For a country roughly the size of South Carolina, Georgia—at the crossroads of Asia and Europe—boasts an astonishingly varied cuisine. In the east, heading toward Azerbaijan, wine-scented stews, salty cheeses, and barbecued meats rule the table, a testament to the region’s deep-rooted traditions of winemaking and animal husbandry. Along the subtropical Black Sea coast in the west, hazelnuts, clarified butter, and cornmeal are culinary staples. And the farther west you go, the spicier the food gets, thanks to the local hand-pounded chile paste called ajika (now likely available at a supermarket near you).
To wrap your mind (and palate) around the full breadth of Georgian cuisine, give our best Georgian recipes a whirl, from spicy beef kharcho to Chechen-style rolled pasta to vegetarian stunners like pkhali and soupy spiced beans. And while you’re at it, pour out a glass of kvevri wine and repeat after us: Gaumarjos! (“To your victory!”).
Filled with a runny egg and melted cheese—traditionally a mix of imeruli and sulguni—this recipe from the Black Sea region of Adjara is best eaten hot. Here, a blend of low-moisture mozzarella and tart, salty feta gets you close to the original. To eat the khachapuri, tear off pieces of the crust and dunk them into the well of molten cheese, egg, and butter. Get the recipe >
The cheesiest khachapuri of them all comes from the western region of Samegrelo. Stuffed and topped with salty cheese, it’s stick-to-your-ribs country fare at its finest. Get the recipe >
One of Georgia’s most comforting—yet shockingly little-known—dishes is shila plavi, a peppery Georgian lamb pilaf similar to risotto that’s traditionally served at funerals. Our favorite recipe comes to us from chef Sopo Gorgadze, who uses arborio instead of the usual long-grain rice and adds so much black pepper and caraway that their quantities look like typos. Get the recipe >
Kharcho is a catch-all term for spicy Georgian beef stew. Though it hails from the Black Sea region of Samegrelo, today it’s a staple across many former Soviet countries. Some versions are brothy and flecked with rice, while others, like this one served at Salobie Bia in Tbilisi, are ultra-thick and all about the ground walnuts and spices. Chef Giorgi Iosava ladles his kharcho over creamy millet porridge, a soothing counterpart to the punchy, piquant stew. Get the recipe >
Zhizhig galnash, beef and dumplings with pungent garlic sauce, is Chechnya’s national dish. We learned to make it at Nazy’s Guest House in Pankisi, a remote valley inhabited by ethnically Chechen Muslims called Kists. You don’t need any special equipment to make the pasta dough, which is surprisingly easy (and quick!) to shape. Don’t let the short ingredient list fool you—it amounts to a decadent, impressive feast. Get the recipe >
You could call Tekuna Gachechiladze the pkhali queen of Tbilisi for her mouthwatering, innovative takes on Georgia’s traditional vegetable-walnut spreads. Pkhali can be made with any cooked vegetable—traditional choices include beet, spinach, carrot, and green bean—but Gachechiladze eschews those for sweet, melty leeks, which she blitzes together with walnuts, cilantro, and spices. Tahini and olives are unorthodox add-ins that today’s Georgians happily get behind. Get the recipe >
Bazhe is a velvety, coriander-scented walnut sauce that’s a staple of Georgian home cooking. You’ll often find it served chilled as a sidekick to cold boiled chicken, but this version (by Ninia’s Garden chef Meriko Gubeladze), sings alongside a freshly roasted bird: The heat draws out the spices’ bouquet and the walnuts’ fragrant oils. Get the recipe >
Khinkali are twisted knobs of dough stuffed with seasoned meat, spiced mushrooms, mashed potatoes, or—in this case—mild cheese and fresh herbs. The boiled dumplings were once exclusively mountain fare but are now widespread across Georgia. Ground black pepper is the traditional accompaniment. Get the recipe >
A rich breakfast dish from the Adjara region, sinori is usually made by spreading flatbread generously with butter and nadughi, a fresh Georgian cheese, but Meri Makaharadze, the head of a cheesemaking co-op in Georgia, prefers the more rustic, aged shushvela (which we’ve substituted for Emmental with excellent results). Get the recipe >
This wonderfully complex bean recipe is thickened and seasoned with a paste of pounded walnuts and the dried petals and fresh leaves of the orange French marigold plant. The kick of acidity comes from tkemali, a traditional Georgian condiment made from unripe green plums, herbs, and spices. Get the recipe >
If you like ratatouille, you’ll love ajapsandali, a garlicky eggplant dish brimming with fistfuls of fresh herbs. Compared to Georgia’s fussier, technique-heavy recipes like satsivi (turkey cooked in walnut sauce) and khinkali (soup dumplings), ajapsandali is basically a free-for-all, a blank canvas ideally suited to recipe-averse cooks: No one is getting canceled for making ajapsandali “wrong.” So go forth, and get chopping! Get the recipe >
This traditional Georgian seasoning is often blended into vegetable dishes such as pkhali, spinach-and-walnut pâté garnished with pomegranate seeds, and badrijani nigvzit, garlicky eggplant roll-ups stuffed with walnut paste. But truth be told, we love its earthy, fenugreek-forward flavor on just about everything. Think of it as the curry powder of the Caucasus. Get the recipe >
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