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Must-Try Local Delicacies in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, is known for its rich culinary heritage. The country's cuisine is a fusion of Eastern and Western flavors, combining a variety of ingredients and cooking techniques. 

Must Try Local Delicacies in Azerbaijan

From savory meat dishes to sweet desserts, Azerbaijan offers a diverse range of delicacies that are a must-try for any food lover. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular local delicacies that you should not miss when visiting Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan Visa

If you want to taste the delicious Azerbaijani cuisine, you need to obtain an Azerbaijan visa. Here is a guide on the different visa types available and how to obtain them.

Visa-Free Country List

Check if your country is on the visa-free country list. If yes, you do not need a visa to enter Azerbaijan.

E-visa

If you are not eligible for the visa-waiver program, apply for an E-visa. The application process is online. Fill out the Azerbaijan visa application form, provide the necessary documents, and pay the application fee.  You will receive your visa by email within several days. You can expedite the process by paying an additional fee.

Short-stay Visa

If you are not eligible for an E-visa, apply for a short-stay visa. The application process is not online. You will apply at visa application centers, embassies, or consulates. The processing time is around three weeks, and the fee is around 20-35 USD.

Long-term Visa

Foreigners who want to work, study, or reunite with their family in Azerbaijan can apply for a long-stay visa. The application process is not available abroad for some nationalities. Such people must obtain a short-term visa and apply for a long-term visa in Azerbaijan. The reason for the application for a long-term and short-term visa must be the same.

Transit Visa

All foreigners transiting from Azerbaijan can do so without obtaining a visa for up to 24 hours. If the time exceeds 24 hours or you leave the international airport area, you must apply for a visa.

Azerbaijani Food: 17 Most Popular 

Here are 17 popular Azerbaijani foods:

1. Plov - A traditional rice and meat dish

Plov, also known as pilaf, is a traditional Azerbaijani dish made from rice and meat. It's a staple dish in Azerbaijani cuisine and is often served during special occasions like weddings or holidays.

Ingredients

The dish is made with long-grain rice, lamb or beef, onions, garlic, and saffron. Other ingredients like dried fruits, nuts, and vegetables can be added to enhance the flavor.

Preparation

The preparation of plov involves slow-cooking the meat with the onions and garlic until it's tender and juicy. The rice is then added to the pot, along with saffron, which gives the dish its distinct yellow color.

Serving

Plov is typically served in a large dish, with the meat and rice arranged in layers. It can be garnished with fresh herbs and served with yogurt or a salad on the side.

In conclusion, plov is a flavorful and satisfying dish that represents the rich culinary heritage of Azerbaijan.

2. Shah Plov - Rice with fried dough

Plov, also known as pilaf, is a signature dish in Azerbaijani cuisine. It's a savory rice dish that is cooked with a variety of ingredients, such as lamb or beef, dried fruits, and vegetables.

Shah Plov: A Special Variation

One of the most famous variations of plov is Shah Plov. This dish is made with saffron-infused rice and tender pieces of lamb or beef. It's often garnished with fried dough pieces, which add a satisfying crunch to the dish.

Rice with Fried Dough: A Tasty Addition

In Azerbaijani cuisine, rice dishes are often accompanied by fried dough pieces. These crunchy pieces of dough add texture and flavor to the dish. They are made by frying small pieces of dough until they are golden brown and crispy.

So, if you're looking to try a delicious and unique rice dish, be sure to try plov, and don't forget to add some fried dough pieces on top for an extra crunch!

3. Dolma - Stuffed grape leaves

Dolma is a traditional Middle Eastern dish made of stuffed grape leaves. It is popular in many countries, including Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, and Iran. Here are some key points about Dolma:

  • The word "dolma" means "stuffed" in Turkish, and the dish is often referred to as "dolmades" in Greece.
  • The filling for Dolma can vary but usually includes rice, herbs, and spices. Some recipes also include ground meat or vegetables.
  • The grape leaves used in Dolma are typically pickled or brined to give them a tangy flavor and help them retain their shape during cooking.
  • Dolma is usually served cold or at room temperature as an appetizer or side dish. It can also be served warm as a main course.
  • In addition to grape leaves, other vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, and peppers can also be stuffed with the same filling as Dolma.

Dolma is a delicious and healthy dish that is enjoyed by many around the world.

4. Saj Ichi - Azerbaijani barbecue

Saj Ichi is a traditional Azerbaijani barbecue dish that is loved by locals and tourists alike. It is a skewered meat dish that is grilled over hot coals and served with various accompaniments such as grilled vegetables, herbs, and bread.

Azerbaijani barbecue Lamb and chickpea soup

  • Saj Ichi is typically made with lamb, beef, or chicken.
  • The meat is cut into small cubes and marinated in a mixture of spices, herbs, and oil.
  • The skewered meat is then grilled over hot coals until it is cooked to perfection.
  • Saj Ichi is usually served with grilled tomatoes, onions, and peppers, as well as fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro.
  • The dish is often accompanied by Azerbaijani flatbread called lavash and a traditional yogurt-based sauce called dushbara.

Overall, Saj Ichi is a mouthwatering and satisfying dish that is perfect for any occasion, whether it's a family gathering or a special celebration.

5. Piti - Lamb and chickpea soup

Piti is a dish widely recognized as one of Azerbaijan's national soups, but it's more like a stew due to the lengthy cooking process. The primary ingredients of Piti are diced lamb or mutton, toasted chestnuts, chickpeas, and saffron water. The mixture is cooked in a traditional clay pot, slowly simmering for 5 to 6 hours.

  • Regional Variations: Piti can be found in neighboring countries like Moldova and Georgia, where it is also prepared in different ways.
  • Origin: The dish's origin is traced back to the city of Shaki, and it's considered the best place to enjoy Piti.

The slow-cooking process allows the ingredients to blend, creating a rich and flavorful broth that is served separately from the meat and vegetables. When you're ready to enjoy Piti, the broth is poured over the other ingredients, and the dish is served hot.

6. Buglama - Traditional lamb stew

Buglama, meaning "steamed" in Azeri, is a beloved dish that hails from Azerbaijan and Georgia. This traditional meal is unique in that it's cooked over its own ingredients' juice, resulting in a flavorful and aromatic dish.

How to Prepare Buglama

To make Buglama, combine diced or chopped lamb, onions, tomatoes, bay leaves, peppers, and a small amount of liquid in a pot. Seal the pot tightly and cook it slowly over low heat. The end result is a tender and succulent meal that's perfect for sharing with loved ones.

Variations on Buglama

While lamb is the traditional meat used in Buglama, you can substitute it with fish, beef, or poultry. For a vegan twist, many cultural restaurants offer Buglama made with tofu as a meat substitute.

Buglama is a must-try dish for those looking to explore the rich culinary traditions of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

7. Gutabs - Stuffed meat or vegetable pies

Gutab, also spelled as Qutab, is a popular fast food item in Azerbaijani cuisine. It is considered the brightest representative of fast food in Azerbaijan and has gained reputation in South Caucasian and Jewish regions as well.

Ingredients and Varieties

Gutab is made of stuffed Lavash, a traditional flatbread, with a wide range of fillings. The fillings can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian. The herb version of Gutab is called Green Gutab or “Yashyl Qutab” and is made with pumpkin, spinach, cilantro, onions, and dill.

The non-vegetarian Gutab can include ground meat as a filling. In addition, there are sweet versions of Gutab that include sumac and pomegranate seeds.

Shape and Serving

Gutab has a half-moon shape and is meant to be served with cultural yogurt condiment or beverage. It is a popular fast food item that is often consumed as a snack or a quick meal.

Overall, Gutab is a tasty and versatile fast food item that is enjoyed by many in Azerbaijani cuisine.

8. Lavangi - Baked stuffed meat dish

Lavangi is a popular Azerbaijani dish known for its use of spices and flavorful ingredients. Its origin can be traced back to the Gilan province of Lakaran, though its exact date of creation is unknown.

Types of Lavangi:

  • Baliq Lavangi, made with cultural fish like kutum or asp, is the most common version.
  • Toyuq Lavangi, a stuffed chicken dish, is also popular.
  • Vegetarian Lavangi can be made using eggplant instead of fish or poultry.

Ingredients:

Regardless of the base ingredient, Lavangi is stuffed with walnuts, onions, and a variety of condiments and seasonings that make it a delectable fusion of flavors.

Overall, Lavangi is a must-try dish for anyone looking to experience the rich and diverse cuisine of Azerbaijan.

9. Kebab/Kebap - Azerbaijani kebab

Kebab is a popular Middle Eastern dish that has become a beloved food item all around the world. This traditional dish is usually grilled or roasted over an open flame and is known for its savory flavors and unique cooking method.

Origins and Meaning of Kebab

Kebab is an invention of the Turks but has since become a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. The word “Kebab” in the Arabic tongue means “roasted meat”. This dish can be found in many Middle Eastern countries and is often associated with street food.

Lula Kebab: The Azerbaijani Version

There are numerous Azerbaijani recipes for Kebabs, but the most common version is Lula Kebab. Traditionally, Lula Kebab is made from minced lamb or mutton, salt, lemon, seasonings, and herbs. The meat is then shaped into cubes and skewered before being roasted to perfection.

Perfect Pairing: Lavash and Red Onion

Lavash is a traditional Azerbaijani flatbread that pairs perfectly with Kebab in general. Slices of red onion are also often served alongside this dish, adding a nice crunch and a hint of sweetness to the meal.

10. Mangal Salaty - Vegetable salad

Looking for a new way to enjoy vegetables in a salad? Try Azerbaijani Mangal Salaty, a mixture of grilled or roasted vegetables that is sure to delight your taste buds.

Ingredients

The irreplaceable ingredients for this salad include eggplants, tomatoes, red onions, and peppers. Other local spices are optional.

Serving Suggestions

While it is often served as an accompaniment to kebabs or grilled meat dishes, Mangal Salaty is a vegan food and can be enjoyed on its own. It's perfect for a delicious breakfast alongside some bread. If you're a vegetarian, eggs are an excellent addition to this dish.

Give Azerbaijani Mangal Salaty a try and discover a new way to enjoy grilled vegetables in a tasty and nutritious salad.

11. Dushbara - Dumplings

If you love dumplings, you might want to try Azerbaijani Dushbara. Unlike the large and doughy dumplings in American food culture, Dushbara is more closely related to the most ancient dumpling recipe—the Chinese version.

Dumplings Azerbaijani baklava.jpg

What is Dushbara, exactly?

 It's a dish made of ground meat, herbs, and spices wrapped in a flat dough, then boiled. However, the signature of Dushbaras is their small size. In fact, there's a challenge for either the cook or eater to fit as many Dushbaras as they can on a spoon.

The traditional way to serve this dish is in lamb broth, with some mint, wine vinegar, and garlic. This combination creates a hearty and flavorful meal that is perfect for colder days.

If you're looking for a unique and delicious dumpling experience, give Dushbara a try.

12. Bozbash - National soup of Azerbaijan

Bozbash is a popular traditional dish that originated in the 19th century and is widely enjoyed in Armenia, Iran, and Azerbaijan. The name Bozbash is believed to be a compound word of "boz" - which means light gray, and "bash" - which means head in Turkish Azeri, indicating the color of the dish.

Ingredients and Preparation

Bozbash is typically prepared using meat bases such as lamb or beef, combined with peas, potatoes, and local spices such as turmeric and saffron. The most famous version of this dish is Kufta Bozbash, which uses a large-sized cultural meatball. The Bozbash broth may have different flavors depending on the region.

Serving Suggestions

Bozbash is typically served hot and can be enjoyed on its own or with bread. It is a hearty and flavorful dish that is perfect for cold weather. If you're looking to experience the rich and diverse cuisine of the region, Bozbash is definitely a must-try dish.

Key Takeaways

  • Bozbash is a traditional dish popular in Armenia, Iran, and Azerbaijan.
  • The name Bozbash is derived from "boz" meaning light gray, and "bash" meaning head in Turkish Azeri.
  • The dish is typically prepared using meat bases, peas, potatoes, and local spices.
  • Kufta Bozbash is the most famous version of the dish and uses a large-sized cultural meatball.
  • Bozbash is a hearty and flavorful dish that is perfect for cold weather.

13. Pakhlava - Azerbaijani baklava

Sprouted from the Ottoman Turkish cuisine, the Azerbaijanis’ Pakhlava or Halva is a descendant of the world’s famous Baklava. Traditionally, Pakhlava is usually prepared for Novruz, a traditional festival in March to celebrate the upcoming spring.

A Cultural Delight

However, it’s now widely used throughout the year, and almost every restaurant, bakery, pastry shop, or family has its own recipe for the cultural Pakhlava. Still, the signature of this Azerbaijani sweet is multiple layers of nuts flooded with syrup or honey.

A Unique Topping and Garnish

It’s also usually topped with a mixture of yolk and saffron; nuts like walnut or hazelnut are for the garnishings.

An Irresistible Sweetness

Many would describe Pakhlava as the sweetest pastries they’ve ever tried, and the locals would likely enjoy it with their cultural black tea.

If you ever visit Azerbaijan, don't forget to indulge in this sweet delight.

14. Djiz-biz - Fried meat

Djiz-biz, also known as Jiz Biz or spells Jiz Byz, is a popular dish in Azerbaijani cuisine. This dish is made of fried lamb organs such as kidney, heart, lung, and intestine. Modern restaurants also serve this dish with fried potatoes, and tomato is a great companion during the summer.

Nutritious and Delicious

Though it may feel like a hash made of lamb offal, Djiz-biz is a nutritious dish. Each of its components requires a specific cooking technique and is meant to be cooked separately. The locals would prefer to enjoy Djiz-biz with bread, pickles, vegetables, and red onions.

The Perfect Combination

Djiz-biz is a delicious and unique dish that has been enjoyed by Azerbaijanis for generations. Here are some of the perfect companions to enjoy with this dish:

  • Bread
  • Pickles
  • Vegetables
  • Red onions

So, if you ever get a chance to try Djiz-biz, be sure to enjoy it with its perfect companions.

15. Kefli Becha - Azerbaijani-style chicken

Azerbaijani cuisine is a blend of Iranian, Turkish, and Middle Eastern influences. Kefli Becha is a traditional Azerbaijani dish made with chicken and rice. It has been a popular dish in the region for centuries.

Ingredients and preparation

The dish is typically made with chicken thighs, rice, onion, garlic, tomato paste, and a variety of spices such as turmeric, saffron, and cumin. The chicken is first marinated in a mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, and spices, then cooked in a skillet with onions and garlic. The rice is cooked separately with tomato paste and spices, then combined with the chicken and simmered until fully cooked.

Serving

Kefli Becha is usually served hot and garnished with fresh herbs such as parsley and cilantro. It can be enjoyed on its own or with a side of salad or pickles. This dish is a perfect representation of Azerbaijani cuisine, which is known for its bold flavors and hearty dishes.

16. Dovga - Yoghurt soup

Dovga is a traditional dish of Azerbaijan, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. This dish can be served both hot or cold, depending on the season. It is a mixture of yogurt, rice, spinach, chickpeas, dill, mint, and coriander. Eggs are also sometimes added to the soup.

Origin and Popularity

Dovga originated in the Western region of Azerbaijan but is now a famous dish in Turkey, Iran, and Armenia. It is a popular dish served at Azerbaijan weddings and is usually served between meat courses.

Vegetarian Considerations

Although the ingredients of Dovga soup are vegetarian-safe, it is important to inquire whether it contains any meat accompaniment. In some regions, such as Baku, restaurants may add small meatballs to the soup.

17. Pomidor-Yumurta - Eggs and tomatoes

Are you looking for a simple and delicious breakfast recipe? Look no further than Pomidor-Yumurta, a popular Azerbaijani dish that's easy to make and packed with flavor.

Pomidor Yumurta Dovga Yoghurt soup

Recipe

To make Pomidor-Yumurta, follow these simple steps:

  1. Chop tomatoes and cook them in a copper pan until they're soft and juicy.
  2. Beat eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the pan.
  3. Add salt and optional spices to taste.
  4. Cook until the eggs are fully set.

History

Pomidor-Yumurta is thought to have originated from the Ottoman cuisine dish called "Shakshouka" and is similar to the Turkish Menemen. However, Azerbaijan has put its own spin on the dish, making it a staple of their breakfast cuisine.

With its simple preparation and delicious taste, Pomidor-Yumurta is a great breakfast option for those who want to start their day with a healthy and satisfying meal. Try it out and experience the unique flavors of Azerbaijani cuisine.

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