Potato Kugel is a classic Eastern-European Jewish recipe made with potatoes, onions and eggs. You may also know it as a potato pudding. The creamy center is topped with a golden crust and the crispy edges are totally irresistible. A wonderful side dish and even more perfect on its own! Slice it up and watch it disappear! Totally vegetarian, dairy-free, and gluten-free.
As another Rosh Hashanah was approaching, I somehow was not preparing any thing for a celebration at my family’s house on Friday evening. The phone calls and texts were circling around and there were messages about who was bringing what. My mom was supposed to go over to my brother’s and cook with my sister-in-law. She was going to make the brisket on Wednesday.
There was also talk of mom making a honey cake. So that meant I was out to bake the dessert. I did get a request by my sister-in-law to make a paleo honey cake. But as I was out of almond flour and didn’t make it to the market in time, the paleo honey cake was also out. My brother was making a matzo ball soup.
I was thinking about the bread and thought it had been so long since I baked a challah. When we were staying home back in March and yeast was out in every store, mom bought ONE pound of yeast. Yes, she by mistake on Amazon bought the 1 lb. bag of Safir yeast. And I don’t know why I haven’t gotten into bread baking every day.
I have baked a handful of focaccia’s and breads since March, but I should be making my own bread daily to use up this yeast. But most importantly, because baking my own bread is so relaxing and completely satisfying.
So I decided to bake challah. Just two very simple challahs. I have made poppy seed challah, red beet challah, and my all-time favorite, cinnamon raisin challah. I did add a little bit of my sourdough discard, and the result was an incredible bread I will share here soon.
But back to this kugel! Mom was going to make a noodle kugel, but my sister-in-law said to skip it. I couldn’t stop thinking about making a potato kugel. I was wavering between a fluffy kugel on thekitchn and Smitten Kitchen’s very swirly and beautiful cast iron potato kugel. I went with Deb’s recipe, as I trusted she would be the one to lead me in the right kugel direction. And I was right!
Can I make potato kugel without a food processor?
Yes, you can! I could not find the blade insert for my food processor, so I dug out my box grater. I grated the potatoes one by one. It’s really not that hard of a job. Maybe I’m so used to grating zucchini for when I make my zucchini bread. It really only took a few minutes. You just have to add the grated potatoes to a bowl with water and a bit of vinegar. Since the potatoes sit a while while you grate one by one, they will brown while you’re grating. IF you use your food processor, no need to soak in water with vinegar, because it gets mixed together quicker than if you are grating one by one.
How do you make a potato kugel?
The first thing you need to do is gather all your ingredients.
This is what is needed to make a potato kugel:
- yellow onion
- baking potatoes (Russet or Idaho)
- corn starch (potato starch, flour or matzo meal will work)
- freshly ground black pepper
- large eggs
- extra-virgin olive oil, schmaltz or another oil could work.
Once you have every thing gathered up, start with grating the potatoes. You could do this entirely by hand with a box grater. I find it very relaxing to grate potatoes (and I also find it very relaxing to knead bread…but that is just me! You may prefer the convenience of your food processor).
After you have potatoes and onions grated up, they are added to the bowl with the eggs and corn starch, salt and pepper. Mix it all with your clean hands…it really is the best way to combine it all.
Next, heat up the oil in your baking dish, and then carefully add in potato mixture.
I just love my vintage baking dish. It was lighter to transport than a cast-iron to my sister-in-law’s and it did keep the kugel warm (I wrapped the top with foil paper). But a cast iron is also ideal (as long as you don’t have to carry it anywhere)!
What did my Jewish sister-in-law think of the kugel? She was so surprised that I made one (I didn’t announce it in a text) and when she took the first bite, she said, “This is just like my grandma Sally used to make it. This is so good!” I told my sister-in-law I almost went the fluffy kugel direction. She said, “No, my grandma’s kugel was never fluffy. A real kugel is just like this. It’s more dense and this is delicious. Just like my grandma Sally’s”.
That feeling when you can create something that brings back a memory of someone’s grandmother’s special recipe is truly priceless. So I thank Deb for making what a real kugel should be. This was Jewish sister-in-law approved and it is a cinch to make!
As for the challah bread, their eyes lit up when they saw me walk in with my just baked challah. They blessed it with a prayer, began to rip up chunks and pass around the table, and it was gone in a flash and everyone LOVED it. SO the sourdough challah will come soon over here for all of you.
What baking dish do I use to make a potato kugel?
Deb uses a cast iron skillet, and I have seen other recipes that do. The cast iron skillet get you more crispy edges. I have made mine in a vintage baking dish and I did get very crispy edges.
What kind of oil is used in this potato recipe?
My sister-in-law mentioned her gradma Sally used a fat (like chicken fat, or schmaltz). But I see recipes where it is oil. And I chose extra-virgin olive oil. Like with my other recipes, I used a very flavorful oil that I have here on hand. You will be eating it, so the better the oil, the better the flavor (and the better it is for you).
What is used to bind a kugel together?
Deb used potato starch in her recipe (I didn’t have any on hand). I used corn starch. I have seen recipes that use flour or matzo meal. I have seen recipes that don’t use any thing at all.
From what I am learning about a kugel, it is like with many traditional recipes. If you are lucky to have your grandmother or mother’s recipe, you will most likely be making it as they did. The recipe could vary from family to family. I just was lucky and found a recipe that is just like my sister-in-law’s grandma Sally’s. Just remember that the best potato kugel is tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. It is a dreamy side dish for Shabbat or any holiday. It’s even better the next day (if you’re lucky to have any leftovers!). It is fantastic with a brisket or any meat main course.
PIN for later!
More potato recipes to try:
Recipe (slight adaption) from Smitten Kitchen
- 1 large yellow onion
- 3 pounds or about 5 large baking potatoes (Idaho or Russet) peeled
- 1/3 cup corn starch*
- 2 teaspoons salt I used sea salt, but use Kosher if you have on hand
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil schmaltz or another oil could work.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- If you do not have a food processor, pull out your box grater. Grate the potatoes. They will brown quickly, so if you are doing by hand, as you grate the potatoes, put them in a bowl with water and and little bit of white vinegar (about a tablespoon).
- When you are done grating the potatoes, grate the onion. You could also chop the onion very fine by hand.
- Using your hands or a clean dish towel, wring out all the vinegar water from the potatoes. Add them to the large bowl with the grated onions.
- Food processor:
- First blend the onions with the regular blade until finely ground. Remove the onions and put in a large bowl.
- Switch to the grating blade, grate the potatoes.
- Add the potatoes to the bowl with the onions. Sprinkle on the corn starch. Add the salt and pepper. Next, add on the eggs directly on top of the potato mixture. You could use your clean hands to mix it all together. Make sure the corn starch is completely combined with potatoes. You could also use forks or a wooden spoon to mix it all together, but by hand is easiest way.
- If you’re using an oven safe casserole dish (I used a rectangular one), add the 4 tablespoons of oil and heat it up in the casserole for about 5 minutes.
- If you’re using a 9 or 10-inch cast-iron skillet, add 4 tablespoons of the oil and heat on high heat for a few minutes (should take about 5 minutes to get it very hot). If you use a 9-inch skillet, the kugel will be taller.
- Carefully add the potato mixture to the casserole (or your cast-iron skillet), taking care that it may splatter a little, as the oil is very hot. Spread out the potato mixture. You could twist the potatoes a little (if they’re long strands)and get a swirled texture look on top. Drizzle on the last tablespoon of oil.
- Bake for about 60-70 minutes, or until kugel is golden brown on top and tender on the inside. The potatoes on top will be nice and crispy. You don’t want to over bake it. Mine was ready at about 65 minutes. If it’s browning too much on top, you could cover with foil paper for last few minutes of baking (I didn’t need to with mine).
- Sprinkle on some chopped Italian parsley (optional). Cut into squares and pass around the table while it's warm.
Store in fridge for up to 4 days. Store up to 3 months in the freezer. Let kugel defrost in fridge before warming in oven. *I used cornstarch, but you could use potato starch. You could also use matzo meal or even flour.