Armenian cuisine is a fascinating blend of flavors, aromas, and traditions. The food reflects the rich history and cultural diversity of the country. At its heart is a love for fresh, local ingredients, which are carefully selected and prepared to highlight their natural flavors.
One of the most famous Armenian dishes is undoubtedly dolma, a mixture of minced meat and rice wrapped in grape leaves. For meat lovers, there’s khorovats, the Armenian way of grilling. Vegetarians will enjoy dishes like ghapama or the wild sorrel salad aveluk. And what would a cuisine be without something sweet to finish? Armenian baklava Gavar and gata are desserts that will transport you to a sweet paradise.
Armenian cuisine is also rich in interesting beverages. Quench your thirst with the traditional yogurt drink tan, mineral water Jermuk, or the excellent local wine and Armenian brandy, also known as “cognac of the Caucasus”.
What to taste in Armenia?
- Soups and starters
(voloran, nraneh, putuk, spas)
- Main dishes
(khorovats, tjvjik, dolma, manti, harissa, zhengyalov hats, khashlama, gouvaj, lahmajun, ghapama, arishta)
- Baked goods
- Desserts and sweets
(gata, pakhlava, Gavar baklava)
- Local specials
- Non-alcoholic beverages
(tan, Jermuk water, sweetened sodas, coffee)
- Alcoholic beverages
(brandy, wine, pomegranate wine, beer, cocktails)
- Interesting facts
- Additional information
(prices, tips, recommended restaurants, Michelin, food festivals, souvenirs)
Armenian soups and starters
Voloran are fried rolls made from eggplant stuffed with bell peppers, carrots, onions and tomatoes. It’s a simple yet very tasty dish that is served as an appetizer.
Chanakh is a traditional Armenian semi-hard cheese. It’s recommended to be paired with fruits, vegetables and goes well with white or red wine. It often appears on Armenian tables with honey as part of the starters.
Nraneh is a broth with lamb meat, flavored with pomegranate juice and green shoots from red beet. The soup also contains rice, peas and is garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves. It’s a very tasty soup.
Putuk is a traditional Armenian soup deeply rooted in the culinary traditions of the region. The main ingredients include lamb meat, chickpeas, potatoes, onions, dried alycha (a type of plum) and saffron.
Spas is an Armenian sour yogurt soup. It can be served cold during the hot summer months and hot during the winter. In Armenia, it’s also served as a remedy to alleviate cold and flu symptoms.
Armenian main dishes
Khorovats is the Armenian way of grilling meat and vegetables. Pork or beef is most commonly grilled. Among Armenians, grilled pork ribs are the most popular. If you want to dine like a true Armenian, order a vegetable khorovats as a side, mash the vegetables and make a salad out of it. If you love meat, you’ll adore khorovats. The best grilled meat I’ve ever had was in Armenia!
Tjvjik is fried liver with onions, a very popular dish in Armenia (there’s even a movie with the same name). Nowadays, tjvjik is often served with a tomato-based sauce. If you love liver, this dish is perfect for you.
Dolma is a dish found in Greek cuisine, but also elsewhere. It consists of grape or cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice. In Armenian cuisine, dolma is often served as a main course or appetizer. Armenian yogurt with garlic is an essential accompaniment to dolma.
Manti are small dumplings filled with meat, usually lamb or beef. In Armenia, these dumplings are typically baked. They are often served with a yogurt sauce or garlic dip. A very popular combination is manti dumplings in broth (“mantapour”). In Armenian cuisine, manti is considered a festive dish, ideal for family celebrations and traditional events.
Trout from Lake Sevan is one of the most prized dishes in Armenian cuisine. This freshwater fish species is endemic to Lake Sevan, meaning it doesn’t live anywhere else. Its meat is delicate and aromatic, with a slightly sweet taste. It’s served with local vegetable salads or boiled potatoes. It’s also often grilled or preserved by smoking.
Harissa – national Armenian dish
Harissa is a porridge made from wheat and meat, usually chicken or lamb. It’s considered the national dish of Armenia. This dish requires time and patience to prepare, as the wheat and meat need to be cooked for a long time. The result is a creamy, rich porridge often flavored with butter. Harissa is not only nutritious but also full of symbolism, reflecting Armenian resilience and societal values.
Zhengyalov hats is a type of flatbread filled with a rich mixture of finely chopped herbs. The filling can contain 10 to 20 types of chopped wild and cultivated herbs.
Khashlama is a kind of Armenian stew. It’s the foundation of many family celebrations and traditional events. This dish consists of several layers of meat, usually beef or lamb, vegetables and potatoes. Everything is slowly simmered in one pot, often with the addition of tomato paste and various spices. The result is a tasty, aromatic dish that’s ideal for sharing with family and friends.
Gouvaj is a traditional Armenian dish typically made from lamb meat, vegetables, and various herbs. Its main ingredients are tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic which are mixed with meat pieces and slowly simmered until the meat starts to fall apart.
Lahmajun is often referred to as “Armenian pizza”. A thin, crispy dough base is topped with a mixture of minced meat, usually beef or lamb, along with tomatoes, onions and various herbs and spices. Lahmajun is thin, so it’s quickly baked, making it a popular Armenian street food. In Armenia and Armenian communities worldwide, this dish is served with fresh lemon and parsley. Lahmajun, under a different name, can also be found in Turkish cuisine.
Ghapama is a pumpkin filled with a mixture of cooked rice, dried fruit (raisins, apricots, or plums), nuts and honey. In this version, it’s an Armenian vegetarian dish. The meat version, called “Ghapama from Erzrum”, contains beef, carrots and beans as filling. Serving ghapama is associated with a “show”, where the pumpkin is cut open directly on the table.
Arishta is a traditional Armenian pasta, handmade from wheat flour and water. The dough is first rolled into thin sheets, which are then cut into narrow strands. These are sun-dried and then baked in the oven. In Armenian cuisine, arishta is often used in soups or as a main dish, mixed with various sauces and meat. Its unique preparation method of drying, baking (and of course boiling just before consumption) sets it apart from other pastas. Arishta has a truly interesting and great taste.
Armenian baked goods
Lavash is an unleavened Armenian flatbread that is an integral part of Armenian cuisine. This thin, soft flatbread is made from a simple mixture of flour, water and salt. It is baked in an underground oven called “tonir”. Lavash is versatile and is used as a side dish for various dishes, from kebabs to soups. It is also often used as a substitute for utensils; pieces of lavash are torn off and used to scoop up food. Its simplicity and flexibility make it a foundational element of Armenian cuisine, and its importance is so great that it has been listed on the UNESCO list as intangible cultural heritage.
Matnakash is a leavened Armenian bread. The dough is prepared from basic ingredients such as flour, water, yeast and salt. After rising, the dough is shaped into various forms, often with characteristic grooves on the surface, symbolizing furrows in a field. In Armenian cuisine, matnakash is often served as a side dish for meat and vegetable dishes or soups.
Armenian desserts and sweets
Gata is a popular Armenian dessert often associated with various holidays and family celebrations. After baking, gata has a golden crust and a rich, buttery taste. In Armenian culture, this dessert is often served as a symbol of luck and prosperity, especially during wedding and religious ceremonies. The best gata is reportedly from the village of Geghard.
Gata has many forms in Armenia, for example, it can also be a small cookie that fits in the hand.
Armenian pakhlava differs from Turkish baklava by using nuts. Often, instead of pistachios, walnuts are used. The sweet syrup is made from honey. Layers of thin dough, known as filo, alternate with the filling and bake until golden. Pakhlava is a symbol of hospitality and is often served on special occasions.
Baklava Gavar is a specific variant of baklava that comes from the Armenian region of Gavar. It is reportedly the best and most renowned type of baklava in all of Armenia. What distinguishes Gavar baklava from other types of baklava is the use of local ingredients and traditional techniques.
Apricots have a special place in Armenian cuisine. Armenia is considered one of the likely places from which apricots spread to Europe. Apricots grown in Armenia are exceptionally tasty. Moreover, the apricot is one of the national symbols of Armenia.
Dried fruit is highly valued in Armenian cuisine. In Armenia, drying fruit is a traditional preservation method that allows for long-term storage. Among the most popular are dried apricots, peaches, and plums. These dried fruits are known for their concentrated taste. Dried fruit is often served as a symbol of hospitality or a gift at various social events.
Aveluk, also known as wild sorrel, is a unique plant that grows in the Armenian mountains. Sorrel is popular in local cuisine. Salads or soups are often prepared from it. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and is considered a very healthy part of the diet. Braided bundles of dried sorrel can be purchased, for example, in the Yerevan GUM market.
Basturma is a product made from air-dried beef, marinated in a rich mixture of spices. Basturma undergoes a long drying and maturing process, giving it an intense and complex taste. Thin slices are usually consumed with lavash and for breakfast, it is used in egg omelets.
Armenian non-alcoholic beverages
Tan is a traditional Armenian drink made from yogurt, water and salt. This refreshing drink is very popular in Armenia, especially during the hot summer months. Tan is often served as an accompaniment to meals. Sometimes herbs such as mint or dill are added to it. It is a drink that reflects the simplicity and versatility of Armenian cuisine.
Jermuk mineral water comes from the eponymous Armenian spa town. It is valued for its healing properties, given by its high content of minerals and trace elements. Jermuk water is considered one of the purest and healthiest mineral waters in the world. Jermuk water is exported to many countries. It is one of Armenia’s national treasures, reflecting the richness and purity of Armenian nature.
Armenian sweetened lemonades
Armenian sweetened lemonades are exceptional with their unusual flavors, one of the most famous being tarragon. Tarragon lemonade has a green color and a unique, aromatic taste that is unforgettable for many. In addition to tarragon, lemonades are also made with flavors such as pear, pomegranate, grape and others. These lemonades are popular with both children and adults and are often served at family celebrations, holidays and other social events. In Armenia, they are considered not only refreshing drinks but also part of the national identity. Similar flavors in lemonades can also be found in Georgian cuisine.
Armenian coffee (“soorj” in Armenian) is part of Armenian culture and social life. It is made from finely ground coffee beans that are boiled in a special vessel called a jezva. The result is a strong, thick coffee with characteristic sediments at the bottom of the cup. Armenian coffee is usually served without milk, but often sweetened with sugar. It is a drink that is drunk slowly (unlike, for example, Italian espresso), often in a circle of family or friends. Coffee was once used for “coffee fortune-telling”, where the sediments at the bottom of the cup were interpreted to predict the future. Armenian coffee is very similar to Turkish coffee.
Armenian alcoholic beverages
Ararat is one of the most famous brands of Armenian brandy, considered a national treasure and a symbol of Armenian hospitality. This alcoholic beverage is made from selected grape varieties and aged in oak barrels, giving it a rich, complex taste and aroma. Ararat brandy is known for its smoothness and depth, with hints of vanilla, fruit and spices. Armenian brandy has a long history and is associated with national pride; it is even said that Winston Churchill was one of its notable fans. In Yerevan, there is a publicly accessible Ararat brandy museum and also a Noy brandy museum. Both museums offer tastings.
Armenian wine has roots that date back to ancient times, considered one of the oldest wines in the world. Archaeological evidence of winemaking thousands of years old has been found in Armenia. Armenian wine is made from local grape varieties, such as Areni and Voskehat, which grow in the unique climate and soil conditions of Armenian high-altitude vineyards. These characteristics give it a distinctive taste and aroma. In Armenia, wine is traditionally seen as a symbol of hospitality, and various cultural and religious rituals are associated with sharing wine.
Armenian pomegranate wine is a unique fruit alcoholic beverage. It is made from pomegranates, which in Armenia are considered a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Pomegranate wine is known for its intense ruby color and complex taste profile, which includes hints of red fruit, spices and sometimes floral tones. Among the most famous brands producing pomegranate wine is the Ijevan winery.
Armenian beer has been experiencing a renaissance in recent years, although it is not as traditional a drink as Armenian wine or brandy. There are several breweries in Armenia that produce a wide range of beer styles, from lagers to wheat beers and IPAs. Local brands like Kotayk and Gyumri are popular among residents and are known for their quality and taste. Recently, small craft breweries have also emerged, experimenting with local ingredients and traditional production methods. Armenian beer is often served in pubs and restaurants as an accompaniment to local dishes, especially grilled meat and fish. However, wine and brandy definitely take the lead.
Armenian cocktails are an interesting blend of old and new. The cocktail scene here is rapidly growing. Local bars and restaurants often offer cocktails that use traditional Armenian ingredients, such as pomegranates, apricots, and herbs, combined with internationally known spirits. These cocktails showcase the creativity and artistry of local bartenders.
Interesting facts about food and drink in Armenia
Pulpulak is an Armenian drinking fountain, often made of stone, ceramics or metal. In Armenia, it’s common to see pulpulaks in temples, squares and other public spaces, providing water to passersby. Pulpulak is often adorned with traditional Armenian ornaments and inscriptions. The water flowing from the pulpulak is considered a symbol of purity and renewal. In Armenian culture, sharing water is seen as an act of hospitality and community.
Typical prices in Armenian restaurants
In the capital city of Yerevan, a main course for dinner in a good restaurant costs approximately 6 – 10 EUR, starters and soups range from 2 – 4 EUR, and desserts are around 1.60 – 3.20 EUR. Outside the capital, prices are lower. Note that many restaurants do not accept card payments.
Tipping in Armenian restaurants
Armenian restaurants typically and automatically add a 10% tip to the bill. However, you can also reward the staff with an additional tip; they will be very grateful.
Best restaurants in Yerevan
For me, the best restaurants in Yerevan are Lavash and Tavern Yerevan Riverside. Both have menus that I would love to “eat through” from top to bottom. The restaurant Anteb makes absolutely amazing manti dumplings and for grilled meat, I also recommend the restaurant Artashi Mot.
Michelin-starred restaurants in Armenia (Yerevan)
Unfortunately, there are no Michelin-starred restaurants in Armenia (Yerevan). Globally, there are two awarded restaurants focused on Armenian cuisine. One is in American Glendale (Zhengyalov Hatz restaurant), and the other is in the UK, in London (Lusin restaurant).
What is the best Armenian food?
If I had to pick three personal favorites, the best Armenian food for me would be:
Armenian food festivals
- Dolma Festival Uduli: Regularly held in the city of Armavir. The first event took place in 2011. Chefs from all over Armenia come to the festival to prepare their version of the dish called dolma.
- Gastrofest Dilijan: Regularly held in July in Dilijan. About 25 restaurants present local dishes here. The event includes culinary competitions.
- Yerevan Wine Days: A wine festival held every June on Saryan Street in Yerevan. It celebrates the long history of Armenian winemaking. Guests can taste more than 200 types of wines.
- Syunik Mulberry Vodka Festival: Held in the city of Goris. It showcases Armenian mulberry vodka and other dishes made from mulberries.
Gastronomic souvenirs from Armenia
If you’re planning a visit to Armenia and want to bring back some food as a souvenir, you have several great options. Armenian brandy, especially the Ararat brand, is highly valued and considered one of the national treasures. Another option is dried fruit, which is very popular and of high quality in Armenia. For those with a sweet tooth, pakhlava or gata are ideal choices. These desserts are rich in nuts and honey and are a traditional part of Armenian cuisine. Don’t forget the traditional Armenian flatbread lavash, which lasts a long time. Each of these souvenirs will allow you to taste a piece of Armenian culture and culinary heritage. Find dozens more tips in the article “What to bring from Armenia?“.
Enjoy Armenian cuisine!