Swiss Christmas Tradition: Bake a Grittibänz

What to bake for St. Niklaus Day

Grittibänz, a sweet bread in the shape of a person, is on my “to-bake” list for the first week in December, coinciding with a visit from Samichlaus on the 6th. He is known by other names around the country:  In central Switzerland we call him Grittibänz, in Basel Grättimaa, in Zurich and Thurgau Elggermaa, Saint Nicolas  or Bonhomme de Saint Nicolas in the French part and Pupazzo di San Nicolao in the Italian part.  

According to Betty Bossi (The queen of the Swiss kitchen), Grittbänz were not always sweet, but started out being made from a normal bread dough. Today the dough traditionally used for Grittibänz is sweeter and is easy to make. The kids will love to help create a little man (or woman) with raisins for eyes, dough for a hat and scarf and decorated with rocks of sugar. But there is also nothing to stop you from using a traditional Zopf recipe, especially if you want to serve it for dinner on the 6th. 

Baked Grittibänz served on 6th December in Switzerland
Grittibänz directions
How to cut a Grittibänz
Grittibanz Step by Step
Shaping a Grittibänz

While you can buy a Grittibänz at bakeries and supermarkets all over Switzerland, I find the very best Grittibänz is the one you make at home. So if you have a spare moment to spend in the kitchen this week - give one of these recipe a try: 

  • Helvetic Kitchen: This is my go to recipe but I add in a little more sugar

  • Fooby: The recipe website from the Supermarket Coop

  • Moms Tots Zurich: this is a good recipe if you don’t have access to fresh yeast

And here is a video I put together:


How to make a Grittibänz (Swiss Sweet Bread)