12 Traditional Lithuanian Foods & Dishes To Try In Vilnius

Lithuania’s signature dishes are hearty and tasty. Each embodies a story that traces back to the ancient times. 

You’ll soon find out, there are many national dishes in Lithuania. Potato dumplings, cold beetroot soup, potato pancakes … just to name a few. Each comes with familial traditions or history of migration. The Baltic states may experience harsh winters; but their use of berries, potatoes and fermentation make eating your way through this country quite a joy. Here’s a list of traditional Lithuanian foods and dishes that you can’t leave without trying.

Cepelinai

Etno Dvaras VILNIUS
Cepelinai. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

One of the most iconic foods in Lithuania might very well be cepelinai, which is a potato dumpling stuffed with savory meat inside. This national dish is best enjoyed with a cold pint of Lithuanian beer. The name derives from the zeppelin airship, which explains the shape of the dumplings. You may also see cepelinai’s food brothers in Austria, Germany, Poland and Belarus. Sometimes, it can be served with a dab of sour cream on top, or on the side. For vegetarians, you can opt for mushroom stuffings.

Šaltibarščiai

Senoji trobelė VILNIUS
Šaltibarščiai. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

There’s not another dish in Lithuania that’ll leave a more vibrant impression than šaltibarščiai, or cold beetroot soup. The taffy-colored bowl of creamy texture is refreshing, reminiscent of the Polish borscht. Evidently, its gorgeous pink shade comes from beets. Other traditional ingredients include: cucumber, dill, green onions, hard boiled eggs, and kefir – or fermented milk made from grains.

Koldunai

Lithuanian dishes
Koldūnai. Photo by Vita Marija Murenaite on Unsplash

Koldunai is also a Lithuanian dumpling but completely different from cepelinai, since it’s much smaller in size and it’s more akin to Italian raviolis. The fillings are often meat, mushrooms or curd cheese. Just like cepelinai, it can be served with a heavy dosage of sour cream which is to be stirred through the dumplings. The taste is rich but light in density since its slippery skin delivers a silky texture.

Kibinai

Senoji trobelė VILNIUS
Kibinai. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

When in Croatia, did you have a burek? If you ask around Vilnius, “which dish to try?” Most locals will likely recommend kibinai. In Lithuania, it’s a crescent-shaped pie typically stuffed with cooked lamb. Sometimes, you can also find chicken or curd cheese inside. The dish was brought to the country by the Jewish Karaite sect who immigrated to Lithuania during the Middle Ages. It is flakey, delicious and makes one perfect snack.

Juoda Duona

Lithuanian cuisine
INSTAGRAM @breadtopia

Dark rye bread is a staple in Lithuanian cuisine. Farmers tend to mill rye, wheat, and buckwheat grains. The dough needs to be kneaded for a longer period of time prior to baking, afterwards, it needs to be fermented overnight. These dark rye breads are what you’ll see in most markets and grocery stores. But in common households, it’s the matriarch who bakes the bread. A visitor can’t leave until they’ve tasted it. These dark rye breads are perfectly delectable with soups, and as garlic breads.

Bulviniai Blynai

Senoji trobelė VILNIUS
Bulviniai blynai. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Also known as potato pancakes, bulviniai blynai is simply another signature and crispy Lithuanian dish that shows up on numerous restaurant menus. If you love latkes, then you’ll be a fan of bulviniai blynai. These fried pancakes are essentially grated potatoes, mixed with onions, eggs and flour. At this point, you know that Lithuanians love a hearty dab of sour cream. It’s a popular topping for these fried cakes.

Kepta Duona

Lithuanian dish
INSTAGRAM @gamink_sveikiau

A popular snack is kepta duona, meaning “baked bread,” which is fried rye with garlic. You’ll notice that rye is ubiquitous throughout the Baltic states, but here, they’re cooked in oil then rubbed with garlic. Dip the strips in cheese or other sauces…one sure isn’t enough! They’re not only easy to make but also extremely affordable. Pairing the dish with local craft beer might just be a heavenly combo on any chilly day.

Šakotis

Šakotis
INSTAGRAM @lupusby

It’s adoringly called, “the Christmas tree cake,” meanwhile some people refer to it as the “spit cake.” But šakotis is normally baked over an open fire on a rotating spit, as it’s consumed during times of festivities and celebrations. Think: weddings, Easter, Christmas…etc. The cake is made from butter, eggs, flour, sugar and cream. Like several Lithuanian traditional foods, you’ll see other versions of šakotis in Germany, Belarus, and Poland.

Spanguoliu

Senoji trobelė VILNIUS
Cranberry juice. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Spanguoliu is essentially cranberry juice. For Lithuanians, cranberries are often labeled as “life berries,” since they’re used as an immunity boost to fight against anaemia, avitaminosis and chills. These northern lemons are packed with vitamin C, thus Lithuanians incorporate these healthy berries into their diet quite frequently. From juices, puddings, pies, to even liqueur.

Kvass

Etno Dvaras VILNIUS
Kvass. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

A classic beverage, kvass is fermented cereal-based drink which contains very low alcohol percentage. Its coloring can be a bit muddled and cloudy, the taste is both sweet and sour. During ancient times, kvass is made from rye bread’s mash, the flour used to make the bread, and malt in hot water. Together, the mixture is fermented for 12 hours with yeast and sugar. If you love fermented food like kimchi, you’ll love a nice glass of kvass.

Misko grybu tirštsriubė

Etno Dvaras VILNIUS
Misko grybu tirštsriubė. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Thick mushroom soup in a bread bowl made of rye is another national Lithuanian dish. The soup contains mushrooms, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Every thick and aromatic sip can warm up a cold winter night. Although, the bread bowl can be quite heavy, don’t be surprised if you’re no longer hungry after polishing the dish.

Midus

Mykolo 4 VILNIUS
Mead. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Fun fact: mead, or midus in Lithuanian, has been honored with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. Mead is fermented honey wine which can be flavored with berries, thyme, cinnamon or lemons. It is one of the most ancient drinks in Lithuania, but has maintained its popularity in recent years by being served at bars and restaurants. Lightweights beware, this is a dangerous one and will get you going for the rest of the night!

Beer

Leiciai Aline
Leiciai Aline. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Beer in Lithuania is just as synonymous as wine in France. Numerous farmhouses have maintained its uniqueness by sustaining ingredients and techniques that have been utilized for generations. In general, Lithuanian beer tend to have a softer, sweeter and maltier taste. Microbrewing is also making a scene in recent years, so stopping by a local pub is a total must when you visit Vilnius or any city in this beautiful country.

Wendy Hung

CEO, FOUNDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and St. Bart's because they were all so different!

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