Romanian Coliva Recipe

Yesterday, in my post about Lazarus’ Saturday (April 11, 2009) I mentioned a special dish, used to celebrate the dead: coliva.

Coliva decorated with powdered sugar and colored candy.

Coliva is the Romanian translation of the Greek κόλλυβα (kólliva) and it describes a sweet pudding made of boiled wheat.

Wheat kernels

This “desert” is used liturgically in both Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic churches. Romania and Greece are not the only two countries that use this culinary delight to celebrate their dead. Variations can be found in Serbia, Russia and Bulgaria too.

Priests blessing coliva during the liturgy

Bellow a Romanian recipe, which, unlike the Greek kólliva which contains sesame seeds, almonds, raisins, pomegranates seeds and anise seeds, is much simpler. The reason is that in Romania, many of the ingredients mentioned above are neither traditional, nor affordable for people of the folk.

Coliva decorated with chocolate candy

Ingredients: 1 kg wheat kernel, 250 g sugar, 150 g honey, water to cover the kernels, 240 g crushed walnuts, crunched graham crackers as needed, powdered sugar as needed, vanilla, fine zest from 1 lemon, fine zest from 1 orange, colored candy, 100 g milk chocolate grinded fine or cocoa powder.

Since coliva is a ritual dish, its preparation follows a ritual too. The day before the liturgy prepare the wheat as follows:

Wash the wheat kernel with nine waters (one for each of the 9 angel squads in heaven) then boil in a Teflon pot for 2-3 hours at medium heat. Stir thoughtfully with a wooden spoon to prevent the wheat from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When boiled, put content into an enameled pot and covered with a wet towel, so that the composition won’t form a “crust.”

The day of the liturgy:

Sweeten the composition with 250 g sugar and 150 g honey. Flavor with zest from one lemon and one orange and with 1 TBS vanilla.

Orange zest

Add 200 g of the crushed walnuts and stir till all these extra ingredients incorporate in the wheat composition evenly. Your coliva is now almost ready – all it needs is the décor that will make it fit for the liturgy.


Place the composition on a large platter and form the coliva with your hands, respecting its shape – make sure you even the coliva to look like a cake. Coliva can take any form: rectangular, oval or round, and sometimes even “cross.” With the rest of the crushed walnuts and crushed graham crackers cover the coliva on the top and the sides. Add powder sugar and then make your ornaments out of chocolate and candy. You can even use half walnuts to form a cross or to ornate the sides of the coliva.

Graham crackers

I hope the images posted give you some ideas on how to ornate this dish. Coliva is very delicious, and many people choose to eat it in other occasions that those related to death. If you want to do so, simply skip the shaping and decorating.

Coliva without decorations

I had to update this to correct a misspelling (emailed instead of enameled, thank you, Pearl) and to add this sweet video I found on YouTube)


  1. Mmm, this looks delicious! We celebrate our dead here in Guatemala, too, but with fiambre, which is not nearly as nice as this recipe. :)

    Genesis’s last blog post..Increasing Income During Difficult Times

  2. What is fiambre, Genesis? It’s the first time I hear about it.

  3. I was a Peace Corps volunteer near Timișoara until last July and it does my heart good to see coliva again. Keep up the good work!

  4. Wow! This does look amazing! I’ve just eaten some this Saturday, at my grandma’s who’s and expert :) I love coliva so much, I could eat it every day. Unfortunately, the occasions for which is made are not the happiest.