Rushing to Prepare for Rosh Hashanah

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Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a celebration of hope for a sweet new year. And of course, food is the center of family celebrations. Here are Rosh Hashanah menu ideas including main courses, desserts, sides and more. (first published Sept 2012, updated Sept 2019)

apple honey in bowl with candlesticks in background

Despite lofty aspirations to have all menu planning, shopping and some cooking completed early, I usually rush around at the last minute to prepare for our annual Jewish New Year gathering.

Guessing that I am not the only who finds herself in this situation, I’ve put together recipes, tips, and tricks to make your last-minute rush to prepare a little less frantic.

The Main Course for the Jewish New Year

Braising Brisket

slices of brisket on white plate with potato and carrots and yum napkin

If brisket is part of your Rosh Hashanah menu, my recipes are tried and true methods that easily feed hungry, temple-weary eaters. And remember, brisket can be prepared several days in advance or can be frozen for weeks.

Roasting Chicken

clementine chicken with fennel in white pan

Rather serve chicken? Chicken also can be made ahead of time and frozen or you can prep your chicken in the roasting pan in the morning or a day ahead, and just cook it right before dinner. Here are several recipes to try:

Vegetarian Options for Rosh Hashanah Dinner

chopped salad in red bowl

Offer hummus (homemade or store-bought) with fresh salads – perhaps one leafy, one vegetable based and one grain-based. All of these dishes do double duty as sides for your meat eaters as well. Want to serve something hot? How about a hearty soup or vegetable wellington that is always a huge hit at Thanksgiving but works anytime of the year.

Apples and Honey

Apples and honey are traditionally eaten as a symbol of a sweet new year. They are also the simplest of appetizers or desserts to offer your guests. Add some extra interest to your platter by trying a new variety of apple from the farmers’ market or a local raw honey. Still just as simple to serve but a chance to experience some new flavors and textures.

sliced apples and honey in blue bowl on white cloth

Round Challah

Challah in the round is the traditional bread during Rosh Hashanah – the circular loaf symbolizes the cycle of the seasons and life. You can make your regular challah recipe and just prepare it in the round. You can also augment with a touch of honey or some raisins and cinnamon. Here are two recipes – one is traditional and the other is a no-rise method that you can prepare even when you are short on time.

round challah with honey in the center

But if baking is just not an option, Trader Joe’s usually carries some excellent challah. Check other local stores like Whole Foods or your nearest bakery — you might find they are carrying the special round loaves as well.

Kugels – Sweet and Savory

Traditional sweet noodle kugels with or without cheese (depending on your desire to keep the meal strictly kosher) are often served at Rosh Hashanah or for break the fast at the end of Yom Kippur. They are also a big hit with picky kid eaters in the mix. Here is an old article written by Cheryl Sternman Rule showing three different kugels – one without dairy that is appropriate for a kosher meal with meat, one traditional and creamy and one in the Jerusalem style using very thin noodles like cappellini.

Want a savory kugel instead? Try my potato kugel. The year I developed this recipe and served it at our annual dinner, not a morsel was left.

cooked crispy potato kugel in dish with serving spoon of kugel on the side

Side Dishes for Rosh Hashana Meals

Pomegranates are a fall fruit and also symbolize good deeds. They are a wonderful addition to your Rosh Hashanah meal – from a decoration on your table to all the delicious dishes you can create using the seeds, the juice, and the derivatives you can make from the juice – like syrup and molasses. Check out my pomegranate molasses page and Family Spice’s pomegranate page for lots and lots of ideas for seasonal pomegranates.

roasted delicata squash with pomegranate on white plate

Figs are also in season in late summer and fall – don’t forget the figs! And they pair well with pomegranate.

Rosh Hashanah Desserts

The classic choice is a honey cake or an apple cake. Figs and pomegranates are also stars at this holiday. But since I am all about learning the tradition and then riffing from it, I developed a pear cake recipe.

whole pear cake with pear, cake server, striped napkin

And think about short cuts – poached or baked apples would be an easy make ahead option. Sprinkle them with some pomegranate seeds and they’ll be gorgeous! Or throw together an apple strudel by using puff pastry – a quick and easy way to prepare a hot-out-of-the-oven dessert without much advanced preparation.

I hope these ideas turn your rush into Rosh Hashanah into a calmer, peaceful, sweet start to the new year. What’s your best tip for preparing for a family gathering on short notice?

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30 Responses to Rushing to Prepare for Rosh Hashanah

  1. mindy trotta September 16, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    OMG!! Would never be so presumptuous as to imply you qualify! (In fact, our audience is really 30 and up…is that better? 🙂 ) Planning on posting a Yom Kippur post. Watch for my Tweet about it!

    • Beth September 16, 2012 at 10:10 am #

      You’re not presumptuous. I’m just being honest – looking at the big 50 next year and that is just all there is to it! Can’t wait to see your Yom Kippur post Mindy!

  2. Hannah September 15, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    What a terrific selection of recipes and ideas! Thank you for sharing. Our brisket is in the oven and I’m not feeling as rushed as I have in past years…we’ll see tomorrow, though! Wishing you and your family a sweet, healthy new year!

    • Beth September 16, 2012 at 8:27 am #

      Thanks Hannah. I’m impressed that your brisket is already done. Actually I’m jealous. But I will get there… Happy New Year to you and yours as well.

  3. mindy trotta September 14, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    Thanks for your kind reply, Beth! Not sure how I found you..probably via a mutual Tweeter. But I’m glad I did! My company is web-based. I do not have a brick and mortar, and since I relocated to Cambridge, it’s been put on the back burner (although I still do take orders). I am currently writing and editing for You can find more of my writing–food and otherwise–on that site. Happy New Year to you! I hope we can be in touch again.

    • Beth September 16, 2012 at 8:25 am #

      I added a link to your pear kugel to my post! Better after 50? I almost resemble that comment. Give me a few more months!

  4. mindy trotta September 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Everything sounds absolutely delish! Cannot wait to make the Brisket with dried fruit. If you’d like to have a noodle kugel recipe that uses fruit, I posted one on my blog last Hanukkah. I used pears but you could certainly substitute peaches. I’ll trade you the kugel recipe for the brisket recipe!

    • Beth September 14, 2012 at 9:51 am #

      Mindy – I’m curious how you found my blog because I am so happy that you did! I love your blog – just added it to my reader and I’ll add your kugel link to my article. I will be in the Cambridge – Boston area in November – will look up your business if time allows.

      Making connections is what I love the MOST about social media and blogging. Let’s chat some more!

  5. Teresa September 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    Great round up of recipes, Beth. Have a wonderful New Year celebration!

    • Beth September 16, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      Thanks Teresa – this week’s FFWD recipe was perfect timing for me and wow was that poaching liquid yummy!

  6. Lizthechef September 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Most of my close friends have been Jewish and it always feels like my new year as well. Have a lovely celebration! Nice collection of recipes – clever idea to help before a holiday. Can’t wait to see what you come up with at Thanksgiving!

    • Beth September 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

      I love that it feels like your New Year! The more the merrier. It’s all really just a way to mark time and remember what’s most important – family and friends!

      I always host Thanksgiving so I’ll start working on that post now! (oh but that would be like planning ahead wouldn’t it?)

  7. sandy corman September 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    all looks great. What are you doing for dinner before going to Temple Sunday evening?

    • Beth September 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      Coming to your house for dinner?? I have no idea – that’s still several days away 🙂

      • Beth September 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

        P.S. Just kidding!

  8. Renee September 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    Thanks so much for posting the brisket recipes!! And, I’m planning on sharing the chicken recipe with my mom. Wishing you a sweet New Year!

    • Beth September 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      You too Renee! I’ll miss you (and your desserts) at our gathering 🙂

  9. yummychunklet September 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Yum! Brisket!

    • Beth September 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

      I know – right?

  10. Lana September 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    I really do not need a Jewish holiday to try your Grandma’s brisket (I have it bookmarked:)
    I try to educate my girls via food, and the recipes for Rosh Hashanah really appeal to me (especially paired with the notion of a new beginning:)
    I found a recipe for roasted chicken with grapes somewhere recently, but I’ll make the one you recommend, as it is tried and true. I also bought leaks to make the Sephardic leak fritters.
    I wish you and your family Happy New Year and look forward to seeing you pretty soon:)

    • Beth September 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

      Leek fritters! That sounds fantastic. Wish you could come up for our celebration. But soon enough we will be together – I can’t wait. Here’s to new beginnings and a happy, healthy, and sweet New Year!

  11. Carol Sacks September 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    Terrific post, Beth! So many great ideas. And, thank you again for including my bulgur dish.

    • Beth September 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

      You’re welcome – thanks for the recipe and photo and all of your inspired ideas.

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