Karbanátky (singular: karbanátek) are fried meat patties that are eaten in the Czech Republic, in central Europe. A mixture of ground meats (pork and beef) are seasoned, and chopped onion, garlic, egg, parsley and spices are added. They are rolled in to balls, gently flattened and then they are rolled in breadcrumbs and fried in oil or lard. Translated into English, karbanátek means “hamburger” or “meatball”.
Karbanátky are typically made as part of the lunch meal and are often served with mashed or boiled potatoes and fresh vegetables to make a hearty and balanced meal. Although best eaten hot, straight out of the pan, they can also be kept refrigerated and served as part of a cold lunch the next day. Leftover karbanátky are often used up by being thinly sliced and placed on rye bread to form an open-faced sandwich. They are also popular when served cold with potato salad, and can often be found at celebration buffets and picnics.
Variations of karbanátky can be found across several European countries, although they go by many different names. Similar meat patties can be eaten in Russia, Norway, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Poland, Estonia, Ukraine, the Netherlands and Lithuania. In Germany, they are known as Frikadellen, Buletten, Fleischküchle or Fleischpflanzerl and in Denmark they are called Frikadeller. Hungarians have their own version, called fasirt and In Austria they call them Faschierte Laibchen. Similar fried meat patties can even been found in South Africa, where they form part of the Afrikaner culinary heritage.
Czech karbanátky are made with a mixture of ground or minced pork and beef, but other variations across Europe may use veal and add spices such as mustard and paprika. Rather than patties being formed, they are sometimes served as balls.
The main herbs and spices that give karbanátky their unique flavor are marjoram and caraway. Marjoram is indigenous to Cyprus and Turkey and is closely related to oregano. It is a perennial herb with flavors of sweet pine and citrus. Caraway is a member of the carrot family, and its seeds are ground and used as spice. Caraway is closely related to fennel and shares a similar anise or licorice flavor.
The preparation of karbanátek is very similar to making meatballs or burger patties. To minced (ground) meat, an egg and breadcrumbs are added to bind the meat. Then aromatics such as finely diced onions, garlic, spices and herbs are added. The ingredients are combined and then left to set for thirty minutes. Balls around 2 inches in diameter are then shaped, flattened slightly with the fingers and rolled in breadcrumbs. The patties are then fried until golden brown and cooked through.
Because the patties are coated in breadcrumbs and then fried, the finished patties are crisp and crunchy on the outside, whilst the meat inside in juicy and succulent.
The karbanátky can be made ahead of time for an easy weeknight meal. Once rolled in breadcrumbs, they can then be kept covered and refrigerated for 24 hours until they are ready to be cooked. Due to the simplicity of the recipe, karbanátky are a traditional Czech food that is still enjoyed in many households and served in many restaurants across the country. Large batches can be prepared at a time, making it a perfect dish to make for a crowd.
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in Czech cuisine, Kristyna Montano. You can find Kristyna on her food blog CzechCookbook.com.
- 10 oz. beef , minced
- 10 oz. pork , minced
- ½ cup cold water
- 1 egg , slightly beaten
- 1 large onion , finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic , finely chopped
- 1 bunch parsley , finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ teaspoon marjoram
- ½ teaspoon ground caraway
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 8 oz. fine breadcrumbs
- 8 Tbsp vegetable oil (for frying)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chive finely chopped
- Mix the minced meats and the water. Knead well and set aside for 30 minutes.
- Add the egg, onion, garlic, parsley, flour, marjoram, caraway, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs to the minced meat.
- Season with salt, pepper and knead for 10 minutes. Set aside for another 15 minutes.
- Shape balls about 2 inches in diameter.
- Flatten them slightly and roll them in breadcrumbs on all sides.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry the karbanátky over medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side.
Serve the karbanátky immediately, accompanied by mashed potatoes, chopped scallions and fresh vegetables such as green salad and tomato (or others). Sprinkle everything with fresh chives.