Traditional Easter Foods

Bring Some Global Flavor to Your Easter Table

Hot cross buns
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Although colored hard-boiled eggs are probably the first Easter food to come to mind, other foods factor into the traditional Easter meals around the world. There are many types of breads and pastries--from hot cross buns to babobka--as well as meat and egg dishes that you can bring to your holiday table to add some global flavor. 

Breads and Pastries

It seems almost every Easter-celebrating country has its own special Easter bread and/or cake, but hot cross buns are an Easter favorite in many areas.

The tradition allegedly is derived from ancient Anglo-Saxons who baked small wheat cakes in honor of the springtime goddess, Eostre. After converting to Christianity, the church substituted with sweetbreads blessed by the church. These individual yeast buns are spiced and filled with dried fruit; the lemon icing is drizzled in the form of a cross along the top. 

Countries around the world serve sweet cakes in the same vein, such as Czech babobka and Polish baba. The Greeks make tsoureki, a braided bread with a red egg nestled inside, and Lithuanians serve a semi-sweet yeast bread with white raisins called velykos pyragas.

A classic cake for Easter is the simnel cake, signaling the end of Lent as it is filled with ingredients--spices, fruits and marzipan--that are forbidden during that time of fasting. And the lamb cake is not just an American tradition--it is part of the Polish Easter table as well, among many other sweet treats such as babka wielkanocna and mazurek królewski.


For a real treat the kids will love, try deep-fried creme eggs. Like a snack from the county fair, the chocolate cream-filled eggs are deep fried for a decadent dessert.

The Main Dish

Many households serve either lamb or ham for their Easter feast. The roast lamb dinner that many eat on Easter Sunday goes back earlier than Easter--it is derived from the first Passover Seder of the Jewish people.

The sacrificial lamb was roasted and eaten, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs in hopes that the angel of God would pass over their homes and bring no harm. As Hebrews converted to Christianity, they naturally brought along their traditions with them. The Christians often refer to Jesus as The Lamb of God. Thus, the traditions merged.

A good wine to serve with the lamb is one that won't overwhelm the flavor of the meat, such as a Burgundy, Malbec or Shiraz.

In the United States, ham is a traditional Easter food. In the early days, meat was slaughtered in the fall. There was no refrigeration, and the fresh pork that wasn't consumed during the winter months before Lent was cured for spring. The curing process took a long time, and the first hams were ready around the time Easter arrived, making ham a natural choice for the celebratory Easter dinner. Serve a nice Riesling or Gewurztraminer with the ham, or chardonnay or zinfandel are also complementary wines.

Egg Dishes

As we know, eggs are a big part of the Easter tradition--from decorating the shells, to hiding for the Easter egg hunt, to placing in Easter baskets and using as decoration and gifts. But eggs also take part in the Easter meal, not only as an expected dish for the holiday breakfast but also a welcome addition to the festive dinner table in the form of quiche, deviled eggs, and casseroles.

For something quite different, you can try Hrudka--a Slavik egg "cheese" recipe made for Easter. Egg and milk are cooked together until the mixture becomes curd and whey and like a cheese. It can be made savory or sweet and is most often included in the Easter basket to be blessed on Holy Saturday and eaten the next day.