What is Cholent?

Allison Boelcke

Cholent is a traditional Jewish dish that is similar to a stew. The ingredients are mixed together and cooked slowly over low heat for hours or even days. Before the invention of electricity, the dish was made in pots with hot embers to slowly cook the ingredients and keep them warm for long periods of time. More modern versions of the dish are made in ovens or other electric cooking devices. This dish is generally prepared the evening before the Sabbath so that Jewish people can have a warm meal during a time period when cooking is forbidden.


Although the Sabbath exists in different religions, it can vary depending on the specific religion’s traditions. The Jewish version of the Sabbath, called Shabbat, takes place each week on Friday evening after the sun goes down. It then traditionally extends until Saturday night when it is dark enough for stars to appear in the sky. During the Jewish Sabbath, practicing Jews are forbidden to perform any activities that count as work, including preparing hot meals. Cholent is a meal that is typically prepared prior to the Sabbath since it can withstand long cooking times, allowing it to be prepared in advance of the Sabbath.

The exact recipe for cholent can largely rely on the region in which the practicing Jewish people are from. Ashkenazi Jews originated in Germany and other areas of Eastern Europe, while Sephardic Jews are descended from countries in Western Europe, such as Spain and Portugal. Ashkenazi cholent is often made up of cooked meat, especially beef, as well as grains, potatoes, and beans. The Sephardid version of the dish incorporates more whole vegetables, like peppers, eggplant, squash, or tomatoes, often stuffed them with the cooked meat. Ashkenzai Jews traditionally don’t flavor the dish beyond salt and pepper, while the Sephardic Jewish recipes are more likely to contain spices like cumin, garlic, or hot pepper.

The preparation method for cholent is basically the same, regardless of the particular types of ingredients. The ingredients are generally added to a large pot and covered with water. As the ingredients cook, they break down and combine with the water to make a thick broth. Cooking time for the dish is usually around half a day over a low heat source. Modern cooking devices used for the dish include an oven set at a low heat or an electric slow cooker.

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