I didn’t grow up eating noodle kugel. In fact, my dad’s distaste for the starchy staple was so severe, it was effectively banished from our household. No amount of gentle cajoling could convince me to try this odd noodle pudding later in life and to be perfectly honest, I’m still not a fan.
Lokshem (“noodle” in Yiddish) kugel existed as early as the 1500s, neatly fitting into orthodox and kosher homes as a dairy dish without meat. It truly rose to fame as a facet of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine in the 1800s with the sudden infusion of cheap sugar flooding in from refineries in Poland and Hungary. Raisins, cinnamon, and nutmeg were other popular additions, creating a very sweet, rich noodle casserole that could be served for breakfast and dinner alike.
Still, savory versions did exist, relying on fried onions and black pepper instead, which gave me hope for revitalizing this time-honored tradition in a way better suited to my tastes.
Breaking With Tradition
Apples are the subtle source of natural sweetness here, balanced out by the tangy bite of sauerkraut. The combination hearkens back to German cabbage and apples, simmered together with warm herbs for a heartwarming wintry stew. Meanwhile, tofu, unsweetened yogurt, and shredded vegan cheese create a high-protein base that replaces the dairy in one fell swoop.
Let’s not forget about the noodles themselves, which were typically egg ribbons, wide flat strands undulating in a sea of sweet pudding. You could simply use any ruffled or broad shape, but my favorite is broken lasagna noodles, smashed into large chunks to replicate that texture in a more free form approach. This is especially handy if you have a half-box leftover after your last recipe but can’t stand to fuss with all those layers again. Just grab a rolling pin and let out your frustration!
Now I’d compare this more to a baked ziti without marinara, or any other pasta casserole that can be scooped out hot or sliced when cool. Serve with a side salad, steamed vegetables, or simple soup to complete the meal.
How To Make A Healthier Noodle Kugel
This rendition already beats the competition by a mile when it comes to nutrition. Typically composed of one or two sticks of butter, a half dozen eggs, and up to a cup of white sugar, there’s really no comparison. Still, if you’re following a more restrictive diet, there are plenty of ways to adapt this formula further to suit your needs.
- Gluten-free: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta instead of conventional noodles.
- No Refined Sugar: Use no sugar-added apple butter.
- Oil-Free: Replace the vegan cheese with 1/4 cup nutritional yeast and swap the butter or oil for aquafaba.
Make-Ahead and Meal Prep Options
Noodle kugel is the best guest you’ve ever invited to dinner. It can wait patiently to be served and is great with crowds.
Leftovers can keep for 5 to 7 days in the fridge, covered tightly with plastic wrap. Individual servings can be microwaved for 2 to 3 minutes if you’re in a rush.
For longer term storage, you can freeze it for 4 to 6 months. Simply let it thaw at room temperature and re-heat in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, until hot all the way through.
You can double the recipe and bake it in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan for twice as many servings, which makes it ideal for potlucks and holiday gatherings alike.
There are truly a million ways to make noodle kugel. If you haven’t been fond of the sweet stuff in the past, give it another try through a more savory lens.