Estonian red currant kissel
Alternative namesKisel
Coursedessert or drink
Region or stateCentral and Eastern Europe, Baltic states and Finland
Main ingredients1) fruit juice (or puree) or milk thickened with cornstarch or potato starch; 2) grain or oat flakes

Kissel or kisel (Estonian: kissell, Finnish: kiisseli, Livonian: kīsõl, Latgalian: keiseļs, Latvian: ķīselis, Lithuanian: kisielius, Polish: kisiel, Russian: кисель, tr. kiselʼ, Ukrainian: кисiль, kysil, Belarusian: кісель) is a simple dish with the consistency of a thick gel. It belongs to the group of cold-solidified desserts, although it can be served warm.

If the kissel is made less gel-like, it can be drunk. This is common in Poland, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. In Finland it is called mehukeitto.

Grain kissel / etymology and history

Brewing of kissel in Belgorod Kievsky. A miniature from the Radziwiłł Chronicle.

"Kissel" is derived from a Slavic word meaning 'sour', after a similar old Slavic dish—a leavened flour porridge (or weak sourdough) which was made from grain, most commonly oats, but any grain, including legumes like peas or lentils could be used. Bean kissels were typically not leavened, and lacked the sweetness of the modern variants.

Kissel is first mentioned in the old East Slavic Primary Chronicle, where there is a story of how it saved the 10th-century Rus' city of Belgorod Kievsky, besieged by nomadic Pechenegs in 997. When the food in the city became scarce, the population followed the advice of an old man, who told them to make kissel from the remnants of grain, and a sweet drink from the last mead they could find. They filled a wooden container with the kissel, and another one with the mead drink, and put those containers into the holes in the ground, and built two fake wells over them. When the Pechenegian ambassadors came into the town, they saw how the inhabitants took the food from those "wells", and the Pechenegs even were allowed to taste the kissel and mead beverage. Impressed by that show and degustation, Pechenegs decided to lift the siege and to go away, having concluded that the Ruthenians were mysteriously fed from the earth itself.[1]

Fruit kissel

Fruit kissel is a viscous fruit dish, popular as a dessert and as a drink in Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe.[2][3] It consists of the sweetened juice (or puree[4]) of berries. It is similar to mors, but thickened, usually with cornstarch or potato starch, but arrowroot[5] may be used as a substitute as well. Sometimes red wine, fresh, or dried fruits are added as well.[3] It is similar to the Danish rødgrød and German Rote Grütze.[2] Swedish blåbärssoppa is a similarly prepared bilberry dessert. Kissel can be served either hot or cold, and sometimes paired with sweetened quark or cream. Kissel can also be served on pancakes or with ice cream.

Today, most Polish households prepare fruit kissel from instant mixes instead of the traditional way. The most popular flavours are strawberry, gooseberry, and raspberry. In Russia, the most popular flavours are cranberry, cherry, and redcurrant. Cranberry kissel (Lithuanian: spanguolių kisielius[6]) is a traditional meal on Kūčios (Christmas Eve supper) in Lithuania. In Finland, kissel is often made of bilberries (since they can often be found growing wild in forests, and are thus both easy to gather and free) as well as from prunes, apricots, strawberries, etc.

The thickness varies depending on how much potato flour is used. Thin kissel is most easily consumed by drinking, while thicker versions are almost like jelly and eaten with a spoon. Rhubarb can also be used, but is often combined with strawberries to produce a sweeter flavour. Kuningatarkiisseli ('Queen's kissel') is made with mixed berries and berry juices, generally bilberries and raspberries. Prune kissel (luumukiisseli) is traditionally eaten with rice pudding at Christmas.

Vegetable kissel

Less common, vegetable is made from boiled or baked vegetables such as rhubarb,[7] pumpkins, or beetroot.

Milk kissel

(Polish: budyń or kisiel mleczny; Finnish: maitokiisseli) is a similar dish to semolina pudding or budino. It is made from milk and potato starch (Poland[8]) or corn starch (Finland[9]) and flavoured with sugar and vanillin (or vanilla) or cocoa powder. It can also be enriched with the addition of butter and yolks.[8]

It may be eaten as a dessert, alone, or garnished with fruit syrups, sauces, jams, fresh or dried fruit, or with cookies and biscuits.

It may also be used as an ingredient in cake creams (i.e. for karpatka or napoleonka). Most Polish households prepare milk kissel from instant mixes instead of the traditional way.

Cultural references

In Russian fairy tales, the land of marvels (similar to Cockaigne) is described as the land of "milk rivers and kissel banks". This expression became an idiom in Russian for prosperous life or "paradise on earth".[10]

Another phrase common in Russia and Poland, "the seventh water after kissel" (Polish: siódma woda po kisielu), is used to describe a distant relative.[11]

See also


  1. ^ The Russian Primary Chronicle, Laurentian Text. Translated and edited by Samuel Hazzard Cross and Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor. Cambridge, MA: The Mediaeval Academy of America, 1953, p.122. Kissel is translated as "porridge" in this edition.
  2. ^ a b The Oxford Companion to Food (2014, ISBN 019104072X), page 446
  3. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Contemporary Russian Culture (2013, ISBN 1136787852), page 73
  4. ^ Anna Szczepańska (1976). "Kisiele". In Maria Szczygłowa (ed.). Dobra kuchnia: żywienie w rodzinie (V ed.). Warszawa: Wydawnictwo „Watra”. pp. 411–414.
  5. ^ "Kissel Authentic Recipe | TasteAtlas". Retrieved 2023-11-19.
  6. ^ Christiana Noyalas (Naujalis) (2013-12-12). "Kisielius (Cranberry Pudding)". Filadelfijos Lietuvių Namai. Retrieved 2023-05-23.
  7. ^ Natalia, Khanova (2016-11-10). "Rhubarb kissel – a peasant dessert fit for a king". Rossiyskaya Gazeta (cop.) / Russia Beyond. Retrieved 2023-01-12.
  8. ^ a b [video] "eDMN - scenariusz 3 - Jak zrobić domowy budyń - Zintegrowana Platforma Edukacyjna" (in Polish).
  9. ^ Maitokiisseli. Valio
  10. ^ "МОЛОЧНЫЕ РЕКИ И КИСЕЛЬНЫЕ БЕРЕГА - это... Что такое МОЛОЧНЫЕ РЕКИ И КИСЕЛЬНЫЕ БЕРЕГА?". Словари и энциклопедии на Академике (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  11. ^ "седьмая вода на киселе - это... Что такое седьмая вода на киселе?". Словари и энциклопедии на Академике (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-03-13.