Every time I travel or move to a new destination, I am always curious about what to eat. I want to know the local specialty foods, wines, and liquor. Tasting the local food is just as important as seeing the sights, in my opinion. We lived in Lithuania for two years, and tried all the food. Here is a list of what to eat when visiting the beautiful, Baltic destination of Lithuania.
Those of you who follow us regularly know that my husband is Lithuanian so I have had the pleasure of spending a lot of time in the small but gorgeous country and taste the local foods from border to border. So join me in a culinary adventure around Lithuania!
Potato dumplings – cepelinai: I actually have to have one (or three) every summer when we go home for a visit. Cepeliani are boiled potato dumplings stuffed with seasoned minced meat. They are topped with sour cream and bacon sauce. Yes, bacon!
My fave way to eat them is when they are one-day old, split in half, and pan-fried, because I love adding some more fatty goodness to this already amazing meal! Lay in it, roll on it, we love it!
Potato pancakes – bulviniai blynai: Ohhh, potatoes and more potatoes! Lithuania loves potatoes and, well, so do I! It is my carb-addicted body’s dream country! They have many kinds of potato pancakes, but my faves are pancakes stuffed with minced meat with a sour cream-bacon sauce over the top! Yes, more bacon! You will just die!
Fried bread with garlic and cheese – kepta duona: This is the best thing since sliced bread! It’s on most Lithuanian menus in the appetizer or beer/snacks section. It’s fried bread covered in garlic and cheese sauce. You eat it with a toothpick, or, in my case, with both hands so I can get more of it before my kids do. This is a must when traveling to Lithuania.
Pickled herring – silkė: This is another thing that I have to eat every time we go home. We have tried it all over the world, but it never tastes like it does in Lithuania. This is herring fish that is caught right off the shore of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea. It is pickled with spices and onions and served cold with boiled potatoes, fresh onions, and sour cream. It is salty and sour, and the cream compliments it and brings it all together in a melody of flavors in your mouth. If you see it on the menu, give it a try. Okay, okay, I know it’s not potatoes or bacon, but it’s really good.
Cheese salad – pikantiškos salotos: One of the first times I was ever in Lithuania, my sister-in-law said I should try this salad. Salad?! “Who wants to eat a salad?!” I thought. Do I look like I eat salad?! “Hmmm…” I thought, “Could this be any good?” But, I trusted her and thank goodness I did! There is no salad at all! It’s cheese, local cheese, and mayonnaise and garlic… some people put veggies, cucumbers, or peas, and even some eggs in it – just try some. Afterward, you can come back and thank me.
Grilled meat kabobs – Šašlykai – pronounced shas-leek-ay: These are the bomb! These are pork or beef, your choice, marinated overnight in a mayo and spicy sauce then grilled over an open flame and are the best piece of meat to ever hit your mouth. If you are so lucky to get invited to a family BBQ, these will definitely be on the menu. My brother-in-law loves to make these for us, and we eat them every time we arrive in Lithuania! Many restaurants also carry them, and now that you have stuffed yourself full of carbs, try these one night as a delicious potato detox.
Beet soup – šaltibarščiai – pronounced shal-tea-bur-shay: First, you can’t miss it because it is NEON PINK. My kids call it “bubblegum soup” because it is the color of pink bubble gum. This is a staple of all Lithuanian kitchens and although it looks weird, it’s good. It is made with pickled beets, eggs, cucumbers, buttermilk, and dill. It is served cold and you find it very often, all over, during the summer months. It is served with a dollop of sour cream and warm, boiled potatoes. If in Lithuania, do as the Lithuanians!
Dumplings – koldūnai: Pronounced kal-dune-ay, these are similar to perogies from Poland but better!
They can come with meat, and sour cream and bacon sauce, too! My favorite is with fresh fruit inside. You know it’s good if I prefer fruit over bacon.
My mother-in-law made the best koldūnai stuffed with blueberries, and then we eat the yogurt or fresh creme on top. Can you say holy shit balls?! It’s like a religious experience; they are that good.
When you are done eating these, your mouth is purple, so don’t plan on looking for a date until you brush your purple teeth.
Black bread – ruginė duona: As much as I love Lithuanian food, this is one thing that I’m not fond of – maybe it’s too healthy for me. The dark black bread is just too thick and dense for my taste; however, it’s a staple of Lithuanian food and you won’t find it quite like this anywhere in the world. My husband eats it like it’s his last meal and would sleep with it under his pillow at night if he could.
If you’re a dark bread fan, you will love this! Don’t tell my husband that I don’t like the bread; he will be heartbroken. Try some! You might like it.
Stuffed pastry pockets – kibinia: These are hot pockets before hot pockets were cool. They are the original fast food and are delicious! Flaky pastry outside with seasoned minced meat inside and baked in the oven. Ohh la la! You can dip them in a nice, hearty broth, and they come with many different things inside. My kids’ favorite is chocolate, but whatever your poison may be, try them when in Lithuania.
Smoked pig fat – lašiniai: If you have ever visited a Lithuanian family, I know that they have tried to get you to eat some pig fat on black bread. No, really – I know it’s a fact, and if you are not from there you got grossed out! The first time I saw it I was like “Ummm… it’s just fat?” Think of bacon with no meat; just fat. After I thought about it, the fat is the best part of the bacon, so this could not be all bad, right?! The Lithuanians smoke the fat, season it, then slice it very thin and eat it. I ate it and now have an ongoing relationship with this glistening block of fat! Listen, until you’ve had it, you can’t really judge me for eating fat! I have some in my kitchen right now. Swear!
Branch cake – Šakotis: This is the craziest-looking thing you have ever seen! It’s shaped like a tree with branches. It’s normally eaten on special occasions like weddings or holidays. Me? I will eat it anytime I see it. It’s half-cake, half-cookie – and like many deserts in Europe it is not overly sweet. Our agent actually brought us some to Germany this year, and it was dipped in chocolate. Oh my goodness – I licked the plastic it came in, and the plate, when it was gone. You won’t find this at any restaurant. You will have to find a local pastry shop, or they are often at the grocery stores. Either way, it is worth tracking down and stuffing in your face before you have to get back on the plane.
Where to Stay in Vilnius:
Our Favorite place to stay when in town is Vilnius Center Apartment – Embassy. We stayed in there one bedroom apartment that slept 4, plus a baby cot. The apartment was fully stocked and had a nice kitchenette perfect for our family.The apartments are locally owned by a super nice Lithuanian family who are very helpful and easy to work with! We booked it though Booking.com.
What to do In Lithuania!
Need some ideas on what to do while in Lithuania, check out all of our articles on Lithuania. Check out Viator.com for the best tours and ideas. MY recommendations for foodies is The Lithuanian Food Tour.
Also check out the Vilnius Walking Tour to get the best of Vilnius!
I hope you get a chance to visit Lithuania and taste it’s amazing food, for cool spots to hang out even the Huffington Post has Lithuanian on it’s radar.
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