Kugel is an Ashkenazi Jewish delicacy made from egg noodles or potatoes, typically baked in a savoury-sweet custard-like sauce made from eggs, sugar, sour cream and cottage cheese. It is traditionally served as a side dish on Shabbat or on Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashana, although the noodle version should not be eaten during Passover due to Jewish dietary law.
Kugels can be savoury or sweet, although even the savoury versions often have some sweetness to them. Sweeter versions can sometimes contain raisins or other dried fruits, and in the USA they sometimes have toppings made from crushed cornflakes, graham crackers, or pecan pralines.
History and origin
Kugel has undergone many changes over the centuries, and seems to have originated in 12th century Germany as a bread-based dumpling bound together with egg. This then evolved into a steamed pudding, cooked in a round clay pot called a kugeltopf, which is where the dish gets its name.
In the 1500s, noodles began to replace bread as the carbohydrate of choice, and the dish began to take on the form that most people would recognise today. Sugar was introduced in the 1800s, when Polish Jews began refining sugar beets to create an affordable source of sugar. This meant that sweet versions of the kugel were now also possible, with spices like cinnamon and vanilla added at a later date. The potato version is also thought to have originated in the 1800s, with potatoes offering a cheap alternative to noodles for poorer families.
Make your own noodle kugel with this easy, step by step recipe.
2 ½ tsp
1 stick, plus extra to grease the pan
1 lb, full fat
1 lb, full fat
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Add ½ tsp of the salt to a large pan of water and bring to the boil.
- Add the noodles and cook for around 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are al dente.
- Drain the noodles, but not too thoroughly, so they are still covered in drops of water.
- Grease a large baking dish with some butter, making sure the base and sides are thoroughly covered.
- Cut the stick of butter into large squares and place in a microwaveable bowl.
- Heat the butter in the microwave for 1 minute, or until it is melted, and set aside to cool.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl for around 2 minutes, until the sugar disappears and the eggs begin to froth.
- Add the cottage cheese, sour cream, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and the rest of the salt, and whisk until combined.
- Pour in the melted butter and whisk again.
- Add the egg noodles and stir well with a spoon until they are fully coated.
- Pour the noodles and sauce into the greased baking dish, shaking the dish slightly until the noodles are spread evenly throughout.
- Lift some of the noodles so their edges are sticking up above the sauce.
- Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the sauce has set, and the noodles poking through the top are browned and crispy.
- Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then slice into squares and serve.
How to serve it
Kugel is traditionally served as a side dish alongside something meaty like brisket or roast chicken. In this case it would normally be served warm, but it can also be refrigerated and eaten cold the next day. Sweeter versions can also be eaten hot or cold, and taste great with fresh cream or vanilla ice cream.
As we have already mentioned, kugel is popularly eaten on Shabbat, or during Jewish holidays. Potato kugel is a better option during the 8 days of Passover, however, as noodles are made with wheat, which is forbidden during the Passover period.
The two main varieties of kugel are the noodle kugel, sometimes referred to as lokshen kugel (לאָקשן קוגל), and the potato kugel. The noodle kugel is the original and most widely eaten variety, and can be either savoury or sweet, while the potato kugel is always savoury. Potato kugel is made with potatoes, onions, eggs, and flour or matzo meal, and is perhaps more similar to a latke than to a noodle kugel. The potatoes may be grated, for a more crispy texture, or puréed, for a smoother, more pudding-like consistency.
Both noodle kugel and potato kugel can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you’re baking ahead, let them cool to room temperature before chilling to avoid condensation. Cover the dish with a lid or some plastic wrap, or if you have leftovers, place them in an airtight container.
If you want to discover more about Jewish cuisine and culture, our Guide to Jewish Holiday Cooking has everything you need to know about traditional Jewish dishes and when to eat them.