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Azerbaijan Portal

Azerbaijani cuisine, throughout the centuries, has been influenced by the foods of different cultures due to political and economic processes in Azerbaijan. Still, today's Azerbaijani cuisine has distinctive and unique features. Many foods that are indigenous to the country can now be seen in the cuisines of other cultures. For the Azerbaijanis, food is an important part of the country's culture and is deeply rooted in the history, traditions and values of the nation.

Out of 11 climate zones known in the world, Azerbaijan has nine.[1] This contributes to the fertility of the land, which in its turn results in the richness of the country’s cuisine. The Caspian Sea is home to many edible species of fish, including the sturgeon, Caspian salmon (a subspecies of trout, now critically endangered), Caspian white fish (kutum), sardines, grey mullet, and others. Black caviar from the Caspian Sea is one of Azerbaijan’s best known delicacies well sought after in other parts of the world, including former Soviet countries.

Azerbaijani cuisine has over 30 kinds of soups, including those prepared from plain yogurt. There is a wide variety of kebabs and shashliks, including lamb, beef, chicken, and fish (baliq) kebabs. Sturgeon, a common fish, is normally skewered and grilled as a shashlik, being served with a tart pomegranate sauce called narsharab. The traditional condiments are salt, black pepper, sumac, and especially saffron, which is grown domestically on the Absheron Peninsula. A national dish of Azerbaijani cuisine is saffron-rice plov served with various herbs and greens, a combination totally different from Uzbek plovs. Azerbaijan has more than 40 different plov recipes. Dried fruits and walnuts are used in many dishes.

Azerbaijani cuisine is famous for an abundance of vegetables and greens used seasonally in the dishes. Fresh herbs, including mint, cilantro (coriander), dill, basil, parsley, tarragon, leeks, chives, thyme, marjoram, green onion, and watercress, are very popular and often accompany main dishes on the table.

Black tea is the national beverage, and it is drunk at the beginning of each meal before food is eaten. It is also a hospitality beverage that always welcomes guests, often accompanied by fruit preserves.[2]


Main dishes

Qutab is made from thinly rolled dough that may be cooked briefly on a convex griddle.

A typical Azeri meal begins with a plate of aromatic green leaves called goy, and is accompanied by plenty of chorek (bread), salat (a tomato and cucumber salad), and perhaps qatik (yoghurt) and pendir (cheese). The traditional condiments are duz (salt), istiot (pepper) and sumah (a sweet, dark red spice with a flowery flavour). Main dishes may include a selection of the following:

Main dishes[3]
Dish Description
Baliq fish, which usually means sturgeon, normally skewered and grilled as a kebab, and served with a tart sour-plum sauce.
Dolma the traditional recipe calls for minced lamb mixed with rice and flavoured with mint, fennel and cinnamon, and wrapped in vine leaves (yarpaq dolmasi) or cabbage leaves (kalam dolmasi), but most restaurants offering dolma tend to serve up stuffed tomato, sweet pepper and aubergine.
Dusbara small dumplings stuffed with minced lamb and herbs, served in broth.
Lavangi a casserole of chicken stuffed with walnuts and herbs. A speciality of the Talysh region in southern Azerbaijan, but very difficult to find in restaurants.
Lyulya kabab a mixture of minced lamb, herbs and spices squeezed around a skewer and barbecued, often served with lavas win sheets of unleavened bread).
Qutab a sort of pancake turnover stuffed with minced lamb, cheese or spinach.
Tika kabab chunks of lamb marinated in a mixture of onion, vinegar and pomegranate juice, impaled on a large skewer and grilled on the barbecue. More commonly called shashlyk, from the Russian word shashka (sword).
Kourma pieces of mutton or lamb on the bone (blade chops) stewed with onions, tomatoes, and saffron.[4]
Soup Description
Piti the national soup of Azerbaijan made from pieces of mutton on the bone cooked with vegetables in a broth; prepared and served in individual crocks;
Dovga a yoghurt (matsoni) based soup with sorrel, spinach, rice, dried peas, and small meatballs made from ground mutton; served hot or cold depending on the season;[5]
Ovdukh a cold soup based on a matsoni–water mixture poured over sliced cucumbers, chopped boiled meat, quarters of hard-boiled egg, and greens (dill, coriander, basil, sometimes also mint and tarragon);[6]
Dogramach same as ovdukh, but without the meat;[6]
Bolva made with sour milk.


Plov being prepared in a qozon

Plov is one of the most widespread dishes in Azerbaijan, with more than 40 different recipes.[2]

Plovs have different names depending on the main ingredient(s) accompanying rice:

Name Translation Ingredients
Kourma plov mutton
Sobza kourma plov mutton
Toyug plov chicken
Shirin plov dried fruits
Syudli plov rice cooked in milk)
Juja plov[5] fried chicken pieces
dried fruits
Sheshryanch plov six-color plov eggs cooked "sunny side up" on a bed of fried green and white onions[5]

Azerbaijani plov consists of three distinct components, served simultaneously but on separate platters: rice (warm, never hot), gara – fried meat, dried fruits, eggs, or fish prepared as an accompaniment to rice, and aromatic herbs. Rice is not mixed with the other components even when eating plov.[7]


Light snacks of the Azerbaijani cuisine.
Pistachio halva

Typical Azeri desserts are sticky, syrup-saturated pastries such as pakhlava and halva. The latter, a layer of chopped nuts sandwiched between mats of thread-like fried dough, is a speciality of Sheki in North-West Azerbaijan. Other traditional pastries include shakarbura (crescent-shaped and filled with nuts), peshmak (tube-shaped candy made out of rice, flour and sugar) and girmapadam (pastry filled with chopped nuts).

However, sweets like this are generally bought from a pastry shop and eaten at home or on special occasions such as weddings and wakes. The usual conclusion to a restaurant meal is a plate of fresh fruit, plums, cherries, apricots, grapes, or whatever is in season.

In March 2009, Azerbaijani bakers achieved an entry in the CIS book of records for baking the biggest and heaviest pakhlava in the CIS, weighing about 3 tons. More than 7 thousand eggs, 350 kg of nuts, 20 kg of almonds, 350 kg of sugar, and the same amount of flour was used in the preparation of the pastry.[8]


An Azerbaijani sherbet (Azerbaijani: şərbət) is a sweet cold drink made of fruit juice mixed or boiled with sugar, often perfumed with rose water. Sherbets (not to be confused with sorbet ices) are of Iranian origin and they may differ greatly in consistency, from very thick and jam-like (as in Tajik cuisine) to very light and liquid, as in Azerbaijan.[9] Sherbets are typically prepared in the following natural flavors:

  • Lemon[10]
  • Pomegranate
  • Strawberry
  • Cherry
  • Apricot
  • Mint sherbet[10]

Mineral water

Locally made brands of bottled water include the following:[11]

Brand Origin Originating area
Badamli Badamli, Nakhchivan
Sirab Sirab, Nakhchivan
Sollar Şollar village north-east
Tamiz gazh su
Qakh Qakh district north[12]


  1. ^ Climate zones of Azerbaijan
  2. ^ a b Based on the book Azerbaijani Cooking, Ishyg Publ. House, Baku (Russian)
  3. ^ Azerbaijan24 Tour Agency web site
  4. ^ Kourma recipe
  5. ^ a b c Azerbaijan cookery by category of dishes, a section of Large Guide to Home Cooking (Russian)
  6. ^ a b Dogramach and ovdukh: recipes for Azerbaijani soups (Russian).
  7. ^ Interview with Jabar Mamedov, Head Chef at the "Shirvan Shah" Azerbaijani restaurant in Kiev, 31 January 2005.
  8. ^ "Huge pakhlava hits record in Ganja" on Retrieved on 17 March 2009
  9. ^ Azerbaijani sherbets
  10. ^ a b Recipes for lemon and mint sherbets (Russian)
  11. ^ Mineral Waters of the World: Azerbaijan
  12. ^ Qakh or Kakh mineral water

External links



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