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Not Your Bubbe’s Recipe: Southern Chili Cholent

The second the temperature drops and the countdown to the start of Shabbat seems to halve, every Jewish cook knows what’s on the horizon: cholent season. Whether you use the traditional Dutch oven or the more modern Crockpot, you share a common goal: Keeping your friends and family warm from the inside out.

Growing up, my grandfather would often tell me stories about how on Friday afternoons his mother would send him to the local bakery with her cholent pot. In Israel’s early years no one had an oven big enough to fit the large pots. Everyone would walk over to the bakery and place their pots in the baker’s gigantic oven. After shul, each family would pick up their pot of cholent that had cooked overnight. Occasionally, my grandfather and his family would sit down to enjoy their cholent only to open the lid and discover that they accidentally took the wrong pot!

The concept of cholent is tied to the commandment not to light fire on the Sabbath. Faced with the challenge of eating fresh food for Shabbat lunch, the idea of sticking everything you have in a pot, cooking it overnight, and hoping for the best was born. As a result, Jews from all over the world, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, have their own distinct traditional cholent recipes.

I’ve found that cholent is one of those things that you either love or hate. There is very little space for middle ground on such an important matter. Some people love the fact that by cooking your cholent overnight you receive a soft mush, and while others prefer their meat and potatoes on the same plate, but not blended together. Many enjoy the simplicity of the dish while others have trouble digesting something so bland.

As the sort of person who likes to put hot sauce on their hot sauce, I have a bit of problem dealing with cholent’s lack of flavor. I like my dishes’ flavors to be bold and for the food to look nice on the plate; cholent posseses neither of these qualities. While the look isn’t likely to change, there is something you can do about the flavor.

Southern food is all about flavor, and much like cholent, it’s comfort food. Like the classic Jewish dish, Southern food is soul food. It seemed pretty natural to combine these two together. By taking some classic Southern ingredients and the spices often found in chili, you give the dish you’ve eaten for years some extra flare. This Southern version kicks this classic around the curb and gives it a fresh new taste.

Not Your Bubbe’s Chili Cholent
Serves about 12


1\2 cup dry lima beans
1\2 cup dry black eyed peas
6 potatoes, cut into cubes
2 sweet potatoes, cut into cubes
2 tbsp margarine
2 large yellow onions, sliced
8 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3\4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
3\4 tsp allspice
1 tbsp cumin
3\4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 can of beer
3 beef marrow bones
1 1\2 lb of shoulder beef, cut into cubes
1 cup strong coffee
1\2 cup ketchup
1\4 cup honey
1 1\2 tbsp of cocoa powder
1\3 cup frozen corn


1. Soak your lima beans and black eyed peas in water for two hours. In a separate bowl, place your cut up potatoes and sweet potatoes in salt water and allow them to soak for two hours.

2. Melt your margarine in a large frying pan over a medium high heat and add the onions.

3. When the onions have softened, about five minutes, add your spices.

4. Cook for two more minutes and then pour half your can of beer into the frying pan. Leave your onions in the pan until the beer has been completely reduced. Then place the onions in the bottom of a Dutch Oven or a Crockpot.

5. Combine the rest of your beer, coffee, ketchup, honey, and cocoa powder in a medium bowl and pour over your onions.

6. Drain the beans and place on top of your onions along with the corn.

7. Next add the marrow bones and meat.

8. Drain and then place your potatoes and sweet potatoes on top.

9. Cover your Cholent completely with water.

10. If you are cooking in a Dutch Oven, cook the Cholent on the stove top on a high flame until it boils and then let it simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the Dutch Oven from your stove top to cook in your oven on a low heat overnight.

11. If you are cooking your Cholent in your Crockpot, cook on a high setting until it boils and then reduce to a low heat overnight.

12. Cholent should cook for at least 12 hours.

Also try:

Not Your Bubbe’s Thanksgiving Turkey

Not Your Bubbe’s Stuffed Cabbage Kugel

Not Your Bubbe’s Squash Pie

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