Short rib slow cooker cholent is good for a rainy night (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Short rib slow cooker cholent is good for a rainy night (Photo/Faith Kramer)

The comforting qualities of good ol’ Jewish cholent

There is something about this time of year that demands a warm, comforting bowl of that most symbolic of Jewish foods, known variously as cholent, schalet, hamin or adafina. All feature slow-cooked beans, grains, vegetables and often meat — timed to simmer without fuss from the pre-Shabbat hours on Friday afternoon until Saturday lunchtime.

This recipe for Short Rib Slow Cooker Cholent is a good choice for a cold-weather meal anytime. It can be started in the morning for dinner that night, or cooked overnight for Shabbat lunch.

The recipe mixes Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Mizrahi elements, and uses bone-in English-cut short ribs (the kind sliced into individual ribs).

Refer to manufacturer’s instructions for your specific slow cooker, Instant Pot or other electric multicooker. This recipe uses an 8-quart slow cooker. Adjust recipe quantities as needed.

Short Rib Slow Cooker Cholent

Serves 6
  • 2 tsp. plus ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. plus ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. plus ½ tsp. paprika
  • 6 English-cut beef short ribs (3½ lbs.)
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red chili flakes
  • 1½ cups dried chickpeas or small white beans, rinsed
  • 1½ cups sliced carrots (cut into 1-inch rounds)
  • 3 cups total sweet potato and/or potato chunks, peeled (cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • ¾ cup whole freekeh or pearled barley, see notes
  • About 4 to 6 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 Tbs. honey
  • 1½ Tbs. tamarind paste or date syrup (silan) plus extra for garnish, see notes
  • 1½ Tbs. tomato paste
  • 6 large eggs in shell, rinsed
  • 3 Tbs. chopped parsley

Mix 2 tsp. salt with 1 tsp. black pepper and 1 tsp. paprika. Rub all of the mix on short ribs.

Turn slow cooker on high, and let it heat covered for 15 minutes if using a ceramic insert, or 5 minutes if using metal. Add oil, and let it heat for a few minutes. Add onions and garlic. Stir in remaining salt, pepper, and paprika and the cumin, cinnamon and chili flakes. Add chickpeas/beans, carrots, sweet potato and freekeh. Stir in broth to cover by a half inch. Stir in honey, tamarind paste and tomato paste. Nestle in ribs, bone side down, and tuck in eggs in their shells.

Reduce heat to low. Cover and let cook 4 hours. Turn eggs over and turn ribs bone side up and push them a bit deeper into the bean mixture. Cover and continue cooking, adding broth as needed for another 10 to 14 hours or until beans are soft and the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender. (Timing will vary, but cooked dish will keep well in the covered slow cooker for a few hours. Add liquid if needed to keep moist.)  If cooking over Shabbat, add more liquid before sundown.

Ladle into individual bowls. Peel eggs (slice, if desired). Serve on top of cholent. Garnish with a drizzle of tamarind paste (mix with hot water if necessary) or date syrup and top with parsley.

Same-day variation: Soak beans overnight and freekeh or barley in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain. Cook on high for 8 to 10 hours.

Multicooker variation: Multicookers operate at lower temperatures than slow cookers. Use the “more” or “high” slow-cook setting (equivalent to medium-high on a traditional slow cooker). If the cholent is cooking too quickly, reduce to the “medium” or “normal” setting until thoroughly cooked. Allow additional time. Be sure the lid is closed, with the pressure vent opened.

Notes: Freekeh is roasted, young wheat. Use whole kernels, not cracked. Tamarind paste has a fruity, sharp and slightly sweet taste. Tamarind concentrate is a good substitute, but use a teaspoon more. Date syrup (silan) is a sweeter alternative. Find these ingredients in Middle Eastern and other specialty stores.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].