Surprising Secrets to an Amazing Cholent

Bluma Gordon February 24, 2020

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By: Bluma Gordon, Lubicom Marketing Staff

No Jewish food is more versatile than cholent. When we asked homemakers from Instagram to share what they add to their cholent that gives it a special flavor, we received a giant cholent of excellent tips, secret ingredients, plus plenty of surprises. If you ever wondered what secrets lie in everyone’s bubbling pot of cholent, here are your answers.

Already in love with how you make your cholent? Now’s your chance to share it! Send us your signature cholent recipe and get a chance to have it published on kosher.com plus win great prizes! See more information about our My Kosher Recipe Contest here.

What Should You Put In Your Cholent?

1. The right amount of water

Water is key to getting the texture right. Some recommend adding enough water to cover, but others opt for a more liquidy texture and use more water. Experiment with water measurements until you’re satisfied with the texture of the cholent.

2. The right meats

Even those who aren’t big cholent fans claim that the type of meat you use is essential. Survey participants recommend going for quality, even if it means spending a few extra bucks. Choose soft and fatty meats, like beef shin or spare ribs (otherwise known as flanken), and throw in some marrow bones for added flavor. Pastrami also adds a unique flavor to the cholent, and cheek meat has that melt-in-your-mouth-effect if you cook it slow and low.

Love throwing in extras or experimenting with variations? Toss in some turkey cubes, smoked turkey wings (with the skins removed), chicken, salami, and sausage or kielbasa (Polish-style sausage).

3. Seared meat with fried onions

Brown the meat on all sides and fry with onions before adding it to the pot. “When I spice the meat, together with onions and cholent, it comes out delicious, and guests always ask for the recipe,” says Tami, a survey participant.

Homemakers also gave this great tip: Caramelize the onions in honey or brown sugar for an out-of-this-world flavor.

4. Meat softeners + flavor enhancers

There’s a science behind your zaidy’s insistence that cholent isn’t the same without a half-bottle of beer. Besides adding a rich flavor and texture to the cholent, it also helps soften the meat.  I dare you to try some other acidic meat softeners and flavor enhancers mentioned—like coke, vinegar, apple cider, and coffee!

5. Soup mix, broth, or gravy 

Try this to add a depth of texture and flavor to your cholent. You can use a quality onion soup mix, vegetable broth, chicken or turkey stock, or gravy.

6. Some umami flavor

Umami is a meaty-like flavor defined as “savory” that is added to many dishes and serves as a flavor enhancer. Choose from these umami-flavored cholent additives that were voted most popular: Tomato paste, ketchup, BBQ sauce, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce.

7. A touch of sweetness 

Aside from the standard spices like salt or sea salt, pepper, paprika, and fresh garlic, many opt for an added sweet flavor. Amp up the sweetness by adding some brown sugar, honey, or silan to your pot. Some even recommended using grape juice, whole dates, or a spoonful of family charoset!

8. A little punch

Prefer pizazz over the traditional sweet flavor? Add a little kick to your cholent with these ingredients:

  • Hot pepper
  • Hot or smoked paprika
  • Chili powder
  • Ginger, powder or fried
  • Mustard or mustard powder
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Lawry’s Season Salt
  • Lemon pepper spice
  • Celery salt
  • Pickling spice

9. Variations and substitutions

There’s almost no limit to how much you can experiment with cholent!  Here are some variations to try:

A. If you’re not the standard barley-and-beans type, choose from these other ingredients to add:

  • White or brown rice
  • Green lentils
  • Sweet potato
  • Canned Heinz beans

B.  Plus, throw in these extras for some flavor:

  •  Eggs
  •  Chickpeas
  •  Kishke
  •  A piece of kugel wrapped in foil

What We Love about Cholent 

Are you a staunch traditionalist who goes for the standard meat-and-potato recipe, sans strange surprise twists? That’s fine. Have a penchant for tossing in everything in the kitchen pantry, but the shelves? That’s okay, too.  When it comes to cholent, we don’t judge. Because there’s no across-the-board formula for a delicious cholent and everyone has a different style, use your ingenuity and create your own. Feel free to play around with some of the ideas mentioned here until you’ve got your own signature cholent recipe to enjoy each Shabbat.