Boudin kolaches are the epitome of Houston’s culinary fusion – Chron

Any Houstonian who’s moved away from home inevitably wakes up one hungry morning to the realization that kolaches, those doughy Czech pastries stuffed with savory fillings like sausage and jalapeño, aren’t a thing everywhere.

Doughnuts, bagels, biscuits, English muffins, breakfast tacos — these quick and affordable breakfast staples can be found by the dozen in just about any corner of the U.S.

But kolaches? Their bounty and variety are chiefly Houston-area luxuries. (You can find one or two in New Orleans, but you’ll be disappointed.)

One of the most surprisingly prolific items on kolache shop menus nowadays is the boudin kolache. Boudin (pronounced “BOO-dan”) is a Cajun sausage loosely stuffed with pork, rice and a variety of herbs and spices. Since many traditional boudin recipes include sauteed organ meat (liver or heart, mostly), boudin breakfast pastries may seem an unlikely trend for the era of avocado toast and paleo pancakes.

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In Houston’s melting pot, however, culinary trends are less about virtue and more about a particular brand of vice: bold flavor over bland filler any day, plus spice over price and, at its best, multi-ethnic fusion over safe repetition.

With that in mind, here are my top five spots to snag one of the most quintessentially Houstonian breakfast treats, the boudin kolache.

5. Watch out for “Boudin Season” at the Kolache Shoppe

Two locations: 3945 Richmond Ave. and 1031 Heights Blvd.

The Original Kolache Shoppe/Yelp

When it comes to kolaches in general, no pace does it better than Kolache Shoppe. Whether you leave with a breakfast-style ranchero, a kielbasa-and-cheese or one of its streusel-topped sweet varieties (my favorite is the cream cheese-filled), you’ll get home wishing you’d ordered twice as many.

A foodie friend once visited from New Orleans, took a single bite of a kielbasa-and-cheese with jalapeño, calmly put it down, and then berated me for hours for not ordering a full dozen.

“The dough is like crack,” she said.

The reason Kolache Shoppe is not No. 1 on this list is simple; when I drove through the Heights location in early October to order a boudin kolache, the cashier politely informed me that boudin is one of their “seasonal” offerings. (What season? I was too speechless to ask. Is there a Holy Month of Boudin I’m not aware of?)

If memory serves, the boudin kolache at Kolache Shoppe is everything you’d want in a savory breakfast. Sourced from Hebert’s Specialty Meats, the boudin has exactly the right meat-to-rice ratio, with a smoky flavor that pairs well with the Kolache Shoppe’s sweet and stretchy dough. Prices can be a bit high, so expect to pay just under $4 per pastry — but know it’s worth every penny.

Christy’s Donuts

Yelp / Pepper H.

4. Christy’s Donuts Kolaches

1103 W. Gray St.

There’s a reason this classic Montrose hole-in-the-wall joint is most famous for its glazed doughnuts, which offer a crisp, vanilla-tinged alternative to Shipley’s. Christy’s kolaches aren’t bad, but its sausage shades more in the direction of a ballpark frank than, say, a smoked barbecue link. Still, Christy’s remains a reliable institution, and its boudin kolaches were going like hotcakes when I braved the crowded parking lot late one Friday morning.

If you’re feeding more than one, consider going the delivery route with a service like GrubHub. At $2.55 each, Christy’s boudin kolache gives the most bang-for-your-buck on this list, but it’s also the most timid in terms of spice. Unlike other shops, Christy’s sadly doesn’t offer a boudin-with-jalapeño option, meaning you’re stuck at mild.

Queen Donut Shop

Yelp/Alaina S.

3 & 2. Queen Donut or Bakery Donuts 

1806 W. 18th St. and 1203 W. 11th St., respectively

There are few meaningful differences between these two family-owned businesses in the Heights. They both offer a variety of kolaches, including boudin with or without a jalapeño kick.

Service is friendly and efficient. Prices are dirt cheap. As long as you go after the morning rush hour, you’ll likely step into an almost-empty shop and be greeted by a friendly cashier who will treat you like one of the regulars. There’s never a rush to decide, and you’ll likely be talked into adding a sweet doughnut to your order to balance out the spicy boudin (I recommend the blueberry cake).

Coffee is of the watery diner variety, which fits with the nostalgic, small-town vibe that can be hard to find so close to Houston’s downtown metropolis. At either location, I actually prefer the boudin to any other kolache on the menu. It’s a solid option if you’re trying boudin for the first time.

Boudin kolaches at Buc-ee’s outside of Texas City.

Justin Jannise

1. Buc-ee’s

Multiple locations

Trust me. When I saw that Buc-ee’s offered boudin kolaches, I was skeptical. The popular gas station chain is known for pushy billboards, clean restrooms, endless gas pumps, walls of beef jerky and something called “Beaver Nuggets.”

But boudin kolaches? I decided to stop at the one just outside of Texas City on a day trip to Galveston, and it took me a minute to find the right counter to place my order. The boudin kolache (with jalapeño) was by far the most ample and delicious I’ve had since Kolache Shoppe’s boudin went out of season.

Knowing I was on my way to dinner, I’d only planned to try a small taste test, but before I realized it, I’d eaten the whole thing. The secret appears to be a little extra fat in the boudin filling to keep the kolache dough from drying out, which means that Buc-ee’s boudin links are probably worth a journey all on their own. Too much rice in the boudin can make the kolache taste like carb-stuffed-carbs, but with the right portion of meat, you’re in Houstonian heaven.