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How We Cholent

Synonymous with the aromas of Shabbos. Evidence of our lineage. A dish that encapsulates generations of keeping Shabbos and following our Sages. And yet, no two cholents are the same. Whether you’re looking for ways to up your cholent game, or simply smiling and nodding at these suggestions because your cholent rocks, here are the Mishpacha team’s must-throw-into-the-Crock-Pot suggestions. Good Shabbos!

A good piece of meat is what makes a cholent. My favorite is a mix of flanken and cheek meat.

Yussi Weisz

I use one of those Crock-Pots that has a clasp to keep it closed, which helps reduce the smell.

If I’m having a big crowd (kiddush in my house, etc.), I start my cholent on the stove Friday afternoon in my biggest Dutch oven and transfer it to the oven at 225°F before Shabbos. Comes out great!

Michal Frischman

My husband’s friend makes a very cool and different cholent. Let me start off by saying that I tried it, and it was delicious. In a six-quart pot, they put all the regulars. Plenty of meat, potatoes, beans, barley, onion. Then, to season it, they add 1 cup of La Choy soy sauce, and that’s it. (Besides water.)

Think it sounds too simple? Read the ingredients on the back, and you’ll understand. It covers all the bases. It’s very salty, has plenty of umami, and has sweetener too (which is a hot topic in cholent, but it works in this case), and it has caramel color to give cholent its recognizable color.

Chanie Nayman

We’re a mostly boys household, and my husband does cholent duty. A couple of years ago, he started adding a random secret ingredient into the cholent each week — and everyone needs to guess what it is. It can be (and has been!) anything: fresh ginger, lemon juice, eggplant, pickles, pear, apple, pretzels, spaghetti...you name it. And after complaining about our rubia consumption (you know, I buy a package each year for Rosh Hashanah, make a cup of it, everyone eats exactly one black-eyed pea, and then the rest of the package stays in the pantry until Erev Pesach), he started adding in a handful of those every week, too.

For the sake of this article, I asked my husband what was the weirdest thing he ever put in our cholent (unsure if I wanted the answer). He looked at me, taken aback. “Nothing’s weird in cholent! What can be weird?”

Bracha Stein

Rivky Kleiman’s chipotle spice is the best, best cholent addition! And you can’t make good cholent without bones. Nothing to even discuss here.

Miriam (Pascal) Cohen

I make a Hawaiian cholent! In addition to all the soft meat, I add raisins, sweet potatoes, and pineapple. Yum!

Menachem Weinreb

My cholent recipe is very methodical. I put in exactly three seconds’ worth of ketchup. Everything else is relatively standard.

Hudi Greenberger

My mother-in-law swears by searing the meat before putting up the cholent. My husband kindly makes the cholent, but I didn’t love that fact that I had an extra dirty pot to wash on Friday morning (I try to finish my cooking by Thursday night).

One week he skipped the searing, and the meat was still really soft. We tried it that way for three weeks to make a chazakah and it was extra soft, so…no more searing. We did find that some brands of meat were better than others, though.

Sori Auslander

Is it sacrilege to say my cholent tastes best with half a bottle of Coke and a package of onion soup mix? Also, when I’m out of barley, I use either farro or brown basmati rice.

Chaia Frishman

Someone told me an awesome hack for cholent. Put frozen cauliflower into a mesh bag and place it in the middle of the cholent. The cauliflower picks up the taste of the cholent. It’s carb free and can make a great vegetarian cholent! I’ve been doing this lately, and it’s delicious.

We also put a bottle of my brisket sauce into the cholent every week, and it gives the cholent an amazing flavor.

Estee Kafra

For a while I was using a can of sardines to lift my Crock-Pot. One Friday night we ate out and came home to find the lid off the Crock-Pot and cholent all over the place — literally up to the ceiling! I thought we’d been robbed but couldn’t imagine why they’d bother to make a mess with the cholent. Then I realized the sardines had exploded from being heated! I wonder if maybe I left the heat on higher that week and that’s why it happened.

After that, I found a rock in a very good shape that I wrapped in silver foil and have used ever since.

Faigy Grossmann

The first time I made cholent, I followed a recipe that called for tomato sauce and I used marinara. My house smelled like a weird penne dish all Shabbos, and my husband has been making the cholent ever since!

Sima Kazarnovsky

My family hates that overcooked meat from the cholent, but you do need meat for flavor. Here’s what I do: Every time I cook a roast, I cut off the ends or the slices that aren’t pretty, and also the very fatty pieces, and stick them in the freezer. When I make my cholent, I add those pieces. The seasonings add good flavor to the cholent and I don’t feel so guilty about dumping them.

I also love adding Heinz beans. They add the perfect amount of sweetness.

To reduce the smell a bit, I learned this hack when I used to manage a kitchen for a caterer: If you keep your cholent in the oven, seal the pan with Saran wrap and then put on the foil cover. It keeps the cholent and kugel moist and reduces the smell because it’s sealed.

Chaya Surie Goldberger

My secret to a great cholent is to use three tablespoons of a spice mix I based on Danielle Renov’s spice mix in her brisket recipe in the Peas, Love, & Carrots cookbook.

Here’s my version:

  • 3 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp smoked paprika (If I don’t have smoked paprika, I use regular paprika and add a few drops of liquid smoke.)
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp ground coriander

I leave out beans — we like it better without — and one of my best cholent eaters won’t eat anything with onions, so there are no onions either. So basically, it’s meat, a cup of barley, and 10 small potatoes, halved. If I run out of barley, I use brown rice — no one in my family noticed yet, please don’t tell them. Lots of ketchup and a squeeze of mustard as well.

Sara Bonchek

One size does not fit all with cholent, and al taam varayach… That said, the meat component is super important, and lots of it. The best is flanken (if you can afford it — otherwise go for a slightly fatty meat; lean doesn’t work too well). Lamb and pastrami are excellent for variety. If you try pareve — go to jail, do not pass go… It’s assur!

As for bones, if you currently don’t have a mortgage and can afford to go into debt for marrow bones, go for it. (I yearn for those days when the butchers used to throw all the bones into a huge garbage container with liner and it was complementary, help yourself!)

Soak beans and barley overnight. Go easy on the beans. (My wife likes to use baked beans.) Add any and all spices in your pantry (salt and pepper are a must). Add ketchup, sweet potato and/or regular potato, cut into smallish pieces. Fried onions (preferably) or raw. Add water to cover.

Layer it in the Crock-Pot, with bones and meat on the bottom. After a few hours, mix periodically.

Options — add potato kugel on top and/or kishka wrapped in parchment.

That’s the rundown, as far as I can recollect. It’s been a while since shanah rishonah, when I made the requisite chassan cholent each week.

Little tip, if you don’t want to use a bag or parchment to line your Crock-Pot, spray it with pam to make cleanup a breeze.

Avi Lazar

Cholent smell is my nemesis!!! Literally cannot eat or drink Shabbos morning because the cholent is such a strong smell to wake up to! I make it because I need to, but with very little love. I love kishka, though.

The Pro Chef Crock-Pot with the glass cover is the only passionate opinion I have when it comes to cholent!

Danielle Renov

My tip to an amazing cholent is lots and lots of fried onions…and also a sprinkle of chili powder. It doesn’t make it spicy, just gives it a yummy and unique twist.

Menachem Goodman

My family loves rice cholent (no beans or barley). It’s delicious, and we pretend it’s some fancy risotto.

Chaya Suri Leitner

Cholent for Two

I love to host and feed a crowd, but when it’s just my husband and me, I’ve always struggled to make a cholent that didn’t end up with heaps of leftovers and lots of cholent in the garbage.

Initially, I put in enough meat for two people, but included extra beans, barley, and potatoes. I figured if I’m throwing out most of my cholent, it should be the inexpensive fillers. But still, I hate throwing out food.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that it’s simply not possible to make a small, two-person cholent in a full-size Crock-Pot. So I bought a two-and-a-half quart Crock-Pot and scaled down my cholent, and we’re barely throwing out cholent leftovers anymore. If you’re cooking for two to three people, I can’t recommend a small Crock-Pot enough!

—Miriam (Pascal) Cohen

6 Random Cholent Ingredients That are Weird But Work

Coffee: It gives a lot more color than it does flavor, and the right color is key!

Msg powder: It’s not as unhealthy as you think. It’s literally a salt with some proteins in it, and it’s the king of flavor.

Beer: This adds a lot of umami thanks to the fermentation.

Chickpeas: Like beans, but it has a great texture.

Prunes: They add sweetness and color.

Chocolate chips: Think about cocoa powder in mushroom dip, and you won’t be scratching your head so much. They definitely add color!

Don’t Overcook It

Here’s the cholent secret that has completely changed my life, and I’m on a serious mission to convince people to let it change their lives too.

You know how people love eating cholent on Friday afternoon, but barely touch it when it comes to Shabbos lunch? It’s because the cholent is way overcooked by the time Shabbos lunch rolls around.

The solution is simple: Prepare the cholent ahead of time — Thursday night, Friday, whatever works for you. But leave it raw. Then, just before you bentch licht, plug it in. It starts out on Shabbos totally raw (yes, it’s halachically permissible), and is perfectly cooked just in time for Shabbos lunch.

Before you protest that your family relies on the cholent for lunch on Friday, I present to you this question: Should you be serving overcooked leftovers on Shabbos? Try serving leftovers from Thursday night dinner on Friday, and enjoy Shabbos lunch the way it should be!

—Miriam (Pascal) Cohen


(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 840)

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