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Taste your way around Georgia: a guide for foodies

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Georgia sits at the meeting point of Europe and Asia and has long been a confluence of cultural influences, whether Mongol and Persian empires staking their claim, or ancient traders on the Silk Road bringing spices and dishes from far-off lands. This rich tapestry of influences has made Georgian food a celebration of flavours, ingredients, and hospitality that reflect centuries-old traditions.

Join us on a culinary journey as we explore the history of its cuisine, the must-try dishes, and culinary experiences that will invite you into the heart of Georgia’s culture, people, and traditions.

The history of Georgian food

Georgian cuisine is steeped in history and tracing its influences takes you on a journey from Persia to Turkey, Greece to the Middle East. As one of the countries on the Silk Road, Georgia’s food bears the imprint of the travellers who passed through and the ingredients they carried, while various empires have left their stamp over the centuries, including the Mongols, Ottomans, and Persians. From exotic spices to khinkali – stuffed dumplings that some attribute to Mongolia, eating in Georgia is a journey in itself.

Russia is an undeniable part of this storied past, and while the two countries’ histories are deeply intertwined, there are many differences between Russian and Georgian food. Though both share a love of hearty stews and dumplings, Georgia’s cuisine tends to be more heavily spiced and flavourful, with a focus on the fresh herbs, garlic, and aromatic spices that grow better on its hills and valleys than in Russia. Russian cuisine, on the other hand, often features simpler flavours and ingredients, with a greater emphasis on potatoes, cabbage, and root vegetables.

Khinkali dumplings, georgia food, a guide to food in georgia

Georgian cuisine: so much more than food

At the heart of Georgian cooking is the concept of supra, which translates as a ‘tablecloth’. This again shows the layers of history and cultural influences that infuse Georgia’s food, with the word itself borrowed from the Persian word sofre which in turn comes from the Arabic. As part of this traditional feast, guests are treated to an abundance of food, wine and hospitality, which highlights the importance of family and friends in Georgian culture.

There’s a supra for every occasion, from birthdays to weddings, funerals to anniversaries, though some of the rituals remain the same throughout. This includes the tamada, or toastmaster, who leads a series of toasts (with Georgian wine, naturally), as seemingly endless courses of food are brought to an already laden table. While from the outside these occasions seem to be focused on the food, they’re underpinned by a respect for and honouring of familial relationships, both in the now and in the generations that came before.

A big Georgian dinner in Tbilisi

Discover Georgia’s culture through its cuisine

Food is so much more than simply sustenance. It tells the story and history of a people, their traditions and lifestyles. It can open doors, break down language barriers, and build relationships in a way that little else can. Whether you’re joining a Georgian family to make traditional khachapuri, sampling rural dishes with a local Sighnaghi family, or enjoying a Georgian mtsvadi alongside the locals, food brings people together.

Cooking lessons can offer an unrivalled insight into both the food of Georgia and its people, as a local family welcomes you into their home and shares their recipes with you. From traditional Georgian cooking techniques to learning how to prepare aubergine with walnut sauce and the traditional cheese-filled bread, khachapuri, this is a chance to break bread with a family from another culture. You could also book a lesson with an experienced chef in Tbilisi so you can prepare Georgian food at home, or learn to make traditional cheese and khinkali in Kazbegi.

If you have a sweet tooth, perhaps take part in the preparation of churchkhela in the Kakheti region – this traditional Georgian sweet treat is formed of strings of nuts dipped in a sweet grape syrup, and you’ll see it hanging in markets as you travel around the country.

Georgian desert, Churchkhela hanging on strings

Experience Georgian hospitality in the mountains

Life’s all about balance, and luckily Georgia offers endless opportunities to build up an appetite for all the tempting Georgian food and wine you’ll discover throughout your trip. From cragged peaks to flower-filled meadows and rolling hills, the walking trails are exceptional – but hiking holidays can also be an opportunity to experience local food and hospitality.

As you hike through the remote villages of the Svaneti highlands, you’ll be hosted by local families where traditional dishes provide both sustenance to continue your hike, and a chance to step inside another culture for a moment. You can discover more in our guide to hiking in Georgia.

Georgian woman making traditional bread

Lose yourself in the food markets of Georgia

There are few better ways to get under the skin of a country than by joining locals at a market. Piles of walnuts, fresh pomegranates and tarragon sit alongside strings of churchkhela – the sweet, syrupy nuts – and rainbow pyramids of fragrant spices. Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, is one spot to enjoy this bounty of local food stalls and markets, and provides refreshment as you explore the colourful houses of the old district, the fairy-tale clock tower, the 4th-century Narikala Fortress, and the sulphur bathhouses.

If your trip brings you to Kutaisi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, take the opportunity to stroll through the early morning local farmers market. Fresh fruits and vegetables, local produce made in the surrounding villages, and traditional snacks and sweets are an appetising experience, though more squeamish types may prefer to avoid the piles of chicken feet!

food market in Tbilisi, Georgia

Must-try foods in Georgia

Narrowing down this abundance of dishes to some must-try foods when visiting Georgia is nearly impossible. Not only is the culinary variety temptingly wide, but each area of the country boasts its own dishes and versions of Georgia’s national food. But that being said, there are some famous dishes you can’t leave Georgia without trying.

A cheese-filled bread at its most basic, khachapuri is possibly Georgia’s best-known dish and can be found in various guises throughout the country. You might find it topped with a gooey egg or filled with spinach and cheese. Another iconic dish is khinkali, savoury dumplings filled with spiced meat or cheese. As is often the case with Georgia’s food, this dish is inextricably tied to the country’s culture, both in its symbolism and legends and in the way it’s eaten – it should always be eaten with the hands to ensure you savour all of the juices rather than lose them on the plate.

Be sure to sample lobio, a hearty bean stew cooked in a ketsi clay pot and flavoured with herbs and spices, and chakapuli, a tangy lamb stew made with tarragon, sour green plums and dry white wine. Be sure to leave space for a dessert, whether that’s churchkhela or pelamushi, a chilled pudding made from grape juice and cornflour.

Khachapuri, Georgian food

Georgian wine: 8,000 years in the making

No meal in Georgia is complete without a glass of wine. Georgians are proud of their long history of viticulture, and rightly so – with 8,000 years of wine-making history and around 500 local grape varieties, they lay claim to having one of the world’s oldest wine regions. This ancient tradition can be found in the heart of Georgia’s wine country, Kakheti, a scenic landscape of snow-capped Caucasus mountains and rolling valleys where wine is still produced in the traditional way. This uses clay vessels known as qvevri to ferment the wine and has made it onto the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Whether visiting a vineyard for a wine tasting or a local family who handcraft the clay qvevri, you’ll gain a privileged insight into an ancient tradition.

As with many cultures, wine-making was also taken up by religious orders, and a visit to Alaverdi Cathedral in the Alazani Valley is a chance to see monks at work, cultivating over 200 regional grape varieties in the cathedral grounds. Whether discovering wine-making from local families, established vineyards, young entrepreneurs or monks, your experiences will add new depth and meaning to the wines you sip as you travel through Georgia.

Vineyard in the Alazani Valley, Georgia

Make it happen

Did our guide to Georgia for foodies get you feeling hungry? There’s no-one better to introduce you to Georgia’s food than its people, and that’s why all of our trips are planned by local experts. Get in touch today and start planning your own culinary adventure!

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