After a long week of work or school, Shabbat serves as a prime opportunity to relax,…
Whether you haven’t pulled an all-nighter since studying for your college exams or you stay up studying Torah every year, the Jewish festival of Shavuot is a smorgasbord of delicious food. The holiday is known, after all, as the Feast of Weeks.
While blintzes and cheesecake are often the stars of the show, they’re far from the only Shavuot recipes worth making. Read on for a diverse collection of sweet and savory Shavuot dishes including sides, starters, main courses, and dessert.
What Is Shavuot?
Shavuot commemorates that fateful day when God gave the Torah to the Jewish people on Mt. Sinai, following our exodus from Egypt. Originally an agricultural festival, it takes place 50 days after the second night of Passover.
The Israelites once celebrated Shavuot by bringing the first fruits of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem, but the celebration looks a bit different today.
Modern-day rituals include:
- Studying Torah all night long
- Reading of the Book of Ruth at synagogue
- Decorating the home with greens and fresh flowers
- Eating dairy
Why Shavuot Recipes Center Around Dairy
Various theories attempt to explain why traditional Shavuot meals center around dairy foods. Most prominent is the quote in Chapter 3 of Exodus referring to Israel as “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Another possible explanation: dairy was simply easier to eat due to the complications of properly butchering and preparing meat so quickly after learning the laws of kashrut. The issue of economics could have also played a factor, according to Jewish educator Ilana Epstein. She told the Jewish Chronicle, “Eastern European Jews living in the shtetl had no money—they couldn’t afford meat.”
Along with all the sweet dairy recipes, Shavuot dishes can be savory too. Jewish Chef Jamie Gellar talks about some of her favorite dishes, like creamy baked ziti and Caesar salad topped with parmesan cheese, in this podcast.
Shavuot for Vegans
With its absence of meat, Shavuot is a holiday made for vegetarians, but the focus on dairy can make it challenging for those with plant-based diets. Vegan restaurateur Merav Barzilay tells The Forward that those practicing a vegan lifestyle can still enjoy the agricultural aspects of the holiday by focusing on Shavuot recipes with fruits and vegetables.
As for those with other dietary or cooking challenges, food blogger Chanie Appelbaum offers a classic, gourmet, light, pareve, stove-top only, and freezer-friendly recipe roundup.
Appetizers, Sides, and Breakfast Too!
Shavuot is a blitz of blintzes, little fried crepe burritos stuffed with cheese or fruit. You can purchase them in the freezer section of your grocery store, but these Jewish Cheese Blintzes taste much better when made from scratch.
While you’re busy savoring all that dairy, Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) reminds you not to forget about grains, offering a pareve Wheatberry Salad with Grapes and Olives recipe. If you’re more into soup than salad, try kosher author and chef Naomi Nachman’s classic Onion Soup.
Without any meat on the menu, you may be wondering about your Shavuot main course. Meatless options abound, from kosher food blogger Amy Kritzer’s famous Spinach Triangles to this crispy Potato Crusted Pizza.
Everyone’s favorite comfort food, macaroni and cheese, gets a Middle Eastern makeover with this Israeli Couscous Mac and Cheese. There are also many other pasta possibilities, such as Fettuccini with Baby Arugula, Pesto, and Meyer Lemon from cookbook author Jamie Gellar.
Now for the grand finale. Shavuot dessert! Cheesecake recipes for Shavuot come in many fantastic flavors and forms, from Classic New York-Style Cheesecake to easy No-Bake Cheesecake to even a Vegan Lemon Cheesecake. If you’re not a lover of cheesecake, we suggest trying alumna Sara Armet’s Birthright Israel Chocolate Bark. However, if you can’t resist the decadence of cheesecake, we love this recipe for Lotus Butter Cheesecake by Birthright Israel Fellow David Ratz.
What began as an ancient agricultural festival that marked the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest is now celebrated by making and sharing some of these wonderful recipes. And, if you’re a Birthright Israel alumni, parent, or grandparent with a tasty, favorite recipe, we want to know! Share your recipes with us here.