Dried Fruit

How to Make Charoset Without a Recipe

March 30, 2015

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: Charoset that's good enough to sustain you through a long Seder meal and eight days without bread, and—here's the kicker—that you'll want to eat even when it's not Passover.

A Passover seder is long. With all of the components, it can be hours before the real meal is served. Luckily, there are a few snacks along the way—some matzo, a few sips of wine, and some bitter, salty parsley. Yet these symbolic foods do little to quell the hunger pangs, and that's where charoset comes in. This paste, which represents the mortar used by Jewish slaves to make bricks in ancient Egypt, is loaded with fruits and nuts and will supply you with enough energy to get through the portion of the Seder before the meal is served.  

Charoset, traditionally spread on top of matzo and topped with horseradish to form a sweet and bitter sandwich, comes in two common types: the Ashkenazi version, with chopped apples, walnuts, and cinnamon, and the Sephardic type, with dried fruits, nuts, and spices. While both are delicious, the Sephardic variation won’t make your matzo soggy. It’s also a bit more versatile: In the days following the Seder (or even if you're not observing the holiday), serve charoset with cheese, dollop it into yogurt, or spread it on top of chicken breast. Unlike cardboardy matzo, it’s good enough to eat year-round.

Here's how to make your charoset for your Seder table (or just for a delicious snack):

1. Select your fruit.
In essence, charoset is a mash of spiced dried fruit, so it’s important to choose varieties you—and your guests—will enjoy. Now might not be the best time to share your love of prunes with your company. I recommend using no more than three varieties of fruit (otherwise, your dish might taste a bit like Tutti Frutti ice cream). Dried figs, dates, apricots, cherries, and even pears are all great choices. For a medium batch of charoset (enough to serve 4 to 6 people), 2 cups of fruit, roughly chopped into 1/4-inch chunks, is just right. 

 

2. Get tipsy
. Most charoset contains a bit of wine, and for good reason—you need something to get you through that long Seder. More importantly, the wine helps soften the dried fruit and adds body. A sweet red wine, even Manischewitz, is perfect, as the nuances of a nicer wine might get lost. If you are avoiding alcohol, try substituting pomegranate or grape juice.

  

Place your dried fruit in a small saucepan, pour in enough wine to cover it, and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat, place a cover on top, and let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes, until the fruit is plump and well hydrated. Strain the fruit, reserving the liquid, and place it in the bowl of a food processor.

 

3. Go nuts. Nuts provide a savory crunch that counters the sweet softness of the fruit. Almost any nut will work here, but walnuts, pistachios, and almonds are especially nice. I normally stick to one type of nut so that its flavor doesn't get lost. Roughly chop the nuts—1/2 to 1 cup of nuts for every 2 cups of dried fruits—before adding them to the bowl of the food processor with the fruit.

 

4. Add spices. Sweet spices, like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice, pair well with the dried fruit. Start with only a generous pinch of your favorites, as you can always add more if needed. For something a little more out of the ordinary, add a teaspoon of orange blossom water, a small pinch of ground ginger or cardamom, or a bit of saffron.  



5. Process! Pour about 1/4 cup of the reserved wine into the bowl of the food processor along with the fruit and nuts and begin to pulse until the mixture just starts to come together. There should still be rough chunks. If it’s too dry, add a bit more wine. Taste it, then add more spices, along with a pinch of salt, if necessary. 

And there you have it: charoset that will sustain you through the Passover Seder and through eight days without bread. You might even find yourself craving it in the middle of the summer. 

What's your favorite way to make charoset? Tell us in the comments below!

Photos by Bobbi Lin

9 Comments

Ellen K. April 15, 2016
I have 2 Sephardic recipes I've been using for about 4 or 5 years now. One is made into a pyramid shape, and the other rolled into individual balls.
 
GsR April 13, 2016
I've been making a riff on Indian haroset. Very simple. I cup of silan (date syrup), enough finely chopped nuts ( I usually use a mix of walnut, almonds, and pecans, but pistachios would work) to bring to the texture you like, some minced ginger and maybe a bit of finely chopped chili or pinch of cayenne.
 
Laura415 April 8, 2015
I made both kinds and we had a bunch left over so I used them to make quick breads (used my favorite bannana bread recipe) with Charoset. I had to add some frozen persimmon pulp to make the batter wet enough but you could also use a ripe banana too.
 
akrainey March 30, 2015
I became a life long devotee of Sephardic Haroset when a friend who gre up in Egypt shared this recipe with me. It makes a lot, but you will enjoy it for days after your Seder. <br />2 c dried figs<br />2 c dried apricots<br />1 1/2 c raisins<br />1 1/2 c dates<br />1 c dried cranberries<br />2 c hazelnuts, toasted*  <br />2 c sugar<br />1+ cup sweet wine<br />Cinnamon to taste<br /><br />Cut all fruit into small pieces, mix well.<br /><br />Melt sugar on low heat. When melted, quickly mix in nuts. <br />Spread on parchment paper covered pan. Break into small pieces.<br />Place in blender. Chop until course. (1-2 pulses)<br /><br />In large bowl, mix nuts, fruit, wine, cinnamon. <br /><br />*Toasted hazelnuts<br />Preheat oven to 350<br />Toast hazelnuts 10-15 minutes, or until lightly toasted and skins are blistered. Wrap nuts in kitchen towel. Let steam 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove skins. (don't worry about skins that don't come off) Cool completely
 
Donna April 26, 2015
Sounds wonderful !! Thanks !! Definitely will try !!
 
Rose S. March 30, 2015
I have been tempted to try a Sephardic recipe for years but the other people in my house veto me. I think it is because it is unknown.<br />Charles, do you have a recipe that is your favorite?
 
Jimmy H. March 30, 2015
Our family uses apples, pecans, sugar, cinnamon, and lots of sweet wine. It it best after it has sat in the refrigerator for a few days, it really lets the flavors meld. I also make a version in the fall and to serve with lamb using pears poached in port, onion, and raisins. Good stuff.
 
CHARLES L. March 30, 2015
I like the SAPHARDIC RECIPE,BETTER THAN THE ASHKENAZI RECIPE!
 
Rose S. March 30, 2015
I am usually in charge of making the charoset for both Seders. I make a lot so I keep it simple. Peeled chopped apples, chopped walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, and Manashevitz's wine. I coarsely chop the apples and nuts in a food processor then add the other ingredients till it tastes good. The amount of everything depends on the number of people you are serving. I usually make it a bit ahead so the flavors meld.