Armenian cuisine

Armenian cuisine


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Armenian cuisine includes the foods and cooking techniques of the Armenian people, the Armenian diaspora and traditional Armenian foods and dishes. The cuisine reflects the history and geography where Armenians have lived as well as incorporating outside influences. The cuisine also reflects the traditional crops and animals grown and raised in areas populated by Armenians.

The preparation of meat, fish, and vegetable dishes in an Armenian kitchen requires stuffing, frothing, and pureeing.[1] Lamb, eggplant, mayonnaise, yoghurt, and bread (lavash) are basic features of Armenian cuisine. Armenians use cracked wheat (burghul) in preference to the maize and rice popular among their Caucasian neighbors (Georgia and Azerbaijan).[citation needed]

Armenian cuisine distinguishes itself from other regional cuisines in the following ways:[citation needed]

  • The flavor of the food relies on the quality and freshness of the ingredients rather than on spices.
  • The extensive use of fruits and nuts in dishes. Of primary use are: dried apricots, fresh quince, fresh apples, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts (the latter mostly in Cilicia).
  • The use of pickles and pickled vegetables in foods.
  • The use of fresh herbs either as spices or as accompaniments.
  • The extensive use of stuffed items. In addition to grape leaves, Armenians also stuff cabbage leaves, Swiss chard leaves, eggplants, zucchini or squash, tomatoes, peppers, onions, potatoes, various meats (particularly organ meats), whole fish, apples, quince, and even cantaloupe.

The primary sauces in Armenian cuisine are:

  • Tomato sauce or paste. This was a later addition, following the introduction of tomato in the region in the early 19th Century (see tomato).
  • Pepper sauce or paste
  • Yogurt sauce
  • Tahini (crushed sesame seed) sauce. This sauce is frequently substituted for yogurt sauce in Lenten dishes.

Armenian sauces are often cooked with the food, forming a consistency of stew and soup.[citation needed]

Armenian cuisine uses spices sparingly. The primary spices used in Armenian cuisine are:

  • Salt
  • Garlic
  • Red pepper (particularly Aleppo pepper, which is a spicier variety of paprika)
  • Mint (in Western Armenia)
  • Dill (in Eastern Armenia, the current Republic of Armenia)
  • Parsley
  • Tarragon
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Sumac (the powdered dried berry of the Mediterranean sumac bush)
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Mahlab (the powdered pit of the black cherry)
  • Rose water
  • Orange blossom water
  • Basil and bay leaves are used in certain dishes

Many regional recipes include additional local herbs whose use is almost completely forgotten today in the Diaspora; e.g., aveluk (wood sorrel), jingyal, etc.

Armenian foods include small appetizers called mezze, grain and herb salads, phyllo pastries called byoreks (boereg), grilled meats and skewers, a large variety of soups, stews, flat breads such as lavash, and a thin crust pizza variant called lahmajoun. Lahmajoun comes in many types. Unlike traditional pizza, it is meat based and contains other spices and herbs. There is also a vegetarian style to lahmajoun that uses a spicy tomato base. Lahmajoun is mostly found in Cilicia, in those areas close to Syria and Lebanon.


Lahmajoun with salad topping

Meals in Armenia often start with a spread of appetizers served for "the table".[2]

  • Topig is a large vegetarian stuffed "meatball". The shell of the meatball is made of chick pea and wheat, while the stuffing is made with onions, walnuts, currants, tahini, and spices. This is primarily a Lenten dish and is often at Michink (the middle of Lent).


Some Armenian salads combine a grain or legume with tomato, onions, fresh herbs, and mayonnaise.

  • Eetch -- cracked wheat salad, similar to the Middle Eastern tabouleh.
  • Lentil salad—brown lentils, tomatoes, onions, in a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped parsley. This salad has many variations, with the lentils being replaced by chick peas, black-eyed peas, chopped raw or roasted eggplant, etc.
  • Jajukh—there are several varieties of this salad, which resembles a dip or cold soup. The cucumber jajukh is made with diced cucumbers in a yogurt/garlic sauce. The Swiss chard version is made with blanched, chopped chard in a thick "sauce" of drained yogurt and garlic. This salad is traditionally served on Easter Eve. The Lenten version of this (called "ajem jajukh") substitutes tahini, lemon juice, and little tomato sauce for the drained yogurt.


Typical homemade byorek, with meat, caramelized onion and bell pepper filling
  • Byoreks (Armenian: բյորեկ), Eastern Armenians refer to this as Khachapuri, are pies made with phyllo pastry and stuffed with cheese (panirov byorek, from Armenian: panir for cheese) or spinach (similar to spanakopita in Greek cuisine). They are a popular snack and fast food, often served as appetizer. The Su byorek (su byoreki, or water burek, in Turkish cuisine) is a lasagna-style dish with sheets of phyllo pastry briefly boiled in a large pan before being spread with fillings.[3] Msov byorek is a bread roll (not phyllo pastry) stuffed with ground meat (similar to Russian pirozhki).
  • Semsek, from the region of Urfa, is a fried open-faced meat byorek(like mini-pizzas).
  • A specific Lenten byorek is made with spinach and tahini sauce.

Grilled meats

Grilling (barbecue) is very popular in Armenia, and grilled meats are often the main course in restaurants and at family gatherings. Grilled meat is also a fast food.

  • Khorovats (or khorovadz) (Armenian: խորոված xorovaç) –the Armenian word for barbecued or grilled meats (the generic kebab in English), the most representative dish of Armenian cuisine enjoyed in restaurants, family gatherings, and as fast food. A typical khorovats is chunks of meat grilled on a skewer (shashlik), although steaks or chops grilled without skewers may be also included. In Armenia itself, khorovats is often made with the bone still in the meat (as lamb or pork chops). Western Armenians outside Armenia generally cook the meat with bones taken out and call it by the Turkish name shish kebab. On the other hand, the word kebab in Armenia refers to uncased sausage-shaped patties from ground meat grilled on a skewer (called losh kebab or lule kebab by diasporan Armenians and Turks). In Armenia today, the most popular meat for khorovats (including losh kebab) is pork due to Soviet-era economic heritage. Armenians outside Armenia usually prefer lamb or beef depending on their background, and chicken is also popular.
  • Gharsi khorovats (Armenian: Ղարսի խորոված) – slivers of grilled meat rolled up in lavash, similar to the Middle Eastern shawarma and the Turkish doner kebab; this "shashlik Ghars style" takes its name from the city of Kars (Armenian: Ghars) in eastern Turkey, close to the Armenian border.[4]


Harissa served with vegetables
Manti with sour cream: an essential component of mantapour

Armenian soups include spas, made from yogurt, hulled wheat and herbs (usually cilantro),[5] and aveluk, made from lentils, walnuts, and wild mountain sorrel (which gives the soup its name).[6] Kiufta soup is made with large balls of strained boiled meat (kiufta) and greens.

Another soup, khash, is considered an Armenian institution. Songs and poems have been written about this one dish, which is made from cow's feet and herbs made into a clear broth. Tradition holds that khash can only be cooked by men, who spend the entire night cooking, and can be eaten only in the early morning in the dead of winter, where it served with heaps of fresh garlic and dried lavash.

T'ghit[citation needed] is a very special and old traditional food, made from t'tu lavash (fruit leather, thin roll-up sheets of sour plum puree),[7] which are cut into small pieces and boiled in water. Fried onions are added and the mixture is cooked into a purée. Pieces of lavash bread are placed on top of the mixture, and it is eaten hot with fresh lavash used to scoop up the mixture by hand.

Karshm is a local soup made in the town of Vaik in the Shirak Province. This is a walnut based soup with red and green beans, chick peas and spices, served garnished with red pepper and fresh garlic.[8] Soups of Russian heritage include borscht, a beet root soup with meat and vegetables (served hot in Armenia, with fresh sour cream) and okroshka, a yogurt or kefir based soup with chopped cucumber, green onion, and garlic.


Main courses

  • Fasulya (fassoulia) – a stew made with green beans, lamb and tomato broth or other ingredients
  • Ghapama (Armenian: ղափամա ġap’ama) – pumpkin stew
  • Kchuch (Armenian: կճուճ kč̣uč̣) – a casserole of mixed vegetables with pieces of meat or fish on top, baked and served in a clay pot
  • Tjvjik (Armenian: տժվժիկ tžvžik) a dish of fried liver and kidneys with onions
  • Satsivi (Armenian: սացիվի sac’ivi) - pieces of roast chicken in walnut sauce, taken from Georgian cuisine

Meat products

Armenian basturma

Dairy products

  • Labneh – Strained dense yogurt made from sheep, cow, or goat milk; often served in mezze with olive oil and spices
  • Matsoun (Armenian: մածուն maçun) – yogurt
  • Tahn (Armenian: թան t’an) – a sour milk drink prepared by diluting yogurt with cold water, similar to ayran
  • Ttvaser (Armenian: թթվասեր t’t’vaser) – sour cream in Armenian; also known by the Russian-derived word smetan


Choreg at an Armenian Easter celebration
  • Lavash (Armenian: լավաշ lavaš) – the staple bread of Armenian cuisine
  • Matnakash (Armenian: մատնաքաշ matnak’aš) – soft and puffy leavened bread, made of wheat flour and shaped into oval or round loaves; the characteristic golden or golden-brown crust is achieved by coating the surface of the loaves with sweetened tea essence before baking.[27]
  • Paghach – flaky layered bread.[28]
  • Choereg (or choreg) – braided bread formed into rolls or loaves, also a traditional loaf for Easter.[28]


  • Alani (Armenian: ալանի alani) – pitted dried peaches stuffed with ground walnuts and sugar.[29]
  • Kadaif (ghataif) – shredded dough with cream, cheese, or chopped walnut filling, soaked with sugar syrup.[30]
  • Anoushabour (Armenian: անուշապուր anušapur) – dried fruits stewed with barley, garnished with chopped almonds or walnuts (a traditional Christmas pudding).[30]
  • Bastegh or pastegh (Armenian: պաստեղ pasteġ) - homemade fruit leather.
  • T'tu lavash (Armenian: թթու լավաշ t’t’u lavaš) – thin roll-up sheets of sour plum puree (fruit leather).

They often have bakeries.

Ritual foods

  • Nshkhar (Armenian: նշխար nšxar)-- bread used for Holy Communion
  • Mas (Armenian: մաս mas) -- literally means "piece" a piece of leftover bread from the making of Nshkhar, given to worshippers after church service
  • Matagh (Armenian: մատաղ mataġ) -- sacrificial meat. can be of any animal such as goat, lamb, or even bird.


Jermuk is a bottled mineral water originating from the town of Jermuk in Armenia, and bottled since 1951

Alcoholic drinks

  • Beer (Armenian: գարեջուր gareǰur) (popular brands: Kotayk, Erebuni, Kilikia, Gyumri)
  • Armenian brandy (Armenian: կոնյակ konyak) (popular brand names Ararat, Dvin)
  • Oghi (Armenian: օղի òġi) – an Armenian vodka, usually distilled from fruit;[31][32] also called aragh.[33] Artsakh is a well-known brand name of Armenian mulberry vodka (tuti oghi) produced in Nagorno-Karabakh from local fruit.[34] In the Armenian Diaspora, where fruit vodka is not distilled, oghi refers to the aniseed-flavored distilled alcoholic drink called arak in the Middle East, raki in Turkey, or ouzo in Greece.[35][36]
  • Pomegranate wine (Armenian: նռան գինի nṙan gini)– sweet and semi-sweet fruit wines made from pomegranate juice.
  • Apricot wine
  • Areni wines are red wines made from the Armenian Аreni grape (Vayots Dzor region, where the oldest known winery was discovered in 2007). While most Areni wines are dry, Vernashen is semi-sweet.
  • Ijevan – a dry white wine from the Tavush region (Lalvari grape). Semi-sweet red Ijevan is produced from the Kakhet grape in Tavush, while dry red Ijevan is made from Areni grapes and is properly classified as an Areni wine.[37]
  • Mulberry Vodka (Armenian: թթի արաղ t’t’i araġ) A traditional Armenian vodka made from distilling the Mulberry, which is a berry grown all over Armenia, especially in the highlands and Artsakh.


  1. ^ Pokhlebkin, V. V. (1978). Russian Delight: A Cookbook of the Soviet People. London: Pan Books.
  2. ^ Davidson, Alan (1999). The Oxford Companion to Food, Oxford University Press, p. 35.
  3. ^ Sou boereg recipe, ChowHound.
  4. ^ Gharsi (Karsi) khorovats,
  5. ^ Petrosian, Irina; Underwood, David (2006). Armenian food: Fact, fiction & folklore, Bloomington, IN: Yerkir, p. 60. ISBN 1-4116-9865-7 (parts accessible through Amazon Online Reader).
  6. ^ Aveluk soup on the menu of Erivan Restaurant in St. Petersburg.
  7. ^ T'tu lavash described here.
  8. ^ "Karshm" soup, Travel Guide to Shirak.
  9. ^ Arganak recipe on (Russian)
  10. ^ Blghourapour recipe on (Russian)
  11. ^ Bozbash in Uvezian, Sonia, The Cuisine of Armenia, Siamanto Press, Northbrook, IL, 2001 (parts accessible through Amazon Online Reader).
  12. ^ Brndzapour recipe on (Russian)
  13. ^ Dzavarapour recipe on (Russian)
  14. ^ Flol recipe on (Russian)
  15. ^ Katnapour recipe on (Armenian)
  16. ^ Katnapour recipe on (Russian)
  17. ^ Katnov recipe on (Armenian)
  18. ^ Kololik recipe on (Russian)
  19. ^ Krchik recipe on (Russian)
  20. ^ Mantapour recipe on (Russian)
  21. ^ Putuk recipe on (Russian)
  22. ^ Sarnapour (Armenian: սառնապուր) recipe (Armenian)
  23. ^ Armenian cookbook
  24. ^ Vospapour recipe on Armenian National Cuisine (Russian)
  25. ^ Karmrakhayt in Marmarik River
  26. ^ Karmrakhayt in Mantash Reservoir
  27. ^ Matnakash recipe on Armenian Portal in Estonia. (Russian)
  28. ^ a b Bread recipes in Adventures in Armenian Cooking
  29. ^ Alani described on Million Menu
  30. ^ a b Desserts on Adventures in Armenian Cooking
  31. ^ Oghi, an Armenian fruit vodka
  32. ^ Oghi, homemade fruit vodka in Southern Armenia
  33. ^ Aragh, Armenian moonshine
  34. ^ Artsakh mulberry vodka
  35. ^ Hacikyan, Agop Jack; Basmajian, Gabriel; Franchuk, Edward S.; Nourhan Ouzounian (2000). The Heritage of Armenian Literature. Wayne State University Press. pp. 815. ISBN 0-8143-3221-8. 
  36. ^ Sherman, Chris (26 July 2006). "The spirit of relaxation", St Petersburg Times, Florida.
  37. ^ Ijevan Winery (Russian)

General references

  • The Cuisine of Armenia by Sonia Uvezian, Dikran Palulian (Illustrator)
  • Armenian Food: Fact, Fiction & Folklore, Irina Petrosian and David Underwood

External links

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