Learn how to make a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Kutia. This Christmas wheat pudding with poppy seeds gravy is a nutty-sweet holiday dish that reminds me of the winter holidays in Ukraine.
What is Kutia and how it is served
Kutia is a ceremonial sweet wheat dish with poppy seeds gravy served traditionally on Ukrainian Christmas Eve. Kutia is made with grains (usually wheat), dry fruits, nuts, poppy seeds, and honey.
Along with Uzvar and Pampushky, Kutia is one of the main 12 dishes served at Christmas Eve dinner (also called “svyata vecherya” – holy supper).
Traditionally, it is the first dish you taste on Christmas Eve.
One or two spoonfuls of kutia for every family member before you can enjoy the rest of the 12 Christmas dishes.
This wheat berry pudding has a strong symbolic meaning. In Ukraine, they also call it “rich kutia” (“hungry kutia” is served during the “vodokhreshchya holiday”). The hostess will add all kinds of dry, fruits, nuts, poppy seeds, and honey to make the dish “rich”. It will bring a prosperous year and a piece of good luck.
Wheat symbolized the beginning of a new life, honey – health, poppy seeds – the protection from anything negative.
This Slavic dish is also popular in other European countries,
Worth mentioning, that most people in Ukraine are celebrating the Birth of Jesus on January 7th, following the Julian Calendar. But no matter when you celebrate this big holiday. the tradition of serving kutia is still present in almost every Ukrainian home.
The dish is also served on Christmas Day, Old New Year’s, Vodokhreshchya, and sometimes at funerals.
Why you will love this recipe
- Festive – great dish to put on a Christmas table for your family.
- Healthy – grains, fruits, nuts, poppy seeds, and honey are full of fiber and nutrients.
- Sweet – it is like a healthy dessert but without added sugar and butter.
- Symbolic – magical dish to make for good health and prosperity in the upcoming year.
- Quick Kamut Khorasan Wheat (Whole Foods Brand) – I always look for the best shortcuts, and this is the fastest and best option. Traditionally, you can also use whole wheat berries, rice, barley, or bulgur to make kutia.
- Water – filtered water to cook the wheat.
- Salt – just a little bit of salt for the taste to cook the grains
- Dry Fruits – the most common are raisins and apricots. You can use prunes, pears, apples, or even dry tropical fruits.
- Poppy Seeds – are another important ingredient.
- Honey – some also use sugar in addition to honey. But I think it is not necessary and honey together with fruits adds a perfect sweetness to the dish.
- Chopped Walnuts – you can use any other nuts, but walnuts are used in most cases.
See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the ingredient quantities.
Wheat Berries or other grain
Wheat berries are the most common grain to make kutia. Depending on the region you can also see this dish made with rice (south) or barley (north).
Keep in mind, that wheat berries take the longest to cook and they need to be soaked for at least 12 hours.
I recommend getting Whole Foods brand Organic Kamut Khorasan Wheat that cooks in under 10 minutes. It also comes in a small package so you will not be wasteful by getting a huge bag of wheat berries.
You can use any other brand of Kamut berries, but it will take longer to cook (50-60 minutes). This particular one from Whole Foods seems to be parboiled and cooks very fast (10 minutes). It tastes just like cooked wheat berries – chewy and nutty.
Bulgur is another great wheat grain to use.
If you have small kids or following a gluten-free diet, make this recipe with cooked rice. It is naturally gluten-free, looks more familiar and it is easier to chew for small kids.
No matter, what grain you chose, you are the one who makes this dish magical, special, and symbolic by sending it the right good vibes during the cooking process.
How to make Ukrainian Christmas Kutia
- Add dried fruits and poppy seeds to two separate bowls. Boil some water and pour enough to cover the fruits and seeds. Use small plates to cover the bowls. Set aside, and let the ingredients soak in hot water for at least 20 minutes.
- In a medium pot, add wheat, a pinch of salt, and the required amount of water (follow the directions on the package). Bring to boil, cover, and cook on low heat until the wheat is cooked. It should be soft but slightly chewy. Drain water reserving about 4 Tablespoons.
- Drain the poppy seeds and fruits. Place the fruits on a paper towel to dry. Keep the raising whole and chop the apricots. In a food processor, add poppy seeds and start grinding until you see the white milk is released. In a small bowl, add the reserved water and honey, and mix until the honey is dissolved.
- In a large bowl, add grains, chopped nuts, raisins, apricots, sweet honey water, and ground poppy seeds. Mix everything until combined. Garnish with extra dry fruits and nuts.
- Serve right away or chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Before food grinder machines existed, Ukrainian people used mortar and pestle to grind the poppy seeds to make the dish. It is the traditional way of making Kutia, but takes more time and affords.
Today, you can use a food processor or even a clean coffee grinder to blend the poppy seeds.
How to store
Store the leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Tips for success
- always soak dry fruits and poppy seeds in hot water.
- follow the package cooking instructions of the grain you use.
- grind the poppy seeds until white liquid appears for a full flavor.
- drizzle some extra honey on top for serving.
- experiment with different varieties of fruits and nuts.
- The “richer kutia” – the better the upcoming year (add a generous amount of poppy seeds, nuts, and fruits).
- The ingredients do not need to be measured precisely.
Other Christmas traditional Ukrainian dishes
Ukrainian Christmas Kutia
- 2 small bowls
- 1 Medium Pot
- 1 food processor
- 1 colander
- 1 cup Quick Kamut Khorasan Wheat or wheat berries, rice, barley
- 3 cups water follow package instructions of the grain you use.
- 1 pinch salt
- 60 grams or 3.5 ounces poppy seeds (the whole spice bottle)
- 6-8 dry apricots
- ¾ cup raisins
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 3 Tablespoons chopped walnuts
- In two separate small bowl, add dry fruits and poppy seeds. Pour boiling water over enough to cover the ingredients. Cover both bowls with small plates. Let dried fruits and seeds soak in hot water for at least 20 minutes.
- In a medium pot, add quick Kamut wheat, salt and water. Bring to boil, cover and cook on low for 10-15 minutes or until the wheat berries are fully cooked. Drain the water reserving about 4 Tablespoons.
- Drain the poppy seed and the fruits. Chop the apricots into smaller pieces. In a small bowl add reserved water and honey. Mix until the honey is dissolved.
- In a food processor, add poppy seeds and blend until they break apart and white liquid appears.
- In a large bowl, add cooked grains, dried fruits, sweet water, nuts and poppy seeds. Use a large spoon to mix until the ingredients distributed evenly. Serve right away or place in the fridge to chill.
- I use quick Kamut Wheat berries (parboiled).
- Follow the package cooking directions of the grains you use.
- the ingredients measurements do not have to be exact: you can use more of less of fruits, seeds, nuts and honey.
- you can use other dried fruits and nuts.
- nutritional facts are for information purposes only, and not to be considered medical advice.