During our 6 weeks in the country of Georgia, Georgian cuisine jumped almost immediately into our worldwide top 5 favorite cuisines. It could be the excessive use of cheese. It could be that Khachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread) and Khinkali (Big, meaty, slurpy soup dumplings) are two of the best things I have ever eaten.
It could be that after eating out almost every night, we barely ate anything we didn’t LOVE!
Cheese, butter, meat. Georgian Cuisine is filled with hearty comfort food. You won’t lose weight when you travel to Georgia. But the pounds you gain will be a reminder of just how much your belly and tastebuds enjoyed the experience.
We ate a lot, so here is a huge list of some of the best traditional Georgian food which you must try when you travel to Georgia. As well as restaurants where we recommend to eat the best versions of Georgian Cuisine.
Georgian Cuisine: 38+ Unmissable Dishes To Eat In Georgia (Europe)
Georgian Cuisine Mega Guide: Quick Menu
Salads & Starters (Includes Khinkali!)
Cheeses & Breads (Includes Khachapuri!)
Meats (Includes Ojakhuri – Yum!)
Before We Get Started… Cheese.
Georgian Cuisine: Salads & Starters (Inc. Khinkali)
Khinkali – ხინკალი – Soup Dumplings
Khinkali comes in many varieties – meat filled being the most common. It’s a large flour dumpling that wraps around a slurpable filling. All the flavors are sealed in and it is boiled to turn the center soupy or gooey. It will arrive on your table steaming hot and you have to carefully bite a small hole in the side to suck out the contents without spraying volcanically hot soup all over your shirt.
But it’s soooo worth it!
The thick top piece is used like a handle and is discarded after you eat the bottom part of the khinkali.
Our favourite Khinkali varieties:
- Qalaquri Khinkali – Mixed pork & beef with cilantro and parsley
- Sulguni Khinkali – Filled with melty molten cheese
Other common varieties:
- Mtiulian khinkali (Mixed beef & pork but no herbs)
- Tushetian Khinkali – Beef and/or Lamb. Sometimes with spinach or fenugreek. No pork is used because pork is not part of Georgian Cuisine of the Tusheti region.
- Cottage Cheese
Khinkali is everywhere, being considered one of Georgia’s two national dishes. You can have it as a starter, snack, share plate, main course… I’d even happily eat it for dessert. Georgians eat piles of khinkali at every sitting. They are normally made fresh to order so can take time.
Where? Photo taken at: Tishebi Gldani, Tbilisi – Map Location – mountain style restaurant.
BUT the best Khinkali we had (After eating it at about 15 different restaurants)… Was at Machakhela, Tbilisi – Map Location – This Tbilisi restaurant is a chain which also has another location in the heart of old Tbilisi. That place is full all the time!
Salad With Walnut Sauce – კიტრი და პომიდვრის სალათი ნიგვზით
A traditional Georgian summer salad with cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley and a walnut sauce.
If you hit Georgia in the summer, like we did, beef tomatoes are filling the local markets and are at peak ripeness. Perfectly ripe tomatoes give you the best version of this dish.
Badrijai Nigvzit – ბადრიჯანი ნიგვზით – Walnut Stuffed Eggplant Rolls
Fried eggplant wrapped around a spiced walnut paste.
Eggplant is a tricky ingredient. In Georgia the eggplant is rarely salted before cooking to remove the excess bitterness. This led to many versions of this dish we tried having a bitter aftertaste. It’s one of the most available dishes in Georgian cuisine but was not one of our favourites.
Where? Photo From Tishebi Gldani, Tbilisi – Map Location – mountain style restaurant with big wooden chairs. But the best version we had was at a Georgian cooking class where the walnut paste included additional spices to balance out the bitterness of the eggplant. If you travel to Georgia as a foodie, a cooking class is a must!
Tolma – ტოლმა – Stuffed Vine Leave
Little vine leaf wraps. Unlike the greek version “dolmades” which are normally stuffed with rice, the Georgian cuisine version is filled with meat and/or vegetables and served hot. Often topped with matsoni (Like sour cream yoghurt) & garlic sauce.
Where? Nighisa Restaurant – In Sighnaghi – Not marked on Google Maps. More information on how to find this restaurant is listed below in the entry “katmis Satsivi”.
Phkali – ფხალი – Vegetable Mousse
Phkali in Georgian cuisine is a mousse made from a ground vegetable mixed with walnut paste and other herbs. In this mix plate we had beetroot mousse, leek mousse, spinach mousse, and eggplant with walnut (Similar to the one above).
Where? Ethno Tsiskvili, Tbilisi – Map Location
A simple salad with beetroot is made in a similar way to beetroot salads all over the world.
Where? Golden Mug, Tbilisi – Map Location
Georgian Cuisine: Cheeses & Breads (Inc. Khachapuri)
There are many types of Khachapuri (Cheese Bread) and it is considered a Georgian National Dish. Each version of Khachapuri originates in a different part of Georgia.
Adjaruli Khachapuri – ხაჭაპური აჭარული – Egg Cheese Boat
Adjaruli Khachapuri comes from the southern Ajara region of Georgia. It’s a deep filled cheese boat! Loaded with cottage cheese, then topped with sulguni cheese (similar to mild cheddar), and browned in the oven. It’s severed by being topped with a raw egg that cooks on the hot cheese, as well as a wedge of butter that melts all over.
Tear off generous pieces of the outer bread crust to dip in the cheesy centre. This is really a magical dish of heart clogging proportions.
This dish comes in many sizes… including Khachapuri Titanic – Enough to feed 6 very hungry people.
Where? Retro, Tbilisi – Map Location – We ate Adjaruli Khachapuri in many places. Retro was a stand out winner. The dough is less sweet than other variations, which we loved.
Megruli khachapuri – მეგრული ხაჭაპური – Super triple cheese bread
Megruli Khachapuri is from the Samegrelo region of western Georgia. It’s a flatbread that is stuffed with a layer of cottage cheese, then topped with grated sulguni cheese and baked to golden. Shortly before it is finished, slabs of sulguni are added to the top and it’s briefly returned to the oven so they can melt just a bit.
It’s an incredible triple cheese bread! The version at Retro was my all time favourite Khachapuri – Though Megsy prefers the Adjaruli Khachapuri.
Where? Retro, Tbilisi – Map Location – This style of Khachapuri is widely available, but once again retro wins. Their version is a little more crispy than others we tried.
Pkhovani – Spinach and cheese bread
An open faced spinach and cheese bread. The Phkovani name seems to refer to the filling which is made with spinach and cream cheese.
Where? Ethno Tsiskvili, Tbilisi – Map Location – We did not see this on the menu elsewhere. Leave us a comment below if you find it!
Khachapuri on Spit
When you only have a barbecue, not an oven, but still want to make khachapuri, what do you do? You roll your flatbread into a tube, fill it with cheese, put it on a skewer and rotate it over the barbecue! To get this perfect means not overcooking, and making it crazy loaded with sulguni cheese. And the place that got that perfect was…
Where? Golden Mug, Tbilisi – Map Location
Chvishtari – Cheesy Cornbread
Chvishtari (also called chishdvaar) is a cornbread with cheese. This traditional Georgian food originated in the Svaneti region. The corn dough is mixed with cheese before baking so that the finished bread is literally oozing with cheesiness the second you crack it open.
Where? Restaurant Saperavi Winery Khareba, Kvareli – Map Location
Erlaji – Polenta Cheese
What may look like an uncooked dough, is actually a mix of ground polenta and cheese (heavy on the cheese). It’s heated and stirred constantly to form an incredibly stretchy dough. It’s a chewy, cheesy delight that tastes much better than it looks. Typically requires a minimum order of 2 servings.
Where? Restaurant Megrelebi, Tbilisi – Map Location – This restaurant is a little out of the way. They don’t speak English at all. But it is an 100% authentic Megrelian restaurant, so super authentic for that specific sub-cuisine of Georgia. The erlaji at Ethno Tsiskvili – Map Location is also good, but Restaurant Megrelebi was better.
Lobiani – ლობიანი – Bean Stuffed Bread
Lobiani is a flatbread stuffed with kidney beans. It is widely available but we only had it once because… Well, it doesn’t have cheese on it…
Georgian Cheese Plate – Tenil, Imeretian, Sulguni (სულგუნი), Nadughi (ნადუღი)
You may have noticed by now that cheese is popular in Georgian Cuisine. So, of course, you can just order the original cold cut versions of some of the cheeses that you also find cooked. Cheeses from back left, clockwise:
- Tenili string cheese – It’s not grated. It comes that way. Slightly firm and chewy (in a good way) with a flavor as strong as a medium mature cheddar.
- Immeretian Cheese – From the region of the same name. This is a firm yet crumbly, very salty cheese. The salt hits a bit like feta. But the texture is much harder.
- Sulguni – The classic creamy Georgian cheese. Texture like a firm mozzarella and flavour like a mild creamy cheddar.
- Nadughi in Sulguni – A cream cheese flavored with mint and wrapped in a thin cone of sulguni.
Where? Restaurant Maspindzelo, Tbilisi – Map Location
Gebzhalia – გებჟალია – Cheese in mint and sour cream sauce
Another dish from the Samegrelo region of west Georgia. Fresh cheese is briefly boiled to soften it. That forms the big cheese pieces in the middle of the dish. Then the sauce is made from either Matsoni (Sort of like sour cream or yoghurt) mixed with mint, or from cottage cheese mixed with milk and mint.
Where? Restaurant Megrelebi, Tbilisi – Map Location
Grilled Sulguni Cheese
Why pollute your cheese with other ingredients? This is just a big clay dish (called a “Ketsi”) full of broiled Sulguni cheese. It’s a gooey, salty wonderland. It needs no accompaniment. Just eat it!
Where? Ludis Moedani (Beer Square), Tbilisi – Map Location – When the dish is perfect, it’s browned on top but with a texture simultaneously firm & gooey. The milk should not separate from the solids. They nailed it at beer square.
Mchadi – მჭადი – Georgian Cornbread – Without Cheese
Mchadi is the simpler non-cheese version of Chvishtari. But don’t despair! You are welcome to order a side order of cheese to dip it in (see above).
Where? Armazis Tskaro, Mtskheta – Map Location – A fascinating restaurant with tables on both sides of a creek and lots of little bridges connecting them.
Your standard table bread in Georgia is anything but standard! Slightly crisped edges and base, it is cooked inside a round stone oven slightly similar to a tandoori oven. You can get it at almost every restaurant, but it’s best when served straight from the oven at your local bakery.
Georgian Cuisine: Meats & Mains
Chicken Shkmeruli – შქმერული – In milk and garlic sauce
From the racha region of Georgia. The chicken is first roasted, then added to the milky garlic soup – with plenty of butter.
Where? Oasis Club, Udbano – Map Location – This restaurant is on the way to the David Gareja monastery. The restaurant has a hipster vibe, but it’s a long way to travel just to eat. You’ll find this dish elsewhere in Tbilisi.
Ojakhuri – Baked Pork and Potatoes
Prime bits of pork rib, loin etc. are all mixed together and roasted in the Ketsi (the clay oven dish) with potatoes, onions and a ton of butter. This dish is incredible comfort food. An absolute must if you travel to Georgia. But some restaurants serve with the potatoes a little soggy. So get the best…
Where? Restaurant Maspindzelo, Tbilisi – Map Location – Tested in 4 different restaurants. This version was the standout winner for crispiness of pork and potatoes and rich buttery flavour. AMAZING.
Katmis Satsivi – საცივი – Chicken Walnut Stew
Satsivi is the walnut paste used to make the sauce. It’s a simple, rich and very satisfying Georgian food.
Where? Nighisa restaurant in Sighnaghi.
This restaurant is near this map location but google maps is not doing a great job in this area. Head to the central plaza, with the fountain, at the bottom of the hill. Behind the fountain is a doorway and the restaurant serves to seating in the square in warm weather. See arrow to the right ->
Deep Fried Quail – ფრიდმა მწყერი
Deep fried quail is certainly popular in Georgian cuisine. If you need a little dose of protein on the side, upgrade from chicken to quail!
Where? Chashnagiri, Tbilisi – Map Location
Veal Ribs With Ajika
Veal is also present throughout Georgian cuisine at just a little bit of a premium beyond pork. Ajika is a salty chili paste from western Georgia. It really enhances those juice veal ribs! But you’ll find ajika available to accompany many dishes. Ideal for spice lovers, but certainly not to crazy on the heat level.
Where? Golden Mug, Tbilisi – Map Location – Also get fantastic home made beer at this microbrewery.
Ostri – Beef (Sometimes Veal) Tomato Stew
A slow cooked beef and tomato stew made with ground coriander seed and finished with cilantro. It often comes a little spicy too. A real winter warmer.
Where? Tishebi Gldani, Tbilisi – Map Location
Madame Bovary – Mayonnaise / Stroganoff style chicken, drowned in cheese.
We saw this on many menus but could never get an explanation of what it was in English… But then we did. Essentially a mayonnaise based, stroganoff style chicken is topped with oodles of cheese and baked in the oven until browned. Yes, it is every bit as good as it sounds and this particular version was literally drowned in cheese. If you didn’t watch the cheese video earlier in this post, you missed out. Go back now!
I hope you like calories because your waistline won’t be forgetting this dish in a hurry!
Where? Restaurant Saperavi Winery Khareba, Kvareli – Map Location – This restaurant is above the Khareba Wine Tunnel, a place we highly recommend wine lovers to visit. Great views from the restaurant across the whole valley, with great value wine straight from the source (Wine by the litre starts at $1 USD – yes, that’s the price per litre).
Kharcho – ხარჩო – Beef & Walnut Stew
Speaking of calories, do you like butter? Kharcho is the Megrelian version of walnut stew, and at Restaurant Megrelebi it was literally swimming in butter. This one made with melt in the mouth slow cooked beef too.
Where? Restaurant Megrelebi, Tbilisi – Map Location
Smoked Ribs With Mustard (Bar Snack)
You don’t just need meat for a main course. You can also grab a big plate of meaty smoked pork ribs to accompany your local Georgian beer. Plates of meat are a common snack in Georgia, apparently.
Where? Nadikvari Terrace, Telavi – Map Location – Walk up through the park to find this restaurant at the top of the hill with an amazing panoramic view of the caucasus mountains. They also served very tasty Khinkali.
Megerlian Kupati – კუპატი – Offal Sausage
Megrelian Kupati is a sausage made from liver, heart and other bits wrapped in intestine. The version we tried was somewhat “rustic”. Rather than ground meat, this was seriously chunky bits of offal that will not be to the taste of the regular tourist. That said, the flavour and texture were actually pretty good. But this is one heavy dish to digest. It’s the sort of thing you’d want to share between many people so you can just try a bit.
An alternative look out for Imeretian Kaputi – Minced pork and veal wrapped in intestine. It’s typically a lighter version with less of the extreme offal aftertaste. Not available at restaurant Megrelebi.
Where? Restaurant Megrelebi, Tbilisi – Map Location – Everything else we ate here was great, but the kupati is intense!
Mtsvadi – მწვადი – Skewered Barbecue
Mtsvadi just means “Barbecue” and boy does Georgian cuisine include a lot of barbecue options! Big chunky pieces of skewered meat, sometimes even with bone in. You’ll find many restaurants with a giant barbecue station outside, almost always wood burning to give even better flavour.
Where? Ethno Tsiskvili, Tbilisi – Map Location – The photo shows the pork mixed Barbecue. Qababi, fatty pork, loin, sausage and more!
Qababi – Minced Meat Kebab
This video features both Mtsvadi and Qababi. The qababi is finished by wrapping in a thin lavash bread – like a tortilla.
Apkhazura – აფხაზურა – Mixed ground meat wrapped in epiploon
This Georgian Food is delicious! Now, if you want to really enjoy it, it’s best not to read the description until a few days after you have eaten it…
Typically veal and pork is ground, mixed with spicy ajika, some pomegranate, sounds good so far… and then wrapped in epiploon. What is epiploon? If you really want to know, Google it. Otherwise just stay in yummy ignorance.
Where? Chashnagiri, Tbilisi – Map Location – Some of the photos in Google maps are incorrect. This restaurant is traditional Georgian style with a large garden – not fine dining.
Georgian Cuisine: Sides, Veg & Other
Pelmeni – პელმენი – Dumplings in pot
Pelmeni is really more of a Russian dish, but is widely available in Georgia. It is small dumplings, normally filled with meat. Here it is served in a pot, in broth and often topped with Georgian sour cream.
Where? Bravo, Telavi – Map Location – At bravo restaurant the pot was topped with a thin bread crust.
Mushrooms With Sulguni in Ketsi – სოკოს კეცზე ერთად სულგუნის
Mushrooms coated in butter, filled with sulguni cheese and baked. If you are noticing a pattern with butter, cheese and baking, you’d be right. Georgian cuisine is definitely celebrating putting various kinds of tasty fat into hot ovens.
Where? Phaeton – Map Location – Good live entertainment at Phaeton, traditional singing and dancing. Food was good but not quite as awesome as most of the other restaurants in this article.
Mushroom Chakapuli – ჩაქაფული
Chakapuli is a sour stew made with tarragon. Typically it is served with lamb or chicken but we also tried the mushroom version.
Where? Restaurant Maspindzelo, Tbilisi – Map Location
Tkemali – ტყემალი -Plum Sauce
Served as an accompaniment to barbecue meats or cheese. Tkemali is a sour plum sauce that comes in both red and green varieties.
Lobio – ლობიო – Beans in pot
Finishing up the savoury dishes with one of our favourite simple sides (but it also makes a good filling main course with bread for those on a budget). Salty and wonderful kidney beans baked in a pot. Sometimes with chilies on the side.
Where? The photo was taken at: Funicular Complex, Tbilisi – Map Location – Come up here for the panoramic view of tbilisi. Their beans were great…
BUT the best “Lobio” was at Chashnagiri, Tbilisi – Map Location
Georgian Cuisine: Dessert
Matsoni With Honey & Wanuts
Matsoni is sort of like yoghurt. Add honey and walnuts and you have a classic and simple Georgian dessert. But then there is the most famous, special Georgian dessert…
Churchkhela – ჩურჩხელა – Georgian Snickers
We rarely make it to dessert when there is so much cheese to eat. But, we had to try the churchkhela at least a few times. These are made by boiling and thickening the leftovers from the winemaking process. Then walnuts are threaded on a string and dunked in the sweet grape goo, then left to air dry and mature. All the locals call them Georgian snickers as they have a similar texture to the chocolate bar.
Where? 8000 Vintages, Tbilisi – Map Location – Our favourite wine tasting class in Tbilisi also offers up a selection of Georgian cold cuts, cheese and of course, Churchkhela. Taste great local products with amazing Georgian wines and a professional sommelier (speaks English).
Georgian Cuisine Verdict
If it wasn’t so cold in the winter I’d move to Georgia in a heartbeat and grow old and fat eating the cheesiest food known to man.
Sadly, we are no longer in Georgia. But while there we took a cooking class so we could learn how to make Khachapuri and Khinkali no matter where we are in the world.
We reckon Georgia is one the most undiscovered foodie destinations in the world – not to mention the 8000 years of wine production history. So, get there soon and explore before the rest of the tourists arrive.
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