Georgian food is a fantastic, if unfortunately little known, cuisine–although that is changing, with restaurants beginning to branch out from enclaves in Moscow, London, and New York. While it varies from region to region, the Georgian diet is heavy on bread and cheese, along with many varieties of stew.
While the list below is by no means comprehensive, I have endeavored to put together a visual guide to traditional Georgian (or, arguably, regional) dishes that are most likely to come up at any supra, restaurant menu, or home-cooked meal.
Bread is a staple of the Georgian diet. As in the other Caucasus countries, bread is viewed as sacred and it is considered taboo to throw leftovers or stale pieces in the garbage (as a result, you may find scraps of bread left on the street for birds, or in a little bag neatly tied to the side of the neighborhood dumpster). Most neighborhoods have a tone (“toe-nay,” or oven, shown below) where you can buy fresh bread daily for 50 tetri-1 lari. Georgian bread is known as tonis puri (oven bread), dedas puri (mother’s bread), or shotis puri (?). I am not clear on the differences, although Georgian bread may be long and skinny, rounded-rectangular, or like the ones below. All are delicious!
Pies (Khachapuri and Lobiani)
While not as iconic as khinkali, khachapuri (cheese pie) is probably the most ubiquitous traditional Georgian dish. It is made at home as well as sold in cafes, high-end restaurants, and on the street. It is so widely eaten that ISET (International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University) publishes a monthly “Khachapuri Index,” charting the country’s economic health by the fluctuating prices of ingredients for the three most common regional varieties: Imeruli, Megruli, and Adjaruli.
Khachapuri Index ingredient lists
Khachapuri Adjaruli: the perfect breakfast! Influenced by a similar dish from Turkey, which borders the Adjara region
Khachapuri megruli: like imeruli, but also topped with cheese (so…white pizza)
Khachapuri Osuri (Khabizgina): like imeruli, but the filling contains both potato and cheese. Delicious with satsebeli.
Kubdari: variety of khachapuri from Svaneti, filled with cheese and meat (often lamb or beef)
Lobiani: usually resembles khachapuri imeruli, but stuffed with spiced red bean paste
Penovani: variety of khachapuri often sold individual size to go. It has a croissant-type dough but the same cheese filling
Pkhali: vegetable paste usually made from spinach, beets, beans, or cabbage
Salati: Georgian salad is usually comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and parsley. It may also be “nigvzit” (with nuts), and have a bazhe-type walnut dressing
Lobio: spiced red beans baked in a clay pot. Often served with mchadi, a dense cornbread
Soko: stuffed mushrooms fried in a clay pot
Badrijani (nigvzit–with nuts): marinaded eggplant topped with walnut sauce
Ajapsandali: stew made from eggplant, potato, bell pepper, tomato, and herbs.
Tolma (known as dolma in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey): peppers, cabbage, or grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of lamb, rice, onion, and herbs
Khinkali: the ubiquitous Georgian dumpling, usually filled with meat, onion, herbs, and broth (although mushroom and potato varieties are often available)
Mtsvadi: Georgian shashlik or kebab (usually beef, pork, or lamb), grilled over a fire and served with onion
Kababi: another variety of kebab; for this, ground meat is formed on a skewer for cooking, and is served on a lavash with onion and satsebeli sauce
Katleti (“cutlet”): may be Georgian-style (beef/pork with herbs and onions) or Kiev-style (chicken stuffed with butter and cheese). There are many variations using different herbs and other ingredients like bread crumbs or potatoes.
Satsivi: poultry stewed in bazhe (walnut sauce)
Bozbashi: mildly spicy tomato and herb broth with meatballs made of lamb or beef, rice, and onion.
Muzhuzhi: pork offal marinaded in vinegar and garlic
Ostri: mildly spicy beef stew with pepper, tomato, mushrooms, and herbs
Chakapuli: slow-cooked stew made with onions, tarragon, tkemali (plum sauce), white wine, and braised meat (usually lamb)
Kharcho: traditional meat (often beef) soup, including rice, walnut, plum sauce, and various spices. The thicker Mingrelian variety is reminiscent of tikka masala
Sauces, Desserts, Other
Adjika: a spicy sauce reminiscent of red pesto originating in Abkhazia, made from red peppers, garlic, and herbs. A drier version is known as “Svanetian salt”
Bazha (Bazhe): heavy walnut sauce used to make satsivi, but also liberally used as a condiment at supras
Tkemali: sauce made from stewed plums
Satsebeli (lit. “sauce”): a lighter variety of adjika, with tomato, pepper, vinegar, and onion. Used liberally on meat or like ketchup on fried potatoes.
Churchkhela (“nutcicle,” “Georgian Snickers”): nuts on a string dipped in boiled, flour-thickened grape paste. Often eaten at New Year’s.
Gozinaki: caramelized nuts (usually walnuts) fried in honey. Like churchkhela, very popular during the Georgian holiday season
Nushis Namtskhvari (“nut cake”): is a sweet biscuit made with almonds, and when fresh is the perfect balance of crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside
Ghomi: a thick porridge (often with cheese) much like grits
Matsoni: traditional fermented milk product, like a heavier Greek yogurt