Photo Credit Ellen Silverman

This Kasha Varnishkes Recipe Was Almost Lost in the Holocaust

A beloved dish "made the old-fashioned way" with lots of mushrooms.

In “Honey Cake & Latkes: Recipes from the Old World by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivors,” Tova Friedman writes, “My late husband’s favorite food was tzimmes, but he also shared his family’s recipe for kasha varnishkes. So from the time I had my own family and had children, we always used to prepare tzimmes and varnishkes. This is the “old-fashioned” way to make it: with lots of mushrooms.”

This hearty dish is perfect for the crisp fall months.

This recipe is reprinted with permission from “Honey Cake & Latkes: Recipes from the Old World by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivors.

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Kasha Varnishkes

This kasha varnishkes recipe is comforting and packed full of mushrooms.

  • Total Time: 35-55 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


Units Scale
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup kasha (buckwheat groats)
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • salt
  • 1 cup bowtie (farfalle) pasta
  • 3 Tbsp butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 12 ounces white mushrooms, sliced about ¼-inch thick
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup soy sauce


  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and have it ready.
  2. Put the kasha in a medium bowl. Add the beaten egg to the dry kasha. Mix thoroughly so all the grains are uniformly coated.
  3. Heat a heavy-bottom 8-quart pot over medium-high heat until it is very hot. Add the kasha-egg mixture and stir continuously, breaking up clumps so that the kasha is very hot.
  4. Slowly pour the boiling water onto the hot kasha and add a pinch of salt. The kasha will explode and froth (this is the fun part).
  5. After all the water has been added and the pot settles down, skim any schmutz that might be floating on top. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
  6. While the kasha is cooking, prepare the bowtie pasta according to package instructions (cook in salted water for about 12 minutes).
  7. While bowties are cooking, heat the butter (or oil) in a wide saucepan. Add the onion and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the mushrooms and then the garlic and cook until the mushrooms and onions are tender. Add the cooked kasha to the mushroom mixture, then add the soy sauce and toss gently to coat. Add the bowties just before serving.
  9. An alternative way of cooking this dish is to place the kasha mixture in a casserole dish and bake at 300°F for 20 minutes, or to desired dryness.
  10. When ready to serve, add bowties and mix. Serve hot.
  • Author: Tova Friedman
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30-50 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Ashkenazi

38 responses to “This Kasha Varnishkes Recipe Was Almost Lost in the Holocaust”

  • I love Kasha .Is it ok to not add the pasta ?
    What is the easiest way to make this ? Can I add more mushrooms and onions ? I mean I know I can but how will it turn out ?

    • Hi! We love kasha too. I have only ever made this recipe with the pasta and kasha together. I might suggest looking up a kasha recipe to see if the ratios would differ by removing the pasta and adding more mushrooms and onions. If you make it this way, let us know how it turns out!

  • I find it interesting that this recipe was almost lost in the Holocaust and it contains soy sauce. I had no idea they were using soy sauce at that time. I learn something new every day! Thanks for sharing. I make a really good kasha varnishkas but I will definitely try this recipe.

  • I am giving away some of the kasha. It doesn’t make sense to not just add the bow ties after it’s done. That’s the way I have done it before. Why is that a problem?

  • There’s no reason why you can’t do it without the pasta. Maybe double the recipe, since most of the bulk is the bowtie pasta.

  • The recipe looks delicious. From a European point of view though, kasha and bowtie pasta are 100% American. I believe it comes from the confusion of a word “ferfel” a pasta roughly cut in tiny bits with a knife, and “farfalle”, borrowed to Italian fellow immigrants.
    In my family/ community of French Jews, we use the word kasha varnishke for dumplings stuffed with kasha, and kasha et ferfel for a dish made out of schmaltz, onions, mushrooms, kasha and… well, ferfel 🙂 I wish I could add a picture. They are little square shaped pasta, dried and grilled before you cook them. The brand Rosinski sells them in France. Anyway, farfalle make for a cute sub

  • Thanks for the recipe. Interesting about the soy sauce. I’ll try it. I prefer baking the kasha with the bowties at the end. Nice crisp edges on bowties.

  • I often make Kasha into a side dish without the pasta. Sauteed mushrooms and onions make it a great accompaniment to any entree. Be sure to add enough salt, no need for soy sauce.

  • I think soy sauce is an American addition (and adds some interesting flavor). My Yiddishe Mama who was born in Poland did not use it. Otherwise, this recipe is similar to hers, and tastes delicious!

  • Love Kasha varnekes. To the question…can you just make the kasha and not the bowties? Of course….but then you just have kasha! It would be the same as if you took a recipe for meatballs and spaghetti, and asked if you could not put in the spaghetti! Of course…..but then you just have meatballs.

  • I’m vegan and don’t eat eggs. What can be substituted to replace the egg and still comes out good?

  • There is a brand of “ varnishkas” that is not pasta. They are small egg noodle now ties, if you can find it. There are also small pasta bow ties that aren’t nearly as heavy as the farfalle.
    That is what I use if I can’t find the small egg noodle bow ties. I never heard of adding soy sauce to a kasha varnishkas recipe and I also don’t believe this was the recipe from the Holocaust; they didn’t have soy sauce!

  • I just made a big pan of kasha varnishkes and my son walked in just as I finished and said he would like to taste it. He said it took him back to a time when his grandmother used to make it. There are just the two of us so I freeze most of what I make in portion sized containers and my husband and I enjoy this for several meals. I do not use soy sauce but if I have left over gravy that goes in with the chicken broth that I use instead of water.

  • I don’t bother with the egg mixed with the kasha. I saute the vegetables in butter then add the kasha and mix it well into the vegetables. Also, I use chicken stock. I’ll try adding the soy next time I make. My husband would put me out of the house if I didn’t serve with bowties. I believe there is a law!

  • My kasha varnishkers the best .. I fry 2 lbs onions almost burn to crisp add loads of flavor to kasha .. everybody loved them. .. no no soy sauce

  • I used to add the egg and bake in the oven until egg was absorbed but I usually leave this out. I think it was done when people were really poor to add a little protein. You can make onions way before and freeze. My onions are always very nicely browned. (Takes awhile, that is why I do it in advance.) You can’t have too many! If I add mushrooms, they are sauteed, but nowhere near as long as the onions. I use both canned and fresh. No garlic, for sure NO soy sauce, just salt and black pepper. Bowties are optional. I prefer smaller ones when I do add, but not always available. I cook separately and add when heating up. Again, to me, they are filler. Kasha is the star! This was my grandmother Ethel’s recipe. She was an amazing balabuster.

  • Cook whole groats in chicken stock for added flavor. After 12 minutes shut the flame but keep the lid on for another 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Leftover kasha is wonderful for breakfast with two easy over eggs with or without the pasta. Also kasha is the perfect accompaniment to brisket.

  • I make kasha varnishkes every other week for between I make tzimmas. My hubby makes the grieven and schmaltz….great in the kasha!!
    Alternating weeks we have appetizers of (ulipjes sp? ) aka stuffed cabbage, liver and onions, or chicken fricasee.
    I LOVE Friday nights….and the memories they rally!!

  • I have always used the bow tie pasta with the kasha.. Instead of butter or oil, my mom made it with chicken fat for more flavor.

  • this is my recipe developed over many years:
    –I cook about 1/2 a large package of bow tie pasta
    and put the noodles in a bowl
    –I beat 2 eggs and add 2 cups of kasha and coat them with the eggs
    –In the pot I used to cook the bowties, I either fill it with water or
    chicken broth, about 3-4 cups
    –I dice a large onion and add it to the pot of water or broth
    –I slice brown mushrooms and add them to the pot
    –I add two good chunks of butter to the pot and cook it all on medium heat,
    when it boils I lower it
    –I heat a skillet and add the kasha/egg mixture and move it around until all
    the egg on the kasha is dry
    –I pour the water/broth mixture over the kasha
    –sometimes I also add beef stew chunks
    –Himalayan salt or kosher salt and pepper to taste
    –all the ingredients are organic btw
    –I always make something to last a few days
    –I’ve never added soy sauce
    –make sure there is enough butter it makes a big difference

  • You don’t need the egg. Toast the kasha in a medium hot pan, stirring, then when it’s hot, add liquid (water or broth) a little at a time, stirring, until the kasha no longer absorbs water. The noodles should be cooked. The onions should be cooked until golden brown. At least that was my family’s recipe and it’s good.

    You can also cook kasha, add browned onions and mushrooms and butter and bake in a covered baking pan. It’s a old Russian recipe.

  • For those who don’t use the egg: Its purpose is to preserve the integrity of the kasha. Otherwise, it can turn to mush.

  • Just for us all … did some research about soy sauce in Europe and it’s timeline. It was actually probably still called something else (possibly shoyu?) and was first mentioned in the late 1500s in Europe. It may be called soy sauce now, but it is VERY plausible as part of someone’s recipe in World War II Europe. If you want references, please ask, or google it for yourself. Just because it was not in other people’s family recipes does Not invalidate it here. Just saying …

  • My mother was a Holocaust survivor who grew up in Slovakia. She told me she had never eaten kasha until her family was deported to Poland in the early 1940’s. Yet we grew up eating it in the States as if she had grown up with it. I continued the tradition with my own children who grew up in Israel!

  • My father used beef bouillon (or beef stock) for the kasha water. I usually use chicken stock. Soy sauce just doesn’t seem right.

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