What do you eat on St. Joseph’s feast day?

St. Joseph’s feast day, celebrated on March 19th, is a popular celebration in many Catholic cultures around the world. The feast honors St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. On this special day, many people enjoy traditional foods and dishes to commemorate the occasion. In this article, we’ll explore some of the traditional foods eaten on St. Joseph’s feast day and look at the history and significance behind them. Whether you’re looking for recipe ideas or simply want to learn more about the traditional celebrations, read on to discover what people eat on this beloved saint’s feast day.

What is St. Joseph’s Feast Day?

St. Joseph’s feast day is celebrated annually on March 19th. The feast commemorates the life of St. Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father. Joseph was a carpenter who took Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. He cared for and protected Mary and Jesus throughout Jesus’ childhood. St. Joseph is honored as a righteous man who obeyed God’s will. He is the patron saint of workers, fathers, and the universal Catholic Church. His feast day has been celebrated since at least the 9th century A.D. The date of March 19th was established by Pope Sixtus IV in 1479. Celebrations often include special masses, parades, performances, and the giving of food to the needy. Many cultures also have traditional St. Joseph’s Day foods and dishes. The feast is an important celebration, especially in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Philippines, and many Catholic communities across North and South America.

Traditional Italian St. Joseph’s Day Foods

In Italy, St. Joseph’s Day is often celebrated with elaborate food customs and dishes. Here are some of the most popular Italian foods for the feast day:


Zeppole are fried dough pastries often filled with ricotta cream or pastry cream and dusted with powdered sugar. These sweet fritters are one of the most iconic Italian foods for St. Joseph’s celebrations, especially in Sicily. According to legend, during a severe drought in Sicily, people prayed to St. Joseph for rain. Their prayers were answered with rain that ended the drought. In gratitude, they prepared zeppole to honor the saint. Thefried dough balls represent the deep-fried crops that were able to grow after the rain came.

Bigné di San Giuseppe

These are cream-filled pastry puffs named after St. Joseph (San Giuseppe in Italian). The bigné puffs are related to zeppole and are often topped with chocolate, strawberries, or pastry cream.


Sfinge are Sicilian doughnuts that are eaten on St. Joseph’s Day, especially in the Catania region. They are essentially a ring-shaped version of zeppole that gets deep fried and coated in sugar. According to legend, the recipe was created by nuns in 19th century Sicily who wanted to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day with a special pastry.

Torta di San Giuseppe

This is a St. Joseph’s Day cake made with puff pastry filled with ricotta or pastry cream and often decorated with candied fruit, nuts, chocolate, or sugar glaze. It comes in many regional variations, but is a standard dessert for the feast across Italy.

Traditional Spanish St. Joseph’s Day Foods

St. Joseph’s Day is a national public holiday in Spain known as El Dia de San José. It is celebrated with parades, festivals, and specialty foods. Here are some of the top Spanish foods for this feast day:


Hornazo is a meat pie from the Castilla y Leon region traditionally eaten on St. Joseph’s Day. It is made from yeasted dough stuffed with chorizo, bacon, and hard-boiled eggs. The top is decorated with strips of dough in the shape of an “X.” According to legend, the horns represent fertility, the bacon represents abundance, and the hard-boiled eggs represent creation.

Rosquillas de Ledesma

These doughnut-like pastries are named after the town of Ledesma where they originate. The fried yeast dough pastries are sprinkled with sugar or glazed with honey. Locals traditionally ate them for breakfast before attending mass for St. Joseph’s Day.


Torrijas are a Spanish style of French toast made by soaking bread slices in milk, egg, and cinnamon, then frying them until crisp and golden. They are drizzled with honey or molasses and dusted with powdered sugar. The sweet French toast makes for a special breakfast or dessert on March 19th.


Buñuelos are light, crispy fried dough fritters dusted with powdered sugar. They are a popular treat across Spain and Latin America, often made during Christmas and other holidays or feast days. The sweet fritters make for perfect St. Joseph’s Day snacks.


These fried pastries from southern Spain are flavored with sesame seeds and honey or glazed with sugar. The sweet pestiños are traditionally served at Easter and St. Joseph’s Day celebrations.

Traditional Portuguese St. Joseph’s Day Foods

In Portugal, St. Joseph’s Day is known as Dia de São José and is celebrated as Father’s Day as well as a religious feast day. Families gather together for big meals featuring these traditional dishes:

Bacalhau com broa

This dish of salted cod with cornbread is the most iconic Portuguese St. Joseph’s Day meal. The combination of fish and bread is said to come from stories of St. Joseph feeding fish to hungry people with leftover bread.


Folar is a Portuguese sweet bread made just for St. Joseph’s Day. Recipes vary by region, but often include citrus zest, cinnamon, and sometimes dried fruit. Some versions are stuffed with salt cod or pork. The bread is decorated with requeijão cheese, olives, or hard-boiled eggs.

Sopa de couve Galega

This hearty collard green soup provides a nourishing, vegetable-based St. Joseph’s Day meal. It’s made with smoky Portuguese chouriço sausage and potatoes.

Arroz doce

This cinnamon rice pudding makes for simple, comforting St. Joseph’s Day dessert. It is flavored with lemon zest and often garnished with toasted almonds.

Traditional American Italian St. Joseph’s Day Foods

Italian immigrants brought St. Joseph’s Day customs to the United States. Many families with Italian roots celebrate with traditional dishes like:

St. Joseph’s Zeppoles

These fried dough fritters are the most classic St. Joseph’s Day sweet. Italian bakeries across America make zeppoles for March 19th and often serve them by the dozen.

St. Joseph’s Day Pizza

Pizza or pizza rustica (a ricotta or meat-filled pizza) are popular dishes for St. Joseph’s in Italian American communities. Anchovies are sometimes put on pizza in remembrance of the story of St. Joseph feeding fish to the hungry.

Bread of St. Joseph

Thistwice-baked Italian bread is flavored with fennel seeds, black pepper, and oil. It’s meant to represent the rustic simplicity of St. Joseph. Bread is served with meals on this day.

Pasta con Sarde

Pasta with sardines is an iconic Sicilian dish eaten by Italian Americans for St. Joseph’s. It features pasta topped with a sauce of fried sardines, fennel, raisins, and pine nuts.

St. Joseph’s Cream Puffs

Cream puffs are made in honor of St. Joseph for his feast day. Pastry cream, chocolate sauce, and cannoli filling can all be used as fillings.

Traditional Filipino St. Joseph’s Day Foods

In the Philippines, St. Joseph’s Day is a public holiday known as Araw ng San Jose. It is commemorated with grand feasts featuring these traditional foods:

Kusinang Josephina

This is essentially the Filipino take on a St. Joseph’s Day honoring meal. It includes many ingredients starting with the letter “S” for San Jose: sinangag (garlic fried rice), sliced fish, sinanglao (beef stew), shrimp, siomai (dumplings), and more.

Puto Bumbong

This iconic Filipino dessert of purple rice steamed in bamboo tubes is often served on St. Joseph’s Day. It is traditionally eaten with butter, coconut, or cheese on top.

Ube Ensaymada

Ensaymada are sweet yeast breads topped with sugar and cheese. For St. Joseph’s Day, they are made with ube (purple yam) for a colorful twist.

Ube Bibingka

Bibingka are coconut milk and rice flour cakes cooked in clay pots lined with banana leaves. Ube versions are commonly made for March 19th feasts.

San Jose Cookies

Buttery lace cookies are a popular Filipino treat on this day. They are often made with sesame seeds or oats on top to represent St. Joseph’s carpentry profession.

Traditional Croatian St. Joseph’s Day Foods

St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated in many parts of Croatia under various names like Dan Svetog Josipa, Jožefov dan, or Očićevanje after “Father Joseph.” Traditional foods include:


These sweet fried dough balls are analogous to Italian zeppole. They are dusted in powdered sugar or drizzled with honey.


Krafne are filled doughnuts stuffed with fruit preserves, chocolate, or cream. They are an essential Slavic food for St. Joseph’s Day.


Sirnica is a baked cheese pie made in a flaky phyllo dough. The indulgent dish highlights cheese in honor of St. Joseph.


Fuži are homemade rolled pasta noodles served with cheese, olive oil, or meat sauces. These traditional Croatian pastas make a hearty St. Joseph’s meal.


This custard pudding made from eggs, milk, sugar, and maraschino liqueur is served chilled. It’s a classic dessert for St. Joseph’s celebrations.

Traditional New Orleans (Louisiana Creole) St. Joseph’s Day Foods

In heavily Catholic New Orleans, St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated as a feast day with parades and home altars called St. Joseph’s altars. The altars are decorated with flowers, candles, and statues of St. Joseph. Plus they are laden with food including:


Breads, biscuits, rolls, and baguettes are essential as reminders of St. Joseph the provider. Breads are featured in many New Orleans St. Joseph’s recipes.

Gumbo z’herbes

This hearty greens gumbo made with mustard, collard, turnip, kale, and other greens honors St. Joseph as a humble provider.


This classic New Orleans Italian sandwich layered with cured meats, cheese, and olive salad represents the Italian roots of many local St. Joseph’s traditions.

Pasta Milanese

Pasta Milanese is a St. Joseph’s Day tradition in New Orleans. It’s pasta with a simple tomato sauce, meatballs, and parmesan cheese. Locals serve it with Italian bread.


This sweet phyllo dough pastry made with nuts and honey is a staple dessert for St. Joseph’s Day New Orleans celebrations and altars.

Traditional Polish St. Joseph’s Day Foods

St. Joseph’s Day (Dzien Swietego Jozefa) is important in Poland as the saint is considered the guardian of Poland. Traditional foods include:

Chleb świętojózefski

Chleb świętojózefski translates to St. Joseph’s bread. It’s a braided bread flavored with nutmeg that families bake together and bring to mass to be blessed on this day.


Dumplings are important St. Joseph’s Day fare. Potato and cheese pierogi are common along with meat and cabbage versions.

Ciasto Józefa

This St. Joseph’s cake is made of many thin layers with cream or custard in between. Variations can include chocolate or fruit fillings.

Krepliki z kapustą

These cabbage and meat dumplings are traditionally served in clear soups for St. Joseph’s Day dinner.

Kołacz świętojózefski

Kołacz świętojózefski is a sweet yeasted cake with dried fruit that families enjoy on this feast.


As you can see, St. Joseph’s Day is marked with an abundance of scrumptious and meaningful foods all around the world. From fried doughs to breads and pastries, many dishes reflect legends and traditions honoring St. Joseph. Others feature everyday comfort foods like pasta, sandwiches, and hearty stews that might have been served at St. Joseph’s modest table. No matter the culture, the dishes bring families and communities together to celebrate this day. If you’re looking for new foods to try this March 19th, consider whipping up some zeppole, folar, pierogi, or muffuletta to celebrate Saint Joseph in style.

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