Each country's food has a unique range of flavors and aromas that come from the herbs and spices used to prepare it. The Czech Republic is no different. In this article, I will explain which spices the Czechs prefer to season their traditional dishes to give them that desired distinctive flavor.
➜ Caraway seeds
Probably the most famous Czech spice. Caraway seeds, both whole and ground, are used to flavor foods. The spice is indispensable when baking chleba bread, cooking sauces and soups, fermenting sauerkraut, and preparing pork roast or roasted duck.
Caraway is excellent for digestion and bloating. It is also said to help with the production of breast milk.
The Czech word for caraway is "kmín."
Recipes using caraway:
- Czech beef goulash
- Caraway soup (kmínová polévka)
➜ Fresh garlic
Mashed or crushed garlic is great for seasoning ground meat and adding to sauces, soups, salads, and spreads. Its pungent taste becomes even more pronounced when combined with onions. It goes well with meat dishes prepared with red and white wine.
The Czech word for garlic is "česnek."
➜ Bay leaves
The bay leaf is a wonderful spice for Czech soups and sauces. When added to legume dishes, it improves their digestibility. The bay leaf adds great flavor to pickled vegetables, marinated cheese, or sausages.
The Czech word for bay leaf is "bobkový list."
Recipes using bay leaves:
- Svickova sauce
- Pickled sausages (Utopenci)
Allspice is mainly used in soups, sauces, marinades, and pickles in the Czech Republic. It is suitable for seasoning fish and other meats (especially pork and beef). Ground allspice makes a great addition to sweet pastries, stewed fruit, and other sweets. Excellent with spiced wine or homemade liquors.
The Czech word for allspice is "nové koření."
Recipes using allspice:
- Spiced wine (svařené víno)
- Sweet tomato gravy (rajská omáčka)
➜ Black pepper
Ground and whole peppercorns perfectly complement the flavors of pork, beef, fish, cold and hot sauces, soups, and salads. The aroma of pepper is most pronounced when the berries are freshly crushed. Ground black pepper can also be used in sausages, spreads, and patés.
The Czech word for black pepper is "černý pepř."
➜ Paprika powder
Even though it comes from Hungary, ground paprika deserves to be on the list of popular Czech spices. In Czech grocery stores, you can find classic sweet paprika but also hot, smoked, or goulash paprika, with a name indicating the dish it is for. Goulash, sauces, soups, and tasty appetizers; paprika powder can be used everywhere.
The Czech word for paprika powder is "mletá paprika."
Recipes using paprika powder:
- Czech chicken paprikash with dumplings (kuře na paprice)
- Sausage goulash (buřtguláš)
Horseradish is not a spice in the traditional sense, but it is an important part of Czech gastronomy. The grated horseradish root is used to prepare the famously delicious Czech horseradish sauce, often served with dumplings and a slice of boiled beef.
Combined with shredded apples, it forms a so-called "vejmrda," a condiment that pairs well with meat. Horseradish also has a long tradition in Czech folk medicine.
The Czech word for horseradish is "křen."
➜ Fresh or dried herbs
In Czech cooking, dried herbs are used in addition to the above-mentioned natural flavorings.
- Marjoram (majoránka) – perfect for Czech soups!
- Oregano (oregano, dobromysl)
- Rosemary (rozmarýn)
- Savory herb (saturejka)
➜ Fresh greens
The following greens are popular among Czechs for garnishing food on the plate or seasoning various spreads and salads.
- Parsley (petržel) – Parsley Potatoes
- Chive (pažitka)
- Dill (kopr) – Czech Dill Sauce
- Lovage (libeček)
➜ Spices for sweet baking
Czech grandmothers were skilled at using spices to create irresistible desserts and baked goods. Adding a teaspoon of ground spice gave the sweet dish a little something that home cooks today can hardly replicate.
- Cloves (hřebíček)
- Cinammon (skořice)
- Anise star (badyán)
- Aniseed (anýz)
- Nutmeg (muškátový oříšek) – quintessential for Czech Vanocka Houska Bread
- Freshly grated lemon zest (citronová kůra)
- Vanilla (vanilka)
⇢ Read: How to grind spices by hand
Using Czech herbs and spices to flavor your meals is a great way to add depth and dimension to the dishes you prepare. Whether it’s for traditional Czech food or more creative tasks, these herbs and spices can make any dish more exciting. Furthermore, if you have Czech roots, it allows you to better connect with the flavors of dishes that have been prepared in Czech kitchens for many years.
Katherine Moravek Schneider
Krystyna, I am American born but all four of my Grandparents were from Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. I was raised very “Czech” and am extremely proud of my heritage. I can (and do) cook many Czech meals and desserts. One lost recipe my mother used to make was giant lima beans in a tomato sauce. (We called it Butter Beans.) was this a Czech recipe possibly? I have tried unsuccessfully to duplicate but fall short!