Cholent — the Ultimate Shabbas Food


Nothing makes for a tasty and aromatic Shabbat like a good cholent. While no two turn out the same, here are a few tips and recipes to get you started.

Cholent — no two are alike, not even two in the same house, made week after week in the same pot. There’s always a little something different or special about the cholent in my house.
Maybe that’s because we don’t measure. OK, I’ll fess up. I’m using “we” very liberally, as in “we need to take out the trash.” Translation: “Hubby, the trash is overflowing and I can’t take it anymore!”
So “we don’t measure” means hubby doesn’t measure. The famous family heirloom cholent recipe is his, or more precisely, his father’s. In the Geller house, cholent is a MAN thing, to the point that even after we were married and agreed to share everything — from our bank account to our bathroom — he wouldn’t reveal the secrets of his divine, hot, gem-of-a-cholent.
Then one Friday afternoon, he wasn’t feeling 100 percent. His choice was to entrust the recipe to me, or live without cholent for an entire Shabbat. A no-brainer. I was pressed into service and hubby directed me like an army general. 
“Potatoes and onions first on the bottom!” he thundered. “Beans and barley, now shake ’em so they fall into the crevices!” I shook. “Meat around the sides — no, no, bones out — bones facing out!” The pressure was so intense, I almost didn’t want to know the recipe anymore. I didn’t want to make cholent ever.
But I did. And eventually hubby came through for me, too. He gallantly measured his cholent ingredients for the sake of my cookbook. Now it’s a famous recipe and was even featured in the New York Times. (How crazy is that? They did make one change, though, and hubby will never forgive them.)
Yet no matter what I do, mine never comes out just like his. I guess it remains his job forever. I don’t want to make cholent anyway, and I also don’t wanna take out the trash. So the familiar patterns remain: we eat the famous Geller cholent, the house is clean and smells nice, and it’s all good in the monseyhood.
Some quick and kosher cholent facts:
• Cholent was invented to prove that Jews could and should eat hot food on Shabbat, even though cooking on Shabbat isn’t allowed. (Really. The challenge came from a sect called Karaites who insisted that the Shabbat laws meant that we must literally eat cold food.) Some brilliant person (probably a Geller ancestor) came up with the idea of pre-cooking a magnificent stew on Friday and keeping it hot all Shabbat.
• Cholent is also known as dafina or chamim (meaning “hot stuff”).
• Cholent staples: beans, barley, meat and potatoes.
• Cholent seasoning: anything your tummy can handle. We use paprika, pepper, honey and consommé mix, and I’ve heard that people use everything from beer to peanut butter to cinnamon to eggs, to hot dogs, to pastrami, to squash to barbecue sauce. Some folks even use all of those together. Anything goes!
• The Great Bean Debate: There are those that soak the cholent beans overnight before they cook them, and those that say that it makes no difference. If you soak the beans overnight, it reduces the cooking time — but when you are slow-cooking for almost 24 hours it doesn’t really make that much difference. However, soaking them may reduce the gaseous effect it has. It also cleans a lot of the dirt off of them that mere washing might not.
A way to get around the Great Bean Debate: use canned baked beans!
Family Heirloom Cholent
Note: You can substitute the 3 tablespoons of chicken consommé mix and 3 cups water with 3 cups of chicken broth.
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
2 medium onions, peeled, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 2 lb. piece of flanken, cut into 4 to 6 pieces
1⁄2 Tbsp. coarse black pepper
3⁄4 cup barley
1 cup dried light red kidney beans
3 Tbsps. chicken consommé mix
2 Tbsps. paprika
2 Tbsps. honey
1 kishka loaf (1 lb.)
3 cups water
Line bottom of slow cooker with potatoes and onions.
Rinse flanken and pat dry. Place pieces around sides of crock pot, with bones on the outside.
Generously pepper meat.
Add barley and beans. Shake the pot a bit so some of the barley and beans fall into the spaces between the potatoes and onions.
Season with consommé mix, paprika and honey.
Place kishka on top.
Pour in water, adding more if necessary, to completely cover all ingredients.
Cook on low heat overnight, at least 8 hours.
Serves 8.
Vegetarian Chicken Apple Sausage Cholent
Recipe courtesy of Tamar Genger. If you are looking for a different kind of cholent, this one is for you. You can make it vegetarian by using veggie chicken apple sausage, but you can still keep it pretty healthy by using real chicken apple sausage. Fry the onions and sausage — and even the vegetables — before cooking for added flavor. 
4 Tbsps. olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced into half rings
1 package (12 oz.) vegetarian or regular chicken apple sausage links, cut into pieces
2 medium potatoes, halved and sliced
1 large carrot stalk, cut into chunks
1 bag Manischewitz Four Bean Mix (beans should be soaked for a few hours or overnight)
1⁄2 cup barley
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 carton Manischewitz vegetable broth
Heat oil in a medium-to-large frying pan. Add onions and sauté until golden; remove to slow cooker or 9×13-inch baking pan. Add the sausage to the pan and fry until golden; place on top of the onions. Add potatoes and carrots to the pan and brown before adding to the baking pan.
Pour the beans and barley over the vegetables. Sprinkle seasoning packet, cumin and paprika over top and then pour in vegetable broth.
If using a slow cooker, cover and set on low, cook a minimum of 8 hours and up to 18 for Shabbat lunch. If using a baking pan, cover tightly and place in a 225˚ oven for the same amount of time.
Serves 6.
Lemon Lamb Cholent
Recipe courtesy of Tamar Genger.
2 potatoes
1 lb. lamb (stew meat or shank bone)
2 chicken legs
1⁄2 bag frozen spinach
1 can garbanzo beans
1 cup short grain brown rice
3-4 cups water
1⁄2 Tbsp. curry powder
1⁄2 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. paprika
1⁄2 Tbsp. salt
juice of 2 lemons 
Put all the ingredients in crock pot. Turn on low and let cook for about 18 hours.
Serves 6.
Recipes reprinted courtesy of


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