I used to love cholent, but once I went gluten free, I stopped eating it altogether because it always contained gluten. Today, however, I make a gluten-free cholent recipe that rivals any cholent around, and, of course, there’s no gluten in sight.
Cholent is a warm slow-cooked stew enjoyed on the Jewish Sabbath. It’s typically is made from beef, potatoes, lentils, and grains. What sets it apart from a beef stew is that it includes lentils, beans, and rice to make it more hearty whereas a beef stew would just consist of beef and vegetables.
Cholent is prepared on Friday night, before sundown, and enjoyed on Saturday afternoon as a warm meal for Shabbat. The cholent simmers all night, sending wonderful aromas throughout your house.
You might be wondering why Jews prepare their Shabbat lunch in advance?
The reason is that Jews are forbidden from cooking on the Sabbath. In order to enjoy a warm meal on a Saturday afternoon, they start the cooking process the night before and just let it cook and simmer.
Traditional cholent is made from a mixture of beef stew meat, potatoes, beans, and barley. Yes, barley is almost always included in cholent, rendering it not safe for anyone on a gluten-free diet to enjoy. As you know, gluten comes from wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats. As a gluten-free Jewish person, I despise that barley is almost always found in traditional cholent recipes.
While many families have tried to make gluten-free cholent for me, the truth is their slow cookers are deeply cross contaminated with barley from prior cholent usage. I often don’t feel well after eating a Shabbat meal outside of my own home unless it was prepared by a gluten-free friend.
Sephardi Jews sometimes swap barley for wheat kernels or rice, and they sometimes add chickpeas and whole eggs (in the shell), which hard boil in the slow cooker.
There are many variations of cholent to be had, and if you ask a Jew for their cholent recipe, most will tell you it changes from week to week. They simply throw whatever they can in their slow cooker, eyeball all the measurements, and somehow their cholent tastes great week after week.
Truth be told, I eyeball measurements for my gluten-free cholent too. However, this week I took the time to write down what I put in my cholent so you, too, can enjoy this wonderful Sabbath stew.
Even if you’re not Jewish, you can still enjoy this hearty cholent at any time. It can feed a crowd and takes just a few minutes to assemble.
In order to make cholent, I recommend investing in a slow cooker, preferably one that automatically turns to the warm setting after a 10 hour slow cook. This is a picture of my slow cooker.
I’ve had it for 20+ years. It works like a charm and I will miss the old thing when it dies. It’s still going strong. As you can see, after 10 hours, it automatically switches to the warm setting and stops cooking.
How to Make Gluten-Free Cholent
Below I share how I make my gluten-free cholent. My guests and family enjoy it, and I rarely have leftovers when I have guests. This recipe feeds about 6-8 people, although it will feed more people if you you serve a lot of other side dishes along with it.
1.5 pounds of kosher beef stew meat. You can find kosher stew meat at some Trader Joe’s or at a kosher grocery store. Alternatively, you can just use regular beef stew meat (not kosher).
1 large yellow onion, chopped and sauteed in a little oil prior to adding to the slow cooker.
3-4 medium Russet potatoes, washed and roughly chopped into stew-sized chunks
6-8 carrots, peeled and cut into stew-sized chunks (you could use baby carrots, but I don’t think they taste as good)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup green lentils, soaked. (Be sure to sort and inspect lentils for stray gluten grains. Also, to improve the digestion of the lentils, you’ll want to soak them in water for 24 hours prior to adding them to your slow cooker. Rinse them well.)
1/2 cup brown rice, rinsed
Various spices to your liking. I add 1 tbsp of dried oregano, 1 tbsp rosemary or thyme, 1-2 tsp Kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Sometimes I also add 1 tsp of red pepper flakes to spice it up!
6 cups of chicken broth or water with 3 tbsp of chicken bouillon seasoning. You want to add enough broth or water so that it just covers all the ingredients in your slow cooker. You may need to add more broth or water depending on how your ingredients fit in the slow cooker. The important thing is that you cover it all with the water or the broth so your ingredients don’t stick to the sides and bottom and nothing burns.
You can see below that my cholent is covered in water. It’s not overflowing with water, but it does contain enough to cover all the ingredients.
Once you add everything into your slow cooker, set it to cook on its lowest setting for 10 hours. Below is what it looks like when it’s done. Some of the meat pieces on top might be browned a bit, but once you mix it all up, the beef falls apart and the browned bits give it delicious flavor.
When you’re ready to enjoy a warm Sabbath meal, scoop out the cholent and enjoy with my super doughy gluten-free challah. Shabbat Shalom!
Other Foods to Serve on Shabbat
When hosting friends for Shabbat, I always serve my cholent and challah, along with a salad. Sometimes I serve it with my Greek salad (omit the cheese as Jews do not combine milk and meat in one meal), or this blackened salmon salad (coming soon), although for Shabbat I usually omit the salmon and just enjoy the vegetables and delicious jalapeno lime dressing.
As you can see, the cholent is an essential part of the meal as its the “warm” dish that makes Shabbat feel cozy. You can then serve the cholent with various cold side dishes and have a wonderful meal to enjoy with family and friends.
- 1 Slow Cooker
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 yellow onion large, roughly chopped
- 1.5 lbs kosher beef stew meat see notes
- 3 Russet potatoes medium, washed and roughly chopped into stew-sized chunks
- 6 carrots peeled and cut into stew-sized chunks
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 cup (green) lentils see notes
- 1/2 cup brown rice rinsed
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary or thyme
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried onion flakes
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes optional
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 6 cups chicken broth or water with 3 tbsp of chicken bouillon seasoning see notes
- Add oil to a large non-stick pan and heat it over a medium-high flame. Saute the onion until it softens and starts to turn light brown. Add the onions to your slow cooker.
- Add the beef, potatoes, carrots, garlic cloves, lentils (soaked, drained and rinsed), brown rice, spices and broth/water to your slow cooker. Mix all the ingredients together with a large spoon.
- Cover your slow cooker and set it to cook on its lowest setting.