Jewish Vegetarian Kishke

Vegetarian kishke

Kishke. There’s nothing elegant or pretty about it.

It’s a homely dish of humble origins. Strictly peasant food, made from whatever was left over to throw into a bowl (meat or vegetables or both), combine with a filler (flour, barley, bread crumbs, or matzoh meal), color with paprika, and spice mildly with salt, pepper, and maybe some garlic.

Kishke vegetables

Kishke - Chopped vegetables

As far as I remember, my family only ever served the Jewish vegetarian version (celery, carrot, onion, spices, flour, in a synthetic sausage casing). And there was no such thing as making it from scratch. Grandma bought it from the deli down the street, sliced it, and then baked it “to death” (just the way I liked it).

When I was a kid, I had no idea what kishke was made of. It was just… kishke, a delicious entity of its own. I probably would have been appalled to know it was made of celery, carrots, and onions.

Kishke - Ready to mix

Kishke - Flour version, mixed

But this is definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Combine these ordinary ingredients (I bet you have most, if not all, of them in your kitchen right now), add heat, and what you get is something a little ugly and oh-so-delicious.

Close your eyes, take a bite, and isn’t it glorious? Greasy. Crunchy. Savory. The very definition of umami.

Kishke - Log formed

Kishke - Flour version, wrapped for baking

Kishke - Baked for an hour

Kishke is not to be found in our neck of the northeast woods. Not even a frozen, lesser variety.

Until now, the only way to satisfy my kishke craving was to make a pilgrimage to that deli in Toronto and smuggle a few logs across the border. Yes, we do that (we also cart back chocolate bars, halva, bagels, challah, and, oh, let’s not get into this right now…). In fact, we have one of those precious logs in our freezer, thanks to my sister’s last trip. And we’re saving it for a special meal.

Kishke - Sliced for second baking

So, it’s been on my mind for quite awhile to learn to make this dish. This month’s Let’s Lunch theme—a song- or music-inspired dish—provided the perfect excuse. The recipe I came up with, after reading every vegetarian kishke recipe I could find, is pretty good. It comes as close to the real thing as anything I’ve tasted. It won’t keep me from stopping in at the deli in Toronto for a fix, but at least it’ll keep me in kishke between trips.

And the song? Oh yes.

So what if the song was inspired by the dish and not the other way around? So what if I never even knew the song growing up? It’s still a hoot, and you can polka while the kishke bakes.

** I don’t care who the song says stole the kishke. I know the truth. After I sliced the kishke for a final bake, I left the slices unguarded on the kitchen counter while the oven heated. When I returned some minutes later, one of the slices was gone. The culprit? It was Hudson, our ever hungry, food-snatching cat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Want to know what songs the rest of the Let’s Lunchers are singing today? Read their posts to find out (I’ll continue adding links as they becomce available, so check back here for a full list later).

Tiger Cakes ~ from Ellise at Cowgirl Chef
Honey Mac Wafers with Coconut ~ from Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Tommy’s Chili ~ from Felicia at burnt-out baker
Purple Rice Pudding ~ from at Pat at The Asian Grandmothers Cooknbook
Banana Bread ~ from Rashda at Hot Curries and Cold Beer
Chicken and Dumplings ~ from Cathy at ShowFood Chef
Quiet munchies for concert-going ~ from Patrick at Patrick G. Lee
Coconut Cake ~ from Steff at The Kitchen Trials
Cuban black beans ~ from Linda at spicebox travels
Gluten-free Thin Mints ~ from Linda at Free Range Cookies
One Meatball ~ from Karen at GeoFooding
Smoked Brown Sugar Crème Brûlée ~ from Maria at Maria’s Good Things
Put the Lime in the Coconut Macaroons ~ from Emma at Dreaming of Pots and Pans
Pear Frangipane Tart ~ from Danielle at Beyond The Plate

If you want to join us for the March challenge (theme still to be determined), just follow the #letslunch tag in Twitter.

Vegetarian Jewish Kishke

Yield: 2 8-inch kishkes

Ingredients

  • 2 stalks celery, washed and trimmed
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or as much as is needed to make a moldable dough that holds together)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Method

  1. With a rack in the center of the oven, preheat to 350°F.
  2. Very finely chop the celery, carrots, and onions (you can do this in a food processor).
  3. Combine the chopped vegetables and all other ingredients in a bowl and then stir to combine.
  4. Divide the mixture into two equal portions.
  5. Place each portion on a separate piece of aluminum foil and form a log from each portion, each approximately 8 inches long.
  6. Wrap the foil tightly around each log.
  7. Place the logs on a cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour.
  8. Remove the kishke from the foil. You can slice and serve it as is, or can refrigerate or freeze it for later on. If you’re like me, and like a drier/crunchier kishke, before serving, slice a log into 2-inch slices, put the slices on a baking sheet, and bake in 350°F until the slices are browned and crispy.
  9. You can serve the kishke unadorned, or you can top it with gravy or any sauce of your choice (tart, fruity flavors like cranberry and lingonberry go very well with it). Last night, I tried it with this balsamic-fig sauce and it was wonderful.

31 thoughts on “Jewish Vegetarian Kishke

    • That’s a good point. I was also expecting to see eggs in the recipe, or something else to give it body, but the flour and oil (or whatever fat is used) seem to do the trick. That said, the resulting kishke is bound quite well, but is very dry. Many people prefer to simmer their kishke with cholent (stew) to give it more moisture. I like the dryness.

  1. I’ve never tired kishke (or even heard of it)…I’ll have to ask my mom about it! And after your rave reviews, I feel like I need to give it a try…..

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  3. I grew up with the real deal available at the local Kosher Deli (Bronx, NY) Then we grew up and there was “mock derma”, very similar to your recipe made with a can of “Veg-all” and ground up Tam-Tam Crackers. We made it into a log, wrapped in tin foil, baked it in the oven. Like you, I liked it dry. As a kid in that Kosher deli, I would always get with gravy on the side. Going to make this for Passover. It will be good for my memories and my vegetarian daughter!

    • Thanks for writing, Andrea! Let me know if this recipe comes at all close to the kishkes of your past — and if you come up with modifications that make it even better. Happy Passover!

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    • It’s going to depend on how wet the rest of the ingredients are. You want everything to hold together into a moldable log, but not be too heavy. So I’d start with a cup of matzo meal, mix well, then try molding a ball or small log to see how it holds together. If it doesn’t seem firm enough, add more matzo meal in 1/4 cup increments.

  5. I made this and substituted some shmaltz for the oil, from skimming my chicken stock. I sauteed the onions in the shmaltz and the results were to die for…..probably, literally!!

  6. This recipe has big potential. Consistency was excellent , too carotty though and not spicy enough. Would you recommend using sage or poultry seasoning ? I used hungarian paprika and it does not cut it.

    • Yes! I’d like it to be spicier, too. You might want to try a hot paprika (if you used a regular/sweet paprika). For a more interesting taste, we could also substitute a rich stock (vegetable, or chicken if you’re not making a vegetarian version) for the water. Sage would probably taste wonderful in it!

      • Thank you for the reply.
        We lived near Yitz’s in Toronto for many years and they probably had the best Kishke ever made. A cheerful bunch of guys operated the restaurant
        which was immaculate , and we frequented the place often .Sad to say life changes and sometimes your diet . We had so many jewish friends who always wanted to nosh somewhere . I am going to make some variation on your recipe , which is excellent, and report the results. B.T.W. , had a little bit of Matzo meal left and threw it in.

  7. it sounds wonderful. if you were to simmer it in cholent, i imagine you’d have to bake it for a while first, right? how long would you recommend baking it and also i’m guessing you’d have to unwrap it and just put it directly on top of the cholent?

  8. I was recently reminscing with one of my cousins about my mom’s kishke. Oh how I miss it! She never used a recipe – it was all from memory and therefore nobody has a clue how to recreate this yummy dish. Of course when my mom cooked kishke it was enclosed in sausage (or some type) of casing which, sadly, are no longer available anywhere – at least not in my ‘neck of the woods’. So, thank you, in advance for this wonderful recipe and trip down memory lane. I’m going shopping tomorrow and will get all the ingredients so I attempt to replicate my mom’s kishke in conjunction with the cholent I’ll be making Friday for Saturday lunch.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope the recipe works for you. Feel free, of course, to tweak it to get the right taste from your childhood (and if you come up with something you love, I’d love to hear what you did!). I don’t know where to find kosher casings, but if you can do without kosher, you can find natural (and synthetic) sausage casings here: http://www.butcher-packer.com

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