Five Foods You Have to Try When in Lithuania

ZEMAICIU BLYNAI Lithuanian potato pancakes

Lithuania is a small (ish) country in the Baltic region of Europe and is where my family originally hails from. I have always been surprised at how little people know of Lithuania (and the amount of people who have no idea where it is) and most people tend to just think of it as ‘one of those countries above Poland’ or ‘one of the ones that used to be in the USSR’. I mean, this is accurate (it is north-east of Poland and it WAS part of the USSR from 1940 to 1991) but Lithuania has so much more to its history, culture and identity.

One of these amazing things is their food. I love trying local foods wherever I travel and Lithuania did not let me down!

1) Žemaičių blynai

Blynai in Lithuanian is ‘pancakes’ and Žemaičių translates literally as ‘Samogitian’. Samogitia is an ethnographic region in the north-west of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Žemaitija) and is also a dialect in Lithuania.

Samogitian pancakes (also referred to simply as ‘potato pancakes’, but different from the other potato pancakes) are flat pancakes made from coarse potato puree and filled with meat or carrot (so perfect if you’re a meat-and-potatoes or vegetables-and-potatoes person). These are then fried (okay, I didn’t say they were especially healthy) and then served with sour cream and sometimes with bacon bits on the side.

Yum.

ZEMAICIU BLYNAI Lithuanian potato pancakes

Recipe at 10th Kitchen.

2) Šaltibarščiai

Šaltibarščiai (pronounced approximately ‘shall-tee-bar-shyay’… ish) is a traditional Lithuanian soup that in a way is similar to borscht (i.e. it’s made with beetroot) but it is served cold. Made with beetroot, onion and buttermilk (and occasionally also served with hard boiled eggs and potatoes) it’s a delicious dish for a warm summer’s day.

It’s LESS good if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant (I have lactase tablets for this exact reason – trying different foods around the world!)

Pro tip: my favourite brand is Lactrase and you can buy it in Germany and Austria. The higher the FCC, the stronger it is. If you’re only mildly lactose intolerant, get 1500 – 6000 FCC, if severely intolerant I recommend the 12,000 FCC capsules. Prices range from €5,95 for 100 tablets at 1,500 FCC  (0.6¢ per tablet) to €12,90 for 40 tablets at 18,000 FCC (3¢ per tablet). 

Saltibarsciai cold beetroot soup

Recipe at 7 Ravioli.

3) Cepelinai

Potato is a staple in the Lithuanian diet (traditional and modern). My Lithuanian flatmate, who dislikes vegetables (a great start), somehow manages to live on chicken and potatoes and not a lot else. I’m both amazed and appalled. It’s impressive.

Cepelinai is a particularly popular Lithuanian dish, which maintains the whole ‘meat and potatoes’ stereotype. Because yes, it is literally potato stuffed with meat. Topped with meat. EXCELLENT.

© 2014 Bajorų kiemas cepelinai lithuanian potato dumplings

© Bajorų kiemas

Recipe at Lithuanian Home Cooking.

4) Koldūnai

Koldūnai are also Lithuanian dumplings, but more like Polish pierogi than the above cepelinai. The dough is made from flour instead of potato, but the dumplings are usually filled with meat and often served with sour cream and spirgučiai (pronounced speer-goo-chyay), made with fried onion and bacon belly.

The one I had (below) was served in a creamy mushroom sauce with bits of bacon. Delicious!

Lithuanian potato dumplings

Recipe at My Food Odyssey.

5) Tinginys

Tinginys or ‘lazy cake’ is a popular sweet made from biscuits, cocoa, butter, sugar and condensed milk. It’s called ‘lazy’ because it’s incredibly quick and easy to make! Apparently, it was made when a woman was trying to make chocolate (when cocoa was brought to Lithuania) but added too much sugar, which resulted in more of a syrup. She then added biscuits to make the flavour less strong and tinginys was born!

The below cake is actually vegan tinginys from a little café in Vilnius called Planeta.

Vegan tinginys in Vilnius

Recipe at Enjoy by Paula.

Vegan recipe only in Lithuanian.

Basic translation:

1 can coconut milk
4 packs of (vegan) biscuits (about 180g)
4 tablespoons cocoa
4 tablespoons sugar

1. In a pot, pour in coconut milk and an equal amount of water.

2. On medium heat, add sugar and cocoa and stir well.

3. In another pot break the biscuits into small chunks and pour the hot milk/water mixture over the biscuits. Stir well.

4. Using a baking tray or other dish, form linings with doubled-over cling film (preventing the mixture from sticking) and form into a sausage shape.

5. Refrigerate until fully solid. Once solid, then chop into slices and serve at room temperature.

BONUS: Lithuanian Beer

Sadly, Lithuanian beer is highly underrepresented outside of, well, Lithuania. For a true taste of Lithuania’s micro-breweries, head to Bambalynė, a small bar that has over 50 kinds of bottled beer from around Lithuania. I would have loved to spend more time there and drink more! I only had time for one – the delicious Kauno Vyšninis Tamsusis, a cherry dark wheat beer from Kaunas brewery Kauno Alus.

You can also get bar snacks (meat platter, cheese platter, meat and cheese platter, fried bread sticks) to enjoy with your beer. All the bottles are available to purchase to take away, which costs slightly less than sitting down to drink them in the bar.

Tip: the bar closes at 10pm! I didn’t realise this, hence why I only had time for one beer. *sad Penelope*

Vyšninis Cherry Beer Porter Lithuania

The beer served pretty much everywhere is Švyturys, Lithuania’s second oldest brewery located in Klaipėda, Lithuania’s port city. If you are a lager person, get out then you will probably be content with Švyturys Baltas, the light beer (Hefeweizen) served with a slice of lemon that you can see above accompanying my šaltibarščiai and koldūnai. If you are more like me, you will love the dark Švyturys Baltijos, seen above with my delicious blynai. Švyturys also brews other beers, but these are the two you will most likely see everywhere, as well as the Švyturys Ekstra (also Ekstra Draught, which is – you guessed it – on draught in most bars).

 

Švyturys Baltijos dark Lithuanian beer CanCan Pizza

My second favourite beer after the cherry wheat beer from Kaunas. Mmmmmm!

 

Which dishes sound the best to you? Have you had any of them before? Tell us in the comments! Don’t forget to share this article if you enjoyed it!

For more amazing food around the world, check out this post on traditional Finnish food by Pretty Wild World!

Five foods you HAVE to try when in Lithuania! via @theflyawaygirl #travel #foodie

Are you traveling to Lithuania? Here are five foods you HAVE to try when in Lithuania! via @theflyawaygirl #travel #foodie

Are you traveling to Lithuania? Here are five foods you HAVE to try when in Lithuania! via @theflyawaygirl #travel #foodie

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Paula
    October 3, 2016 at 6:09 am

    such a lovely post and thanks for sharing my recipe! <3 so sweet! Xx

    http://enjoybypaula.com

    • Reply
      Penelope
      October 14, 2016 at 1:24 am

      You’re very welcome!

  • Reply
    Alex
    October 8, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Yum! These photos are divine, and I knew literally nothing about Lithuanian food prior to this post. It’s fun to learn about “unknown” cuisines like this, thanks for enlightening me!
    Alex recently posted… Getting an Indian visa in Tashkent, UzbekistanMy Profile

    • Reply
      Penelope
      October 14, 2016 at 1:23 am

      You’re welcome! Before living with two Lithuanian flatmates and going to Lithuania, I didn’t know much either! All the better now though, haha.

  • Reply
    PACKTHESUITCASES.COM
    October 8, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    There should be a disclaimed on this post that you’ll be ravenous by the end of it! Lithuania is somewhere I’ve always fancied going to but never knew much about the food. The pancakes look fantastic 🙂
    PACKTHESUITCASES.COM recently posted… A day in Kirkby LonsdaleMy Profile

    • Reply
      Penelope
      October 14, 2016 at 1:23 am

      hahaha this made me laugh!! The pancakes are amazing – I could eat them every day! (probably shouldn’t though…)

  • Reply
    Susanna Kelly
    October 16, 2016 at 8:08 am

    I read this first thing in the morning and I’m starving. I never thought of Lithuania as a foodie destination, but all this looks really unique and tasty! I enjoyed the recipe at the end and the pancakes sound so good!

  • Reply
    Anisa
    October 16, 2016 at 10:48 am

    I don’t think I have ever tried Lithuanian food before! That potato pancake looks really good. I am going to see if I can find a Lithuanian restaurant, but if not I may have to try making them.

  • Reply
    Rob Taylor
    October 17, 2016 at 6:09 am

    I love the menu I could make from these. Having tried a few of them already, I know I’d be quite happy eating my way across the country.

    • Reply
      Penelope
      October 18, 2016 at 12:52 am

      I could eat my way across Lithuania any day – especially if beer if also involved. I’m glad you enjoyed reading!

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    October 17, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    I think I’ll like Lithuanian food. I could eat potatoes stuffed with meat every day!

    • Reply
      Penelope
      October 18, 2016 at 12:52 am

      Haha me too! It sounds a little boring at first but with the bacon and the sour cream dip it’s so good – perfect for chillier days too!

  • Reply
    Marita Stenersen
    October 18, 2016 at 12:45 am

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m a real foodie, but had no idea Lithuania had so much nice food! Just another reason so visit I guess 😉

    • Reply
      Penelope
      October 18, 2016 at 12:53 am

      I definitely recommend Lithuania (for the sights, the people, the landscapes) and definitely the food! (Okay, and the beer)

      I hope you get to visit soon and try some of the dishes – tell me what you think if you do!

  • Reply
    Christine K
    October 18, 2016 at 2:12 am

    So, I was in Lithuania a couple weeks ago and returning Nov 3. Thank you for the primer on the foods you like best. We had potato pancakes when we were there and they were awesome. We went to a traditional Lithuanian restaurant and the food was quite bland. We will search for more of the foods you mentioned when we return in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the post.

    • Reply
      Penelope
      October 19, 2016 at 4:14 am

      I hope you enjoy going back! I’m glad you enjoyed the pancakes.

  • Reply
    isabella
    October 18, 2016 at 3:10 am

    sounds Yummy indeed! I’ve often heard about lituania and really want to see it. thanks for the post.

    • Reply
      Penelope
      October 19, 2016 at 4:14 am

      You’re welcome, thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    Anne
    October 19, 2016 at 3:29 am

    These all looks so good, I can’t decide which one is my favourite. I guess I’ll just have to visit Lithuania and try them all (especially tinginys) to decide 😉 P.S. I love that you included some of the pronunciations because it made this awesome post even cooler.

    • Reply
      Penelope
      October 19, 2016 at 4:13 am

      Haha you definitely have to! I’m glad the pronunciations were handy.

  • Reply
    Kevin Wagar
    October 19, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    This definitely gives me inspiration to eat my way through Lithuania. The food looks delicious.

  • Reply
    20 Different Traditional Finnish Food You Must Try in Finland
    October 30, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    […] Five Foods You Have to Try When in Lithuania […]

  • Reply
    Kristina@maptrotting
    November 16, 2016 at 7:46 am

    This is a very lovely post, thanks for sharing 🙂

    My favourite is ‘Šaltibarščiai’ 🙂 Everyone has a different recipe so the taste varies in different parts of Lithuania 🙂 I also love Lithuanian bread, maybe it’s because I grew up here and I am being biased, but I haven’t come across a tastier bread anywhere in the world 😀

    Have you tried the pickled herring? My mum makes a layered herring dish for Christmas every year without fail. It might sound weird, but it’s so delicious. The pickled herring is layered with fried onions, carrots and mayonnaise and decorated with peas on top. It’s the top Christmas dish in my family 😀
    Kristina@maptrotting recently posted… Singapore – The Ultimate Guide to VisitingMy Profile

    • Reply
      Penelope
      December 2, 2016 at 10:19 am

      Ooh I didn’t try the pickled herring! That sounds really good – I loved all the dishes with herrings in Sweden and I think Lithuania would be just as good! Yum!

  • Reply
    Matas
    January 16, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    Your parents did a good job !

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