Latvian cuisine is mainly based on local agricultural products. Since Latvia is located on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, fish and seafood dishes are an important part of the cuisine.
The cuisine has also been influenced by countries closer and further afield, especially Germany. The most commonly used local products are fish, rye, potatoes, wheat, barley, cabbage, onions, eggs and pork. Latvian national dishes are bold and hearty, and very few spices are usually used.
Sklandrausis is a sweet, yellow-orange pie made from the carrots used for the filling. The base is made of a firm dough of rye flour. Once rolled out, circles of dough with a diameter of 8-14 cm are cut out and the edges are folded upwards.
The bottom is then filled with boiled potato and carrot filling, potato on the bottom and carrot on top. Then a layer of cream, cinnamon or caraway seeds is spread on it. The taste of the sklandrausis can range from sweet to very sweet, dominated by carrot, while the dough base has a very pronounced taste.
2. Rye bread
Rupjmaize is a traditional Latvian rye bread baked in a wood oven with added rye flour, malt and caraway to give it its characteristic taste and aroma. There are two different types of rye bread that are determined by the temperature of the water added to the flour when making the dough: regular rye bread and flat rye bread.
Rye bread is delicious with hemp butter, honey and milk, also with ham or a piece of smoked fish. Rye bread can be eaten any way you want. It can be eaten with soup, meat, cold cuts, or simply as a snack. The choice is all yours.
3. Gray peas with bacon
Gray peas with bacon and fried onions is a classic of Latvian national cuisine. Not only is it an everyday dish, but it is also made for Latvian celebrations; no festive table is without at Christmas. This dish is unique to Latvian cuisine and definitely something to be proud of.
These beans are a product of real national pride, such as: Latvian gray peas were the first Latvian product to receive Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union.
Debesmanna is a sweet dish made from whipped sugar and fruit or berry pulp. Manna mousse is also called skymanna and includes whipped egg whites, whipped cream, semolina or flour. The egg whites are used to make the mousse firm and thick. Gelatin can also be added to make it more stable.
Debesmanna is full of childhood memories of every Latvian. It is and has always been the most popular dessert in Latvian cuisine. Every tourist should try it as it really is the national dessert of the country.
5. Braised Cabbage
Charcoal tastes best in the cold months of the year, when the icy wind howls outside the window, the fireplace crackles cozily inside and a cozy smell wafts from the kitchen. As you know, there are plenty of festivities at the end of the year, and they just aren’t complete without the national pride – sauerkraut – on the table.
This dish has established its status as an integral part of the festive table. It is best combined with meat and is usually eaten at Christmas.
6. Cold Beet Soup
In the balmy summer days that followed one another without interruption this year, most cooks tried not to spend too much time in front of a hot stove. There is one dish that will always save the day, even the hottest cold soup.
Cold soup is made from kefir, or curd, with boiled beetroot, chopped radish, fresh cucumber, boiled eggs and various spices. The taste should be a balance between sour, sweet and salty. This dish is a summer classic in all Baltic cuisines. It is very easy to prepare and a perfect lunch option on a hot summer day.
7. Rye Bread Layer
Rupjmaizes kārtojums is a traditional Latvian dessert made from rye bread crumbs, blackcurrant or blueberry jam and whipped cream. It is topped with grated dark chocolate or cinnamon and often served with fresh berries and cottage cheese ice cream. The flavor bouquet reflects genuine Latvian flavours, with coarse bread and traditional wild berries. If you visit Latvia this is a must try.
Rasols is a potato salad with peas, carrots, eggs, pickled cucumbers, roast meat or sausage and a cream-mayonnaise dressing with mustard and horseradish. It can be enjoyed at any time of the year and is an integral part of the Latvian festive table.
Latvia is not the only country to enjoy this dish. Rasols are also eaten in Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. That is a true will that speaks for itself.
9. Midsummer Cheese
Sint-Janskaas has a long history. It belongs to the so-called sour cheeses – the oldest cheeses that were once common throughout temperate Europe. Midsummer cheese plays a central role in Midsummer celebrations, along with a nice cold beer.
Cheese was a sacrificial food for ancient Latvians and is now considered a great treat, offered at all of life’s great celebrations, especially weddings.
10. Fried Lampreys
Lampreys are round-bellied fish caught in Latvian rivers with special tanks. They are grilled over hot coals. When ready, they are diced, pressed and coated with a marinade, creating a delicious jelly. Lampreys have a very specific delicate taste, although it is not so popular with young people or children. They are served with fresh bread and butter and can be garnished with lemon wedges and herbs.
11. Hemp Butter
Hemp butter is a starter made from hemp seeds, which have a high nutritional value and a strong, nutty taste. The hemp seeds are first lightly roasted to make them crispy, then they are crushed and ground to form a dark paste, which is added to butter with salt to taste. It is usually eaten with coarse bread.
Hemp is also used in candies or added to salads. And it provides a valuable oil.
12. Smoked Fish
Smoked fish is a typical dish of coastal regions – the famous sprat, herring, snapper, flounder, salmon, bass, mackerel and other fish from the Baltic Sea brought from further afield are dried in Latvia. Smoked sprat is used to make our golden export sprat. The fish is smoked both hot and cold. The taste and aroma of this fish are so distinctive that nothing needs to be added.
13. Smoked Meat
In Latvia, the art of smoking meat in alder wood, so that it is juicy, aromatic, not too lean and not too greasy, has been perfected over the centuries and is much appreciated. Every decent farmer has a smokehouse, which is used to smoke fresh meat, bacon and fish. Smoked meats can be served cold, put on bread, fried with eggs, added to soups, or enjoyed with sauerkraut, carrots, peas, or beans.
14. Black pudding
In the past, black pudding or grits was made in almost every country house. People kept a pig and when it came time to slaughter it, the blood was collected in a bowl and used to make black pudding. Mixed with cooked semolina and pieces of bacon, it is an autumn and winter dish. The sausage is fried crispy before serving; sweet blueberry jam is a great addition.
Bukstiņputra is a main dish made from barley groats, milk and potatoes. It is served with roast pork, onions, and sometimes blueberry sauce. But this oatmeal porridge is also a favorite for breakfast. Or bukstiņputra is the dish you eat at your grandmother’s when you mow grass and chop wood all day. The porridge is best with a glass of kefir.
This is a dish of fresh crispy pork chop served with salad, rice, potatoes or other garnish for dinner or lunch. Pork chops are fillets seasoned with salt and pepper, rolled in egg and flour, and browned in a skillet. It is one of the most popular everyday main dishes.
Pork chops can be found on almost all Latvian pub menus and village party tables. They are served with a side of vegetables, carrots or salad. Every Latvian eats cutlets at least once a week, making it a really popular dish, especially if it’s made by your grandmother.
The Latgale region of Latvia has preserved a strong tradition of local food. Klockas are sweet cheesecakes made from yeast dough and heated in melted butter or cream. Really good kļockas can only be made with firmly pressed, dry but soft rustic cottage cheese. They used to be made the day before a party, so they only had to be warmed up on the holiday.
18. bacon tarts
The smell of bacon pies permeates Latvian houses before the winter and summer solstices. They are also a popular daily snack. The pies are made from wheat or rye flour yeast dough and filled with smoked, finely chopped and fried pork with onions. Caraway seeds can also be added for flavor. Bacon pies are iconic at Christmas and New Year celebrations. They can also be filled with cottage cheese and cabbage.
19. Sourdough Bread
During the festivities or holidays, sweet yeast dough is used to bake flatbreads. It’s topped with whatever’s in season—rhubarb, garden and wild berries, tart apples, cottage cheese, or jam—then topped with whipped cream and egg or crunchy crumbs and a pinch of cinnamon.
This bread is eaten at any time of the year. It is very easy to prepare and tastes best warm, with vanilla ice cream.
20. Pork Leg
Slow Roasted Pork Legs with Braised Cabbage are a delight in the fall and winter. The cabbage, which goes so well with pork, is pickled and braised, with sugar, salt, caraway, cranberries or carrots. This is the perfect meal after a long day of work that no one would refuse.
Latvian cuisine is full of interesting dishes that will delight your taste buds all year round. Many seasonal dishes will warm your soul at any time. This is what Latvian cuisine is all about. I suggest you try some of the dishes you have read here to experience some unique Latvian food.