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Gluten Free Cholent - Jewish Beef Stew

By Edited Jul 5, 2016 0 0

Cholent is a dish enjoyed by many orthodox Jewish families on the Sabbath (shabbat or shabbos). The main ingredients are meat, potatoes, beans and vegetables. Some people also add chickpeas, lentils or rice.

Lentils - sometimes added to cholent
It's a really useful meal because it is made the day before, and since orthodox Jews don't cook on the Sabbath, this is one of the most popular recipes. Shabbat, and all festivals, start at sunset on the day before and end with sunset the following day.

To comply fully with Jewish law the food must be completely cooked before the Sabbath or festival starts, that is before sun down. It is then kept warm on a very low heat. No actual cooking must take place on Shabbat or any festival.

But, You Don't Have to be Jewish...

Don't be put off by the name. Just because it's called Cholent, doesn't mean you have to be Jewish to enjoy it. Basically, it's just a very slow-cooked beef stew. The recipe works well in a slow cooker so it will also be good for working families needing a cooked meal when they come home after work.

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Where Does the Word Come From? Does it Matter Anyway?

If you want me to translate the word 'cholent', that will be difficult. Some Jewish scholars say it comes from a Hebrew word: shoalin, meaning cooked, while many French Jews claim it comes from a combination of two Old French words: chaud, which means hot, and lent, meaning slow.

A third theory claims cholent is derived from the Latin word calentem, which means hot. But, does it really matter? The main thing is that you enjoy this delicious dish. Its popularity with Jewish communities across the world is currently on the up. It's also becoming more popular with non-Jewish families. Perhaps that's due to the increasing popularity and cheapness of slow cookers. Prepare your food and switch it on before you go to work. Job done! There is always a hot dinner waiting for you after the long hard slog.


Recipes Vary from Place to Place

Recipes vary from country to country and within different communities. Every Jewish cook will give you a different recipe.

The main ingredient is usually beef cuts such as brisket or flank. They need longer to cook and tend to produce the best results. You can also substitute veal, chicken, turkey, or even frankfurters, and in some Jewish households it's traditional to include dumplings as well. My mother used to cook eggs in the cooking pot with the beans, vegetables and meat. She cooked them in their shells and we ate them as a starter with a selection of raw vegetables. The shells and the whites absorb the flavours of the meat and vegetables and are just wonderful.

Cholent ingredients; Eggs and Rice
There's a debate over when dried or tinned beans are best. If you're short of time then, yes, you can use tinned beans. I prefer to use dried and to soak them overnight, or for a minimum of eight hours, on the day before I plan to use them. This does mean, if you are using dried beans, that making this recipe is not something you do at short notice.
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Ingredients for Cholent

These ingredients should make seven or eight generous servings.

  • 2 cups dry beans. You can stick to one type of bean or use a mixture of several. Or use one tin ready-prepared beans

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

    Chopped red onion for cholent
  • 200g or one large red onion finely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 1 tbsp paprika

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper

  • Half cup of rice

  • 700g potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks

  • 700g carrots or sweet potato or mixture of both

  • 700g beef brisket or flank or any cut that requires long, slow cooking to soften

  • 1 egg per person - the egg must be left in its shell and washed well before.


  1. Heat the oil and sauté the chopped onion until it is soft and transparent.

  2. Crush the garlic and add it to the onions. Cook for about five minutes stirring gently every few minutes.

  3. Sprinkle on the paprika and seasoning. Cook for another minute and remove from heat.

  4. Transfer the onions to a Dutch oven, or a heavy oven proof dish with a tight-fitting lid.

  5. Add the beans, rice, potatoes, vegetables and meat.

  6. Bury the eggs in the cooking pot taking care not to crack the shells.

  7. Add sufficient water to cover all the ingredients.

  8. Bake in a slow oven at 100 degrees C (200 degrees F) for between seven and eighteen hours. The longer and slower the cooking the better the dish will be.

  9. Check periodically and add more water to stop the cholent from drying out.

Optional - Ingredients for Dumplings:

  • 150 g plain gluten-free flour

  • 50 g margarine

  • 2 tsp chopped parsley

  • Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Pinch of mixed herbs

  • Cold water

  • Additional gluten-free flour for coating dumplings


How to Make Dumplings:


  1. Place all ingredients into a large bowl and add just enough cold water to make the consistency not too thick.

  2. Divide the mixture and roll into small balls.

  3. Dip each ball in flour and add to the cooking pot.


Carrot Sticks
When cooked pull out the eggs, shell them and cut into quarters. They make a delicious first course accompanied by raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, cucumber or celery.


Slice the meat, serve with the vegetables and dumplings and enjoy! You can mop up the juices with Gluten and Dairy Free Bread.


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More about Gluten-free and Kosher Cookery

If you want to see more gluten-free or traditional Jewish recipes check out these articles:

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  1. Alfred J. Kolatch The Jewish Book of Why. New York: Jonathan David Publishers Inc., 1995.

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