Traditional Russian Appetizer (Zakuski) Recipes

Zakuski (закуски) is the plural form of the Russian word for "appetizers" and zakuska (закуска) is the singular form.

Zakuski loosely translates as "little bites" and they are meant to soften the effects of the iced vodka or other strong potables they are served with. A zakuski spread is presented buffet style on a table known as a zakusochnyi stol and is indispensable before a formal meal or on holidays.

Below are the most common categories of zakuski. They may feature a few...MORE simple items, such as herring, cheese, and bread, or more elaborate dishes that number 20 or more.

Some Russians consider soup as part of the zakuski spread, especially now that slow cookers are popular worldwide and can keep the soup hot on the serving line.

  • 01 of 07

    Salads and Vegetables Many Ways

    Russian Shuba Salad
    © Michael Grogan on Flickr.

    Salads are an indispensable part of the zakuski table and may include a simple vinaigrette salad (bинегрет), pickled cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, onions and cabbage, stuffed eggs, cheese, and bread. More elaborate offerings might include these:

  • 02 of 07

    Charcuterie

    Jellied Pigs Feet or Zimne Nogi by Arkadiusz Scichocki
    © Arkadiusz Scichocki

    Zakuski spreads include an overwhelming assortment of meats, cold cuts, ​bacons, hams, chicken roll, tongue, and others.

  • 03 of 07

    Brined and Cured Fish

    cured fish

    No Russian appetizer spread would be complete without caviar, herring, lox, fried smelts with onion and lemon, eel, and squid. Many Russian recipes are similar to Polish and Ukrainian recipes.

    • Caviar (икра - Ikra)
    • Pickled Herring Rollmops Recipe (маринованная сельдь рольмопс - Marinovannaya Sel'd' Rol'mops)
    • Pickled Shrimp Recipe ​(m​аринованные srimp - Mаринованные Srimp)
    • Smoked Fish Recipes (​копченая рыба - Kopchenaya ryba)
  • 04 of 07

    Dumplings, Pancakes and Savory Pies

    Little Meat Dumplings or Russian Pelmeni
    © Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Russians celebrate flour in its many forms -- dumplings, savory strudels, pancakes and more.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07
    Russian Sour Cabbage Soup or Kislye Shchi
    © Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Soup takes pride of place in Russia and now that slow cookers are common, they can be kept warm and often appear on a zakuski spread. There are thousands of variations on one type of soup, but these are very typical.

  • 06 of 07

    Breads

    Russian Sourdough Rye Bread
    © Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Russians don't live by bread, potatoes, and vodka alone but, if push came to shove, they could. Rye, pumpernickel, black, and seeded breads hold sway.


     

  • 07 of 07

    Vodka and Other Potables

    Kvas Being Fermented
    © Kvas by Andrijbulba on Flickr

    The whole purpose of zakuski is to lessen the effects of potent drinks like vodka and Champagne. Some prefer to go the non-alcoholic route with tea, coffee, a non-alcoholic bread beer drink known as kvas, fruit compotes, juice, and kefir.