Plate of rice pilaf with the word "ovqat" written over image

Uzbek cuisine is famous for its rich flavors across the post-Soviet area and beyond. It is a blend of the cooking traditions of Turkic and Persian peoples with a history dating back thousands of years. Although Uzbek food usually contains a lot of meat, everyone can find a dish that they would love. Along with meat-heavy dishes, there are also delicacies prepared from dough, fresh vegetables, and dried fruits or nuts.

Grilled kebabsManti, stuffed dumplings






Salad of cucumbers and tomatoesPiles of dried fruits and nuts





Regional Differences

As the most populated Central Asian country, Uzbekistan is diverse, and this diversity can be observed in food across different regions of the country. For instance, inhabitants of the capital city – Tashkent – are known to prefer lamb over other kinds of meat in cooking. The north-eastern region also has a number of dishes made with horse meat such as “naryn” and “beshbarmoq”.

Meat and noodles on a dishDish with meat






People in this region enjoy drinking “ayran” (a carbonated yogurt based cold drink mixed with salt) during hot summer days and traditionally brewed hot black tea at any time of the year.

Yogurt drinkTea in cups





On the other hand, the south-western regions of the country, including the historic cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, are known for their love of green tea. These parts of the country tend to have much higher temperatures in summer, and hot green tea (I can attest that it is true!) is considered to cool a person down and quench her/his thirst. Tea in Uzbekistan is served in decorated porcelain teapots and piyolas (pialas – small bowls). When serving the tea, people usually pour some into a piala and back into a pot, repeating the action three times. Because loose-leaf tea is the most preferred kind in Uzbek families, the tradition of circulating it between the pot and the piala helps the flavor of the tea to become more distinct. When pouring tea for a guest, only half of a piala is filled. This is a sign of respect and the tea can cool down faster when served in small amounts.

The national Uzbek dish, “plov” (or palov, osh) is often prepared with beef and yellow or orange carrots are used. Another mouth-watering dish here is a soup based on beef bones and chickpeas, balaza. Cuisine here is highly influenced by local Jewish heritage and therefore, there are also a number of dishes that are known only to inhabitants of these cities.

Plate of plovSoup bowl






The far-western region of the country, known as Khorazm, is known for its “tukhum-barak” (a crescent or square ravioli filled with egg filling), which can be boiled or fried. It has also its unique “shivit osh”, which is not based on rice, but on a green colored (dill based) pasta.

A plate of tukhum-barakA plate of shivit osh






Another popular lunch food in Uzbekistan, which comes in a number of varieties across the country, is “somsa” (a meat or potato filled oven baked dough/or fried with greens or squash filling). It can be shaped as a round, square, triangle, or envelope.

Round somsaBraided somsa







Flat somsaTriangular somsa




Similarities to Other World Cuisines

You might have already observed some of the similarities between Uzbek cuisine and other world regions. The rice dish, plov, is also prepared in a number of other Central Asian, Caucasian, and Middle Eastern countries and is infamously called “pilaf” in the western world. The steamed dough with meat filling (manty) is similar to East-Asian cuisine, including South Korea (mandu) and China. Somsa is more well  known as “samosa” in the United States and is often associated with Indian cuisine. The rich variety in boiled ravioli dishes and pasta (or lagman) based dishes can be compared to Italian cuisine. Perhaps what makes all these dishes different in each country is the taste of the products reinforced by the local soil and air, skills of chefs, and most importantly, the spices. Some of the most common spices, herbs, and fruits used in Uzbek cuisine are black and red pepper, cumin, cayenne, coriander, bay leaves, sesame seeds, garlic, mint, basil, thyme, dill, parsley, cilantro, green onions, green garlic, quince, grains of pomegranate, fresh and dried plum, alcha (wild cherry) and raisins.

Dishes of different spices

Opening to the World

Uzbekistan had put much focus on its internal policy following its independence in 1991 until the election of the second president of the nation-state in 2016. Many initiatives have been undertaken by government officials and young entrepreneurs to globalize the state economy, attract foreign investors, and in general, open the country to the rest of the world. Because of the historic legacy of the territory of Uzbekistan, tourism is considered as one of the key industries for Uzbekistan’s internationalization and economy. Food is in the heart of this process.

Not only are there a number of food tours offered through Tripadvisor, but also state efforts to publicize the rich cuisine through inviting popular bloggers and food vloggers. Follow the links below to watch some of videos:


Would you like to learn how to prepare Uzbek dishes? If yes, you can follow the links to the following resources provided by LangMedia, Five College Center for World Languages. As you watch the videos, you can listen to the Uzbek language (English translation is available) and cook with the chef at the same time!

You can certainly look up more (video) recipes in English on Youtube and Google if you would like to take a stab at preparing one of the dishes above!

Suggested Learning Activities


  • Select an Uzbek dish of your choice and compare it with other cuisines.


  • In your opinion, why is osh (plov, pilaf) a popular Central Asian dish? How many countries have this dish? And what are the differences in the way it is prepared?
  • What other varieties of rice dishes in Central Asia do you know about?
  • What Uzbek food that does not exist in the US would you like to try?
  • Watch, describe, and discuss reactions of people in Japan to the Uzbek “qurt” (a hard salty yogurt ball):

Additional Resources

Please find below additional resources that you can consult if you would like to learn more about Uzbek cuisine and all the flavors it has to offer.