Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Catholic Recipe: Semlor (Swedish Fat Tuesday Buns)


  • 5 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 packages dried activated yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups flour 


  • 1 egg or 1 egg white, beaten


Serves: 8

Prep Time: 2 hours

Difficulty:  ★★★☆

Cost:  ★★☆☆

For Ages: 15+

Origin: Sweden


Food Categories (4)


Often Made With (1)


Similar Recipes (1)


Feasts (2)

Also Called: Fettisdagsbullar; Swedish Fat Tuesday Buns; Fet Tisdays Bullar

Sweden hasn’t been Catholic since the 1500s, but the custom of feasting on Fat Tuesday, the day before the Lenten fast began, has been preserved in a single bun. Called fettisdagsbulle, Fat Tuesday bun, this pastry is also known as semla, after the Latin word for wheat bun, simila. These buns came from Germany to southern Swedenís upper class households in the 1600s. Originally, semlor were unfilled caraway buns baked from finely ground wheat flour, a luxury reserved for the well-to-do.

By the end of the 1800s, almond paste and whipped cream were used to fill semlor and the buns were eaten on a plate accompanied by a cup of coffee. Today, this yeast bun—filled with a mixture of scooped-out crumbs, almond paste and milk; topped with whipped cream; and dusted with confectioner’s sugar— can be eaten either on a plate or in a bowl of hot milk. These buns are known as Fet Tisdays Bullar.


Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the cold milk and let cool until 97°F; tested with a finger, the mixture should be feel warm but not hot. If you’re not sure, wait a few minutes since a too-hot liquid will kill the yeast. Pour the butter and milk mixture into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top, along with about a teaspoon of sugar. Allow yeast to proof about five minutes in a warm, draft-free place. When yeast has formed little bubbles in the liquid, add the rest of the sugar, one egg, the salt and the flour. Mix well with a fork.

Knead dough on a lightly-floured surface for a couple of minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in a bowl, covered with a cloth, and let dough rise for 30 minutes. Remove from the bowl and knead dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes. Divide dough first into two parts. Divide each part into about 5 smaller pieces and roll into balls that are slightly smaller than a tennis ball. Place these balls of dough on a greased baking sheet, cover with a cloth, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Brush the top of each bun with the beaten egg. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until tops of the buns are a light golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and let cool on a rack.

Recipe Source: Swedish Kitchen, A by Judith Pierce Rosenberg, 1998