What Jewish People Eat For Shabbat, The Weekly Holiday
Image Credit: Freepik. Cholent, a traditional Jewish stew made with meat, potatoes and eggs.

Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday and lasts until Saturday evening. It is the Jewish day of rest during which work is prohibited. The weekly holiday is a time when observant Jews take time to engage in spirituality and rest. Dinner tables become elaborate, and families converse and bond over food. 

Before the Friday night meal begins, candles are lit and the ‘kiddush’ (a Jewish blessing) is recited over cups of wine. Another blessing is recited over challah, the braided Jewish bread, which is broken into small portions and shared among everyone at the table. Shabbat dinners are multiple-course meals, including everything from soup and bread to chicken and fish. Here are some food items that are a part of most Shabbat dinners:


Image credit: Pixabay. Challah, braided Jewish bread.


Challah plays an important part in both Shabbat prayers and the main meal. It uses white flour, oil and eggs. Eggs are used to glaze the braided bread, giving it a shiny appearance. It is believed that the braids in challah symbolise the weaving of the weekday mentality into a Shabbat state of mind, since Shabbat is an opportunity to briefly pause and take time off from the complexities of daily life. 


Matzo ball soup is considered classic Jewish comfort food. Matzo balls are soup dumplings of Ashkenazi origin, made with chicken fat, matzo meal, beaten eggs and water. Matzo represents the unleavened bread that Jewish people carried with them when they attained freedom from slavery and fled Egypt. The broth is made with chicken, vegetables and parsley. Sometimes, noodles may be added to the soup. 


A common appetiser served for Shabbat dinner is gefilte fish. In Yiddish, the word ‘gefilte’ translates to stuffed. Popular in Ashkenazi households, gefilte fish is made by removing the flesh of the fish and grinding it with eggs, onions, carrots and spices. The resulting mixture is stuffed into the skin of the fish and then baked. The fish used for this is usually carp, whitefish or pike.


Since cooking is prohibited during Shabbat, meats must be cooked in advance and stored so that it only needs to be reheated the next day. Slow-cooked meat dishes like cholent form typical Shabbat meals. Also called hamin, cholent is a traditional Jewish stew made with meat, beans, barley, carrots, potatoes and eggs. It takes 12 or more hours to cook cholent. The dish is prepared on Fridays before Shabbat begins and left on a hotplate or electric slow cooker so that it remains hot for lunch on Saturday. It is eaten as the main dish after Jews have attended the morning service at synagogues. 


Desserts eaten during Shabbat must not use dairy, since meat and dairy cannot be eaten together as per the laws of kosher. Eggs, however, are permitted. Different types of cakes and pies are prepared, one of these being kanavali, a traditional Shabbat cake eaten among the Bene Israeli community in India. Kanavali uses coconut milk instead of regular milk, along with semolina, ghee, cardamom, almonds, raisins and sugar.