Heirloom Recipes

An Heirloom Cookie Essential on the Serbian Holiday Table

November 25, 2015

A big congratulations to QueenSashy, whose Vanilice (The Little Vanilla Cookies) was voted Your Best Holiday Cookie from Anywhere in the World!

We asked her to tell us a little bit more about these cookies—here's what she said:

Photo by James Ransom

Vanilice (pronounced va-nil-itze) are traditional Serbian cookies, sort of like Serbian Linzer cookies. Some believe that Vanilice are a cousin of Linzers, because the northern parts of Serbia were held by the Austro-Hungarian empire, which heavily influenced the cuisine of the region. Being from a farming country, the Serbian folk adapted the recipe to utilize what they had most of—lard and walnuts.

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Vanilice are integral to the Serbian holiday table: We make them for Christmas, New Year's, patron saint days, and other special occasions—like births, baptisms, weddings, and even funerals.

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Top Comment:
“My grandmothers used to make Vanilice so many times and I love it. I just want to emphasize once again as it's key importance - you have to leave them for a day or two and then serve, because the taste is totally different. It's hard to wait, but it worth. Every second :)”
— Zero

The recipe my family uses dates back to my great grandmother Katarina and my great-aunt Cica, who inherited it and supervised every family member in their making of Vanilice. Translated to English, Vanilice means "little vanillas"; the cookies are dusted with powdered sugar, which is infused with vanilla bean. I've seen many variations of Vanilice, and while some use butter or shortening, the cookies are traditionally made with lard. My great-aunt Cica made a very special rose hip jam to be used for Vanilice, but the other two popular choices are apricot and raspberry.

The makings of Vanilice. Photo by James Ransom

Vanilice are one of those cookies that shine in their simplicity. The lard is critical, and so is the touch of lemon—one should not really notice it in the cookie, but yet there it is, adding a very special something. And finally, Vanilice are never eaten right away: They are best once they spend a day or two in a tin. That is when they soften up and should practically melt in the mouth.

I've been making Vanilice for over four decades now, and as a matter of fact, Vanilice were my very first kitchen creations ever. I was about four years old when Cica and my grandmother Persida decided that I was ready. They gave me a tiny apron, a little bit of dough, a tiny spatula and a cookie cutter, and allowed me to make my own Vanilice. And I have been making them ever since.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Marjana Papović
    Marjana Papović
  • Petar
  • Romana Spasojevic
    Romana Spasojevic
  • Zero
  • Bojana
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.


Marjana P. October 12, 2016
Petar January 2, 2016
Драга Александра, прими искрене честитке из Србије поводом изузетне промоције нама свима драгог и незаобилазног српског слаткиша величанствених ванилица, које су још један у мору разлога зашто се воли Србија.
Romana S. December 24, 2015
Congratulations Sasha! I love your story about these lovely little cookies.
Zero December 23, 2015
My grandmothers used to make Vanilice so many times and I love it. I just want to emphasize once again as it's key importance - you have to leave them for a day or two and then serve, because the taste is totally different. It's hard to wait, but it worth. Every second :)
Bojana December 21, 2015
For vegetarians, make Vanilice with margarine, as I make them during Lent period. BTW, my grandmother taught me, too!
Zodiak P. December 21, 2015
Well, these cookies are just as Serbian as Kobe Beef...
Madhuja November 30, 2015
Congratulations on the win, QueenSashy! You are on a roll! And what a beautiful story!
Annie S. November 26, 2015
Congratulations! Thank you for this gift of family tradition. I just bought more lard from Smoking Goose ( the best ) and will be making many for holiday gifts.
Billyjane M. November 26, 2015
čestitke! prelep tekst :)
Valerie November 25, 2015
congratulations, QueenSashy! Definitely adding these gems to my repertoire.
Bella B. November 25, 2015
So perfect! I love vanilla in baking so yummy! These would be perfect for a tea party !

xoxoBella | http://xoxobella.com
EmilyC November 25, 2015
Congrats QueenSashy on your win! I agree with others -- what a wonderful story.
mrslarkin November 25, 2015
Hooray! Congratulations QueenSashy! I love this story so much, and can't wait to try these cookies soon.
ChefJune November 25, 2015
Congratulations! What a lovely story.
drbabs November 25, 2015
Congratulations, Aleksandra!