Kosher Kitchen

The kugel (all kinds!) go back a long time


I have often wondered about the history of some of the foods that are commonly associated with Jewish cuisine. One thing I often wondered about when I was a kid was kugel.

My grandmother made a sweet kugel with cinnamon and sugar and noodles, and I loved it. One day she told me we were having kugel for dinner! I was about 4 and I conjured up pictures and tastes of that delicious cinnamon treat. She served dinner and there, in the middle of the table, was a dark brown dish with clearly identifiable pieces of darkened onion on the top. What was this? It certainly was not kugel!

My parents insisted that this was kugel, just a different kind. But I knew better. Kugel meant one thing and this was not it. So there I was — completely confused. How many other words had a totally different — and completely disappointing — meaning?

Obviously, I grew up and learned that there were many more kugels to explore, from noodle to potato to rice and spinach and more. Recently, I did some research on the history of the “kugel.” Where did it come from? Why is the same word used for both a sweet noodle mixture and a savory potato pudding? And how did a word that means ball come to mean a rectangular shaped delicacy with many different permutations!

It turns out that this staple of Jewish cuisine has been around about as long as Jewish food has been identified as such and originally came from Germany. Kugel, which means “ball” in German, began life as a lowly flour and egg dumpling placed deep into the middle of the Sabbath staple, cholent, a mixture of meat and beans.

As the cholent simmered during the cooking process, and sat in steady heat over Shabbat, the low heat first cooked the dumpling, and then infused it with the flavors of the other ingredients. Eventually, people began placing the delicious mixture into its own cooking vessel and added things such as beef fat and chicken fat, vegetables and pieces of meat. Could it have been a precursor of kishke?

Then, in 1871, a kosher cookbook instructed its readers in the art of making noodles from flour and eggs. This dough could be used in place of the plain flour and water dough. In addition, the book then described another way to use the dough by rolling it thin, cutting the dough into long, thin strands and drying the strands. The book advised mixing the noodles with raisins, sugar, eggs, butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg, all of which sound very much like the modern kugels we know today.

As we have passed through the years and the Jewish people have spread out all over the globe, kugels have taken on many regional flavors. Over time, the potato kugel has become almost as popular as the lokshun or noodle kugel and there are now all kinds of vegetable, potato, rice, and noodle kugels that can easily become part of anyone’s cooking repertoire.

One of the nice things about kugels is that they are fairly easy to make, so they are good dishes for teaching budding young cooks. And who doesn’t love a delectable, warm kugel?

Almond Apricot Kugel (Pareve)

1 large can apricots, drained and cut into chunks

12 oz. medium egg noodles

1/2 stick butter or trans-fat free pareve margarine

1/2 cup vanilla (unsweetened) almond milk or soy milk

6 extra large eggs

1/2 cup sugar depending on the sweetness of the fruit

1/2 tsp. almond extract


3 cups crushed cornflakes (about 5 or 6 cups before crushing)

1/2 cup sliced almonds, blanched or not

4 Tbsp. pareve margarine, melted

3 Tbsp. sugar

Cook the noodles al dente, remove to a colander, drain and set aside in a large bowl. Melt the margarine and mix with the noodles. Mix the eggs, sugar, almond or soy milk and almond extract together in a bowl. You can whisk it together or use an electric mix. Add the apricots to the eggs and mix. Add the egg mixture to the noodles and mix well.

Grease a glass 3-quart oblong baking dish and place the noodle mixture in the dish. Coarsely crush the cornflakes and mix with the sugar and almonds. Add the margarine and toss to coat. Cover the noodle mixture with the flakes and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Sandy’s Mothers’ Kugel Souffle (Dairy)

This recipe is from a woman named Sandy Roper who won a kugel contest that I ran for a paper I used to write for. It won all the judges rave reviews over with the graham cracker crust topping! They all ran home to make it for their families and friends!

1-lb. wide egg noodles

6 extra large eggs

4 Tbsp. melted butter or margarine

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

1 lb. cottage cheese (small curd)

1/2 lb. farmer’s cheese

1/4 lb. cream cheese

1-1/2 cups whole milk

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Optional: 1/4 cup (more to taste) dried cranberries, cherries, or snipped apricots

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a large, 10 to 12 inch, springform pan with foil. Spray with non-stick spray and set aside.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil, Set aside.

Cook the noodles as directed until al dente. Strain them and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Place the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sugar and blend well on medium speed. Add the melted butter and blend well. Add the sour cream and cheeses and blend on medium high just until smooth. Reduce the speed and slowly add the milk. Mix well. If you like, add the dried fruit and mix by hand to evenly distribute.

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and add the noodles to the cheese mixture. Mix well with a large spoon.

Place the spring-form pan on the cookie sheet. Pour the cheese noodle mixture into the spring-form pan. Place in the oven and bake for 50 to 55 minutes. While it is baking, make the topping.


1-1/2 sticks melted butter or margarine

1-1/4 cups slivered or sliced, blanched almonds

1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup honey

Cinnamon or apple pie spice to taste

Combine all in a saucepan or a bowl and stir until blended.

After 50 to 55 minutes, remove the baking sheet with the kugel from the oven and pour the topping evenly over the hot kugel. Place back into the oven for another 40 to 45 minutes. Check at 20 minutes. If the top is browning too quickly, cover lightly with foil and continue to bake.

Remove from the oven and let cool. Cut around the outside of the kugel and remove the ring. Place the bottom of the spring-form pan on a pretty plate and serve. Serves 12 to 20.

NOTE: You can cook this in a rectangular pan. Just decrease the cooking time a bit (maybe 10 minutes or so).

Mushroom Leek and Onion Kugel (Dairy)

12 oz. medium egg noodles

1 tsp. olive oil

1-1/2 sticks butter

1 red or Vidalia (sweet) onion cut into quarters and then into thin slices

3 to 4 garlic cloves

2 to 3 leeks, white part only, sliced

1-lb. assorted mushrooms, white button, baby Portobello, Cremini, etc.

2 Tbsp fresh parsley minced

2 to 4 Tbsp. freshly minced chives (don’t use dried for this)

1 cup ricotta cheese

1-1/2 cups cottage cheese, creamed or small curd

1 cup sour cream

5 extra large eggs

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp. white pepper

1 cup bread crumbs or cornflake crumbs

Cook the noodles until al dente. Drain and toss with 1 tsp. olive oil. Set aside.

Melt one stick of butter in a large frying pan. When melted, add the onions and garlic. Cook until translucent and add the leeks. Cook until the onions are golden. Add the mushrooms and stir until they begin to give off their juices. Cover and simmer for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and the parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the cottage cheese, ricotta cheese and sour cream, and mix until thoroughly blended. Add the noodles and mix well. Add the mushroom mixture and mix until completely blended.

Grease a 3 to 4-quart oblong glass baking dish. Pour in the noodle mixture.

Melt the rest of the butter and mix it into the cornflake or breadcrumbs. Top the noodles with the crumb mixture and bake at 325 degrees until golden brown. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

VARIATIONS: Add one-half cup of white wine to the mushroom mixture while cooking. Reduce the liquid by half before adding to the noodles.

Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the crumbs before baking.

Vegan, Organic, Gluten-Free Mushroom, Onion, Leek and Rice ‘Kugel’ (Pareve)

This is a variation of an old recipe that my mom used to make. I once overbought mushrooms and just decided to use them in the rice dish. Everyone loved it so that adaptation stayed in. I further adapted it by going organic for a pot luck dinner at a friend’s house. The dish had to be vegan and gluten-free. This is the recipe that has stayed. We called it “kugel” because I made it in the pan my kids associated with my kugel recipe.

4 fairly large onions, cut in half and thinly sliced

2 large leeks, white part only

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 10-oz. packages sliced mushrooms

2 to 4 cups organic mushroom, onion, or vegetable stock, or water

1-1/2 cups long grain white rice (You can also use brown rice, just pre-cook it longer.)

1/2 cup organic wild rice

2 Tbsp. canola or extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup fresh chives, snipped

Wash the leeks and slice them in half lengthwise. Cut each half in thin, half-moon slices, and break them apart if they stick together. Place in a large bowl of water and swish to rinse. Let sit, remove to another bowl with a slotted spoon, and discard the water.

Cut the onions in half and thinly slice them into half-moon slices. Break them apart also. Clean the mushrooms and mince the garlic.

Heat a large frying pan and add the oil. Add the onions and sauté until golden. Add the leeks and cook until completely softened, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms give off their juices and the juices just begin to evaporate. Add the garlic and mix well. Remove from heat.

Generously grease a glass or ceramic 3-quart baking dish. Set aside.

Meanwhile, parboil the rices in different pots until each is about halfway cooked a bit more for the wild rice. Drain. Place in a large bowl and add the mushroom mixture. Mix well. Add the minced chives and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the casserole dish and spread evenly.

Add the water or stock (start with about 2 cups) to the pan in which the mushrooms were cooked and heat just to boiling to deglaze and get up any bits of remaining onion, garlic, and mushroom. Pour the liquid carefully over the rice, mix gently, and cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, checking several times to make sure that there is enough liquid. Add more boiling liquid, if needed. Uncover to brown for the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking. Serves 8 to 12.

Jerusalem Kugel, Cheater Style (Pareve)

I make a quick version by using dark brown sugar instead of making caramel. The taste is a bit deeper than when made with the caramel, but this is much easier and now everyone prefers this version. Decrease the pepper for children.

2/3 cup canola oil plus 1 Tbsp.

1-1/4 cups dark brown sugar

4 extra-large eggs

1/2 to 1 tsp. salt, to taste

3/4 to 1 tsp. black pepper, more or less to taste

1-lb. fine egg noodles

Spray a glass baking pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles as directed. Drain and place the noodle back into the pot. Add a tablespoon of oil and mix well.

For a faster kugel, mix the oil with 1 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of white sugar. Mix well and heat, stirring until blended and the sugar is melted and bubbly. Follow the directions to complete the kugel.

Place the sugar and the oil in a medium, heavy saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes bubbly. Stir constantly with a wooden or silicon spoon. Immediately pour the caramel over the noodles and stir to mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the noodles and mix well. Let cool for 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees, 60 to 75 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Serve hot or warm. Serves 8 to 12.