Potatoes potatoes and... more potatoes. That's how Lithuanian cuisine looks like when you first start searching for traditional Lithuanian food. It is true in some way. However, we have a lot more to put on the table. While tasting Lithuanian cuisine you will find a hint of German, Italian, Polish, Litvak cuisines. You are very welcome to join our Vilnius Food Tour to learn more and taste the best of Lithuanian cuisine. However if you prefer to explore local cuisine by yourself, here we introduce 5 most popular dishes you should try.
1. CEPELINAI (potato dumplings with filling)
Let’s start with Lithuanian classics – zeppelins (cepelinai). You might be confused at first. Zeppelins are airships, aren’t they? Well, yes, they are. But Lithuanians also call their most famous traditional Lithuanian dish zeppelin just because it looks like one, just much smaller(). The official name is didžkukuliai, but even locals do not bother to use this word as cepelinas is much easier to pronounce. So what exactly is this traditional Lithuanian dish?
A normal portion of the most famous traditional Lithuanian dish - cepelinai (zeppelins)
Cepelinai or zeppelins are massive potato dumplings stuffed with meat, mushrooms, or cottage cheese, often garnished with fried minced onion and bacon or sour cream. It is a pretty heavy dish! It is perfect for family gatherings or cold winter days. Our recommendation is to order only half of portion to get the taste of it. The half portion is one cepelinas, however, it will keep you full for the rest of the day! However if you are used to heavy cuisine and you want to act like locals do, try to finish the whole portion!
You also might be wondering where to try the best cepelinai in Vilnius. Our top pick is a local restaurant/pub called "Žemaičių ąsotis" (Naugarduko g. 32-1) – a perfect spot if you do not mind walking out of the Old Town. They offer HUGE portions. If you get there during the business lunch (usually 11- 14) during weekdays, you can save some money! If you do not want to walk from Vilnius Old Town, pub "Leičiai" (Stiklių g. 4) is also a good option.
2. ŠALTIBARŠČIAI (Cold beetroot soup)
After cepelinai second most popular Lithuanian cuisine dish is šaltibarščiai - a cold soup made from beetroots, cucumber, spring onions, dill, boiled egg, and kefir. Everything is chopped, mixed and voila, soup is made. It is served with hot potatoes what we usually dip into the soup. Because of beetroots soup gets its pink color so don‘t worry if you forgot that complex name of this soup. Just say that you want pink soup and everybody will understand you. It is a perfect cold dish during hot summer day to refresh.
The most famous cold soup for summer time in Lithuania - šaltibarščiai (Cold beetroot soup) aka pink soup
You might like this soup, you might not like it. However Lithuanians are definitely crazy about it. Lithuania Travel even made a map where you can find places offering original cold beetroot soup with unexpected ingredientsor even a cake made out of the soup! Are you brave enough to try it?
And that is not it. You can actually buy clothing inspired by this pink soup! Check out the unique pink collection made by Foodroobai from bags and slippers to sweaters and even underwear. The page is in Lithuanian, but you can still admire the photos & original clothing.
If you are wondering where to try this famous Lithuanian soup in Vilnius, you can actually find it on every corner during the summer time. However in winter, you can only taste it in traditional Lithuanian restaurants. Our top pick for the best traditional cold beetroot soup in Vilnius would be already mentioned traditional local restaurant/pub "Leičiai". However "Say Cheese bistro" (Gedimino pr. 3A) offers quite unusual version of šaltibarščiai which is worth checking out if you like cheese!
p.s. It is very easy to make this pink Lithuanian soup by yourself. If you want to make šaltibarščiai or even cepelinai at home, you can check our blog post to discover Lithuanian cuisine from your kitchen.
Kibinai are traditional Karaites’ pastries filled with mutton, mushrooms, beef, vegetables, chicken or other ingredients. It is quite usual to take a cup of broth with kibinas.
Karaite ethnic minority was brought to Lithuania over 600 years ago and you can learn more about them and their local cuisine in Trakai, a historical town only half an hour drive from Vilnius. That's where Karaites live until this day. Kibinas is the most famous Karaite dish among Lithuanians. Although you can try it in Vilnius, the most authentic place to eat Kibinai is still Trakai. If you have a few days in Vilnius, it is definitely worth going to Trakai not only to taste kibinas, but also to enjoy beautiful views of the redbrick castle in the middle of the lake.
If you do not have much time though, you can buy Kibinas at "Senoji Kibininė" (Gedimino pr. 9A) in a small kiosk. They only need to be heated and you can eat straigth away. So it is also a good option if you need to eat something fast
4. FRIED BREAD (popular beer snack)
Lithuanians really like beer (we think that our beer is the best) and we have some snacks to eat while drinking beer. The most popular and the most delicious is fried bread (kepta duona) aka garlic bread. Try it at the bar and you won’t regret. Even though it is not the most healthy snack, is definitely worth a bite. Just note, that fried bread is served for sharing! One plate is usually enough for 2 or even 3 people;)
Lithuanian beer with the most popular beer snack - fried bread with cheese sauce
Fried bread can be found everywhere in Vilnius, the same as šaltibarščiai(cold beetroot soup) in summer time. It is especially popular in beer bars and pubs, but you can even find it in supermarkets (not as fresh though). However, our top recommendation would be "Špunka" (Etmonų g. 3, Savičiaus, g. 9) – a popular local pub. You can also get simple fried bread in "Žemaičių ąsotis" and "Leičiai" mentioned in this article.
You can even prepare it at home by yourself, it’s very easy. You just need to fry some black rye bread and when it will become hard and crispy, rub it with a clove of garlic and sprinkle with salt. Another possible way is to fry bread and make sauce from mayonnaise, cheese, and garlic.
5. ŠAKOTIS (tree cake)
A popular Lithuanian dessert - šakotis
Let's finish this list with sweets. Šakotis (which means “branch”) is a cake made of butter, egg whites, and yolks, flour, sugar, and cream, cooked on a rotating spit in an oven or over an open fire. Lithuanians usually eat that during big celebrations like Christmas, New Year or weddings. Biggest šakotis was made in Lithuania in 2015 and it was 3,7 meters high.
You can buy šakotis in every supermarket, at the airport or local stores in Vilnius Old Town like "Senamiesčio Krautuvė" (Literatų g. 5). It is a great food souvenir to bring back to your friends and family from Lithuania.
If you just want to taste šakotis, but buying the whole tree-like cake seems too much, we can recommend "Coffee1" (Užupio g. 9) café in Užupis district. It is a small local family run café with a very good atmosphere and other local desserts you can try with a cup of tea or coffee.
Now you know the most popular traditional Lithuanian dishes and snacks to try out during your visit to Vilnius. You can follow our recommendations to try Lithuanian food, but if you want to learn more about Lithuanian cuisine, you are very welcome to join our Vilnius Food Tour! Our professional local guide will take you to four-five different places to try some of those dishes we talked about and even more! You will start with snacks at a local store following by a soup at traditional Lithuanian restaurant, the main dish at another local restaurant, a shot at a local bar and a dessert in a cosy local café. Our foodie guide will tell you all the peculiarities of local cuisine, traces of other cuisines, inside jokes, local traditions and more. While walking from one stop to another you will have time to digest and refresh from Lithuanian cuisine. After the tour you will not only feel full and happy, but also known more about Lithuanian cuisine!
If you do not want to eat a lot, you can also consider just taking a private personalised tour in Vilnius to learn more about the city and taste just a little bit of Lithuanian cuisine at a farmers’ market, local store, café, restaurant or even a bar to include some popular local beverages.
Make sure to share you most favourite Lithuanian food on instagram @vilniusfreetour