As Russia is the world's largest country by land area, with long history through the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, it has a rich culinary tradition, with exchange of dishes with neighbouring cuisines, such as the Nordic cuisine, the Middle Eastern cuisine, and the Chinese cuisine.
Russian cuisine derives its rich and varied character from the vast and multicultural expanse of Russia. Its foundations were laid by the peasant food of the rural population in an often harsh climate, with a combination of plentiful fish, poultry, game, mushrooms, berries, and honey. Crops of rye, wheat, buckwheat, barley, and millet provided the ingredients for a plethora of breads, pancakes, cereals, kvass, beer, and vodka. Flavourful soups and stews centred on seasonal or storable produce, fish, and meats. This wholly native food remained the staples for the vast majority of Russians well into the 20th century. Lying on the northern reaches of the ancient Silk Road, as well as Russia's proximity to the Caucasus, Persia, and the Ottoman Empire has provided an inescapable Eastern character to its cooking methods (not so much in European Russia but distinguishable in the North Caucasus). Russia's renowned caviar is easily obtained, however prices can exceed the expenses of your entire trip. Dishes such as beef Stroganov and chicken kiev, from the pre-revolutionary era are available but mainly aimed at tourists as they lost their status and visibility during Soviet times.
The cuisines of the Baltic States, Belarus, Central Asia and especially Ukraine have much in common with Russian cuisine. As a legacy of the Soviet Union, many dishes originating in one part of the former USSR are now available all over the former country.
- Bread, Хлеб, is a staple, served as a side order to virtually all dishes, baked from wheat, rye, or barley.
- Pirozhki (пирожки), pies, may be stuffed with meat, cheese, fish, cabbage or some sweet filling. Also a popular street snack.
- Pelmeni (Пельмени) dough dumplings, filled with meat, fish or vegetables, similar to pot-stickers, especially popular in Ural and Siberian region
- Borsch (Борщ), beetroot soup with variants made with pretty much any thinkable vegetable, often also contains meat, traditionally served with smetana.
- Shchi (щи), cabbage soup of which there are many variants, may or may not contain meat.
- Bliny (блины), thin white flour or buckwheat, often served with smetana, caviar or jam.
- While the term caviar is casually used for any fish roe, genuine caviar comes from wild sturgeon of the Caspian and Black Sea, and is among the world's most expensive foods.
- Golubtsy, cabbage rolls
- Ikra Baklazhanaya, aubergine spread
- Okroshka, cold soups based on kvass or sour milk
- Vinegret, salad of boiled beets, eggs, potato, carrots, pickles and other vegetables with vinegar, mustard, vegetable oil and/or mayonnaise
- Olivier, Russian version of potato salad with peas, meat, eggs, carrots, and pickles
- Shashlyk various kebabs from the Caucasus
- Seledka pod shuboy, fresh salted herring with "vinegret"
- Kholodets or Studen, meat, garlic and carrots in meat aspic)
- Tea, Чай, is an everyday beverage. Tea water is traditionally heated in a samovar, самовар.
- While vodka, водка, is the archetypical alcoholic beverage in Russia, beer and wine have a long history, and have become increasingly popular in the post-Soviet years. The Caucasus region has a millennial history of wine-making.
- Kvas (квас), a fermented thirst-quenching beverage made from rye bread, sugar and yeast, similar to young low-alcohol beer. In the summer street side vendors sell it cold.
- Limonad (various soft drinks)