Homemade Strudel: A family recipe rediscovered

Sift magazine’s holiday issue presents dozens of inspirations for baking that bring families together. In this excerpt, Sift food stylist Erin McDowell reconnects with her great-grandmother by learning to make her homemade strudel.

I set out to recreate my great-grandma Nagy’s strudel dough without a recipe. My oldest brother is a photographer, and a few years back he restored some old photos for our mom. One of these photos happened to be of my great-grandma beside a table covered in fruit.

My mom told me they were making strudel, and when I squinted closer to the photo to see — sure enough — the whole table was covered with a thin dough, ready to be rolled up. I had made strudel once or twice in pastry school, but I was determined to create a new recipe, based in my family’s tradition, to bake from and share.

Along the way, I learned a lot about strudel — tips and tricks worth knowing if you’re going to tackle this pastry project.

The truth is, homemade strudel is actually much easier than it looks. Click To Tweet

The fillings are easy to prepare and the dough is easy to work with and very forgiving. The trickiest aspect of preparing any homemade strudel recipe is planning ahead, plus you’ll need plenty of space to make the process go as smoothly as possible!

Homemade strudel via @kingarthurflour

First rule of homemade strudel: Plan ahead

2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Homemade strudel dough is so easy to make – throw the ingredients into a mixer and knead, knead, knead until you’ve got a super-smooth, pliable dough. This kneading is crucial to the structure of the dough – long protein strands form, making the dough flexible enough to stretch very thin (so don’t skimp on the kneading time).

But all that kneading isn’t the only plan-ahead item here: the dough also benefits massively from resting overnight in the refrigerator. This rest period relaxes the dough, which is key to easy stretching later.

If you don’t have time for an overnight rest, never fear — the dough can be used after a solid 1-hour rest time. If you find the dough difficult to work with straight from the fridge (more on this later), you can let it warm up at room temperature for about 15 minutes before beginning to stretch it.

While we’re talking about planning ahead — don’t forget your fillings. Most strudel fillings are super simple to prepare, but many of them require cooking. You won’t want to put warm filling onto a chilled strudel dough, so make your filling ahead (or while the dough is resting), so that you’re ready to go come stretch time.

Next, prepare your workspace

You need a large area to stretch your dough. I use my kitchen island, which is a 3′ x 2′ rectangle. A card table or dining room table also works well – it’s ideal to be able to walk all the way around the table, which makes it easier to stretch the dough!

Lay a clean tablecloth, flour sack towels, or oilcloth over the work surface — this helps prevent the dough from sticking to the table without the use of flour, as well as helps make rolling easier when the time comes. Have ready nonstick spray or a small bowl of oil – the dough is easiest to handle with lightly greased hands.

Homemade strudel via @kingarthurflour

The key to stretching strudel dough is fearlessness

If you’re scared, the dough will know – hesitation leads to rips and tears. That being said, don’t worry if the dough does rip or tear – eventually, you’ll be rolling this strudel up and it will have many, many layers – any rips will be invisible in the end product.

The dough should feel lightly tacky but not sticky, and it should stretch easily. Remember: If it isn’t stretching easily, try leaving it at room temperature for a few more minutes before you begin.

Start by stretching the dough in your hands a bit like a pizza, trying as best you can to maintain a rectangular shape. When the dough gets too large to handle with your hands alone, lay it down carefully on the covered surface. Begin to stretch each side using closed fists. Put your hands under the dough at one corner, and gently work your fists outward, working toward the edge of the table.

Continue to do this, bit by bit, working around the dough to slowly stretch it out. When you reach the edge of the table, let the dough hang off. (Gravity will help “hold” it there while you stretch the other sides.)

The goal is to get it so thin you can see through it — if your tablecloth has a pattern, this can be a good guideline. The dough is very strong, and you should be able to stretch it without major tearing, but again — don’t sweat any minor errors! Once the dough has stretched out very thin, run your fingers along the edges and pull gently to make sure they’re thin enough, too.

Homemade strudel via @kingarthurflour

Prepare the strudel dough for the filling

This usually involves a layer of melted butter and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. I recommend:

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and divided
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
turbinado sugar, as needed, for sprinkling

Drizzle, don’t brush the butter — any unneeded motions on the surface are likely to tear your thinner-than-paper dough!

Use plain breadcrumbs for sweet strudels, and use plain or seasoned for savory strudel recipes. The breadcrumbs help absorb any excess moisture from the filling, helping to keep the strudel crisp.

Note: It’s fun to get creative with the types of breadcrumbs — rye crumbs pair nicely with apples and pears, for example.

Here’s what you’ll need for an Apple Strudel filling:

4 medium apples, peeled and cored
1 cup golden raisins, packed
1/2 cup hot water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
grated rind (zest) of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

See complete directions for making the filling in our Apple Strudel recipe.

You can also try Cinnamon-Walnut Strudel or savory Mushroom Strudel.

Apply the filling by dolloping it evenly over the surface. Fresh fruit can be scattered in an even layer — spreadable fillings should be spooned all over in little dollops, then pressed down with your hands. (Again — don’t try to spread, that can tear the dough.)

Homemade strudel via @kingarthurflour

Finally, it’s time to roll your strudel

The fabric/oilcloth table lining you laid down is helpful here — use it at one of the shorter edges of the dough to start the rolling process. Use the cloth to guide you to lift and roll up the dough — you want to roll it in a relatively tight spiral for best results.

The strudel can be cut into a few pieces for baking (it may be too large to fit on a baking sheet as is). Finishes include more melted butter and a sprinkling of sugar for sweet versions — could be a sprinkle of salt and pepper or a little bit of grated cheese for a savory strudel.

Bake homemade strudel at a high temperature to ensure even baking, browning, and crispness. I prefer 400°F for most recipes. Enjoy warm or at room temperature – it’s a perfect baking project to do with friends or family (extra sets of hands never hurt!), and the result is as tasty as the process is beautiful.

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for homemade Strudel Dough. You can also print just the recipe.

Then choose one of our three fillings: Apple Strudel, Cinnamon-Walnut Strudel, or Mushroom Strudel.

For the full article, plus more stories and recipes, check out the holiday issue of Sift magazine.

Erin McDowell

Erin Jeanne McDowell grew up in Kansas amidst a food obsessed family. She landed her first (after-school) job in a bakery, and was hooked! After pastry school in New York’s Hudson Valley, she combined her love of baking with her desire to share ideas, recipes, ...


  1. Patty Stanton

    Hi, How long do I need to knead strudel dough in a Kitchen Aid big mixer. On low for 5 min.??? Can I use all purpose K.A. flour?

    Patty Stanton

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Patty, I think it would be fine to use our unbleached all-purpose flour in this recipe, although you may find you need to reduce the liquid amount by a tablespoon or two, to adjust for the lower protein AP flour. In a KitchenAid mixer I would mix with the dough hook on the lowest speed for 10 minutes, and then on speed 2 for 10 minutes. Barb@KAF

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi, Nora. While our Measure for Measure Flour works beautifully as a 1:1 sub in many recipes, we’re not sure that it would build the kind of strength needed to stretch so thinly. We’ll reference Erin’s response to another reader on this one: “The strength of the dough comes largely from the high protein content of the bread flour, which makes strong protein strands during mixing (hello, gluten!). While I don’t have a specific recommendation, you may be able to make an effective strudel-like recipe using a different kind of gluten-free dough recipe. Even if you can’t stretch it in this traditional method, any dough you can roll very thin would work with the fillings provided here.” If you do decide to give a gluten-free version a try, please do keep us posted on the results. We’ll be curious to hear. Mollie@KAF

  2. Mary

    I grew up with my grandma making apple strudel for special occasions, especially Christmas. Now, I am the only one in the family who makes the apple strudel. I think it is becoming a lost art and am glad to see an apple strudel recipe posted here. I am going to try this recipe for the dough and compare!

    1. Mary (too)

      Hey! I’m a Mary, too, and I’m one of the few left in our family to continue to make strudel like my Mom and Grandma did. This recipe sounds very close to the one we use, and the photos could be at our house. Thanks for posting this, KA.

  3. Diane

    I took an apple strudel making class in Vienna, and they said you could put the dough in a bowl of oil to relax it and to make it easier to roll out. Making apple strudel is still on my “to bake” list, so I haven’t tried the bowl of oil trick, has anyone tried this?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Diane, I haven’t tried this method, but it does sound like a good way to keep the dough moist and relaxed prior to stretching it. Because of the eggs in the recipe, I would still recommend refrigerating it during the rest period. Barb@KAF

  4. Evelyn

    One of the extra treats we got when my mother made strudel was the little “cookie” covered in cinnamon sugar that was made from the dough that was trimmed off from the edge of the dough before it was rolled up. My mother would trim this off with scissors. She always used an old bed sheet to stretch out her dough and then roll it up. When it was done, the strudel roll was so long that when she put it on the baking sheet, she would form a “U” shape. Nothing is like a fresh strudel with its crispy layers.

  5. EL

    My grandmother refused to teach me to make strudel. So I also learned it on my own. The one thing I remember is how easy it was. It is actually a lot easier than working with the frozen stuff. I never had a problem with stretching it. It was a lot of fun. It’s been a long time since I made strudel, but as I get back into baking more complex things, I probably will try it again. I also remember thinking how similar the dough is to a pasta dough — and both have to stretch.

  6. Leanne And

    True strudel dough is regular flour, salt and water. No egg, oil or vinegar,and certainly no mixer or food processor. You have to knead it by hand and throw it to get rid of air bubbles. I grew up watching my Great grandma from Austria.make this.

    1. Silvia Lindner

      this is absolutely correct – and mind you – I am Austrian, my greatgrandfather was a baker, my grandmother had a restaurant, same as my grandfathers family still has a restaurant. A little bit of oil can be added, though! The dough needs to rest for an hour and then can be worked. and the apple strudel recipe is also all wrong.

    2. spuddzy

      My Romanian grandmother also used only flour, salt and water. I use my mixer to knead the dough, but also slap the dough on the counter to stretch it further. Works like a charm. :o)

    3. rebecca stames

      I remember my Hungarian-Slovenian-Austrian grandmother (boundaries were blurred during wartime) making strudel on top of her little kitchen table…the only tool needed was a small pairing knife to chip off slivers of butter. The speed and deftness of her technique was mind boggling…look away for a second and she’d already be rolling it up and shoving it in the oven. Go grandma!

  7. SuzieQ

    Thanks for the recipe! This is the way my grandmother used to make her strudel. What a wonderful reminder of a delicious part of my childhood! I will save the instructions and try them out at some time in the future. Thanks again!

  8. Susan

    Thank you so much. I’ve made strudel before but it’s been a while and I have to make one next week for a special gathering. Timing couldn’t be more perfect. I’ll compare your recipe to the ones I already have and probably make some sort of combination for the filling. I know the one I used to use has breadcrumbs in the filling. Not sure why.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The breadcrumbs absorb some of the delicious juices that are released from the apples or other ingredients as it bakes! The results is a moist, tasty filling wrapped in a light pastry, all packed with flavor. Kye@KAF

  9. Lauren B

    Hum, my Grandma would make the best strudel I have ever had but she would never show me how. She said she had to be alone to do it. ☹️ I tried once but the results were not acceptable (although I destroyed the evidence by slowly eating the whole thing! 🐷)

    I will peruse this article and maybe try again…

    1. Susan Reid

      Good luck, Lauren. It’s really not that hard. At first you may have a slightly thicker dough than you’d like, but if you hang in there and practice you’ll soon get the hang of it. Susan

    1. Susan Reid

      Susan, this may be worth trying, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up for a couple of reasons. First of all, the bran in the whole wheat flour is likely to tear the dough as you try to stretch it. And Pastry flour, whole wheat or not, has less gluten in it, which means it’s going to be less elastic and tear more easily. Susan

  10. Sue Berry

    Thanks, Erin, for bringing back memories of “helping” my beloved Hungarian grandmother make strudel when I was a little girl. She would cover her dining table with a white table cloth and stretch a small lump of dough with the backs of her hands until it hung over on all sides. I remember her doing two things differently: she kept her hands close to the table as she stretched the dough and she placed the filling on the long side before lifting the table cloth, to roll the strudel. In addition to apple or sour cherry for dessert, she made my favorite – a savory sautéed cabbage filling. Your article has inspired me to try recreating my Nani’s strudel with my own grandchildren.

    1. Noralee

      My Serbian “second mother” made her strudel with a savory cabbage filling as well. It was out of this world delicious!

  11. Alexandra

    My problem with strudel is that if they last over night, the pastry seems to be very tough. Any thoughts on that?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Alexandra, try storing your strudel in an airtight container with a slice of apple or a soaked sugar-saver inside it. This will help create a semi-humid environment, which helps keep the strudel tender and soft. We also like to tent the strudel with foil and heat it in a low oven for 5-10 minutes before serving, as this gets some of the juices flowing and revives the pastry a bit. (And if all else fails, just eat it in the same day! 🙂 We find it’s often not a challenging task. ) Kye@KAF

  12. Ann

    Finally, someone makes strudel the way my family does!! We also, put the filling all over the dough prior to rolling it up.

  13. Frank Guidice

    Do u cook the apple filling than cool or do you just mix ingredients together than fill pastry thanks Frank

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Frank, if you check out the full recipe for Apple Strudel, you’ll see the instructions for preparing the apple filling include just grating the apples and adding the other ingredients called for in the filling. The apples become pleasantly tender during baking. Enjoy! Kye@KAF

  14. Mary

    I have never made strudel or even read a recipe to make it before. I make something very similar to a cinnamon-walnut one, though. A friend and I have been making potica at Christmas for 5 years. The real difference is the dough is a sweet bread dough and instead of using butter, we use whipping cream, beaten to the soft peak stage with honey. We spread it on the stretched dough with our hands, sprinkle a walnut, cinnamon, and sugar mixture over it and roll it. I’m going to try a strudel now, I already have the stretching technique down!

    1. St. John's Hungarian Wend Lutheran Church, Perth Amboy


      We love potica at St. John’s Lutheran Church, and we celebrate our Slovene-American heritage in this way most Sundays of the year after the service during coffee time. We call it just kolac – meaning cake – as if there were any other kind. 🙂 I am very intrigued by your idea of using whipped cream. I think potica is usually a little thicker than strudel though. There are so many different regional varieties though, so it can vary. Have you ever tried Prekmurska gibanica? It is like a delicious combination of the two from the region of our founders. It is called flodni in Hungarian, and popular there too.

    1. Erin McDowell, post author

      Gluten-free recipes are unfortunately not my area of expertise, and the strength of the dough comes largely from the high protein content of the bread flour, which makes strong protein strands during mixing (hello, gluten!). While I don’t have a specific recommendation, you may be able to make an effective strudel-like recipe using a different kind of gluten-free dough recipe. Even if you can’t stretch it in this traditional method, any dough you can roll very thin would work with the fillings provided here. Good luck!

  15. Joanne

    I am so intrigued by trying this. but like the article says plan ahead, something I will do to accomplish this, just thinking of all the possibilities to what to fill it with!!

  16. Milly Churbuck

    Wow! What happy memories. Thank you for taking the time write out this recipe and share it with us. I enjoyed all the suggestions such as using my dining room (round) table. I will look forward to making this.

    Milly Churbuck, Iowa

  17. Sherry Penoyer-Reynolds

    As soon as I saw the picture I knew what was happening. I have delightful memories of my great-gran, Nanny, showing my 5 year-old self how to stretch strudel dough on her table to hang over the edges. My favorite part was always “helping” her pick up the huge pastry cloth to watch the magic of it rolling itself up across the table while she guided it with the cloth. Haven’t done this since she passed some 30 years ago. You’ve inspired me to make strudel with Nanny again for she’s always with me when I’m baking – and then I’ll show my small grandsons the magic. Wish I had Nanny’s recipe but it looks like this one will be perfect. Thank you!

  18. Jen

    This is a great story!! My grandma started teaching me to make her grandmother’s strudel several years ago. It’s an old family recipe from Slovenia. Our recipe calls for scrambled eggs & cottage cheese along with the apples, cinnamon & sugar and raisins. Not sure how authentic all of that is, but it’s the way that we love it. And this year, my 87-year old grandma taught 4 of her great-grandchildren how to stretch the dough. Fantastic!!

    1. Marianne

      Jen I wonder if the neighbor I had used scrambled eggs in her cheese strudel, it has been over fifty years since she made it and has since passed, I don’t remember how she did it. she made one cheese, and one apple for us anything we helped her out.

  19. Bobbi Bullard

    Do you have a recipe for a savory filling? I will definitely make this wiht the apple filling but I want to do a mushroom filling for a second strudel.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We sure do, Bobbi. Just click on the link for “Mushroom Strudel” at either the top or the bottom of the post and savory strudel away! Mollie@KAF

  20. Katie Traxel

    I watched an Austrian Oma make this in Salzburg many years ago and she seemed so skilled at a difficult task that I’ve always been afraid to try it. You’ve inspired me now and I’ll have to give it a shot. Thanks.

    1. Erin McDowell, post author

      It generally isn’t ideal to freeze strudel, in my experience. The dough is so thin and holds too much moisture when it thaws, plus many of the fillings we suggest (especially mushrooms) don’t freeze well!

  21. kathryn Wegner

    I helped my grandmother, her friends and my mother make this every fall. I still have a copy of the “Slovak Women’s Cookbook”. Last time I made this was with my daughter and granddaughter. We are way past due. and, yes, the grandmothers’ were adamant about being able to see through the dough. They were fierce.

    1. Eileen Jezercak

      I too have the “Slovak Women’s Cookbook”. It belonged to my mother-in-law. Now I’m going to go look through it for the recipe.

  22. cindy rendell

    what to do if you don’t have a stand mixer for kneading dough? Many still do not own one….I am sure all those grandmothers didn’t own one!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Cindy, like we mention in the blog here, thorough kneading is crucial to the development of the gluten and therefore the stretchability of the dough. If you attempt to knead it by hand, know it’s an ambitious undertaking: it will probably require about 20 minutes of vigorous kneading. (You can see if you’ve kneaded for long enough by trying to “pull a window,” a.k.a. stretch the dough thin enough so that you can see through it without it tearing.) If you don’t consider yourself a strong, experienced kneader than you might want to invite yourself over to a friend’s house who has a stand mixer for a strudel-making party! Kye@KAF

  23. Mary Jo Gordon

    Being part Slovenian, making apple strudel and potica (a nut and honey sweet bread) are traditions I hope to pass on to my children and grandchildren. Your recipe is very much like mine. The pictures are wonderful and spot on!

  24. Clarice Feldman

    Sweet to see. I remember my grandmother, aunts and mother working together to stretch the dough over a very large wooden table in my grandmother’s basement.That was her real kitchen where she made strudel and kishke (stuffed derma),roasts, kreplach and soups and where she pickled her cucumbers. Upstairs was a modern kitchen she called her “English kitchen” which she used to warm up and serve her goodies, prepare breakfasts and lunches for her and grandpa.

  25. Bridgid

    I took a baking class with a certified master baker form Austria, and strudel was one of the delicious things we made. We used the massive commercial kitchen aide mixer, the dough hook, he used that for the “kneading”. We (the students) each got a weighed out piece and he taught us how to stretch it. It was so much fun! We made apple filling and I felt very good about being able to make it. Thank you for reminding me how much I enjoyed this! Will be planning to make strudel soon.

  26. Madeline

    I am so glad to have these detailed instructions, I remember going to my maternal grandmother’s home after school and seeing the dough stretched out over the kitchen table, unfortunately I had no interest in learning how to make it as a teen and she died when I was in college. I am going to learn to make it now in her honor.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Madeline, we’re so happy to hear that this blog brought back memories of your grandmother and inspired you to make strudel in her honor! Barb@KAF

  27. Marianne

    My older lady that lived next door made this for us many times, I have also made it, I can’t remember how she made it with cheese. I think it was with dry cottage cheese, sugar, egg, but am not sure do you know. It had more of a cottage cheese feel.

  28. Grace kratovil

    Made this today. The dough was easy to stretch and work with. It was good, but not extraordinary. I don’t think I’ll make it again.

  29. Sallie Blair

    The wife of a friend of my husband, around Christmastime, made what she called German Crunch Rolls with pecans, sugar, and cinnamon and she would sell them so, of course, she wouldn’t share the recipe. I’m wondering if they weren’t some kind of strudel. I think the pastry wasn’t as thin as this recipe, though. Perhaps she just rolled it out, instead. Unless, of course, there really is a German Crunch Roll. In which case, anyone have a recipe?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sallie, this isn’t ringing a bell with us, but maybe some of our readers will know what the mystery German Crunch Rolls might be. Barb@KAF

  30. Martha Vockley

    I use a Croatian family recipe that is similar, except it uses butter instead of oil and AP rather than bread flour. The kneading process is a unique workout. Rather than kneading like bread, you throw the dough onto a lightly floured countertop or board repeatedly, really hard. You’ll know you’re putting enough muscle into it if it sounds like a “thwack” when it lands. You keep this up for at least 10 minutes to develop the gluten. You want a soft, supple dough. Also no refrigerated rise, just a 30-minute rest on a warmed, floured plate. I will try the refrigeration next time I make strudel to see if this makes a difference. With the leftover dough you cut from the edges after stretching, you can make strudel dough dumplings. Boil bite-size pieces until they float, drain, and add melted butter and fried onions. Sour cream is an option also. Delicious bonus when you make strudel.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Martha, thanks for sharing your Croatian strudel traditions! I love your description of your kneading workout, and the leftover dough recipe sounds delicious! Barb@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Susan, Erin uses a 3′ X 2′ kitchen island, but a card table or kitchen table will also work, as long as you can work all the way around it. Barb@KAF

  31. Lisa Marasco

    My grandmother came over from Czechoslovakia in the early 1900’s and became the cook for Samuel Goldwyn, the Hollywood movie producer. She brought old-world recipes with her, including strudel. I learned from her how to make it– the dough would be thrown over and over on the counter until it was silky smooth, and then yes, there was the card table with the cloth. The strudel was bent into a horseshoe shape and placed on the baking sheet- no cutting down in size. It’s a lost art.

  32. Toni

    Years ago at our church we made strudel as a high school money making project for their summer work camp. It was sold for Mother’s Day. The woman who organized it had a similar story to yours. She told us the strudel had to be thin enough to read a love letter through it. The kids loved it and we did this for several years. Our parishioners loved the strudel too. Can’t wait to try this again. Love love King Arthur products.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Susan, the best answer is to work quickly, and that will come with experience. In the meantime, use a piece of plastic or a clean garbage bag, and cover the section you aren’t immediately pulling. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

  33. Ashley

    Does this recipe still function well when halved? With limited space I want to enjoy the recipe without having a nightmare on my hands.

  34. Judi

    My family has been making strudel for many, many years, with our basic recipe very similar to yours. In fact, my sister-in-law and i spent most of the day making it with 3 different savory fillings: cottage cheese, spinach/feta, and shredded cabbage. Wish I could share our photos. BTW I’m a big fan of King Arthur products. Thanks for your attention to quality.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for being such a fan, Judi! We’d love to see pictures of your strudel adventures and would encourage you to share them with us on our Facebook page or using #kingarthurflour on Instagram or Twitter. Mollie@KAF

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