A complete guide to typical Czech food – 25 traditional dishes & desserts explains cuisine divided into vegetarian dishes, soups, meat dishes, sweets and typical drinks.
The two most characteristic elements of Czech cuisine are dense soups and many kinds of thick, creamy sauces served with meat or other dishes. The main ingredients of Czech cuisine are meat, potatoes and root vegetables, and sour cream is used generously in many dishes.
Typical Czech meal consists of two courses: soup as the first course, and usually a meat dish as the second course. Lunch is often followed by a dessert – usually a piece of cake.
Curiosities About Czech Cuisine
- One of surprises of the Czech cuisine is that main dish can be sweet, such as pancakes or dumplings with sweet filling.
- Lunch is often accompanied by beer, as the Czechs are the world’s biggest consumers of beer!
List of contents
- Vegetarian Dishes
- Meat Dishes
1. Typical Czech Food: Vegetarian Dishes
What are the most typical Czech vegetarian dishes?
- Švestkové Knedlíky – Plum Dumplings
- Bramboráky – Potato Pancakes
- Bryndzové Halušky – Czech Gnocchi with Sheep Cheese
- Koprovka – Dill Sauce
- Houbový Kuba – Barley with Mushrooms
- Smažák – Fried Cheese
- Palačinky – Crepes
Read all about the best vegetarian Czech dishes:
1.1. Švestkové Knedlíky – Plum Dumplings
My personal super-favourite Czech dish! These are soft and spongy dumplings with entire plums inside, and their taste is pure poetry! They are made with fresh fruit, not jam. Entire fruits are rolled into potato or curd dough and they are steamed.
They are served with butter, sugar and traditionally with milled poppy seeds (which look like a mysterious black powder).
The most classic are plum dumplings, but other very popular versions include apricot dumplings (photo at the beginning of the article) and strawberry dumplings.
Interestingly, Knedlíky are not a dessert – they are the main dish.
1.2. Bramboráky – Potato Pancakes
Delicious (although not diet-friendly!) potato pancakes are an extremely popular main dish, side dish or street food. They are vegetarian, consisting of grated potatoes, flour and eggs, usually served with sour cream and chives. However, in restaurants they may be served with bacon or meat sauce, so always ask when ordering.
1.3. Bryndzové Halušky – Czech Gnocchi with Sheep Cheese
One of the best examples of traditional Czech food, Bryndzové Halušky are only partially similar to gnocchi as a type of dish – they have a very distinctive and unique taste of their own. Bryndza is a salty sheep cheese with sharp taste, that combines great with mild taste of potatoes. They are an extremely satisfying and tasty meal that will keep you full (and happy). Usually served fried, with butter and grated cheese on top.
1.4. Koprovka – Dill Sauce
You may be surprised why a sauce would be listed here as a dish, but it is indeed a dish, when served typically with hard-boiled or poached eggs and potatoes. This aromatic, creamy sauce is one of the Czech (and Central European) cuisine classics, rather unknown to the rest of the world and really worth trying.
1.5. Houbový Kuba – Barley with Mushrooms
Barley and other cereals are widely used in Czech cuisine, especially for preparing a risotto-style dish called Kuba. It used to be considered a “poor”, cheap dish, as it contains no meat, but nowadays it’s a perfect vegetarian dish: nutritious, healthy and delicious.
1.6. Smažák – Fried Cheese
Breaded fried cheese is a popular snack in Czech pubs to accompany beer. It is served as a side dish, or as a main dish with potatoes and a small salad. It’s sinfully greasy and definitely not healthy, but it’s also super tasty, so while you are on holidays you might want to indulge yourself…
1.7. Palačinky – Crepes
Crepes are obviously well known in many countries, but you should still try the Czech ones, as they are really exquisite. The Czechs adore sweet crepes. They are a very popular main dish or a dessert. There are plenty of varieties: with sweet curd, with fruit jams or sliced fresh fruit or with chocolate.
Info for vegans:
Traditional and typical Czech vegan dishes are practically inexistent, as Czech cuisine is really based on meat and cream. But don’t worry – you will find many modern, nice vegan restaurants in Prague (in smaller towns it will be more difficult). Many of them offer vegan versions of popular Czech dishes.
2. Typical Czech Food: Soups
What are the most typical Czech soups?
- Kulajda – Potato & Mushroom Soup
- Zelňačka – Cabbage Soup
- Gulášovka – Goulash Soup
- Česnečka – Garlic Soup
Info for vegetarians:
Czech soups are almost never vegetarian, so as tempting as they may seem, it’s unlikely you will find a traditional soup without any trace of meat, unless you go to a vegetarian restaurant.
Check out the best traditional Czech soups:
2.1. Kulajda – Potato & Mushroom Soup
Traditional creamy soup made of potato and mushrooms, spiced with dill and vinegar and served, quite surprisingly, with a poached egg. It is very thick and will fill you up, so if you don’t eat big portions of food, it may be enough as entire lunch. It is perfect for autumn and winter cold days.
2.2. Zelňačka – Cabbage Soup
Cabbage soup has a sour taste, as it is made of sauerkraut – fermentated cabbage. It is typically served with minced sausage pieces.
2.3. Gulášovka – Goulash Soup
A soup version of goulash (stew, see #3.2 below) is made of pork or beef tripe stewed with root vegetables (carrots, parsley, celeriac etc.). It is a hearty meal, best enjoyed in autumn and winter. It tastes best with a slice of fresh bread.
Euroviajar’s Tip: The best version of Gulášovka is when it is served in a hollowed bread roll, like on the photo above!
2.4. Česnečka – Garlic Soup
Intense garlic soup is made with an egg (cooked in the soup to make it denser) and vegetables. It is served with croutons, finely chopped sausage and sometimes cheese cubes.
3. Typical Czech Food: Meat Dishes
What are the typical Czech meat dishes?
- Sekaná Pečeně – Baked Mince Meatloaf
- Guláš – Stew
- Svíčková na Smetaně – Braised Sirloin in Creamy Sauce
- Vepřo Knedlo Zelo – Roasted Pork
- Pečená Kachna – Roasted Duck
- Řízek – Breaded Cutlet
Here are the most traditional Czech meat dishes:
3.1. Sekaná Pečeně – Baked Mince Meatloaf
This traditional Czech dish is made of mince pork (or beef) mixed with chopped onions, garlic, green parsley, marjoram and other spices and sometimes pieces of peppers or other vegetables, and baked in the oven. It is served with potato purée or boiled potatoes.
3.2. Guláš – Stew
A hearty stew made usually of pork or beef meat, with onions and root vegetables. It is served with bread slices or sometimes with a kind of bread dumplings (on the photo). It is very popular in winter, as it warms you up immediately.
3.3. Svíčková na Smetaně – Braised Sirloin in Creamy Sauce
Truly typical Czech food – Svíčková is braised beef in thick layer of creamy sauce made of carrot, parsley root and celeriac. The dish is served with sour cream, potato dumplings and cranberry gravy.
3.4. Vepřo Knedlo Zelo – Roasted Pork
One of the classics of Czech cuisine – it is a dish of roasted pork accompanied by typical dumplings and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) served cold or hot – stewed. And – it’s always washed down with a pint of pilsner.
3.5. Pečená Kachna – Roasted Duck
Among the typical Czech food, we can’t omit roasted duck served on stewed red cabbage – it’s a classic. You will wind in many traditional restaurants, served always with potato or bread dumplings. It should be accompanied by beer.
3.6. Řízek – Breaded Cutlet
The word Řízek covers a wide variety of different meats (veal, pork or chicken), with one thing in common: the method of preparation. It means a sliced piece of meat, breaded with Czech trojobal meaning “triplecoat” of flour, eggs and bread crumbles, and fried.
It is obviously an international rather than only Czech dish, but it is really deep-rooted in the Czech culinary tradition and it is one of the most typical meals. Řízek is served with potatoes and a small side salad.
4. Typical Czech Food: Desserts & Sweets
What are the typical Czech desserts?
- Trdelník – Spits Pastry
- Oplatky – Spa Wafers
- Koláč – Kolache
- Buchty – Sweet Buns
- Medovnik – Honey Cake
- Marlenka® – Honey & Walnut Cake
- Štrúdl – Apple Strudel
- Perník – Gingerbread
The Czechs adore pastry and sweets – and they have a great variety of them. You will love them!
4.1. Trdelník – Spits Pastry
Traditional warm pastry, made of dough sliced into strips and rolled on a special stick, sprinkled wirh sugar and cinnamon, and slowly cooked on spits. It has a very pleasant texture, sticky inside and crusty outside, and it’s really tasty!
It is disputed whether Trdelnik originated in the Czech Republic or Slovakia. Whichever the case, it’s a must-try when you are visiting any of these two countries!
4.2. Oplatky – Spa Wafers
The Czechs are very proud of their wafer tradition – and they should be. Czech wafers are arguably the world’s best. The most famous ones are round so-called spa wafers (Lázeňské oplatky), as they originated as a snack in a spa town of Karlovy Vary. They come in infinite variety of flavours – and you seriously should try them all!
Read more about Czech wafers here:
4.3. Koláč – Kolache
Kolache is a round yeast pastry with a sweet filling. Its filling is spread on the top and is always visible. The varieties of filling include baked fruit, jam, poppy seed paste or sweet curd. Sizes can very from a coffee-plate size to as much as a pancake size.
4.4. Buchty – Sweet Buns
These sweet yeast pastry tastes very similar to Koláče, it differs only in form. Instead of putting the filling on top, in Buchty it is wrapped inside and invisible. The fillings are the same as in Koláče: poppy seed paste, jam, cream etc.
4.5. Medovnik – Honey Cake
The tradition of this honey cake goes back to several centuries ago and definitely Medovnik can be considered the classic of Czech (and Slovak) cuisine. It is a cake with many layers of very sweet honey cream in between them. Medovnik is extremely satisfying and it’s a must-try when you are in Czech Republic!
4.6. Marlenka® – Honey & Walnut Cake
Marlenka® is honey cake, like Medovnik, but the cake layers have softer, more spongy texture. It is based on a traditional Armenian recipe from 1704, and named after the wife and daughter of its inventor. There are varieties with honey and with honey and walnuts – and I highly recommend especially the second type!
4.7. Štrúdl – Apple Strudel
Although originated in Vienna and always associated with the Austrian cuisine, this type of cake is also immensely popular in Czech Republic. It is a type of cake with rich filling of freshly baked apples with raisins, nuts and cinnamon. You will find apple strudels everywhere and it’s one of the classic desserts, eaten most often in the afternoon with a cup of tea or coffee.
4.8. Perník – Gingerbread
This is gingerbread in the form of a cake, usually without filling, or sometimes with layers of plum marmalade. It is popular especially in winter and it is one of typical Christmas sweets.
Read more about Christmas sweets and street food in Prague:
5. Typical Czech Drinks
5.1. Kompot – Fruit Drink
Attention: Kompot is different than compote! While compote is a kind of jam, Kompot is a non-alcoholic drink made of boiled fruit with sugar, served hot or cold. Any kind of fruit made be used to prepare it, usually it contains several types of fruits mixed together. The most common fruits include plums, cherries, apples and strawberries. It is traditionally served with lunch.
5.2. Czech Alcoholic Drinks
- Becherovka – the most famous Czech spirit, is a strong (38%) digestive herbal bitters with an intense and vaguely cinnamon taste.
- Slivovice – moonshine or plum brandy with up to 50% alcohol, with nicely perfumed aroma, and a very strong, pungent taste.
- Absinthe – read more in Shopping in Prague at #2
5.3. Czech Beers
Czech drink more beer than any other nation in the world. They even call beer their national sport ;) You will be very pleased to discover that in restaurants beer costs less than… mineral water, so indulge yourself!
Which Czech beers are the best? Here are some brands we particularly recommend:
- Staropramen – a beer from Prague, different types are available, the most popular are pale lagers, but there are also dark lagers from the brand. The classic one is Staropramen Ležák (Premium).
- Gambrinus offers a selection of pale lagers, very popular in Czech Republic, especially Gambrinus Original 10.
- Kozel is a an award-winning and the best-selling Czech beer brand in the world, producing pale and semi-dark lagers and dark dunkel. The classic is Kozel Premium.
FAQ about Typical Czech Food
1. What is eaten for breakfast in Czech Republic?
The most popular breakfast in Czech Republic are open sandwiches with butter, cheese, ham or sliced sausage, sliced tomato, pickles etc. (see the photo above), or jam. Also sweet buns like Koláče or Buchty are a popular choice for breakfast, especially out of home. Typical drinks for breakfast are coffee or tea.
2. What is eaten for lunch in Czech Republic?
The Czechs traditionally eat soup as the first course and meat + dumplings + vegetables as the second course.
3. What is the national Czech dish?
The national Czech dish is Svíčková na Smetaně – braised sirloin in creamy sauce of root vegetables, which is served with bread dumplings. The title could also go to Vepřo Knedlo Zelo – roasted pork served with dumplings and stewed sauerkraut.
4. Do the Czechs really eat desserts for lunch?
They don’t consider them desserts :) Yes, sweet dishes like fruit dumplings and cakes are a popular option in Czech Republic.
5. What is the most typical Czech cake?
The most typical Czech cake is probably Medovnik and Trdelnik.
6. Which is the best Czech beer?
Try Kozel Premium – it is an award-winning bestseller among Czech beers.
Other Typical Czech Food
Do you have any other typical Czech dishes to add to the list? Do you have any questions or comments? Write them below! And if you like the article – share it!