Poppy Seed Kolache

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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).

kolache-3.jpg kolache-4.jpg
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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.

Links:
Lisa Fain's kolaches from the Homesick Texan

51 Comments

  1. Anh

    These are one of the most delicious things on Earth! I haven’t tasted them again for ages. Thanks for the lovely recipe!

  2. Lyssann

    My family makes these too (we’re polish) but they’re more like cookies than pastries and my family usually does apricot, prune and raspberry filling.

  3. Kelly Mahoney

    These look delicious! My boyfriend’s family is Polish and also makes these for special holidays and fills them with apples or cherries.

  4. Irene

    If you’re from the Midwest, as your dad & I and many others are, the pronunciation he does is correct: kol-LAH=chkey. I can’t wait to try these – my grandmothers and aunts, then my mom used to make them every holiday season, wedding or funeral, basically anytime the family gathered together. You can also try an apricot, cream cheese or nut filling, though poppyseed is definitely the best. They also used to make nut roll and poppyseed roll, a sweet dough rolled up lengthwise after being spread with the either poppseed or walnut filling, baked in a curve-like shape, then drizzled with powdered suger icing and sliced. Mom hasn’t made them in years due to her arthritis but buys them premade from a Polish bakery she found in the Eastside ‘burbs of Cleveland. They definitely are NOT the same and don’t taste quite the same. I think I’ll make these and surprise them when I go home for Thanksgiving this year. thanks Elise & Elise’s Dad!

  5. Kim

    My Grandmother, who was/is Hungarian, would make ‘Poppy Seed Rolls’ very, very similiar to this. We lived in Cleveland when I was very small and I still remember the smell and texture of the poppyseed filling and the dough. Haven’t had them for decades. Maybe I’ll give your recipe a try and compare them to my Grandmothers. That would be a fun thing to do on a future chilly afternoon. Thanks for this post!

  6. Leslie

    Growing up outside Cleveland my Czech (Bohemian) Grandma also called them kol-LA-chkee and she made them with a sour cream and butter pastry…more of a cookie than a pastry. I still make them and have also used apricot filling which one of my daughters prefers. But I think the poppyseed ones are best…pretty much anything with poppyseed is good!

  7. jacqueline

    Oh god. You are making my mouth water. My grandparents still live in Czech Republic. I remember going over there every summer & making these all the time. Only thing is when I started making them for my husband & his family they just looked at them in disgust & wouldn’t even try them. So I would just make them for me now.

  8. abby

    Kolaches!! I used to eat these in minnesota all of the time. Raspberry and cream cheese, yum.

  9. brilynn

    That looks sooo good! I have a friend with a czech grandma that makes these, I always find an excuse to show up at her house when I know they’re being made.

  10. Gary in Massena

    Many a holiday my Slovak family would celebrate with these among the feast!

    Though, in roll form.

    Unfortunately, I have never made them myself. I think that it is high time that I went to visit home and have my Mom teach me how to make these.

  11. Becca Nelson

    There is a guy from around Montgomery, MN and he talkes about Kolache Days all the time. I guess there is a whole weekend devoted to them?? I he also agrees that poppyseed is the best! I’m going to have to try to make these and bring them to work. I love your site and read it every day. Thanks!

    Becca Nelson

  12. Jan

    My hometown of Prague, OK has the annual Kolache Festival…I hadn’t thought of Kolaches in ages until I read your post….yummy…now I must make some. I think there’s a photo of me floating around somewhere in full Czech costume dancing in the Kolache Festival when I was 10..yikes!

  13. Jeannie E.Hess

    Wow! These remind me exactly of hamentaschen (with the “sh” proununciation) we had for the festival of Purim…Yummy!

  14. Liz Young

    OK I’m from New Jersey grew up eating Kolache from my Grandmother and my Mom. She made it in a rolled version. Nuts, raisins etc. Believe me the Midwest does not have the corner on making GOOD SLOVAK FOOD!

  15. michelle

    ANYTHING with poppyseed filling is great! My German grandmother would make poppyseed strudel for family gatherings and now I have become the designated baker of this family tradition. My mouth is watering. Can’t wait until Christmas!

  16. Zoe

    Yeah, I’m from the Chicago area and I say kol-LAH-chkey. My family never made them (my family never made anything, really) but we bought them from the grocery store all the time. I suspect our grocery store ones weren’t very authentic, of course. They were more like butter cookies, and had a good dose of powdered sugar on them. Loved ‘em.

  17. Sally

    Ah, I grew up in Southern MN and kolaches appeared at every Lutheran church function in poppyseed, prune and apricot. Though the ones everyone made in our area had much less filling and more dough, were shaped more like a danish or a donut with the filling in the middle. But, oh, these bring up memories.

  18. Dana

    YUM! These look fantastic. I’ve been meaning to try the recipe from Rick Rodger’s “Kaffeehaus,” but I just may need to try this recipe first!

  19. DOE FROM OHIO

    It has always been a family tradition to make these at Christmas time, handed down from generation to generation. We mostly make the lakvar filling or the nut and honey filling. My fav are the lakvar. My receipe is a bit different. We roll a bit different but the idea is the same, very time cosumming but well worth the effort. I am from upstate NY and everyone in my home town makes them. When I moved to Ohio they never heard of them. So I have fun making them and passing them around for all to enjoy.

  20. Linda

    Hi Elise,

    Your father’s Kolaches look great! I alway wonder what could be made with poppy seeds besides the salad dressing. You are very lucky to have a dad who can cook so well.

  21. Noel

    These look wonderful! I love the filling and I’m going to buy some today. Do you think you could substitute puff pastry or already made dough in this recipe?

  22. Sandy

    My mom grew up in the northeast corner of Iowa and always made kolaches at Christmastime. I moved to Texas about 20 years ago and they have kolache here, but the fold is completely different. I can’t wait to make these. Thank you.

  23. Dejan

    One point here: Kolach literally means cake! Not one single type but cake in general :)

    Keep the good stuff coming.

  24. Phoebe in Neb

    Here in Nebraska, Kolache are a yeast dough round bun with a depression in the center to hold the filling. Prune, apricot, cherry, cream cheese and of course poppy seed are the favorites. After years of searching and even rejecting my Gramma’s recipe, I found one that is soft and not dry.

    I make poppyseed roll for my mom every year as a special gift.

    My dh is from German decent and just does not “get” the allure of a good poppyseed kolache. Poor guy doesn’t know what he’s missing!

  25. nini

    Couple of quick questions, for an East Coaster who is less familiar with kolache making. Where does one find canned poppy seed filling? Can I get it at a regular grocery store? If so, where should I look?

    Also, Phoebe from Nebraska, when you mentioned a recipe that is “soft and not dry” do you mean the recipe here, or another one? If its another one, would you mind sharing it? My hubby is from Lincoln, and would FLOORED if I surprised him with an “authentic” recipe that reminds him of home. Thanks much!

  26. Belinda

    Here’s a recipe for the same thing, published in the Lincoln, NE Journal Star newspaper on August 1 this year (http://www.journalstar.com/articles/2007/08/01/living/food/doc46afb9fa3ac37837596706.txt):

    Ceske Kolache

    3 cups scalded milk

    2 packages active dry yeast

    ¼ cup sugar

    2 tablespoons salt

    2 egg yolks, beaten

    ½ cup melted lard

    6 cups flour (about)

    Dissolve yeast and half of the sugar in 1½ cups scalded milk, which has been cooled to lukewarm. Add 1½ cups flour. Mix and put in a warm place to rise until bubbles appear (about 1½ hours). Add egg yolks, salt, rest of sugar, melted and cooled lard and remaining lukewarm milk. Beat well. Gradually add rest of flour, mixing well after each addition until smooth and elastic.

    Cover and place in a warm place, until double in bulk. When dough is light, stir with a spoon and let rise again. Shape into small balls about the size of a large walnut. Put into well-greased baking pans, well spaced, about 15 on a 10×15-inch pan.

    Brush top with melted fat and let rise in warm place until light. In center of each bun, make a small indentation with fingers and fill each with 1 tablespoon of filling. Return to warm place to rise again. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes until brown. Remove from oven, brush with melted fat and remove from pans.

    Source: Recipe by Mrs. Clarence Zajicek from the cookbook “Favorite Recipes of the Nebraska Czechs”

    Kolache facts:

    * Kolache are pastries consisting of a sweet dough and fruit or cheese filling that originated in central Europe.

    * Also spelled kolace, kolach or kolacky

    * Prague, Okla., and Caldwell, Texas, both have annual festivals celebrating kolache

    * Montgomery, Minn., claims to be the Kolacky Capital of the World

    * Verdigre, Neb., claims to be the the Kolach Capital of the world.

    * Nebraska’s Prague was home to the world’s largest kolache, and also a cafe called the Kolache Korner.

  27. nini

    Wow, thanks Belinda, for the recipe from the Journal Star! It was spot-on for the type of kolache my husband is used to from NE. We were a little wary of the recipe calling for 2 Tbsp(!) of salt, but it turned out ok. Next time we may cut the salt a bit, and add a little more sugar. It didn’t say how many the recipe would yield, but we turned out 32 kolaches using half the dough (we freezed the other half…any idea if it will be ok?). Thanks again for the recipe!

  28. Sprittibee

    Hey Elise! :) My husband is Czech, too. His mother is full Czech and he is 1/2. His grandma spoke it and traveled there to visit relatives. I know a smattering of Czech phrases that we are trying to pass on to my kids.

    There was a little lady in Snook, Texas that could cook the absolute best poppyseed kolaches. Hers were entirely enclosed – like a roll (or a struedel – sp?). They had a flaky sugar coating and a few poppy-seeds sprinkled on the outside glaze as well. I probably ate 10 of them that day and could have SERIOUSLY flunked a drug test. Ha! Kev’s uncle actually DID fail a drug test after eating these once!

    I’m going to try your recipe since I tried one in his family cook-book and it wasn’t quite what I was aiming for. Too bad the little lady in Snook died and took her perfect kolache roll recipe with her. :( I dream of those poppy-seed wonders….

  29. avital

    Hi Elise!
    Exactly 1 year ago, I baked these wonderful pastries and i have to say these were one of the best sweet dough i’d ever made (and that means alot!). Mine were round buns with a depression in the center filled with jam, the only shape I knew for kolache until now.
    http://sandrakavital.blogspot.com/2006/10/kolache-la-brioche-tchque-starise.html
    And surprislingly (or maybe not considering that those countries are so close), the pocket shape of your father’s kolache remind me of another yeast dough pastry from Slovenia wich is also so soft and good: the Buthteljni that you can find here:
    http://sandrakavital.blogspot.com/2005/10/buhteljni-slovne.html

    How lucky you are to have a father who bakes AND have such a metabolism!!

  30. avital

    Hi Elise it’s me again!
    I’ve just read carefully your recipe and i’m confused: it’s exactly my Slovenia Buhteljni recipe…??!!
    Maybe as your father is such a wonderful baker and love so much kolaches, you could consider telling him to try my kolache recipe to compare, why not?
    It’s in french but i give the link of the original recipe which is in english ;)

  31. Bobbi

    My Czeck mother in law used to make kolachi dough that had vanilla pudding in it – if anybody knows the recipe and is willing to share – my daughter would love to have the recipe.

  32. mk

    As the holidays approach I am taking out the pastry board for my first year of making the traditional ‘Grandma’s poppyseed strudel’ while she and Grandpa watch from above. My Grandma also grew up in Clevland and was raised by her Czech grandmother. I do not think I will be able to make the quantity she used to make before Christmas but hopefully I can at least get the quality. Canned poppyseed filling is a rarity in Salt Lake City, so perhaps I will try this recipie from scratch. Best Wishes to all!

  33. Laura

    Wow … I am totally choked up here … I recently was shocked to see the rolled version of kolache from my childhood staring up at me at a baked good stand at a market here in New Jersey. I bought both poppyseed and walnut. So very excited remembering how my Babka would make these and many other wonderful things for our family. Unfortunately, she passed and took her recipies with her… As I walked away, purchase in hand, I was overwhelmed at the realization that the following day was her birthday … She was definately aware that I needed her this holiday season … May God Bless you all …

  34. Anil

    Grinding the poppy seeds before cooking can help make a smoother texture (from the Montgomery Minnesota tradition of Kolacky baking).

  35. Barb

    These were exactly as I remember them from my childhood hometown of New Prague, MN! I changed the filling to prune, however. Thanks for the receipe!

  36. Janet Kostelecky Dickey

    Kolaches are a favorite Czech dessert of my family’s. My Gramma used to make it for us. My Mom used to make it for us. Now, thank you, I have the recipe that was lost. Poppy seed, Prune or Apricot Kolache. Mmmmm. My mother used to just make the Kolache bread recipe for buns for dinners. My children just LOVE “Gramma’s Buns”. They would sneak a few and pack them away for themselves for another time. The bread part of this recipe is great on its own.

  37. Len from Towson MD

    Elise,

    Thank you for combining the pastry recipe with the Poppy Seed filling. I live near Baltimore, half Czech and half Irish. My grandmother used to make these every Christmas, but her three daughters (my mother included) never took up baking. I became my family’s baker 20 years ago and tried to resurrect those smells and tastes of my youth. You recipe is right on the money.

    Last year I was on an assignment away from home and got back just before Christmas. I baked a lot of traditional cookies, but just did not have time for the Kolachkes. I was amazed at the number of people who were pouting because there were no Kolachkes. Your recipe will make sure I am ready this year.

    Merry Christmas.

  38. John Warterfield (Bartos my Mother Madin Name)

    Dobrý den, Czech for good day,

    I lost my Grandfather sometime back in the 90′s As a Texas Czech bohemian he talk about his mothers cooking and he loved when my mother cook a bach of Kolache. I could see in his eyes as he remember his childhood days eating his Kolache as a little boy in the dry West Texas country side. I ask mom for the reciepe and it is almost the same as above. A cup of coffee and a Kolache can’t be beat. Enjoy

  39. Karen

    I am having so much trouble with making the kolacy sweet dough, my dough is so dry and tastes like card board. I follow the receipe but can’t knead it to much, because I have trouble with my hands.
    I just got a new stand kitchen aid mixer, can anyone tell me how I can make this dough in it? what receipe should I use for it.
    Thank you in advance for all your help.

  40. AndreaD

    I doubt I’ll spell it correctly, my granny used to make homentachen when I was growing up, this looks very similar.
    I’m going to make it right now, thank you for this recipe. If anyone’s considering making the lemon tart on this page, you will not be disappointed, I’ve made everyone known to mankind, this one is the best ever.

  41. 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

  42. E. Carlson

    Wow! Someone who actually makes the kolache
    the way my Czech grandmother and mother did…..using square pieces of dough and folding to the center. Visited family in Iowa some years ago and I was surprised to see them making them round with a depression in the center for the filling. Our family made poppyseed filling and prune filling. By the way, we are kola”chee” people.

  43. 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

  44. Greg

    It’s always surprising to find something you thought was unique to your family is actually well-known. I’ve always thought Kolachi (my mother’s spelling; 1 kolach, 2 kolachi) was something only my mother made. I actually followed her around the kitchen one day as she made them, because the recipe existed only in her head. Our version is still slightly different however: We make them as one large coffeecake, slicing individual servings from it. Our recipe is essentially the same as posted above, out of which we make two kolachi.

  45. Debbie

    My grandmother would make kolaches however in the form of a pie. Prune and poppyseed were the usual filling. She also would add apple to the Prune filling — it would cut down on some of she sharpness of the prune yummy! I don’t know if she made them in this style on the farm for ease of feeding a large number of people or what. But when we when up to Chesky Den festival in Hillsboro, WI where she was from the ladies up there had a wonderful booth selling kolache pies! So it may be a regional style for them.

  46. 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

  47. 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!

  48. Helen Dresen

    Hi Elise,
    This recipe brings back such wonderful times I spent with my grandparents as a child in Melbourne, Australia. My grandmother and grandfather were czech and she would make these Kolachky for us. I am so glad that you have posted this recipe as I was explaining to my husband (he is German) all about this beautiful yummy pastry,and I am making them for him to try.Like Wendy my grandma took her recipe to the grave also.Cheers Helen

  49. Michael Storer

    My mom began at dawn boiling potatoes “for a lighter dough”. She learned to make kolachys from watching her Czech mother. No written recipe. She and my aunt wrote between Iowa and California (our home) for years about how the latest batch compared to their mother’s. For us, they were always perfect! Back home from school, every kitchen and dining room surface would be lain with brown paper bags covered with apricot, prune and poppy seed kolachys. Prune were the most unique for friends, because of the cloves and allspice. Yumm! Neighbors knew nothing of these gems we kids grew up with. Mom’s were twice-risen, round with a depression in the middle for the filling, then came cheese filling atop that and lightly baked again. She used ‘hoop’ cheese, similar to cottage only drier, added egg yolk, vanilla, sugar and a pinch of salt. A dusting of powder sugar before devouring! They froze well, so we always had them on hand. I haven’t tasted one in over 30 years.Mom used Solo canned poppy seed filling. Actually I came online to see how to make poppy seed filling and ran across this page. Thank you!Mike in Los Angeles.

  50. 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

  51. johanna

    How funny, I recently had a request for a kolache recipe, we call them golatschen in Austria. I love them especially with powidl, the incredibly thick plum jam that’s stewed overnight for an unbelieveably intense flavour… wow. I should make them more often!

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