Four traditional Latvian yule dishes

Solstice and yuletide celebration food traditions have changed over time but some nuances have persisted. Ancient beliefs say we should eat plenty to bless the next year.

Both historically and these days, the festive meal was abundant and eating was a big part of celebrating. The choice of meals historically was, of course, determined by the products available. There are enough products for Christmas (unlike Easter) - there are roots, grains and animals to slaughter for festivities, and the festive meal comes out abundant.

Beliefs talk of food choices, eating habits, and the consequences of those choices. 

  • On the Saturday before Christmas, you must eat nine times, bring hay indoors and keep it there over the three celebration days. Put some hay on the table, too, and god's gifts [food] on the hay.
  • At Christmas, make kūķi or zīdenis (gray peas, beans, barley, smoked pork) with half of a pig's head inside; the mother of the house hands out a bowl to everyone s that the next year is successful and blessed.
  • On Christmas Eve, there must be bread on the table so that bread is always abundant.
  • Boil peas and beans at Christmas so they grow well.
  • Eat peas at Christmas, and you'll be rich.
  • Bread baked for Christmas must first be carried around all the cattle, only then can humans eat it.
  • You must eat nine times on Christmas and New Year's eve so that there is enough of everything all year. After eating, the remaining food must be left on the table all night.

Four traditional recipes

Pea patties

Ingredients: gray peas, as many as fit in the palms of both hands cupped together, times three two onions; 100 g pork bacon; one big boiled potato.

Preparation: soak peas for at least 12 hours, then boil until soft. Boil a big potato or several smaller ones. Fry off diced onions and pork bacon.

Grind the peas in a meat grinder, mash the potatoes with a fork. Combine the peas, potatoes, and onions with meat into a uniform mass. Form into balls and bake at high heat until crispy on top. Serve with sour cream or sour cream and horseradish sauce.

Bacon turnovers

Dough ingredients:

  • 250 ml milk
  • 2.5 to 3 glasses of flour
  • 50 g fresh yeast
  • 150 g butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • an egg
  • caraway seeds

Filling ingredients:

  • 200 g smoked pork
  • onion
  • black pepper

Preparation: warm the milk (do not boil). Add the yeast, salt and sugar, then beat well so that the yeast dissolves. Slowly add the flour – first about two glassfuls, then the butter, knead, and add the rest of the flour. Knead until soft and springy.

Cover the dough with cling film and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

Finely dice the meat and onions, add black pepper and mix well. 

Dust a surface with flour, roll out a piece of dough into a circle, then slice into eight triangular pieces. Scoop a spoonful of filling on the fat end and roll from the filled end inward. Brush the finished pies with egg, sprinkle with caraway and bake at 220 C until golden brown.



  • 300 g barley
  • 200 g smoked pork bacon
  • 3 onions
  • salt

Preparation: toast the barley on a skillet with no grease. Finely dice the meat and onions and fry them off. Put first the barley, then meat and onions in a casserole dish and add water so it covers the food 3 centimeters on top. Cover the dish and broil in oven at 170 C until the barley is ready. The texture should be crumbly.

Rye bread parfait


  • 300 g dark rye bread
  • 250 ml heavy cream
  • 250 ml cranberry (or lingonberry, or really any other) jam
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation: Crumble the rye bread and stir in the cinnamon. Whip the cream and sugar (for a lighter but less traditional option, use plain yogurt or sour cream instead). Layer the bread, jam, whipped cream several times until your dessert tray (or smaller dishes) is full. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.


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