Savory Caramelized Onion Kugel

Every Jewish family has a kugel recipe as well as a strong opinion about it. Kugel is not a required Jewish holiday dish, but trust me, by not required, I mean it’s at every Jewish holiday meal. I have been asked many times over the years what my kugel recipe is…ironically, I had never really found one I loved. I thought it was about time to change that. This is my caramelized onion kugel, made from broad egg noodles, and it’s a keeper. My version is a classic kugel in many ways with a little French technique (aka, caramelized onions) tossed in.

Kugel Defined

Kugel, by definition, is a baked pudding or casserole, most commonly made from egg noodles or thinly sliced potatoes. It is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish, often served on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Kugel can be sweet, how I most commonly encounter them, or savory. I prefer the savory version. But I will be the first person to tell you, I am a kugel snob. I don’t like most kugels. But that likely has to do with the fact that I’m not a casserole fan.

caramelized onion kugel

Types of Kugel

There are two main kugel varieties today, noodles and potato. Noodle (or “lokshen” in Yiddish) is the older of the two, originating in the 1500s. Earlier kugels were made primarily made of bread dough. Potato kugels came about 300 years after the noodle version. Pasta reached Ashkenazi Jews via two distinct routes. Jewish travelers brought noodles from Italy to Franco-Germany sometime in the 14th century, but the food also reached the Slavic lands of Eastern Europe about 200 years later and was brought through Central Asia by the Tatars.

The Kugel divide, as I call it, came in the 19th century. Sugar had been an expensive commodity in cooler parts of Europe, where cane could not be grown. But in the early 1800s, Polish Jews entered a new industry: sugar beet refining. Sugar, now substantially less expensive, soon found its way into many dishes in Poland and Hungary, including noodle kugel. Much later on, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, and berries were added to the sweeter kugel variations.

caramelized onion kugel

Food historians believe savory kugel is more common in Lithuania and Russia, while the sweeter version prevailed in Poland and Hungary. In America, the sweet version became dominant, presumably due to the origin of most Jewish immigrants. But as the 20th century wore on, American Jews made significant changes to the sweet kugel. They replaced raisins with all sorts of popular canned fruits: pineapple, maraschino cherries, and even fruit cocktails. At one point cornflakes were a popular kugel topping in the States, but I’m not going to comment on that.

Jews eat lots of kugel on Shabbat mainly because noodles are considered symbolic of the unity of the people of Israel. The belief is, and I love this, that noodles are so tangled that they can never be separated. Noodle kugel may not actually be eaten by all Jews on every holiday, but kugel has clearly reached far beyond Ashkenazi cuisine and this caramelized onion kugel is now my family’s go-to, holiday or not.

About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

12 thoughts on "Savory Caramelized Onion Kugel"

  1. Avatar photo Laurie Barilla says:

    Looks like a great recipe that I will make for Pesach – we’re not that religious so having a flour based noodle dish won’t be an issue. Two questions – through what step can I make this ahead of time and how far ahead? Thank you.

    1. Hi Laurie. Thanks for reading and reaching out. You can make this dish up to up until the middle of step 5 and instead of putting it in the oven, cover and refrigerate it until later. What I would suggest is removing it from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before baking to warm it up a bit and then baking it off per the recipe suggests. Because this recipe has raw eggs in it, you can prep it in the morning and cook it off for dinner, but I would not suggest making it any earlier. This is a simple dish, but one I love, I hope you enjoy.

  2. Avatar photo Earl A Lubow says:

    Vary nice and sweet not only the recipe but you as well keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you Earl, so lovely of you to say. Thank you for taking the time to reach out, very kind of you. Be well. Andrea

  3. Avatar photo Margot says:

    Perhaps a silly question but would you recommend any changes if I cook this in an 8″ square baking pan?
    From a novice !

    1. Hi Margot-

      Thanks so much for reaching out. There is no such thing as a bad question. There is no need to make any major recipe changes for that slight change in the pan size. It could take a few minutes longer to cook, but that would be the only minor thing of note. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

      Happy holidays.


  4. Avatar photo Jill says:

    I am looking for a great Rosh Hashana recipe for my vegetarian parents. Can I double this and use a cassarole dish? Also do you think it would still be ok if I mix by hand, I don’t have a food processor? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jill, thanks for reaching out. Yes, we can absolutely double this recipe and make it without a food processor. The cooking time will change so make sure to keep an eye on that. I hope you enjoy. Wishing you and your family a sweet new year.

      1. Avatar photo Jill says:

        Thanks so much for the quick reply! Sounds so yummy!

        1. You are so welcome. Always love hearing from people.

  5. Avatar photo David Neusner says:

    Andrea: this is an excellent kugel recipe; I am Jewish but my Roman Catholic in-laws really enjoyed this at the Christmas dinner I cooked for them(also served matzo ball soup and brisket), but the recipe is missing instruction on what to do with the butter and parmesan cheese, which I assume is to be added to the cottage cheese/sour cream/onion mixture.

    1. Hi David. Thanks so much for your feedback. I’m so happy you liked my recipe. So sorry about the confusion. I have updated the recipe to reflect the missing information. Thankfully, it’s a forgiving recipe and you can’t really go wrong. Wishing you a very happy and healthy New Year.

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