The Jewish Tradition of Kugel
In any culture, there is always a dish that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but tastes absolutely delicious. For me that dish is kugel.
Kugel is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish, which means it originated with Jewish people who descended from eastern Europe, France, and Germany. It is most similar to a bread pudding but it’s usually made with noodles and sometimes potato. It can be savory or sweet, but it’s always served as part of the main meal.
You’ll most likely find it baked in a 9- by 13-inch pan and sliced into squares, but you’ll also find it made in Bundt pans and sliced as such.
Kugel is one of those dishes that most often comes passed down from generation to generation, or borrowed from a friend after eating their delicious version.
What's in Raisin Kugel?
Most noodle kugels start with a base of egg noodles, cottage cheese or farmers cheese, and sour cream.
My own bubbie (Yiddish for grandma) made a very simple savory version with egg noodles, eggs, sour cream, cottage cheese and pepper, whereas you now mostly see sweet kugels filled with cinnamon and raisins.
It is not unusual to see them topped with Corn Flakes, a mid-century nod to more American-Jewish cooking.
And then there are the outlier twists you may see—canned pineapple, candied pecans, orange juice, ricotta. Really, you can add anything you think may taste good.
My family never had a hard-fast sweet kugel recipe like we did for things like matzo ball soup. So when we had friends or extended family over for dinner, they were most often the ones to bring their version.
So creating this recipe, I thought of the best of a traditional sweet kugel and made a few tweaks along the way, like subbing in golden raisins for regular, and doing cinnamon and demerara sugar on top instead of corn flakes.
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t overthink kugel. As long as you have the base (noodle + egg + dairy) combination down, the rest is your easel to experiment.
And may I add that leftover kugel makes an excellent breakfast. My kids agree!
4 large eggs
1 pkg (16 oz.) egg noodles
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
16 oz. sour cream
16 oz. cottage cheese
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup golden raisins (can use regular raisins or omit)
1 tsp. demerara sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Boil noodles just under al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain.
While water is boiling, combine eggs, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, sugars, cinnamon and vanilla in a large bowl.
Add noodles to egg mixture. Fold in raisins. Pour into a 9- by 13-inch pan.
In a small bowl, combine demerara sugar and cinnamon. Top uncooked casserole with cinnamon-sugar mix.
Bake for 50-55 minutes at 350°F or until golden brown. Remove from oven, let stand 5 minutes, then serve.