Traditional Easter Foods From Around the World

Bring Some Global Flavor to Your Holiday Table

Hot cross buns
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Although colored and decorated hard-boiled eggs are probably the first Easter food to come to mind, there are many other delicacies that factor into traditional Easter meals around the world. From the several types of breads and pastries to meat and egg dishes to cakes and cookies, the foods that grace Easter tables across the globe vary by country and region.

One food that is common is lamb. 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.

Polish Traditions

The Easter brunch buffet table is plentiful, showcasing some of the country's best dishes. You will find jajka faszerowany, stuffed eggs that are similar to deviled eggs, alongside a ryemeal soup with sausage (called żurek) and the family's own recipe for Biała Kiełbasa, or Polish sausage. A white borscht soup called either biały barszcz or żurek wielkanocny is also tradition—it is made of potatoes, garlic, sour cream, kielbasa, eggs, and rye bread. 

Braised red cabbage, known as czerwona kapusta zasmażana, often accompanies the main dish, which can be almost any meat including roast leg of lamb, roast suckling pig, baked ham, and roasted turkey.

A potato dish and horseradish are common, as is chałka, a braided egg bread that is slightly sweet and dotted with raisins.

The adorable 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—a yeasty cake with 15 eggs!—and mazurek królewski, a flat pastry often topped with almond paste, preserves, dried fruits, and nuts.

 

Italian Traditions

Two important and symbolic foods at Easter for the Italians are eggs and lamb, and there are some dishes that incorporate both, like the Brodetto pasquale, a lamb frittata with asparagus. The Italians also like to bake whole eggs in the shell into breads, as in Neapolitan casatiello, a meat-stuffed bread topped with eggs that are baked right into the dough, and the Taralli di Pasqua, a sweet bread with whole eggs nestled on top.

Minestra maritataItalian wedding soup—or minestra di Pasqua, a traditional Easter soup made with pork, beef, and kale, are commonly served at the holiday meal. Lamb is almost always the main dish, and artichokes are usually served on the side. Dessert may include a colomba di Pasqua (translated to "Easter dove"), a sweet yeast cake shaped as a dove, and Neapolitan Easter cake (Pastiera Napoletana), a ricotta cake flavored with orange-flower water.

Lithuanian Traditions

After church on Easter morning, Lithuanian families return home to enjoy a special breakfast along with the foods from their blessed food basket. The family either shares an egg (a sign of unity) or each enjoys a hard-boiled egg to symbolize rebirth.

The main meal is dinner, where several traditional dishes are served featuring foods that were forbidden during Lent.

Along with roast pig, chicken, ham, and/or lamb, you will find vedarai, a sausage made of potatoes that can be kept meatless or contain bacon, blynai (small pancakes), cepeliani dumplings (large cheese- or meat-filled dumplings), and potato pudding called kugelis. The buffet table will also hold several salads, and many dishes will include mushrooms. Lithuanians also serve a semi-sweet yeast bread with white raisins called velykos pyragas.

Desserts abound at a Lithuanian Easter celebration, where you will likely see paska (literally meaning Easter), a molded cheese delicacy, as well as aguonu sausainiukai, traditional poppyseed cookies, among many other time-honored sweets.

Greek

Although the Greek Orthodox Easter falls on a different day from the Catholic Easter holiday, the food traditions should not be discounted—as there are many delicious delicacies!

The Greek Easter feast actually begins after the midnight church service, but the main event is held on Easter Sunday. On every Greek household table, you will find lamb, red eggs, and tsoureki, an orange and spice scented braided bread with a red egg nestled on top. Cheese pastries—either made with phyllo (like tiropitas) or rolled dough (such as kalitsounia)—are traditional dishes to eat while the lamb is cooking, as are other mezethes (appetizers) such as olives, feta dip, tzatziki (yogurt, garlic, cucumber dip), and rice-stuffed grape leaves (Dolmathakia me kima).

The main course can begin with chicken soup avgolemono, a quintessential Greek soup with orzo and a lemony-egg mixture that makes this soup quite unique. The lamb is often served with roasted potatoes with lemon and oregano (patates sto fourno) and spanakopita, spinach pie with cheese, along with a salad and bread. There is no shortage of dessert options, from galaktoboureko, a custard pie with phyllo to koulourakia, butter cookies with sesame seeds, all served with strong Greek coffee and Greek wine such as raki.

British

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, including Britain. 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 and the lemon icing is drizzled in the form of a cross along the top. 

An Easter lunch is the traditional meal in Britain, and along with a leg of lamb, you will often come across side dishes including spring vegetables such as cabbage, and a recipe utilizing the prized Jersey royal potatoes. A gravy and a fresh mint sauce will accompany the meat.

A classic British 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.

Chocolate makes an appearance in both egg-form as well as dessert treat and can be anything from a chocolate cake to chocolate mousse.