Latvian meals – how do they differ from American meals?

Do Latvian meals differ from American meals a lot? I’d say they do. And, it’s quite easy to summarize how Latvians and Americans talk and think differently regarding meals and eating.

For instance, this would be a typical dialogue in the US around lunchtime:

A: “Let’s go grab something to eat!”

B: “Sure. What are you in the mood for? Chinese? Mexican?”

A: “You know what? Some Mediterranean food would be nice.”

This is not something you’d typically hear in Latvia. Instead, people would be discussing what courses of Latvian kitchen they’d have for a meal. Latvians eat hot meals for lunch. Big sandwiches such as Subway is not a typical choice. People who want to eat lighter would choose a salad or soup with a slice of black bread. Latvians also like having a small dessert and a coffee to top their lunches.

Another difference is the size of dishes in restaurants. Meals in American restaurants are huge. So, if you order a dish, most times you’re sure to take half home. Thus, from just one course you can get 2 or 3 meals. I almost never order deserts in the US because I’m always too full. In most Latvian restaurants though, a hungry person would order 3 courses and finish them all up with no problem. That’ s how my Latvian meal could look .


A video class for learners of Latvian “Meals”

Next, I’ll teach how to call meals and some courses as well as some drinks in Latvian. If you’re not interested in learning the language, skip this part and read about some of the most well-known Latvian foods.

Click the link below, and I’ll send you an audio and printable files. I have prepared 3 dialogues from which you can learn full sentences, including questions. In the audio, you’ll hear my son and myself reading the dialogues in roles.

Get the audio and printable files

Most well-known Latvian foods


Pīrāgi Latvian is comfort food. They are little mini-pies filled with fried bacon with onions. It’s particularly popular among Latvian expats. They exchange recipes and success or failure stories online. Sadly, I have never been very successful at making them. Something always goes wrong.


Latvian black bred
Rupjmaize – black rye bread

This is the black rye bread. It’s impossible to not mention it although not everybody even in Latvia loves it. Why some don’t is because it’s really heavy and filling. In ancient times when people didn’t have the food abundance we have nowadays, this bread and water was the entire Latvian meal. It’s actually quite nutritious.

Yet, there are dishes made of rupjmaize that are very popular among Latvians in Latvia. Below, I’ll list those the most well-known.

Ķiploku grauzdiņi.

They are slices of black rye bread cut up in smaller pieces and fried in oil with lots of garlic and salt. They are popular snacks with beer.

Maizes zupa.

That is a sweet cold soup with dried fruit such as raisins, apricots and prunes. It’s always topped with whipped cream. This dish is a desert.

Rupjmaizes kārtojums.

This also is a desert. It’s very easy to make. You need to arrange grated black rye bread, strawberry spread and whipped cream in layers. You have several layers this way – at least two of each of the three ingredients. Grated black rye bread can be bought in Latvian stores so no grating is needed. After you make the dessert, you want to wait for a while in order to let the grated bread soak up some moisture from the spreading and the whipped cream. That’s when it’s the most delicious.

Siļķe kažokā.

This is Herring under Fur Coat, and it actually is Russian food that has become popular in Latvia. It’s a layered salad made of chopped salted herring, boiled eggs, boiled red beets, potatoes, fresh onions and dressing which typically is a mixture of mayonnaise and sour cream with black pepper and salt according to taste. It is popular probably because Latvians just like most northern nations love red beets.

You can read my post about another popular Latvian dish here: Most popular summer dish – cold soup with red beets



Ilze Be is a Latvian born American educator, entrepreneur and public speaker.

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