Butchered like a nut: the history and recipe for the perfect satsivi

Georgians are ready to turn every day into a holiday. And what is a holiday without a feast? And what feast can do without satsivi?

If you even look into the house of Georgian friends for five minutes, the hostess will immediately begin to collect various snacks on the table: pkhali, lobio, cheese, greens. On a festive day, satsivi will be added to this set – chicken or turkey fillet in a spicy nut sauce. Satsivi is translated from Georgian as “cold dish” and takes pride of place among the most famous appetizers of national cuisine.

Cut it like a nut: the history and recipe for the perfect satsivi

In Georgia, satsivi is also an analogue of the European Christmas turkey, only it is served not at the end, but at the beginning of the meal. The Christmas and New Year tree in a Georgian house is often replaced by chichilaki – a hazel branch, from which chips are thinly removed, but not completely: it remains attached in the upper part. Lush light shavings resemble a snow-white beard. In Georgia, it is called the beard of St. Basil (the day of his memory falls on January 1). Chichilaki are decorated with a cross, dishes with tangerines, sweets and roasted nuts in honey (gozinaki) are placed around.

Walnuts can be found in many dishes of Georgian cuisine, Christmas games and customs are associated with them. For example, in Racha, a historical region of Georgia, it was customary to light four candles on Christmas Eve. Three of them were installed on a nut pie, and the fourth was picked up by the head of the family, who said the wish: “Lord, give us as much goodness as there are nuts on the table.” Phochaoba is a popular Christmas game in Kartli. Its rules are simple: the winner is the child who collects the most nuts scattered on the floor.

It is impossible to imagine Christmas satsivi without nuts. They are selected very carefully for the dish. They must be fresh and fat. They are finely ground, and the finer the grinding, the better the sauce will turn out. It is necessary that the nuts are well absorbed by the chicken broth with which they are poured. If you grind coarsely, nuts and broth will “live” separately from each other.

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Cut to look like a nut: the history and recipe of the perfect satsivi

Is this dish difficult to make? 

The recipe is simple, but the dish is rather whimsical. You have to be careful not to burn the sauce. Stir it only with a wooden spoon, not a metal one, otherwise the satsivi can quickly turn sour or the sauce will lose its golden hue.

What is the main thing in cooking?

Quality products. It is best to use turkey or grain-fed chicken. By no means a rooster, his meat is much tougher. Choose nuts that are fresh and light in color. Rancid and dark will spoil the whole dish. The finishing touch is a few drops of peanut butter. It is very difficult to squeeze it out, sometimes cooks are cunning and replace the oil with fried tomato paste, but this is wrong. No real Satsivi can be achieved without nut butter.

Do you have family secrets for the special taste of Satsivi?

Yes. My grandmother taught me how to cook satsivi. She said that both too much and not enough spices was a mistake. Every Georgian hostess has her own secret mixture. Many people grow cilantro, ucho-suneli, marigolds in their garden. Since childhood, I loved to collect marigold buds for spices. When they have not yet fully opened, it is necessary to string the buds on a thread and hang to dry. They are then removed one at a time, ground and added to the nut sauce. It is important that the flowers are female, they are the most fragrant.

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There are also geographical features of the recipes. In Eastern Georgia, ground nuts are simply brewed with boiling water or broth, such a sauce is called bage. It can be used not only for satsivi, but also for fish, vegetables. In Western Georgia, the sauce is necessarily boiled a little, and it goes only for satsivi. In Megrelia, adjika is added to the sauce for spiciness.

The bird is chosen no less carefully. The classic recipe calls for the use of turkey, which appeared in Georgia at the end of the 17th century. Before that, game, for example, pheasants or quails, often served as the basis for satsivi. Today, the most common option is fat, corn-fed, home-grown chicken. Someone just boils it, someone bakes it a little in the oven. Another integral element of satsivi is spices: hops-suneli, ucho-suneli (fenugreek) and Imeretian saffron (marigolds). They give the dish a special taste.

Satsivi is served in deep bowls designed for several servings so that guests can share the meal. But you can’t start the Christmas feast until the first guest appears in the house – mekvle (translated from Georgian as “leaving a trace”). As soon as he crosses the threshold, he will say good wishes to the owners, he will receive money and sweets as a gift, then it's time to sit down at the table. With confidence that the year will be successful and abundant.


Georgian appetizer of chicken and walnuts

Cooking time 1 h. 30 min. Recipe for 8-10 people CuisineGeorgian Type of dish Appetizers Ingredients

chicken carcass< /p>1.5 kg


1 piece


600 g

table vinegar

1 tbsp. >1 pinch

Dried marigold

1 piece

ground fenugreek

1 tsp

Ground cilantro seeds

1 tsp


3 cloves

any salt

15 g

chicken broth

2 l

water< /p>1 cup

nut oil

5 mlCooking Method1

Cut to look like a nut: the history and recipe for the perfect satsivi

Prepare the broth: put the chicken in 3.5 liters of cold water. Bring to a boil, remove the foam, salt, put peppercorns. Then reduce the gas and cook for 20 minutes (if the chicken is homemade, then increase the cooking time to 40 minutes). Cool the broth, strain if necessary.


Cut the chicken and spread it with the inside down, salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 220°C. Bake the bird for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Finely chop the onion and simmer in oil for a couple of minutes, pressing with a spoon. Then separate the onion from the oil. Scroll the nuts through a meat grinder, add all the spices and mix. Squeeze some oil out of the nut mixture and set it aside.


Pour the nut mixture with chilled broth, add the onion and beat everything with a blender. If the nut mass turned out to be thick, pour in a glass of cold water and mix well again. Pour into a saucepan, add a tablespoon of vinegar, bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes.


Cut to look like a nut: the history and recipe for the perfect satsivi

Chicken cut into pieces, pour over the sauce and mix. Add a few drops of spicy walnut oil.

Check out the recipe:

Photos: Grigory Polyakovsky, Maxim Krysanov/Getty Images

Material published in the magazine “Around the World” No. 1, January 2017, partially updated in August 2023

Elena Knyazeva

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