Khinkali is perhaps the most famous food in all of Georgia. It is life and it is great. I spent quite some time in Tbilisi and much of that time spent was finding and eat my way through the different Khinkali restaurants. As a self proclaimed dumpling connoisseur of the world, khinkali in Georgia speaks to me in all sorts of ways and I made sure to not go hungry.
If you’re looking for the best khinkali in Tbilisi, or simply want to learn what all the hype about Khinkali is, then this is the post for you.
I spent hours and hours eating hundreds of khinkali to write this post for you. To make sure you don’t go hungry on your visit to Tbilisi and to make sure you eat the best that it has to offer.
What is a Khinkali?
For those that don’t already know, khinkali is one of the de facto national dishes of Georgia. It’s the first part of Georgian cuisine I really knew about and one of the main reasons I was so excited to visit the country (there are also a ton of other reasons to visit the country by the way).
A Khinkali is essentially a large soup dumpling stuffed with meat and spices. The dough is a bit thicker than its Chinese cousins which was perhaps to adapt it to the harsh cold winters the Caucus region endures.
Traditionally, khinkali was made with lamb or mutton but nowadays, beef and pork are more popular options in the cities. You’ll find Khinkali all over Tbilisi and Georgia with prices ranging between 1 GEL to 1.5GEL per dumpling.
If khinkali is all you’re eating, I think somewhere between 7-10 khinkali should be more than enough for you. At all restaurants I went to, you had to order at least 5 khinkali as part of an order.
History of the Khinkali
The history of Khinkali is fascinating. In fact, I find that the history of any dumpling style food to be fascinating. As someone with Chinese roots, I grew up eating dumplings or Jiaozi as they are called in Chinese. I always knew these were distinctly Chinese and just never thought that any other cultures would have something similar. In fact, even in China there are multiple types of dumplings and I didn’t even know soup dumplings existed until I was much older (these come from another part of China).
So the first time I visited Poland to eat pierogies, or Ukraine to eat varynyky was a surreal experience. I thought surely Europeans couldn’t make a dumpling that could taste remotely good. Boy was I wrong, I quickly became obsessed with pierogies and varynyky. While these variations are my similar to a traditional jiaozi (dumpling), the khinkali in Georgia is extremely similar to that of the Chinese soup dumpling. It really blows my mind how cultures found and mixed with each other centuries ago before any technology existed.
Back to the history of the Khinkali, all Georgians will proudly proclaim that it is no one but themselves that invented it. These are fighting words if you tell a Georgian that khinkali are not theirs.
However, let’s be real here. Is it really possible that two people 5000 km apart in completely different parts of the world both came up with a dumpling that specifically wraps minced meat in dough with a mix of soup?
From reading through numerous articles, my theory is this. Around the times of the Mongols, the dumpling was brought from what is now modern day China to the lands they controlled as part of the Mongol Empire. This included places like modern day Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and Poland. You know what else these countries all have in common? They all have different variation of dumplings!
Different types of Khinkali
Khinkali come in all different sizes and shapes. Different fillings and shapes are used to make a number of different types of the dumpling. The most common khinkali and in my opinion the only type you need to eat, is with meat. The traditional khinkali is served with ground meat, various spices, and broth. This is also my favorite and most delicious. Here are a few of the variations you can expect to find in Georgia:
- Kalakuri: Beef & Pork, Coriander, green pepper, garlic
- Mtiuluri: Beef and pork, cumin
- Telavuri: Pork, onion, cumin
- Tushuri: Lamb (sometimes with beef as well), local from the mountains
- All beef khinkali with various veggies/spices
So as you can see, there is a khinkali for everyone. Even if you’re a vegetarian, you can expect to find something here for you. If you’re not a vegetarian, I suggest you try the non meat ones just once to check it off the list but stick to the meat ones in the end. My favorite is with beef and cumin.
How to eat Khinkali
Knowing how to eat khinkali is a must. There is a sort of art to eating a khinkali that will not only make you look more respectable, but also complete enhance the taste. Khinkali is a soup dumpling so you need to make sure you get the soup into your mouth. This means completely avoiding using a fork and a knife. There’s probably nothing more that triggers a Georgian than watching a tourist cut open a khinkali with a knife only to see the juices flooding out.
Follow these rules for the ultimate khinkali experience:
- Wait a few minutes when the Khinkali comes out as it will be piping hot.
- Pick up the khinkali by the tip. There is a bunch of dough congregating at the top of the khinkali
- Turn it up side down
- Make a small bite into the side of the dough
- Drink the juices slowly. If you do it too soon after the dumplings come out, you will burn your throat
- Once you’ve drank most of the juices (shouldn’t be completely dry), start biting around the khinkali eating the dough with the meat
- Discard the top part of the khinkali
And here is a great graphic to visualize it all!
Best Khinkali Restaurants in Tbilisi
Here is a list of my favorite Khinkali restaurants in Tbilisi. Literally every Georgian restaurant will probably serve them so it’s all about finding the best of the best. I probably ate 100 khinkali during my stay in Tbilisi. I know, i know, but someone had to do it.
Amo Rame Khinkali
My first khinkali experience was at the Amo Rame restaurant in the Tbilisi old town. It was pure heaven biting into one of these dumplings for the first time. The juices were flowing and the meat was so well seasoned accompanied with the light dough.
Amo Rame is a very popular restaurant with locals in Tbilisi. The inside is rather small with only a handful of tables so you might have to wait if visiting during busy times. I came in around 3pm and was able to find a seat easily. The khinkali here is smaller than the one at other restaurants and had a different texture which I really liked. They have three dumplings here: Beef, cheese and potato. I tried all of their khinkali but in the end, the meat always reigns supreme.
Pasanauri is a local chain with multiple locations throughout the city. It’s one of those famous local restaurants that attracts tourists and locals alike. I visited the big location in the old town right on the river. They serve a variety of local dishes ranging from Mtsvadi to Khatchapuri and of course Khinkali.
They offer a variety of khinkali but I was recommended the beef/pork combo with leek. This is a more traditional kinhkali. The size is like a small tennis ball with a densely packed tip. The dough is light and fluffy and the soup from the meat absolutely delicious.
Klike’s Khinkali is another well known restaurant specializing in serving khinkali. You have to know about this rather hidden boho brick-lined basement on the Mtatsminda hillside, but once you’ve been here you’re likely to keep coming back, as for our money its khinkali are some of Tbilisi’s best. The thin dough and delicious fillings are super simple but utterly mouth-watering, and there’s good-quality beer and wine by the glass too.
Hinkali Factory is located near the Independence Square and is one of the most popular restaurants for Khinkali in town. They have a huge space inside and out and have a wide offering of khinkali and other Georgian delicacies.
They have many different types of Khinkali here with the typical beef or beef/pork combo, as well as lamb and cheese. You can get the khinkali pan fried as well as with various sauces (which isn’t as typical). I grabbed 5 of the regular steamed khinkali and 5 pan fried khinkali here to try.
This place is very good and I particularly loved the pan fried khinkali. Prices are great as well.
Zodiako is located nearby to the Hinkali Factory and serves easily some of the best khinkali in the city. I might even say that this was my favorite khinkali that I had. They offer numerous types of khinkali with multiple meat styles as well as cheese or mushroom only.
I had the pan fried khinkali and the regular steamed beef/pork combo. The khinkali are incredibly tasty with superior broth that is perfectly flavored without being too salty. The dough is also superb compared to others that I’ve tried. The meat to dough ratio is perfect. I also had mtsvadi which was perfectly grilled here as well.
The interior decor is rustic and charming with beautiful paintings all along the wall. This place does get busy during lunch time with locals and tourists alike which is what you want to see when getting the best khinkali.
Asi Khinkali is a quaint little restaurant I found after I had a workout in one of the many nice gyms around Tbilisi.
This unassuming restaurant is on a side street away from everything with beautiful indoor decor. The khinkali here is absolutely fantastic. I had the chefs beef special which included beef and tarragon (yum). I also had their grilled half chicken which was simply amazing. I would highly recommend Asi!
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