Vegan cholent might seem like a stretch, but why not? With seitan or other plant-based beefy protein standing in for the real thing used in the original classic Jewish recipe, it’s a warming, hearty dish that’s easy to adapt to plant-based.
This updated version of a Jewish classic can be considered an early predecessor to slow-cooker recipes. In its original form, it’s put in the oven before the Sabbath and cooked at a very low temperature for about 12 hours so that it can be eaten for the Sabbath midday or late afternoon meal.
It’s a rare Eastern European Jewish recipe highlighting beans, and makes a hefty portion. Vegan cholent is perfect for company or holiday meals (especially Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year); you can also freeze it in portions for future use.
For a smaller family, or for two, cut the recipe in half. And if you do want to try this in a slow cooker, see tips below the recipe box.
If you’d like a bit of history of the original (that is, non-vegan) cholent recipe, here you go. Interesting note — there’s a Sephardic cousin to this recipe called hamin or dafina. Adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas.
- 3/4 cup pearl barley
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds seitan, cut into bite-sized pieces (see note for gluten-free option)
- 4 medium white or golden potatoes, peeled and diced
- 3 to 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
- 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 3 to 3/12 cups cooked small red beans, or two 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon Spanish (smoked) paprika or cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Combine the barley in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. This won’t cook the barley completely, but will give it a head start as it’s added to the stew.
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and seitan. Continue to sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the seitan begins to brown lightly.
- Add the barley, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, wine, and 4 cups water. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
- Add the beans and paprika. Cook over the lowest heat possible, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the barley and vegetables are tender and the flavors well married. Add more water as needed to keep moist; this should be thick and stew-like, rather than soupy.
- Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Cook over very low heat for 5 minutes longer. If time allows, let this stand off the heat for an hour or two before serving to further develop flavor, then heat through gently. Otherwise, serve at once.
See directions for cooking in a slow cooker following this recipe box.
Tips for cooking cholent in a slow cooker
Robin Robertson, the author of Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker provided the following instructions for making cholent in a slow cooker—a modern segue for an age-old recipe:
The first step is optional but worth using an extra pan, to achieve added flavor: In a skillet, sauté the onion, garlic and seitan as directed in the second paragraph of the recipe instructions, then set aside. (Hint: some newer slow cookers allow you to go from stovetop to slow cooker, in which case the skillet is unnecessary.)
Either way, proceed by combining all the ingredients except the parsley in a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker (including about 2 1/2 cups of water—you’ll need less water than the stovetop method).
Cover and slow-cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or until the vegetables are tender. Gently stir about halfway through, if possible, to make sure the harder vegetables (carrots, etc.) are submerged in the cooking liquid. During the last hour of cooking, add the parsley and check the seasonings.
If a bit more moistness is needed, add 1/2 cup or so additional water If the cholent is cooked before you’re ready to eat, turn your slow cooker to the “KEEP WARM” setting.
If you like this plant-based version of a classic Jewish recipe …
You might enjoy this collection of Jewish recipes made vegan
See also an array of updated classic recipes in Veganize This!