Slovak Christmas Bobalki

The holidays are all about traditions and I have quite a few. These are my three favorite, in no particular order…

1. A real live Christmas tree. There’s no such thing as a tree that’s too tall or too fat. My Uncle Andy will back me up on this one. ‘Nuff said.

2. The Christmas bell. Every year my family rings a bell at the end of Christmas Eve dinner starting with the youngest person in the house, on up to the oldest.


This is not THE Christmas bell, as in the bell that’s been in my family for years. But this is my Christmas bell, as in the one my Aunt Barbie sent me the first Christmas after I moved away from home. This bell is one of those “don’t-let-the-Army-movers-pack-it-know-where-it-is-at-all-times-grab-it-if-the-house-is-on-fire” kinda things. Ya, it’s that important.

And yes, all of my breakable Christmas knick-knacks are on top of one single bookshelf. Why? I have four kids! Duh.

3. Bobalki! Or, Bobocky. Or Bobice, or Bobalky, or however you want to spell it. I’ve seen it many ways. Bobalki has been on my family’s Christmas Eve dinner table since before I was born. Which means since, like, the times of baby Jesus himself! Just kidding…but let’s just say in my house I am the last one to ring the bell. Anyway, I got this recipe from my cousin Kari, who got it from her Mom, who I am sure got it from my Nana. This is definitely one of those recipes that has been passed down, and now I’m sharing it with you!

So what the heck is bobalki? Well, to put it simply…bobalki are like little pillows of dough from Heaven, risen, rolled, and baked to perfection, drenched in sweet syrupy honey, and sprinkled with poppyseeds. That is all. See, doesn’t matter how you spell it but you should really try making these soon. Like maybe for your Christmas Eve dinner?

DSC_0659Start with whole milk, flour, regular table salt, eggs, unsalted butter, sugar, and active dry yeast. Don’t be afraid of the yeast! You’ll see why in a minute. And by the way you’ll also need some honey and poppy seeds. I have no idea where my brain was!

DSC_0665Place one whole stick of buttah in a small saucepan and add the milk. Set this over low heat. You don’t want to boil it, or even scald it…just heat it enough so the butter melts.


DSC_0696 Next add your dry ingredients to a bowl. I’m working with my stand mixer but you can easily do this by hand. First up is the flour.DSC_0701 Then add the sugar.

DSC_0707 Then add the yeast to the dry ingredients. This is why there’s no need to be scared! No proofing or fussing with temperatures! If you have a big jar of yeast, like I showed you up in the ingredient shot, then use 4 1/2 teaspoons. If not, then two packets like here.DSC_0715 I remembered I had two packets so that’s what I used.

DSC_0736 And the salt. Just regular old table salt.DSC_0748 Then pour in your melted butter and milk.DSC_0767 And crack in two eggs.DSC_0774 Either mix it by hand, or in a stand mixer using the mixing paddle, until everything is well combined. What you’ll have is a very shaggy wet dough. DSC_0792 Now either knead by hand or switch to the dough hook and keep going until the dough is no longer sticky. Then cover and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

DSC_0799 Now uncover, punch down the dough, and cover it back up until it’s doubled in size.

DSC_0811Like so. This took about 45 minutes. I kept it right in the same bowl I mixed it in and set the bowl on top of the stove, which I had preheating to 400 degrees. Ya following me? Sorry if I’m not making much sense…these are so good I get a little loopy when I’m around ‘em!

DSC_0820 Now pull off walnut-size pieces of dough and roll them into balls.DSC_0834 And line them up on sheet pans lined with silpat or parchment paper. This makes quite a few bobalki and I probably made mine a little bigger then normal. It’s like a bobalki army!

Now bake them for 12-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Mine were perfection at 12 minutes.

DSC_0849 Now throw the bobalki in a colander. You’ll probably have to do these next few steps in batches since this makes so many. Sprinkle them with just a little bit of water. Like maybe 1-2 tablespoons? You just want to get the outsides moist.DSC_0856 Now place them in a big bowl. Just an FYI…these make yummy dinner rolls just as they are! In fact my cousin Rachael prefers them this way. :-) DSC_0875 Drizzle on some honey. Don’t be stingy!DSC_0882 And sprinkle on some poppy seeds. Go nuts or not so much. There’s no right or wrong here!DSC_0886And toss. Drool.

DSC_0946If these are wrong…I don’t wanna be right!

DSC_0951See they are light and airy on the inside, sweet and soft on the outside, with just a little bit of crunch from the poppy seeds. I. die.

DSC_0890 Enjoy!

Slovak Christmas Bobalki
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6+
A traditional Slovak Christmas treat that’s tasty enough to enjoy any time of the year!
  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • ½ cup Unsalted Butter
  • 7½ cups All Purpose Flour
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 2 Envelopes (4½ tsp) Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • Honey, for drizzling
  • Poppy Seeds, for sprinkling
  1. Heat milk and butter over low heat in saucepan just enough to melt butter, set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients.
  3. Add milk and butter to dry ingredients. Then add eggs.
  4. Mix well and knead till dough is no longer sticky.
  5. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Punch down and let rise till double in size.
  7. Pull off dough in walnut-sized pieces. Roll into balls.
  8. Bake on sheet pans lined with parchment paper at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Put baked balls into colander. Pour a small amount of hot water over balls then put them in a large bowl.
  9. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Toss and serve.




  1. Wow, you truly are a master chef. Looks incredible. Yet again, love the photography!

  2. It’s wonderful to know that our family traditions are living on in your own family! Especially when there are so many miles between us. I’ll be making these for our Christmas Eve Dinner as I do every year. But I still ask Nana to mix it all up. She drizzles some melted butter after the water and before the honey. As if these weren’t rich enough! We’ll be missing you on Christmas Eve and will ring the bell for you all as always! Love you, Aunt Rene

  3. I love your Christmas bell tradition and I’m going to have to try some of those Bobalki things, they do look heavenly!

  4. Karen O'Hara says:

    Hi Ann,
    I came across your website while looking for a recipe for bobalki. It has been a favorite of my entire family on Christmas Eve for many years. I’ve never made them, my Mom always did and she passed away the end of January. I’d like to keep most of our Christmas Eve traditions intact. It’s been a difficult year for my family we lost my Mom in January and my Dad the August before so this will be our first Christmas without both of them. The problem is that my Mom didn’t make her bobalki with honey and poppy seed. There was a little bit of sauerkraut tossed in somehow with hers. Have you ever heard of them made that way? I will definitely try out your recipe for the dough balls, but please let me know if you know anything about the sauerkraut.

    Thanks for any help your can provide. Your instructions and pictures with your recipes are WONDERFUL!!!!!

    • Hi Karen! Thank you so much for your comments! I’m glad you’re finding the instructions and pictures helpful. And I am so sorry for your loss. I imagine that must be very difficult and I would love to be able to help. For as long as I can remember we’ve always had our Christmas Eve bobalki with honey and poppy seeds. We usually pass a bowl of plain ones at the table too, but we’ve never had a sauerkraut version. I’m definitely interested in trying to help you figure this out though, and in a short while I’ll be home with my family for Thanksgiving. I’ll be happy to ask my Nana and my Aunts if they know since they have been making the bobalki since even before I was born. I’ll keep you posted! :-)

    • I was just watching the local public station today (WQED in Pgh) and they had their fundraising cooking shows on and one of the dishes they prepared at the station was the bobalki with sauerkraut – they cheated on the bobalki using one can of Pillsbury refrigerated breadstick dough. they rolled the strips out then sliced into portions and rolled those into balls and baked per the package instructions. they sautéed one large diced onion in about 1/2 stick of butter until translucent then added a 2 lb bag of sauerkraut drained and rinsed well (the kraut looked like it had caraway seeds in it – I would think that would be personal preference) they heated that thru then added about 1/2 cup boiling water to the bobalki then added that to the sauerkraut stirred around then put in 9×12 baking dish topped with another stick of melted butter then baked at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. the actual recipe is in a book they were giving away with donations called holiday side dishes. hope this works for you.

    • Karen Hatzileris says:

      I am of Slovak heritage and having been enjoying making and eating bobalki for over 50 years. Our family has always eaten it with sauteed sauerkraut and i can’t even think of eating it with honey and poppyseed. That sounds more like a dessert. We would always make our traditional recipe and would never think of using store bought bread dough for the bobalki because there is a distinct taste in the homemade recipe we have always used. We also make a mushroom soup from the reserved sauerkraut juice and that is served over rice.

      • Hi Karen! My family also makes a soup that sounds very similar. I know it involves sauerkraut juice, lots of butter, mushrooms, and tiny round balls of pasta. I don’t make it at my house because truthfully I don’t care for it lol. Happy Holidays!

      • I agree with you, Karen! I can’t imagine bobalki with honey and poppyseed because I also grew up eating it with sauerkraut! Mushroom soup also – but not served over rice. Add some babka and you’re all set!!

  5. Our family has made the sauerkraut and poppyseed version every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember. To make the sauerkraut version you use the same bread ball recipe. Then take a can of sauerkraut, drain and rinse it and heat it in a saucepan with a small amount of water. When heated through, drain it and mix it with your cooked bread balls. Some families sauté the sauerkraut in oil or butter, but we just heat it in a saucepan. By the way, in recent years my parents have “cheated” by using frozen bread dough. They defrost the bread dough in the fridge and then cut it into small pieces, roll it into balls and bake it. They can make a huge batch with one package. I hope you can carry on your family tradition!

  6. Karen O'Hara says:

    Dear Ann, Stan, and Katie,

    Thanks so much for all your help! I’m hoping to try and make some bobalki this weekend. I really appreciate the feedback and suggestions and will be using them.

    Stan….I’ll be hoping to watch the cooking show on WQED that showed how to make the bobalki since I’m in the Pittsburgh area, too!

    Many thanks to you all!

  7. My mom always made Bobalky for Christmas too. She’s been gone 10 years now. We tried to keep the tradition alive after she passed but have only made it a few times. Once my sister moved, our family Christmas gatherings disappered….so now no more traditional foods. I would love to try making your dough recipe for my own family. Mom always made both the Poppyseed and the savory Sauerkraut. She never used homemade dough, but rather the frozen bread dough. I remember her making them ahead of time and keeping them in ziploc bags. On Christmas she would put the Bobalky in a colander and pour a big pot of boiling water over them. If I remember correctly, she would rinse the sauerkraut and chop it. I remember her frying some bacon and setting it aside, and reserving some of the bacon grease. She would fry the sauerkraut and onion in the bacon grease and then add the bacon back into the mixture…pouring this over the steamed bobalky. Oh how I miss that dish! I like your version of the poppyseed….mostly honey with a sprinkling of poppyseed. Mom would by fresh ground poppyseed from the local deli (she never used the Solo canned variety). I don’t remember her adding honey to it though. Just my personal preference…I always preferred the savory.

  8. Mary Ellen Snopek says:

    Traditional Slovak Christmas Eve is a strict fast, Generally eggs and egg products are not served.

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