How To Make Orthodox Kolyva (Memorial Wheat)

Memorial wheat and prayers for the dead

In the Orthodox Church, we often have services dedicated to praying for the dead. Throughout the year, we celebrate the Saturday of Souls, on which we pray for all who departed this life in the hope of life eternal. Additionally, we hold services for when someone passes away or when we commemorate the anniversary of their passing. After both of these services, we eat a certain dish. This dish, called kolyva, or memorial wheat, is prepared and offered in memory of the departed. In this post, we teach you how to make Orthodox memorial wheat.

Recipe for Kolyva

This recipe for kolyva is flexible, depending on your tastes and preferences. If you don’t like or are allergic to nuts, for example, you can easily prepare and decorate the kolyva without them.

Moreover, when decorating your kolyva, you can experiment. Some people like to use white and milk chocolate chips, while others prefer the silver coated candies, like the kolyva in the picture below. If you have a specific question about what might be allowed, ask your priest!

How To Make Orthodox Kolyva (Memorial Wheat)

Prep time


Cooking time



An easy-to-follow recipe for Orthodox kolyva that you can experiment with!


  • 2 cups white or soft winter wheat berries

  • ¼ cup monkfruit sweetener

  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1 tsp ground coriander

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 1 cup white raisins

  • ¾ cup finely chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)

  • 1 cup finely ground zwieback toast or plain bread crumbs

  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar (10x confectioners)


  • The night before the memorial service, cover the wheat with 4 quarts of water in a large heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low, uncovered. Stir occasionally until wheat becomes puffy and tender, about 1 hour.
  • While the wheat is boiling, measure out spices and other ingredients. Set aside/refrigerate them for the morning. If you are using zwieback crackers, process them in a food processor until they are the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. If you do not have a food processor, you can seal the crackers in a large Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin.
  • Drain boiled wheat in colander and spread out to dry in a large baking pan or very large bowl for at least 6 hours (or overnight). (Note: Do NOT mix the wheat with the other ingredients yet. If you mix them together too early, your kolyva will turn mushy.)
  • On the day of the memorial service, light a candle in your preparation space. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except powdered sugar, zwieback/bread crumbs, and any decorations (nuts, raisins, chocolates, etc.). Put the combined mixture in a bowl or tray and shape it into a heaping mound toward the center, pressing it smooth with the back of a large spoon.
  • Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over the top of the mound, making sure the wheat is thoroughly covered. Place a sheet of wax paper on top and press down, sweeping your hands to smooth it out. (This layer of bread crumbs keeps the wheat’s moisture contained, so it doesn’t bleed out into the powdered sugar.)
  • Sift powdered sugar evenly over the crumb layer and press down with wax paper, as above.
  • Decorate the sugar layer with nuts (candied, blanched, etc.) or white raisins or pomegranates. If making kolyva for a Soul Saturday, decorate with a large cross in the center. For memorials (trisagions) for specific individuals, place a cross in the center, the initial of the deceased person’s first name to the left of the cross, and the initial of his or her last name to the right of the cross. In either case you can decorate the edges of the kolyva however you like.
  • Bring the kolyva to church with you. If you are not sure where to place it, ask your priest.

Share your experience!

Have you made kolyva before? What did you do differently? Share your experience with us in the comments below!

Keep Reading: Why Do Orthodox Christians Pray For The Dead?

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***If you would like to offer prayers for living and departed, please submit two separate requests: one for the living and one for the departed.