Lithuanian Cuisine

Lithuanian cuisine is generally mild. Potatoes and rye bread are the staple foods and pork are the favorite meat, followed by beef and chicken. Seaside areas have traditional fish recipes but most other seafood is considered inedible.

Most famous Lithuanian meals

The meal most strongly associated with the Lithuanian nation is the Cepelinai, named after Graff von Zeppelin because these potato dumplings are similar in form to airship he invented. A more Lithuanian name for the meal is “didžkukuliai“. Foreigners sometimes find the meal hard for their stomachs but it is very popular among Lithuanians. It is also one of the cheapest meals of its size you may get in Lithuanian restaurants. Making cepelinai yourself would take hours, however.

Cepelinai with traditional spirgučiai sauce. These cepelinai are filled with meat, but various other versions exist, including vegetarian. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

There are other popular local foods. Lithuanians like to eat soups (usually served with traditional black rye bread or potatoes) before the main dish. Rose-colored šaltibarščiai cold soup dominates over hot soups in summer. Salted herring (Silkė) is another loved appetizer, most commonly served with potatoes, vegetables, and bread.

Šaltibarščiai cold soup served with potatoes. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

There are many forms of popular pancakes, among them the Samogitian pancakes (Žemaičių blynai) filled with minced meat and the Potato pancakes (Bulviniai blynai) made of (you guessed it right) potatoes (vegetarian). Kugelis is similar to potato pancakes but has a more bloated form. Samogitian kastinis (a smetana and soured milk-based sauce to dip potatoes in) is yet another Lithuanian potato meal.

Potato pancakes (left) and Samogitian pancakes (right) served with sour cream (one of the traditional sauce options). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Meat-based main courses include karbonadas (a pork steak that should be loved by everybody, save for vegetarians) and šašlykai (grilled fat meat). More exotic are the Vėdarai (stuffed pig’s intestines) and Skilandis (stuffed pig’s stomach). Few parts of a pig would be considered inedible in Lithuania.

Karbonadas pork dish. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Traditional Lithuanian desserts are the šakotis (large circular branching structure similar in taste to German Baumkuchen) and žagarėliai (sweet nicely formed cookies). They are common during festivities, e.g. weddings, and may be bought at shops, but are rarely available at restaurants.

Šakotis (left) and žagarėliai (right), the Lithuanian desserts as presented on a birthday table. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanians eat their major meals at midday (11:30-13:30). This meal may be translated as “dinner” even though it is earlier than Western dinner. Breakfast is light (e.g. self-made sandwich). Supper may be both light or elaborate.

Lithuanian regional and minority cuisine

Some of the Lithuanian meals are shared with Polish and other neighboring cuisinesKoldūnai (a.k.a. virtiniai) dumplings of unleavened dough originated in Russia whereas the Kiev chicken cutlet (Kijevo kotletas) is likely Ukrainian but both are now widely served in Lithuania.

There are some regional variations of Lithuanian cuisine, with mushroom-based dishes hailing from forested Dūkija, dough-based dishes from Aukštaitija, potato-based dishes from Samogitia and meat-based dishes from Sudovia. However today this is mostly historical as many of the dishes are available everywhere.

Kastinis is the most famous Samogitian meal consisting of potato with a sour milk and smetana sauce. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The cuisine of the centuries-old Turkic minorities has also been adopted by the mainstream society, especially the Karaim kibinas (kibin) and Tatar čeburekas, both fast food pastries filled with meat.

Karaim kibins are pastries filled with meat. Specialized restaurants may have some 20 filling options (from pork to game). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Gourmet nobility cuisine with its preference for the game and expensive desserts lost popularity under the Soviet occupation. In some restaurants, these old recipes are revived, however.

Lithuanian seasonal meals and beverages

Some of the most famous Lithuanian meals are related to specific Christian holidaysKūčiukai, a kind of hard bread, are widely eaten in Advent period before Christmas. Easter has a tradition of dying eggs (called margučiai) which is seen as an art. During Užgavėnės one just has to eat pancakes.

Beer is the most common alcoholic beverage with many Lithuanians considering their beer to be among world’s best. Over 90% of all beer sold in Lithuania are local brands. In addition to the main trademarks (Utenos, Kalnapilis, Švyturys, Volfas-Engelman) traditional local beers are regaining popularity (even major players have been launching their own “craft beer” line-ups).

Centuries of Russian and Soviet rule brought vodka to Lithuania, but it is now more commonly associated with the poor. There is no tradition to drink wine in Lithuania and grapes are not cultivated. However in recent decades wine became more popular due to western influence (especially among the rich).

The traditional soft drink is the mildly alcoholic gira, but Western soft drinks now prevail.

Fruits, berries, and mushrooms are widely available in summer-autumn as people bring them from their gardens, forage in the forests or buy at markets and makeshift roadside stalls. Apples, strawberries, and blueberries are among the most popular. They are mostly eaten plain or squeezed into unmixed juice. These days all fruits may be acquired year-round but with Lithuania being so far north seasonal and out-of-season prices differ greatly.

See also: Restaurants in Lithuania

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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Comments (31)Trackbacks (4)

  1. cool

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    How dare you insult this faggotry.

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  2. super Yummy food at it’s BEST.

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  3. I am studying lithuania i need a small recipe for school in 85 peices i hope You can give me a small recipe thnkyou

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  4. Hi! I’m writing a research paper on Lithuania and was wondering if anybody could tell me some of the popular spices used in Lithuanian cooking?
    Thank you!

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    • Hei Sydni!

      Basically, Lithuanian cuisine is not so rich with spices. The most common are dill, black pepper, scallion, onion and garlic ?

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  5. I love lithuania cause im lithuanian

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    • idiot

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    • he is not an idiot

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      • he just said he is Lithuanian, dumb a$$.

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        • But lithuanians are lit like me

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  6. Looks really nice. All of it. Making me hungry…

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  7. Hey! This is a great article! I’m using it on my project for Lithuania for the cuisine. Thanks! I need to cite in MLA format… not quite sure what the publisher/sponsor is. Is it just your name? Augustinas Žemaitis?

    I may not have the correct information on my citations, so please help!

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    • Yes, I (Augustinas Žemaitis) am the sole author of this article. True Lithuania is the publishing website.

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  8. This is a really great article and I am doing a research paper on Lithuania during WW2 and one of my topics is food, and I was wondering, what were some the most common foods people ate during World War 2?

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    • While I wasn’t born back then and therefore couldn’t answer for sure, based on the historical knowledge, it should have been the same “Lithuanian people’s cuisine” as exists today. However, it was presumably devoid at the time of later Soviet influences mentioned in this article (e.g. karbonadas). As importing anything was hard-to-impossible, the locally-grown dishes prevailed, e.g. potato dishes and black bread. Depending on time, location and who you were, there could have been not enough food altogether.

      If somebody who lived back then could add something / correct me, they are welcome to do so.

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      • Never heard of Cepelinesai until I when to Lithuania. It is sad that a German named food is what Lithuania is associated with especially when you look for a cookbook the rename kugelis and use pirogi also.