lobio recipe history culture origin

Lobio. Photo courtesy Michael Denner and illustrator Olena Bushana.

Lobio with Vinegar (Georgian Red Bean Salad)

Published: January 13, 2019

The following is an excerpt from “Лобио, сациви, хачапури, или Грузия со вкусом (Lobio, Satsivi, Khatchapuri, or Georgia with Taste) by Tinatin Mzhavanadze, a best-selling cookbook author in Georgia. It has been translated and adapted by Dr. Michael Denner of Stetson University in Florida.

History and Preparation of Lobio

Dr. Michael Denner: Lobio (ლობიო, лобио) means “beans” (including green or broad beans) in Georgian and does not refer to a particular dish. However, the word has been adopted from Georgian into many other languages to refer to the Georgian bean stew that spread throughout the Former Soviet Union and is still widely prepared in the states that were formed from it. The recipe below makes a salad from dried bean seeds (kidney beans), and is meant to be served, like so many dishes in the Georgian repertoire, at room temperature. In Georgia, this dish would probably be made with kvatsarakhi, a concentrated form of the national condiment, tkemali. But any red or white wine vinegar works great, too! (So would a good apple cider vinegar.)

SRAS: Sometimes in translation the audience itself must be translated. In other words, things that are common knowledge for one cultural group will need to be explained in detail for another. For the original meaning of a text to come across in translation, then, sometimes strict translation must be abandoned and a looser, more adaptive style is needed. Below, many such adaptations have been applied. Measurements have been converted – including the common Georgian measurement of “a knife tip,” meaning the amount of spice that will fit on the end of a kitchen knife, with similar measurements more familiar to American readers. Also interesting is the addition of “pomegranate seeds” to the list of ingredients on the English side. Although included in the recipe instructions in the original, it doesn’t show in the original list of ingredients. The original was written for Georgian cooks in Georgia, who will almost certainly have a pomegranate on hand if cooking anything – as pomegranate seeds garnish a vast array of Georgian dishes. Considerably more detail has been added to the instructions as well – again, mostly filling in for where common knowledge usually prevails for the original audience. Much as in the Georgian tradition, the original recipe here has been used a solid guideline – and the final product is to the liking of the chef. Keep this in mind as you cook and, most importantly, enjoy!

Lobio Recipe

(Давай приготовим!)

Tinatin Mzhavanadze (as translated and adapted from the Russian by Dr. Michael Denner): Tinatin Mzhavanadze (original text):
Every fall, my mother dries all sorts of garden bounty. The inspiring spectacle of bright colors, colorful blooms, gentle shapes, intoxicating scents… With all the different kinds of beans she grows, you could create paintings, and not just some sort of primitive modernist sketch, but a painting worthy of Rembrandt. The beans come in every conceivable size, color, and shade. I remember once seeing gigantic, jet black beans… I cannot imagine what recipe you’d make with them!

That said, the large dark-red kidney beans are my go-to bean: They keep their shape and color when boiled, and they look great in cold appetizers, of course predictably served with walnuts!

У моей мамы по осени сушатся всякие дары природы и ее огородных трудов: это такое умиротворяющее зрелище, краски яркие, расцветки пестрые, очертания плавные, запахи одуряющие. А из разных сортов лобио можно выкладывать картины, причем не какой-то примитивный авангардизм, а что-нибудь из фламандцев: есть все мыслимые размеры, цвета и оттенки. Один раз были даже антрацитово-черные гигантские фасолины – и что из них готовить, непонятно!

Зато крупная красная фасоль всегда при деле: при варке сохраняет форму и цвет и очень хорошо смотрится в холодной закуске – естественно, с грецкими орехами.

  • 1 pound dried, dark-red kidney beans
  • 1 cup chopped fresh, shelled walnuts (4 ounces)
  • 2 small red onions (6 ounces)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Small bunch cilantro (2 1/2 ounces)
  • Walnut or olive oil
  • White or red wine vinegar
  • Whole cloves – about 4 buds (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • Pomegranate seeds (garnish)
  • красное лобио – 500 г.
  • грецкие орехи – 1 стакан
  • фиолетовый или красный лук – 2-3 шт.
  • чеснок – 2-3 зубчика
  • кинза – небольшой пучок
  • растительное масло – 50 г.
  • красный винный уксус – 1 ст. ложка
  • гвоздика – 3-4 бутона
  • корица – на кончике ножа
  • свежемолотый черный перец – 1 ч. Ложка
  • соль
  1. In Georgia, we always soak beans overnight in abundant fresh, cold water. In the morning, pour off the water and discard it, and in a large pot, cover the soaked beans again with fresh, cold water (about twice the volume of the beans).
  2. Bring the pot to a gentle simmer over medium heat, and cook the beans until they’re soft, about an hour, though much depends on their age and size. Test them, and when the beans are soft but still maintain their shape, add a few pinches of salt and continue to cook the beans for 15 minutes. Ladle off a couple cups of the cooking liquid and set aside; we’ll use it later. Drain and cool the beans in a colander.
  3. Meanwhile, we make our usual beloved walnut paste, though with a few special twists. Chop the onion and the cilantro. Set aside a few tablespoons of each for garnishing later. Heat 2 tablespoons walnut or vegetable oil in a small skillet. Add the minced onion, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until softened and transparent. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. In your blender, food processor, or with a mortar and pestle, grind the nuts to a flour-like consistency. Remove the walnuts to a bowl, and into your weapon of choice add the garlic and chopped cilantro. Chop or pound the garlic and cilantro to a paste, add the salt and pepper. Taste and correct for seasoning. Add this mixture to the bowl with the walnuts. In a spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle, grind or pound the cloves to a fine powder (if using whole spices). Add the cloves and cinnamon to the walnut mixture.
  5. Add a few tablespoons of the bean cooking liquid to the bowl with the walnut mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the cooked and cooled onions, a tablespoon of the vinegar, and a few grinds of fresh pepper.
  6. Taste the mixture… do you like it? Adjust the salt and add acidity with more wine vinegar if needed. Since it will be served room temperature or cold, you may want to add some more vinegar anyway. If it’s bland, add a little more cinnamon and clove. Since it’s going to season the beans, the walnut paste should be bold.
  7. Mix the beans and the walnut paste together in a large, pretty bowl. Decorate the lobio with pomegranate seeds, the leftover minced onion and minced herbs, and serve at room temperature.
  1. Лобио с вечера нужно замочить в холодной воде – это общее правило. Утром воду сливаем, наливаем свежей (1:2) и ставим вариться.
  2. Варим долго, до мягкости фасолинок, если готово – отливаем пару черпаков отвара, он нам пригодится, откидываем наше лобио на дуршлаг, и пусть остывает, а мы тем временем готовим нашу любимую ореховую заправку – но с некоторыми особенностями.
  3. Итак, орехи смолоты в муку; затем чеснок и кинзу мелко режем и толчем в ступке с солью и перцем. Корицу и гвоздику растираем в другой ступке до состояния тонкой пыльцы, добавляем в заправку.
  4. Пару фиолетовых луковиц мелко режем и тушим в растительном масле до прозрачности, остужаем. Хорошо бы тушить лук в ореховом масле, но если его нет – берите какое любите.
  5. Теперь соединяем орехи, заправку со специями, добавляем немного отвара, перемешиваем, туда же – остывший лук и ложку хорошего винного уксуса, желательно красного. Капаем на ладонь и пробуем – все ли нам нравится? Соль, остроту и кислинку регулируем, и все – можно перемешивать, заправлять фасоль, выкладывать ее на пару красивых тарелок, украшать, как положено, зернами граната, луком или зеленью и нести на стол.


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Our Favorite Lobio Videos

Russian celebrity chef Yulia Vysotskaya cooks lobio.

A fairly long and opinionated piece on how to “understand the principles” of lobio.

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About the author

Michael Denner

Michael Denner

Dr. Michael Denner is a professor at Stetson’s Program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (REEES). A food enthusiast, he is currently translating and adapting a cookbook called Лобио, сациви, хачапури, или Грузия со вкусом (Lobio, Satsivi, Khachapuri, or Georgia with Taste) for English-speaking audiences. As part of this project, Dr. Denner is leading a Georgian Cooking Club at Stetson to test the recipies with Stetson’s diverse student group. Dr. Denner will also be leading Georgian Foodways for SRAS a new, two-week study abroad course that will address topics such as climate change and state agricultural policies within the context of broader issues of food security, the place of food in social justice and ethnic identity, and the role of Georgian foodways in the current global tourism economy.

Program attended: Georgian Foodways

View all posts by: Michael Denner