Lobio is a dish of stewed beans, tomatoes and onion,
originating in the Caucasus area (Georgia, Azerbaijan). It is said to have its
origins in the area known today as Georgia, the former Soviet republic.
with many Georgian dishes, lobio is spicy, but not necessarily hot. One of the
traditional recipes for lobio does not call for hot peppers (as other recipes
do) but relies solely on ground black pepper for its spice. This tendency is not
uncommon in Russia, where spicy more often does not denote hot, but instead
While there are many ways of making lobio, the earliest is undoubtedly the clay
pot. Red kidney beans would be put in the pot with water and spices and allowed
to sit overnight. The following day, the pot would be placed over a fire or, if
available, in a small exposed oven, and the beans slowly cooked. At the
appropriate stages, meat and other vegetables would be added to cook. The cooked
lobio would then be served in the clay pot, along with a flat bread. In this
form, lobio resembles early dishes that start with a basic ingredient such as a
starch, legume, or wheat, which is then cooked with whatever other foodstuffs
and flavorings are available. The fewer available foodstuffs, the more beans are
An early recipe for lobio calls for soaking the kidney beans in water with two
mashed cloves of garlic, and a handful of basil, mint, and parsley. After
soaking, the beans would be cooked in this same water. Once cooked, any excess
water was drained, oil was added along with meat, vegetables, and tomatoes. This
was then cooked slowly until the meat and vegetables were done (often, the water
would be retained to make up for a lack of oil).
Lobio, in its traditional format, progressed to become a standard recipe the
ingredients of which varied depending on the area in which it was cooked. Lobio
spread from Georgia to other southern areas of Russia (often referred to by
different names in different dialects).
Sometime in the early 1800's, lobio was transformed as part of fondness of the
Russian aristocracy for elaborate dinner parties that began with a full table of
hors d'oeuvres, and then proceeded through at least six courses. Lobio became an
appetizer. In this form, the beans were soaked and cooked, without spices, and
then mashed into a paste. This paste was combined with finely minced onion,
cilantro (or other available herbs with a sharp flavor) and combined with olive
oil and lemon juice. Into this, a great deal of ground black pepper was added.
The final product was then allowed to sit for a minimum of six hours. It was
then served on either toasted bread or a flat bread. Throughout much of Russia
today, this appetizer is what is known as lobio.