As most regular readers and my social media followers are aware by now I’ve fallen hard for the Republic of Georgia. The country is amazing- there’s so much to see and do, the nature is stunning and the people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. But, as I’m sure you could guess, much of my love has to do with Georgian food.
The country is becoming famous primarily for four things: the nature, the hospitality, the wine and the food. All things I love so it’s no wonder I’m already making plans to return next summer.
In this article, you will learn all about Georgian cuisine. We will talk about some of the best Georgian dishes, traditional Georgian spices, and more. By the end of it, you will be dying for the recipes and trying to book your flight!
Also- I discovered many of these traditional Georgian dishes during my time touring Georgia with JayWay Travel. Many readers will remember the time I spent in Poland with them last year. JayWay is an expert in Central and Eastern European travel. Be sure to check out their website when you’re planning your own visit to the region!
Looking for where to try these dishes? Check out my guide to the best restaurants in Tbilisi where you're sure to find all of these dishes!
What makes Georgian food unique?
Georgian food borrows the best from a lot of different cultures. Based primarily in Mediterranean and Greek flavor profiles, they also have some Persian and Turkish influences. Georgian food represents their culture – warm and comfortable, like the Georgian cheese stuffed bread khachapuri.
They use savory herbs that evoke Thanksgiving nostalgia, like tarragon, parsley, dill, and coriander and mix them with Persian flavors like garlic walnuts to make indulgent sauces. Georgian cuisine is a unique combination of the best their neighbors have to offer with their own unique spin!
29 Must Try Traditional Georgian Dishes
Although they are definitely not what you would think of when you think about wine growing regions, Georgia is actually one of the oldest wine regions in the world! In fact, locals will tell you that wine originates from Georgia, a fact that is disputed with neighboring countries. Evidence of winemaking in Georgia dates back to 8000 B.C. so whether they invented it or not, they’ve certainly had time to perfect the process.
Georgian vineyards produce more than 500 varieties of indigenous grapes, including some endangered vines that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.
They also have a unique way of producing some of their wines. The Georgian traditional method involves clay vessels known as kvevris (qvevris) that are buried underground and used for fermentation, aging and storage of wine. The clay kvevris can give the wines an orange or amber color. To be honest, this production method did not produce my favorite Georgian wine.
My favorite Georgian wines were produced in a more typical method or what locals would often call “European style”. My favorites were Tsinandali for white wine and Saperavi for red.
They make Lelo, a form of port wine with a fruity aroma and golden color. They also make akhasheni, which is a semi-sweet red wine made from Saperavi grapes. Khvanchkara is another semi-sweet red that is cultivated in western Georgia. It is one of the most popular Georgian wine varieties. They are also well known for several varieties of dessert wine.
With nearly 40 different varieties of grape used in winemaking, it’s no wonder that they produce over 45 different varieties of wine, each with a unique flavor!
Chacha is Georgian grappa. This Georgian pomace brandy is clear and very strong. It typically ranges from 40% to 65% alcohol by volume, and is occasionally referred to as vine vodka. It is the country’s national liquor.
Georgian Sauces and Seasonings
One of the things that gives Georgian food its unique flavor is the ingredient combination they use to season and sauce all of their food. Here are some common ones.
This salt is typically used to season vegetables, salad, and cheese. It combines salt with chili pepper, dried garlic, and a unique spice blend. This blend can include herbs like coriander and fenugreek. This salt is highly evocative of Persian and Indian cuisine.
Adjika is Georgian chili paste. This is typically served with cucumber and tomato salads for an added spice. Despite the heat and spices, it’s actually got a relatively subtle flavor profile that blends well into the cooler flavors of the Georgian cuisine for a balanced and nuanced flavor. The paste often includes fenugreek and coriander, and a green variety uses unripe peppers.
This is a sour plum sauce that is a palate cleanser when eaten sparingly with cheese, khachapuri, or meat. The Tkemali plum is usually used, but occasionally Aluchas make the mix. Red and green varieties are used, and the flavor of this sauce is a pungent tartness.
Another byproduct of their Persian influences, the walnut paste (or nigvzis sakmazi) is a true staple of Georgian cuisine. This paste combines walnuts, water, garlic, fresh mint, cilantro, salt, dill, jalapeno, coriander, ad blue fenugreek into a savory paste.
The paste is good for up to 2 weeks when wrapped and stored in a fridge and can be used for salad dressing when thinned, in okhali, and in various dishes. It’s the Georgian equivalent of the versatility of pesto.
Every great meal starts with some great appetizers, and Georgian meals do not disappoint! Here are some of the best ones you can find.
The word for gobi originates from the same Georgian word as “friend”- which indicates that gobi is meant to be shared with a group of your friends.
Gobi is an assortment of colorful Georgian appetizers served in a large wooden bowl that you share before your dinner arrives. The day we ordered the gobi in the photo below it was so large three of us couldn’t finish it, much less order mains!
Lobio is a Georgian dish that can be offered as both an appetizer or an entrée. This is a hearty bean stew that is traditionally paired with a mchadi, or corn bread roll. The fun thing about this stew is that the flavors can vary greatly and every Georgian makes it a little differently.
The most common way this is served is called lobio nigozit, which is a cold dish with a red kidney bean base. These beans are mashed with garlic, onions, walnuts, coriander, marigold, chili pepper, and vinegar. Hot versions are typically made with white beans.
The national cheese of Georgia is the sulguni cheese. This is a salty cheese with a stringy shell and a very moist middle. It has a texture that is almost elastic. It’s usually eaten by itself on cheese boards and charcuteries, but it is also served with tonis puri bread, herbs, and tomatoes.
Sulguni is considered a “quick cheese” in that it only takes a day or two to mature.
This dish is not found anywhere else in the world but Georgia. A true staple of Georgian cuisine, it is amazingly delicious. Pickled jonjoli flowers are prepared in onion and coriander with oil and vinegar. This dish goes well with fried foods and is said to be a typical Georgian hangover cure.
If you find yourself craving fondue while you’re in Georgia, stop by a little restaurant in Tbilisi called Restaurant Megrelebi. They speak no English at all, but their food is authentic. This dish looks like uncooked dough, but it’s actually ground polenta mixed with cheese… lots of cheese!!! To make an entrée out of it, add Abkhazian smoked ham.
For a marginally healthier Georgian appetizer, try the stuffed mushrooms. These are stuffed with local Sulguni cheese and prepared in a ketsi pan. The cheese and butter dish is super easy and so delicious!
Georgian Salad in Walnut Sauce
Georgians have some amazing vegetarian food. One of the great dishes that can be a starter salad or full entrée is their tomato and cucumber salad with walnut sauce. This uses red wine vinegar, cherry tomatoes, onions, olive oil, cucumbers, and walnuts along with the Georgian staple walnut paste, which can be thinned out to form a dressing instead.
There are tons of different Georgian bread varieties, and this is one of the most popular compliments to any meal.
This amazing Georgian cheese bread is something you absolutely must try. It is warm and gooey, and it oozes with flavor. This is Georgia’s national dish, and is part of the intangible cultural heritage of Georgia, as defined by UNESCO.
This dish is essentially a rounded pie with cheese oozing out of the center. There are several different varieties, with variants that include different types of cheeses, meats, and eggs.
Kubdari is a bread that originated in the Svaneti region. This uses the same types of dough as khachapuri, but the dough is stuffed with small chunks of meat, and mixed with onions and Georgian spices, traditionally including cannabis leaves. This is similar to an American calzone. You can find the best version of this along the route from Ushguli to Mestia.
Another popular Georgian bread, lobiani, is made in the same way as khachapuri, but stuffed with bean paste instead of cheese. This is a moist bread that is healthier and lighter than the cheese stuffed variety. For carnivores, a popular variety is Rachuli Lobiani, which is beans and bacon!
Mchadi and Chvishtari
Mchadi is a Georgian cornbread. It is extremely moist and tender and usually served with stew and cheeses. Chvishtari is something that I wish was more prevalent out here. It is a cheese cornbread. It starts with mchadi, but adds Svanti cheese, for a sticky and delicious hearty treat. This is mountain food that holds up well on treks through nature.
Also known as shotis puri, this shoti is a delicious traditional Georgian bread that can be purchased from any local supermarket. It’s made with flour and shaped like a canoe. It is served with nearly every meal, especially in Tbilisi, and bakers make it on nearly every street.
When you’re all done with the teaser, it’s time for the main event. These Georgian dishes are everything they should be. Hearty, satisfying, and perfectly balanced savory delight.
Mtsvadi (Georgian Shashlik)
One of the secrets to these Georgian meat skewers is to grill them on burning grapevines. When you light the vines, they burn quickly and leave a heap of coals that make an even and fragrant heat with a unique flavor that can seal in the juices from the meat so they don’t escape while cooking.
These skewers are mixed with a mix of the best Georgian spices and skewered by hand, then cooked very close to the coals and tended carefully to avoid burning. They are usually served with Kakhetian bread and Georgian white wine. Just remember – if you get the back meat, it’s meant to be shared with the whole group!
This is a traditional Georgian lamb stew that originated in Kakheti. It is usually saved as a holiday dish for special occasions, and features a lamb or veal that is flavored with onions, tkemali (which are sour Georgian cherry plums), garlic, herbs, and white wine. Additional ingredients often include tarragon, mint, dill, and coriander.
This vegetarian Georgian food is made of cabbage, eggplant, spinach, beans, beets, and other minced vegetables. It is combined with walnuts, vinegar, onions, garlic, and herbs to make a delicious meal, and held together with pureed walnut sauce. The most common variants are spinach, beetroot, and white bean pkhali.
This is a variant of khachapuri that serves as an entrée. It is often called Georgian Cheese Lasagna by people who are not locals. This is a cheese bread that has layers and layers, and gets the comparison because it looks like cheese lasagna when sliced. The best part is the flaky crispy crust!
Shkemeruli is delicious and juicy fried chicken that is served in a spicy garlic sauce. Tis delicious fried garlic chicken recipe is traditionally cooked in a clay pan called a ketsi that will lock in flavors and crisp the chicken skin perfectly. It is simple, but a perfect example of less is more!
This is a traditional Georgian family meal. Ojakhuri simply means meat and fried potatoes. There are a variety of different ways to serve this meal, which typically shows up at supra, or Georgian feasts. Georgians simply use their favorite vegetables and spice blends to season this meat and potato dish however they like best!
This dish is extremely popular in Georgian restaurants and local Georgian households. Ostri is a spicy beef stew, hot in both temperature and flavor, that is made with beef, butter, onions, tomatoes, hot pepper, coriander, cucumber, garlic, purple basil, bay leaves, and salt. It is slow cooked over several hours.
These gorgeous Georgian dumplings are twisted dough knobs that are stuffed with meat and spices and boiled or steamed. You sprinkle them with black pepper, grab them by the handle, flip them upside down, and take small bites from the sides, slurping some broth each time. Eating them any other way will make a huge mess and cover you in hot broth! Vegetarian options are stuffed with mushrooms and cheese.
For anyone who speaks Georgian, the components of this dish will be obvious. It means stewed in Georgian. This is a very hearty dish that will get you through cold mountain days, and is typically served with a load of Georgian shoti bread. This beef stew is mixed with tomato and spices, and the savory flavor is a unique twist on American beef stews.
What meal would be complete without dessert? Here are some Georgian dishes that perfectly compliment the Georgian national food while satisfying that sweet tooth!
These brown rubbery desserts are also known as Georgian Snickers. They are hand made sweets made from the strings of a walnut that have been dipped in tatara (thickened grape juice) and dried. Nuts (usually almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts) along with raisins and chocolate are threaded onto the string then dipped and dried. Just don’t eat the string!