Home Recipe Roundup 17 Hungarian Christmas Foods Steeped in Tradition

17 Hungarian Christmas Foods Steeped in Tradition

The holidays won’t be as joyful if you don’t have at least one of these Hungarian Christmas foods on your table!

Hungarians have their own unique way of celebrating Christmas.

Unlike here in the U.S., where Christmas is celebrated on December 25th, Hungarians start the festivities on December 24th.

Traditional Hungarian Sweet Bread Stuffed with Walnut
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On Christmas Eve, adults decorate the Christmas tree while the kids are made to wait in a different room. 

Besides lights and decors, the tree is also adorned with szaloncukor, which are marzipan-filled chocolate or fondant wrapped in festive foil wrappers.

Once it’s ready, the kids are summoned back to delight in the beauty of the decorated tree.

Also, instead of Santa, Christmas presents are given by the baby Jesus and his angels. 

Santa, who’s called Mikulas, pays a visit on December 6 instead. He puts sweets inside kids’ shoes if they’re nice, and birch sticks if they’re naughty.

Then, the Christmas feast is served. And just like their traditions, Hungarians also have unique dishes featured in their Christmas feast.

Learn how to make 17 of them in this collection.

Boldog Karácsonyt! (Merry Christmas!)

1. Halászlé (Hungarian Fish Soup)

A Hungarian Christmas feast is not complete without halászlé, or fisherman’s soup. 

Made with fish and a broth spiced with Hungarian paprika, this soup may have an unassuming name, but it’s bursting with flavor.

As Hungary has no access to the sea, this stew is made with fresh-water fish, commonly carp.

Eating halászlé for Christmas is a Hungarian tradition not only because it’s delicious, but it’s also believed that the fish scales bring wealth and fortune.  

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2. Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

The thought of cabbage as a Christmas dish doesn’t sound appetizing, but wait until you try this one.

The Hungarian stuffed cabbage bursts with flavors and textures from ground meat and rice and is covered in a rich sauerkraut-tomato sauce. 

It’s also topped with bacon, for good measure.

You can make the rolls are thin or thick as you want. They’ll be delectable no matter the size.

3. Authentic Hungarian Walnut Rolls

These Christmas cookies are rolls of flaky pastry with a sweet and nutty center. 

They’re commonly served at Christmas, but don’t feel like you can’t make them any day of the week. One bite of these delights can turn a bad mood around.

There are two types of filling used in these cookies: poppy seeds and walnuts.

Poppy seeds symbolize prosperity and welfare, while walnuts protect the home from evil. 

4. Authentic Chicken Paprikash

Chicken paprikash is one of the most popular dishes Hungary has to offer, and for good reason. This stew is comfort food at its best.

Filled with tender and juicy chicken and a thick and creamy paprika sauce, it’s hard not to lick the bowl.

5. Apricot Kolaches

Here’s another Hungarian cookie you won’t be able to live without. 

These are flaky pastries filled with apricots and rolled in sugar.

They’re crunchy and flaky on the outside, and tender and juicy on the inside. Every bite is heavenly.

The pastry dough has cream cheese in it, which makes it oh-so rich. It’s delectable even on its own!

Together with the sweet apricot filling, they create a wonderful harmony of flavors and textures.

6. Mákos Guba – Hungarian Christmas Dessert

Makos Guba is a traditional Hungarian Christmas dessert featuring poppy seeds.

It’s a hearty bread pudding peppered with nutty and crunchy poppy seeds. It’s a super-basic recipe that calls for only four ingredients.

But despite its simplicity, this dessert is for the win. It goes to show that Christmas dishes don’t have to be too complicated.

7. Hungarian Decadent Chocolate Cake

If you’re a certified chocoholic, I suggest you treat your tastebuds to this decadent chocolate cake.

This is a light and airy chocolate cake with subtle hints of coffee and rum.

It’s topped with a thick layer of chocolate ganache and finished off with a shiny glaze.

Not only is it ridiculously delicious, but looks elegant, to boot.

8. Traditional Meatloaf

Called Stefánia Szelet, the Hungarian meatloaf is as scrumptious and addictive as the American classic.

Actually, scratch that. Personally, I think this meatloaf is even better because it’s covered with strips of pancetta.

The pancetta creates a crispy and crunchy crust that burst with flavor on its own! 

Serve this meatloaf with a salad for a light Christmas lunch or with mashed potatoes for a hearty meal.

9. Snow Crescents (Hókifli)

The name of this dessert alone already tells you how beautiful they are.

These fancy-looking treats are just as delicious as they are pretty.

With a tender and buttery almond cookie exterior and a sweet and tart prune and poppy seed filling, these cookies are to die for.

The best part? This dessert is 100% plant-based. They’re for everyone to enjoy.

10. Hungarian Gerbeaud Cake, Zserbó Szelet

When it comes to dessert, the zserbo szelet is perhaps Hungary’s most popular.

Also known as the Gerbeaud cake, it has layers of yeasted dough cake, apricot walnut filling, and chocolate ganache.

It’s a decadent dessert traditionally served at Christmas or Easter. However, it’s so beloved, it’s available at Hungarian cafes and patisseries all year round.

11. Crackling Scones – Tepertős Pogácsa

In Hungary, scones are served as appetizers. They come in various flavors, including cheese and crackling.

The yeasted dough is folded three times to achieve the perfect, crumbly scone texture.

Also, in case you’re wondering what crackling is, it’s pork or poultry fat trimming deep-fried to crispy, golden-brown perfection.

These scones are therefore wonderfully savory, and best enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

12. Hungarian Lecso

Hungarian lecso is a cozy and warming stew filled with salami, bacon, tomatoes, and bell peppers. 

The broth gets its bright red hue from paprika, the country’s signature spice.

While lecso can be enjoyed solely with a spoon, it also makes for a fantastic side dish to meats.

Serve this with roasted pork or grilled lamb for a hearty Christmas meal.

13. Szegedin Goulash (Székely Gulyás)

Here’s another Hungarian goulash that’s sure to delight. The szekely gulyas is traditionally served at Christmas, but I’ll bet you’ll want to serve this every night.

It’s hearty, cozy, and it’ll make your taste buds dance for joy.

It’s filled with bacon and pork, onions and bell peppers, and sauerkraut to boot.

The broth is, of course, flavored with paprika, as well as bay leaf and caraway seeds.

Served with a dollop of sour cream on top, this goulash is simply divine.

14. Harcsapaprikas, Hungarian Fish Paprikash

Harcsapaprikas is another fish-filled soup that won’t disappoint.

While paprikash is typically a chicken goulash, this fishy variant is also a must-try.

It’s rich and flavorful catfish in a paprika-flavored stew, and it’s purely delish.

Serve this goulash with csusza teszta, a curd cheese pasta, for an authentic Hungarian meal.

15. Bishop’s Bread – Hungarian “Puspokkenyer”

Bishop’s bread is yet another decadent Hungarian dessert that’ll make your mouth water.

It’s a moist cake fully loaded with chocolate, nuts, and dried fruit. It’s flavors and textures galore!

Unlike most of the dessert recipes on this list, though, this one doesn’t require pro baking skills.

In fact, you can even make this as late as 1 hour before the party begins.

It’s both delectable and easy to make. What more can you ask for?

16. Hungarian Kurtos Kalacs a.k.a. Chimney Cake

The Hungarian kurtos is as charming as it is delicious.

It’s no surprise why this dessert is chimney cake. It only takes one look to understand.

Rolled in cinnamon sugar, these pastries may be simple, but they’re outrageously addictive.

17. Meat Jelly

The sound of meat jelly isn’t at all enticing, but if you consider your palate adventurous, it’s a must-try.

It’s exactly what you think it is: meat that’s turned into jelly. Again, it’s not for everybody. Personally, though, I think it’s very tasty.

It takes days to make, so if you want it to be ready by Christmas, you’ll have to plan ahead.

Don’t worry, though, the process may be lengthy, but your involvement is very minimal.

17 Hungarian Christmas Foods Steeped in Tradition


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Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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