Ukrainians cherish their traditions and pass on family recipes from grandmother to granddaughter. This is especially true in the western part of the country, where cooking a lot of food on vacation is a favorite pastime. No kidding, there should be no free space on the festive table.
Ukrainians still follow the Julian calendar, which means Christmas is celebrated on 7e January. But Christmas Eve – or Holy Supper – the night before is just as important.
It is also much more symbolic and shrouded in mystery. Most of the dishes below are served at 6e January. The exceptions are meat-based versions, as the Lord’s Supper is always lean.
A Ukrainian can hardly imagine a Christmas Eve without box. Made of wheat and honey, it symbolizes prosperity and bridges the worlds of the living and the dead. The traditional, simple recipe used to contain only wheat, poppy seeds, water, walnuts and honey.
the contemporary box however, has a plethora of variations. The taste is enriched by prunes, raisins and other dried fruits and berries, as well as various nuts. according to tradition, box is the first dish that starts the Christmas Eve dinner. The first spoon should be consumed by the head of the household.
This braided loaf of wheat flour is usually brought by children who visit their parents on Christmas Eve. Symbolizing prosperity and health, it is sweetened and sprinkled with poppy seeds. Everyone is expected to have a bite to eat.
If you only know one Ukrainian dish, it most likely is varenyky. A traditional family, especially in western Ukraine, ate it every Sunday. Available with all kinds of fillings, they are usually served with cabbage, buckwheat or potato at Christmas. They would normally be topped with a generous layer of topping of onions and oil.
On Christmas Eve, it is very popular to play the varenyky game: a housewife puts a pinch of pepper in the first varenyk, a lump of sugar in the second, and a coin in the third. Whoever gets the spicy piece will be in for a surprise next year; whoever eats the sugary one will enjoy a sweet life, and whoever finds a mint in it will be rich.
While borsch is the most popular Ukrainian soup and is routinely consumed in every household, it is also a must on Christmas Eve. The only difference is that borsch must be skinny on this occasion.
This beetroot soup, which is quite common in the post-Soviet areas, contains shredded cabbage, beans and tomatoes, as well as some vinegar for acidity. Interestingly, there is not one and only recipe from borsch as each cook has her own secret ingredients that she is not allowed to reveal.
Reserved exclusively for Christmas Eve, vushka – or small stuffed mushrooms varenyky – can be served on its own or as an ingredient of red borsch. In the latter case, they would float in and be fished out with a spoon. The heavenly scent of vushkas would fill the whole room once you start cooking them.
6. Mushroom stock
Another tasty soup that is consumed on festive occasions is the mushroom broth. It can contain all kinds of mushrooms, but according to tradition, these should be penny buns. They give the broth a real aroma and impeccable taste. The flour and sour cream give the stock a smooth and thick texture.
Cultural historians claim that: holubtsia first appeared in the 18e century and has never left the Ukrainian festive table since. With the name derived from pigeon (pigeon), they symbolize peace and serenity. These cabbage rolls come in two varieties and are eaten with meat on Christmas Day and without meat on Christmas Eve.
While the ingredients are quite simple – boiled cabbage, rice, onions and carrots and meat – the dish can rival high cuisine, especially when topped with mushrooms in tomato sauce.
8. Jelly Fish
While many know the traditional Ukrainian festive dish khodetten (jelly meat), the fish version is more popular for Christmas. To prepare it, you need to boil trout, cool and cover with gelatin.
There are multiple variations of other ingredients, the most common being carrots, boiled eggs, and peas. Decorated with a shred of parsley, it is served cold.
His Majesty khodetten is usually prepared with chicken or beef in Ukraine. To make it tasty and wobbly without gelatin, you also need meat bones. This dish requires quite a bit of patience as you have to leave it overnight for it to get the needed texture. Served with a unique beet-and-horseradish sauce, it tastes exquisite.
10. Salted Herring
The symbol of Christianity, fish is the basis of many traditional festive dishes in Ukraine. While you can of course buy the ready-made salted herring, a real Ukrainian woman would die of embarrassment to do so.
Instead, she prepared the herring alone, with onions, lemon, and oil. The dish is usually decorated with a piece of dill and pieces of tomato. Perfect with pepper horilka, a strong mind.
As simple as it gets, this salad is made from cooked beets, carrots, potatoes, pickles, onions, canned peas, and pickled cabbage, all dressed with an oil of your choice. It’s a great option for Christmas Eve because it’s lean, while also making great company with meat dishes on Christmas Day itself.
12. Baked Potatoes
Potatoes are boiled, baked, roasted and baked in Ukraine. There is such a variety of potato dishes that you could go for a different one every day for a whole year before repeating one.
On Christmas Eve, it is customary to bake potatoes unpeeled, drizzled with sunflower oil and seasoned with dried parsley, garlic or dill. Absurdly simple, it always goes best with pickled tomatoes, cabbage and cucumbers, which should also not be missing on the festive table.
Drinking soda would be frowned upon by any Ukrainian grandmother. For Christmas you just have to have wins. Made from dried fruits – usually plums, apples and pears – honey and (sometimes) lemon, it’s mildly sweet and sinfully delicious.
Another delicious Christmas drink, this berry drink has a unique thick texture thanks to potato starch. Although different berries can be used, cherries are the most preferred in Ukraine. traditional, pickles was prepared with oats left over to get pickles along with a piece of bread. The name itself is derived from the word pickles.
If there is a heaven, surely they serve? pampushky there. A bit like donuts, these fried yeast patties are served savory (garnished with garlic) with beetroot borscht and sweet (filled with cherries, jam or poppy seeds) for dessert.
Pampushky make a perfect marriage with wins and are quite dangerous if you are on a diet. As if their filling wasn’t enough, they are covered in sugar powder to look even more tempting. I haven’t met a single person yet who would say no to pampushky, honestly.
16. Sweet Colorful Jelly
On Christmas Eve, another dessert is served: fruit jelly. Special powder mixes to make one come in a variety of colors and flavors, so making them is a breeze. Jelly is traditionally served in glass bowls and decorated with candied fruits or berries.
17. Pampushky-Based Buns
unsweetened pampushky without filling, cut in half, are sometimes used to replace bread as a sandwich base. On Christmas Eve, these are spread with mayonnaise and garnished with sprat fish, a lemon or tomato slice, and a parsley leaf for visual appeal.
18. Layered Liver Cake
Since this dish is meat-based, don’t expect it to be served on Christmas Eve, only on Christmas Day. Consisting of an infinite number of chopped liver pancakes, it’s layered with a mayo-and-carrot spread and sliced the way a sweet cream pie would be. You can also find this dish at a New Year’s party.
Olivier is not only a highlight of Christmas, but the central dish of any celebration or family dinner in Ukraine. Consisting of boiled and finely chopped potatoes, carrots, sausages, eggs, pickles, onions and canned peas, it is topped with mayo.
They say you can’t just get away with a portion Olivier– you have to make a bath full of it and then try to finish it within a week.
20. Minced Pancakes
As with the previous two dishes, this one makes its appearance on every festive table. It’s almost impossible to imagine Christmas without these sour pancakes. Known in quite a few variations, they are most popular as fried pancake triangles filled with minced pork or beef. Often a cup of served thin chicken stock accompanies them.
A valuable tip:
If you are planning to visit Ukraine during the Christmas holidays, make sure you wear loose-fitting clothes and be prepared to skip any diet you follow. You won’t be able to leave the table with your pants tied, trust me.
Related: Most Popular Ukrainian Dishes
Related: Most Popular Russian Christmas Meals
Related: Most Popular Romanian Christmas Meals
Related: Most Popular Hungarian Christmas Meals