Latvian national cuisine and the best establishments in Riga
Latvian cuisine in Riga

Latvian national cuisine and the best establishments in Riga

Latvia’s national cuisine is unusual, one dish can combine incongruous components, but together it turns out delicious and interesting. Riga is my second home, so I will tell you what local dishes are worth trying in Riga and where to do it.

What does the traditional cuisine of Latvia consist of?

Latvia’s gastronomic traditions began to form long before the emergence of the state. Until XII–XIII centuries pagan tribes here were engaged in farming and agriculture, growing rye and wheat, legumes and peas. These were used to make porridge (putras) and bread.

Proximity to the Baltic Sea leaves no choice: Latvian traditions are full of fish dishes. From sprat or herring — the legendary sprats. From herring, trout and smelt — soups, second courses, casseroles (pundysh). Tasty and inexpensive fish at the Central Market is lamprey.

Variety of fish on the Riga market
Variety of fish on the Riga market

In XII–XIII century German knights came to the territory of future Latvia. Latvia and Estonia were replaced by a new state — Livonia. The Germans built Riga and at the same time added their own gastronomic preferences to the traditional cuisine: stewed cabbage, blood sausage, sour milk products.

Neighborhood with Estonia, Lithuania, and Belarus had a noticeable impact on traditions. Soups became the basis of the cuisine. Milk soup with herring repeats Estonian traditions. Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus still argue who owns the recipe of cold soup based on kefir, beet and fresh cucumbers. It is delicious everywhere.

Latvian kefir and beet soup
Latvian kefir and beet soup

European cuisine has supplanted some food traditions and blended with national cravings into the most unusual combinations. For example, beer soup based on cottage cheese and bread, desserts made of black bread, pea sour cream, casserole with potatoes and cottage cheese, spicy cookies.

A unique bread Salinātā rupjmaize is baked in Latvia. It is allowed to be baked only in the territory of the country, and the recipe is protected. Rupjmaize serves as an ingredient for various dishes. It is added to soup, cooked in second courses, made into dessert and toast, and cooked into sour cream.

Soups in Latvia

The most unusual combination is found in traditional Latvian soups. At first glance, the composition will seem strange, but after the first spoonful, the opinion will change. The sour or spicy base with additional components is surprising.

Unusual Latvian soups of Latvia:

  • cold borscht — kefir, beet juice, fresh cucumbers and dill;
  • Milk soup — milk, herring, potatoes, green onions and sour cream;
  • beer soup — beer, bread, cottage cheese, cumin, eggs, butter and sour cream.
Part of the menu with soup from Milda restaurant
Part of the menu with soup from Milda restaurant

Sometimes there is blueberry soup with dumplings. Those who do not want to experiment — try pea soup with smoked meat, cream soup in bread. They are borrowed from German and Czech cuisine.

Hot dishes

The most famous second dish in Latvian cuisine is gray peas with speck (fried bacon). It is tasty, juicy and hearty. It is sold everywhere — in inexpensive cafes and restaurants. The flavor is the same, but the serving is different. I recommend you start your acquaintance with it.

Gray peas with speck
Gray peas with speck

What else is there to try:

  • putras — cereal porridge with the addition of fish or smoked meat and sour milk products;
  • silkyupudinsh — potato and herring casserole;
  • homemade sausage and potatoes;
  • boiled potatoes with cottage cheese, salt and herbs;
  • peasant breakfast — potatoes, sausage, loin finely chopped, poured with milk and egg mixture and baked.

Fish in Latvia is baked in foil, fried, stewed, cooked in batter, on a grill or on coals. It is served with young potatoes and made into salads.


All restaurants and cafes offer the main appetizer — rye bread croutons. You can also find them in the store: with garlic, salt, pepper, carrots, tomatoes, seeds and cheese. They are different from the croutons you can buy in stores in Russia: these croutons are large, buttery, crispy on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside. A great idea for a snack for Latvian beer, they are perfectly tolerant of transportation, and I regularly bring them home.

Croutons at Rimi
Croutons at Rimi’s

Latvian desserts

There are several bread desserts in Riga. One of them is bread soup. To make it, rupmaise is ground and added finely chopped dried fruits, cream and cinnamon. The mass is transferred into a creamer. It is delicious, but luscious.

Another variant — rupmaise is poured with honey, cinnamon, apples, fresh berries are added. Then this mass is poured, transferred into a special container and poured with cream. This makes a sweet and thick dessert.

Bread dessert
Bread dessert

A non-sweet version of the dessert is sklandrausis: a patruchka made of rye dough filled with potatoes and carrots, eggs and sour cream. Similar vatrushki are made in Komi and Finland.

Papirkukas cookies are prepared on holidays. These spicy cookies of different shapes are made of flour, sugar, eggs and butter. Spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves) and pepper are added to the dough. Spices are not spared, so the flavor is rich.


In Latvia, rhubarb sours, kvass made from bread and drinks made from cidonia — a Latvian «citrus», a type of quince — are popular. The fruit contains vitamin C and has a sour flavor. It is used to make tea and juices. The store sells locally produced drinks.

The most popular Latvian alcohol is Riga balsam. It has been produced since 1752. The original recipe of 24 ingredients is regularly supplemented with novelties. The balsam is now sold in cherry, black currant, espresso and cream flavors.

Riga balsam
Riga balsam

There is also beer production in Latvia. There are breweries in the center of Riga where you can taste the drink. Even though Latvian beer is not world famous, Latvians strive to surprise: there are beers with chamomile, yarrow, cumin, dark, light, fruit and berry beers. The most common brands are Bauskas, Cēsu and Mežpils.

Bauskas beer
Bauskas beer

Where to try traditional cuisine in Riga?

There are not many restaurants and cafes with traditional Latvian cuisine in Riga. Most of them are located in Old Riga (Vecriga).

The people of Latvia are proud of their traditional cuisine. They appreciate it for its simplicity, nourishment, and unusual combination of products. On simple days they eat «peasant breakfast», casseroles, cold borscht. On holidays, they prepare desserts. Outside the home, they prefer to visit Lido, less often fast food outlets and pizzerias.

Restaurants with traditional cuisine in Riga

Restaurant 1221

The most popular restaurant in Riga, attractive and photogenic, it is often seen in tourists' photos. Inside the restaurant is small, but there are a lot of people who want to visit it. It is better to book a table in advance or come to the opening.

«The restaurant’s specialty is chef Robert Smilga. He cooks deliciously and serves traditional Latvian dishes beautifully. The menu is small, but the quality of the cuisine is excellent and the portions are large.

  • Open: 12:00—23:00 no weekends.
  • Website with menu and table reservations.
Cafe 1221
Cafe 1221


Small but interesting menu with traditional Latvian dishes. If you have no idea what to order, you can listen to the opinion of the manager or waiter.

The waiters bring rye bread and pâté so that guests don’t get bored while waiting for their food. The food is quick and tasty, and the presentation is original. There are seats on weekdays, on weekends it is usually full.

  • Open: 12:00—23:00, Mondays off.
  • Website with menu and table reservations.
Milda restaurant
Milda restaurant


Breakfasts and traditional Latvian dishes are on the menu. There are unusual combinations, for example, dessert with acorn sauce or sea buckthorn marmalade. A lot of meat and fish dishes with vegetables and greens. The Niklāvs' calling card is sorrel soup and sausage on rye.

  • Open: 7:00—10:00 a.m., no weekends.
  • Website with menu and table reservations.
Niklāvs restaurant
Niklāvs restaurant


Lido has the most democratic prices and a wide choice of dishes (some of them are not Latvian cuisine). It is a chain cafe. I go here when I want cold borscht, herring casserole or gray peas with speck for cheap.

Self-service is the norm at Lido. The dishes are on display, you have to choose them, take them and take them to the cash register. The menu includes soups, hot dishes of vegetables, meat, fish, pancakes with various fillings, salads, snacks, porridge. On weekdays from 8:00 to 11:00 discounts on breakfasts. The biggest Lido is on Krusta Street and in the Origo shopping center at the train station.

  • Open: The cafes open at different times. At the railway station — at 10:00.
  • A site with a menu.
Lido in Purvciems district
Lido in Purvciems district

What to do in Riga?

  1. A must-see city, even if you are just passing through Riga: Sights of Riga
  2. Go to the beach and swim in the sea: Beaches around Riga