Russian food might not be at the top of everyone’s list of must-try cuisines of the world, but Russia has many fantastic foods to try. Many people (wrongly) believe that Russian food is simply meat, potatoes, and soup. While this stereotype is true to some degree, Russians do indeed eat a lot of meat, potatoes, and soup, there is much more to Russian cuisine!
Let’s take a look at the best Russian foods that you need to try on your trip to Russia. Here are the top 13 dishes that you can’t miss. We have also included the top restaurants to try the best versions of these dishes in Moscow.
Borscht is the first dish that comes to mind for many when they think of Russian cuisine. Did you know that borscht is actually Ukrainian? All Russians know this, but the historical closeness of Russia and Ukraine lead borscht to become just as much a Russian dish as it is Ukrainian.
Everyone’s grandmother has their version of borscht, but it is typically made from a hearty beef broth. It gets its bright reddish-purple color from beets and tomato paste. If there is one dish that you absolutely must try in Russia, it is definitely borscht.
Is it considered trying Russian food if you haven’t tried borscht? We don’t think so.
Where is the best borscht in Moscow?
Mari Vanna is a classic Russian restaurant in the style of an old Soviet apartment it also has one of the best versions of borscht in Moscow.
Dr. Zhivago has fantastic traditional borscht that won’t disappoint.
Korchma Taras Bulba is one of the best Ukrainian restaurants in Moscow, so you can be sure the borscht is legit.
SibirSibir is a Siberian restaurant with excellent borscht as well.
Another dish that is always mentioned among the best Russian foods is beef stroganoff. Typically, the dish is a saute of beef with a sauce made from sour cream and beef broth. Beef stroganoff is usually served atop macaroni, rice, mashed potatoes, or buckwheat. Most Russian restaurants serve this dish over mashed potatoes.
Are you looking for the best version of beef stroganoff in Moscow? Dr. Zhivago has no equals and there is no competition. The classic beef stroganoff at Dr. Zhivago is as perfect as it is traditional.
If you ask a Russian what their favorite Russian food is, many will say pelmeni. It is also one of the most time-consuming dishes to make. Pelmeni is a Russian version of dumplings or ravioli. They are small meat-filled dumplings that are boiled and served with sour cream.
When it comes to Russian food, pelmeni is another must-try while visiting Moscow. You don’t have to go to an expensive restaurant to have them either. One of the highest-rated restaurants in all of Moscow only serves different types of pelmeni.
That makes Lepim I Varim the only restaurant for pelmeni in Moscow. Every restaurant has its version of pelmeni, but the variety and quality of pelmeni at Lepim I Varim is unrivaled.
So you’ve tried borscht and are looking for another popular Russian soup to try? Look no further than solyanka, a bowl of sour and spicy soup that is common all around Russia and the former Soviet Union.
Solyanka is typically made with various smoked meats, pickles, capers, and olives. Some brine from these ingredients is also usually included. Russians always top their solyanka with a dollop of sour cream. The taste of solyanka is a bit more complex than most Russian food because it is sour and spicy. Two tastes that aren’t terribly popular among Russians, but solyanka is definitely a favorite food in Russia.
If you want to try the best solyanka in Moscow, you can’t go wrong with Varenichnaya No. 1, which has one of the best classic versions of solyanka.
Minced meat wrapped in leaves is a common dish around the world. In Russia, golubtsi are made with ground beef wrapped inside of a cabbage leaf. They are also usually in a tomato sauce and lightly spiced.
Golubtsi is probably the quintessential dish that all Russians ask their grandmothers to make. As with a number of other Russian foods on this list, the best version of golubtsi is probably with a Russian friend at their grandmother’s house.
That said, there are still some great golubtsi to be had in Moscow.
Odessa Mama makes some of the best golubtsi in Moscow and they have a number of other dishes on this list to try.
The most Russian food of them all is olivier salad. It is one of the Russian foods that almost every single Russian eats at New Year. It is a salad made from diced vegetables and meat (typically ham or bologna) and then mixed with mayonnaise. The origins of the dish come from a Russian chef in the late 1800s of Belgian and French descent. He created the dish with lavish ingredients and it subsequently became famous all around Russia. During Soviet times, the recipe was adapted for regular people to make at home.
Today, olivier salad or oliv’ye in Russian is a dish that reminds Russians abroad of home.
If you want to try the best olivier salad in Moscow, these restaurants have the best versions.
Dr. Zhivago is one of the best Russian restaurants in Russia, and you can find multiple stellar versions of olivier salad here.
Varenichnaya No. 1 is the place to go if you want to try the old Soviet version of olivier salad.
There are many theories about how blini became popular in Russia. There is no question that blini are one of the most popular Russian foods. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, blini were the street food of choice in Russia. Even to this day, it is very easy to get blini on the go just about anywhere in Russia.
Blini are very thin pancakes very similar to French crepes. And just as with crepes, blini can be filled with anything sweet or savory. Many Russians make and eat them for breakfast with jam.
If you want to try blini in Russia, we think the streetfood style is more authentic than going to an expensive restaurant and having blini with black caviar. But if you can afford it, blini with black caviar is also worth trying!
Teremok is a very popular Russian fast-food chain. You can find Teremok everywhere in major Russian cities. All of the famous Russian restaurants also have blini, but try them here for a quick, delicious, cheap meal.
There isn’t a single Russian who doesn’t like shashlyk or Russian barbecue. There is an entire culture around grilling shashlyk in Russia and we won’t even pretend to be experts. But, one of the best Russian food experiences that you can have is going to someone’s dacha (country house) and making shashlyk over a charcoal fire with a bunch of friends.
Shashlyk can be made out of just about any meat, but the most common is pork or chicken. The meat is cut up into chunks, marinaded, and grilled over charcoal. There are a million different marinades, but the best one is made with tons of onion crushed up with your hands mixed with kefir or ayran and some spices. You can also add tomato paste for color.
Shashlyk MUST be grilled over a charcoal fire. If you use a gas grill, it is not shashlyk.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that proper shashlyk is cooked over a charcoal fire, it is harder to find at restaurants.
Here are a few restaurants, but it is better to find some friends and make shashlyk in the park!
Maska is located in a park, so you have some of the atmosphere typically associated with shashlyk. It is the perfect place to eat during a warm summer evening.
Almaz is a bit more upscale than the other options but still reasonable. They have a wide variety of shashlyk that you can try.
Acha Chacha is one of the only Abkhazian restaurants in Moscow and they make fantastic shashlyk.
The most divisive Russian food has to be holodets. You either love it or you hate it. Holodets is a meat jelly that is served cold. Beef bones are typically boiled for a very long time to get the gelatin out of them and create a rich broth that will form the jelly around the boiled meat. This Russian food is usually seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper, and topped with horseradish.
Of course, the best place to try holodets is at home, made by a Russian grandmother (do you see a pattern here?). If you don’t have the opportunity to try homemade holodets, you can also try it at a number of restaurants in Moscow.
Salo or salted pork lard is also a divisive food among foreigners visiting Russia. It is also another Russian food that is arguably more popular in Ukraine, but nonetheless, it is popular across Russia. The best place to buy salo in Russia is not a supermarket or a restaurant. The markets in every Russian city are the best place to buy salo.
In the market, you can always taste everything before you buy it and with so many salo options, it will be hard to find the best one if you can’t try them all. Of course, learning some Russian will make this process much easier. If you don’t speak any Russian, be sure to take someone along with you who can translate. The old ladies selling food won’t speak English. In the worst case, pointing will work, but don’t count on a good price.
If you speak Russian, simply ask the women selling salo which are their favorites. They will give you a taste immediately in an attempt to get you to buy their salo. Want a real local tip? In most markets, there will be a few sellers nearby all selling salo. Try to taste from each of them and play them off each other for the sale.
Our favorite markets in Moscow are the following:
Leningradsky Market is one of the legendary markets of Moscow off the tourist path.
Dorogomilovsky Market is probably the most famous of all Moscow markets.
Danilovsky Market is a more commercial market and the prices are higher, but it is worth a visit.
Syrniki are one of the most popular Russian breakfasts. They are thick pancakes made out of cheese curds, egg, flour, and a bit of sugar. They are fried up on a skillet and typically served with sour cream and fresh homemade jam.
Most Russians would argue that getting syrniki at a restaurant is just not the best way to try them and we tend to agree. The best syrniki are made by a Russian grandmother, or if you are lucky, your Russian wife or girlfriend.
That said, we still think you can find decent syrniki in these restaurants in Moscow.
Kofemania is a small chain of rather expensive coffee shops, but it has a cult following for its syrniki.
Dr. Zhivago is one of the best restaurants for Russian food in Moscow and their syrniki do not disappoint.
Do you want to know the best way to get three Russians arguing? Just ask them what is okroshka best made with. Unless all three agree, which is unlikely, an argument will ensue.
Okroshka is also a divisive Russian food among foreigners. Essentially, it is a vegetable salad that you pour kvass or kefir over to make a cold soup. Most Russians prefer to use kvass according to a survey conducted by Yandex.
There is a myriad of other ways to make okroshka though people have made it with sour cream, ayran, and ryazhenka.
Here are the best places to try okroshka in Moscow:
Pirogi and Pirozhki
Every Russian grandmother loves to make pirogi and pirozhki from time to time. They are a baked dough with different fillings. Russians love their sweets and pirogi are no exception, they can be filled with just about any fruit you can imagine or savory fillings like meat, fish, mushrooms, cabbage, or other vegetables with spices.
Pirozhki used to be found all over the place in Russia from metro stations to street stalls. Unfortunately, this culture in Moscow is no more. You can still find pirozhki around Moscow if you keep your eyes out though.
Our favorite pirozhki are from Dashini Pirozhki. They are delivery only, and the site is only in Russian unfortunately. If you email them, they will speak English.
Pirogi are large pies you eat with a knife and fork and pirozhki are simply smaller versions.
Pirogi are a Russian food eaten in a restaurant. You can find many restaurants with pirogi and they are definitely a Russian food you must try when visiting Russia. One of the most popular places in Russia to try pirogi is Stolle, it is a chain, but their pirogi are excellent. You can find their restaurants in most major Russian cities.
We hope that our recommendations were helpful on your trip to Moscow. If you know of other restaurants with great versions of these dishes, let us know in the comments, we will add them to the article.