Armenian food is known for its rich flavors and unique ways of cooking. Here’s a list of traditional food from Armenia that you should definitely try, along with more info about the dishes and local cuisine.
Manti is a famous Armenian dish comprising baked dumplings. The dumplings are usually made from a mixture of spiced ground meat with lamb or beef being the most popular choice.
Chicken may also be used. Other common ingredients may include red pepper, garlic, yogurt, butter, or sumac. The meat mixture is wrapped in thin dough and can be either boiled or steamed before being served fresh and hot.
Manti comes in all sorts of shapes that can be representative of the various cultures across Armenia. The size is usually small compared to dumplings from different cultures around the world.
Manti is always served with garlic and either yogurt or sour cream as per Armenian traditions. Mantapour soup may also accompany Manti occasionally.
Armenian Lyulya Kebab
Lyulya Kebab is a specialty dish in Armenian cuisine that comprises skewered kebabs in lavash. Lavash is a soft, thin, unleavened bread specially made in Armenia and is a key ingredient of Lyulya kebab.
The primary ingredients of the kebab are ground meat (traditionally mutton but beef is also used with the mixture of the two being the most popular). Other ingredients include onions, fat, sumac, salt, and pepper.
The kebab is fried on mangal, a traditional coal barbecue pit before being served wrapped in lavash bread. Lyulya kebab is the most iconic dish from Armenian cuisine.
Chi Kofte is a popular Armenian dish that comprises of ground meat shaped into small chunks in a characteristic oblong shape with finger imprints. The main ingredients are two or three times ground lean meat (usually beef or button with all the fat trimmed), fine bulgur wheat, and seasonings like paprika, scallions, parsley, salt, and pepper.
The ingredients are mixed well and cooked till the meat turn golden brown. They are then shaped into balls and then oblongs before they are shaped into the characteristic shape by pressing fingers along the sides.
They are served with gheyma (a cooked mixture of ground beef, butter, onions, salt, pepper, parsley, and paprika) and a fresh salad.
Khash, or boiled, is a traditional Armenian dish that consists of boiled cow or sheep parts like head, tripe, or feet. It is a popular delicacy in Armenian cuisine. The feet are key in the dish since they are cleaned and boiled overnight to turn into a thick broth with meat falling off the bones.
Traditionally, there are no seasonings included and khash is served fresh and hot. Seasonings like salt, garlic, lemon juice, or vinegar may be added later. Khash can be served with a large variety of foods and is usually paired with vodka.
It is also a festive winter food item and is believed to be a very effective remedy for hangovers.
Basturma is a type of traditional cured beef in Armenian cuisine. The round steak is highly seasoned before being air-dried. The preparation process involves several days in a period spanning 2 to 3 weeks.
Seasonings include sweet paprika, allspice, blue fenugreek, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic, and salt. The meat is cured first for about 3 days before it is handed (air-dried) for anywhere between 5 to 10 days depending on the desired results.
The seasonings are then added and left for 3 to 5 days to settle. Bastruma can be used to make a variety of dishes such as pizzas. It is a common fixture of festivities and celebrations such as the New Year’s Day dinners.
Armenian Eech is a traditional Armenian side dish that comprises cracked wheat (bulgur), vegetables, and spices. The main ingredients are fine bulgur, onions, tomatoes, red peppers, green peppers, lemons, finely chopped parsley, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
It is a simple but versatile dish and can be eaten immediately after preparation or refrigerated for consumption later. The taste may be described as tangy and savory and pairs well with almost all main dishes in Armenian cuisine.
Khorovats is a specialty Armenian grilled meat kebab dish that is reserved for meals on special occasions. The choice of meat is traditionally lamb or beef but chicken, pork, turkey, or veal may also be used.
The meat is usually marinated before grilling but this is not necessary as light seasonings for a short time also result in a very flavorful kebab. A special kind of khorovats found only in Armenia is the version with meat still on the bone just like a lamb or pork chop. The meat may be grilled on skewers or directly on the grill such as that in the case of a steak.
Lavash (Armenian Flatbread)
Lavash is a traditional Armenian flatbread that is a staple around the country. It comprises of a thin and soft unleavened flatbread made in a clay earth oven called a tandoor.
It is made simply with flour, salt, and water. It is traditionally rolled very thin and occasionally poppy or sesame seeds are added to the bread to improve the taste.
This Armenian flatbread can be used to make wrap sandwiches and also as a substitute for leavened bread in Armenian Christian traditions. Dried lavash is often broken into pieces and used in preparing khash.
Lavash is an important component of an iconic Armenian dish called Lyulya kebab. It is used to wrap khorovats as well.
Ghapama is a traditional Armenian dish that consists of a large stuffed pumpkin. It is usually reserved for the festive seasons and is an integral part of the Christmas celebrations.
The preparation involves removing the inners of the pumpkin and stuffing it with boiled rice and dried fruits. Many dried fruits may be used for this but the most common selection is almonds, dried apples, plums, raisins, apricot, prunes, dates, honey, cinnamon, sugar, and cornel.
Honey is usually used for topping and the pumpkin is baked until soft. It is finally served whole on the table and cut just before serving into large wedges, each becoming a single portion.
Harissa (Armenian Porridge)
Harissa is a popular traditional Armenian porridge dish that is made from wheat, butter, and meat. The wheat can be boiled, coarsely ground, or cracked while the choice of meat is usually mutton.
Chicken, beef, pork, or lamb may also be used to make Harissa. The preparation involves soaking the wheat overnight and then simmering it in water with the meat and butter. Some tail fat may also be added to the mixture that is beaten and seasoned well.
When ready, Harissa is garnished with cinnamon, clarified butter, and sugar before being served hot. It is a hearty porridge and is considered the national dish of Armenia, usually reserved for special occasions such as Easter.
Dolma is a traditional Armenian dish that comprises stuffed meat and vegetables in a wrap. Dolma can have virtually unlimited varieties because any number of ingredients can be added.
However, the usual ingredients are ground beef, rice, onions, zucchini, eggplant, gourd, garlic, coriander, parsley, tomatoes, yogurt, mint, salt, and pepper which are usually wrapped in grape leaves.
The ingredients are finely chopped or minced before they are mixed well with each other. The mixture is stuffed in rolls made out of grape leaves and boiled just before serving. Dolma is traditionally served with a garlic-yogurt-based sauce.
Ishkhan, or Sevan trout, is a specialty Armenian dish comprising of the ishkhan fish found only in Lake Sevan in Armenia. Ishkhan is a salmonid fish and a local delicacy due to its rarity.
The ishkhan dish can also refer to any other type of trout or fish cooked in a similar style anywhere in Armenia. The main ingredients in addition to the fish are onions, tomatoes, red pepper, yellow pepper, black pepper, tarragon, oregano, lemon, olive oil, salt, and white wine.
The vegetables are layered in a baking pan and the fish fillets are placed on top and baked for up to an hour. They are served fresh with any of the popular Armenian side dishes or lavash.
Kololik is a popular Armenian dish that consists of meatball soup. It is a heartwarming soup made especially in the higher Caucasus Mountains region which has long and very cold winters.
The main ingredients are finely ground meat (usually lamb although anything can be used as well), long-grain rice, onions, parsley, meat stock, oil, tarragon, salt, and black pepper.
The meatballs should have a tender but springy texture and the soup is simmered for a while before being served hot. Kololik is considered a comfort food for winter and is very popular in areas with colder climates throughout Armenia.