23 Traditional Jewish Desserts You Have To Try

When you think of Jewish desserts, the first dishes that come to mind are probably babka, challah bread, and rugelach, but as so many Jewish holidays center around food and family, there are a wide variety of delicious, Jewish desserts to try.

23 Traditional Jewish Desserts You Have To Try

While most of these desserts are made during holidays such as Passover or Rosh Hashanah, they are available in stores throughout the year.

But as we all know, there is nothing better than a homemade sweet treat, right? 

Below, you’ll find 23 traditional Jewish desserts you just have to try!

Chocolate Babka

Babka is made from a yeast-based dough that is usually breaded and has a chocolate or cinnamon filling.

Babka originated in Eastern Europe, and comes from the Slavic word babcia, that translates to grandmother and is closely connected to the Yiddish term, bubbe.

Therefore, babka translates into ‘grandmother’s cake,’ due to how it is shaped like an old woman’s skirt, and because it was usually made by grandmothers.

Jewish babka actually appeared during the early 1800s when housewives in Poland would make challah bread with extra bread to fill with cinnamon or jam.

They would then roll the bread up and bake it alongside the challah served at Shabbat.

It was intended to satisfy hungry children during busy Shabbat preparations, or sometimes made as a special treat. In the 1900s, streusel toppings were introduced.

Chocolate babka is irresistible, and makes a great treat for everybody to get excited about. It’s hard to stop at just one bite!

For the best results, we recommend making the dough the night before, so it has plenty of time to rest in the fridge. The next day it would have achieved the perfect rolling consistency. 

Apricot Hamantaschen

Apricot Hamantaschen are cookies shaped like a hat that are traditionally served during Purim. The buttery shortbread is delightful and the addition of jam gives these cookies an adorable look.

If your shortbread dough starts to look like large breadcrumbs when you’re processing then you’ve gone too far!

To keep the cookies crumbly, gently press everything together once you’ve finished working it on the counter until it all sticks.

Chocolate Hamantaschen

From apricot Hamantaschen to chocolate Hamantaschen! While you may want to use real chocolate in these cookies if the chocolate is not of good quality it can easily burn.

But this recipe has you covered! It doesn’t just tell you how to achieve the perfect, rich chocolatey filling, but it’s practically two desserts in one.

You get a buttery and sweet shortbread, with an intense chocolate brownie on the inside.

Sufganiyah (Hanukkah Jelly Donut)

Sufganiyah or Sufganiyot are similar to round jelly donuts you may have eaten before, and are also referred to as ‘Hanukkah jelly donuts.’

These donuts are pillow-like and are deep-fried in oil to symbolize the origins of Hanukkah and the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days instead of one.

While a recipe for jelly donuts like this traces back to the 1500s, enjoying fried foods on Hanukkah has been a tradition since ancient times!

But you don’t have to wait until Hanukkah to enjoy these, you can enjoy them all year round!

While the dough needs to be rested twice, you can still make Sufganiyah and enjoy it on the same day. Depending on the temperature of your home, the first rest should take about two hours.

The dough then needs to be rolled and cut before being left to rest for a second time, and it’s this second rest that makes the Sufganiyah big and fluffy!

You can use the scraps like donut holes and coat them in sugar after they are removed from the hot oil.

If you want bigger donuts, make sure they are cool before you add any filling.

Rugelach

Rugelach are cookies shaped like half-moons. They’re irresistible and incredibly easy to make. Rugleach has a similar dough to shortbread, but it’s enriched with eggs to make it more pliable.

Rugelach has a traditional filling of raisins, walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon, so it isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and is a touch on the nutty side.

You can also fill your rugelach with chocolates or other fruits. 

While you can buy rugelach in stores, homemade rugelach is so much better than store-bought and so easy to make at home.

However, it is a time-consuming dessert as you need to leave the dough in the fridge for a few hours, but it is absolutely worth the wait!

They’re buttery and flaky when fresh from the oven, and their sweet cinnamon scent is too beautiful to resist!

Hanukkah Gelt (Golden Chocolate Coins)

Gelt are golden chocolate coins that are traditionally given as a gift on Hanukkah.

The tradition began in Europe, when parents and relatives would give children coins to reward them for studying, but this soon morphed into a confectionery treat in the early 20th century when an American confectioner created gold foil chocolate coins.

It’s hardly surprising that these fun treats have become so popular among children!

To make perfect Gelt you will need a mold. While a regular circular mold will do, without a proper mold you’ll miss out on the details such as menorah or star motifs.

You can also use regular chocolate, but this will need to be tempered, so the coins don’t melt. 

Candy Dreidels

Speaking of fun Hanukkah treats, how about making some candy Dreidels? All you need is four ingredients to make these delightful treats, and the hardest thing you’ll have to do is melt chocolate.

Not hard at all! You can use pretzels for the sticks to make the entire treat edible, but lollipop sticks can also be used.

It’s worth nothing that a lot of marshmallow brands are not kosher-friendly because of their use of gelatin. However, there are brands out there that produce kosher-friendly marshmallows.

For example, Paskesz marshmallows are certified pareve by the OU (Orthodox Union). 

Egg Kichel (Bow Tie Cookies) 

Egg Kichels are often referred to as ‘nothings,’ and this isn’t meant as an insult. Egg Kichels have earned this nickname because the crackers are incredibly airy and light.

You may baulk at the number of eggs in this recipe, but you need a serious amount of eggs to achieve the lightness we’re going for.

The dough also needs to be worked for a good 20 minutes, so a stand mixer is required for this.

Then you just need to roll the dough in sugar, and give the strips a small twist to create the bow shape. 

Sweet Lokshen Kugel

Kugel is reminiscent of a pudding or casserole, and dates back an astounding 800 years to Southern Germany.

It became a staple dish for Jewish families across Eastern Europe, and Jewish immigrants to the US bought kugel with them, ensuring its legacy lives on.

Another thing that has helped kugel endure is how many varieties there are. You just need three simple ingredients of eggs, starch, and fat, and you can have variety with these ingredients too.

For example, you can use bread, matzo, matzo farfel, noodles or rice as the starch element.

Kugel also contains a sweetened blend of cottage cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream, as well as soaked raisins.

The cheese component of the dessert has naturally drawn comparisons to cheesecake.

But once the kugel is baked, it has a similar custard-like consistency to bread pudding, only in this recipe noodles are what keeps it all together.

Parve

Parve is simple to make, and can be modified to your liking. It can be ready in minutes, and doesn’t need a whole lot of prep, as you can just use whatever fruit you have in your kitchen.

However, you do need to thaw and drain frozen fruits and toss them in some flour, to ensure they don’t sink.

Parve is a torte served during Shabbat and can be ready in ten minutes, as long as the margarine has been left out to turn soft! You can transform Parve every time you serve it.

One week it can contain apples, the next week it can contain blueberries, or peaches, or plums! Whatever is in season and whatever you have to hand.

This also ensures that nobody will ever get bored with it, which is what you want from an easy to throw together recipe!

Hanukkah Dreidel Surprise Loaf Cake

We should start by saying that this cake will take some time to make, as you are essentially making two cakes. The first cake will be the blue cake, and this needs to be completely cooled before you cut it.

Then the vanilla cake gets made, and once ready you then pour half of the batter into a lined loaf pan before lining the Dreidels down the center.

You then cover the blue cake with what’s left of the vanilla before baking. When the cake is cool, you can then cut into the cake to reveal the blue Dreidels!

To make sure the Dreidels are perfectly sized, you can use a cookie cutter.

Chocolate Challah Bread

Challah bread is made using eggs to give it a particularly rich taste, and it is also made from a soft, white dough. Traditionally it is braided, and is great for making bread pudding, or even for sandwiches.

But when you add chocolate to Challah bread it becomes even more delicious! The dough couldn’t be easier to make, but the challenge comes with braiding the bread.

But as long as your lines don’t cross over each other, it’s certain to look amazing!

All you need to make the bread dough is eggs, oil, and a couple other ingredients. A common misconception is that Challah bread takes a long time to make, but you just need 5-10 minutes to make the dough.

Then you just need to give the dough some time to rise!

Chocolate-Matzo Layer Cake

Icebox cakes are not difficult to make at all, but are sure to look impressive! The addition of matzo means you can skip the cookie-making step, and it makes the cake totally kosher.

The matzo soaked in coffee and the creamy chocolate filling makes this cake reminiscent of a tiramisu, and it’s even better when topped with Baileys whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate ganache.

You can also save some frosting to melt and pour over the individual pieces for attractive slices.

Lekach (Honey Cake)

Lekach is traditionally made to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, and is sticky, sweet, and oh so good! We recommend making Lekach ahead of time, so the flavors can really soak in.

The cinnamon, cloves, and ginger make the cake quite similar to gingerbread, but the apple juice and honey gives it an extra sweet kick.

Plus, the cake is so moist that it doesn’t need a glaze, especially because the honey gives it enough sweetness. For extra crunch, you can also sprinkle some chopped nuts over the top!

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut macaroons should be crisp and golden on the outside, and soft and chewy on the outside, and these macaroons fit the bill perfectly!

They’re delicious enough plain, but are gorgeous when dipped in dark chocolate. They also hold up well after a couple of days, which makes them great to bake ahead, or give away as a holiday treat for loved ones.

Mandel Bread

Mandel bread is very similar to Italian biscotti. It has a crispy texture and is great for dunking in your breakfast coffee! This mandel bread recipe is twice-baked.

First it’s baked in a large, flat log until it’s just about cooked, before it is sliced and baked again to achieve a crunchy finish.

This recipe requires chocolate chips, but these can be easily switched out for dried fruits or nuts.

Halva

Halva is a dairy-free and gluten-free candy that is made with sugar and tahini and originates from Israel.

It is a healthy and dense treat that sets fast, so you need to be prepared when making it!

Have everything scaled out and ready before you start. Halva is a popular Jewish dessert that is sometimes sweet, and has a wide variety of flavors including chocolate, coconut, pistachio, and sesame. 

Sweet And Spicy Tzimmes Cake

If you love carrot cake, you’re going to love this slightly spiced cake! It contains shredded carrot, as well as apple, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, orange zest… and sweet potato!

The sweet potato plays a similar role in Tzimmes cake to bananas in banana bread. It makes the cake extra moist!

In fact, this cake is so moist you don’t need to worry about frosting. Although we do believe that cream cheese frosting would be the perfect finish to this cake!

Jewish Apple Cake

Jewish apple cake is very common in France and Germany, and is not overwhelmingly sweet. It’s packed with fresh apples for flavor and texture, and is made using oil instead of butter to make it as moist as possible.

This recipe also calls for the surprising ingredient of orange juice, but it works! The orange juice gives the cake a gentle citrus flavor. 

Plus, the use of oil over butter is what makes the cake pareve, so Jewish families who want to keep kosher can enjoy apple cake as a dessert after eating a meal that contains meat.

Oil cakes also stay moist and soft for longer than cakes made with butter. 

Chocolate Toffee Matzo Crack

Where to start with this recipe? How about how easy it is to make? You will need to make caramel for this recipe, but it is a very simple process. Just throw brown sugar and butter into a pot and bring it to a boil.

You don’t need to keep too much of a stringent eye on it or check the temperature with a thermometer. Now let’s move onto the pairing of a crispy, salted toffee cracker covered with smooth chocolate.

The mixture of dark chocolate and milk chocolate gives you a nice contrast, and you can even drizzle a little peanut butter over the top as well. 

Tahini Cookies

Tahini is made from ground sesame seeds, and has an extremely mild, nutty flavor that is both incredibly smooth and also on the savory side.

You may have seen tahini in hummus, or in sauces, but it takes cookies to a whole new level! These cookies are buttery, sweet, and hard to resist, but the tahini gives them even more depth of flavor.

Once you’ve made a batch, you’ll know exactly why we’re head over heels for them!

Marak Perot

Marak Perot is also known as a fruit soup, and is a refreshing, and sweet dessert to enjoy at the end of a special dinner. It is a simple combination of dried and fresh fruits, sugar, and water.

It is then gently simmered until it’s reduced to a syrupy fruit soup. The final touch is lemon juice to make the flavor a bit brighter.

Marak Perot is best served chilled, and is even better with a dollop of whipped cream, or served on the side of a slice of pound cake.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes A Pastry Kosher?

One of the kosher rules prohibits the mixing of dairy products with meat products, or any specifically non-dairy food.

Foods that do not contain meat or dairy are referred to as pareve. 

Can You Have Babka For Breakfast?

While babka can make for one decadent dessert, it also makes for a sweet, decadent breakfast alongside a cup of coffee.

When babka is baking, its rich dough becomes incredibly tender, making for a sweet, buttery bread that melts in the mouth. 

What Does Challah Bread Symbolize?

Challah bread is traditionally prepared for Shabbat, and the braiding of the bread symbolizes weekday life becoming intertwined with the celebration of Shabbat.

Final Thoughts

Whether you want to make fun treats for Hanukkah, or expand your dessert horizons beyond the classic babka or rugelach, we hope that our 23 traditional Jewish desserts have inspired you! 

23 Traditional Jewish Desserts You Have To Try

5 from 2 votes

From Hamantaschen to Lekach, read on to discover 23 traditional Jewish desserts you just have to try!

Directions

  • Pick a recipe from the list above
  • Click the recipe name and visit the website
  • Collect the ingredients and cook the food
  • Enjoy – don’t forget to leave a review
Jess Smith
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