whole food ~ well made

baked rugelach

Rugelach Can Go Both Sweet & Savory

I don’t know where I got my obsession with Jewish holiday baked goods. Growing up our next-door neighbors, The Mendelson’s, sent over matzoh at Passover and got my Dad salivating with gefilte fish, but I don’t remember a tin of rugelach coming across the driveway and into our door.

Still, these tiny rolled and filled pastries are my all-time favorite holiday cookie. I bake my grandmother’s sugar cookie for my kids to decorate, to relive the brushing of egg-whites, the overdoing of the candy sprinkles.

But I make rugelach for me.

In love with rugelach

It would be simpler, of course–given our annual making of gingerbread houses and those cookies, the gift wrapping, not to forget the housecleaning and Christmas tree watering–to simply buy some.

savory rugelach close up unbaked

Good thing these treats are so accessible. I use Maida Heatter’s classic recipe with 8 ounces each of butter and cream cheese. This dough is perfect every time and easy to roll. I like to make rugelach in stages as I have time.

Step 1: make the dough and chill it; step 2: roll and fill; step 3: bake and eat–or freeze.

Rugelach re-envisioned

I asked my dear friend and cookbook collector Judy about the origins of rugelach. I was certain that their rolled, croissant-like shape was steeped in meaning. But Judy’s more entranced by baking than mysticism and she poured through her cookbook collection to give me the low-down:

  • Cookiepedia uses pecans, golden raisins, cinnamon and sugar. Egg wash and coarse sugar on top before baking.
  • The Sophisticated Cookie filling has diced apples, golden raisins, chopped walnuts, calvados, brown sugar, honey, butter and cinnamon.
  • One Sweet Cookie by Tracey Zabar uses hazelnuts, grated chocolate, sugar, vanilla, butter, seedless raspberry jam and raspberry liqueur.
  • Sarabeth mixes Dutch processed cocoa with brown sugar and finely chopped nuts.
  • Alice Medrich uses currants instead of raisins, processes the jam if it has chunks, sprinkles Nutella with coarse salt and best of all stuffs a pitted whole date with a pecan or walnut and wraps the dough around it.

Wonderful all, this last one was the clincher:

  • Elinor Klivans sautes onions and/or mushrooms in butter, cools them before rolling them in the dough and uses an egg-cream wash with sesame seeds.

Wait! Savory rugelach? Why, of course! The dough is sugar-free. From that moment  I was launched on a whole new rugelach path.

Savory rugelach appetizers

Spinach with sundried tomato and parmesan. Mushroom with walnuts and blue cheese. Olives and walnuts. Chutney with raisins… A little bit of any savory item you may have in your fridge or pantry.

baked rugelach

The best part is that I now don’t have to choose between sweet and savory. {Now that’s a gift!} With the same dough, I’ll make a batch of cinnamon walnut to preserve my own tradition.

And for my pre-Christmas cocktail party, I will make the savory ones. I will serve them again on New Year’s because these tender nibbles are the perfect pairing with anything bubbly.

How about that for a little Jewish cookie?

Happy holidays!


and become a forager

Savory Rugelach Appetizers

The tender and buttery dough for the traditional cookie called ruglach makes a fantastic alternative to puff pastry for making holiday appetizers. This recipe adapted from Maida Heatter. Fill them with soft cheese, such as blue, chopped nuts, olives, sauteed mushrooms, crumbled cooked sausage–or any other delectable item you can dream up. 
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 12 people
Calories 277kcal
Author Lynne Curry


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 cup filling item, such as blue cheese and walnuts, chopped olives, sauteed spinach.


  • Cut the butter and the cream cheese into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse until they are broken up into small pieces, about 6 pulses. Scrape down the bowl.
  • Pulse the machine in several long bursts just until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, Collect all the dough using a bench scraper and divide it in half.
  •  Shape each piece of the dough into a disk about 1-inch thick, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  • To bake, roll out each disk into a circle 1/4-inch thick about 10 inches in diameter. Distribute the filling to within 1/2 inch of the outside edge. Use your hands to press them gently into the dough.
  • Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut each circle into 12 wedges. Roll up each wedge starting from the wider end and put the point underneath. Arrange the rugelach about 1 inch apart.
  • Bake the rugelach until they are lightly golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Serve hot or cool before storing in an airtight container for up to 3 days. They can be served at room temperature or reheated in a 200 degree F oven for 10 minutes.


Calories: 277kcal


  1. I can’t wait to make the savories. I’ve been searching and searching and finally found you. I am irish catholic, but EVERYONE loves my rugelach,even suggesting I sell it! …but i’ve wanted to try savory for a long time.Muchas gracias.

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