No trip to Lithuania would be complete without tasting some traditional Lithuanian food. But what to expect, what do people eat in Lithuania, and which typical Lithuanian foods are absolutely not to be missed? Find out!
Good to know: This guide to traditional Lithuanian food is written by a local (yours truly). Born and raised in Lithuania, I grew up with these dishes. I hope that this overview gives you a good idea of what Lithuanian cuisine is truly like and inspires you to try some of our typical dishes when you visit.
Please note that Lithuanian cuisine has a lot more to offer than the most popular dishes featured in this guide. However, you won’t be able to find many truly local and lesser-known specialties in restaurants. So in this article, we mainly focus on the most popular traditional Lithuanian dishes that you can quite easily try when visiting Lithuania.
Also, while Lithuanians eat all kinds of foods that some online sources mention as ‘Lithuanian’, you should know that Chicken Kyiv, Chebureki, Shashlik, or dishes like beetroot soup or goulash are not traditional Lithuanian foods (even though they might be quite popular indeed).
We do have our own cuisine that has some truly unique dishes, and others that might be similar to those of the neighboring countries, but with a unique Lithuanian touch. And that’s the focus of this article – to introduce you to authentic Lithuanian food.
Take a look!
Interesting to know: Traditional Lithuanian cuisine features rather rich and heavy dishes, suited for the cold northern climate. Many Lithuanian dishes are made of potatoes, meat, and curd/cottage cheese. Lithuanians also eat lots of berries, mushrooms, and locally-caught fish and game meat. Soups are also very popular, just as all kinds of dumplings.
TIP: At the end of the article, you can find some information about where to try typical Lithuanian food when visiting Lithuania. But first – the most popular dishes.
Here are some of the most typical dishes and traditional Lithuanian food:
Lithuanian Potato Dumplings
Cepelinai (also called didžkukuliai) is the most popular of all traditional Lithuanian dishes. If you ask any local to name one food that you absolutely have to try in Lithuania, cepelinai will be at the top of the list!
Cepelinai are big potato dumplings made of grated potatoes and filled with either minced meat (cepelinai su mėsa) or with curd/ cottage cheese (cepelinai su varške).
Lithuanian cepelinai typically have a long, somewhat rounded form, like blimp airships, aka zeppelins. This is also where the name comes from… However – especially when cooking at home – we would often make rounded cepelinai too, in order to easily distinguish between the different fillings.
Made of grated raw potatoes and stuffed with a filling, cepelinai are boiled in salted water. They are typically served with sour cream (cepelinai su grietine) and/or very rich and fat pork rinds or cracklings gravy (cepelinai su spirgučiais). While I prefer sour cream, older generations would tell you that the only right way to eat them is with the crackling gravy, and the fatter the better…
Where to try it? You’ll find cepelinai in all restaurants that serve traditional Lithuanian food.
TIP: Cepelinai is quite a heavy and filling dish that – like many Lithuanian specialties – can be somewhat of an acquired taste. A typical portion at a local restaurant will include two cepelinai, but you can also just ask for half a portion (= one). Or – if you want to try both types – you can ask for one with meat and one with curd cheese, and most restaurants will accommodate this request even if it’s not mentioned as an option on the menu.
Because it takes quite a lot of work and time to prepare cepelinai, they are usually made in large quantities. So it’s a dish that Lithuanian people would typically make when the entire family gathers together for a big family dinner or some special occasion.
However, it’s not really a ‘party’ dish. It’s too traditional and homey for that.
When we have any leftovers, we fry cepelinai in a pan in order to warm them up. This is really delicious too and some restaurants nowadays also include baked cepelinai (kepti cepelinai) on their menus.
2. Bulviniai blynai
Grated Potato Pancakes
Bulviniai blynai is another typical Lithuanian speciality. These are potato pancakes. Just as cepelinai, they are made of raw grated potatoes, but the cooking process is quite different. The potato ‘dough’ is made with eggs and sometimes also onions, and it’s then baked in a pan, with lots of oil.
Just as many other potato-based Lithuanian dishes, bulviniai blynai are served with sour cream and the earlier-mentioned pork rinds gravy. Some people like to eat them with cottage cheese as well.
Where to try it? Bulviniai blynai is a popular dish that is served in most traditional Lithuanian restaurants.
Cold Beetroot Soup
Šaltibarščiai is a cold beetroot soup, and a very popular summer dish in Lithuania.
This traditional Lithuanian cold soup is made of buttermilk, beetroot, cucumbers, green onions, and dill. Usually, a hard-boiled egg is added as well. Traditionally, it’s served with some sour cream on top and boiled or baked potatoes on the side.
Where to try it? You’ll find šaltibarščiai at most restaurants all over Lithuania, especially if visiting in the warmer months. Traditional Lithuanian restaurants usually have it on the menu the whole year round.
4. Kepta duona su česnaku
Fried Bread with Garlic
Kepta duona is a very popular Lithuanian snack. It’s a sort of pan-fried bread.
Traditionally, dark rye bread is used for this dish, but it’s also often made of Lithuanian ‘white’ bread (hint – it’s not white at all) which makes this snack somewhat lighter and easier digestible. The bread is cut into long thick pieces and baked in lots of oil. It’s then wiped with lots of garlic and salted.
In the past, it was almost unthinkable to attend any party or gathering without finding this Lithuanian specialty on the tables. But also today, fried bread with garlic remains a popular snack that can be served before or after a meal, or just on its own.
Nowadays, kepta duona is often served with melted cheese on top or with a cheese dip on the side.
Where to try it? You’ll find kepta duona in the cafes, bars, and restaurants all over Lithuania. It’s usually served as a snack before the main meal, but it’s also popular as a stand-alone dish, especially with beer.
5. Lietiniai blynai su varške
Stuffed Pancakes with Cottage Cheese
Blyneliai su varške, often also called lietiniai are Lithuanian pancakes filled with curd/ cottage cheese.
These pancakes are very simple to make and so it’s a very popular everyday dish. It’s often served for breakfast, but also as a light lunch, or even dinner. Needless to say, these traditional Lithuanian pancakes are also very popular with kids.
Typically, lietiniai are served with sour cream and sugar, but many people also eat them with jam, or a combination of sour cream and jam.
Where to try it? Lietiniai are often served for breakfast, so you should be able to try them at your hotel (most bigger hotels that offer warm breakfast will have these pancakes as part of their breakfast buffet). And otherwise, it’s something you’ll see in many restaurants, sometimes listen under kids’ dishes.
Good to know: While the curd/ cottage cheese filling is the most typical, lietiniai blynai are sometimes served with other fillings as well. Another popular filling is banana, but you’ll also find savory versions with ham, cheese, or similar (although this is much less common).
6. Bulviniai vėdarai
Lithuanian Potato Sausage
Bulviniai vėdarai (or simply vėdarai) is another typical potato-based Lithuanian specialty. It’s sometimes called Lithuanian potato sausage, and I guess this is indeed the best name to describe this special oven-dish.
Pork casings are filled with a mix made of raw grated potatoes, onion, and sometimes chopped bacon is added for more taste. It’s typically baked in the oven and served with a rich gravy made of sour cream, bacon or lardo, and lots of onions. If you’re not fond of rich fat sauces, you can always ask to just serve it with sour cream.
Where to try it? You’ll find vėdarai in many Lithuanian-food restaurants across the country. But the best ones are definitely served at home, and most families have a designated cook who knows just the ‘best’ recipe.
7. Varškės apkepas
Varškės apkepas is another popular Lithuanian dish. It’s an oven-baked curd casserole.
Made of Lithuanian curd (a type of cottage cheese), eggs, milk or buttermilk, semolina, and sugar, varškės apkepas might look a bit like a cake, but it’s usually not as sweet and not as heavy as the cakes you’d bake for dessert. Sometimes, it’s made with raisins or berries too.
This traditional Lithuanian dish is often served for breakfast or light lunch/ dinner. Normally, you would eat it warm, but it’s quite tasty when it’s cold as well. Traditionally, we eat this curd-cheese cake with sour cream and sugar or jam.
Where to try it? Varškės apkepas is something people would typically make at home. Some restaurants that serve traditional Lithuanian dishes might have it on the menu, but more often they’ll offer varškės pyragas (sweet cottage-cheese cake) instead. This is a much sweeter and heavier dish, usually eaten as a dessert.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Balandėliai (literal translation “little pigeons or doves”) is another typical Lithuanian dish, and one that’s totally different from all the others. It’s a sort of a stuffed cabbage roll (and no, it has nothing to do with pigeons). Other Eastern European countries have a similar dish as well, e.g. gołąbki in Poland, which also means little doves.
Balandėliai are made of minced meat and rice filling, which is rolled up in cooked cabbage leaves. These rolls are then stewed. They are usually served with boiled potatoes and sour cream.
Where to eat it? Balandėliai is something typically made at home. Very popular in the past, it’s a dish you won’t find in as many restaurants as other traditional dishes mentioned before, but some places still have it on the menu.
9. Žemaičių blynai
Potato Pancakes with Meat
Žemaitija (Samogitia) is a big region in western Lithuania. This typical Lithuanian dish Žemaičių blynai (Samogitian pancakes) has originated here but is popular all over the country.
Žemaičių blynai are potato pancakes with meat filling.
Just like many other authentic Lithuanian foods, this is a potato-based dish. However, it’s quite different from the regular potato pancakes (bulviniai blynai) mentioned earlier. Samogitian pancakes are made of a ‘dough’ made of boiled potatoes, filled with a minced meat filling, coated with breadcrumbs, and then fried in a pan with lots of butter.
Žemaitiški blynai are typically served with a butter-and-sour-cream sauce. Or with the typical Lithuanian gravy spirgučiai that we mentioned earlier.
Where to try it? While this is a regional dish, you will find it in many traditional restaurants all over Lithuania.
Potato Pudding/ Casserole
Kugelis is yet another type of potato-based dish that is very popular in Lithuania. The taste of this baked potato pudding/ casserole is actually quite similar to that of the earlier-mentioned potato sausage (vedarai), but it’s made and presented differently.
Kugelis is made of grated potatoes, eggs, onions, and usually also small pieces of bacon, and then baked in the oven.
Just like all other potato-based Lithuanian dishes, kugelis is normally served with sour cream, or the previously-mentioned spirgučiai gravy.
Where to try it? You will be able to find kugelis at some traditional restaurants in Lithuania, but the best ones are baked and served at home.
11. Koldūnai, Virtinukai & Varškėčiai
Lithuanian Dumplings with Meat, Curd, Berries…
As already mentioned, Lithuanians like to eat all kinds of dumpling-style dishes, but also foods made of dough, with or without fillings, etc. There are too many of these types of dishes to even try to mention part of them here. It’s like asking an Italian to name all kinds of pasta, in different shapes, sizes, and forms…
Anyway, some of the most popular Lithuanian ‘pasta’ or ‘dumpling’ types of dishes are koldūnai, virtinukai, but also varškėčiai which is a somewhat different dish altogether.
Koldūnai are a kind of Lithuanian dumplings, usually filled with meat, but also with curd or even with mushrooms or berries. They are boiled, but can also be baked in the oven afterwards.
Virtinukai are similar to Polish pierogi, and are also a type of dumplings, usually filled with cottage cheese/ curd. They can be savory or sweet. In summer, it’s popular to use all kinds of berries (especially blueberries) for the filling.
Varškėčiai are made with – oh so popular – Lithuanian curd and can have various shapes, forms, or even preparation methods. They can be cooked in water, fried in a pan, or even baked in the oven. They tend to be on a sweet side and are often served with jams, sugar, and sour cream or butter.
Where to try it? You’ll likely find koldūnai in one shape or form in many restaurants all over Lithuania. Virtinukai or varškėčiai is something that is typically made at home, but some restaurants might have them on the menu too (be sure to check out the kids’ menu if you want to try them and don’t see it on the main list).
12. Varškės spurgos
Lithuanian Curd Donuts
Varškės spurgos are a type of Lithuanian donuts. This is a typical sweet snack/ dessert made of dry curd, flour, eggs, and sugar and fried in lots of oil.
TIP: If you can find a restaurant or a street-food place that serves varškės spurgos while they are still warm, definitely give it a try. They are at their best when freshly baked!
Where to try it? You’ll find varškės spurgos in most Lithuanian supermarkets, some surprisingly good. Some restaurants have them on their dessert menu as well. But probably the best ones can be found in an old coffee shop with a nostalgic atmosphere Spurginė in Kaunas. But – strangely enough – they usually close for annual vacation in the middle of the summer, just when most tourists visit Lithuania…
Stuffed Pastry with Meat
Kibinai is not really a Lithuanian dish, but it’s something that – as far as I know – originates from the Trakai region in Lithuania and is typically only found in Lithuania. So while this is an authentic Karaite ethnic minority dish, I think it deserves a mention on this list of Lithuanian food.
Kibinai is a meat-filled pastry. Traditionally, mutton and onion are used for the filling, but many places now use pork meat instead.
This savory dish is baked in the oven and is often eaten as a snack in between meals, or for lunch, in which case it’s often severed together with some bouillon.
Where to try it? The best place to try kibinai is Trakai. Famous for its castle, Trakai is located just a 30-min drive from Vilnius and is one of the most popular places to visit in Lithuania. So it’s quite likely that you’ll come here during your trip anyway, and pretty much every restaurant in town has this popular regional dish on their menu. You’ll also find kibinai in Vilnius and some other places, but Trakai is the place to be.
Lithuanian Spit Cake
Šakotis is a traditional tree-cake or spit-cake that is very popular in Lithuania. Its Lithuanian name means “a branched tree”. In the past, it was called bankuchenas, which probably comes from the German “tree cake”, but it’s a rather different kind of cake than the German Baumkuchen.
Poland and Belarus also have a similar dessert and I once visited a place in Austria that considered this cake their regional specialty as well. However, the Lithuanian version is better! 😉
This sweet and rather dry cake is made of flour, eggs, butter, sugar, and cream, and is baked on a rotating spit in an open-fire oven.
Traditionally, this is a rather big cake, sometimes over 1 meter in height. It’s usually served for big parties and celebrations. Nowadays, you’ll find these cakes in all sizes, some as tiny as a palm.
Where to try it? You can buy šakotis in most supermarkets in Lithuania, and even an airport shop usually has some smaller souvenir-size versions that you can take home with you. However, the best cakes are hand-made and baked over a real fire and not in traditional ovens.
More Lithuanian dishes to try…
While our selection above features some of the most unique and authentic Lithuanian dishes, there are indeed many, many more traditional foods to try in Lithuania. Here are a few other suggestions, depending on your taste and interests:
- Some popular Lithuanian soups:
- kopūstų sriuba (cabbage soup).
- burokėlių sriuba (beetroot soup).
- grybų sriuba (mushroom soup, sometimes served in bread – see the picture below).
- pieninė sriuba (milk soup – this is something you won’t normally find in restaurants).
- More foods & drinks to try in Lithuania:
- žirniai su spirgučiais (boiled green peas with pork greaves).
- silkė su bulvėmis (herring with potatoes).
- lašiniai (cured slabs of fatback of a pig, with or without skin).
- bandelės su lašinukais (Lithuanian bacon buns).
- bandelės su varške (Lithuanian curd buns).
- baltas varškės sūris (traditional Lithuanian quark cheese – try it with honey!).
- šaltiena (aspic, or meat jelly).
- manų košė (sweet farina porridge – very popular with kids).
- kūčiukai or šližikai (small dry cookies, traditionally served on Christmas Eve, but can be found in all supermarkets throughout December).
- grybukai (sweet mushroom-shaped biscuits, usually with chocolate glazing – see the picture below).
- kisielius (sweet berry drink thickened with cornstarch).
- lietuviška gira (a traditional fermented cereal-based non-alcoholic (or low alcohol %) beverage).
… I guess this list will keep you busy for a while. Enjoy!
Where to find the best Lithuanian food?
Some of the best traditional Lithuanian dishes are typically found in the simple traditional restaurants outside the cities. Lithuanians love the outdoors! So come weekend and everyone leaves the town. It’s also quite common to drive for half an hour or even longer for lunch or dinner ‘in nature’.
So there are quite some restaurants located in the middle of nowhere by a lake or overlooking a river, and sometimes also just next to a highway. These places often serve some of the best, homestyle Lithuanian dishes and local specialties.
But don’t despair if you are just visiting the main cities – you’ll find some good traditional restaurants there as well. Just as anywhere in the world, ask locals for recommendations or check Google Maps for restaurant reviews.
Good to know: One of the best traditional Lithuanian food chain restaurants is probably Etno Dvaras. You’ll find their restaurants in the biggest cities all over the country. If you can’t find more-local alternatives, this is a very good place to discover ethnic Lithuanian cuisine.
Another popular restaurant chain serving traditional Lithuanian food is Katpėdėlė. They also have several restaurants in the biggest cities and the food is generally ok.
Of course, smaller, local restaurants will usually offer a better homestyle-food experience.
READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Lithuania
Some travel inspiration for Lithuania:
If you found this post useful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin these images!
You may also like: