Georgian cuisine is unique.
I fully disclose that I may be biased, but I truly believe it might as well be the closest way to taste heavenly delights.
We have a rather funny myth in Georgia. According to folktales, God decided to take a supper break during creation. In the process of preparing the snacks, he accidentally tripped over the Caucasus and spilled the treats on the land below—Georgia.
So when we say Georgia is blessed with a taste straight from the heavens, keep in mind that for us, it might be a little bit more than a joke.
While savory treats are well-known and remain some of Georgia’s most international recipes, it’s time to pay attention to desserts.
Honey-infused baking goods, delightful pastries, and original snacks are plentiful in the Land of the Golden Fleece. As such, folks with a sweet tooth will enjoy a culinary tour across the best dessert options Georgia has to offer.
Take a look at nine of the best sugary treats you can find in Georgia.
Some folks believe Georgians have wine running through our veins, and it may not be an exaggeration.
Since it was confirmed to have the most ancient winemaking culture in the world, Georgia is considered the birthplace of the beverage. Thus, it’s not surprising grapes play an essential role in Georgian cuisine as a whole.
And out of all the grape-based Georgian dishes, pelamushi might be the jewel of the crown.
Pelamushi is something akin to a sweet, grape-based pudding or porridge. Boasting of a gorgeous color that can range from the deep purple to pale peach, pelamushi is a mainstay of the rtveli—Georgian harvest season.
The delicious grape flavor in pelamushi is achieved through condensed grape juice—in rural Georgia, often coming straight from a family’s harvest. To obtain the thick consistency, the sauce is heated with a mixture of sugar and flour or cornstarch, according to preferences.
The cherry on top: After cooled, pelamushi is often garnished with chopped nuts, seeds, honey, and virtually anything you’d like. I personally enjoy adding a layer of chia seeds, but the choice is yours!
Enrobed snacks are world-class favorites.
Dipping dried fruits or other tasty goods into a thick, luxurious coat that creates layer after layer of delicious flavor. This technique is the secret behind Snickers, and other addicting snacks you can’t put down.
But in Georgia we have our particular version of this long-running type of treat. It’s called churchkhela, and I believe it’s something akin to the country’s official candy.
Churchkhela consists of a string of nuts dipped into a thick layer of grape pulp and left to dry in the sun. The result is a crystalized treat that resembles a long candle with a sugary brown color and a delicious, fruity flavor.
In Georgia, we prefer to eat fresh, recently-made churchkhela, so it’s easy to find street vendors selling their homemade snacks in every city of the country.
Most Georgian families have their recipe for churchkhela. In some of them, the recipe and version of the treat is a treasure that passes down across generations. Some use walnuts, others prefer hazelnuts, and a few of them even use the roux of the pelamushi to dip the strung fruits.
The cherry on top: Churchkhela keeps modernizing. Through the streets, you’ll be able to find multiple variations of the snack, including some with chocolate instead of nuts, and roux made of fruits other than grapes.
Some tourists walking through the busy streets of Tbilisi may be shocked, appalled, and even alarmed at what they perceive as locals eating leather out in the open.
If you come across this peculiar sight, worry not. We have not lost our mind just yet! Instead, when you see us chewing on leather we are enjoying the unique yet unforgettable delight that is tklapi, another of the staple foods of the country.
Tklapi is made out of fruit porridge or purée. Once cooked, the mixture is spread and flattened to a thin layer and left to dry for a few days. Through this time, the tklapi layer is flipped, to guarantee an even drying process. Afterward, the tklapi is rolled up and ready to be sold and eaten.
You can make tklapi out of any fruit you like. However, the most traditional version makes use of plum, apricots, peaches, figs, or mulberries. Whatever fruit is brought upon by the harvest season is good to go!
The cherry on top: If you enjoyed the delicious flavor of pelamushi, we have good news for you. The thick mixture used to prepare it is not only a fantastic dip for churchkhela, but it can also be spread and dried to make grape tklapi!
If you haven’t realized now, Georgians love dry fruit and nuts.
Walnuts, hazelnuts, and all types of assorted fruits are the centerpiece of many sweets and pastries consumed every day, but also staples of holiday essentials in any Georgian table.
Such is the case of gozinaki.
Also spelled as gozinaqi, it’s the quintessential snack during Christmas and New Year’s Eve in every Georgian table. It consists of peeled and chopped walnuts caramelized with honey and sugar until solidified into a firm layer, then cut into their characteristic diamond shape.
While some establishments sell gozinaki all-year-round, the ideal Georgian experience is to enjoy them as homemade treats during winter. Each family has their method and technique, as well as their little tricks to bring the flavor.
The cherry on top: Despite being a straightforward recipe, the quality of the honey will profoundly affect the final result. Fragrant, raw honey bears the best results, and such type is plenty in the countryside of Georgia.
Georgian bread is otherworldly, and I don’t say this just because I’ve had it all my life.
Odds are you’ve heard of the cheesy delight that is Khachapuri. Still, the famed appetizer is not the only bread worth tasting while visiting this side of the Caucasus.
Nazuki exists, after all.
The Georgian sweet bread per excellence, nazuki is made with a combination of spices, with cinnamon, cloves, coriander, and nutmeg being the most popular mixture used to bring this delicious treat to life. For an extra touch of fruity sweetness, traditional nazuki often incorporate raisins to the mixture.
However, most of the flavor relies on the baking method. To prepare nazuki, the traditional procedure calls for the use of tonés—Georgian clay ovens. The extreme temperatures and unique shape contribute to the particular and distinctive flavor of the quintessential Nazuki.
The cherry on top: The traditional nazuki that stands out above the rest comes from the small town of Surami in the Shida Kartli region. There, you can find freshly-made loaves on the sides of the highway, a delight every Georgian seeks whenever possible. Stopping by the road is tradition!
Kada, also spelled qada, is a Georgian pastry that remains rather hard to describe accurately.
Similar to a loaf of bread but not quite, almost a pie yet not precisely, kada is best described as the taste of Georgian childhood. Thick and delicious, kada comes in as many shapes and sizes according to each region, so Georgia’s cultural diversity adds multiple layers to this treat.
What remains unchanged, though, is the Georgian children’s love for it.
Although there are sweet and savory variations and each family has its particular recipe, the dough for kada is almost the same all across the country. It is, essentially, a mix of butter, sugar, and flour.
Kada is easy to find in most cafés, bakeries, and restaurants in Georgia. Due to its rather dense consistency, it is a popular breakfast option for locals and tourists running out of time.
The cherry on top: Although the dough consistency and baking methods are almost universal, kada comes in a plethora of shapes and sizes—round, layered, pies, elongated, and even more. Creativity is endless!
Orbeliani Candy (Kaklucha)
So far, we’ve talked about popular sweets that every Georgian household knows how to prepare. Most entries in this article are traditional pastries with variations and secret techniques that go generation after generation and become family heirlooms.
The Orbeliani candy, also called Orbeliani sweet or Kaklucha is no such a dessert. In fact, it’s deemed one of the rarest finds of Georgian cuisine and a unique treat that you can only find in a few selected establishments.
What does it consist of? Only a few candy-makers know the secret behind the Oberliani pearl. Still, we can tell it is a treat made with walnuts and caramelized sugar. The flavors, however, are layered and incredibly complex, turning this delicacy into one of Georgia’s most beloved sweets.
The cherry on top: The regal-sounding name of this sweet is not a coincidence. This distinguished candy was created by Princess Mariam Jambakur-Orbeliani, a noblewoman and feminist from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, daughter of the renowned poet Vakhtang Orbeliani.
Medok is, simply put, Georgia’s take on honey cakes. But at the same time, it’s far more than that.
Medok is a derivation of medovik—the Russian honey cake. The recipe was developed in the 19th century during the Russian Empire, but it gained widespread popularity through the Soviet era. Each of the post-Soviet states enjoys the delicacy, adding regional flavor to the recipe.
Subsequently, medok bears many similarities with medovik. Both are layered preparations consisting of thin slices of sponge cake made with butter, sugar, flour, eggs, and honey. Between each layer, there should be a generous and thick coating of cream, meant to soften the naturally hard texture of the cake.
The main difference between medok and medovik lies on the cream filling. While the Russian recipe calls for sour cream, Georgian tradition has replaced it with milk cream. Subsequently, medok is considerably sweeter than most other variations of the dessert.
And my favorite one, if we’re honest.
The cherry on top: By now, you must know we love nuts. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Georgians’ favored garnishing for medok consists of chopped nuts, preferably hazelnut or walnuts. However, it’s also common to use leftover cake crumbs, dried fruit, powdered sugar, or even a decorative coating of organic honey.
While sweets and desserts are usually associated with happiness and delight, tsandili is traditionally reserved for somber occasions. Also called korkoti, kolio, or kolivo, tsandili is a ritual food with cultural ties to death and mourning.
As such, this delicious dessert is meant for funerals.
It consists of a cereal, usually wheat, seasoned with walnuts, raisins, honey, pickled apricots, pickled cherries, honey, and sugar. Different regions feature local variations of the general recipe, usually including vanilla, mixed nuts, or assorted fruits. For an extra flavor boost, you may add a bit of cognac.
Perhaps due to this grim association with the departed, tsandili remains a rare treat to find. In fact, most families prefer not to make it at home if they can help it. But when not tied with memories of loss and pain, tsandili can be appreciated for its healthy preparation and sweet flavor.
Because let’s be real—it is delicious.
Nowadays, less traditional folks prepare the treat without its grim implications. And although most Georgians prefer to maintain traditions, perhaps the time has come for tsandili to transcend.
The cherry on top: Despite being an uncommon homemade preparation, there are some cafés and restaurants all across the country that sell their particular version of tsandili at a very affordable cost.
If you’re a fan of jams and jellies, Muraba has heard your call. It’s essentially a jam, but a bit more liquid-based. This makes it perfect for not only spreading onto surfaces but to incorporate into a meal as well. It can heighten the sweetness and flavor of another Georgian dessert or can be eaten on some simple sweet bread.
It’s made by taking large slices of fruit, or even whole fruits, and mixing it with sweet syrup. As the fruit float in the syrup, it absorbs the sugar and creates a great flavor for any dessert.
Other options for Muraba include nuts, white cherry, and figs. Although, you could put this on almost anything and find yourself satisfied. Heck, if you eat it right out of the jar you wouldn’t be disappointed.
If you’re unable to visit Georgia to get this Georgian sweet treat made for you, feel free to try it at home. There are many recipes available online and the process is relatively simple and easy to do.
Last, but not least, is Chiri. You’ll find Chiri in many different flavors and variations. Essentially, Chiri is the Georgian name for fruits that have been through the drying process.
Most locals are fans of fruits such as kinglets, figs, and apples. However, it’s not uncommon to find vendors that have explored beyond the traditional norm.
More exotic Chiri, such as bananas, kiwis, pears, and other fruits are frequently found.
Sometimes these fruits may even be coated in additional flavorings such as jams, sugar, or honey. This is done to increase the overall tastiness of the fruits, although it doesn’t require help on its own.
If you’re interested in trying Chiri but have fallen in love with Muraba, you’re in luck. Because Muraba is essentially a fruit jam that’s a bit on the liquid side, it’s a perfect complement with Chiri.
Simply pour the Muraba on top of the dry fruits or take the fruits and dip it into your jar of jam. This combo will leave your mouth watering for more as you wonder how you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting this Georgian sweet treat before.
Best part? Tasting Georgia from your home is possible.
The best way to enjoy these desserts is in the land that created them.
Be it in an elegant café in Tbilisi, or a cozy cottage in Kakheti, Georgians know the best tricks and techniques required to bring out the flavor and create a truly unique dessert experience.
We are happy to welcome to our land, and we’d be delighted to take you to the best places we know, or make room for you on our table.
However, you can also try your hand at making these exquisite preparations at home.
The Georgian Journal and Georgian Recipes often upload all-Georgian recipes, approved by Georgians and straight out of the country, so by following their instructions you should be able to come up with a result similar to the traditional methods.
If you feel extra committed to Georgian cuisine and seek to learn all the secrets you can discover, consider purchasing Darra Goldstein’s The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia as one of the most international and newcomer-friendly guides to the flavors of Georgia.
But hey—you can always visit Georgia and try these delights yourself. You may not want to leave after you do.