A Nice Winter Cholent

February 17, 2017

Cholent is a uniquely Jewish food: a food that was made by and for Jews. In fact,  Cholent, is a Jewish food created specifically for the Sabbath. It is even mentioned in the writings of the 12th Century scholar Rabbi Yitzhak ofVienna! And, the very Yiddish name comes from Medieval French, “chalant” meaning “becoming hot.” Since cooking is one of the 39 kinds of labor forbidden by the rabbis for millennia, Cholent is the Shabbat food par excellence. It is a kind of stew that is put together on Friday, before sundown, and put in the oven or crock pot to cook and stay hot overnight and is eaten at the midday meal on the Sabbath. An Ashkenazic cholent is made from beans, barley, potatoes, meat, and maybe a little kishke. Sephardic cholents (or “chamin” in Hebrew) can be made from beans or rice, often with whole eggs in them that turn brown as they cook (called huevos chaminados in Ladino). Before electricity and crockpots, people would bring their pot of cholent to the local baker who kept his wood burning ovens burning constantly. They would pick up their steaming cooked cholent on Saturdays on the way home from schul for a hot Shabbat meal.


Ashkenazic – from Jewish communities of Europe

Yiddish – a European Jewish language which is a combination of Medieval German, Hebrew and other languages

Sephardic – from Jewish communities ofSpainand theMediterranean

Ladino – a Sephardic language which is a combination of Spanish and Hebrew

Kiske – a kind of sausage made from flour and fat stuffed into a casing.

Schul - synagogue


Here’s a recipe from the New York Times for Cholent.

If you don’t have a local baker’s wood burning stove to cook it in, use a crockpot.

INGREDIENTS (Note: This recipe isn’t a science. Substitute stuff – different beans, sweet potatoes instead of white, chicken instead of beef, kasha: Anything goes.)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

½ to 1 pound boneless beef short ribs, cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks

Pepper, to taste

¾ cup pearl barley

? cup dried kidney beans

? cup dried navy beans

? cup dried cranberry beans

3 cups chicken or beef broth

2 tablespoons honey or molasses

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

Salt to taste



Line the bottom of a slow cooker with the potatoes, the onion and then the short ribs, sprinkling the meat with pepper to taste.

Scatter the barley and the beans on top, then pour on the broth and the honey or molasses.

Sprinkle with the paprika and salt to taste. Add enough water to cover all the ingredients.

Cook on low for 12 to 15 hours, stirring occasionally (except during Shabbat, for those who observe it), adding more water if necessary. The longer the cholent cooks, the better it will be.