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 puréeing.[1] Lamb, eggplant, and bread (lavash) are basic features of Armenian cuisine. Armenians use cracked wheat (bulgur) in preference to the maize and rice popular among their Caucasian neighbors (Georgia and Azerbaijan).


Armenian cuisine belongs to the family of Caucasian cuisines, and has strong ties with Turkish cuisine, Georgian cuisine, Persian cuisine, and Levantine cuisine. Historically, there have been mutual influences with all of the above-listed cuisines, though the exact nature of the influences is nebulous due to the dearth of research, political and nationalistic tensions, and the close co-habitation of the Armenian, Turkish, and Iranian people during the past seven centuries. In addition, the Armenian Genocide of 1915, with the ensuing large-scale transplantation of the survivors to the West, has further muddied the evidence.

Nevertheless, certain qualities may generally be taken to characterize Armenian cuisine:

Typical dishes

Armenian kibbeh with cucumber/yoghurt soup

There are two de facto national dishes in Armenian cuisine.

The "everyday" Armenian dish is the dzhash (Ճաշ). This is a brothy stew consisting of meat (or a legume, in the meatless version), a vegetable, and spices. The dzhash was typically cooked in the tonir. The dzhash is generally served over a pilaf of rice or bulgur, sometimes accompanied by bread, pickles or fresh vegetables or herbs. A specific variety of dzhash is the porani (պորանի), a stew made with yoghurt, of possibly Persian origin. Examples of dzhash are:

Grilled meats (kabobs) are quite common as well and are omnipresent at market stalls, where they are eaten as fast food, as well as at barbecues and picnic. Also, in modern times, no Armenian banquet is considered complete without an entree of kabob. Kabobs vary from the simple (marinated meat on a skewer interspersed with vegetables) to the more elaborate. Certain regions in Western Armenia developed their local, specialized kabobs. For example, we have

Stuffed dishes are usually served on festive occasions, as they take quite a bit of time to prepare. Almost any vegetable or cut of meat is a candidate for stuffing. Examples are:

Typically, the stuffing consists of rice or bulgur, mixed with ground meat, seasonings, and sometimes dried fruits and nuts. Vegetarian stuffings follow the same pattern but replace the meat with a variety of pulses and legumes.

A common dish of Armenian cuisine is pilaf. Pilaf is a seasoned rice dish and often served with meats such as lamb or beef. Variants today include noodles with the desired meat.

Spices and herbs

Armenian cuisine uses spices sparingly but instead relies on the use of fresh herbs.

The primary spices used in Armenian cuisine are: Salt, Garlic, Red pepper (particularly Aleppo pepper, which is a spicier variety of paprika), Dried mint (in Western Armenia), Cumin, Coriander, Sumac (the powdered dried berry of the Mediterranean sumac bush), Cinnamon, Cloves, Mahleb (the powdered pit of the black cherry).

The types of herbs used in cuisine are very strongly influenced by region. In Eastern Armenia, the following fresh herbs are used liberally: Dill, Parsley, Tarragon, Basil, Oregano (particularly wild oregano), Thyme.

In west part of Armenia, the preferred herbs are: Mint, Parsley, Basil, Tarragon, Thyme, Savory.

Throughout the country, local herbs are used as well. Many of the herbs that Western Armenians have used have fallen out of use because of lack of availability. In the Republic of Armenia, and particularly in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh), aveluk (Rumex crispus), chrchrok (a water grass similar to water cress), and other herbs are all used.

In addition to the above, various scents and attars commonly used in the Middle-East are also used in the making of sweets; for example, rose water and orange blossom water.

External influences

Like all cuisines, Armenian cuisine was influenced by the cuisine of its neighbors, as well as by the availability of "exotic" ingredients.

The introduction into Cilicia and Aleppo, in the late 18th Century, of tomato revolutionized the Armenian cuisine of Cilicia. Dishes that used to be prepared with dried fruits started being prepared with tomato. The spread of tomato into the region can be quite clearly traced: essential in the cuisine of Cilicia and many large cities, it is rarely used in the cuisine of Van and Vaspurakan. Other important imports are peppers and potatoes. The latter, according to tradition, was imported into Armenia from India by an Armenian Catholicos in the 18th Century. Other imports include spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg.

More problematic is the understanding of the influence of other cuisines on Armenian cuisine. Specifically, the influences between Turkish (Ottoman) and Armenian cuisines requires more research. Because Armenians and Turks lived in close proximity for 600 years, the influences must have been many. However, due to a general unavailability of sources, the destruction of many manuscripts during the Armenian Genocide, and the present-day unwillingness of many Turkish scholars to acknowledge any contributions by Armenians to Turkish history and culture, the matter remains unresolved. In addition, because of Ottoman laws forbidding Armenians from speaking Armenian, many Western Armenian dishes bear Turkish names (e.g., gharnuh yarukh, khanum budu, chi keufteh, etc.).

Being located in a predominantly Muslim region affected Armenian cuisine in other ways as well. In Western Armenian cuisine, pork is almost never used for cooking.


The modern Armenian breakfast consists of coffee or tea, plus a spread of cheeses, jams, jellies, eggs, and breads. Armenians living in the Diaspora often adopt local customs. Thus, Armenians in Lebanon may include "fool" (stewed fava beans in olive oil).

Traditional Armenian breakfast dishes were hearty. They included:


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

Bread is "de rigueur", particularly flat breads such as lavash.


Some Armenian salads combine a grain or legume with tomato, onions, fresh herbs. Mayonnaise is used in Western or Russian-inspired salads (e.g., Salade Olivier). Examples of Armenian salads include


Typical homemade byorek, with meat, caramelized onion and bell pepper filling

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.


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

Armenian soups include spas, made from matzoon, hulled wheat and herbs (usually cilantro),[4] and aveluk, made from lentils, walnuts, and wild mountain sorrel (which gives the soup its name). 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 is a very special and old traditional food, made from t'tu lavash (fruit leather, thin roll-up sheets of sour plum purée),[5] 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 Vayots Dzor Province. This is a walnut based soup with red and green beans, chick peas and spices, served garnished with red pepper and fresh garlic.[6] 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 matzoon or kefir based soup with chopped cucumber, green onion, and garlic.


Main courses

Meat products

Armenian basturma

Dairy products


Choreg at an Armenian Easter celebration


Ritual foods


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

Alcoholic drinks


Beer (Armenian: գարեջուր gareǰur)

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Armenian brandy (Armenian: կոնյակ konyak), known locally as konyak is perhaps Armenia's most popular exported alcoholic drink. It has a long history of production, even being served at the Yalta Conference.

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Armenian wine

Oghi (Armenian: օղի òġi) – an Armenian alcoholic beverage, similar to Turkish "rakı" and its distant cousin from the Balkans "rakiya", usually distilled from fruit;[13] also called aragh.[14] Artsakh is a well-known brand name of Armenian mulberry vodka (tuti oghi) produced in Nagorno-Karabakh from local fruit.[15] 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.[16][17]


The alcoholic drink with the longest history in Armenia is wine. One of the oldest wineries in the world was discovered in Armenia. Historically, wineries in Armenia were concentrated along the Ararat valley. Of particular note was the district of Koghtn (Գողթն, current Nakhichevan area). Today, Armenian wineries are concentrated in the Areni region (district of Vayots Dzor).

Armenian wine is mostly made from local varietals, such as Areni, Lalvari, Kakhet, etc., though some wineries mix in better known European varietals such as Chardonnay and Cabernet. Winemaking took a downward plunge in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but is undergoing a revival, with the addition of world-class labels such as Zorah Wines. A yearly wine festival, held in Areni, is popular with the locals and features wines from official wineries as well as homemade hooch of varying quality. Armenian wines are predominantly red and are sweet, semi-sweet (Vernashen, Ijevan), or dry (Areni).

In addition to grapes, wines have been made with other fruit, notably pomegranate (Armenian: նռան գինի nran kini), apricot, quince, etc. In some cases, these fruit wines are fortified.


  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. Petrosian, Irina; Underwood, David (2006). Armenian food: Fact, fiction & folklore, Bloomington, IN: Yerkir, p. 60. ISBN 1-4116-9865-7.
  5. T'tu lavash described here.
  6. "Karshm" soup, Travel Guide to Shirak.
  7. Blghourapour recipe on (Russian)
  8. Bozbash in Uvezian, Sonia, The Cuisine of Armenia, Siamanto Press, Northbrook, IL, 2001 (parts accessible through Amazon Online Reader).
  9. Karmrakhayt in Marmarik River
  10. Karmrakhayt in Mantash Reservoir Archived 18 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. Bread recipes in Adventures in Armenian Cooking
  12. Desserts on Adventures in Armenian Cooking Archived 27 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. Oghi, an Armenian fruit vodka
  14. Aragh, Armenian moonshine
  15. Artsakh mulberry vodka
  16. Hacikyan, Agop Jack; Basmajian, Gabriel; Franchuk, Edward S.; Nourhan Ouzounian (2000). The Heritage of Armenian Literature. Wayne State University Press. p. 815. ISBN 0-8143-3221-8.
  17. Sherman, Chris (26 July 2006). "The spirit of relaxation", St Petersburg Times, Florida.

General references

External links

Wikibooks Cookbook has a recipe/module on
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