Below you’ll find a large collection of authentic and traditional recipes for Christmas cookies, confections, and sweet breads, that are popular in Czech Republic. Many regard Central European Christmas sweets among the best in the world, and I must agree. Since I first published this post, I’ve continued to add new recipes each year. It’s one of the most comprehensive collections, written in English, you’ll find online. According to my Czech hubby, my mother-in-law would make as many as 13 different varieties for her platter, plus Christmas breads. I’ve never made that many in a given year, but have made more over the last four years, learning a couple varieties that my mother-in-law never made.
Below all of the cookie and sweets descriptions and links, is a summary of tips that people living outside of Czech Republic may find helpful. All of the mentioned cookies have been made by me, with some recipes tweaked a bit. Some cookies I have made many times over the years. I’ve made most of the recipes while living in the US, but several also since moving to Czech Republic about two years ago. I had to adapt to slightly different ingredients on both sides of the Atlantic ocean!
You may need special tools or ingredients for a few of the recipes. Many can be purchased online through website stores like Amazon, or at shops mentioned in my post Finding Czech and Slovak Groceries in the US and UK. If you do wish to order Czech-Slovak products online, do so a while before the holidays (I suggest no later than the end of November). Some stores sell out quickly before the holidays, or get overwhelmed with orders. Plus, nowadays shipping delays are common.
One more note: Many of the recipes here call for a “smooth flour” in Czech Republic. For best results, I suggest looking into unbleached pastry flour, which many grocery stores in the US stock, if not in the regular baking sections, then in the “health food or special diets” sections. It’s a smoother flour than US all-purpose. If all-purpose has worked for me, I make note of that in the recipe. Read my post Czech and Slovak Flours in the US & UK (and substitutions) to learn more.
Descriptions of Czech holiday treats, with links to full recipes.
Išlské dortíčky (Ischl Torte Cookies)
These cute sandwich cookies are a buttery, chocolaty, nutty delight with a delicious jelly/preserves and rum-hazelnut filling. They are almost like a mini fancy torte. The original recipe was created in 1849 in the spa town of Bad Ischl, in Austria, as a treat for the Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Click here to go to Ischl Torte Cookie recipe.
Vanilkové rohlíčky (Vanilla Crescents)
My Czech mother-in-law’s Vanilkové Rohlíčky are the best versions I’ve ever tried. This popular buttery vanilla and nut cookie is enjoyed throughout much of Central Europe. They are my husband’s current favorite cookie. My mother-in-law used roasted hazelnuts in this recipe, but other nuts can be used. I make them to be a two-bite cookie, which is only one-bite size for my husband. Click here to go to Vanilla Crescent recipe.
Linecké koláčky (Linzer Tart Cookies)
There are no nuts in these buttery Linzer Tart cookies (Linecké Koláčky)! They have a lovely hint of lemon and a burst of delicious jelly/preserves goodness. I love these so much with raspberry or red currant preserves, but other flavors would work, too. I buy the highest quality preserves available. These are less crunchy and more melt-in-your mouth than other Linzer cookies. They hold up well. I sometimes make a double batch because these are my personal favorite Christmas cookies. Click here to go to Linzer Tart Cookie recipe.
Plněné ořechy (Stuffed “Nut” Cookies)
Christmas cookie making gone nuts? Well, I guess you could say, “Yes!” These Plněné Ořechy (Stuffed “Nut” Cookies) are usually reserved for more ambitious Christmas cookie making, but it’s quite a pleasure when they appear on the cookie tray. They are meant to look like a nut (most often walnut) and to celebrate their wonderful flavor. “Stuffings” can vary according to taste or nut shape. Here I continue the walnut flavor in a fluffy walnut buttercream, with a touch of rum. Click here to go to Plněné Ořechy (Stuffed “Nut” Cookies).
Psaníčka, Šátečky, Trojuhelníky a Koláčky z tvarohového těsta (Envelopes, Scarves, Triangles and Koláčky Cookies)
These filled cookies are another recipe including farmer cheese (tvaroh). The individual names only refer to the styles of folding the dough around their fillings – their shapes. The dough is the same for all. You can choose the filling(s) and mix and match between different folds/shapes. The main sweetness for the cookies comes from traditional Czech fillings and later confectioner’s sugar dusting. Click here to go to Envelopes, Scarves, Triangles & Kolachky Cookies.
Kokosky (Coconut Meringue Cookies)
These little puffs of coconut bliss are melt-in-your-mouth. This three-ingredient cookie requires a Swiss meringue making approach. The egg white mixture is beaten over hot (but not simmering) water during some of the time. This makes them fluffier than other types of meringue cookies. Traditionally, they were only served plain. My Czech hubby still enjoys them best that way, but dipping in chocolate is also nice. Click here to go to Kokosky recipe.
Marokánky (Moroccan Cookies)
Featured by Taste of Home – A crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside cookie with the delights of fruit and nuts, and bittersweet chocolate on the bottom. The batter is prepared in a saucepan, cooled then baked, and later dipped in chocolate. The original recipe calls for candied orange peel with nuts, but other dried fruit (or a combination) could be used. The combination of candied orange peel and dried cranberries (i.e. Craisins), with the nuts, is especially nice for the holidays. I highly suggest using candied orange peel. It gives the cookie its signature lovely flavor. I have found it in gourmet shops, but usually order it online. Click here to go to Moroccan Cookie recipe.
Pracny or Medvědí tlapky (Bear Paws)
Pracny (or Medvědí Tlapky) are very traditional Czech nut and spice cookies baked in special cookie molds, some looking like bear paws. The following recipe has a light amount of spices. Other recipes include more. Feel free to increase the ground cinnamon and clove amounts a bit, according to your taste. Too much clove can get overwhelming, though. This is an eggless recipe. Click here to go to Bear Paws recipe.
Sádlovky (Lard Cookies)
Most Czech Christmas cookies use butter, but these old traditional ones rather include lard. “Sádlovky” is a diminutive of “lard”, kind of meaning “Little Lards”. They include only a few ingredients, and are easy to make. Melt-in-the-mouth good. To Americans, they look like a thumbprint cookie. Get creative with both the cookie flavor and fillings. The cookie is usually cocoa (chocolate) or vanilla flavor. The fillings are usually a jam of choice, but Nutella is also great in the cocoa flavored ones! Click here to go to Lard Cookies.
Pusinky s vlašskými ořechy (Chocolate Walnut Meringues)
A nutty meringue cookie with a hint of chocolate flavor. This cookie can last for weeks. Because of that, during WWII, my Czech mother-in-law sent a large batch to Jewish friends that sadly were taken to a concentration camp. These were a favorite of my husband’s father. My mother-in-law spread the batter in a pan, then cut them into squares. I prefer to bake them in individual rounds. I think they’re prettier that way. As with many others, these taste even better as they age. Click here to go to Chocolate Walnut Meringue Cookie recipe.
Vosí hnízda (Wasp Nests or Bee Hive Cookies)
Vosi Hnizda are cute no-bake rum eggnog filled 3-dimensional cookies. They generally require a special mold to make that’s available throughout Czech Republic, or can be found online, in the US. The traditional version includes a nut-based dough for the “nest” or “hive” part, though people with nut allergies can find no-nut versions online, elsewhere. My mother-in-law made them without cocoa (resembling a bee hive more and highlighting the nuts), but those who like cocoa, can add it. They are traditionally filled with a rum-flavored eggnog, but other flavors and fillings can be used. The cookie dough and base include wafer-like vanilla sponge cookies. The base is a whole cookie and holds the eggnog in. Some people get extra creative and dip them in chocolate. They could even be decorated to look like a Christmas tree. Click here to go to Wasp Nests/Bee Hive recipe.
Masarykovo cukroví (Masaryk’s Cookies)
These simple shortbread type cookies are sort of the Czech equivalent of Pecan Sandies in the US. The main difference is the use of whole hazelnuts/filberts, instead of pecans. Hazelnuts (called “lískové oříšky” in Czech) are quite popular in Czech sweets. They also add the unique circles in each cookie slice. This cookie’s name is for the first president of independent Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who was born in the Moravian region of the country. It is said that these were his favorite Christmas cookies. Click here to go to Masaryk’s Cookies recipe.
Princezky (Princess Cookies)
Bite into these chewy nutty meringue-style sandwich cookies to reach the bliss of a delicious chocolate buttercream filling. My mother-in-law usually used roasted hazelnuts or walnuts for the meringue cookie, but some Czechs use blanched almonds. The nut choice will affect the color, a bit. Meant to be a one or two-bite cookie – that is, if you can stop at only one cookie! These were my husband’s favorite Christmas cookie, as a child. The pictured Princezky were made using finely ground roasted hazelnuts, our favorite nut choice. This combination, with the chocolate buttercream, is a little reminiscent of Nutella. Even yummier, in my view. They do crisp up a little over time, but are still great. Click here to go to Princess Cookie recipe.
Rumové kuličky (Rum Balls with Rum Soaked Dried Cherries)
Rum, chocolate, walnut balls with the delight of rum-soaked dried cherries in their centers, pack a delicious flavor punch, and set them apart from other rum balls. No wheat flour needed. They even improve with age, but I tend to eat up the first batch quickly. They are traditionally rolled in unsweetened cocoa, which gives them a nice flavor bite, but you can get even more creative, as I did for the photo (cocoa, finely grated coconut, finely chopped/ground nuts, and multi-color nonpareils). Click here to go to Rum Balls recipe.
Makové kuličky (Poppy Seed Balls)
Mák (poppy seeds) are commonly used in baking, confections, and even more savory cooking, in Czech Republic. These poppy seed balls are unbaked, have only a small number of ingredients, and are relatively quick to make. If you love poppy seeds, you might really like these on your Christmas cookie platter. They are definitely unique! Click here to go to Makové Kuličky.
Plněné datle (Marzipan Stuffed Dates w/Candied Fruit)
Dates are popular treats at Christmas time throughout the world. It’s definitely the case in Czech Republic, where I’ve seen beautiful ones in holiday baking sections at grocery stores. Here they are stuffed with marzipan that has a bit of orange essence, and then top with candied fruit, another ingredient you see a lot of in Czech stores around the holidays. Though any candied or dried fruit works well, I particularly love to use the combination of candied orange peel and halved dried cranberries on top. If you have the marzipan ready and handy, these are quick to make. Click here to go to the Marzipan Stuffed Dates recipe.
Marcipánoví ježci (Marzipan Hedgehogs)
These cute little hedgehogs are not my mother-in-law’s creation, but I couldn’t resist including them in my Czech Christmas cookie countdown. Actually, they’re not really cookies either, but candy confections. Many Czechs (and other Europeans) love both marzipan and hedgehogs – animals that can be seen in rural areas of Europe. If you like, you can use some of the marzipan to make other shaped things. Marzipan can also be colored with gel food coloring, and decorated in many ways. It can also be used in recipes like sweet breads/pastries, baked cookies, and more. Click here to go to Marzipan Hedgehog recipe.
Kokosově čokoládový vír s rumem (Coconut Chocolate Rum Swirls)
Coconut Cocoa Rum Swirls (Kokosově čokoládový vír s rumem) are no-bake sliced confections almost like coins of fudge. The chocolate rum dough swirls around a creamy coconut filling that contains a touch of cream cheese (or farmer’s cheese – tvaroh). Click here for Coconut Chocolate Rum Swirls recipe.
Marcipánové cukroví s ořechy (Marzipan Cookies with Nuts)
These no bake “cookies” have a marzipan base, simply topped with a nut and chocolate. Walnuts on top are particularly lovely and hide the small bit of chocolate used to paste it on top. However, other nuts, including whole large almonds, could be used. The marzipan itself can be further flavored, as desired, or left “as is”. The cookie shape is often like a flower, but any semi-round shape will work. The recipe below makes about 30 to 35 small cookies. Click here for Marzipan Cookies with Nuts recipe.
Biskupský chlebíček (Bishop’s Bread)
Have you ever had Bishop’s Bread? If not, many recipes you’ll see online resemble the notorious fruit cake that Americans joke about as a “re-gifting” item. My Czech mother-in-law’s recipe does contain some lemon zest, but that’s the only fruit. It’s more of a chocolate chip nut cookie lover’s dream. This cake wonderfully combines bittersweet chocolate with hazelnuts (or walnuts or pecans), with the right amount of pleasant lemon zest. Unlike chocolate chip nut cookies, this sweet bread contains lots of beaten egg whites. It tastes great fresh, and is even appealing a little stale. Click here to go to Bishop Bread recipe.
Vánočka 1 (Traditional yeast-raised Czech Christmas Bread)
This is the most popular and traditional Christmas bread in Czech Republic, and is the symbol of Christmas (vánoce). It uses yeast for leavening. It’s a very large semi-sweet bread that includes the flavor delights of various fruit, nuts, lemon, often rum, and vanilla. Vanočká is specially shaped using a series of braided layers. For the recipe and instructions, click Traditional Yeast-Raised Vánočka.
Tvarohová vanočká 2 (Farmers cheese Christmas Bread)
This farmers cheese version of vanočká has all of the same flavors and shape as the traditional one above. However, it does not contain yeast. Rather it uses baking powder and other leavening agents, yet the finished loaf is equal in size and perhaps even a bit more tender. It’s quicker to make than version 1, requiring less than 2 hours from start to finish. Having the right farmers cheese is crucial. It’s available in some grocery stores in the US, or can be found online or in Polish goods shops. For this recipe, click Farmers Cheese Vanočká.
Special notes about the recipes:
- Unbleached pastry flour is sold by US companies like Bob’s Red Mill and is often shelved in organic or health food sections of larger grocery stores, like Whole Foods Market. This is a recommended substitute for the smooth flour (hladká mouka) available in Czech and Slovak Republics. If you can get actual hladká mouka, all the better. I’ve also used Polish “Maka Puszysta – Tortowa Typ 450”, which seems to be the same. If you want to use US all-purpose flour, just know that I have not tested its effect in some of the recipes, unless otherwise noted.
- Wondra flour in the US is a product sold in the bakery sections of most US grocery stores. It is in a blue canister. In a pinch, a combination of 50% of this product and 50% of US all-purpose flour can be used as a substitute for Czech coarse flour (hrubá mouka). If possible, I recommend ordering hrubá mouka online. The results are always the most reliable.
- Vanilla sugar packets are available in some larger grocery stores in the US, usually under the brand Dr. Oetker, and in the baking sections. The ones referenced are 0.32 oz (9 g) packets of powdery (not granulated) vanilla sugar. Most 9 g packets provide vanilla flavor of the equivalent to 1 ½ to 2 tsp vanilla extract. Vanilla extract can be used in many cases, except when needed for rolling cookies in vanilla sugar mixtures, when confectioner’s sugar alone can be used. Some people even make their own vanilla sugar by putting a vanilla bean in confectioner’s sugar for a while. Google that, if interested.
- Cocoas in recipes below are always unsweetened. High quality recommended.
- Baking chocolates are found in the baking sections of grocery stores. Do not use regular chocolate bars. Some recipes call for unsweetened or bittersweet, or either. Semi-sweet might work, but may affect the outcome and be too sweet for some tastes.
- Candied orange peel is available online or in gourmet grocery shops. I highly suggest finding it, though the Moroccan cookies could be made with other chopped candied (or even just chopped dried) fruit.
- Nuts are contained in several of these recipes. Some need to be skinned. Some are best roasted first. Pre-skinned/roasted are available in some stores (i.e. Trader Joe’s). If not, you can easily blanch and skin, or roast, nuts at home. Google “roasting almonds/hazelnuts” or “blanching/skinning almonds/hazelnuts”.
- Raw egg yolks or whites – In a few of these recipes, there are raw egg yolks or whites that are not cooked/baked in the end. This increases the risk of salmonella infection, though it is still rare. Pasteurized eggs decrease that risk. They can be found in some (not all) grocery stores in the US, with “pasteurized” on the box. There is also a method one can use to pasteurize eggs at home. Don’t confuse “pasteurized” for “pasture raised”. They have different meanings. If you are using pasteurized egg whites for a meringue-type cookie or the Bishop’s Bread recipe I have posted, beat for a minute, then add about 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar (or ¼ teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar) for each egg white used. One of these additions will help the whites form peaks. Cream of tartar is recommended unless an added lemon flavor is desirable.
- Cookie molds and/or cutters are available online or from many kitchenware shops or Czech/Slovak online grocers (weeks before Christmas). See link at top of post.
- Weights of ingredients (in grams) are more common in Czech recipes than cups, and I recommend weighing for accuracy. Teaspoons and tablespoons can be considered the same as in the US. I’ve provided some weights in ounces, as well. Inexpensive digital food scales are available online or in stores, and are invaluable.
- Low/Lower carb? I have not used sugar substitutes in my Christmas cookies, but some could potentially work with them. Since some use nut flours instead of wheat, it could be possible to create a lowered carb cookie/confection. Products like Swerve confectioner’s sugar substitute may not weigh exactly the same as standard. Try at your own risk.
Do you have other authentic Czech (or Slovak) Christmas cookie recipes you’re willing to share? If so, I’d love to see them. Feel free to post a web link to one or include it in a comment.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (Veselé vánoce a šťastný nový rok!)
HUGE thanks go to my Czech husband! He provided translations for all of the recipes, and various ingredients (mostly hastily handwritten ones from his mother). He gave helpful feedback, and helped eat the cookies (bringing some to work), so I wouldn’t gain too much weight. He also took some of the photos…especially the better ones.