Poppy Seed Kolache

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

My father gets a faraway look in his eyes when he remembers his Minnesota Czech grandmother’s poppy seed pastries. Called “kolache” (koh-LAH-chee), “kolacky” (koh-LAH-kee), or how my dad pronounces it, koh-LAH-chkey, these Czechoslovakian yeast-based pastries can be filled with any sweet pie or pastry filling.

Dad loves poppy seed filling, and armed with an old Better Homes and Gardens recipe, he set out to recreate the kolaches of his childhood. I think he was successful (after quadrupling the filling to dough ratio in the recipe), so much so that the day after making and eating these, he announced that he had gained 2 pounds, prompting him to give up dessert for two whole days. (Please God, in my next life, could I have my father’s metabolism?)

My father makes these kolaches with canned poppy seed filling. If you want, you can make the filling from scratch; I’ve included a filling recipe that I found online.

Poppy Seed Kolache Recipe

  • Yield: Makes 16 kolaches.


  • 4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace or ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Canned poppy seed filling (or make your own*)
  • Raisins (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp milk

*Poppyseed filling (if you want to make your own filling, otherwise, you can use canned)

  • 1 cup poppy seed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup chopped dates
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts
  • Dash of cinnamon


1 In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, and nutmeg or mace; set aside.

2 In a medium saucepan heat and stir the 1 cup milk, the 1/2 cup butter, the granulated sugar, and salt just until warm (120 degree F to 130 degree F) and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture to dry mixture along with the two eggs and vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping side of bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Stir in lemon zest and as much of the remaining flour as you can.

3 Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease the surface. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size (for 1 to 1-1/2 hours).

4 If you are making the poppy seed filling from scratch, combine the filling ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until it thickens, stirring often. Set filling aside to cool.

5 Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Grease 2 baking sheets.

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6 Roll each dough half into a 16x8 inch rectangle, about an 1/8 inch thick. Cut each rectangle into 8 4x4 squares. Place a large, heaping tablespoon of poppy seed filling onto the center of each square. If you want, add a few raisins to the top of the filling. Brush the four corners of each square with water. Draw the corners up and gently press together. Secure with a toothpick. Place on well greased baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Cover; let rise in a warm place until nearly double (about 35 minutes).

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7 Brush with an egg wash made with one egg beaten with a tablespoon of milk. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely. Remove toothpicks.

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Adapted from a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens, 1997.

Lisa Fain's kolaches from the Homesick Texan

Poppy Seed Kolache

Showing 4 of 16 Comments

  • J.P.

    Hello. This is the second time around following the recipe, but I’m unsure of when I’m supposed to add the tsp. of vanilla. Do I add it along with the lemon zest in step two? The poppyseed recipe is better than the jarred paste you find at the grocery store in my opinion.

    Yes, thank you. I’ve now clarified that in the recipe instructions. ~Elise

  • wendy

    This is wonderful! My Bohemian grandmother never measured anything, but made delicious ko-LACH-key. As a child, my favorite was prune–I would lick out the filling, throw away the pastry and move on to the next one (who was supposed to be watching me?)! I remember driving from store to store with my mom & grandma searching for dry cottage cheese for the filling. We lived in L.A.–NOT a large Czech population there. My only critique on this recipe is that kolachky are supposed to be round–the name even means “circle”. Grandma took her recipe to the grave, so thanks for supplying this one!

  • BARB

    You say in the kolache recipe “canned poppyseed” but you do not say how much or what size can. Can you please post the amount of poppyseed? Thanks.

    Most cans I think come in about 12 ounce sizes, which should be enough for this recipe. ~Elise

  • Elena

    I read about “little Lady” in Snook, TX and realize, that I new her!!! This wonderful lady’s name was-Ella. I and my daughter were working with her at this bakery 15 years ago. I’m Russian, and learn to bake form yester dough from my grandparents, who were Ukrainians.
    I’m an engineer, but when I first came to TX, I went to work Snook Bakery. I was a good cook, but learn from Miss Ella how to make puppy seed role, kalachi. People loved it! She was the only one who helps me to go through tough time there.We still remember her!!!

    Hi Elena, what a coincidence! By the way, I’m sure others would be ever so grateful if you remembered how those kolaches were made and could share the recipe. ~Elise

  • Cindy

    Where in the world do find canned poppy seed filling? I have never heard of it.

    Me neither until my father told me about it. Turns out they have it at all the major grocery stores around here (Raley’s, Safeways). ~Elise

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