Czech cuisine is characterized by the use of rich cream sauces, pork, potatoes and sauerkraut. Among the gems of Czech cuisine is “svíčková na smetaně“, which is beef roasted with vegetables, served in a cream sauce and garnished with whipped cream and cranberries. Guláš (goulash) originally comes from Hungary, but in the Czech Republic, it has its own version served with dumplings. “Vepřo-knedlo-zelo” is another traditional dish, where roasted pork is accompanied by dumplings and sauerkraut. Christmas in the Czech Republic traditionally has an aroma of fried carp.
The Czech Republic is famous for its beer-making tradition. Beer is immensely popular here and has a long history. Pilsner Urquell, Budvar and Staropramen are just a few of the many significant Czech beer brands. Czechs often order beer for both lunch and dinner and beer is an essential part of Czech culture. Internationally renowned is the herbal liqueur Becherovka and the fruit brandy made from plums “slivovice“.
What to taste in Czech Republic?
- Soups and starters
(hovězí vývar s játrovými knedlíčky, kulajda, kaldoun, valašská kyselica, šunka s křenem, hovězí tatarák s topinkami)
- Main dishes
(svíčková na smetaně, řízek, jitrnice, bramborový knedlík plněný uzeným masem, český chřest)
- Fish dishes
(carp, trout, zandor)
- Desserts and sweets
(ovocné tvarohové knedlíky, ovocné kynuté knedlíky, zákusky, sweets with poppy seeds)
- Local specials
(obložené chlebíčky, olomoucké tvarůžky)
- Non-alcoholic beverages
- Alcoholic beverages
(beer, wine, Becherovka, cocktails)
- Interesting facts
- Additional information
(prices, tips, recommended restaurants, Michelin, food festivals, souvenirs, Q&A)
Czech soups and starters
Hovězí vývar s játrovými knedlíčky (beef broth with liver dumplings)
Beef broth with liver dumplings is perhaps the most classic Czech soup. It is popular for its excellent taste and its ability to satisfy. The broth is made from beef bones and meat with the addition of root vegetables like carrots, parsley, and celery. After long boiling, the broth is strained through a sieve or cloth, becoming clear. The meat is removed from the bones, chopped and returned to the broth. Small liver dumplings are also added to the finished broth. Noodles are most often thin and short.
Apart from beef, chicken or hen meat is also frequently used. The soup is also recommended as a remedy for various ailments, it’s believed to restore strength. For many Czechs, beef broth with liver dumplings and noodles is a symbol of home and family traditions.
Kulajda (mushroom soup)
Kulajda is a traditional Czech soup with a distinct sour taste. Kulajda combines mushrooms, potatoes, cream, dill and spices. An essential part of Kulajda is an egg, prepared in such a way that the yolk remains runny. This egg adds an additional creamy texture and flavor. Thanks to the mushrooms, Kulajda is often associated with the mountains.
Kaldoun (poultry offal soup)
Kaldoun is a broth made from poultry offal (neck, wings, stomach, heart). The dish dates back to the Austro-Hungarian era, of which the Czech territory was a part. It is an exceptionally tasty dish that makes use of leftovers that didn’t go into the roasting pan with the meat. Liver dumplings are often added to kaldoun.
Valašská kyselica (sauerkraut soup from Wallachian region)
Valašská kyselica is a regional soup from Wallachia, which is a region in the east of the Czech Republic. It is a type of soup made from sauerkraut, sausage (or smoked meat), mushrooms and other ingredients.
Among other traditional soups are zelňačka (cabbage soup), bramboračka (potato soup), česnečka (garlic soup), rajská polévka (tomato soup), čočková polévka (lentil soup), dršťková polévka (tripe soup) and kyselo (sour rye soup).
Hovězí tatarák s topinkami (beef tartare with fried bread)
Beef tartare certainly doesn’t belong among the original Czech dishes, but fried bread (“topinka” in Czech) definitely do. A “topinka” is a slice of bread toasted in a pan until golden, then rubbed with garlic. Sometimes it’s prepared dry, without the use of oil. It can be served as an independent dish, for example in pubs or as a side dish to other foods. In the Czech Republic, you’ll often encounter it in combination with beef tartare.
Šunka s křenem (ham with horseradish)
Ham with horseradish is a traditional Czech appetizer. For many Czechs, this dish is an integral part of the festive table, especially the wedding one. This simple dish combines the sweetness and juiciness of quality ham with spicy horseradish. Many years ago, in the Czech Republic, it was traditionally served in the form of a ham roll filled with horseradish, but now it’s served in a more modern way.
Czech main dishes
Svíčková na smetaně (roast sirloin in creamy sauce)
“Svíčková na smetaně” is one of the most famous and favorite Czech dishes. It consists of beef round (sirloin is not used anymore because of price) that is slowly braised together with carrots, parsley, celery, and onions. After cooking the meat, cream is added to the blended vegetables, giving the sauce a creamy consistency and rich flavor. The dish traditionally comes with bread dumplings that perfectly soak up the sauce. Marinated sirloin is often garnished with whipped cream and cranberries. For many Czechs, this dish is a symbol of home, family celebrations, and traditional Czech cuisine.
Schnitzel is a traditional dish of Central Europe, especially popular in the Czech Republic. The traditional Czech schnitzel is usually made from pork or chicken meat, which is coated in flour, dipped in beaten egg and finally covered in breadcrumbs. It’s then fried in a pan until golden brown. It’s served with potato salad or potatoes. Schnitzel is considered a festive dish, often prepared on Sundays.
Jitrnice (liver sausage)
Jitrnice is a traditional Czech and Slovak dish made from pork innards, which are ground and mixed with other ingredients. This mixture is then filled into intestines (usually pork, but nowadays often industrially made), which are then boiled. Before serving, they are often fried or roasted in the oven. Jitrnice is often associated with the traditional home pig slaughters (“zabijačka”), when a pig is killed and all its parts are used to prepare various dishes. Jitrnice is one of the many products made during the slaughter. It’s a very specific dish that might not be to everyone’s taste.
Bramborový knedlík plněný uzeným masem (potato dumpling filled with smoked meat)
A potato dumpling filled with smoked meat is among the traditional Czech dishes. The dough is made from boiled and mashed potatoes, flour and other ingredients. The smoked meat is chopped into small pieces. Small flat pieces are shaped from the dough and a piece of meat is placed in their center. The dough is then wrapped to form a dumpling. The dumplings are put into boiling, salted water and cooked until they float to the surface. The finished dumplings are served hot, with sauerkraut or meat gravy. This dish is very popular and is often found on the menus of Czech pubs and restaurants.
Český chřest (Czech asparagus)
Asparagus is a popular seasonal vegetable in the Czech Republic. Czech asparagus is of high quality and is valued for its delicate taste and tenderness. In Czechia, white asparagus is primarily cultivated, with green being less common. Asparagus cultivation has a long tradition. Thanks to the mild climate and suitable soil, several regions in the Czech Republic are ideal for its cultivation. Fields of asparagus are most often found around cities Mělník and Znojmo.
More main dishes
Other traditional Czech dishes include guláš (goulash), “vepřo-knedlo-zelo” (roasted pork meat with sauerkraut and dumplings), koprovka (dill sauce with beef meat/egg and dumplings/potatoes), pečená kachna se zelím a knedlíkem (roasted duck with cabbage and dumplings), the iconic “smažák” (fried cheese) and sekaná (meatloaf).
Czech fish dishes
The Czech Republic has a long history of fish farming in ponds. However, unfortunately, fish are among the less consumed foods. The national fish is carp, the most famous being the carps from the Třeboň region. Almost every Czech eats carp at least once a year, on Christmas Eve. Carp is consumed like schnitzel, accompanied by potato salad. On the menu of restaurants in the Třeboň region, you will most often find carp fries.
Trout is one of the most common types of fish on the local menu. Due to its delicate taste and tender meat, it is very popular. Traditional recipes often include baked or fried trout with herbs and lemon.
Zander is considered one of the tastiest freshwater fish found in Czech waters. It has soft, white meat with a delicate flavor, making it a popular choice for various gastronomic delicacies. In Czech cuisine, it is often served baked or grilled with herbs. Due to its taste and quality of meat, zander is often considered a delicacy. Although it is not as common on the Czech menu as trout or carp, its popularity has been growing in recent years.
Czech Desserts and Sweets
Ovocné tvarohové knedlíky (fruit curd dumplings)
Curd dumplings are among the favorite Czech desserts. They are soft, boiled dumplings, with one of the main ingredients of the dough being curd. They are filled with fresh fruits such as strawberries, apricots or blueberries. In restaurants, you may also come across dumplings filled with nougat. Home-made fruit dumplings are just sprinkled with sugar and drizzled with melted butter, while in restaurants they are served with fruit sauce or ice cream.
Ovocné kynuté knedlíky (fruit leavened dumplings)
Czech leavened dumplings filled with fruit are also a traditional and beloved delicacy, often served as a main dish or dessert. They are most commonly filled with plums, apricots, blueberries or strawberries. Before serving, they are sprinkled with sugar and drizzled with melted butter. The dough, which is fluffier compared to curd dumplings, is first allowed to rise and then fruit is wrapped in it. Leavened dumplings are steamed. Once done, the dumplings have a soft but firm consistency.
In Czech cuisine, the term “zákusky” (singular: “zákusek”) refers to various types of sweet desserts that are served as an accompaniment to tea, coffee or as a sweet end to a meal. The most famous desserts in this category include větrník, indiánek, kremrole, punčový řez, špička, laskonka and many others.
Sweets with poppy seeds
Poppy seeds (“mák” in Czech) are among the most popular fillings for sweet pastries in the Czech Republic, with the combination of poppy seeds and plums being ideal. However, they are also used in main dishes (noodles with poppy seeds). Historically, poppy seeds symbolize wealth and success. The Czech Republic is traditionally one of the largest consumers of poppy seeds in Europe. Consumption of poppy seeds in the Czech Republic is legal and the poppy seeds used in foods have no intoxicating effects.
Obložené chlebíčky (garnished slices of baguette)
“Obložené chlebíčky” (singular: “obložený chlebíček”) are an iconic Czech dish, often found at celebrations, parties and various social events. They consist of small slices of baguette topped with various ingredients like ham, salami, cheese, egg, vegetables and more. The base traditionally has potato salad spread on it (but every household may have its preferred spread, for example, garlic). The decoration of these sandwiches can be very creative. Each sandwich is a small piece of art that appeals both to the eye and the taste buds. While many prepare these sandwiches at home for celebrations, they can also be purchased in specialized shops. They might seem similar to Spanish tapas or Venetian cicchetti, but they are a different dish. They perfectly combine tradition and creativity in Czech cuisine.
Olomoucké tvarůžky (cheese from Olomouc)
“Olomoucké tvarůžky” cheese is probably the most famous Czech cheese. They have a strong smell and a distinctive taste. They originated in the vicinity of the Moravian town of Olomouc. The history of tvarůžky production dates back to the 15th century. These cheeses are small, flat, usually round in shape, with a yellowish-brown color and a soft, sticky consistency. The taste and smell of this cheese are intense, a result of the specific method of production from low-fat curd and subsequent maturation. Olomoucké tvarůžky boasts protection in the form of a Protected Designation of Origin from the European Union. In the Czech Republic, they are most often eaten alone with bread and butter, in spreads and they are also very popular fried.
Czech non-alcoholic beverages
Kofola (Coca-Cola alternative)
Kofola is a popular non-alcoholic beverage originally from Czechoslovakia, developed in the 1960s as an alternative to Western cola drinks (Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola). At that time, these drinks were hard to come by in the country due to the communist regime. Kofola has a unique taste, different from Pepsi or Coca-Cola. Its recipe includes a blend of various herbs and fruit essences, giving it a specific, slightly herbal undertone. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, despite the influx of many Western brands, Kofola retained its position in the market and remains very popular. Flavored variants or sugar-free Kofola are available. Kofola can also be purchased on tap.
Czech alcoholic beverages
Czech beer has a long and rich history. The first records of beer production in the Czech territories date back to the 10th century, but beer was likely brewed here much earlier. The Czech lands were rich in hops, which contributed to the development of brewing. The Czech Republic has one of the highest per capita beer consumptions in the world. Beer plays an important role in Czech culture. The most famous Czech beer is Pilsner Urquell, which was first brewed in 1842 in Pilsen. In Prague, you can enjoy a great draught Pilsner on the themed beer trail “Prague Beer Zoo“.
In recent decades, many countries, including the Czech Republic, have experienced a “craft beer revolution”, which means an increase in the number of small, independent, craft breweries. These small breweries focus on quality, traditional production methods and innovative recipes. This trend is particularly visible in the Czech Republic. Small breweries experiment with different beer styles that are not just traditional Czech lagers. You can find everything from IPAs, stouts, to barrel-aged beers. Among the famous craft breweries in the Czech Republic are, for example, Matuška brewery, Zíchovec brewery, Kocour brewery, Raven brewery, Clock brewery, Falkon brewery and many others.
Víno z Moravy (Moravian wine)
Moravia is the main wine region of the Czech Republic. It is known for its white wines, although great red wines have also been produced here in recent years. Moravia is divided into several wine sub-regions, the most famous of which are Mikulov, Velkopavlovická, Slovácká and Znojmo. One of the characteristics of Moravian winemaking are traditional wine cellars, often located in picturesque villages such as Velké Bílovice or Petrov. For those interested in combining tourism with wine tasting, there are a number of wine trails. These trails pass through vineyards and offer beautiful views of the landscape. The “ryzlink vlašský” grape is considered the national variety.
Becherovka (herbal liqueur from Karlovy Vary)
Becherovka is a traditional Czech herbal liqueur that originates from the town of Karlovy Vary. It is known for its herbal taste. Becherovka was first prepared in 1807 by pharmacist Johann Becher and was originally sold as a remedy for digestion and other intestinal problems. It has a distinct herbal profile with hints of cinnamon and star anise. Its taste is slightly bitter and spicy. The exact recipe is a secret and is known to only a few people, but it supposedly contains over 20 different herbs and spices. Becherovka is traditionally served cold as a digestive after a meal. In Karlovy Vary, you can visit the Jan Becher Museum to learn more about the history and production of this famous liqueur.
The Czech Republic is mainly known for its beer. However, there are also a few original Czech cocktails that use local alcohol:
- Beton – a combination of Becherovka and tonic, the official national cocktail. Beton is composed of 4 cl herbal liqueur Becherovka, 1 cl freshly squeezed lemon juice, 20 cl tonic, a slice of lemon and ice.
- Bavorák – a combination of Fernet and tonic. Bavorák consists of 4 cl Fernet Stock Original, 15 cl tonic, a slice of lemon and ice.
Interesting facts about food and drink in Czech Republic
- Beer and goulash: although both of these products are often associated with the Czech Republic, many people may be surprised to find out that while beer has a thousand-year tradition in the Czech Republic, goulash was only introduced into Czech cuisine in the 19th century from Hungary.
- Dumplings: while dumplings have their place in many cultures, the Czech dumpling (“houskový knedlík” in Czech or shortly referred to as “HK”), served as a side dish to meat with sauce, is distinct in its texture and taste. Dumpling is one of the basic side dishes for meals with a sauce. It is never held by hand.
- Traditional Christmas carp: carp is a traditional dish on the Czech Christmas table. In December, it is common to see street vendors offering live carp in water tanks for sale.
- Moravian sparrow (“moravský vrabec” in Czech): despite the name, this is a traditional dish made from pork, often served with dumplings and sauerkraut. Similarly, “Spanish bird” (“španělský ptáček” in Czech) is a stuffed beef roll.
- St. Martin’s wine: On November 11th, the Czech Republic celebrates the feast of St. Martin and this day also marks the traditional beginning of the young wine season called “svatomartinské”. It’s essentially the Czech counterpart to the French “Beaujolais nouveau”. On St. Martin’s day, it’s also a tradition to consume goose with cabbage and dumpling.
- Sauerkraut: sauerkraut is a key ingredient in many Czech dishes, including sauerkraut soup. This is a result of a long history of fermenting cabbage in the Czech lands. In the countryside, practically everyone made sauerkraut at home (including my family).
- Fried cheese: although it is not a traditional historical dish, fried cheese (“smažený sýr” or colloquially “smažák” in Czech) has become truly iconic food in Czech restaurants and fast food stalls in recent decades.
Typical prices in Czech restaurants
The prices for food in restaurants differ in the big Czech cities (Prague, Brno) compared to the rest of the country. In Prague, you can get a value lunch menu (soup and main course) for around 8 EUR, dinner dishes start at approximately 10 – 14 EUR. A half-liter of draft beer costs just under 2.40 EUR. “Zákusky” are available for about 2 EUR and up. Outside of Prague and Brno, prices are lower.
Tipping in Czech restaurants
It is common to tip in Czech restaurants, usually ranging from 5 – 10% of the total bill. The tip is generally not automatically included in the price. Waitstaff appreciate it if the tip is paid in cash (even if you pay for the meal and drinks with a card).
Best restaurants in Prague
If I had to choose the best restaurants in Prague focusing on Czech cuisine, I would pick without much hesitation the Kuchyň restaurant at Prague Castle and then my current favorite, the Výčep restaurant on Korunní street. In both, you’ll get top-notch Czech cuisine prepared in a modern way. Great Czech and international cuisine combined with an incredibly beautiful view of the Vltava River and Charles Bridge is also served in the Mlýnec restaurant (on weekends you can also try their excellent brunch).
Czech Republic (Prague) and Michelin restaurants
The Czech Republic has 27 restaurants listed in the Michelin guide, all currently in Prague. Two restaurants have one Michelin star – the Field restaurant and the La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise restaurant. You can find a complete and current overview in the article “Michelin restaurants Czech Republic“. My personal tip for a Michelin restaurant with Czech cuisine: Výčep restaurant.
What’s the best Czech food?
If I had to pick three personal favorites, the best Czech dishes for me would be:
Czech food festivals
- Open Wine Cellar Festival (“Festival otevřených sklepů” in Czech): a popular event held in various wine regions of the Czech Republic, especially in Moravia. During this festival, local winemakers open their wine cellars to the public, allowing visitors to taste different wines, get acquainted with winemaking traditions and enjoy the atmosphere of the wine villages.
- Grape Harvest Festival (“Vinobraní” in Czech): on the occasion of the grape harvest, many celebrations related to wine are held all over the Czech Republic. Visitors to the festivals can taste various types of wine, including “burčák”, which is a young wine in the early stages of fermentation.
- Apetit Picnic: a popular food festival in Prague, associated with the Apetit magazine, a renowned Czech culinary monthly. The festival focuses on quality food, craft products and modern culinary trends.
- F.O.O.D. Picnic: another popular food festival in Prague, organized by a rival culinary magazine. It focuses on modern gastronomy, quality ingredients and innovative culinary approaches. Many chefs and culinary experts showcase their skills in live cooking performances. Stalls at the festival offer a wide range of dishes from various cultures and cuisines, from traditional Czech specialties to international delicacies.
Gastronomic souvenirs from Czech Republic
Besides the commonly known culinary specialties, Czech cuisine offers many other delicacies worth taking home as a souvenir. Karlovy Vary wafers, thin crispy wafers with various flavors, are traditionally made in Karlovy Vary and are a popular souvenir. Another notable alcoholic beverage is medovina (mead), a traditional Slavic drink made from honey. Pardubický perník (gingerbread from Pardubice) is a spiced cookie, another sweet treat you can take with you. In addition to the famous slivovice (plum brandy), the Czech Republic also produces other fruit brandies from pears (hruškovice) or apricots (meruňkovice). For lovers of spicy flavors, utopenci (pickled sausages) or nakládaný hermelín (pickled camembert) are ideal. By visiting traditional Czech or farmers’ markets, you can discover even more local products to take home as souvenirs.
Czech cuisine questions & answers
- How do Czechs toast?
In the Czech Republic, when raising a glass to toast, it’s customary to say “Na zdraví!” which translates to “To health!”. Some additional customs associated with toasting in the Czech Republic include making eye contact, clinking glasses, waiting for everyone to be ready and drinking after toasting.
- What do Czech people say before eating?
It is customary for people to say “Dobrou chuť!” before starting a meal. This translates to “Enjoy your meal!” or “Bon appétit!” in English. It’s a way of wishing someone a pleasant dining experience. If you’re dining with Czechs, it’s polite to wait until everyone has their food and someone says “Dobrou chuť!” before beginning to eat.
- Does Prague have cheap food?
Sure! You just need to do a bit more research and look for an establishment called “jídelna”. Try for example “Jídelna Světozor” on Vodičkova street.
- Is Prague a foodie city?
Definitely yes! There are a lot of places where you can enjoy top-notch Czech cuisine and desserts. I’ve lived in Prague for more than 20 years and I still discover more and more places with great food. Check out my recommendations.
- What is the national (signature) dish of Czech Republic?
The Czech national dish is “Svíčková na smetaně” (roast sirloin in creamy sauce). The Czech national soup is “hovězí vývar s játrovými knedlíčky” (beef broth with liver dumplings).
- What is the most traditional dish in Czech Republic?
“Svíčková na smetaně” (roast sirloin in creamy sauce), “guláš” (goulash), “vepřo-knedlo-zelo” (roasted pork meat with sauerkraut and dumplings).
- What is the most popular food in Czech Republic?
“Vepřo-knedlo-zelo” (roasted pork meat with sauerkraut and dumplings), “pečená kachna se zelím a knedlíkem” (roasted duck with sauerkraut and dumplings), “smažený sýr” (fried cheese), “řízek s bramborovým salátem” (schnitzel with potato salad), “ovocné knedlíky” (fruit dumplings) and many others.
- What is the national drink of Czech Republic?
Beer. The Czechs have a long and proud brewing tradition, with some of the world’s oldest and most renowned breweries. Our country is also known for its high per capita beer consumption. When visiting the Czech Republic, trying the local beers is a must for many tourists. The national liqueur is Becherovka.
- What is the most famous Czech beer?
Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar. Pilsner Urquell was first brewed in 1842 and has since set the standard for the pilsner style. Budweiser Budvar is known for its deep malt flavor and aromatic hops.
- Why is Czech beer so cheap?
Czech beer is produced so cheaply by big brands because of the use of local ingredients, lower production and labor costs, reduced taxes and increased market competition. If you compare the prices of beer from small craft breweries (e. g. Zíchovec brewery), their prices are much higher.
- Why does Czech beer have a big head?
The main reasons for the “big head” are tradition, presentation, aroma and pouring technique. The “big head” or thick foam on Czech beer, often referred to as the “crown” of the beer, is a cherished characteristic and is intentional.
- Is beer cheaper than water in Czech?
Not anymore. However, several years ago, this was true in many places in the countryside.
- Can you drink tap water in Prague?
Yes. Tap water is drinkable everywhere in the Czech Republic (including Prague).
- Is water free at restaurants in Prague?
It varies. If you ask for a carafe of tap water, you will get it almost everywhere. Sometimes you have to pay a small amount of money for it (approx. 2 EUR).
Enjoy Czech cuisine!