28 Old-School Jewish Recipes Your Grandma Used to Make, from Latkes to Matzoh Ball Soup

You don't need to wait for Hanukkah to enjoy Bubbe's cooking

old school jewish recipes universal
Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Erin McDowell

Whether or not you actually have a Jewish grandma, we’re willing to bet that you’ve probably been fed by one at some point, considering it’s practically inscribed in the Torah as a grandmotherly duty. If you’re craving something traditional for Hanukkah (like drool-worthy potato latkes), seeking a modernized twist on a classic for Passover (hi, miso matzo ball soup) or in need of a little comfort food (see the Reuben sandwich or matzo brei), lean on one of these 28 old-school Jewish recipes. You might not make them *exactly* like Bubbe did, but we think she’d be proud anyway.

How to Make Latkes for Hanukkah (or Whenever a Craving Strikes)

1. Potato Latkes

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients, kid-friendly, special occasion-worthy

OK, so Jews don’t get Christmas. But we do get eight nights of crispy, fried potato pancakes, slathered in all the applesauce and sour cream we can handle. It just might be an even trade.

2. Matzo Ball Soup with Chicken Meatballs

  • Time Commitment: 5 hours and 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, special occasion-worthy

The next time we catch a cold, we’re calling Coterie member Heidi Larsen. (Did we mention her homemade chicken broth was inspired by a recipe by our queen, Ina Garten?) If you're feeling lazy, use shredded rotisserie chicken instead of making meatballs.

3. Honey Challah

  • Time Commitment: 6 hours
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, <10 ingredients, kid-friendly

Before you tell us you don’t have time to make homemade bread, hear us out. This nine-ingredient (that's including water and salt, folks) dough comes together easily in an electric mixer, no kneading required.

4. Jewish Brisket

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours and 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, high protein

Unlike Southern-style barbecue brisket, Jewish brisket is typically braised in the oven instead of smoked, alongside potatoes, crushed tomatoes and carrots. This keeps the meat juicy and tender as it cooks.

5. Hamantaschen

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

The triangular cookies are served during Purim, a holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from a Persian Empire official. They're usually filled with apricot or raspberry jams or chocolate spread, but feel free to experiment with your favorite flavors.

6. Red Shakshuka with Tomato Sauce

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: one pan, beginner-friendly, vegetarian

Shakshuka (aka eggs baked in a savory tomato sauce) has become a brunch staple. But before that, it was a classic Middle Eastern dish. Don’t forget plenty of toasted pita for dipping—you won't want to waste a drop of the sauce or egg yolk.

7. Charoset

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, make ahead

A side dish starring fruit, nuts and red wine, charoset is symbolic of the mortar that enslaved Jewish people used to build pyramids and other structures in ancient times. While it's usually served at Passover, it's easy enough to prepare whenever.

8. Chocolate Banana Bread Babka

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

Is it bread? Is it cake? We don’t exactly know, and TBH, we don’t really care. This new-school twist is yeasty, decadent and swirled with chocolate and banana. The fruit infuses it with tons of sweet fruit flavor, but it also makes the crumb incredibly moist.

9. Coffee Cake Kugel

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, kid-friendly

We're all for standard Jewish noodle kugel, whether it leans sweet or savory. But this version—topped with cinnamony, buttery oat crumble—really won us over. Bonus? The recipe uses coconut cugar for sweetness instead of standard granulated.

10. French Onion Brisket

  • Time Commitment: 4 hours and 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

This recipe includes five—yes, five—sliced yellow onions to give the brisket a beautiful golden color and soup-inspired, caramelized sweetness. It’s so tender that you won’t even need a knife to cut it, promise.

11. Gluten-Free Rugelach with Cranberry Jam and Chocolate

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, gluten free, crowd-pleaser

The sweet-tart combination of cranberries and chocolate makes this twist on a traditional treat feel totally modern and sophisticated. The jam is infused with ruby port wine and vanilla bean for a dessert-like sweetness and intense flavor.

12. Smoked Salmon Dip with Everything Bagel Chips

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, crowd-pleaser, no cook

OK, this isn’t exactly how Grandma used to make it. But it’s a super fun update to an iconic Jewish breakfast combo: bagels and lox. It's the ultimate centerpiece for weekend brunch, if we do say so ourselves.

13. Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, beginner-friendly, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

There’s nothing like a succulent roast chicken for a Shabbat dinner or holiday meal. We season the chicken with lemon, thyme, rosemary and butter, resulting in tender, juicy meat with crispy, golden skin. Sub olive oil for butter if you don't eat meat and dairy together.

14. Falafel Patties

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, make ahead, beginner-friendly

Vegetarians and meat lovers alike adore these plant-based patties—and for good reason. With the help of a food processor or blender, the chickpea mixture is actually a breeze to prepare. Serve them with tahini, tzatziki or spicy mayo.

15. Mushroom Barley Soup

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegan, make ahead, crowd-pleaser

This hearty soup from Coterie member Maria Lichty gives us all the warm-and-fuzzy feels. Save time before dinner by simmering the barley until it's soft the night before.

16. Whole Roasted Carrots

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, vegan, beginner-friendly

This stunner is a great alternative to tzimmes, a traditional Ashkenazi stew typically made from carrots, additional root vegetables and dried fruit. It'll pair beautifully with roast chicken at the Shabbat table.

17. Buckwheat Cheese Blintzes

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, kid-friendly

We’d never turn down paper-thin crepes, especially those stuffed with cheese and fried in butter. Bonus: This version of blintzes is totally gluten-free, thanks to a blend of buckwheat, sweet rice and oat flours.

18. Reuben Sandwich

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, beginner-friendly, high protein

From the marble rye to the creamy Russian dressing, this deli staple never gets old. The recipe uses corned beef instead of pastrami for a thicker texture, but you could totally swap one out for the other or use both. Skip the cheese if you don't eat meat and dairy together, and serve with sour pickles.

19. Miso Matzo Ball Soup

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, vegetarian, dairy free

Even Bubbe won't complain about this twist on matzo ball soup. The matzo balls are studded with chopped scallions and the broth is infused with kombu and white miso, so each bite is bound to burst with umami-rich flavor. Top your bowl with roasted nori for good measure.

20. World Peace Challah

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours and 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, <10 ingredients

Please everyone at the table with this pull-apart take on challah. Each section is meant to be coated in a different ingredient (think garlic flakes, sesame seeds, za'atar and sweet crumbs, for instance).

21. Family Falafel with Tahini Yogurt

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, vegetarian

If you're craving falafel but don't want to commit to all that rolling and frying, this baking dish recipe is just the solution. The falafel is baked in a single layer instead for easy scooping. Serve with warm pita, pickled onions, tahini, yogurt sauce and zhoug.

22. Coconut Macaroons

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, make ahead, crowd-pleaser

Not to be confused with fancy French macarons, coconut macaroons are a classic Passover-friendly treat, since they're made without wheat flour. The chocolate dip is optional...but why deprive yourself?

23. Old-Fashioned Egg Cream

  • Time Commitment: 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, <10 ingredients, <30 minutes, beginner-friendly

Fun fact: There’s no egg or cream in this classic fountain soda (which came about in the Jewish immigrant communities of the Lower East Side and Brooklyn in the early 20th century). This sipper is nothing but milk, seltzer and chocolate syrup.

24. Matzo Brei

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, <10 ingredients, one pan, dairy free, <30 minutes

Yes, matzo brei is typically served for breakfast...but breakfast for dinner is always an easy win. Serve it with a thick slab of buttery challah bread, if you feel so inclined.

25. Vegan Beet Borscht

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegan, Whole30-approved, beginner-friendly

Did you know not all borscht is vegan? It turns out that many versions are beef- or pork-based. However, some are traditionally beet-based, like this one, and it's so flavorful that you won't miss the meat.

26. Vegan Sweet Potato Kreplach

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours
  • Why We Love It: vegan, crowd pleaser, special occasion-worthy

Kreplach, a type of dumpling that's usually boiled and served in soup, is often filled with beef or chicken. Even though this version, stuffed with sweet potato, isn't, we promise the recipe is a total keeper.

27. Jelly Doughnuts

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours
  • Why We Love It: special occasion-worthy, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

Jelly doughnuts, aka sufganiyot, are a must-have for the holidays (and any random weeknight, TBH). Serving them with cocoa is imperative, so make sure you stock up on mugs and marshmallows, too.

28. Goat Cheese, Apple and Honey Tarts

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, special occasion-worthy, beginner-friendly

No, these tarts aren't exclusively Jewish or traditioinal. However, apples and honey are a popular combination, particularly during Passover. Who are we to turn down goat cheese?

purewow author

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...