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What is Kugel?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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Kugel is a famous Jewish dish, made especially by the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe. Evidence exists that the dish was made over 800 years ago, though it has gradually been modified and improved upon over time. Many are used to thinking of kugel as a dessert, and you will certainly find lots of kugel dessert styles. It can also be made as a savory side dish or entrée.

Early kugel would have been savory, since sugar didn’t make its way to Europe, especially not for those who weren’t of the nobility, until the 1600s. The early kugel, like many foods at the time, was essentially a baked pudding, bearing some resemblance to a savory bread pudding. German Jews in the 1200s began adding noodles, eggs, cheese and/or milk to the dish, creating a delicious creamy casserole. The base of the kugel might use potatoes or matzo flour instead of noodles. In order to add extra flavor to the dish, kugel might include vegetables of all types, and onions. Kugel casseroles would not have contained meat, since mixing meat with milk and eggs was not Kosher.

In the 1600s sugar inspired many cooks to develop sweet kugel. Here you might simply have a dish of baked noodles in cream or egg topped with a little bit of sugar. Eventually, fruit, especially raisins, were common additions to sweet kugel. Sweet kugel is still more popular today than its savory older relation, and may be baked in round pans, or more commonly in standard rectangular baking dishes. It is very popular not only among people of Eastern European and Germanic descent, but also among those in America who were lucky enough to grow up near a good Jewish bakery or restaurant.

In taste, sweet kugel is similar to bread pudding, and many find it comparable to a variety of the baked puddings made by the English, like spotted dick. There are a number of Internet recipes to try, as well as fantastic recipes in many Jewish and in German cookbooks. If you’re traveling you’ll find kugel in most of Eastern Europe.

In some Jewish sects, kugel is thought to be lucky and/or to confer spiritual blessings. This is specifically the case in the Hasidic Jewish tradition, especially when a Rabbi offers the kugel. To many others, kugel merely speaks of ultimate comfort food, and few celebratory meals would be complete without it.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By Perdido — On Sep 13, 2011

I love making carrot kugel. It is sweet, but not overpoweringly so.

I use a bundt pan for an interesting shape. I shred eight carrots in a food processor. I separate four eggs and add the yolks to the carrots but set aside the egg whites. I also add a cup of honey, one-third cup of oil, four teaspoons of grated lemon rind, and two teaspoons of vanilla.

I stir in two cups of all-purpose flour and a teaspoon of baking powder. Then, I beat the egg whites until they stiffen. I fold them into the mixture and pour it into the greased bundt pan. I bake the kugel for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

My sister likes to add half a cup of golden raisins to her batter. Since I’m not big on raisins, I leave them out, but it’s great either way.

By seag47 — On Sep 13, 2011

My favorite easy kugel recipe is based on broccoli. It takes less than an hour to cook, and it’s great as a vegetable side dish.

I thaw out a twenty ounce bag of broccoli first. I turn my oven to 350 and use cooking spray on a 9"x13" pan. I put the thawed broccoli in it and set it aside.

I mix three eggs, a tablespoon of onion soup mix, half a cup of mayonnaise, and half a cup of soy milk in a bowl. I stir in two tablespoons of flour.

Then, I pour this mixture on top of the broccoli. I bake it for 45 minutes or until it turns golden brown on top.

By wavy58 — On Sep 12, 2011

I love potatoes and zucchini, so imagine my delight at finding a potato zucchini kugel recipe! I cooked it at my last family gathering, and it turned out to be wonderfully crispy outside and moist inside.

I preheated my oven to 400 degrees and sprayed a 9"x13" pan with cooking spray. Then, I grated three zucchini and six potatoes with a food processor. I let them stand for five minutes, and then I squeezed out a lot of the fluid. I added two chopped onions to the mix.

Next, I stirred in half a cup of all-purpose flour, six beaten eggs, two tablespoons of oil, and some salt and pepper. I poured it all in the pan and baked it until it was brown and a toothpick through the center came out clean. This took about an hour and fifteen minutes.

It tasted great as a side dish to my roasted chicken. I would recommend eating it while it is still very warm.

By kylee07drg — On Sep 11, 2011

@burcinc - My Jewish friend’s family uses this recipe for sweet kugel, so it is authentic. It is also delicious! Before you begin, I should tell you to start by soaking a cup of dark raisins in orange juice overnight.

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil water and cook eight ounces of noodles as directed on the package.

Combine two cups of sour cream, four eggs, a half cup of sugar, a half teaspoon salt, and a half cup of milk in a bowl until smooth and creamy.

Melt half a cup of butter in a 9x13 inch pan in the oven. Once it’s melted and the noodles are done, drain them and pour them in the pan, leveling them with a spatula. Then, pour the creamy mixture on top.

Drain the orange juice off the raisins and put them in the pan. Mix a small amount of cinnamon and sugar together and add two tablespoons of the mixture to the pan.

Bake the kugel for an hour. It tastes best when you serve it warm.

By ysmina — On Sep 10, 2011

@feruze- We have kugel every year at Yom Kippur when we break our fast. We have it as a side dish for dinner. I don't think it's very sweet, so I've never thought of it as dessert. Some people do serve it as dessert. I think it just depends on how sweet you make it and which other foods you are serving that day.

My mom makes the most amazing kugel, she doesn't put too much sugar in it, but lots of butter, eggs and some vanilla. I like having it sprinkled with cinnamon.

By burcinc — On Sep 10, 2011

My family is from Eastern Europe originally and although we are not Jewish, we make kugel too. I think Jewish communities taught this dish to other communities and neighbors and it spread in the region.

My family makes a non-sweet version and it is often made with leftover noodles, so that it is not wasted. Sometimes we put meat in it and sometimes not, but we always make it salty, not sweet.

I would love to try the sweet version sometime though, it sounds really good. Does anyone have a a recipe for the sweet version that I can try at home? I want to make it as close as possible to the authentic sweet kugel that Jewish families make.

By bear78 — On Sep 09, 2011

I had kugel when I was in Germany. It tasted very different to me first because when I saw the noodles, I expected it to be a salty dish. I was surprised when I tasted something pretty sweet. By the time I finished my plate though, I was used to the taste and it ended up being one of my favorite foods while I was in Germany. I really miss it now.

I don't know what I would call kugel, at least the kind I've had. It's not a meal, not a dessert, I think it's something in between, but definitely a very savory and satisfying food.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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