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If you are visiting the Czech Republic and eager to try some delicious traditional Czech food, then you’ve come to the right place.
Whether you are a foodie feeling adventurous or you want to bring some Czech flavor to your home cooking, our article is packed with flavorsome dishes, both sweet and savory, to add to your must-try list.
Be it succulent meats coated in rich sauces or sweet pastries with gooey fruit centers, our rundown of 18 traditional foods has a flavor for all types of food lovers.
The Czech Republic is well-known for its unique architecture and hearty beer, with the country boasting the highest per-capita consumption of the beverage in the world.
However, when it comes to food and drink, there’s so much more to this beautiful country than just a trinket of cold, refreshing beer.
The Czech region is the birthplace of many iconic cakes and pastries that have become hugely popular in Central European cuisine, and coupled with the country’s love of strong coffee, you won’t have to look that hard to find coffee shops and coffee houses in Prague, Brno, and wherever else you travel to find these sweet delights.
Going the other way, many Balkan and Central European countries have had an influence on Czech cuisine, while meat dishes have become hugely popular in recent times.
Keep your eyes peeled for plenty of soups and stews, roasted meat coated in rich sauces, and a hearty side of bread dumplings to mop it all up with.
Mains / Sides
1. Bread Knedliky
Knedliky is the country’s simplest food, and these wholesome dumplings are ideal for soaking up all of the tasty juices and sauces that Czech cuisine has in abundance.
Knedliky can be sweet or savory and is served as a side for almost every sauce-based dish. Czechs say their number one rule is not to spread butter on knedliky, and instead use the juices and sauces from the main dishes.
Traditionally, these dumplings are made from slightly stale bread. However, modern-day versions are commonly made from fresher ingredients, such as potato or wheat flour.
Once the dough is mixed, it is rolled into a set of smaller dumplings that are steamed or boiled in water. These bread dumplings are then typically served as side dishes for svíčková, gulash, and various meat and vegetable stews. They are great for soaking up those mouth-watering sauces!
Knedliky are never eaten dry. However, if you like the taste and eat one dry dumpling in front of a Czech, expect them to eye you as if you’ve done something odd!
Knedliky has been Czech cuisine’s trusted side dish for centuries. No soups, stews, or sauces can be eaten without it.
2. Svíčková Na Smetaně
Svíčková na smetaně can be a little time-consuming to make, as it requires around three hours of preparation to prepare and cook. It is, however, considered by many to be one of the country’s best sauce-based dishes.
Svíčková na smetaně is a national Czech food, typically prepared for special occasions. This classic dish consists of a quality cut of beef, or beef sirloin, slow-roasted and served with vegetable puree.
To make the puree, the vegetables are first cooked together with the meat. Once cooked, they are removed and pureed together with the juices from the meat.
The roasted beef is covered in cream sauce and topped with cranberry sauce, whipped cream, and a slice of lemon, and served with knedliky.
Svíčková na smetaně may be a love of labor, but it is definitely worth the wait. As Czech food goes, it is right up there as one of the stand-out dishes.
While originally a Hungarian dish, goulash in time found its way into Czech cuisine, and today, it is as popular as ever and typically prepared during the winter.
Goulash is a rich, meat-based stew, consisting of chunks of stewed beef in a thick meat sauce seasoned with paprika. It is commonly served with a side of knedliky.
Goulash can also be made with pork, or wild boar in the fall. It is usually served topped with sliced or shredded onion, and a few chili peppers for some extra heat.
The taste of goulash can be described as a heavily marinated rich beef stew, with a little spice from the peppers, sweetness from the paprika, and freshness from the herbs. Naturally, as with many Czech dishes, people love to mop up the sauce with knedliky.
4. Kuřecí Kapsa
Kuřecí kapsa is an indulgent dish of stuffed chicken breast, heavily influenced by German cuisine, with a few Czech touches to make it unique to the country.
The chicken breasts are grilled with a German ham and cheese stuffing, which often includes mushroom and parsley in the gooey, cheesy filling.
Kuřecí kapsa is a true firework of flavors. The combination of grilled chicken, meaty ham and mushroom, and creamy cheese, with clean, earthy notes from the parsley, makes for quite the delicious combination, making this a truly flavorful dish by anyone’s standards.
5. Vepřo Knedlo Zelo
Vepřo knedlo zelo one of the Czech Republic’s national dishes. This beloved three-ingredient combination consists of roast pork, cabbage or sauerkraut, and knedliky, served with an onion and caraway gravy.
Czech people typically use sauerkraut in the preparation of this meal, but red cabbage can also be used. There are sour and sweet varieties of this dish, and the recipe can include other meats, including beef and chicken, but traditional vepřo knedlo zelo will consist of the classic aforementioned combination.
Kulajda is a rich mushroom and potato cream soup. The combination of mushrooms and sour cream helps add both meaty and tangy, creamy notes to the dish.
Kulajda soup also includes diced potatoes and a considerable amount of dill. A poached quail’s egg is commonly added to the surface of the stew before serving.
The soup is commonly finished with a generous drizzle of sunflower oil, and although you can eat this dish as a starter, kulajda is surprisingly filling. Hence, it is more than acceptable to order it as a main meal.
Zelňačka is a wonderfully tangy traditional sauerkraut soup you must try when visiting the Czech Republic.
The soup consists of plenty of sauerkraut, smoked sausage, potatoes, sour cream, and sometimes mushrooms, often topped with a drizzle of green pumpkinseed oil, similar to how kulajda is prepared.
Zelňačka is similar to a chowder, and tangy, sour, smoky, and meaty notes accompany every mouthful of rich, hot broth and meat and potato chunks. This beloved Czech soup is enjoyed and consumed throughout the country.
Bramboráky are traditional Czech potato pancakes. They are made from a dough of shredded potatoes, crushed garlic, milk, cumin, marjoram, some flour, eggs, salt, and pepper.
All the ingredients are mixed well, to which grated celery, cabbage, leeks, and diced onion are also added.
Once mixed, the dough is ladled into a hot pan and fried until crisp and golden brown on both sides. They are served immediately, piping hot, and are a very popular street food at festivals and events.
Bramboráky pair well with goulash, while many Czechs also like to enjoy these filling potato pancakes with a cold beer.
Tatarák is a dish of raw minced beef mixed with diced onion, egg yolk, paprika, pepper, salt, mustard, diced cucumber, and tomato sauce. It can be made with either beef or pork, depending on preference.
You can find it served pre-mixed, or its ingredients placed separately around the plate so you can arrange your own tatarák to taste. It is commonly served with fried toast and garlic and enjoyed with a glass of cold beer.
Since tatarák includes raw meat, it is best to choose only trusted restaurants when trying it in the Czech Republic to eliminate the risk of bacterial contamination. Be sure to do your research beforehand and look thoroughly at reviews.
10. Pečená Kachna se Zelím
This hearty main is a simple yet textural dish of roasted duck with red cabbage or sauerkraut and a side of dumplings.
The ingredients combine to form a dish that’s got a little of everything when it comes to flavor. There is saltiness, richness, tanginess, and sweetness in every bite, all brought together by the succulence of the duck.
Roasted duck or goose is very popular in the Czech Republic. These cooked birds are prepared for family gatherings, events, and special occasions such as New Year’s Eve.
11. Vepřové Koleno
Pork knee is the key ingredient of Vepřové koleno, with Czech cooks commonly leaving the bone in the meat, once it has been plated.
The meat is very tender, marinated in dark beer to deepen the flavor. Eaten off the bone, the pork is often served with bread, pickles, horseradish, spinach, and/or potato dumplings, and is a dish the meat lovers among you should thoroughly enjoy!
12. Smažený Vepřový Řízek
Smažený vepřový rízek is essentially the Czech version of a pork schnitzel. The cuts of pork are pounded until thin and even, then coated in breadcrumbs, flour, and eggs.
Each cut of breaded pork is fried in vegetable oil or pork fat until golden brown in color, with a crunchy exterior. This flavorsome dish is served with lemon, fresh parsley, boiled or mashed potatoes, or potato salad.
Some versions of Smažený vepřový rízek call for the pork slices to be marinated in lemon juice for around half an hour before being coated in breadcrumbs.
If you’re not too keen on pork, you can also try the chicken version of this dish, smažený kuřecí rízek.
Česnečka is one of the oldest soups in Czech cuisine. It is a garlic-base soup, topped with a raw egg, which cooks atop the soup because of the heat.
Sometimes Czechs add small pieces of pork, sausage, or cheese slices to the dish. It is usually served with crunchy croutons, both in the broth and on the side.
Česnečka is also known as a hangover soup, and Czechs will be the first to say that you’ll be surprised by how effective it is! Regardless of how their head is in the morning, this is a traditional soup loved and slurped by millions throughout the country.
14. Rajská Omáčka
Rajská omáčka is a traditional Czech tomato-based sauce, usually served with beef. It is rich, sweet, and creamy, and made with either boiled tomatoes or tomato puree, beef broth, and root vegetables with various seasonings and spices.
The tartness of the tomatoes is balanced with the likes of allspice, peppercorns, bay leaves, and sugar, while fresh thyme and basil are often added in the summer months.
Rajská omáčka is commonly served with sliced roast beef and dumplings, but you will also see it served with stuffed peppers, other roasted meats, meatballs, pasta, and plenty of other dishes.
15. Moravský Vrabec
Moravský vrabec means ‘Moravian sparrow’ in English. Originating from the Moravian region, but also commonly found in Bohemia, this wholesome dish consists of first stewed then baked pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings.
The pork is often a cut with a higher fat content, such as the shoulder, and seasoned with garlic and cumin, sometimes marinated in white wine or beer, and stewed then baked. The name ‘sparrows’ come from the cutting of the pork into small pieces, with the pieces said to resemble small birds on the plate.
The dish is served with medium-cut onions, sauerkraut, spinach, and knedliky. Some chefs opt for bread dumplings and red cabbage, while others prefer potato dumplings and white cabbage.
Moravian Sparrow is a very rich and filling dish, so don’t plan an active afternoon if you have it for lunch!
Desserts / Pastries
16. Ovocné Knedlíky
One of the most popular traditional Czech desserts is ovocné knedlíky, meaning ‘boiled fruit dumplings’ in English.
These dumplings are made with either potato or leavened dough, or a mixture of fresh quark cheese and wheat flour. They are filled with fruit, usually plum or strawberry, and served hot, commonly with butter, or sometimes curd cheese.
Sometimes you can find them topped with cinnamon and sugar, or a vanilla cream sauce. The filling might also include blueberries or lightly sweetened apricots.
These sweet, boiled dumplings are a dainty and delicious little Czech treat to look for, particularly if you like fruity desserts.
Koláče is a sweet, colorful pastry, and a common sight in both Czech and Slovak bakeries. This rich dessert consists of a portion of fruit, such as prunes or apricots, encased in a ring of sweet, puffy pastry.
Eaten as an everyday comfort food, koláče are also served during the holidays and at church suppers. Traditional spices used in the filling include nutmeg and mace, along with the desired fruit.
The pastries can be filled or decorated with a combination of cream cheese, apricot, prune, poppy seeds, and various fruit jams, and can be enclosed or open-face.
Nearly every Czech and Slovak family has its own personal recipe for koláče, which is passed down from generation to generation.
Not a Czech food by origin, traditional trdelník hails from Slovakia. It became popular in Moravian cuisine in the 20th century.
It was, however, increased tourism in the likes of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia in the 21st century that really put this sweet, indulgent spit cake on the map, more so among tourists, especially in Prague.
Hence, many Czechs will argue trdelník is in no way a traditional dish, and its place in Czech cuisine, if at all, is a hotly contested debate to this day.
Trdelník is a grilled pastry, made by wrapping dough around a metal or wooden stick, dusting it with sugar, topping it with nuts and cinnamon, and roasting the spit over an open flame. The name comes from the word trdlo, which translates to ‘wooden stool’, referencing the shape of the dessert.
Many unique and modernized versions of trdelnik, with the likes of Nutella or ice cream, can be tried, especially in the likes of Prague, from markets and street vendors.
Trdelník and its debatable place in Czech cuisine is a fitting finale to our rundown of foods, as it puts a spotlight on the contest of traditional vs modernization, which many other countries are also experiencing in their cuisines.
Czech Food Summary
That’s a wrap! We reached the end of our wondrous tour of Czech food and dishes you simply must try.
Alive with color and rich in flavor, there are some truly mouth-watering dishes on this list of foods. Typical Czech food covers a broad range of flavors and combinations to satisfy both keen and casual foodies, I’m sure you can agree.
When you visit the Czech Republic, be sure to have this list handy so that you can request Czech food from local vendors and traditional Czech restaurants across the country.
Hence, one final time, here’s the full list of Czech foods we covered in this article:
1 – Bread Knedliky
2 – Svíčková Na Smetaně
3 – Goulash
4 – Kuřecí Kapsa
5 – Vepřo Knedlo Zelo
6 – Kulajda
7 – Zelňačka
8 – Bramboráky
9 – Tatarák
10 – Pečená Kachna se Zelím
11 – Vepřové Koleno
12 – Smažený Vepřový Řízek
13 – Česnečka
14 – Rajská Omáčka
15 – Moravský Vrabec
16 – Ovocné Knedlíky
17 – Koláče
18 – Trdelník
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