Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Khachapuri is probably one of Georgia’s most well-known gifts to the world, and rightfully so! This decadent food is widely loved by Georgians and foreigners alike due to its rich cheese filling and buttery dough and is seen as such a quintessential Georgian dish that UNESCO placed it on the list of "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Georgia" in 2019, As is obvious, khachapuri is far more than just cheese bread.
First, it’s important to understand what khachapuri is. The word khachapuri comes from the Georgian words ხაჭო khach'o meaning “curd” or “cream” and პური p'uri which is the Georgian word for “bread.” khachapuri can be made with cheeses like სულგუნი sulguni or იმერული imeruli cheese, both of which are a type of aged, soft cheeses (think of creaminess of Mozzarella combined with the sharpness of Muenster). This gives khachapuri its distinctive taste and texture. Generally, khachapuri has a salty undertone with the cheese strength ranging from low to mild, so as not to be overwhelming. The texture of the cheese itself is similar to a thick but gooey cottage cheese, however, it is the type of bread that is used, which is what makes khachapuri a truly Georgian dish.
Many regions of Georgia have their own variations of the famous dish. The most famous form of Khachapuri is აჭარული ხაჭაპური Adjaruli khachapuri which comes from the region of Adjara, located on the Black Sea coast next to Turkey. Adjara is perhaps the most exotic region of Georgia, with its palm tree-lined beaches, noticeably large Turkish influence, and a form of dance that is almost foreign to the rest of Georgian dance. It’s no wonder why Adjaruli khachapuri is the most recognizable—and exotic--variant of khachapuri. This form is generally large enough to be an entire meal. The dough is made into a boat/gondola form and then filled with a cheese that’s so gooey it’s almost like soup. After it comes out of the oven, a raw egg yolk and a thick pad of butter are placed on top, just to ensure that there is plenty of flavor and that the cheese is extra-creamy.
The neighboring region of Guria has an equally strange variant of khachapuri. This form is usually in a crescent shape with a hard-boiled egg inside. The dough is made with a bread that is like a thinner version of pita, resembling a calzone.
The mountainous region of Racha-Lechkhumi has a semi-open form of khachapuri that is in a square shape with a large, thick slice of ham in each corner ad uses a flakey pastry-like dough.
სამეგრელო Samegrelo is a region of Georgia located next to the border with Abkhazia. The people of Samegrelo--მეგრელები Megrelians—have their own language that is related to Georgian (akin to the relationship between Czech and Russian). მეგრული ხაჭაპური Megruli khachapuri is the only form of khachapuri that isn’t stuffed. Instead, this region places the cheese on top. For further uniqueness, the cheese often comes in the form of large circular slices instead of being crumbled so that it doesn’t completely melt together.
იმერული ხაჭაპური Imeruli Khachapuri uses a thin, flat, and soft dough for the bread, like a fluffier, moister version of pita bread. The bread is then stuffed with იმერული ყველი Imeruli q’veli (Imereti cheese), and then rolled out into a flat and thing circle.
Also well-known is ფენოვანი ხაჭაპური penovani khachapuri which uses a flakey, croissant-style dough and is in a square shape. Much like a croissant, this form of khachapuri is delicate, flakey, buttery, and moist.
Each form of khachapuri is unique and distinct, much like each of Georgia’s regions, with their own unmistakable characteristics and attributes. Despite these differences, all of these forms of Georgia’s beloved cheese-bread are still able to call themselves khachapuri, just as each region, with their diverse culture and history, still call themselves “Georgian.”