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Christmas Carp: Recipes, Preparation, and Frying

Everything You Need to Know About Preparing and Cooking Christmas Carp + 3 Tasty Recipes

Christmas fried carp is a traditional part of the festive Christmas Eve table and one of the symbols of Christmas holidays in the Czech Republic and some other countries in Central Europe. In the Czech Republic, Christmas carp is served breaded and fried with potato salad.


Fish has been a traditional fasting food and a symbol of Christianity. That’s why ponds were established near monasteries since the Middle Ages. Consumption of fish during Christmas holidays has been documented since the 17th century, but ordinary people didn’t follow this custom too strictly, especially in regions where fish were rather rare and could be enjoyed by wealthier families or residents of fishing areas. Fish began to appear more frequently on the Christmas table only at the beginning of the 19th century.

Originally, carp was prepared “black” – it was boiled a day or two in advance in a sweet sauce with gingerbread, plums, and nuts. Or “blue” – boiled with root vegetables in diluted vinegar or white wine. Recipes for fried carp date back to the 19th century, but fried carp didn’t become a part of Christmas traditions and the Christmas Eve dinner until after World War II.

Carp scales for good luck

Several customs accompany the Christmas Eve dinner, including the placing of carp scales under the plate for luck and financial prosperity in the new year. Carp scales are a symbol of wealth and are also carried in the wallet. In the countryside, the bones are buried under fruit trees to ensure a good harvest throughout the new year.

Releasing carp into the wild.


During the pre-Christmas period, barrels filled with fish can be found on the streets of most Czech cities. For some families, buying a carp and releasing it back into nature – into a pond or a river – is a tradition. However, despite good intentions, this will not save the carp.

In the wild, carp stay at the bottom and remain motionless during the winter. If caught and kept in captivity in the fall, they are in constant motion, depleting their reserves that would have helped them survive the winter. They do not have enough nutrients and energy to maintain their vital functions, and are likely to die. The same fate awaits carp that have been kept in a bathtub for several days. Releasing such a fish into cold river or pond water exposes it to a temperature shock, and the stressed fish will most likely perish.

Buying Carp

Before Christmas, you can buy carp on the streets from barrels or at fish farms and have it killed, gutted, and filleted on the spot. This is more humane than keeping the carp for several days in a bathtub in an unsuitable environment with chlorinated and insufficiently oxygenated water after purchase.

Carp Meat

Consumption of carp meat is beneficial for health. Fish meat is characterized by a high percentage of water, which is around 70% for carp. It contains only a small amount of fat (2-9%), and is a source of easily digestible proteins (10-20%) and omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, which have a preventive effect against civilization diseases. The composition of the meat depends on the age of the fish, the season, the composition of its diet, the conditions in which it lives, etc.

Carp meat is suitable for preparing diet meals by boiling or stewing, carp can be fried, baked, pickled, grilled, used to make salads, carp fries, steaks, and more.

Options for preparing carp


Cooking carp

In the Czech Republic, cooking fish is a less common way of preparing them. Due to its digestibility, cooking is mainly used in the preparation of dietary meals. When boiling carp, use only a gentle simmer, even when making fish soup. At higher temperatures, the delicate carp meat will break apart.

Among the most famous and traditional dishes made from boiled carp are “carp on black” and “carp on blue.”


Steaming carp

Steaming fish is a very gentle way of cooking fish, suitable for preparing dietary meals from carp meat. Unlike boiling in water, it does not result in as much leaching of flavor compounds.

Carp meat is placed in a pot on a steaming rack, and a little water with seasonings is added underneath, according to the specific recipe.


Stewing carp meat

When stewing carp meat, it is first lightly cooked in a small amount of water with additional possible ingredients, such as butter, vegetables, and spices. It is necessary to use a pot with a tight-fitting lid for stewing. This method of preparation is suitable for dietary dishes, and stewed carp meat is very easy to digest. When fish is stewed, the meat leaches less than when boiled.


Baking carp

During baking, there is no leaching of flavor compounds, and carp meat retains its distinctive taste. Carp can be baked whole (including head and fins) or divided into portions. The meat prepared in this way is more interesting in taste, but it is slightly less digestible than meat prepared by stewing or boiling.


Fried carp

Fried carp in breadcrumbs is a popular and widespread way of preparing carp meat.



Grilling is another popular way of preparing carp meat. Whole carp, its fillets, or individual portions can be grilled. Before grilling, carp meat is seasoned or marinated according to taste and left to rest. Excellent grilling results can be achieved not only on an outdoor grill but also at home.

To properly and tastefully prepare carp, it is necessary to follow several rules:

  • The basis is fresh carp from a trusted supplier. If you are buying already killed carp, you can tell if the fish is fresh by its bright red gills, shiny eyes without signs of sinking or cloudiness, and a slimy surface.
  • Always fry the carp in high-quality fresh oil or lard.
  • Frying should not take place at too high a temperature. If the oil starts to burn during frying, pour it out and continue frying with fresh oil.
  • To remove excess fat from the fried carp, place it on a paper towel for a while after removing it from the pan, which will absorb unwanted grease.

Processing carp

  • Prepare sharp knives, a stunning stick for live carp, containers for offal and trimming, and paper towels.
  • Hold the carp firmly with one hand in the dorsal area and stun it with a blow over the eyes using the stunning stick.
  • Then kill the carp with a cut behind the head using a knife.
  • The cut behind the head also causes the carp to bleed.
  • Let the carp lie for several minutes.
  • Wipe the blood off the carp with paper towels.
  • To prevent the carp from slipping on the work surface during further processing, place paper towels underneath it.
  • Remove the carp’s scales by either scraping them off (the skin with the scale pouches remains on the carp) or cutting them off with a thin knife, also removing the skin pouches that hold the scales, thereby obtaining a clean fish. Start cutting the scales from the tail.
  • Eviscerate the carp by making a thin, shallow cut with a knife precisely in the middle of the carp’s belly from its anus towards its head. Open the carp’s abdominal cavity and loosen the membranes holding the internal organs inside the cavity by hand from the back towards the head. Pinch off the intestine that attaches the internal organs and remove them.
  • Remove the air sacs and gallbladder from the internal organs.
  • Separate the roe or milt.
  • Chop off the carp’s head.
  • Cut horseshoe-shaped pieces from the carp.
  • Cut off the fins, including the bones, from the horseshoes.
  • Cut out and pull out the dorsal fin and bone.
  • Remove the strong (and thin if you want) bones from the horseshoes.
  • If you do not like the carp’s skin, cut it off.

How to prepare carp meat to reduce its fishy smell?

There are many ways to at least partially remove the characteristic smell of fish from carp meat. You can try one of the methods listed below:

  • Cut the carp into portions, rinse with water, generously sprinkle with lemon juice and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.
  • Soak the carp portions in milk and let them sit overnight.
  • Before baking, place half an apple in the baking dish with the fish.
  • Boil the carp portions in hot water with chopped onion, salt, nutmeg, pepper and bay leaf for a short time.

Fried carp in the oven


  • Several portions of carp (depending on the number of diners)
  • Flour
  • Eggs
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  • Lemon slices
  • Vegetable oil or lard
  • Baking paper


  • When preparing carp, lemon juice plays an important role in helping to remove the muddy and fishy smell from the meat.
  • So, dry the pieces of carp with a paper towel, sprinkle lemon juice on them, add salt, and let them rest for a few hours.
  • Coat each piece of carp in the classic three-step breading process – first in plain flour with a pinch of salt, then in beaten and salted egg, and finally in breadcrumbs.
  • On a baking sheet, place a sheet of baking paper, drizzle it with a thin layer of oil or heated lard, place the breaded carp pieces on it, and lightly drizzle with oil. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes at around 180°C.
  • Place the cooked carp on a paper towel to absorb excess fat.
  • Serve with lemon slices, which will enhance the taste of the meat and from a nutritional point of view, the vitamin C in the lemon will help to better absorb the iron in the fish meat.
  • Place the breaded pieces of carp on the baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Preheat the oven to 200°C and bake for 20-30 minutes until the carp has a golden brown color. Turn the meat over during baking.

Fried carp according to the chef


  • carp fillets
  • flour
  • breadcrumbs
  • eggs
  • lemon juice
  • slices of lemon
  • vegetable oil
  • pork lard
  • salt
  • white pepper


  • Cut the carp fillets into portions.
  • Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Drizzle generously with lemon juice, cover with foil and let it rest in the fridge for several hours.
  • Coat the fillets in the classic three-step breading process – in smooth, salted flour, in beaten eggs, and in breadcrumbs.
  • In a deep pan, heat vegetable oil with a little lard and fry the carp portions until golden brown.
  • Continuously pour the fat over a fine sieve so that the bread crumbs in the pan do not burn, and before pouring the strained fat back into the pan, wipe the pan with a paper towel.
  • Remove the cooked fillets from the pan and place them on a paper towel to absorb excess fat.
  • Garnish the carp with lemon slices and serve with potato salad or potatoes.

Fried Carp with Butter




  • several portions of carp (according to the number of diners)
  • all-purpose flour
  • butter
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • lemon
  • parsley


  • Rinse the portions of carp and dry them thoroughly with a paper towel.
  • Season the fish with salt and pepper and coat with seasoned flour.
  • In a deep pan, heat oil and butter. Fry the carp on high heat until browned on both sides, then lower the heat to medium and fry until crispy and golden brown.
  • If using a fattier carp, fry it for a longer time to render the fat.
  • Serve the cooked fish with lemon slices, garnished with parsley, and accompanied by boiled potatoes or fresh bread.

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