Kolaches are arguably one of the most popular pastries in Texas. Brought to the Lone Star State by Czech immigrants, the pastries were a weekly mainstay and snack in local households, made with sweet yeast dough with a center filled with fruits typically available in Eastern Europe.
Flash forward to 2023, though, and it’s no secret that the term “kolache” has been misused for quite some time, so much so that the misuse has proliferated and become a norm. Kolache is the plural form of kolach, which indicates one, single pastry despite many Texans still adding an extra “s” to indicate many “kolaches” (plural). In actuality, when most Texans are referring to a “kolache,” they actually mean a single klobásník or klobasnek, a savory pastry similarly adopted from the Czech community. In Houston, these klobásníks can be found at most doughnut shops, stuffed with traditional ingredients like sausage, breakfast items like egg, cheese, and/or bacon; or more creative options like boudin and even curry chicken.
Ordering a “savory kolache,” then, for some, feels like a cultural blunder that needs to be corrected. But, realistically, knowing the more accurate name likely won’t change how many Texans and their favorite restaurants use the term. Though savory “kolaches” are certainly not traditional Czech kolaches, they’re very Texan. Houston’s restaurants have also seemingly bowed out of the discussion, taken sides, or chosen to go with what has become a Texas cultural norm. Kolache Shoppe, for example, separates its pastry menu simply by sweet and savory. Koffeteria is known for its beef pho kolaches that are certainly klobásníks, though not defined as such, and at local chains like Shipley Do-Nuts and Southern Maid, no klobásníks, at least in reference, exist. All of the boudin and bacon, egg, and cheese “kolaches,” however, are indeed savory. Have we completely given up on using the correct term? It certainly feels like it, which can be particularly frustrating for members of the Czech community.
I can’t say it’s not fascinating how terms evolve or expand. The word “meat,” for example, once referred to food in general in Old English, not just animal flesh, according to Dictionary.com. Somehow people still use the word “thongs” to refer to flip flops and not underwear, and “conversate,” once an improper term for “converse,” is now in the dictionary (and in a Beyonce song, might I add). “Kolache,” similarly, feels like a Texas short-hand, a word that could be added to a book of Lone Star State vernacular with a much-needed asterisk or footnote regarding its history. It’s still important for people to engage with context and name things accurately in a way that acknowledges its cultural origins or resonance. That’s how we learn.
So in Texas, can a klobasnek be a kolache? It’s complicated. According to many Texans, it is. But when you happen to hear someone call a savory pastry that is technically a klobásník a kolach, no need to wince or chide them. A fun history lesson never hurts.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include a note about the plural and singular form of kolach/kolache.