What do you know about Lithuanian cuisine? Not much? Then you’re just like us. Before coming to Lithuania, all we knew was that people there ate a lot of potatoes. I also assumed they’d eat fish in the coastal areas, but that was it.
During our time in Lithuania, we got to discover lots of amazing dishes. Yes, people here like to eat potatoes. They also eat meat, soups, herring and produce amazing cheese and honey. Oh, and the desserts. Did you know about the delicious Lithuanian desserts?
If you’re travelling to this Baltic country, don’t miss out on any of those amazing dishes.
#1 Fried Bread Sticks
In Lithuanian, this amazing dish is called Kepta Duona, and it’s the one thing you need to try. Even if you don’t eat anything else, don’t leave the country without trying the breadsticks. Lithuanian bread is already special by itself and much darker than what most people are used to. Now imagine that dark rye bread cut into strips and fried. It’s absolutely delicious! What made it even better was that the portion we ordered had cheese sauce sprinkled over the top.
Fried Breadsticks are a typical snack to eat in a bar, together with beer. But if you’re lucky, you can also find them in restaurants as a starter. We got them from Etno Dvaras in Vilnius, a place where we ended up trying many Lithuanian dishes.
Cepelinai are potato dumplings filled with meat and you can find them all over the country. The name translates to zeppelin, because of their shape. These dumplings are made from grated potatoes and if you’re vegetarian, you can also find them stuffed with curds. In most places, they come with sour cream and bacon bits, but they go well with all kind of sauces.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the portion isn’t going to be big enough. They cepelinai are insanely filling. Two or three are more than enough to leave you full. We saw a plate with eight in a restaurant, but that was for sharing with four people.
If you’re just a bit hungry and are looking for a snack, grab some kibinai from a bakery. These pastries are surprisingly similar to Spanish empanadas and you can find them everywhere. We saw street carts that just specialised in kibinai, but we also found them in many bakeries and even mini markets. Kibinai can be filled with various ingredients, but most often, you will see them with pork or chicken. If you’re vegetarian, try to find some with a mushroom filling.
#4 Cold Beetroot Soup
In Lithuanian, this dish is called Saltibarsciai. It’s the perfect dish to eat on a hot summer day as the soup is served cold. We were in Lithuania in winter and still tried it and it turned out to be very delicious. The name translates to “cold borscht” and you might be familiar with the hot version if you’ve been to Russia.
Here in Lithuania, the soup had a vivid pink colour and we found strips of beetroot in it. There was also a hard-boiled egg, which tastes very good in combination with the beetroot. On the side, we got a plate of hot potatoes that we dipped into the soup. These made the dish much more filling than expected, so you can easily eat just saltibarsciai for dinner without going hungry.
#5 Lithuanian cheese with honey
Did you know that Lithuanians make some very good cheese? It might not be well-known internationally, but it is absolutely delicious. We ordered a cheese platter as a starter and didn’t regret it for a second. Some of the cheese had herbs in it and the platter was served together with dark bread and honey.
Talking about honey. From what we read, Lithuanians love their honey. And rightfully so, as the honey was one of the best we’ve ever had. So even if you cannot taste various Lithuanian cheeses, try to at least find some honey somewhere.
#6 Lithuanian Bread
When it comes to bread, we have very different ideas of what makes good bread. Daniel loves white bread while I’m in love with dark bread. And therefore, I loved Lithuanian food. People here like to eat dark rye bread, the one with a strong taste that leaves you full for hours. It is so delicious! As I already mentioned, the fried breadsticks are made from dark rye bread. But it’s also very good on its own, with butter, honey or cheese. That cheese platter we mentioned above? It was incredibly good with dark bread. Even Daniel said that the rye bread worked well with cheese, so if he likes it, you’re going to like it as well.
#7 Potato Croquettes
In many different restaurants, when we ordered food, we would get potato croquettes as a side dish. Those looked like small, fried potato balls and were very delicious. Imagine french fries, but in a different shape and with a bigger crust. If you’re eating out in Lithuania, you’re bound to come across these eventually and you’re going to like them.
Just like french fries, these need salt. So if you think they taste like nothing, add some salt and then try again.
Especially in the coastal regions, you are going to find herring on the menu. You can find it salted, smoked or baked, but we tried the salted one. It came on a plate with so many side dishes that we could barely see the fish anymore! So much for ordering it as a light starter.
Even if the portion was giant, it was delicious. At least for me. Daniel isn’t a huge fan of fish that tastes very fishy, and herring is one of them.
Salted herring is served cold, but the warm potatoes on the side make up for it. It also came with beetroot and a salad, and of course some sour creme. Lithuanians love their sour creme, so don’t be surprised if you see it everywhere.
#9 Potato pancakes
In Lithuanian, these are called Bulviniai Blynai, and they’re amazing. You can find potato pancakes in other countries and we already knew them from German Christmas Markets. But this was the first place where we saw a stuffed version. Now that’s a great idea!
We still went for the plain ones with sour cream and bacon bits, as we wanted to try the original version.
The pancakes consist of grated potatoes that are held together with egg and flour. The dough gets fried in a pan and that’s it. Very easy to prepare and very delicious to eat. As we already said, you can eat them with sour cream and bacon bits. But we also saw them on the menu with fruit jam. While we didn’t try that, the combination of salty and sweet sounds very nice, so let us know if you go for them.
#10 Cabbage Rolls
Balandeliai, as they are called in Lithuanian, are cabbage rolls stuffed with meat. They originally came from the Middle East and there are hints that they were part of Jewish cuisine around 1500 years ago already. Eventually, they spread over Europe and now many countries have their own version. The ones we tried in Lithuania were filled with ground meat, rice and vegetables. They came with an orange-pink sauce. I have no idea what it was made of, but it went very well with the cabbage.
#11 Potato Sausage
Of all the dishes we ate, this was one of the strangest ones. In Lithuanian, this is called Vedarai. The sausage can be completely meatless because it consists just of potato. Well, and the skin of the sausage. But that’s it. The version we ate also had small bacon bits in there, but that’s not mandatory for potato sausage.
We tried it in Vilnius and didn’t see it on many menus around the country, so if you have the chance of eating it, go for it. It might sound like a strange dish but it’s actually quite nice. A bit like mashed potatoes, just in the shape of a sausage.
Tinginys is my favourite Lithuanian dessert! True, we didn’t have many desserts while in Lithuanian. Usually, when we finished eating our main dishes, we were so stuffed that we didn’t get anything else. But on our first evening, we went for this chocolate cake and it was delicious. Tinginys translates to lazy because the cake is so easy to make. It consists of chocolate and biscuits and that’s pretty much it.
We saw tinginys in many bakeries all over Lithuania so you shouldn’t have problems finding it.
#13 Tree Cake
This cake is called Sakotis in Lithuanian and you should try it if you have the chance. The name tree cake comes from its funny shape. The cake is cooked on a rotating spit and that’s why it looks so strange. On the inside, you can still see the different layers, not as strong as in the German Baumkuchen, but they’re visible.
The cake was surprisingly hard when we tried it, so we ate it with chocolate sauce on top. If you want to, you can buy a whole tree cake in supermarkets. We’ve seen them everywhere so you shouldn’t have a problem finding them.
#14 Cranberry Pap
Now that you’ve eaten so much food, you must be thirsty. What about some cranberry pap? It’s like cranberry juice, except it contains starch so it’s a bit thicker. Depending on the consistency, if there’s a lot of starch in it and it gets too solid to drink, it can also serve as a dessert. As a drink, it’s very refreshing in summer so you should try it.
One warning: don’t let my description scare you off.
Kvas consists of bread. Bread is boiled in water and then rests for multiple hours until it ferments. The drink is called kvas. When we ordered it, we saw a raisin floating in the glass, which makes sense because it’s often made with fruit to give it a slightly sweet flavour.
To be honest, after hearing how it’s made, we thought it would be very weird. But it turned out to be a nice drink, not one that we’d order every day, but one that we could have from time to time. Also, you don’t have to worry about the alcohol content as it’s usually very low (0,5 – 1,2%) – low enough that we’ve seen it in the non-alcoholic drinks section on menus.
When I was a kid, my parents always kept a jar of kefir in the fridge. They’d leave it there for a while until it was ready, then took out the kefir grains, put them into a new jar and filled it with milk. And after some time, the new kefir would be ready.
I don’t remember what happened to the kefir grains but the drink eventually disappeared from our fridge. And I didn’t think much about it until we travelled to the Baltics. Kefir is popular all over the Baltic States, both for cooking and as a drink. In some Lithuanian restaurants, kefir was even cheaper than water! The cold beetroot soup that I mentioned above also has kefir in it. That’s where its vivid pink colour comes from.
#17 Herbal Teas
While in Lithuania, we had some amazing herbal teas. Tea is great in winter when the weather is freezing outside, and we tried various ones with caraway seeds and linden. We also saw hot tea cocktails on some menus. Those often contain juices and syrups, but unlike a regular non-alcoholic cocktail, they are served hot. Perfect for winter, if you’re looking for a sweet and sticky drink.
So there you have it, a selection of our favourite dishes from Lithuania. We tried to include starters, main dishes, desserts and drinks. While this list is nowhere near complete, it should give you an idea of what to expect when travelling to Lithuania. If you want more information about this beautiful country, check out our interview with an Uzupis “border guard”.
Enjoy your food!
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