Latvian cuisine typically consists of agricultural products, with meat featuring in most main meal dishes. Fish is commonly consumed due to Latvia's location on the east coast of the Baltic Sea.
Latvian cuisine has been influenced by other countries of the Baltic rim.
Common ingredients in Latvian recipes are found locally, such as potatoes, wheat, barley, cabbage, onions, eggs and pork.
The Latvian cuisine is markedly seasonal due to pronounced four seasons in the climate of Latvia, each time of the year has its own distinctive products, tastes and flavors. Latvian food is generally quite fatty, and uses few spices.
Contemporary Latvians usually eat three meals a day.
- Breakfast is normally light and usually consists of sandwiches or an omelette, with a drink, often milk.
- Lunch is eaten from noon to 3 p.m. and tends to be the main meal of the day; as such it can include a variety of foods, and sometimes also soup as an entrée and a dessert.
- Supper is the last meal of the day, with some choosing to eat another large meal. Consumption of ready-made or frozen meals is now common.
Latvian cuisine is typical of the Baltic region and, in general, of northern countries. The food is high in butter and fat while staying low in spices except for black pepper, dill or grains/seeds, such as caraway seeds.
Latvian cuisine originated from the peasant culture and is strongly based on crops that grow in Latvia's maritime, temperate climate.
Rye or wheat, oats, peas, beets, cabbage, pork products and potatoes are the staples. Meat features in most main meal dishes.
But fish also is commonly consumed due to Latvia's location on the east coast of the Baltic Sea: smoked and raw fish are quite common.
Latvian cuisine offers plenty of varieties of bread and milk products, which are an important part of the cuisine.
A lot of popular dishes in contemporary Latvia come directly from other countries, at times as a result of their historical domination. For example dishes adopted from Soviet cuisine include siļķe kazoka (herring and beetroot salad), various dumplings, sasliks (shashlik) and many others.
The most popular alcoholic beverage is beer. A national liquor is Riga Black Balsam.
Latvia is much richer in milk products than other Western countries. Biezpiens (cottage cheese), skabais krejums (sour cream), ruguspiens (soured milk) and a lot of varieties of cheeses with different flavors are available.
A cheese similar to smoked gouda, but softer, is the cheapest and, arguably, tastiest variety.
There are various tastes available for purchase in most grocery stores. A Latvian specialty is the biezpiena sieriņs, which is pressed cottage cheese with a sweet taste,the most popular manufacturers of the snack are Karums and Baltais.
A traditional Latvian cheese is Jaņu siers or caraway cheese; this is traditionally served during the celebration of Jaņi or midsummer.
Soups are commonly made with vegetables and broth or milk. Noodle soup, beet soup, sorrel soup and nettle soup are also consumed by Latvians.
A traditional Latvian dessert is maizes zupa or bread soup, which is the sweet soup made from rye bread, whipped cream and fruits.
Rupjmaize is a dark bread made from rye, and is considered a national staple.
Piradziņi are buns filled with bacon and onion. Kliņgeris is a sweet pretzel-shaped bread that is usually served as a dessert on special occasions, such as name day. Sklandrausis (or sklandu rausis) is traditional dish in Latvian cuisine which has a Livonian origin; it's a sweet pie, made of rye dough and filled with potato and carrot paste and seasoned with caraway.
Latvia has ancient traditions involving edible mushrooms. Picking wild mushrooms is very popular in autumn. Modern as well as traditional mushroom preparation is very popular.
There are around 4100 mushroom species in Latvia, 1100 of those are cup mushrooms. About ¼ of these are edible. The most popular edible ones are various Boletus and Cantharellus.