Jewish food consists of a wide range of dishes, from flaky desserts to hearty meats and more.  As Jewish people have migrated around the globe, different regions have developed their own unique dishes, from the New York deli sandwich to the Israeli falafel. 

Growing up in a Jewish household in NYC, I often find myself picking up a bagel or deli sandwich, or begging my grandmother to make her Rosh Hashanah meatballs on a random day throughout the year. My taste-buds have not matured enough to enjoy gefilte fish yet, but passover is coming up so maybe this year things will change. 

Although most Jewish food is eaten year-round, much of it was created in relation to holidays such as Hanukkah, Passover, and Purim.  In addition, traditional Jewish foods follow the kosher guidelines set by the Torah.  There are many delicious Jewish foods, and I've pulled together a list of my personal favorites.

1. Bagels

bagel, salmon, lox, cheese, sandwich, bread
Jennifer Nigro

Bagels with cream cheese, lox, and maybe a couple of tomato slices are staples at every Jewish brunch.  When my family gets together my younger cousins often fight over who gets the last piece of lox. With so many types of cream cheese to choose from, from scallion to strawberry, there is a schmear for everyone. Bagels are one of the staples of New York Jewish culture, with a bagel store practically every block.

2. Latkes

Alexandra Hayes

Latkes are potatoes that have been grated or ground and fried like a pancake. They are traditionally eaten on Hanukkah, but are delicious enough that they are enjoyed year-round.  I help my grandmother make them before our Hanukkah meal, and always leave with hands greasy and stomach full. Latkes are often enjoyed with applesauce or sour cream, and can be eaten as a side dish or a main course.

3. Matzah Ball Soup

Matzah balls are an Eastern European Jewish food made of matzah meal, egg, water, and flour. They are served in chicken broth often accompanied by carrots, celery, and chicken.  Although a bowl of this generally marks the start of a week without bread, Matzah ball soup is one of the Passover foods I enjoy year round. Jewish delis serve this dish all year, and I would definitely recommend trying it the next time you want chicken soup.

4. Kugel

Kugel is lasagna type dish made of large noodles and can be prepared sweet or savory.  Some variation of kugel is on the table at nearly every Jewish holiday, and many families have their own recipes.  Kugel is one of the few Jewish foods that is typically reserved for holiday meals, and I always find myself reaching for seconds (and thirds).

5. Kasha Varnishkes

"Kasha" means buckwheat or roots, and "varnishkes" is Yiddush for bow-shaped noodles.  The warm grains and pasta make this dish the perfect comfort food and complement to any meal.  My great-grandmother has been cooking this for our family meals forever, and it's just as delicious now as it was when I first tried it.

6. Challah

wheat, bread, bun, flour, dough, cereal, pastry, crust, poppy seed roll
Sadye Hazan

This braided bread is on the table at every Shabbat and holiday dinner (except Passover of course). Challah is made of dough enriched with eggs, oil, and a little bit of sugar.  On Shabbat, it is blessed before pieces are passed around the table. When I was younger I would have so many pieces of challah that I was barely hunger by the time dinner was served. Challah is great on its own but is also delicious in round two recipes.

7. Rugelach

cinnamon, pastry, jam, sweet
Amanda Shulman

Rugelach are sweet cookies made from rolled dough filled with jam or chocolate. They are the perfect end to any meal and a great snack if you are craving something sweet.  You can find rugelach in almost any Jewish bakery or supermarket; they are also easy to make at home.  My synagogue puts a plate of these out after every service, and I eat as many as I can before I leave.

8. Brisket

Brisket is beef that is braised as a pot roast and served at many Jewish holidays.  It takes awhile to cook but it's worth it; the serving dish will be empty by the end of the night. My grandmother has been cooking our family's brisket forever, and one day that recipe will be passed down to me. Just because Jews don't eat bacon doesn't mean we can't enjoy some delicious red meat.

9. Dill Pickles

pickle, salt, vinegar, condiment, gherkin, vegetable, jam
Hannah Petersen

The perfect snack, sandwich addition, or lunchtime side, pickles are a staple in Jewish delis. From artisan pickle shops to pickle-flavored chips and ice cream, this classic sandwich food is more popular than ever. Not everyone is a pickle fan, but I love them and will always take the extra one from your meal.

10. Jewish-Style Artichokes

artichoke, vegetable, pasture
Natsuko Mazany

Last on this list, but certainly not least, is a Jewish-style artichoke.  A Roman Jewish delicacy, the artichoke seasoned with lemon juice and salt and pepper before being fried in olive oil.  Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, they are the perfect appetizer to any meal.  The first time I had one of these was in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome, and ever since then I would never turn down an artichoke.

There are so many delicious Jewish foods that blend religious traditions and regional culture. The holiday meals made by my grandmother help bring my family together, and you can find us laughing, eating, and drinking Manischewitz around the table.  Although these foods are best when made by a Jewish grandmother, anyone can still enjoy them at a local Jewish deli or a friend's Shabbat dinner.