Traditional Easter Recipes from Around the World

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Traditional Easter recipes from around the world are full of symbolism and indulgent ingredients. Learn about the the origins and meanings behind various Easter foods and get inspired to try one of these cultural Easter recipes this year!

Collage of traditional Easter recipes from around the world, including  Greek tsoureki, hot cross buns, British Simnel cake, and Russian Paskha cheesecake.

Spring has sprung and Easter is just around the corner!

While Christmas tends to overshadow Easter in the secular world, Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian religion and the biggest feast day of the year. The biggest feast day, of course, means cooking and sharing lots of delicious foods.

The Easter meals I’ve seen in the Southeastern United States typically include things like deviled eggs, pigs in blankets, ham, and cornbread, but my sisters, mother, aunt, cousins and I always make a traditional Italian Easter pie (also known as pizza rustica or pizzagaina) as well — our family’s recipe passed down for generations from “the old country”.

Since my beloved Italian pizza rustica is such an important custom to me, I became interested in the traditional Easter recipes of other countries, passed down through families and imbued with meaning.

What foods are traditionally eaten on Easter varies depending on region and country, but many symbols and ingredients overlap. As I put together this article, here are the most common trends I’ve seen among traditional Easter recipes from around the world.

Recipes are either:

  • Full of foods that would have been abstained from during Lent,
  • Full of religious symbolism, or (very commonly),
  • Both.

Easter foods as indulgent post-Lenten celebration

Let’s start with foods abstained from during Lent.

In the year 604 Pope Gregory outlined the prohibition of meat and meat by-products, like dairy and eggs, for the entirety of the Lenten season. (This also gave rise to the tradition of Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday, as an easy way to use up all the eggs and milk before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.) Bread eaten during Lent was also commonly unleavened.

While modern Roman Catholicism now only prohibits meat on Fridays, the Orthodox Church still has the same strict fasting rules.

That means for Easter we see a lot of fluffy, yeasty, eggy breads, as well as lots of meats and cheese-based recipes. And who wouldn’t want to indulge after six weeks of abstinence from all our favorite foods?

Easter foods as religious symbols

From the ingredients in the foods to their colors to the shapes into which they are formed, Easter foods are full of symbolism! Here are a few of the symbols seen in the recipes below.

Symbolic ingredients

  • Eggs: Rebirth, the Resurrection of Christ (Related, egg shell: the tomb, breaking the egg shell: the empty tomb, and shiny egg wash: the light of Christ) Since eggs were also abstained from during Lent, is it any wonder Easter eggs are so ubiquitous?
  • Butter: The richness of salvation
  • Bread: The bread of life and the Eucharist
  • Sausage links: The chains of death, broken by Christ’s resurrection
  • Lamb: Jesus, the lamb of God

Symbolic colors

  • White (as in cheesecake): The purity of Christ
  • Red (as in dyed eggs): The blood of Christ

Symbolic shapes

  • Three-stranded braid (for bread): The Holy Trinity
  • Ring: The crown of thorns, the unity of the family, and eternal life
  • Cross: Jesus’s crucifixion
  • Dove: The Holy Spirit

Traditional Easter recipes from around the world

While this is by no means a comprehensive list, here is a collection of traditional Easter recipes from many countries and cultures around the world and their significance on this religious holiday.

I hope you are inspired to try one of these cultural Easter recipes this year!

For more fun Easter recipes, check out my collection of recipes you can bring to an Easter potluck!

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Swathi
    March 21, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    Beautiful collection, of traditional easter recipes, love the colleciton. Thanks for including mine.

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      March 21, 2021 at 11:23 pm

      Your Easter bread dolls were so interesting to read about! Thank you for contributing!

  • Reply
    Beth
    March 22, 2021 at 9:10 am

    This is such a fun read! I love learning about the traditions of different countries. Wonderful list of Easter recipes!

    • Reply
      Caroline Lindsey
      March 22, 2021 at 11:58 am

      It’s all so interesting! Thanks for your contribution!

  • Reply
    Karen
    March 22, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    Great round up! Thanks so much for including my breads!

  • Reply
    Andrea
    March 23, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    What an awesome collection of recipes and traditions! My favorite koulourakia recipe is in Popular Greek Recipes (charlestongreekcookbook.com). We grew up making the cookies in the shape of our initials… but never bunny-shaped!

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