Traditional Eastern European Foods

Eastern European food is a wonderful mix of influences from different ethnic groups, languages and a somewhat turbulent history. We must realise that this region encompasses an enormous geographical mass of land and countries. Russia makes up a massive 40% of Eastern Europe, and it also includes the Caucasus countries, the Baltic States, and all the countries that cross over from the Central European divide. It’s a complicated region with borders that often change due to political and social reasons. Saying all that, it makes for some incredible gastronomic adventures!


A classic soup dish that is typical of Eastern European food traditions. Borscht is a fantastic sour-tasting soup of Ukrainian origin. It is made with rich red beetroot, making it look as good as it tastes. It has ancient roots but is basically a blend of a beef stock with sautéed vegetables, including carrots, cabbage, onions, potatoes and tomatoes. This can vary a lot and there are even white or green versions. It is often served with sour cream on top and sometimes can be finished with the addition of hard-boiled eggs. The beetroot element is a key ingredient, and this is usually from fermented beetroot juice, which gives the soup its famously sour finish.


This is a lovely boat-shaped fresh bun that is usually stuffed with rice, meat, onions and mushrooms. This savoury snack is very typical in both Ukraine and in Russia and is often sold from street stalls. There are lots of regional variants that are all basically the same thing, from the Balkans to Central Asia. In the United Kingdom, these are very similar looking to a Cornish pasty in the way they are made and their savoury fillings.


What better than the smell of grilled meat wafting through the streets? The word shashlik originates from the Turkish language but is more commonly associated with Russian. This is a simple classic meat dish usually made from lamb, pork, beef or venison. The meat is typically marinated with tomatoes, vinegar and onions, then it is skewered and cooked on a barbeque or conventional kitchen grill. The trick to this dish is that the meat is pushed onto the skewers with a combination of onion, sweet peppers and mushrooms.

Stuffed Cabbage

This delightful dish appears in many guises all over Eastern Europe. This is usually made with fermented sour cabbage leaves and stuffed with minced pork meat, vegetables, rice and spices. It is very typical that this is served at weddings and other celebrations. You often hear that this is best when it is cooked really slowly for up to 6 hours so that all the great flavours can come together. This has to be one of the best cabbage dishes you can try, so it is highly recommended when you are travelling in the region.

Goulash Soup

One of those main meal soups that isn’t just a soup! This is a very satisfying meal as it is the perfect fusion of beef, onion, carrots and plenty of sweet ground paprika. The key to a good goulash, besides good quality beef or veal is that it should be cooked slowly until the meat is very tender. The best way to eat this classic dish is cooked outside on an open fire. This, like so many wonderful dishes from Eastern Europe is often served with sour cream and a slice of fresh white bread.