My childhood memories are filled with eventful family dinners around the gorgeously set Rosh Hashanah table and the wafting scents of my maternal great grandmother’s recipe roster. From hearty brisket and syrupy tzimmes to comforting matzah ball soup and festive cinnamon-apple noodle kugel, my parents cook up an annual menu that stems five generations and 100 years. However, it’s not just my mother’s side of the family that receives the Rosh recognition. Since 1950, my father’s family has owned and operated several kosher bakeries. My father continues to bake raisin and sesame challah, along with cinnamon-raisin rugelach, mocha roll, chocolate babka, and apple sour cream coffee cake to ring in the New Year.
For me, the aromatics are more than just a reminder of my family’s dedication to traditional dishes. Since going gluten-free in 2013 in favor of a cleaner, lower-carb lifestyle and following the ketogenic diet — a low-carb, high-fat diet — for the past two years, this epicurean perfume allows my senses to continue experiencing dishes that are no longer invited onto my plate.
However, not all hope is lost when it comes to satiating the longing for Jewish comfort food.
Over the past few years (not because of my self-inflicted carb and sugar ban, although the struggelach is real this time of year), I’ve hosted Rosh Hashanah at my own home. I’ve experimented with plenty of keto-friendly Jewish recipes along the way. While keto is extremely restrictive, there are tricks worthy of adoption. My six keto-friendly Rosh Hashanah hacks will feed your festive appetite well beyond the shofar’s resounding blast of the final tekiah gedolah.
Instead of wheat flour, nut flours and coconut flours can help in achieving successful modifications. When it comes to dessert, sugar alcohol-derived sweeteners that rank zero-to-low on the Glycemic Index (GI) provide the allowance to bake. (Think erythritol, monk fruit, and Stevia.)
2. Keto Matzah Ball Soup
Although I prefer/recommend a traditional, home-cooked chicken soup, bone broth is one of the pillars of the ketogenic diet, thanks to its high-fat, nutrient-dense, collagen-infused base. Despite your stance on the soup itself, this recipe for keto matzah balls will ensure you don’t get left out of the appetizer round.
3. Savory Slow Cooker Brisket
As a Jewish carnivore, there are few things I enjoy more than a low-and-slow Rosh Hashanah brisket. Last New Year, I followed this slow cooker recipe, which is very similar to my family’s method. Although I ramped up my cut to 10 pounds, I found the sear-into-CrockPot method to be seamless and delicious.
Note: This recipe calls for cornstarch or potato starch, but your brisket truly needs no thickening agent. If you feel strongly that is does, go with a pinch of keto-friendly xanthan gum (a little goes a long way).
4. Spaghetti Squash Noodle Kugel
While the jury is still out on the perfect keto egg noodle substitute, if you’re a fan of fall squashes that are keto-compatible, spaghetti squash is your best friend. The idea here is to create a sweet kugel varietal featuring traditional spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Note: There’s no need for pepper, though a dash of salt can help with pronouncing flavors. And, if Splenda is not part of your keto regimen (it does not rank high on the list of acceptable sugar substitutes), swap it for one low on the GI instead.
5. Candied Pecans
Not every keto dieter is adventurous when it comes to dessert. For those who prefer basic and easy, this candied pecan recipe will help satisfy your sweet tooth. It’s quick and foolproof, and who doesn’t like candied nuts? This recipe uses Lakanto granulated sweetener, which is a combination of monk fruit and erythritol. The result of this mixture upon heating ensures your “sugar” will harden and crisp like it’s supposed to — if you can wait long enough for the batch to cool!
6. Keto “Apple” Pies
If you’re a seasoned ketoer, you’re already aware that apples are a hard no. However, there is one pretty incredible swap that’ll have you yelling “Shana Tova” from the rooftops. Jicama, a Mexican yam bean, is keto-safe thanks to its incredibly high fiber count. (On keto, if you follow net carb counts, the fiber is subtracted from the carbs — so high-fiber ingredients are given the green light.) If you’re game for a fun experiment in the name of the New Year, give these keto apple pies with fathead dough a go. You’ll find that the texture of jicama is grainy and crisp, like an apple, and that it takes to spices and sweeteners quite well. If you’d rather ditch the “dough,” you can commit to a simpler version, and fork into a warm, sinful bowl of jicama apple filling instead.