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Latvian cuisine typically consists of agricultural products, with meat featuring in most main meal dishes. Fish is commonly consumed due to Latvia's location on the east coast of the Baltic Sea.
Latvian cuisine has been influenced by neighboring countries in the Baltic region. Common ingredients in Latvian recipes are found locally, such as potatoes, wheat, barley, cabbage, onions, eggs and pork. Latvian food is generally quite fatty, and uses few spices.
Latvian cuisine is typical of the Baltic region and, in general, of northern countries. The food is high on butter and fat while staying low on spices except for black pepper, dill or grains/seeds, such as caraway seeds. The Latvian cuisine originated from the peasant culture and is strongly based on crops that grow in Latvian maritime, temperate climate. Rye or wheat, oats, peas, beets, cabbage, pork products and potatoes are the staples. Meat features in most main meal dishes. But fish also is commonly consumed due to Latvia's location on the east coast of the Baltic Sea: smoked and raw fish are quite common. The Latvian cuisine offers plenty of varieties of bread and milk products, which are an important part of the Latvian cuisine.
Rye bread (Rupjmaize)
Black bread plays a very important role in Latvian’s life. It is unlike other rye breads you have tasted and it is still made according to old recipes - often made by hand. Black Rye bread is usually made of rye flour, buttermilk, salt, water and caraway seeds to taste.
Latvian bacon buns (Speķa pīrāgi)
These buns can be used as appetizers, as part of a light lunch or as a part of a party table. Usually they are made from flour, milk, pork, onions, yeast, sugar, salt and eggs. This dish is always prepared for and a must at Christmas.
Vegetable tarts (Sklandrauši)
Vegetable tarts – sklandu rausi – are mainly eaten in the Kurzeme region. These tarts are made of rye or wheat flour, margarine, sugar, salt and eggs. Filling are based on potatoes or carrots. In addition sour cream is usually used.
Gingerbread cookies (Piparkūkas)
Gingerbread cookies are sweet, thin and brittle cookies flavored with ginger and typically using honey or molasses rather than sugar. They are particularly associated with the extended Christmas period.
Pork in aspic (Sivēna galerts)
It is a typical Latvian food, which is prepared in almost every home. Aspic is a dish in which ingredients are set into gelatine made from a meat stock or consommé. Latvian pork in aspic is commonly prepared of young pork meat, eggs, onions, carrots, celery, parsley, and bay leaves, as well as salt, pepper and garlic to enrich the taste. Boiled meat pieces and boiled vegetables are beautifully arranged in a bowl and poured with broth after which are left in a cold place to set. Cold pork in aspic goes well with vinegar, mustard, horseradish or salad.
Herring in a jacket (Siļķe kažokā)
The herring is soaked and the skin is peeled off. Then the fillet is sliced into angled pieces. After that a mix of sour cream, horseradish, salt and sugar ia poured diagonally over the herring. Then hollow cone shapes are cut from a boiled carrot to decorate the centre of the dish.
Jāņi summer solstice cheese
Today the most popular celebration in Latvia is Jāņi and the main Jāņi foods are cheese and beer which are found on every Jāņi festive table. It is usually made of dry cottage cheese, milk, sour cream, eggs, butter, salt and caraway seeds. The ways how to prepare the summer solstice cheese dates back hundreds of years.
Sorrel soup is a soup made from water, sorrel leaves, and salt. Other possible ingredients are egg yolks or boiled eggs and boiled potatoes. Latvian version of sorrel soup also contains carrots, onions, dill, pork meat and pearl barley can be used instead of potatoes. It can be served hot or cold, and usually with sour cream. It is known in Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Eastern European Jewish cuisines.
Sour cream soup (Skābputra)
Another traditional Latvian dish you might come across is sour cream soup. It is made from barley, water and buttermilk, and is a summer dish, chilled for six to twelve hours to make it really refreshing. The sour cream is added at the last minute, and the soup is served cold with herring or bread and butter on the side.
Grey peas with bacon
Grey peas with bacon are usually prepared for Christmas time, but it can be eaten as a main dish, as well. People prefer to have it together with buttermilk or sour milk.
It is a well know specialty that has been influenced by German cuisine. This delicious meal is simply made with sauerkraut being fried in butter with onions and carrots and seasoned with salt and sugar. Tender sautéed sauerkraut goes perfectly with baked pork and other meat dishes.
This dessert is prepared using cranberries, black or red currants, strawberries, raspberries or other berries or juice. Usually water, sugar and semolina are added. Debessmanna is served in deep dessert bowls and eaten with cold milk.
Apple slice (Plātsmaize)
As apple – trees are commonly found in Latvian gardens, many meals are prepared with apples inside. Apple slice is one of the simplest pies and can be prepared in a short time. The main ingredients: flour, milk, yeast, butter, sugar, eggs, salt and apples for topping.
Layered Latvian Rye Bread Dessert (Rupjmaizes kārtojums)
It is simply made of layers of rye breadcrumbs, whipped cream and cranberry jam. The top of the dessert is usually covered with another layer of bread crumbs and cream. This dessert is usually served with a glass of milk. Another version of this dessert consists of rye breadcrumbs mixed with sugar and cinnamon. Cream of cottage cheese can also be used.
Brewing traditions in Latvia date back into prehistory. Today there are many breweries – large and small. The largest and oldest breweries are Cēsu and Aldaris, however there are many more. As soon as the sun and warm spring appears, beer gardens and terraces appear everywhere serving beer with tasty snacks.
Riga black balsam
Riga Black Balsam is traditional Latvian herbal liquor made with many different natural ingredients mixed in pure vodka. Everyone can drink it as it is or you can make many cocktails using it. The traditional recipes are based on a composition of 24 different ingredients like plants, flowers, buds, juices, roots, oils and berries prepared in oak barrels. Over time, experts from many countries have given it more than 30 awards at international fairs.
Kvass is a traditional Slavic and Baltic fermented beverage commonly made from black or regular rye bread. The colour of the bread used contributes to the colour of the resulting drink. It is classified as a non-alcoholic drink, as the alcohol content from fermentation is typically less than 1.2%. It may be flavoured with fruits such as strawberries and raisins. Many kvass vendors sell the drink in the streets.
Taste and buy delicious foods in Riga Central Market
Riga Central Market, which opened in 1930, was recognized not only as the largest, but also the best and most advanced marketplace in Europe. Riga Central Market has invariably remained in the very heart of Riga city, ensuring diverse shopping experience, a personal touch, lively conversation, tall tales and exuberant bargaining with the vendors. Architecturally-imposing food pavilions, built in the 1920s, are Riga Central Market’s calling card. Originally used as military airship hangars, they were later transformed into market venues.
At Riga Central Market, you can buy Latvian-grown and homemade products, exotic fruit and spices, as well as manufactured merchandise. The market includes five pavilions each with its own category - vegetables, dairy, meat, fish and gastronomy products, as well as an outdoor area with stalls and stands, the Night Market and ‘Round the Clock Farmers’ Market.
Taste-test a quick-pickled cucumber, buy vegetables straight from the farm or nursery, treat yourself to a freshly-smoked eel, or just embark on a walking tour of the one and only Riga Central Market.