How to Make Noodle Kugel Without a Recipe

Make a perfectly sweet, family-friendly casserole that will have you noshing in no time.

January 20, 2022
Photo by Ty Mecham

Here at Food52, we love recipes—but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Whether you grew up on your bubbe's kugel or you have no idea what kugel is, you can (and should) make a perfectly sweet, family-friendly casserole that will have you noshing in no time.

Noodle Kugel is a staple in Ashkenazi Jewish culinary traditions, but if you haven’t attended any Ashkenazi Jewish celebrations, you might not have encountered one before. Even if you are familiar with kugel (acceptably pronounced both "coogle" and "kuggol"), and I sure hope you are, it’s entirely possible that you’ve never tried it before. And you are not alone. And also, you are in for a joyful surprise. These are the actual, real life, semi-coherent responses of first-time noodle kugel eaters after their initial taste:

  • “It’s like sweet macaroni and cheese.”
  • “Egg noodles plus corn flakes plus soft stuff plus crumby.”
  • “Soft, warm, gushy, lightly sweet.”
  • “It could be a side dish, or a dessert, or a breakfast.” 

But what exactly is noodle kugel anyway? Broadly speaking, a kugel is a baked pudding or casserole—a traditional Ashkenzai Jewish dish eaten for Shabbat and other holidays. There are kugels made with shredded or sliced potatoes (a Jewish gratin, of sorts), but my favorite kind— and, I would argue, the most versatile—is a sweet lokshen (noodle) pudding made with egg noodles. 

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Here’s what blogger, cookbook author, and host of Girl Meets Farm Molly Yeh had to say about noodle kugel on her blog, My Name Is Yeh: “Flavor-wise, think of it as rice pudding made with noodles! And baked! Or, OK, a slightly sweet, a teensy bit sour, and kind of soufflé-like mac and cheese. And for all of the times I’ve made fun of eggboy [my husband Nick who I affectionally call eggboy]  for having sweet cookie salad alongside the main course of his meal (as opposed to as dessert), I now owe him an apology because kugel, in all of its dessert-leaning glory, is part of the main course.”

Not only is the name "noodle kugel" a perfectly whimsical combination of two of the cutest words ever uttered, but this a dish full of rambunctious holiday spirit: You want to be eating it as you sit around a dining room table shmoozing with your family; you want to sneak stray noodles straight from the casserole dish into your mouth when no one is looking; and you want to hide the leftovers in the back of the fridge so you can eat them for breakfast the next morning.

And, on top of all that, you don't even need a recipe to make it. Here's how to make noodle kugel:

1. Round up your ingredients. The star of the show is, unsurprisingly, the noodles. You'll want to use egg noodles (they'll hold up best in the oven, retaining their texture and shape even as the other ingredients melt and mix). Any width—from extra wide to fine—will work.

You'll also need something creamy and tangy, either cream cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, ricotta cheese, sour cream, or a combination. Butter, eggs, a source of sweetness, and herbs and spices are also essential. For a sweet iteration, turn to cinnamon and nutmeg; for something a bit more savory, use minced sage and thyme, which are both earthy and a bit delicate so as to not overwhelm any other flavors. We have a kugel recipe that calls for caramelized onions and browned butter, but those are optional add-ins (though I don’t think you’d regret using them). Lastly, to top your kugel, you'll want something crunchy, be it a plain breakfast cereal like Corn Flakes or bread crumbs (of course it's a whole other ballgame if you're making a kosher kugel for Passover—that’s where you want to ensure the egg noodles are gluten-free and topped with matzo meal; or explore potato kugels). 

2. Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, it’s time to make the kugel. To start, butter a large casserole dish and preheat your oven to 325° F. In her recipe for Crunchy Noodle Kugel, writer Melissa Clark recommends using a jelly roll pan so that the kugel has a larger surface area to brown in the oven.

Then, cook a package of egg noodles until they're al dente, drain them, and set them aside. To the bowl of a food processor, add melted butter; equal parts sour cream or cream cheese (or a combination) and cottage cheese; and whatever spices and extracts you want to use (I unapologetically love cinnamon, but you can go with ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and/or vanilla or almond extract). And for a really untraditional kugel, you could even add puréed pumpkin (but I'm just saying). 

Next, crack in some eggs—the number is up to you. My family always makes noodle kugel with one egg, which yields a soft, loose pudding, with breathing room between each noodle. If you want a denser, more tightly-packed kugel that you can slice into neat blocks, add more eggs. Deb Perelman's recipe on Smitten Kitchen calls for eight eggs, while Grace Parisi's recipe in Food & Wine calls for four eggs plus two yolks, so there's a wide range. No two kugels are alike (and that’s the beauty of them).

You'll also want to add something sweet, usually one to 1 1/2 cups of sugar for one 12-ounce package of noodles. You can use plain old white sugar, or you can march to the beat of your own drummer and add a combination of brown sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, or whatever you have on hand. I used a cup of honey

Blend it all together until it's smooth and light, then taste the mixture to make sure it's as sweet as you want it

3. Transfer your cooked noodles to a mixing bowl and pour in the mixture from the food processor. Mix it up until no noodle is left un-sauced. You want all of the noodles to be evenly coated, but you don't want them to be swimming 

4. Now it's time to make a kugel that really speaks to you. I added grated apple, but you can also use raisins (the most traditional choice), chocolate chips, fresh or dried cranberries, diced dried figs or dates, canned pineapple, pear slices, pieces of candied ginger, or chopped nuts. Whatever ingredients you decide on, simply toss them into the bowl and mix with the noodles. Like the spices, you can add as much or as few as you’d like. 

5. Make a topping by gently crushing the plain, flaky cereal of choice (Corn Flakes, Special K, and Wheaties all work well) with your hands and adding in a tablespoon or two of cinnamon and sugar. Alternatively, you could use bread crumbs mixed with a bit of melted butter in place of the cereal.

Pour the noodles into your prepared baking pan and lovingly blanket them with the cereal topping. I say "lovingly" because, when you break into the kugel, that topping is going to interlace with the warm noodles to give you an unbeatable soft-crunchy-crumbly contrast. 

6. Mazel tov! You're almost done. Bake the kugel in the oven until the custard has set, the topping is toasted, and the noodles on the outside of the pan are a bit brown and crispy, generally 40 minutes to an hour. If you break into the kugel while it's still warm, the noodles will fall into a beautiful tangled pile on your plate, mingling with whatever else you have on there. Wait for it to cool and the kugel will come away in neater, more self-contained pieces. Again, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Serve the kugel on your dinner plate, for dessert, or at breakfast. 

This original article appeared on September 22, 2014. We're re-running it now with even more tips for perfecting noodle kugel.

Got some kibbitz about kugel? Share with us in the comments below! 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Nanette December 1, 2023
My late MIL was diabetic, so as a bride I was calculating backwards to eliminate all the horrible artificial “food” and sweeteners. After her passing, I found the goldmine original family recipe. Great article, fun to read and inspiring. Have to make MY famous kugel, freed from boundaries!
Smaug January 20, 2022
Oy- so now I'm curious about the mentioned "cookie salad"- is that really a thing? I've just gotten to the point where I don't physically cringe when people put hunks of rock salt on their cookies; if they start tossing on oil and vinegar I may have to stop reading recipes.
Emma H. June 9, 2019
What is it in it
Lydia S. October 28, 2016
Love the fact that this kugel is so flexible and yields so many different combos. I have one that uses sour cream cottage cheese milk and butter for dairy but I will try this one b/c it looks awesome too. thanks Sarah!
GsR October 16, 2016
You refer to kugel as ashkanazi, however I assure you there are many delicious Sephardi kugels
Nancy October 11, 2016
Just to cross-polinate. In addition or instead of apples or raisins, I sometimes use sweet or sympathetic-to-sweet root vegetables, very suitable for fall & winter Sukkoth, thanksgiving, etc. Squash, carrots, parsnips, maybe others if you can think of them
Maryanna S. September 18, 2015
sounds delicious but in mine i use 1/2 and1/2 and golden raisins, and apricot preserves. no topping. the noodles crisp up on top.
SueD February 16, 2015
Tonight I will be making a kugel for the office Mardi Gras breakfast pot luck. thick Amish egg noodles (on sale), Greek yogurt, a bit of cheese - Jarlsberg I think, thinly sliced organic pears, chopped crystalized ginger, coconut sugar, nutmeg, almond extract, Panko topping mixed with sugar.
Cheryl N. September 30, 2014
The only kugel I've ever had was made with a can of fruit cocktail. Oh my goodness - what have I been missing? Thank you SO much for this article!!
Pegeen September 24, 2014
Just curious... before cornflakes were invented, what would have been used as the topping? Bread crumbs? Can't wait to make my first fall kugel!
scott.finkelstein.5 October 2, 2014
Most families just let the top noodles crisp up.
Henry November 12, 2014
I agree. My learned to make kugel from her mother, so we're talking about a recipe well over a century old. The top got a sprinkling of cinnamon and was left to brown; the addition of commercial cereal as a topping—even if it were available—would have been unthinkable. Also, no kind of dairy (i.e. sour cream or cottage cheese) was used, hence the dish would be pareve and could be served with a meat course.
jen February 11, 2015
I could never spoil a kugel with anything on top...butter...that's all you need on top. Classic raisin kugel THE best, pineapple a close 2nd.
Sarah J. February 11, 2015
I think that lots of families have different traditions -- that's why this is a Not Recipe! You can customize it however you like.
creamtea January 20, 2022
We don't use cornflakes or breadcrumbs or any other topping. My mother never did. Let the noodles brown on top (don't pack them in too firmly, there should be loose noodle curls on top).
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 23, 2014
oops I meant roasted chicken.
Also, we never have a topping and use (gulp) margarine but I suppose there are some many variations and holiday dietary preferences we can just call it what it is in laymen's terms, a noodle casserole
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 23, 2014
My family (Ashkenazi Jews) love the sweet kugel with short ribs, brisket, turkey and roasted turkey. I don't care for the sweet version at all and prefer savory noodle or potato kugel. Food52er Kukla has some great recipes for anyone interested on this site.
KosherInDetroit September 22, 2014
I appreciate this article and the light approach S Jampel has taken towards making this dish. I would like to point out that kugel, beyond its whimsy, is an incredibly versatile dish that can exist without heaping amounts of dairy, sugar, eggs, or noodles. Some of the most famous kugels are strictly non-dairy and made of potatoes and other vegetables.

This is a solid primer and I encourage all casserole, sweet noodle kugel, and pudding lovers to think of kugel as a canvas for your creativity.
Kristen M. September 22, 2014
I recommend making this exactly as Sarah described -- grated apples, honey, cinnamon, corn flakes.
Nadja September 22, 2014
Why did I look at this? I will never be able to live a normal life again. It looks so good!
Cynthia C. September 22, 2014
Ahhhhhh Sarah I love this so so SO MUCH. Also, agreed, "noodle kugel" might just be my favorite string of syllables ever.
Catherine L. September 22, 2014
I am officially a noodle kugel convert! And I will be adding chocolate chips to mine, thankyouverymuch.
ChefJune September 22, 2014
I grew up with Lokshen Kugel as a side dish, but for me it's way too sweet not to be dessert. That's how I've been doing it for years. Love to top it with panko that's been mixed with cinnamon and sugar. A must for a sweet New Year! Chag Sameach!
Jocelyn L. September 22, 2014
must have Raisins and maybe even a few apple chunks.
ATG117 September 22, 2014
I am very aware that kugel is a traditional jewish food and served as such on Jewish holidays, but I'm curious as to when you'd otherwise ever serve a sweet kugel as a side dish. What would that menu look like?
ATG117 September 22, 2014
Also why the food processor, wouldn't a whisk be sufficient and make this a one bowl activity?
Sarah J. September 22, 2014
My family actually does eat it as a side dish (which means that we can have something else for dessert -- hooray!), and I've been to many a Shabbat dinner where there is both sweet and savory kugel on the table for dinner. I think the food processor is necessary for breaking down the cottage cheese curds, but I'm sure it would also work with a whisk and some arm strength.
amysarah September 22, 2014
I've never used a processor - I just do like my mother and grandmother, with a spoon or whisk. It leaves some intact cottage cheese curds, but I like that (also, you can use small curd cottage cheese if it's an issue.) As to menu - you can vary the sweetness of the noodle kugel. The ones in my family weren't dessert-sweet. My grandmother always served it with roast chicken - obviously not kosher, but neither was she. When my kids were little and we celebrated some concoction of 'Chanumas,' I often served a barely sweet noodle kugel with whatever roast we were having, instead of a potato gratin or some such - cross pollination!
ATG117 September 23, 2014
I guess I was asking whether you would ever actually serve this as a side dish in a non "jewish" food context/celebration of some sort. In other words, I appreciate it as that, but suppose I am making the point that I don't see it fitting into another menu easily.
Rachel September 24, 2014
I grew up eating noodle kugel as an easy weeknight dinner, with a big salad on the side. I guess you could argue that it was a Jewish context, by virtue of us being Jewish. However, it wasn't a holiday, Shabbat, or any other overtly Jewish setting. Just think of kugel like any other casserole (and maybe reduce the sugar a little).
amysarah September 24, 2014
Yes, this is what I meant too. When I included a less sweet kugel in a holiday meal combining Christmas/Chanuka (as a side for e.g. a rib roast or turkey...) the other dishes weren't specifically "Jewish" - unless there's some sect where butternut squash soup, roast root vegetables, green beans and chocolate semifreddo are traditional fare ;) Btw, a lightly sweet kugel also works well alongside roast pork - about as non-Jewish a context as you can get.