It’s no secret that Russian food can seem daunting and foreign to the Western audience. From chicken jello (kholodets) to salads made out of peas, potatoes, ham, and eggs (oliviye), Russian cuisine bears little resemblance to the over-processed foods on Western grocery shelves. Yet, Russian cuisine is more than babushka’s (grandma’s) traditional cooking. When it comes to dessert, no donut or carnival food can beat a hearty vatrushka (cottage cheese pastry) or steaming plate of blinchiki (crepes) with jam. Fortunately, you don’t have to toil away at your kitchen to get a taste of Russian desserts: here are our top five picks for grocery-made Russian snacks for beginners.
At the top of our list is a childhood-staple: a cracker that comes in a thick, circular shape. Traditionally made of crunchy, semi-hard dough, sushki often come with vanilla or poppy seed flavorings. At a traditional Russian bazaar, you may find a long chain of suski hanging from vendor awnings: at the grocery store, they’ll usually come in a plastic one-pound bag. For the best experience, enjoy sushki with a cup of hot tea, gently soaking the cracker in the tea for a traditional experience.
Up next on our list of Russian snacks is the third cousin of sushki: suhrariki. Rumor has it that these crispy, bread snacks were originally made by roasting stale rye bread in the oven
with seasonings, instead of letting the bread spoil. Today, suhariki are still made out of rye bread and come in a variety of savory flavors, from crab to bacon, cheese to sour cream and onion, and even calamari. Whatever your preference may be, suhariki are the perfect substitute to chips, while delivering the same crunch factor and burst of flavor.
While sushki and suhariki are great snacks to eat on their own, pastila is more of an afternoon tea snack that resembles Turkish Delight. Made of egg whites, sugar, and fruit, pastila is a cross between meringues and sticky candy, while retaining the same puffy texture of its Turkish counterpart. Our favorite flavors include the apple and plum varieties.
While this one may require a trip to a Russian grocery store equipped with a bakery, the trip is 100 % worth it for a sochnik. The name itself actually includes a prefix to the word sochnii, meaning moist or juicy, so you know that this pastry is going to be unforgettable. Traditionally, the sochnik has a sweet, cottage cheese filling and a soft dough covering around it, dusted with sugar. Don’t be turned away by the cottage cheese filling: Russian cottage cheese is denser, with less liquid, and a higher fat concentration that gives it little resemblance to the curd consistency in Breakstones or Daisy products.
Bulochka c Makom
As the name suggests, a bulochka c makom is quite literally a pastry with poppy seeds. Instead of using poppy seeds as a garnish or decorative addition, the charm of this delicious pastry comes from the poppy seed filling itself: tucked away between layers of browned dough is a moist filling of poppy seeds, butter, and sugar. This pastry is best enjoyed with a cup of milk. (And though Russians are big dairy fans, we have found that almond and oat milk are the best non-dairy pairings).