Food and Drink in Russia

Information about eating and drinking in Russia: the country's cuisine, regional specialities and mealtime customs…

Traditionally drawing influences from peasant food using whatever meat and vegetables were easily available at the time, Russia’s cuisine is quite simple, but is rich, hearty and packed with flavour. Due to the extreme winters, food such as soups and stews are invigorating and perfect for warming people up on the coldest of days.

As much of the year, and the country, is cold enough to make the growing season for vegetables and fruit quite short, a lot of ingredients for traditional dishes are pickled or preserved. Even fish is often salted or pickled, while foods such as meat and dumplings were kept outside in the sub-zero temperatures until needed.

Today, Russian cuisine is as varied as the country’s landscape. Styles and dishes have crept in from neighbouring countries, such as borsh, shashlyk and pirogi. Georgian, Ukrainian, Caucasian and other international influences are now integral to Russia’s national cuisine. New ingredients have also been absorbed, in addition to dishes invented outside Russia or by non-Russian chefs such as chicken Kiev, stroganoff and olivier salad (Russian salad).

Meal-times and Etiquette

  • Breakfast (zavtrak / ????????): usually eaten between 07:00 and 08:00. It can be a quick meal of tea or coffee with bread or open sandwiches, although it can also feature cereal, porridge (kasha), eggs or pancakes
  • Lunch (obed / ?????): traditionally the main meal of the day featuring several courses including vegetables, soups, salads and main dishes. It tends to be a smaller affair nowadays and starts between 12:00 and 14:00
  • Dinner (uzhin / ?????): usually starts at about 19:00. Families generally eat together, using the meal as a chance to socialise. As lunch has been downsized, dinner often includes salads to start, a soup and a main course of meat or fish with vegetable side dishes

If invited for a meal at a Russian home, it is polite to:

  • Take off outdoor shoes after entering the house
  • Take a gift for the host/hostess or for the family
  • Offer to help clear the table after the meal
  • Compliment the host/hostess on the food before leaving the table

At the table, common dining etiquette includes:

  • Don’t begin eating until the host/hostess invites everyone to start
  • Don’t rest elbows on the table
  • Use bread to mop up plates, but leave a little of something to show enough was provided
  • Join in with the toasts
  • Don’t leave the table until prompted to by the host/hostess