11 Recipes To Satisfy Your Kugel Curiosity
Kugel is a curious casserole that can take on many shapes and flavors for Jewish holidays. Sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, but always delicious — we picked out a few favorites to try for Hanukkah.
How do you kugel? Wait. You do kugel, don’t you? Let me explain. If you’ve never heard of any sort of kugel, here are the basics: kugel is a starchy pudding often associated with Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashana, Chanukah and Passover.
And if you’ve only heard of noodle kugel or potato kugel, know that those are but parts of the kugel rainbow! (Full disclosure, the kugel rainbow is mostly beige. Delicious. Sometimes golden brown too. But there’s a lot of beige.)
While it is often served on Jewish holidays, there’s no reason to relegate this delicious comfort food to certain parts of the year. And there’s no reason to narrowly define its taste, either — you can make a sweet kugel or a more savory one. Serve it as a side dish or for breakfast. Make it as a potato kugel, one with noodles or even base it on zucchini.
Now, which kugel recipe will you choose?
Lokshen Kugel (Savory Noodle Kugel)
This lokshen kugel (named after the type of wide egg noodles it uses) from Saveur lands on the savory side with its onion and garlic. It looks and tastes like classic kugel comfort, with both cottage cheese and sour cream bringing richness to the dish. Cooking it in a cast-iron skillet gives it a rustic touch.
Slow Cooker Noodle Kugel Casserole
This recipe takes the mystery of out making kugel in the slow cooker. One teaspoon cinnamon joins honey and raisins for a sweet kugel that frees up your oven. Yes, the cook time is longer, but it’s mostly hands-off. One key tip takes just a few minutes of prep time: First partially cook the noodles and drain them before placing them in the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients.
Smitten Kitchen’s gorgeous potato kugel has a simple list of ingredients — russet potatoes, kosher salt, large eggs — that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. She makes it in a cast-iron skillet but includes a note on substituting a casserole baking dish. As she notes, people have definite opinions on whether you should use a food processor for the potatoes or grate them by hand, but she includes instructions for both methods. (She also has some interesting background on its European or Eastern European origins and its place in Jewish cuisine.) The shredded rather than sliced potato gives the dish a beautiful potato latkes look.
While kugel is not typically a low fat dish, this version approaches that description, with light mayonnaise and broccoli standing in for the heavier ingredients typically used. No one thinks kugel is a salad, but can you add a little green to your kugel? Yes! Yes, you can. And perhaps you should.
Aunt Helen's Noodle Kugel
The recipe name may sound old fashioned, but this kugel has a few tricks up its sleeve. It gets richness from a combination of cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, and melted butter added to the noodle mixture. But the coup de grace (coup de kugel?) is in the topping, which gets a lift from a little sugar and graham cracker crumbs, lending a crunchy golden brown topping to the kugel. Ingenious.
Cacio e Pepe Kugel
One of the world’s simplest and most satisfying pasta dishes meets the kugel in this lovely casserole built on cheese and black pepper (that’s the “cacio” and “pepe”). Copious amounts of ricotta, mascarpone and pecorino romano are combined in a large mixing bowl, with a bit of the pecorino reserved for later. Cook the noodles until barely al dente, add them to the cheese mixture and then sprinkle on that reserved pecorino for a deliciously cheesy finish.
My Family’s Noodle Kugel
Smitten Kitchen is on it once again in the kugel department, this time with a noodle kugel that calls for a surprise ingredient: cherry pie filling. Oh, sure, all the old favorites are there too: egg noodles, cottage cheese, sugar and vanilla extract. Almost everything gets mixed in a large bowl, but the cherry pie filling is held back, poured atop during the baking. Deliciously intriguing.
Vanilla Noodle Kugel
This sweet noodle kugel gets its flavor not just from vanilla extract, but also from vanilla pudding. For a finishing touch, vanilla wafer cookies are combined with butter and sprinkled atop the dish. The recipe says it can be served warm or cold, but let’s be honest: It would be delicious at room temperature too.
Sweet Potato Kugel
What a beautiful idea for a side dish, swapping sweet potatoes for the traditional spuds. This gives it a little more color than your typical kugel — and of course, gives it a rich sweet potato flavor. Use margarine instead of butter if serving with meat and keeping kosher. It’s a creative spin on a longstanding Jewish dish.
This Williams-Sonoma recipe skillfully straddles sweet and savory, with an onion adding a savory note while two Granny Smith apples contribute a light sweetness. Billed as “only slightly less traditional for Hanukkah than latkes,” this potato-centric kugel starts off with two pounds of baking potatoes. The first task is to peel and shred them before combining with the rest of the ingredients and piling them into a dish and baking until golden brown. A suggested grace note: a dollop of sour cream when served. (Or two dollops.)
Spring Zucchini Kugel
Not only does this kugel get a fresh twist with zucchini instead of noodles and potatoes, but it has a pair of surprising ingredients too: chopped fresh basil and mint give it an herbal note. (If there are objections to either of those flavors, parsley can serve as an herb stand-in.) The recipe and a commenter sound one note of caution: Make sure you get as much liquid out of the zucchini as possible — really squeeze it out! This gives the kugel the right texture. And it sounds like it might be good stress relief, too.