Hungarian Christmas Dishes

Christmas table

As we are getting close to the holiday season you might think of trying myriad foods from different countries, rather than your own traditional dishes. If you feel like challenging yourself with traditional Hungarian cooking, I would like to share  three recipes with you, that will definitely make the holiday season memorable. Fish soup, stuffed cabbage and bejgli, these dishes can be found in most Hungarian homes during Christmas.

I am coming from a town called Szeged,- that is famous for its fish soup-, (besides other high quality food products, like paprika or Pick salami). Traditionally, there are two kinds of fish soup that are popular in the country: one is Szeged “style” (town on the Tisza river), the other is Baja “style” (town on the Duna river). Baja style fish soup is supplemented with noodles, which is the main difference. In my family we cook (mostly my brother, whose expertise is fish soup), the Szeged style soup, which is what I would like to share with you.

Fish Soup “Szeged style”

fish soup
Fish Soup Szeged style

Ingredients for 4:

– 1,5 kgs of freshwater fish (the best if from all different kinds: pike, carp, bream, catfish, and also have some fish seed and milt). If you can buy prepared fish, then slice them into 2-3 cms cubes. If not then clean the fish, remove the tail, teeth, scales and tins. Cut the belly and remove the intestines, now you can slice it into cubes.

– 3 onion

– 2 tbs paprika powder

– 1 sliced tomato

– 2 sliced green pepper

– 2 tbs lard or oil

– salt


Salt the fish cubes in a bowl. Heat up the lard in a deep pot, and add the diced onions and simmer it until transparent. Add the smaller fish, parts such as the head and tail into the pot with water to cover it. Add the tomato and green peppers, spice it with paprika and salt. When the soup comes to a boil -mash it-, and press it through a strainer, so the smaller pines are caught in the strainer. The most important part of the soup is the thick fish broth. Add the pieces of fish into the pot, and add water to cover the fish. Do not stir the pot, because you can break the fish: only shake it periodically. Cook it for about 30 minutes. At the end you can add the fish seed and milt too.

Tip: If you like the spicy taste, add some sliced hot green pepper into your plate.


Töltött Káposzta (stuffed cabbage) is one of those dishes that dates back to the Turkish era. There are several versions of this traditional dish, which frequently consumed in the summer as well, seasoned with more dill. In Hungary it is mostly seasoned with paprika, while in Transylvania no paprika is used. It is better to prepare a huge amount of stuffed cabbage at once, as it does not go sour easily, and just tastes better after a couple of days.

Töltött Káposzta (Stuffed Cabbage)

Stuffed Cabbage
Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients for 4:

1 smaller sauerkraut (sour cabbage), or 10-12 leaves

– 1 piece smoked rib (just for the taste)

– 1 tbs lard or oil

– 2 tbs all purpose flour

– salt

– paprika powder

For the filling:

– 60 dkg kg minced pork meat

– 3 cloves of garlic mashed

– 1 middle sized diced onion

– salt

– 1 ts paprika powder

– 30 dkg rice


Prepare the filling: wash the rice and add all the ingredients to it. Gently mix them together, and fill the sauerkraut leaves. Make sure that the filling leaves some room for the rice, as it will grow with the cooking. Slice the leftover leaves and put them on the bottom of your deep pot, with the smoked rib. Place the cabbage on the sliced cabbages and cover it with enough water to cover. Put some extra leaves or just sliced leaves on the top, and cook it for about 30-35 minutes.

Prepare your roux with oil/lard and flour. Take off from the heating and add some paprika powder. Add some of the liquid from the cabbages, this is important to have a balanced temperature. Add your roux into the cabbage (through a strainer), and after boiling it is ready.

Tip: Best is with fresh sour cream and bread. You can also cook it with bay leaves or dill,- they give some extra taste.


Some families offer numerous variations of pastries for their Christmas table, and some offer just one kind. This one kind  definitely be our popular “bejgli“, – a walnut or poppy seed filled pastry roll. Chestnut or cottage cheese fillings are also possible, but not so popular yet.

Bejgli (Poppy seed or walnut filled pastry roll)

Bejgli, pastry rolls with poppy seed and walnut

Ingredients for 4 pieces of bejgli:

For the pastry:

– 50 dkg all purpose flour

– 20 dkg butter

– 5 dkg powder sugar

– 1 dkg yeast

– 1,5 dl cold milk

– 1 egg yolk

For the walnut filling:

– 25 dkg ground walnut

– 1,5 dl milk

– 15 dkg powder sugar

For the poppy seed filling:

– 25 dkg ground poppy seed

– 20 dkg powder sugar

– 1 lemon zest grated

 – 2 dl milk


Blend the yeast in the cold milk. Add the powder sugar and the egg yolk. In a separate bowl crumble the butter with the flour, and then add the milk with the yeast mixture. Mix them together, and if necessary add more milk, kneed the dough until it is all smooth. Cover the dough with a foil and put it into the fridge for 40 minutes .

For the walnut filling, mix the walnut with the sugar and put it into the milk and boil it for about 1-2 minutes. You do the same thing with the poppy seed filling: mix it with the lemon zest and sugar, put it into the milk and boil it for about 1-2 minutes. Let both fillings to cool down.

Divide the pastry into 4 parts, and roll out one after the other one, until it has a rectangle shape. Distribute the filling on the pastry and roll them up (not too tight). If it is too tight, they will break out, the goal here is to be able to bake them without cracking. Pierce the top with a fork, and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Grease the top with egg yolk first and separately with egg white, put it into the fridge for 5-10 minutes and then into the oven for 45 minutes on 160 degrees Celsius.

Tip: Some people like to add raisin into the walnut or poppy seed filling. If you like it, try it by adding some!


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