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12 Lean Ukrainian Christmas Foods for Sviat Vechir

Step into the heart of Ukrainian holiday cheer with Ukrainian Christmas foods I can’t wait to share with you.

The traditional 12-dish Christmas Eve supper (Sviat vecheria) is what makes Ukrainian Christmas so special.

This supper includes kutia as the centerpiece and a variety of meatless dishes to represent the fasting period known as Pylypivka that Ukrainians observe before Christmas.

Ukrainian Christmas Foods featured image | Girl Meets Food

In this article, I’ll fill you in on the most common lean dishes featured on the festive table during Christmas Eve.

This special evening falls on the last day of the Christmas Fast, so all the dishes must be lean. By “lean,” we mean that they’re light on fat and calories, without any meat or dairy.

12 Ukrainian Christmas Foods

Come celebrate with me the delicious and distinctive Ukrainian Christmas traditions that have been passed down to me through generations.

Kutia

A bowl of kutia on the wooden background | Girl Meets Food

One of the most beloved traditional Ukrainian holiday foods, Kutia is a symbolic porridge made with cooked wheat berries, poppy seeds, and nuts and sweetened with honey.

Kutia is culturally significant because it’s served during the Holy Supper on Christmas Eve. Upon seeing the first evening star, everyone took their seats at the table designated for the kutia and twelve fasting dishes served alongside it.

Kutia is a sacred dish for Ukrainians, full of symbolism, and I can’t imagine my Christmas without it, no matter where I am.

Uzvar

A glass of uzvar on the table | Girl Meets Food

Uzvar is a fragrant and warming drink that is traditionally served at Christmas in Ukraine. It’s prepared by boiling a mixture of dried fruits, including apples, pears, and apricots.

This healthy mixture is a beautiful complement to any Christmas table.

If you’re curious about other refreshments Ukrainians enjoy, check out my article on traditional Ukrainian drinks.

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Baking dish full of cabbage rolls | Girl Meets Food
Holubtsi (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
Check out this recipe

Stuffed cabbage rolls, or holubtsi, are a traditional Ukrainian Christmas dish that captures the joy of the season.

Although they’re often prepared with ground pork, the Christmas version features cabbage leaves filled with mushrooms, rice and vegetables.

Holubtsi with potatoes can also make an amazing festive dish. You can experiment with the spices and sauces but I recommend you try it with tomato sauce!

Varenyky

A plate of cooked varenyky topped with fried onion | Girl Meets Food

Varenyky, are traditional Ukrainian dumplings that are sure to be a holiday staple thanks to their adaptable fillings.

They’re delicious whether filled with potatoes or cottage cheese or fruit. For Christmas, they were most often prepared with sauerkraut, because it was always in every home.

Varenyky with potatoes and mushrooms are also very popular during the holidays. They’re my favorite version!

Gingerbread Medivnyky

Gingerbread medivnyky (cookies) | Girl Meets Food

A whimsical touch to the Ukrainian Christmas feast is provided by gingerbread medivnyky, or ginger-honey cookies.

Festive motifs and symbols are formed into these tasty biscuits, and their comforting aromas and warm flavors bring the season to life.

These medivnyky can be shaped into stars, gingerbread men, angels, and Christmas trees.

Stewed Cabbage

A bowl of stewed cabbage | Girl Meets Food

Stewed cabbage is an important part of Ukrainian Christmas festivities, a simple but delicious dish.

This easy side dish highlights the sweetness of cabbage, slow-cooked to perfection with mushrooms and spices.

With its aromatic ingredients, stewed cabbage brings a warm comforting touch and balances out the heavier flavors on the Christmas table.

Lean Borshch

A bowl of lean borshch | Girl Meets Food

At the Holy Supper, everyone eats lean borshch, a vegetarian variant of the famous Ukrainian beet soup.

This traditional dish is packed with a colorful assortment of veggies including beets which give it its rich red color.

Christmas borshch can also be complemented with some dumplings, called vushka (ears), filled with mushrooms. They help create a tasty and hearty soup.

I really enjoy this meatless meal on Christmas Eve, especially if it’s accompanied by garlic rolls (pampushky).

Marinated Mushrooms

Wooden bowl of marinated mushrooms | Girl Meets Food

Ukrainian Christmas tables often feature pickled or salted mushrooms. Boiled mushrooms are typically marinated in a mixture of salt, vinegar, and flavorful spices.

They provide a wonderful contrast to the sweet and savory elements of the Christmas feast with their powerful umami flavor.

Stewed Beans

Brown bowl of stewed beans | Girl Meets Food

Ukrainian Christmas tables often feature stewed beans, perfectly cooked with aromatic herbs, carrots and onions.

A genuine embodiment of Ukrainian culinary traditions, its simplicity embodies the significance of utilizing products that are readily available in the area.

Pyrizhky and Pampushky

Ukrainian garlic pampushky on a parchment paper that is on a baking tray | Girl Meets Food

Delightful pastries like pyrizhky and pampushky bring a little extra pysch to the holiday season. Traditional savory fillings for stuffed buns, or pyrizhky, include potatoes, pork, or cabbage.

Contrarily, pampushky are sweet pillowy doughnuts with fruit jams or other sweet fillings.

I always found these two dishes especially satisfying as a child growing up in Ukraine. They’re an amazing way to round off the festive feast.

The word ‘pampushky’ is also used for small garlic rolls served with borshch. They’re probably my favorite part of the meal!

To discover more authentic sweet flavors, check out my list of special Ukrainian desserts.

Kolach, or Kalach

Two holiday kolachi | Girl Meets Food

Another centerpiece of the Ukrainian Christmas table is the kolach, also known as kalach. The word “kolo” means “circle” or “wheel” symbolizing eternity.

A candle is often positioned in the middle of the elaborately braided loaves.

This white ceremonial bread can’t usually be eaten until midnight on Christmas Eve because not eating eggs is part of the Advent fasting.

Herring

A plate of herring | Girl Meets Food

Fish dishes are also traditionally served on this special day, usually herring. It can be prepared in various ways, such as marinated, pickled, or served in a salad.

Herring soaked in milk is a technique that is used quite often to make the taste of the fish more delicate. It tastes best served with slices of onion.

Ukrainian Christmas Foods FAQs

What are the 12 dishes of Ukrainian Christmas?

The 12 Ukrainian dishes often included at Christmas are: kutia (wheat grains with honey, poppy seeds and nuts), stewed cabbage, lean borshch, marinated mushrooms, stewed beans, pyrizhky and pampushky (stuffed pastries), kolach/kalach (ceremonial bread), herring, varenyky (dumplings), holubtsi (stuffed cabbage rolls), gingerbread medivnyky and uzvar.

What are Ukrainian traditions for Christmas?

Ukrainian Christmas traditions often include:
• Carol Singing: Groups of people, often children, go from house to house singing carols.
• Didukh: A sheaf of wheat symbolizing the importance of the harvest and the spirit of ancestors.
• Sviat Vechir: The Holy Supper on Christmas Eve, during which the 12 traditional dishes are served.
• Christmas Eve Services: Many Ukrainians attend a church service on Christmas Eve.

How does Ukraine say Merry Christmas?

To say Merry Christmas in Ukrainian, you can use “Веселого Різдва!” (Veseloho Rizdva!), which translates to “Merry Christmas!”

“Christ is born!” is a common greeting in Ukrainian religious settings, and the appropriate response is “Glorify Him!” Orthodox Christians in Ukraine often engage in this kind of exchange.

I hope these lovely foods bring a taste of Ukrainian Christmas to your table this year! Let me know your favorite Christmas traditions in the comments.

Want to learn more about Ukrainian cuisine? Stay updated with these posts:

Wooden bowl of marinated mushrooms | Girl Meets Food

12 Lean Ukrainian Christmas Foods for Sviat Vechir

Viktoriia
Indulge in the festive tradition with 12 lean Ukrainian Christmas foods! From kutia to holubtsi, taste the holiday cheer.

Ingredients
  

  • Kutia
  • Uzvar
  • Holubtsi (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
  • Varenyky
  • Gingerbread Medivnyky
  • Stewed Cabbage
  • Lean Borshch
  • Marinated Mushrooms
  • Stewed Beans
  • Pyrizhky and Pampushky
  • Kolach (Kalach)
  • Herring
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