rosh hashanah traditions - apple with honey, pomegranate, herbs

How to Make a Plant-Based Rosh Hashanah Feast

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Rosh Hashanah 2022 begins on the evening of Sunday, September 25th. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, 5783 this year according to the Hebrew calendar. I have put together this resource for you with plenty of healthy plant-based recipes to enjoy for the holiday.

Rosh Hashanah means head of the year in Hebrew. It falls in September or October each year. Months are added occasionally in the Hebrew lunar calendar to keep holidays on track for the seasons. This holiday is a big deal in the Jewish faith: so big in fact that it is part of what is called the High Holidays, along with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

Rosh Hashanah Simanim (Symbolic Foods)

So now you know it is a very important holiday, much more so than the calendar New Year in the United States. And of course, this means special holiday foods! Apples and honey are traditional foods to taste the sweetness of the new year. Hebrew blessings are said over the wine, candles, and bread, which is challah.

challah with sesame seeds
challah with sesame seeds

Challah is a braided loaf with an egg-rich dough. For Rosh Hashanah, it is traditionally made in a circle. According to this article from ReformJudaism, this symbolizes the cycle of the seasons as well as the change to repent and return: t’shuvah in Hebrew. There is always the opportunity to learn and better ourselves. Challah for Rosh Hashanah often includes raisins (I still like mine with more of an everything topping – like sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and garlic salt).

Beef brisket and roasted chicken are popular entrees. A favorite side dish is a noodle kugel (pudding), or sometimes two: sweet and savory. Potatoes or tsimmes (sweet potatoes and carrots cooked with dried fruits in orange juice) are usually included. Another favorite is kasha buckwheat groats) with bowties. These are typical Ashkenazi dishes: from Northern and Eastern Europe.

This Rosh Hashanah article also discusses Sephardic food traditions. One that jumped out at me was black-eyed peas. Black-eyed peas are part of Hoppin’ John, a traditional Southern / African-American dish served for good luck on New Years’ Day.

This dish of black-eyed peas with rice with vegetables is a good example of a protein-rich entree for a plant-based diet. This recipe can easily be made vegan by omitting the turkey thighs (pork is more traditional in the recipe) and switching the chicken broth to vegetable broth.

Eating a new fruit, or one that you haven’t had for awhile, is another tradition according to this article from the PJ Library.

Rosh Hashanah is not an official harvest celebration: that is Sukkot, which falls a little later. But I feel like it is, as there are so many fresh vegetables in season! Hopefully, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, beets, and more can join the party.

Pomegranate cut open with green apple
pomegranate with green apple

Then for dessert, honey cake and Jewish apple cake are popular. Pomegranates are another traditional food. A fun activity for a kid, if you don’t mind a little mess, is for them to count the seeds in one. It is supposed to be 613: the same number of commandments as in the Torah.

Here are a few more tips. When you see Rosh Hashanah on the calendar, it starts the night before, like all Jewish holidays. Rosh Hashanah is considered a two-day holiday even in Israel. You can wish a Jewish friend Happy New Year. In Hebrew, that is shana tova: see this article in fromMyJewishLearning for more details.

Appetizers

Now, back to the food. For a plant-based diet, honey is often not acceptable since it is made by bees. Apples and maple syrup would be a tasty substitute. You can use agave nectar too: I like the thicker consistency but there is not much flavor: perhaps combine the two? And do yourself a favor and find some fresh-picked local apples if you can.

Other appetizer ideas are raw veggies and pita crisps with guacamole, hummus, or baba ganoush. All would be a nice nibble while waiting for more courses or guests to arrive. Or a carrot, butternut squash, or pumpkin soup.

I often serve a tossed salad. This pumpkin vinaigrette salad dressing would be an excellent fall choice.

Salad of greens, yellow pepper, olives, carrots, tomatoes, walnuts with pumpkin vinaigrette salad dressing
Salad with pumpkin vinaigrette salad dressing
Pumpkin Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
This pumpkin salad dressing is perfect for fall salads or anytime. It is tangy, addictive, and easy to make. Treat yourself to a homemade salad dressing!
Pumpkin Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
Salad of greens, yellow pepper, olives, carrots, tomatoes, walnuts with pumpkin vinaigrette salad dressing

To make vegan challah, try using aquafaba instead of eggs. This is just the liquid from a can of chickpeas. Golden or dark raisins added to the challah make it very festive. After it is braided, spiral it into a round pan, let it rise again, and bake it. It is usually served with margarine in a meal that contains meat: a plant-based spread would be a healthier option. Or better yet, olive oil!

I love the look of this recipe, which combines apples and challah:

Rosh Hashanah challah with spiced apple filling is a fabulous festive treat!
Tasty vegan challah dough is wrapped around delicious spiced apple filling to create sensational Rosh Hashanah challah! Plus 3 beautiful ways to shape it.
Rosh Hashanah Challah
Rosh Hashanah challah with spiced apple filling is a fabulous festive treat!
Lentil and Walnut Stuffed Zucchini Cups
Delight your guests with these vegan lentil and walnut zucchini cups stuffed with mushrooms, onions, celery, carrots, and seasonings.
Lentil and Walnut Stuffed Zucchini Cups
3 lentil and walnut stuffed zucchini cups on red plate

Entrees

For a plant-based Rosh Hashanah, there is definitely some overlap between entrees and side dishes. I tried to choose heartier recipes with a few food groups for the entrees.

Stuffed Peppers with Butternut Squash and Quinoa
Italian-style vegan stuffed peppers with butternut squash, Great Northern beans, quinoa, and herbs. A great meal for holidays and entertaining. Or, make a batch for a family meal or meal prep. This recipe freezes well too.
Stuffed Peppers with Butternut Squash
stuffed-peppers-with-butternut-squash-and-quinoa in a white baking dish topped with chopped parsley and basil leaves
Easy Moroccan Chickpeas | Eating by Elaine
This One-Skillet Moroccan Chickpeas recipe is slightly spicy, slightly sweet and very savory. Simple pantry ingredients come together to create this warm, aromatic and cozy dish.
Easy Moroccan Chickpeas
Easy Moroccan Chickpeas | Eating by Elaine
Cauliflower Steak Marbella with Roasted Chickpeas | Eating by Elaine
This elegant dish is a vegan riff on the famous Chicken Marbella recipe from The Silver Palate cookbook. In this recipe the cauliflower steaks and chickpeas are roasted to perfection with golden brown crispy edges for a stunning presentation.
Cauliflower Steak Marbella with Roasted Chickpeas
Cauliflower Steak Marbella with Roasted Chickpeas | Eating by Elaine
Vegan Stuffed Sweet Potato
Make a quick and easy meal by stuffing a sweet potato with savory, delicious ingredients.
Vegan Stuffed Sweet Potato
Vegan Stuffed Sweet Potato

Side Dishes

Vegan Spinach Noodle Kugel
A simple but classic comfort food dish that is perfect for brunch or the holiday table. Wide fusilli pasta is tossed with a rich homemade sauce and baked until slightly crisp on top for a cozy casserole that family and friends will love!
Vegan Spinach Noodle Kugel
Vegan Spinach Noodle Kugel
Sesame Sweet Potatoes with Green Onions
Sesame sweet potatoes are an easy side dish with an Asian flair. A different flavor profile than the typical Thanksgiving ones: vegan and gluten-free.
Sesame Sweet Potatoes
sesame sweet potatoes on white plate
Vegetarian Farm To Table Zucchini Eggplant Shaak – Warrior In The Kitchen
Transform your delicious summer garden vegetables like zucchini and eggplant into a flavorful vegetarian farm-to-table style meal!
Zucchini Eggplant Shaak
Vegetarian Farm To Table Zucchini Eggplant Shaak - Warrior In The Kitchen
Crispy Smashed Potatoes – Foodie Goes Healthy Recipe Blog
These are very simple, but definitely a hit in my house.
Crispy Smashed Potatoes
Crispy Smashed Potatoes - Foodie Goes Healthy Recipe Blog

Desserts

We enjoy a lot of sweet foods for a sweet new year on Rosh Hashanah. Here are some ideas:

Spiced vegan apple cake with salted caramel drizzle | Cook Veggielicious
A spiced vegan apple cake packed full of sweet tasty apples and flavoured with cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Finished off with a salted caramel drizzle. The recipe calls for sultanas, which are golden raisins.
Spiced Vegan Apple Cake
Spiced vegan apple cake with salted caramel drizzle | Cook Veggielicious
Blueberry Coffee Cake – Without Dairy or Eggs
Delectable and satisfying – try this coffee cake fresh and warm from the oven. Made with fresh blueberries and light and fragrant Ceylon cinnamon. A delicious and lighter vegan treat!
Blueberry Coffee Cake
Blueberry coffee cake on plate surrounded by blueberries
5-Minute Double Chocolate Pumpkin Mug Cake
Enjoy the flavors of fall with this perfect little snack or dessert. Great when you want a tasty chocolate treat that's on the healthy side and super quick!
Chocolate Pumpkin Mug Cake
double chocolate pumpkin mug cake with silk fall leaves

I hope these ideas help you create a wonderful healthy meal and important family memories. Best wishes in the year ahead.

For more plant-based Jewish holiday recipes please see:

18 Delicious Vegan Passover Recipe Ideas

Getting ready for Thanksgiving? Check out: How to Plan the Best Plant-Based Thanksgiving with 16 recipes

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Please share in the comments below which recipes you have tried, and how you liked them!

Originally published: 9/7/20. Updated: 8/21/21

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