Azerbaijani cuisine

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Azerbaijani cuisine (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan mətbəxi) refers to the cooking styles and dishes of Azerbaijan and Iranian Azerbaijan region.

History and features of Azerbaijan national cuisine[edit]

Azerbaijan's national cuisine is closer to Middle Eastern cuisine due to the taste and preparation of the dishes, as well as adding a dark spice and flavor additives. Contemporary Azerbaijan cuisine retains traditional methods of preparation of dishes while incorporating modern cooking requirements and preparations.

Azerbaijani dishes have traditionally been cooked with copper utensils in copper cookware. Copper bowls and plates are still commonly used as serving dishes.

Azerbaijani cuisine is full of different types of greens and vegetables such as aubergine, tomato, sweet pepper, spinach, cabbage, onion, sorrel, beet, radish, cucumber, green beans. Rice and products made from flour are widely used in national cuisine. It is famous for vegetables and greens used seasonally in the dishes. Fresh herbs, including mint, coriander, dill, basil, parsley, tarragon, leek, chive, thyme, marjoram, green onion, and watercress are very popular and often accompany main dishes. The majority of national dishes are prepared of lamb, beef and poultry meat. Dishes prepared of minced meat are more prevalent. The sea, lakes and rivers of the Republic of Azerbaijan are abundant with different fish species, particularly white sturgeon. Sturgeon fish is widely used in preparation of national dishes. The Caspian Sea is home to many edible species of fish, including the sturgeon, Caspian salmon, 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.

One of the most reputed dishes of Azerbaijani cuisine is plov from saffron-covered rice, served with various herbs and greens, a combination totally distinct from those found in Uzbek plovs. Azerbaijani cuisine includes more than 40 different plov recipes. Other second courses include a wide variety of kebabs and shashlik, including lamb, beef, chicken, duck 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. Dried fruits and walnuts are used in many dishes. The traditional condiments are salt, black pepper, sumac, and especially saffron, which is grown domestically on the Absheron Peninsula. The third courses include soups, of which there are more than 30 types in Azerbaijani national cuisine. These include kufta bozbash, piti prepared of meat and dovga, ovdukh, dogramach, bolva prepared of greens and yoghurt. Some soups are served in national or interesting and unusually-shaped bowls.

Black tea is the national beverage, and is drunk after food is eaten. It is also offered to guests as a gesture of welcome, often accompanied by fruit preserves.[1]

Light snacks[edit]

Azerbaijani cuisine has a number of light snacks and side dishes to open or accompany the main meals: a plate of aromatic green leaves called goy, pieces of chorek (bread), choban (a tomato and cucumber salad), and sometimes white cheese or qatik (sour yogurt). Cold snacks are generally served separately from the drinks.


Main dishes may include a selection of the following:


Azerbaijani dushbara
Name Description
Balıq Fish, usually sturgeon, normally skewered and grilled as a kebab, is served with a tart sour-plum sauce.
Dolma The traditional recipe calls for minced lamb or beef mixed with rice and flavoured with mint, fennel, and cinnamon, and wrapped in vine leaves (yarpaq dolması) or cabbage leaves (kələm dolması). There are also sour sweet cabbage dolma (turş şirin kələm dolması) and eggplant dolma (qarabadımcan dolması).
Badımcan Dolması Tomato, sweet pepper, and aubergine stuffed with minced lamb or beef mixed with chickpeas.
Dushbara Small dumplings stuffed with minced lamb and herbs, served in broth.
Lavangi stuffed chicken or fish with onions, walnuts, raisins, albukhara, and alcha seasoning. A specialty of the Talysh region in southern Azerbaijan, but very difficult to find common in restaurants.
Lyulya kabab A mixture of mutton, herbs, and spices squeezed around a skewer and barbecued, often served with lavash (thin 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. In Russian, it is called shashlyk (шашлык), from Turkic shishlyk (literally, "for skewer").
Qovurma Pieces of mutton or lamb on the bone (blade chops) stewed with onions, tomatoes, and saffron.[2] There is also sabzi qovurma, a lamb stew with herbs.
Sogan dolmasi The term dolma covers a variety of stuffed vegetable dishes, widespread in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Onion dolma are a tasty winter alternative to stuffed aubergines, tomatoes, and peppers.[3]
Bastirma The word "Bastir" comes from the Turkish: bastırma et ("pressed meat"), pastırma [pastɯɾˈma] in modern Turkish. It's cooked as a kebab, but before cooking it should be marinated in special sauce and herbs.


Name 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.
Kufta bozbash A pea soup with lamb meatballs and boiled potatoes. The meatballs in kufta bozbash are large, hearty, and made of minced lamb or beef and rice, sometimes with a dried plum inside.
Sulu khingal Lamb soup with noodles.
Toyuq shorbasi Chicken soup
Dovga A yogurt-based soup (matsoni) with sorrel, spinach, rice, dried peas, and small meatballs made from ground mutton; served hot or cold depending on the season.[4]
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, tarragon, and sometimes mint).[5]
Dogramach Same as ovdukh, but without the meat.[5]
Bolva Made with sour milk.

Types of plov[edit]

Azerbaijani pilaf. Left: gara (lamb, halved apricots, plums, apricot seeds). Right: rice (partially colored with turmeric)

Plov is one of the most widespread dishes in Azerbaijan, with more than 40 different recipes.[1] Plovs have different names depending on the main ingredients accompanying the rice:

Name Ingredients
Kourma plov Mutton plov with onion
Chilov plov Bean plov with fish
Sabzi qovurma plov Mutton plov
Toyug plov Chicken plov
Shirin plov Dried fruit plov
Syudli plov Rice cooked in milk
Sheshryanch plov Six-color plov, eggs cooked "sunny side up" on a bed of fried green and white onions.[4]

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.[6]


Absheron torte[7]

Typical Azerbaijani desserts are sticky, syrup-saturated pastries such as pakhlava and Shaki halva. The former, a layer of chopped nuts sandwiched between mats of thread-like fried dough, is a specialty of Shaki in northwest Azerbaijan. Other traditional pastries include shekerbura (crescent-shaped and filled with nuts), peshmak (tube-shaped candy made out of rice, flour, and sugar), and girmapadam (pastry filled with chopped nuts).

Sweets 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 that is in season, such as plums, cherries, apricots, or grapes.

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]

Name Description
Pakhlava The name of this pastry is derived from its diamond shape, symbolizing fire, which is called pakhla by Azerbaijani carpet specialists. It is one of the festive sweets baked on the eve of the arrival of Spring- the Nowruz holiday to honour the sun.
Shekerbura Shekerbura (şəkərbura) is a popular Azerbaijani sweet pastry, filled with ground almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts. The ancient name for this crescent-shaped pastry is Sheker Burek, a Turkic word meaning ‘sweet patty’. In Azerbaijan, it usually involves the teamwork of relatives, friends, and neighbors who congregate at someone's home to make this. Nowruz delights. What really makes these look rather spectacular is the pattern on the dough produced by the traditional tweezers called maggash.
Samani halva Samani halva is made from malted wheat, and can be best described as a spicy, gooey, chewy treat. One samani halva tradition in Azerbaijan is to make halva communally, using flour from seven different homes.[9]
Shorgoghal Another Novruz delicacy, Shorgoghal is a flaky pastry filled with turmeric, anise, caraway, cinnamon and black pepper. In ancient times, the yellow pastry represented the sun, while the crescent-shaped Shekerbura represented the moon. These rolls are time-consuming to prepare, but the process is not really complicated.
Guymag This is a simple, rich dessert, traditionally offered to women who have just given birth or to patients after surgery to keep their strength up. It is high in calories and easy to prepare. It is also served as a hot breakfast when the weather is cold.
Firni Firni is a dessert made from rice flour, which has a light texture and bland flavor, making it much lighter than British and North American baked rice puddings.[10]
Badambura Badambura is slightly less sweet than pakhlava and has no honey so it is less sticky as well. It is filled with plain ground sugar, almonds (badam in Azerbaijani language), cardamom, and vanilla.[11]


Salyan çörəyi (tandoor bread)

Different types of bread are baked in Azerbaijan like: flat, rolling, flatbread, lavash, səngək, xamralı, thick, thin, crepes, cakes, bread oven (tandoor bread).Tandoor bread is a type of bread baked in a clay oven called a tandoor. Mostly it is used for baking bread and cooking meat, but generally, any type of food can be cooked in tandoor ovens. The secret of the tandoor oven is the process of heating up the oven. Wood is put on the ground and ignited. It is necessary to wait until it becomes glowing charcoal. By this moment the oven will reach temperatures of around 400*C. The food is basically cooked from the heat of the walls. High temperature ensures very fast cooking. In the Middle Ages, tandoor oven was one of the common facilities of the population who lived in Old City (Icheri Sheher). This has been discovered during the archaeological excavations in different areas of Old City. During the meeting held in Ethiopia, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage decided to include lavash in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the organization.[12][13]


Black tea in armudu stekan (pear shaped glass)
Chabiant Azerbaijani wine from Chateu Monolit. Ismailli District

Black tea is Azerbaijan's national drink. Azerbaijani people usually prefer tea made in special equipment called samovar.

Ayran is a cold yogurt beverage mixed with salt.

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.[14] Sherbets are typically prepared in the following natural flavors:

  • Lemon[15]
  • Pomegranate
  • Strawberry
  • Cherry
  • Apricot
  • Mint[15]

Locally made brands of bottled water include the following:[16]

Brand Origin Originating area
Badamlı Badamli, Nakhchivan
Sirab Sirab, Nakhchivan
Şollar Şollar village North-east
Tamiz gazh su
Qax Qakh district North[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Based on the book Azerbaijani Cooking Archived 2009-02-16 at the Wayback Machine, Ishyg Publ. House, Baku (in Russian)
  2. ^ "Lamb Cuisine Page – Catskill Merino Sheep Farm". Archived from the original on 1 June 2017. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  3. ^ "News.Az – Sogan dolmasi – Onion dolma". Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  4. ^ a b Azerbaijan cookery by category of dishes, a section of Large Guide to Home Cooking (in Russian)
  5. ^ a b Dogramach and ovdukh Archived October 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine: recipes for Azerbaijani soups (in Russian).
  6. ^ Interview with Jabar Mamedov Archived 2008-12-21 at the Wayback Machine, Head Chef at the "Shirvan Shah" Azerbaijani restaurant in Kiev, 31 January 2005.
  7. ^ Once in a Lifetime Journey. "The Food Azerbaijan Food".
  8. ^ "Huge pakhlava hits record in Ganja" Archived March 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine on Retrieved on 17 March 2009
  9. ^ "News.Az – Samani halva – Malted wheat halva". Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  10. ^ "News.Az – Shekerbura – Sweet nut pies". Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  11. ^ "The Best Azerbaijan Food". Once in a Lifetime Journey.
  12. ^ " – is for sale (Kabob Central)". Retrieved 22 May 2017. Cite uses generic title (help)
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-21. Retrieved 2011-01-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Рецепты таджикской кухни – Шербеты". Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  15. ^ a b Recipes for lemon and mint sherbets (in Russian)
  16. ^ Mineral Waters of the World: Azerbaijan[dead link]
  17. ^ Qakh or Kakh mineral water Archived April 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]