Shavuot 2023 starts at sundown on Thursday, May 25. It is a widespread custom – and one of the defining features and many people’s favorite aspect of the holiday! – to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. For many Ashkenazi Jews, that means enjoying cheesecake, blintzes, and other sweet, creamy desserts. However, Jewish communities around the world have their own treasured Shavuot recipes that utilize local ingredients and reflect the beautiful diversity of global Jewish culture.
We have rounded up 7 little-known foods that are enjoyed by Jews during Shavuot. Need a refresher first on what Shavuot is and why the Jewish people celebrate it? Check out our Shavuot 101 guide!
As we say in Israel, beteavon!
1. Spain, Greece, and North Africa: Pan de Siete Cielos
Sephardic Jews in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, as well as Jewish communities in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, celebrated Shavuot by baking “el pan de siete cielos,” or, “the bread of the seven heavens.” The bread’s history can be traced back all the way back to 8th-century Spain. The bread features intricate shapes, designs, and braids that represent Mount Sinai, Miriam’s Well, and Jacob’s Ladder. Often described as a flatter sweet challah, the bread is a perfect Shavuot dish, with Biblical themes and a dough filled with butter, milk, and sugar. Get the recipe!
2. India: Basundi
The pudding-like desert Basundi is not exclusively a Jewish food – it is enjoyed by Indians of every faith across the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. However, Jewish communities in these regions frequently made Basundi for Shavuot because of its milky base and sweet taste. Get the recipe!
3. Mexico: Babka with Mexican Chocolate and Cinnamon
While the term “Mexican food” may remind you of quesadillas and tacos, the Jews of Mexico often eat foods similar to Ashkenazi cuisine, like gefilte fish and brisket. However, Mexican Jewish communities often incorporate local ingredients and flavors that are more readily available, and Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon Babka is a perfect example of that tradition – an ideal sweet treat for the holiday of Shavuot. Get the recipe!
4. Turkey: Frojalda
Frojalda is a classic Turkish-Jewish food that involves lots of cheese and butter and is often enjoyed around Shavuot and year-round. Commonly eaten warm, Frojalda is similar to focaccia and uses feta and cheddar cheese, but feel free to customize it to your own tastes. Get the recipe!
5. Syria: Atayef
Atayef are a blintz-meets-pancake delicacy that has been enjoyed by Jews (and non-Jews) in Syria for hundreds of years. Stuffed with a sweet creamy ricotta mixture, Atayefs are fried (making them a favorite during Hanukkah, too) and then drenched in rosewater syrup. Get the recipe!
6. Ukraine: Lenivie Vareniki
While plenty of people know vareniki as the Russian word for dumpling, Lenivie Vareniki refers to specific type of dumpling popular in Ukraine. Rather than being filled like a traditional dumping, cheese and butter are worked into the dough itself in Lenivie Vareniki. If that’s not enough dairy for you, it’s also common to top the finished product with sour cream. Get the recipe!
7. Yemen: Malawach
Malawach is commonly eaten in Israel, after being introduced to the country by Yemenite Jewish immigrants. However, most malawach is pareve and usually enjoyed alongside meat. Yemenite Jewish communities did not traditionally eat dairy during Shavuot and made malawach instead. In Israel, some families now choose to eat it with dairy dips and dishes on Shavuot to have the best of both worlds. Get the recipe!
Enjoy, and Happy Shavuot from the entire Judaica Webstore team in Jerusalem!