Serbian Christmas Bread (Česnica)

Serbian Christmasbread cesnica recipe

The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Rising Time: 2 hrs 40 mins
Total: 3 hrs 55 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
135 Calories
11g Fat
6g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 135
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 6g 28%
Cholesterol 96mg 32%
Sodium 157mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Protein 4g
Calcium 36mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This recipe for ćesnica, or Serbian Christmas bread, is made with eggs and butter, unlike the fasting cesnica which is probably served on Christmas Eve when no meat or dairy are allowed. This dough, however, is not sweet nor does it have the elaborate decorations made of structural dough as in the fancy version of Česnica. The common link among all cesnica recipes is the silver coin baked inside. Whoever finds it will have luck in the coming year. This is why this bread is also known as Serbian Money Bread. 

It is customary in some families to decorate the top of the bread with pieces of dough symbolizing a hobby or career for each family member—wheat for a farmer and for prosperity, a book for a teacher, and so on. One of the Serbian Christmas traditions is that when served on Christmas morning, the bread is torn—not cut—either by each person present or by the host, who reserves one piece for the polozajnik, or first visitor. 


  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (divided)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 ounces/1 stick unsalted butter (softened)
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 sterilized silver coin
  • Oil for brushing bread

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Serbian Christmas bread cesnica recipe
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or other large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.

    Dissolve yeast
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  3. Add eggs, salt, lemon juice, butter, and remaining 1 1/2 cups warm water. Mix until well combined.

    Add eggs
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  4. Gradually add the flour, mixing until well incorporated. Using the dough hook, knead about 10 minutes or until smooth (or about 15 minutes by hand).

    Add flour
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  5. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, turning once to coat both sides. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.

    Transfer dough to bowl
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  6. Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a 9 x 3-inch round pan with cooking spray. (The stoneware portion of a small slow cooker is a good pan to bake the bread in because it has high sides.) Punch down dough and turn it out into the prepared pan. Tuck in the silver coin (don't use copper because the dough around it will turn green).

    Coat round pan
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  7. Brush the top of the dough with a little oil, cover, and let rise again about 40 minutes, or until not quite doubled.

    Brush top of dough
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  8. Bake 1 hour or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190 F.

    Bake one hour
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  9. Turn out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

    Let cool
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  10. Serve and enjoy!

    Serve and enjoy
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic