A traditional Jewish comfort food
where potatoes take center stage
In my episode titled “How the World Cooks Potatoes,” I was lucky enough to taste several potato-based dishes from around the world. The first dish I made was called potato kugel, an Ashkenazi Jewish dish that closely resembles a type of potato casserole. Potatoes, onions, flour, and eggs come together in a baked or steamed pudding. This dish was a crispy, creamy, and savory potato pancake dream! Incredibly simple to make yet satisfying to eat, potato kugels are an inspired way to make the most of what you have.
I was gifted this potato kugel recipe by Rezyl from New York City, whose family is Ashkenazi Jewish. Her ancestors migrated to the United States around 1900 from various Eastern European countries, including Russia, Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine. People of Ashkenazi descent created potato kugel with few ingredients; in addition to latkes and knishes, potato kugel is a dish that demonstrates human ingenuity and creativity using basic ingredients to produce delicious concoctions.
These recipes often originated from poverty-stricken groups without much food in the house, but they hold no shortage of flavor and later became beloved meals among Ashkenazi Jewish groups. Rezyl emphasizes the versatility of this starch-based dish, as it can be prepared sweet or savory. You can also make it your own by adding condiments of your choosing, and people throughout Eastern Europe now enjoy both classic and innovative versions of potato kugel.
Kugel dishes date back to Middle Ages. The word “kugel” comes from the German word for “ball,” since the initial shape of a kugel was spherical. Potatoes weren’t popular in Eastern Europe until the 19th century; shortly thereafter, people adapted this starch as a base for the kugel, and potato kugels were commonly served on the Sabbath or during Jewish holidays.
This incredibly satisfying and delicious dish can be enjoyed in any form, either hot from the oven or cold from a leftover container in the fridge. The salty, oniony casserole pairs well with ketchup, which balances out the primary black pepper spice. Potato kugel is a simple yet yummy addition to any dinner or party.
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- 8 medium Yukon gold potatoes peeled and coarsely shredded
- 2 medium-large onions coarsely shredded
- 5 large eggs
- ¾ cup matzah meal
- ½ Tbsp salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- paprika for sprinkling
- thick sea salt
- ¾ cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- When oven is preheated, add 1/3 cup olive oil to a 9×13 pyrex dish and put into the oven to heat up.
- Whisk eggs together in a large bowl.
- Add shredded potato, onion, matzo meal, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix until combined.
- When oil has been heating about 10 minutes, remove from oven.
- Add a small spoonful of the potato mixture and if it starts sizzling, it is hot enough. If not, put it back in the oven for a few minutes.
- When oil is ready, add the entire potato mixture and spread in a even layer using an offset spatula or large spoon.
- Sprinkle sweet or hot paprika on top and a sprinkle of thick sea salt.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes until crispy around the edges and golden brown on top.
- Allow to cool slightly before cutting into squares.
- Serve warm or room temperature.
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