gaspacho. To me, cold soup isn’t quite right, but some people find it refreshing on a hot day. It’s made with raw vegetables, boiled eggs and meat, cooked with kvass. Kvass is a common drink in Ukraine which is made with bread. Yes, you heard me, it’s a drink made of bread. And it’s used to make the soup.

Salo – Food in Ukraine you must try

As locals what Ukrainian cuisine you have to eat when you come to Kyiv, and it’s salo. Salo is basically cold pork fat. It comes in a surprising number of variations. It can be salted, smoked, cooked or raw, comes mashed like a pate and with differing amounts of meat left on it. It can be fried up and added to soups like borsh.

A board with different types of salo and onion, a popular food in Ukraine for drinking.
Salo at Tara Bulba Restaurant

Salo is typically served on black bread, with shot of horlivka (Ukrainian vodka – see below). If you go to one of the many traditional Ukrainian restaurants in Kyiv, you’ll get it served as a welcoming appetizer.

It might not sound good, but it is actually quite tasty, if incredibly fatty. Ukrainians claim that it doesn’t make you fat if you just eat a tiny amount each day and that it’s very good for your health.

Where to eat salo in Kyiv: Korchama Taras Bulba at 2-4/7 Pushkinskaya

Coming to Ukraine? Read our Tips for Travel in Ukraine

Chicken Kiev

I guess we can’t talk about Ukrainian food in Kyiv without talking about the famous chicken Kiev. I’ve been eating chicken kiev since I was a child, but I never gave a thought to why it was called that or where it came from. The one from my childhood was filled with garlic butter and parsley. The originals are made without the garlic, but lots and lots of butter.

Chicken Kiev in Kyiv, probably the Ukrainian cuisine you had heard of before, right? The photo shows a plate with chicken kiev on mashed potato with salad garnish

Be careful when you cut into it, as the pressure can make the hot butter squirt out at you, or a passer by. I once hit a passing waiter.

Where to eat chicken kiev in Kyiv: Chicken Kiev Restaurant just behind Kreshchatyk serves a few types of the dish in a cool Soviet-style restaurant.

Verenyky – True Ukrainian cuisine

Another typical feature of Ukrainian cuisine in Kyiv is the dumpling. After living in Asia for so long, it was interesting to see dumplings in a different part of the world. Partly because, well, they are almost the same!

Our students get very upset when you tell them that we have one word ‘dumpling’ to describe a range of completely different foods.

Verenyky seem to be the most popular dumplings in Kyiv. The cresent shaped packets can be filled with a wide variety of ingredients, both savoury and sweet, including meat, mashed potato, cabbage, cherries and sweet cottage cheese.

Varenyky, Ukrainian dumplings, topped with fried onions
Varenyky in Katusha Restaurant in Kyiv

Where to eat verenyky in Kyiv: Katusha Restaurants specialise in varenyky with a wide variety of fillings. The setting is old Soviet style with traditional cartoons playing on the tvs.

Pelmeni

Pelmeni are also dumplings, and very similar to Verenyky, but slightly smaller and pinched together. Again, they can be filled with a variety of ingredients, but generally some kind of meat or fish.

Like street art? Check out our post on street art and craft beer in Kyiv

Duruny

It’s not only dumplings that seem to exist all over the world. I’m sure most people will recognise a potato pancake. In the UK we have potato cakes, Belarus’ national dish is draniki, and in Ukraine they have duruny.

Duruny is a combination of grated potato and sometimes onion, which is fried into thin patties. As with many things, you’ll probably notice, they are served with sour cream.

Deruny at the Mamayeva Slobada Cossack Village, served with sour cream and dill
Deruny from the restaurant at Mamayeva Sloboda Cossack Village

Where to eat deruny: The restaurant at the Mamayeva Sloboda Cossack Village

Mlynsi/nalysyki

The thin pancakes popular in the UK on Shrove Tuesday are also a common food in Ukraine. Although they can be served flat and served with caviar or fruit, they are often filled with a similar range of ingredients as varenyky – cabbage, spinach, mushrooms, sweet cottage cheese, and fruit.

Stuffed pancakes.
Stuffed pancakes in Kyiv

Just like Shrove Tuesday, Ukraine has a pancake festival before the start of lent. Called ‘Masnytsya’ which means ‘butter week’, its origins are apparently pagan and celebrate the end of winter and coming of Spring (although it doesn’t always seem that way when it’s snowing). If you are visiting Kyiv during Masnytsya, there are festivals at the various exhibition grounds such as Expocentre.

Syriniki – Ukrainian breakfast food

Popular at a Ukrainian breakfast and as snacks, syriniki are small curd cheese pancakes. They are sweet and served with icing sugar and sour cream, and generally some kind of fruit sauce.


Pyrizhky

The story of Red Riding Hood originated in the Slavic world. Remember the bread in the basket that Red was taking to Grandma’s house, to give to her Grandma who was sick in bed? If you think about it, it’s a bit odd that she was just taking a loaf of bread. Not a sandwich or other tasty snack, just bread.

Come on Grandma, make your own sandwich, you lazy mare.

Well here’s my conclusion. She wasn’t taking a loaf of bread, but a basket of filled bread rolls – pyrizhky.

Pyrizhky are basically bread dough stuffed with a filling and either baked or fried. Just like vereniky and pelmini, the fillings can be savoury or sweet, including cabbage, mushrooms, potato, meat, curd cheese and fruit.

Ukrainian bread rolls filled with sweet and savoury fillings, nice Ukrainian breakfast snack

Pyrizhky are the perfect snack food, or a quick take-away Ukrainian breakfast, and you’ll find them for sale in convenience stores and take aways in metro and train stations.

Perepichka

The Kyiv Perepichka window on Bogdan Khmelnytskoho Street has always got a huge queue outside. Rain or shine, -20 and snow…there are people patiently waiting to buy this snack. Perepichka is a sausage in a doughnut. There’s no other way to describe it. However, if you ask someone from Kyiv what Ukrainian food they recommend you eat here, and they will say that.

Queue for the stall selling Kiev Peripichka

Lavash

Lavash is another food in Ukraine that comes from outside the country. Lavash is a flat bread that originates in the Caucasus region. It’s sold as a wrap sandwich, filled with Suluguni cheese (a salty cheese from Georgia), herbs and sometimes meat or tomato.

Vegetable lavash, flatbread filled with cheese and vegetables, a popular food in Ukraine as well as the Caucasus

Golupsi

Greek food has stuffed vine leaves, and Ukrainian food has stuffed cabbage leaves. Golupsi rolls are filled with rice and minced meat and then either stewed or baked.

Holodets

Here’s another dish that we are not fond of, but it forms part of a traditional Ukrainian meal. Holodets is basically meat and vegetables, set into gelatin. Like a dinner jelly.

Olivier Salad – Celebratory Ukrainian food

Ukrainians follow the Orthodox calendar, so their Christmas is celebrated in January. For both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, 12 dishes are prepared and served at midnight. The 12 can be traditional Ukrainian dishes, such as verenyky and holodets, but according to my students, nowadays can also include pizza and sushi.

One thing our students say is always on their table is olivier salad. You might know it as Russian salad, it’s diced vegetables, boiled eggs, pickle and meat, mixed in mayonnaise. Is the definition of a salad generally something healthy? The same suggests it is, but this dish probably isn’t.

A Russian style salad which is one of the popular Ukrainian dishes, eaten at Christmas. It's chopped vegetables in mayonnaise.

Herring Salad

You’ll see a lot of mayonnaise in Ukrainian salads. Another typical one is herring salad, or ‘herring under a fur coat’ as it’s known. It’s layered herring, grated vegetables, and grated beetroot, all mixed in mayonnaise. Yep, another dish that sounds like it should be healthy, but probably isn’t.

Image of Ukrainian food herring under a fur coat on sale in a supermarket in Kyiv
Herring under a fur coat – you can see the shredded beetroot on the top and all the mayonnaise

Pickled Vegetables

Ukraine is known as the breadbasket of Europe, and the country is full of fields growing a whole range of fruit and vegetables. In the summer, markets and shops are full of fresh produce. In the summer and autumn, all this produce is pickled to take people through the winter. Ukrainian pickles include gherkins, sauerkraut, beetroot, and tomatoes. Grated carrot is pickled to make korean-style carrot, which is slightly spicy.

Pickled vegetables - tomato, aubergine, gherkins and chilli
Pickled vegetable plate at O’Panas restaurant

Ukrainians even pickle watermelon. Pickled watermelon. It tastes like you’d imagine. Sweet at the start and then sour. Quite odd.

Ukrainian Desserts

Kyiv Cake

If you leave or arrive in Kyiv from the railway station or the bus stations, look out for lots of stalls selling circular cake boxes filled with Kyiv cake. This cake is layers of meringue and butter cream, with hazelnuts and covered in chocolate frosting and icing.

Where to buy Kyiv Cake – in any Roshen chocolate store, such as the one on Kreshatek street next to Bessarabia market.

Napoleon Cake

Napoleon cake is another layered cake, with thin layers of puff pastry and custard.

Napoleon cake, layered

Lviv strudel

Ok, so this is a Lviv product, but you’ll find the Lviv strudel shops around Kyiv. Lvivski Plyatski shops sell a range of different strudels with savoury and sweet fillings. They even make them in the window so you can see them rolled and baked. The cafe is self service, you go to the counter, order the amount of strudel you want and then take it to your table. All the ones we have been in have spoken English.

Chicken and tomato Strudel from Lviv Strudel in Kyiv good for a Ukrainian breakfast or lunch

Where to eat Lviv strudel: Lvivski Plyatski cafes around Kyiv.

Beer Snacks in Kyiv

Most bars in Kyiv will also serve food, but sometimes you just want some snacks to go along with your drinks. There are always chips/french fries, but Ukraine also has a few different beer snacks/

Grenki

On many bar menus in Kyiv are grenki. These are chunks of dark rye bread that are fried and coated in garlic oil.

Popular beer snacks in Ukraine - Grenki, typical pub food in Ukraine
Grenki beer snacks in Kyiv

Dried Fish

When we lived in the north of Vietnam, there were bars that served dried squid and dried fish with the beer. Women walked around the bars and sold them, you could buy them in the street and you could buy it in crisp bags. Along with the dumplings, this is another thing that also exists in Ukraine. Bars serve whole dried fish, or strips of it.

Beer Point bar in Podil has a huge selection of dried fish on the bar you can choose from. It’s quite a quirky pub because you take your own glass out of the fridge and hand it to the bar man to fill with one of a selection of local beers.

Dried fish lined up on the bar in Beer Point bar in Kyiv
Dried fish lined up on the bar in Beer Point bar

Where to eat dried fish in Kyiv: Beer Point

Pigs Ears

Who doesn’t fancy some slices of pigs ear with their beer? In the UK, pork crackling (the fatty part of the pork, fried) is popular in the pub, in Ukraine, people snack from plates of pigs ears.

Traditional Ukrainian Drinks in Kyiv

Kvass

As mentioned above, Kvass is a drink made from bread. It looks like beer but it non-alcoholic. It comes fresh in some restaurants, and you can also buy it in plastic bottles like soft drinks in shops.

kvass drink in Kyiv

Mors, Kompot and Uzvar

These three drinks are all made with dried berries and/or fruit. Non-carbonated, they also don’t contain alcohol, although they can be used as chasers for vodka.

Horlika and Nalyvka

Ukrainian vodka is known as horlika. It also comes flavoured and infused with different ingredients, which are called nalyvka. Some are mass manufactured, but many are made small scale, both by companies and by small producers.

It’s typical drunk in shots accompanied with salo on black bread.

Ukrainian horilka shots with salo
Welcome horlika and salo at Pervak Restaurant

Some you should try are horseradish (Khrenovka) and chilli.

Where to drink nalyvka: Last Barricade Restaurant

Medovukha

This is a tincture made with fermented honey. It’s very similar to mead, really, that drink that was popular with monks.

That’s our round-up of what Ukrainian dishes you need to try while you’re in Kyiv. To be honest, you’re going to have to be here for a while to experience all of them, but it should have given you an idea of some of the great Ukrainian cuisine that you could eat Enjoy!

We’ve lived in Ukraine for four years now, so have a look at our other posts on Ukraine.

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