The history: If you don’t know about kolache, you’ve been Texaning all wrong. Its name derived from the Old Slavic word kolo, meaning "circle" or "wheel.” Kolache are Czech pastries made with yeasted dough, traditionally shaped into a circle and dimpled with preserved fruit, sweetened cheese, or poppy seed filling. Before we go further, you need to know that the savory sausage, jalapeño, and cheese thing you’ve been eating is actually a klobasnek, though it’s commonly mistakenly referred to as a kolache throughout Texas.
So how did a traditional Czech pastry come to rival the beloved breakfast taco as Texans morning staple of choice, you ask? Easy. In the 1840s, Bohemian and Moravian Czechs began to settle in a stretch of land in Central and East Texas, an area that is known today as the “Czech belt.” As explained by food historian Dawn Orsak, kolache were so labor intensive, there was a community aspect to them, with the women of the community gathering together to prepare the treats for social gatherings, including church events, weddings, funerals, and holidays.
This social aspect has carried through to today, as there’s no better morning than when someone shows up with a box full of kolache to share (it’s pretty much a sin to buy kolache only for yourself). Traditional varieties still rule, but you’ll find the kolache are beginning to take a note from gourmet donut culture, with fillings like Oreo and BBQ brisket kolache becoming a thing. We’re OK with that.
Where to get them: For the classics, Czech out traditional heavy-hitters like the Czech Stop, Weikel’s, and Hruska’s. For neo-traditional pastries, Houston’s Koala Kolache is banging out the good stuff, from pulled pork mac & cheese to jalapeño popper numbers.