Traditional Instant Pot Kutia

A small bowl of kutia

Whether it’s Kutia or Kutya (pronounced coo-tcha), it’s probably one of the most seminal Ukrainian dishes.  It’s also one of the most time consuming.

The history of kutia

Kutia is a Christmas Eve dish but – in reality – its roots have very little to do with Christmas.  So, let’s travel back a few thousand years to the Ukraine.  What was going on? Growing wheat.  So, they boiled the wheat.

But, it’s so much more than just boiled wheat.  Ukrainians (and everyone nearby) celebrated the winter solstice before they adopted Christianity in 997 AD.  Kutia is the centrepiece of this winter solstice dinner that was adapted into what is now the Christmas Eve meal: Sviata Vechera.
Wheat berries meet the Instant PotThis recipe saves the overnight soaking time plus 2 hours of cooking time over the traditional recipe!

Jump straight to the recipe
The quick story on Sviata Vechera is that it’s a twelve-dish meal of meatless dishes (but fish is included).  Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox followers would tell you that the 12 dishes symbolize the 12 apostles.  But, in pre-Christian/pagan terms, the dishes may also represent the 12 moons of the year.  The first of the twelve dishes is kutia.

Looking for a gluten-free alternative? Check out my recipe for Instant Pot Gluten-Free Traditional Kutia made with oat groats.


Along with the boiled wheat, you add honey (мед, “med”) which is said to represent good fortune or the spirit of Christ.

Based on how often мед comes up in Duolingo’s Ukrainian lessons, it’s a word that’s just as important as borscht.


The poppy seeds (мак, “mak”) represent fertility. My baba, naturally, grew her own poppies in her garden. The non-opiate kind! The quantity needed here makes it most practical to buy your poppy seeds in a bulk store. The combination of мед i мак is amazing.

There are some myths that the head of the household takes the bowl of kutia and throws a spoonful onto the ceiling – the more that sticks, the better the harvest to come.

No one does that.

During Sviata Vechera, everyone in the family shares in the kutia. If you’re not keen on it, you just take a little.  But, it’s sweet wheat – how can you lose?

How to make kutia

Kutia is basically boiling the daylights out of wheat kernels.  My  baba used wheat that they grew (and later, wheat from her former neighbours).  So, her first step was separating the wheat from the chaff.   She wrote (in her beautiful cursive handwriting):

The wheat is with chaff. Take it outside when it’s windy and put a white sheet on the ground and pour from a height. Then on Christmas Eve, wash in several waters. The chaff, what’s left, will come on top. Pour off several times. Soak overnight and cook on a very slow burner, will be ready in an hour and a half.

Or, you can just buy some wheat kernels or berries (not cracked wheat) in bulk at the store. It’s what I do, anyway.  But, now you know what to do in case you do have wheat with chaff.

Wheat berries spread in one layer

The step where you scald the poppy seeds with hot water is a little strange.  But, it’s worth it.  I think there’s more flavour.

Scalding the poppy seed and draining away the water

Some people boil the wheat with a lot of extra water and then drink the wheat water hot or cold.  If you’ve had Japanese mugicha (barley tea), it’s similar.

Grind the poppy seeds in a small food processor or a coffee grinder.  There should turn from black to a darker grey.

Poppy seeds ground with some water in a coffee grinder

This is my grandmother’s traditional recipe.  It’s great – but I also have a more modernized version with dried fruits that’s great to try.

Time saved!

How long does the traditional recipe take?  There’s still the manual labour stays the same but…

  • Soaking the wheat overnight now not necessary
  • Drying/toasting: 15 minutes in the oven still the same
  • Boiling: over 3 hours cooking the wheat on the stove now 75 minutes in the Instant Pot

* Instant Pot times are estimates but include pressurization, cooking and de-pressurization on the Instant Pot.

Cooked kutia with poppy seeds and wheat combined

Traditional Instant Pot Kutia

The traditional first-course of any Ukrainian Christmas Eve supper.
4.5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Ukrainian-Canadian
Servings 8 servings


  • 2 cup wheat berries red or white
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup poppy seeds
  • 2 cups boiling water optional
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts optional


  • Preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Spread the dry wheat berries on a rimmed baking sheet making sure they're in one layer. Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the sheet from the oven, shake to distribute the wheat berries. Bake for another 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the wheat berries to the Instant Pot with 4 cups of water. If there's any chaff, it'll float to the top - just remove it.
  • Set the Instant Pot to Manual and High pressure and 60 minutes
  • When the cooking is complete, do a quick release of the pressure.
  • Remove about 1 cup of the remaining water or boil 2 cups of water. Combine with the 1/2 cup of poppy seeds so that the poppy seeds are scalded. Let them sit about 10 minutes.
  • Using a small food processor or coffee/spice grinder, grind the poppy seeds.
  • Add the ground poppy seeds, honey, sugar and nuts to the wheat. If it's still watery, use the Saute function to boil off some of the water. It should be syrupy but not watery.
  • Smachnoho!


  • Serve at room temperature.
  • For even softer wheat, cook the wheat 90 minutes in the Instant Pot.
  • It's also great for breakfast on Christmas morning or any morning.
  • Make it a couple days ahead of time.  With 11 more dishes to make for Christmas Eve, you'll be busy
  • Add cinnamon to taste for a less traditional flavour.



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19 thoughts on “Traditional Instant Pot Kutia”

    1. Hi Jason – definitely you can double this to 6 cups of water as long as that’s not more than the pressure cooker max in your Instant Pot (or other pressure cooker).

  1. Hi there, my Kutia has a bit to much liquid after mixing all the ingredients together. It doesn’t have the thick consistency that I see in your picture. Would it be ok if I put it in a roaster and cook it a bit more in the oven?

    1. Hi Kim – if you’ve already soaked the wheat, you don’t toast it in the oven. Traditional recipes would toast the wheat in the oven, then soak overnight, then cook the wheat. If you have soaked wheat overnight, you should reduce the cooking time. It’s not something I’ve tried.

  2. My baba I don’t remember using walnuts. She used cut up apples. Very yummy. Such good memories Thank you

  3. 5 stars
    I am so glad I found your site, Kutia is normally very time consuming, but with your method no overnight soaking or hours of simmering! I used my grandmother’s recipe, 1 1/2 cups white wheat berries and 3 cups water, used natural vent, I did not need to drain as all the water absorbed, then I completed with her recipe, awesome!

  4. 4 stars
    You mentioned that throws wheat to the ceiling?
    Maybe not in 2021 but my father always did…and that was until the 70’s.
    My mother always scolded him and we as children always giggled. But we all love kutia.

    1. My Grandparents also threw it to the ceiling . Baba would always scold him because she would have to clean it . She wouldn’t dare make a batch that wouldn’t stick

  5. I see that the recipe calls for 6 cups of water (4 + 2 boiling), but the directions only mention to use 3 cups of water, then to remove (remove from what?) one of those cups to use for the poppy seeds. Please clarify how much water and how to use it.

    1. Hi Laura – you add 4 cups of water to the Instant Pot to cook the wheat. Some people may find that “soupy” and prefer to remove 1 cup of water from the pot to scald the poppy seed. Otherwise you can just boil 2 cups of water separately.

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