A few days ago, I found myself craving kugel. Like, seriously craving. There’s nothing better than pulling a cold slice of leftover kugel out of the refrigerator as a midnight snack. Or for breakfast. Or whenever, really. If you’ve enjoyed a good kugel before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. A delicious slice of homemade kugel is simply the best. The best! So I made a kugel. Why not? They’re easy enough to throw together.
A kugel is a quintessentially Jewish dish that is best described as a baked pudding. The dish originated over 800 years ago in Germany and quickly became popular with Jewish families throughout Eastern Europe. Usually kugel is served as a side dish, so both dairy and pareve (neutral) kugels are cooked to suit kosher dairy or meat meals. There are many kinds of kugel—noodle kugels, potato kugels, lokshen kugels, sweet kugels, savory kugels. Slow cooking overnight kugels were invented by Orthodox and strictly observant families who do not cook during the hours of Shabbat. Pareve (neutral – non-dairy) kugel is often served at life-cycle events, like barmitzvahs, as part of a buffet of foods. Dairy kugels are enjoyed on dairy meal holidays like Shavuot, Hannukah, and for the break-fast meal after Yom Kippur.
Today, you can order a slice of noodle kugel in almost any American Jewish deli… but why buy when it’s so simple to make yourself? Kugel is actually one of the easiest Jewish dishes to cook. Once you know the basic components (starch, eggs, and dairy or non-dairy fat), there are endless possibilities. You can even get creative by adding fruit, flavorings, and different toppings to create your own “signature” kugel.
I’ve come up with many variations on kugel over the years. The one I’m sharing today will be a favorite with people who like vanilla. The addition of pudding provides moisture, and the crunchy vanilla cookie topping adds texture. It’s a sweet, fun, unique dish for a potluck or family gathering.
You can make this kugel using any store branded products you like. I try to use organic ingredients whenever possible to cut down on our exposure to unhealthy additives and preservatives. I bought organic kosher-certified vanilla wafers at Whole Foods (365 brand) and kosher organic vanilla pudding, too (Dr. Oetker brand). If you prefer to use more standard store brands, Nilla Wafers and Jello vanilla pudding mix are both kosher certified… they’ll work great. Feel free to cut down on calories by using lowfat ingredients, but I wouldn’t use the nonfat stuff. Kugel needs a little fat in it to make it yummy. Enjoy!
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- 1 cup prepared vanilla pudding
- 1 lb egg noodles
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups milk (any percentage is fine, except nonfat)
- 3/4 cup lowfat sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8 oz. vanilla wafer cookies (makes about 2 cups of crumbs)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
You will also need
- Electric mixer, 9x13 inch baking dish (or something close to that size), mixing bowls
- Take cream cheese out of the refrigerator to let it soften. Prepare pudding according to package directions and chill till soft set (thickened, but it doesn't need to be completely firm).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Boil the egg noodles according to package directions till they reach an al dente texture (cooked, but not too soft or limp). Drain and rinse with cold water till noodles are cool. Drain again.
- Use an electric mixer to cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Add the eggs and mix again till blended.
- Add pudding, milk, sour cream, vanilla and salt. Mix on medium high till all ingredients are well blended.
- Pour noodles into the liquid mixture. Stir to combine noodles and liquid, making sure all noodles are covered in liquid and no noodle clumps have formed.
- Pour noodle mixture into a greased casserole or baking dish.
- Crush vanilla wafer cookies to a crumbly texture. I do this by placing the cookies into a plastic Ziploc bag and pounding them with a mallet. You want them crushed fine, but not to a powder-- a little texture is good. Place crumbs in a small mixing bowl.
- Add sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter to the crumbs. Mix with a fork for a couple of minutes till all of the crumbs are evenly moistened by the butter.
- Evenly sprinkle the crumbly topping across the top of the kugel.
- Bake kugel uncovered on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, turning the dish once during baking to make sure it bakes evenly. Kugel is done when the topping lightly browns all the way across. Remove from the oven.
- You can serve this kugel warm or cold. Store it in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage. The topping won't be as crunchy the second day, but it will still taste delicious. Enjoy!