pryanik recipe history culture origin

Что может быть вкуснее медового пряника к чаю в морозный зимний вечер? Photo source:

Pryanik: The Spice of Russian Desserts

Published: August 5, 2018

Pryanik (Пряник), commonly described as “Russian gingerbread” or “Russian spice cookies,” is a sweet bread or cookie flavored with spices and sometimes filled with jam, sweetened condensed milk, or caramelized milk. Spices used can include cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cumin, and anise, but recipes can vary fairly widely and many Russian regions have specific Pryanik recipes and forms that are beloved local traditions.

Why It’s Called “Pryanik”

(Почему они носят такое название?)

When the precursor of pryanik was first baked in the 9th century, it was made with rye-flour, honey and berry-juice, and known simply as “медовый хлеб” (honey bread). It was only in the 12th-13th century, when Russian trade with the Middle East and India first began, that spices were added, bringing the recipe closer to the gingerbread recipe that had been enjoyed in Western Europe since at least the 11th century.

Gradually, the smell and taste of the spices came to characterize the bread, and recipes featuring spices became the prevalent form of the food by the 15th century. However, it was only in the 17th and the name “медовый хлеб” was replaced with pryanik,” which comes from the root word “пряность,” meaning “spices.”

Interestingly, this shift in name came at the same as Russia was pushing its borders and influence further south and securing positions along the Silk Road – the trade route that long supported commerce between Europe and the Orient. Among other things, Russia’s expansion into the route gave it increased access to silk, porcelain, and, of course, spices.

However, while pryanik became widespread in Russia, the use of spices did not, so it remains a fairly unique taste in Russian cuisine. Perhaps because of this, it has also found its way into a vast array of “пословицы и поговорки” (proverbs and sayings).

For example, Russians often use “кнут и пряник,” (literally: whip and pryanik) where an English speaker might use “stick and carrot.” When Russian peasants first heard of the quote “let them eat cake,” they apparently phrased it as “хлеба не станет, будем пряники есть” (there will be no bread, but we will eat Pryanik).

pryanik recipe history culture origin
Обычные, классические пряники. Вообще, пряники имеют много разных сортов начинки.

If someone wouldn’t do something for a million dollars, you might say that «и пряником не заманишь» (you couldn’t tempt (the person) even with Pryanikк). If something is music to your ears in English, in Russian it is «как пряник в ухе» (like pryanik in your ear). Someone can tell you to give yourself a pat on the back by telling you to «купи себе пряник» (buy yourself пряник).

Even the harder lessons in life can be shown with pryanik. For example, «без работы пряников не купишь» (you can’t buy a pryanik without working) tells us that we must work for what we want. «Ломается как дешевый пряник» is what you might say about someone who can never give in when arguing (as a cheap pryanik is often more like a brick than a cookie). However, sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles.

Pryanik can be baked as a larger loaf, or as smaller cookies, in which case the plural “пряники” is usually used to describe them.

When and How to Eat Pryanik

(Как правильно есть пряник?)

pryanik recipe history culture origin
Пряничные доски городецких пряников.

Pryanik, like most sweet things, were once baked only for special occasions. There is record that pagans in some parts of Russia once baked honey bread or pryanik in the shape of birds or animals and hung the cookies off of trees on certain holidays. This tradition lives on in certain northern areas of Russia and Scandinavian countries with gingerbread ornaments baked for Christmas trees (ёлки).

According to Russian TV program «Галилео», pryanik was used in the past as a marriage proposal: A young man would offer a lady a pryanik as an indication of his love. If she accepted the pryanik, wedding bells would ring!

Today, пряник is mass-produced and is served most often as a snack with tea or coffee. However, it can still signify a special occasion. For example, one cannot go to the Russian city of “Тула” (Tula) without bringing back a fresh “тульский пряник” (Tulskii pryanik), renowned for its elaborate embossed patterns and messages. In fact, probably no city takes its pryanik more seriously than Тула, which also has a whole museum dedicated to its tasty confections.

The tulskii pryanik and some other types of elaborate pryanik can be purchased at stores throughout the country and are sometimes used as “съедобные открытки” (edible cards), and presented to friends and family as gifts on holidays and celebrations. Interestingly, government officials in the Tula region once prepared a ballot box of their famous tulskii pryanik and presented it to the head of Russia’s central elections commission when he visited there.

How to Prepare Pryanik

(Как правильно готовить пряники?)

There are many types of pryanik, which can be differentiated just by their appearance. The normal, classic is simple in form – round with a white glaze. “Печатные пряники” (printed pryaniks) are made with the help of wooden or metallic pastry molds. These include the Tulskii pryanik from Tula, and “городецкий пряник” (Gorodetskii pryanik) from Gorodets in the Nizhny Novgorod region.

pryanik recipe history culture origin
Фигурки – олени, коньки, бычки, коровки, козлики, птички, тюлени – имеют общее название “козюли”. Козюлями известны были и пряники лепные – слепленные из пряничного теста, подобно тому, как делаются из глины игрушки. Особенно любили лепные пряники на русском Севере.

Other types of pryanik could be flat, shaped, or even molded and are often glazed or iced. As an example of the Christmas-tree pryanik mentioned above, there is a specific type of pryanik from the Arkhangelsk and Olonets regions of Northern Russia known as “козюли” (kozuli) or “лепные пряники” (molded pryanik). Coming from pagan origins, their shapes depict the figures of animals, usually taking the form of a horse, which was a symbol of the sun and a guard against evil, or a deer, the protector and a symbol of the continuing cycle of life. Traditionally, they were made by molding the pryanik dough to form the 3D-shaped cookie, but some are baked in 2D shapes, and decorated with icing to paint the features of the animal. Today, kozuli are used as Christmas decorations, and as ornaments for the yuletide tree. Kozuli derive their name from the Russian word for “goat,” which was once a powerful symbol of fertility and which is still a common shape for the cookies to take.

There are many different styles of pryanik, and a myriad of recipes for each style. Feel free to tweak the amount and types of spices used to flavor the pryanik. Concentrated juice can be used to color the dough and glaze. Add nuts or berries to fillings if you so please. A true “прянишник” (pryanik bakers; this was once a full-time profession in Russia!) should have their own secret recipe.

Pryanik Recipes!

(Давай приготовим!)

See below for a free recipe for various Russian pryaniki. See also the free videos online. If you are interested in cooking from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and other places in Eurasia, make sure to see our full, free Eurasian Cookbook online! You might also be interested in the following specialized cookbooks we’ve enjoyed:

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Домашние тульские пряники Home-made тульский пряник
Ингредиенты для теста:
  • 1 стакан сахара
  • 2 яйца
  • 125 г. маргарина (мягкого)
  • 3 столовых ложки мёда
  • 1 столовая ложка молотой корицы
  • 1 чайная ложка соды
  • 2.5 стакана пшеничной муки
  • 1 стакан повидла (любое густое повидло, или варенье)

Ингредиенты для глазури:

  • 5 столовых ложек сахара
  • 2 столовых ложки молока

Способ приготовления:

  1. Перемешайте сахар, яйца, соду, корицу и мёд.
  2. Добавьте маргарин (мягкий). Хорошо перемешайте и поставьте на кипящую водяную баню на 10-15 мин. Периодически помешивайте. У вас получится однородная воздушная масса.
  3. Добавьте один стакан просеянной муки. Перемешайте и остудите. В остывшее, тёплое тесто постепенно добавляйте оставшуюся просеянную муку. Хорошо размешивая вилкой, а в конце замеса ‒ руками.
  4. Раскатайте тесто в пласт толщиной 0,5 см и разрежьте на 9 квадратов. Стол хорошо посыпать мукой, а то тесто может прилипнуть.
  5. На одну половинку квадрата положите повидло, накройте второй половиной и хорошо придавите по бокам пальцами. Тесто очень хорошо формируется и склеивается, начинка не вытечет.
  6. Вилку обмакните в муку и надавите по бокам пряника – для красоты.
  7. Выложите на смазанный маслом лист пергамента и выпекайте в горячей духовке при температуре 180 градусов 10-12 минут – время зависит от духовки – но не больше! Пекутся быстро – вы увидите, они хорошо поднимутся и подрумянятся.
  8. Пока пряники пекутся, приготовьте глазурь: смешайте сахар и молоко, поставьте на огонь и мешайте до растворения сахара. Доведите до кипения и кипятите 5-6 минут.
  9. Как только испекутся, сразу горячими смажьте глазурью и дайте остыть.
Ingredients for the dough:
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125 grams of margarine (softened)
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of soda
  • 2.5 cups of wheat flour
  • 1 cup of filling (any thick filling such as jam)

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 5 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of milk


  1. Mix the sugar, eggs, soda, cinnamon and honey.
  2. Add the margarine (softened). Mix well, and place the mixing bowl in a hot double boiler for 10-15 minutes. Stir periodically. You will get a homogenous frothy mixture.
  3. Add one cup of sifted flour. Stir and allow it to cool off. To the cooled, warm dough, gradually add the remaining sifted flour. Mix well with a fork, and, at the end, knead with your hands.
  4. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 0.5 cm, and cut into nine squares. Cover the table well with flour, or the dough may stick.
  5. On one half of the square, place some filling, and cover it with the second half of the square (by folding) and seal the edges well with your fingers. If the dough is shaped and sealed well, the filling will not flow out.
  6. Dip the fork in flour, and press the fork tines along the edges of the пряник for decoration.
  7. Place the пряники on a greased baking sheet, and bake in a hot oven at 180°C (350°F) for 7-12 minutes, depending on the oven, but no longer! They bake quickly – watch for them to turn brown and well-risen.
  8. While the пряники are baking, prepare the glaze: Mix the powdered sugar and milk, put it over heat and mix to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-6 minutes.
  9. Once the пряники are baked, brush on the hot glaze immediately, and let it cool.


Козюли Kozuli
Ингредиенты для теста:
  • 400г ржаной муки
  • 300г пшеничной муки
  • 1 стакан молока
  • 1 стакан мёда
  • 5 шт. яичных желтков
  • 2 столовой ложки сахара
  • 2 столовых ложки смеси молотых пряностей (корицы,
  • кардамона, гвоздики, аниса)
  • пол-чайной ложки соды
  • 4 столовых ложки топлёного масла

Ингредиенты для глазури:

  • 1 шт. белок или немного воды
  • 1 стакан сахарной пудры
    свекольный или клюквенный сок (подкрасить глазурь)


  1. Молоко и масло подогреть до 60–70°С, перемешать, добавить мёд, растёртые с сахаром желтки, пряности, оба вида просеянной муки и соду. Вымесить тесто. Раскатать слоем толщиной 1 см. Вырезать фигурки в виде рогатых животных, либо ножом, либо специальными формочками для печенья.
  2. Разложить готовые фигурки на противне на расстоянии 1 см друг от друга и поставить в разогретую до 200 °С духовку, на 10–12 мин.
  3. Для глазури смешать белок или воду и сахарную пудру до однородности. Небольшую часть глазури можно смешать со свекольным или клюквенным соком и использовать для украшения. Готовые козюли остудить, покрыть глазурью и украсить!
Ingredients for the dough:
  • 400g rye flour
  • 300g wheat flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup honey
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground spice mix (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, anise)
  • half-teaspoon of baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons of clarified butter

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 1 egg white or a little water
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
    beetroot or cranberry juice (to tint the glaze)


  1. Warm milk and butter to 60-70°С (140-158°F) and mix. Add honey, egg yolks mixed with sugar, spices, both types of sifted flour and baking soda. Knead the dough. Roll it out 1 cm thin. Cut figures in the shape of horned animals, either with a knife or special molds for cookies.
  2. Arrange the prepared figures on a baking sheet at a distance of 1 cm from each other and put in an oven preheated to 200°C (400°F) for 10-12 minutes.
  3. For the glaze, mix the egg white or water and powdered sugar to a uniform mix. A small portion of the glaze can be mixed with cranberry juice or beetroot juice and used for decoration. When the козюли are ready, cool, cover with glaze and decorate!

Our Favorite Videos about Pryanik

Make a pryanik cake with Russian celebrity chef Alexander Seleznev. He offers lots of good pointers for making a truly tasty pryanik.


Observe the making of a mass-produced pryanik with a range of toppings, designs, and fillings. This is promotional video for a Russian delicatessen chain called “У Палыча” that can be found in many places in western Russia.


Покровский Пряник” (Pokrovskii Pryanik) is a company from the city of Vladimir that specializes in making pryanik. This promotional video takes you into their bakery, and shows the different types of pryanik, and the various fillings used.


This video from «Галилео», a television program on Russia’s СТС channel, provides a great introduction to tulskii pryanik, from the origins of its name, to the processes in which the molds and pastry are made. The video gives an interesting glimpse into how the intricate molds are carved, and the pryanik baking process.

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About the author

Eugenia Goh

Eugenia Goh is an international studies major at the University of Denver. She studied for a semester with SRAS in Kyrgyzstan on our Central Asian Studies course before transferring to Moscow to study for another semester on our Russian Studies Abroad course.

View all posts by: Eugenia Goh