Tender braised brisket is an essential fixture on Passover tables. Jewish or not, you’re only a real New Yorker if you have a favorite bagel and lox place. But what if you’re vegan?
We’ve collected personal stories and recipes from vegan Jews about how their dietary choices have had an impact on their Jewish identity and food traditions. We also snagged the best recipes for carrot lox.
Sarah Chandler, Chief Compassion Officer at the Jewish Initiative for Animals
Even though I associate certain smells, like my grandma’s chicken, with Jewish holidays, my most vivid childhood memory of Jewish food is dipping matzah into ginger ale with my cousins on Passover. Sitting at the far end of the kids’ table, we were bored of the seder and thought designing a new snack would help pass the time. It’s vegan!
I lived on a Jewish farm for five years. The majority of the farmers weren’t vegetarian, but we kept a dairy-only kitchen for simplicity. The most “traditional” food we could prepare was a dish that maximized fresh ingredients from the farm that week. One summer, my intern made challah from 100% local wheat, eggs, and honey. It was a huge amount of work to grind the wheat, but the final product was magnificent.
I host and attend Shabbat potlucks every week in Brooklyn. The best recipes are those that travel well, are tasty at room temperature, and can be enjoyed by folks with a variety of food needs, including vegan, gluten free, and nut-free. I’ve come to view diversity and accessibility of food as a higher value than keeping alive the Eastern European staples that Ashkenazi Jews often refer to as “Jewish food.” For me, a “Jewish meal” is one where all are welcome and everyone can bring something to share.
Magdalena Antuña, Editor-in-Chief of Selva Beat
My parents led heavily with our Mexican heritage during my childhood. As an adult, I longed for a stronger religious identity and volleyed between Conservative and Orthodox traditions. During our second Hanukkah together, my partner and I decided to share a meal with friends—an idea that rapidly ballooned into a full blown dinner party. The morning of the dinner was a blustering cyclone of activity. There was little joy in our cramped galley kitchen and even less patience. Then, I began heating the oil for sufganiyot. Once I dropped the first fat ball of dough into the pot, I felt the world melt away. This act was my Jewishness materialized, unfettered by comparison or one definition of identity.
Food—mostly carbs, let’s be real—is my safe place. It’s where I go to feel equilibrium; freedom from the outside world, which I feel is incredulous about Sephardic Jews, and relief from the existential crisis of deciding which minyan to join. There is nothing like the joy and peace that comes from rolling poppy seeds on my tongue, in between big bites of Ashkenazic hamentaschen, on Purim. Grabbing rugelach on my way to class, braiding challah at my local center, or eating shawarma with my rabbi is a delicious middle ground that has taken me years to reach.
Erica and Sara Kubersky, Co-Owners of Orchard Grocer
Erica: We grew up in Queens in a culturally Jewish family. We celebrated holidays with lots of food. The greatest fear was running out. One of my mother’s favorite meals to host was the one eaten after sunset on Yom Kippur, a day when we fast. This meal included bagels, cream cheese, and lox and is where my love for breakfast-for-dinner started.
I went vegetarian at a young age and vegan a couple of years after that. While my parents were supportive and understanding of my decisions, they felt like our favorite traditions were going to suffer. We quickly learned about alternatives and realized everything we loved was still available to us if we just tried a little harder. When we opened Orchard Grocer, a vegan bagel with cream cheese and lox was a must!
Sara: My maternal grandmother made the most amazing mandelbrot, a biscotti-like cookie. I liked it so much that she would send me tins of them at sleepaway camp. The chocolate chip ones were my favorite. She made a vegan version for us that didn’t miss a step. When we went vegan, my mother was very discouraged thinking that she wouldn’t be able to serve her matzah balls anymore, but she persevered and created the ultimate vegan recipe. Her secret is to add a grated potato in addition to potato starch to replace the eggs.
Sarah Chandler’s Quick Pickled Carrot Lox
Inspired by the Colorful Kitchen’s recipe for vegan carrot lox, Sarah concocted her own basic version based on an overnight pickling project she had tried in the past.
Fill a 12 oz jar with carrot ribbons (use a spiralizer to turn any vegetable into ribbons)
Leave it out on the counter so you’re ready to take these quick-pickled carrots, which look like lox, to your break fast
Enjoy, having harmed no fish, with no fear of mercury, and the oceans just a bit more balanced
Izzy’s Sweet Potato Lox
A self-defined “vegan blog lady,” Izzy, founder of Veganizzm, shared this simple recipe with us.
Slice sweet potatoes super thinly (I recommend a medium setting on a mandoline)
Bake in the oven at 375* for 15-20 mins until soft
Eat on bagels with capers, red onion, and vegan cream cheese
More Delicious Jewgan Recipes
Izzy’s Vegan Kasha Varnishkes are a nod to the year she spent studying in Russia and eating pretty much only this.
Challah Hub’s Vegan Challah is the most popular recipe on their whole website, which means it beat out their matcha and challapeño cheese varieties.
Magdalena hemmed and hawed about giving up honey when she first went vegan, because it was just so sacred to her. She learned that honey made from apples might be even better than the real thing, in symbolism and taste. Gan Eden in a bottle, for all intents and purposes.
She thinks vegan pastrami is the cat’s pajamas.
This piece was made in collaboration with Selva Beat, an environmental lifestyle mag. To read their beautifully designed content about environmentally friendly food, beauty, fashion, sex, love, and fashion, CLICK HERE.