The Food and Culture of Ukraine


Despite Russia’s full-scale invasion and efforts to split Ukraine’s citizens along ethnic and linguistic lines, the people of this beautiful country are resolutely resisting. They’ve rallied around a common civic identity, restored the Ukrainian language and revitalized their military. In fact, the resurgence of a strong Ukraine is more than a response to a Russian assault – it is also an opportunity for the Ukrainian people to strengthen their nation’s democracy and move closer to the EU and NATO.

One of the best ways to understand a culture is through its cuisine, and Ukraine’s food is no exception. Its most famous dish is borscht, but this beet soup is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to traditional Ukrainian cooking. Other must-try dishes include varenyky, the Ukrainian version of dumplings with a variety of fillings, and holubtsi, or cabbage rolls filled with minced meat.

These savory treats are best enjoyed with the classic accompaniments of braised beef and potatoes, pickled vegetables (any will do), and a salad of shredded carrots, cucumbers and zucchini. If you’re looking for a sweet treat, try nalesniki, delicate crepes that can be filled with anything from dill and cheese to canned berries or sweet cottage cheese.

In addition to their delicious flavors, these dishes are often quite easy to prepare. Borscht and nalesniki can be made with ingredients that are readily available in any supermarket, while the stewed beef and potatoes are as simple as simmering some meat and veggies in a stock of your choice.

Ukraine’s rich history has left its mark on the nation’s culture. It was here in 1918 that the Bolshevik Revolution ended the Russian dynasty and established independence for what would become the Soviet Union. In more recent times, the Maidan protests of 2013-2014 brought down the corrupt, pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych and reaffirmed Ukraine’s independence and sense of national identity.

The people of Ukraine are resilient and determined to build a modern, democratic state. As they rebuild their economy and forge a more independent path, many are embracing the spirit of the Maidan protests by changing their media consumption habits, with social media replacing TV as the primary news source for many, new, Ukrainian channels launching despite the conflict, and a sharp decrease in popularity for Russian outlets. They’re also using their newfound freedom to explore and celebrate Ukraine’s rich cultural heritage, bolstering the Ukrainian language, embracing a more unified national identity, and strengthening their military and armed forces.