During our time living 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 traditional Georgian food like Khachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread) and Khinkali (Big, meaty, slurpy soup dumplings) are two of the best things I have ever eaten.
Or, 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.
Not every dish on this list is 100% Georgian, as the nature of cultural exchange means dishes have been influenced over time. But we aim to explore what is Georgian Traditional Food, as well as regional dishes that have become important in Georgia even if they are more famous elsewhere.
Update: In late 2018 we returned to Georgia again to re-feast on all the best Georgian food, as well as discover some new dishes. Find our expanded and updated Georgian Cuisine Mega Guide below.
Table of Contents: Traditional Georgian Food & Georgian Cuisine
Georgian Cuisine Podcast – What to eat in Georgia & Tbilisi Podcast
Georgian Cuisine: Starters & Salads (Includes Khinkali!)
Georgian Cuisine: Cheeses & Breads (Includes Khachapuri! And our Georgian cheese video)
Georgian Cuisine: Meats & Mains (Includes Ojakhuri – Yum!)
Georgian Cuisine: Sides, Veg & Other (Including Lobio)
Georgian Desserts (Including Churchkhela)
Georgian Cuisine Podcast – What to eat in Georgia & Tbilisi
In Part 1 of Traditional Georgian Food podcast:
Khachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread) & How Georgia’s History Shaped Their Cuisine
- We explore how Georgia’s history shaped the unique cuisine they have today
- The evidence that shows Georgia to be the birthplace of wine
- Khachapuri: The cheesy bread that could rival pizza as the best cheese and bread combo in the world.
- Was pizza the precursor to Khachapuri? Or did Georgian Khachapuri have a different origin…
Listen Now To Part 1 (S1E7 of The Dish Podcast):
In Part 2 of This Double Episode on Traditional Georgian Food:
What to Eat in Tbilisi, The Republic of Georgia. Our Top Picks.
- We delve into our favourite foods from one of top 5 food destinations, the republic of Georgia
- Epic soup dumplings – Why Georgia’s magical meaty-soup filled “khinkali” have won our hearts
- Have you eaten epiploon? You may have done so without even knowing. But Gerogia is making an incredible meatball with epiploon that you have to try!
- 7 Other unique Georgian dishes you just won’t eat anywhere else
- And, How Georgians make use of the left over grapes form wine harvest to make deserts and a spirit that will make your face explode.
The Below Content is our complete guide to Georgian Cuisine featuring 60+ dishes that you can try on your trip to Georgia. The below is NOT a transcript of the podcast episode. It is a companion article. We highly reccommend listening to the podcast as it is a fun journey through the history of the dishes as well as our stories about eating in Georgia.
The below article is useful as a comprehensive summary or “to-eat list” that will help you enjoy your own culinary time in Georgia.
A Brief History of Georgian Cuisine & Essential Ingredients
Brief History Of Georgia – Which has effected the cuisine of the region
The Republic of Georgia sits very much on a crossroads of east and west. Between the Black Sea and caspian sea, with Russia to the north and Armenia, Turkey and Iran to the south.
Through it’s history, Georgia has been invaded many times. In fact, it is said that Georgian hospitality towards guests is so great because most people who have visited over the years have wanted to kill them or take their land. So if you come in peace, Georgians will welcome you graciously.
Georgia’s landscape, which goes from hot and humid tangerine growing land near the black sea, to perfect wine cultivation in the east and mountainous herding land in the north, leave Georgia as an ideal area for a huge variety of produce – all in one small area.
The silk road originally passed through Iran on it’s way to Europe. But military tensions between Iran and the Byzantine empire, whose capital was in Istanbul at the time, meant that in the 6th century AD, a new trade route was developed to pass through the region that is now Georgia.
This route passed north of the Caspian sea and over the Caucasus mountains. The first recorded caravan was in 568 AD, which likely passed through Daraili gorge in the north of Georgia.
What is most important now, of course, is that a trade route bringing goods in both directions – from both the east and the west – led to new ingredients and an influence on cuisine and cooking methods. Plus, repeated invasion of the region led new cultures combining their cuisine with the local cuisine, or inspiring new Georgian cuisine.
So, a location where cultures mixed, where trade flourished and which had big diversity in natural produce. This has led to an exciting food culture.
A few important milestones in the history of Georgia:
- The earliest evidence of agriculture dates back to at least 6 thousand BC. With the epicentre of the beginning of the neolithic period happening in Anatolia (now Turkey) only a few hundred Miles west of Georgia.
- By 5800-6000 BC the first evidence of a wine stained clay pot exists. This is the oldest artefact proving the existence of wine in the whole world.
- By 1300 BC, the first proto Georgian kingdom of “Colchis” arrived on the black sea coast. And by 1000 BC Some greek trading ports had been established on the coast, and also a second kingdom, called Iberia, had grown to the south east of Colchis.
- Then Alexander the great turned up in the 4th century BC. Though he never conquered Colchis or Iberia, the greeks had great influence on the region.
- Next it was the turn of the Roman empire, and by the turn of the millennium proto-Georgia was struggling from invasion from both the Romans and Persians.
- by 888 AD, Georgia was heading towards it’s first true formation. Still struggling against Arab invasion, but with the Roman empire, now having become the Byzantine empire, offering some protection.
- In 1089, 16 year old king David began campaigns that would eventually lead to Georgia’s golden age – by the early 13th century, Queen Tamar ruled over the full kingdom of Georgia, extending across most of Azerbaijan, and parts of Turkey and Russia.
- But then, in the early 13th century, those pesky Mongols turned up. Smashing through Georgia in 1236 as well as some other campaigns around that time.
- Over the next hundred years, Georgia got smashed by both the mongols, and the slowly forming Ottoman empire.
- As the centuries went on, the balance between Iranian powers, Russia and the ottoman empire left Georgia a continuously occupied country.
- By the 20th century, Russia had a full hold on the country, and tensions remained high through the break up of the soviet union in the 1990s and even up until another Russian invasion in 2008.
So, in summary. Cuisines that have strongly influenced Georgia Cuisine over the years…
Greek & Balkan, Roman, Middle Eastern, Turkish, Central Asian / Mongolian and Chinese from the silk road and invasion, Russian, and Indian from the silk road that used to come through Iran towards the Black Sea.
Not just a partial influence, but a direct influence from trade and invasion for thousands of years.
Yet, somehow, Georgian Cuisine has become more than just a fusion of other cuisines. It has it’s only strongly unique identity.
Georgia’s local produce contributes to the food. There are plenty of regular ingredients that you would find elsewhere, like tomatoes, chilies, meat etc. But here are some, not all, of the ingredients that make Georgian cuisine taste so regional.
One of the most important things I think is also the way food is produced. If you visit small shops in Tbilisi, or anywhere in Georgia, they often get all their produce from family farms in the country. Although supermarkets are damaging this traditional supply chain, it’s amazing how much farm to local shop to table is still going on, bypassing the super mass produced ingredients you get in many other countries.
Sulguni Cheese – which in flavor is sort of a cross between firm mozzarella and mild cheddar but with a unique and slightly stronger flavor. It melts perfectly and forms crispy bubbles in a hot oven.
Imeretian Cheese – Sort of like a much firmer, more extreme feta cheese. A honey comb of tiny holes through the entire cheese, and an extremely salty flavor. Though you can eat this on it’s own with wine, it works best in breads, salads or mixed in other dishes where the flavor is less direct.
Purple Basil – A more pungent and intense version of regular green basil. Perfect in salads but also used on top of stews. Popular in Turkey and the Caucasus region but used heavily in Georgia.
Marigold Powder (Also called “Yellow Flowers Powder”) – It gives a unique flavour that is hard to substitute or describe.
Svanetian Salt / Georgian Salt – A special spiced salt blend used to flavor meats and pretty much anything else you want. It’s an instant taste of Georgia in one spice. It typically contains at least 8 ingredients including the marigold, ground coriander seeds, blue fenugreek and more.
Ajika – Georgia’s own chili garlic paste. Often cooked on meats, like veal ribs, to give them a tasty kick.
Walnuts & Walnut Paste – Walnuts may be popular the world over, but they way they are used in Georgian cuisine is quite unique. Also Georgian walnut paste, made from walnuts ground with spices such as marigold, is used in many Georgian dishes. The dish “Satsivi” is literally meat cooked in walnut paste. More on the dishes to try with walnut paste coming up…
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
- Potato or potato & cheese
- Spinach & Cream
Khinkali is everywhere, being considered one of Georgia’s 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 recommend (After eating it at about 30 different restaurants)… are at:
- Zakhar Zakharich – For hand made khinkali (note: Hand made isn’t always best when it comes to khinkali. It means a much thicker dough. But for the handmade style, We liked them at Zakhar the best)
- Golden Mug – For their spicy meat khinkali – probably the best khinkali we had.
Salad With Walnut Paste – 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!
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
Tolma – ტოლმა – Stuffed Vine Leave
Little vine leaf wraps. Unlike many other versions of this dish across the region, 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 a 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”.
Georgian Cuisine: Cheeses & Breads (Inc. Khachapuri)
Traditional Georgian Food includes some of the most wonderfully cheesey dishes in the world, before we get started on the list, enjoy our cheese video!
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, though this dish may also be a mix of mashed potato with spinach and tarragon in some restaurants.
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.
Erlaji With Abkhazian Smoked Ham
This is an Abkhazian variant on Erlaji. Abkhazia is a disputed territory within Georgia, on the coast of the Black Sea. Their special Abkhazian smoked ham goes great with the cheesy erlaji dough.
Where? Amra, Tbilisi – Map Location – At time of writing this is the only Abkhazian restaurant in Tbilisi. Visiting the state of Abkhazia is complicated for tourists, so eating in Tbilisi is a much easier option. The Erlaji with Abkhazian ham is one of their most popular menu items.
Kubdari – Svanetian Beef Stuffed Bread
Kubdari originates from west Georgia. The regular flaky bread pastry you’d get in many flat and round Khachapuris, is instead stuffed with spiced meat. The original, and best version, has big thick slices of beef inside the dough. A common variant, that is still good, uses minced beef instead.
Where? 11 Katkha, Tbilisi – Map Location – Here they do the original sliced beef version (as pictured). It’s divine!
Lobiani – ლობიანი – Bean Stuffed Bread
Lobiani is a flatbread stuffed with kidney beans. It is widely available but we only had it once (on our first trip) because… Well, it doesn’t have cheese on it… Since returning to Georgia in 2018, we’ve had it a few more times. It’s a great street snack.
Achma – Georgian Cheese Bread Lasagne
Cheese, butter and a lot of layers of dough. Achma is Georgia’s answer to a sort of Cheese lasagne. Though whether it was directly inspired from the Italian lasagne is hard to say. Layering of dough with cheese has actually existed since ancient Greece. But the invention of Achma is shrouded in the mists of time! Some sources say this is an Abkhazian dish (a disputed region of west Georgia) others say it is more generally just west Georgian traditional food.
Where? Samikitno, Rustaveli, Tbilisi – Map Location – This restaurant is an affordable chain you can find all over the city.
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 – which some restaurants do. Otherwise visit any local bakery.
Looking for somewhere to sleep off your food coma? Here’s our Top Hotel Picks for Tbilisi Georgia
Listen to the full double episode of our Georgian Cuisine Podcast above.
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 ->
Juicy mixed beef and pork kebabs, served in a tomato sauce. This style of dish originates from Kutaisi, the capital of the Imereti region. But you can find them on some menus in Tbilisi too, such as at Samikitno.
Where? Bikentia’s Kebabery, Kutaisi – Map Location – Widely regarded as the best place to eat Kutaisian Kebabs.
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
Chashushuli – Imeretian Version Of Ostri
A variation of Ostri which is almost the same but is made without ground coriander seeds. From the Imereti Region.
Where? Our Garden Cafe, Kutaisi – Map Location – Enjoy a meal with a great view of the 11th century Bagrati Cathedral.
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).
Megrelian 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. Don’t mistake this for Kharcho soup, which is a spicy tomato bases soup with purple basil, also popular all over Georgia.
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.
Imeretian Kupati – Beef & Pork Sausage
Georgian sausages. Normally minced pork and veal served chunky and topped with onions and herbs.
Where? Golden Mug, Tbilisi – Map Location – Though these sausages are easy to find on most traditional Georgian food menus.
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.
Don’t confuse these for the Imeretian Kaputi mentioned earlier, or you’ll be in for an offal surprise!
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! The Georgian Shashlik equivalent is 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 Georgian Kebab
Typically a pork and beef mix of ground meat, very similar to a Turkish kofte. Served wrapped inside a lavash bread – thin flat bread typical of the region. Get the Qababi with cheese to have melted sulguni mixed in with the meat (As seen middle of above picture – cheese browning on the outside of the kebab!)
Where? Chashnigiri – Map Location – because pretty much every dish they serve is amazing!
Apkhazura – აფხაზურა – Mixed ground meat wrapped in epiploon
This Georgian Food is delicious! It’s a giant meatball from the Abkhazian region. 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.
Georgia’s version of a chicken spatchcock – flattened whole chicken grilled or BBQ’d. Tastes great with the Georgian sour plum sauce – see that below. Obviously if you only have a few days in Georgia, this dish doesn’t need to be on your list.
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.
Trout stuffed with walnut paste and sulguni
Trout is probably the easiest to find fish on Georgian menus. But don’t just go for the standard grilled trout, make your trout more Georgian by getting it stuffed with the Georgian walnut paste and sulguni cheese. You’d think fish stuffed with walnut paste would be weird, it’s not, it really works!
Where? Sabotono, Tbilisi – Map Location – The trout here was perfect and not fishy at all.
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 savory 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. Many cultures have beans in a pot style dishes. What makes lobio unique is the recipe often includes walnuts. This brings a completely new dimension to beans in a pot.
Where? The photo was taken at: Baia’s Winery, Bagdati, Imereti region – Map Location – It’s a little out of the way, but it’s a great natural winery making traditional wines (more on that below). We got a lunch and wine tasting including the above Lobio.
BUT the best Lobio in Tbilisi was at Chashnagiri, Tbilisi – Map Location – I can’t fault them on the food, we love that restaurant, but the service if you don’t speak Russian or Georgian is difficult.
Listen to the full double episode of our Georgian Cuisine Podcast above.
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. Churchkhela is 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). Or just visit any local market in Georgia to find Churchkhela easily – most stalls offer taste tests.
More Georgian Desserts
We are not massive dessert fans. But we did taste a few other things while we were here. So here are some other Traditional Georgian Desserts to look out for.
Pelamushi – The glutinous grape based coating used in Churchkhela is turned into a big gel block and served in chunks.
Kaklucha – An 18th century recipe, all but lost to Georgian Cuisine. It’s little balls of caramelised sugar and walnuts. We found this dessert on a free walking tour which stopped at Cafe Leila in Tbilisi. Apparently it’s almost impossible to find elsewhere.
Chiri – Is the name for an assortment of dried fruits – figs, plums, apples, etc.
Tklapi – A sort of flat fruit paper made from a variety of fruits.
Georgia has it’s own selection of beverages to try, not to mention the oldest wine history of any country in the world…
Georgian Amber Wine / Qveri Wine / Red Wine
The earliest archeological evidence of wine making in the world was found about 20 miles south of Tbilisi. The wine stained pottery found was carbon dated to having been made between 5800 & 6000 BC. That’s 8000 years of winemaking history in Georgia.
We’ll be doing a full article and podcast on Georgian Wine in 2019. But here are some basics.
Georgian traditional wine is made today the same way it has been for 8000 years – in a “qveri” (pronounced kwarey). This is a large clay pot (sometimes hundreds of litres) that is used to ferment the wine.
Traditional White Qveri wine is often a dark yellow or orange color because it has had more skin contact during fermentation than your typical European style white wines. For this reason it is often called Amber Wine.
Georgia has over 500 indigenous grape varieties, significantly more than most countries. Some of the major ones you’ll find easily include:
- Saperavi – Creates bold fruity red wines, similar to cabernet sauvignon
- Rkatsiteli – A white/amber normally with strong apple flavor
- Mtsvane – White with hints of peach
- Tsolikouri – white from Imereti. Sometimes acidic with hints of honey.
The most popular wine region is Khkheti in east Georgia. But Wine is produced all over the country.
To see how the wine is made, and try lots of great local wines, taking a wine tour is definitely the best plan!
We took a full day tour from Kutaisi with local guide Zura, who you can contact directly on his facebook page. Our custom tour visited popular wineries in the Bagdati region of Imereti.
We visited organic and home wineries. It’s a really unique experience!
CONTACT SEE GEORGIA TOURS who will build you a custom wine tour.
Or, visit the Kakheti region:
Check out the top 10 Wine Tours to Kakheti from Tbilisi.
ChaCha – Traditional Georgian Grape Distilate
ChaCha is now legally a protected product of Georgia which cannot be called Chacha if produced anywhere else.
ChaCha, like grappa, is made by fermenting Pomace, then distilling it.
Pomace is the leftovers from pressing the grapes – it’s the stalks and skins. With white grapes, skin contact is minimal in the winemaking process so a mostly unfermented pomace is then fermented seperately. With red wine, the skins and stalks may ferment with the wine for some time before being removed. This partially fermented pomace can then be left to ferment further, seperate from the wine
Once the pomace has fermented, normally for at least 30 days, it can be distilled to make the ChaCha. Often this is double distilled to remove impurities and create a higher alcohol beverage.
The qualities of the ChaCha will vary depending on the original type of grapes – Red Grapes make a stronger flavor chacha than white. Most Chacha is transparent but some producers are now ageing their chacha in wood barrels which softens the flavor and gives it a slightly browned hue.
Most Georgians who make wine will also make ChaCha at home. In fact if you visit a home in the country there is a strong chance that if they offer you ChaCha, they made it rather than buying it. We’ve definitely had a few lethal chachas as we’ve traveled around Georgia, but we dropped into Chacha Time, a bar specialising in a multitude of high quality ChaCha’s to try the good stuff.
If you see locals drinking brightly colored liquids, it’s probably Georgian lemonade. Which is not alway made with lemons. These are found in most restaurants, bottled, but some cafes will sell homemade stuff.
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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