Wondering how to plan a vegan Rosh Hashanah menu? Learn more about this holiday and try these recipes! Rosh Hashanah 2023 begins on the evening of Sunday, September 25th. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, which is 5784 this year according to the Hebrew calendar.
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 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 prefer 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 with apples, cherries, or other fruit, 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 (farfalle pasta). These are typical Ashkenazi dishes: from Northern and Eastern Europe.
Vegan Rosh Hashanah Menu Ideas
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, made 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 a while, is another Rosh Hashanah 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.
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.
Now, back to the food. For a vegan Rosh Hashanah, honey would not be included. 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. Date honey (silan) is more common in the Middle East and would be good also. And find some fresh-picked local apples if you can for more flavor and nutrients.
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.
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:
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.
We enjoy a lot of sweet foods for a sweet new year on Rosh Hashanah. I usually bake a chocolate dessert and some kind of fall dessert with apples or maybe even pumpkin. And fresh fruit is always nice to serve. Here are some recipe ideas:
I hope these vegan Rosh Hashanah menu ideas help you create a wonderful healthy meal and important family memories. Best wishes in the year ahead!
For more plant-based Jewish recipes please see:
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 vegan Rosh Hashanah recipes you have tried, and how you liked them!
Originally published: 9/7/20. Updated: 9/3/23