6 Common Ingredients to Have on Hand for Any Jewish Recipe

The advent of cooler weather means only one thing – comfort food, and plenty of it. From holiday celebrations with family and friends to low-key meals at home with immediate loved ones, delicious food takes center stage. Whether you’re a veteran home baker or a beginning chef, there are always opportunities to discover a new recipe.

In your exploration of the best Jewish food, you should always have certain ingredients on hand. These common ingredients are easy to find in any grocery or convenience store and can be used for a wide variety of recipes, from basic dinner recipes to impressive desserts that will have everyone sitting up and asking for more.

Potatoes for latkes, kugel and more

A staple in pantries around the world, potatoes are humble but immensely versatile. They can be used for many Jewish dishes, including potato kugel. While kugel can be made sweet or savory, potato kugel is one of the most popular ways to enjoy this delicacy. Potato kugel resembles nothing so much as a giant baked tater tot, and when embellished with seasonings, makes a fabulous side dish.

Potato latkes are another popular Jewish recipe made with potatoes. These crispy little potato pancakes are perfect for any occasion but are most commonly enjoyed around Hanukkah, to honor and celebrate the day the Jews won their rebellion against their Syrian rulers. Latkes are fried in oil to symbolize the untainted olive oil used to light the menorah after they found that their holy temple had been desecrated.

Yeast for the perfect challah bread

Yeast is an afterthought in many homes but for Jewish bakers, it is a necessity. Yeast is the active ingredient used to make dough rise, and it is used in most breads, whether sweet or savory. Possibly the most popular Jewish delicacy that uses yeast is challah, the traditional egg-based bread. Challah is typically braided and served on the Sabbath, although it is traditionally served round on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize renewal.

Yeast is also used in sweets, like sufganiyot. These delicious jelly-filled donuts are commonly served during Hanukkah and provide the perfect bite, bursting with flavor and tantalizing the tastebuds. Made with yeast, egg yolks, flour, orange zest, warm milk, sugar, and butter, sufganiyot might be intimidating to make the first time, but they are well worth the effort.

Onions for flavorful soups, cucumber salad, and roasts

Many savory Jewish dishes are made with onion, from stew to kugel. The mild, hearty flavor makes it ideal for every appetite, adding a depth of flavor to supper recipes. Matzoh ball soup is one of the most popular Jewish recipes that use onion. This comforting dish is a mainstay in many Jewish homes. It’s mde with fluffy matzoh balls, carrots, kosher chicken, onion, and celery. This soup not only boosts immunity during cold fall and winter months, but it reminds many of a simpler time when there was always a pot of soup simmering away on the stove.

For a little something zesty, try making pickled cucumber salad. Made with thin-sliced onions and cucumbers, the star of this dish is undoubtedly the briny liquid that the vegetables are soaked in. Pickled cucumber salad is the perfect addition to any meal and can be kept in the refrigerator for weeks.

Raisins to sweeten honey challah and rugelach

Underrated and delicious, raisins have the unique distinction of being an ingredient that can be a standalone snack or a fabulous addition to many Jewish recipes. Raisins are commonly added to sweet breads, including honey challah and rugelach, but they are especially perfect in bagels. Boiled and then baked to a perfect golden finish, bagels are ideal for daily noshing. They can also be served sliced, with cream cheese on the side, for holiday celebrations.

Raisins are also often included in mandelbrot, a twice-baked biscotti made without butter. These crispy cookies use oil and are traditionally made with raisins and other sweet mix-ins. Of course, raisins are also a simple snack, providing a quick burst of natural energy and sweetness.

Chocolate in all varieties 

Most Jewish kitchens have several types of chocolate for all types of sweet recipes. From bitter cocoa powder that can be added to sugar and butter to solid chunks of chocolate that can be nibbled as well as added to various desserts, chocolate is versatile as well as tasty. While there are countless Jewish recipes that utilize chocolate, rainbow cookies are one of the most popular. These colorful cookies are often served at synagogues. They’re made from three thin cakes, stacked on top of each other and topped with a smooth layer of melted chocolate.

Rugelach is also a great way to use chocolate. These pastries can be made with the filling of your choice, including raisins or sweetened cheese, but they are particularly delicious when made with chocolate. Top your rugelach with powdered sugar or chocolate sauce, or even plain. The possibilities are endless with this traditional Jewish dessert!

Flour as a staple for bread, noodles, and matzoh balls

Flour is the cornerstone of most recipes, both sweet and savory. It’s the staple ingredient in bread, as well as noodles, matzoh balls, and most desserts. Hamantaschen is one recipe that uses flour to great effect, with these flaky, toothsome pastries proving especially popular during Purim. They are also versatile and can be filled with whatever you like, although most home bakers opt to use apricot jam.

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