Breads & Doughs

Croatian Poppy Seed Rolls

4.15 from 7 votes
Marko's Poppy Seed Rolls recipe is perfect for Christmas or any holiday celebration — combining sweet dough, filling, and incredible flavor!
Finished Poppy Rolls sliced and served

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Hi Bold Bakers!

NOTE FROM GEMMA: Bold Bakers, I want to introduce you to Marko Josipović! Marko has been a longtime fan of Bigger Bolder Baking and has grown up blazing his own culinary path. He’s also the founder of and you can find all of his gorgeous creations on Instagram. He’s here to share some of his recipes with us all, starting with his Croatian Poppy Seed Rolls — perfect for Christmas or even New Years!

Hi everyone, I’m Marko! Christmas time is my absolute favourite time of the year and it always makes me so nostalgic. I’m a massive foodie, so food to me is not just about the taste or looks, it’s about the memories and feelings as well. When I think of Christmas and Christmas bakes, the first thing I think of is all the traditional desserts I grew up with. Something that was always on the Christmas dessert table was these poppy seed rolls. There’s also a version with a walnut filling, but I always found the poppy one tastier.

I remember how my grandma always had so much to cook when we’d go to her house for Christmas, that she always ended up ordering these rolls from the local bakery. Years later it became more of a tradition for my mom to make these and she makes them with half poppy seeds and half walnuts, so now I bring this recipe to you!

Getting Started

When you hear the word ‘rolls’ in the bakery you think of either a cinnamon bun type of a roll or dinner rolls type of bake. However, these ones are baked a little differently. It all starts with an enriched dough with butter, egg yolk, milk, and vanilla. 

A mixing bowl filled with ingredients.

Form The Poppy Seed Roll Dough

The ingredients then get mixed until a soft dough forms. Because there are so many ingredients providing richness, it is important that the dough is very well kneaded for the gluten to develop, and for the yeast to beautifully work its magic.

If you’re using a stand mixer, 10 minutes should do the trick, and if you’re using your hands, definitely get in there and knead for a good 15 minutes, just to make sure. You’ll know you’re done once the sides of the mixer bowl are clean, or once the dough is bouncy, springs back to the touch, and is only slightly tacky.

Dough kneading in a mixer.

The Proper Rising

Next up is the rising process. I actually covered my bowl tightly in cling film, and let it rise slowly in the fridge overnight. You can also just let it rise at room temperature for 1.5-2 hours until doubled in volume, and then get to making your rolls. 

Two proofed balls of dough, one in a bowl and one on a floured surface.

Make The Filling

While your dough is rising, or just before you’re ready to make your rolls, prepare the filling. Take the ground poppy seeds, lemon zest, and cinnamon, and add them to a pot with some milk. Once the milk starts to boil, add in some sugar and mix until melted. The mixture might look a bit weird and displeasing, but it’s actually very tasty, trust me! Once you have the filling ready, just let it cool slightly before spreading it onto your dough.

Poppy seed filling ingredients

Shaping & Baking

Dough shaping time! Tip your risen dough out to a floured work surface and roll it out quite thin. You want a long rectangle, with dough that’s only about ¼ – inches thick. Then, spread a very thin amount of soft butter onto the dough, followed by a thin layer of your poppy seed filling.

Once the filling is on there, roll into a tight long log, and depending on your baking tray, split into 3 or 4 pieces to fit the tray. Before baking, I just brushed my rolls with some milk, and baked them at 200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes until browned, covered them with foil, and baked another 10 minutes to finish fully baking and to ensure they are cooked through.

Poppy Seed rolls in a baking tray.

The Finished Product: Croatian Poppy Rolls

Once they’re done, let them cool slightly, but while they are still warm, sift some powdered sugar on top so it nicely sticks. I enjoy eating them warm, as a pre-breakfast on Christmas morning while opening presents, with a big mug of coffee!

Baked poppy rolls covered in powdered sugar.

Croatian Poppy Seed Rolls Recipe

4.15 from 7 votes
Marko's Poppy Seed Rolls recipe is perfect for Christmas or any holiday celebration — combining sweet dough, filling, and incredible flavor!
Author: Marko Josipovic
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Proofing 2 hours
Marko's Poppy Seed Rolls recipe is perfect for Christmas or any holiday celebration — combining sweet dough, filling, and incredible flavor!
Author: Marko Josipovic


For The Dough

  • 1 ½ cups (200g /7oz) strong bread flour
  • 4 tablespoons (40g/1.4oz) caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (40g/1.4oz) butter (softened)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (7g/.4oz) active dried yeast
  • cup (100ml /3oz) + 1 tbsp whole milk (warm)

For The Filling

  • 1 cup (150g/5oz) ground poppy seeds
  • ¼ cup (100ml/3oz) whole milk
  • ½ cup (120g/4oz) granulated sugar
  • 3 ½ tbsp (50g /1.7oz) butter (softened)
  • ½ teaspoon Lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon Cinnamon


Make the Dough

  • In a bowl of a stand mixer, or just a bowl, place the flour, sugar, butter, egg yolk and salt.
  • In a small jug dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and pour into the other ingredients. Mix until a shaggy dough forms, then continue kneading until the dough becomes bouncy and slightly tacky. If using a mixer knead for 10 minutes, and if you’re kneading by hand, knead for 15 minutes.
  • Once the dough is smooth and springs back to the touch, shape into a ball, and cover the bowl with cling film and a hand towel. Let it rise for 1.5-2 hours at room temperature until doubled in volume. Alternatively, place in the refrigerator and rise overnight.

To Prepare the Filling

  • Place ground poppy seeds, milk, lemon zest and cinnamon into a small saucepan and heat until simmering. Add in the sugar and cook until melted. Let cool before using.

Assembling the Rolls

  • Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a long and thin rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Spread the softened butter on the rolled out dough into a thin layer, followed by a thin layer of the poppy seed filling. Roll up the dough just like you would for cinnamon rolls, into a long log.
  • Line a baking tin with some parchment paper and cut up the log into 3-4 long pieces, and place into the tin next to one another. Cover loosely with cling film and let proof while you preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • When the oven is preheated, brush the tops of the poppy logs with some milk and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown, then take out the logs and cover the tray with aluminium foil and place back in the oven for 10 more minutes.
  • Once baked, take the logs out of the oven and remove the foil while they cool. Sprinkle with some powdered sugar and cut up into slices/rolls. Enjoy!
    Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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5 months ago

Complete waste of ingredients. I tried this recipe twice, both results were failures. One star because the filling was ok.

Marica Love
Marica Love
2 years ago

We make these at funerals. Traditional. The only cakes served at the Wake.

Last edited 2 years ago by Marica Love
maria in nj
maria in nj
2 years ago

Hi how many loaves does this make?

About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, a cookbook author, and the creator of Bigger Bolder Baking. I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere with my trusted and tested recipes and baking tips. You may have seen one of my 500+ videos on YouTube & TikTok or as a guest judge on Nailed It! on Netflix or the Best Baker in America on Food Network. No matter your skills, my Bold Baking Team & I want to be your #1 go-to baking authority.


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