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Recipes from Around the World: Eastern European Rugelach

Rugelach is associated with many Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, and with immigration, has spread to both America and Israel. Rugelach has developed in a variety of ways in different countries and as such, today, people have different answers to what the “traditional” rugelach is. For many, it is simply a product of the ones they had as children. The base dough, made up of just butter, cream cheese, flour, and salt, pairs well with a wide variety of fillings, meaning this is a recipe you can adapt to your own taste preferences.

Health Benefits

Weight Loss Prevention

While it is generally important to eat a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, it is also extremely important to stave off unintended weight loss. Fatigue, appetite loss, changes in taste, and early satiety may lead to weight loss during cancer treatment. Smaller, more frequent meals and snacks throughout the day can be helpful [i]. Rugelach is an easy, 2-bite snack, that can be enjoyed when managing early satiety. They can also be made in larger quantities and stored in the freezer for extended periods of time. This allows you to make them when your energy levels are higher and have them at the ready if fatigue becomes a factor. When appetite is low, you will also want your snacks to be high in calories and protein [i]. And while there is some refined sugar in the cinnamon sugar filling, it is relatively limited when compared to other similar pastries.

Antioxidants and Nutrient Density

You can find immune-boosting antioxidants in the ingredients in this recipe, including cinnamon, walnuts and currants [ii, iii, iv]. Cinnamon also has antitumor, cardiovascular, and cholesterol-lowering effects [iii]. The nutrient density of the nuts and dried fruit makes for a great snack. Nuts are high in fiber, low in saturated fats, and high in healthy unsaturated fats [iv, v].

Other Potential Benefits

While in this version we use walnuts, currants, and cinnamon-sugar as filling, you could also include no-sugar added raspberry, apricot, or fig jams paired with chocolate chips or sliced almonds. Because there is no sugar in the dough, you can also make savory versions. Add smoked salmon for a dose of protein or use the dough as a vehicle for vegetables such as steamed asparagus or sautéed mushrooms. Each potential variation offers its own set of nutritional benefits.



Yield: 48 cookies


Pastry   Filling (see below for alternate fillings)Glaze
½ lb unsalted butter (at room temperature)½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water   
½ lb cream cheese (at room temperature)1 Tbsp cinnamonCinnamon-sugar (there will be enough left over from the filling mixture)
½ tsp salt 3 Tbsp melted butter 
2 cups all‑purpose flour¾ cup dried currants or raisins 
 1 ¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped 


For the Pastry – Prepare the night before  

  1. Put butter, cream cheese and salt into large bowl of electric mixer. Beat on medium, then high speed, until mixture is smooth and creamy. 
  2. Beat on low speed while gradually adding flour. Dough will be very sticky. 
  3. Turn dough out onto well‑floured board. Flour the hands and knead dough into smooth ball. 
  4. Cut into 3 pieces of equal size (approximately 8 oz each). Flatten and mold each into a disc shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and set aside. You can also use non-stick cookie sheets.
  2. Combine sugar and cinnamon and set aside (this is enough for 3 discs of dough and to sprinkle over the tops as a glaze).
  3. Place 1 disc of dough on a floured pastry cloth or cutting board. Begin to roll out the dough with a rolling pin, turning it over occasionally until it reaches a diameter of 10-11 inches. Don’t worry about uneven edges.
  4. Using a pastry brush, brush dough with 1 Tbsp of melted butter.  
  5. Sprinkle 3 Tbsp of the cinnamon‑sugar mix evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle ¼ cup of currants, then 1/3 heaped cup of nuts over dough. With each, avoid too much sprinkling into the middle third of the circle. This will prevent spillage when you roll them into crescents.
  6. Lightly roll over the filled dough to press filling slightly into the dough (this will expand dough disc a little making it closer to 12” in diameter).
  7. Cut circle into 16 pie shapes with a long, sharp knife or pizza cutter. Roll each wedge from the outside towards the point in the middle. (Do not worry if some of the filling falls out).
  8. Place each roll, point side down, about 1 inch apart on baking sheet. Once your baking sheet is filled, brush each rugelach lightly with egg wash. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes by placing sheet on lower rack for half of the time, then turning the pan and baking it on a higher rack for the second half. Remove cookies from pan and transfer to racks to cool. 
  10. Repeat with the second and third balls of dough.

Alternate Fillings

You can fill each disc with a variety of ingredients (both sweet and savory!). The above ingredient amounts are if you made all three discs with the cinnamon-sugar, currants and walnuts.

Below are some ideas for other fillings with estimated amounts for a single dough round:


  • Raspberry or apricot jam (1/3 cup) with mini chocolate chips (1/4 cup)
  • Nutella (1/3 cup) with mini chocolate chips (1/4 cup)
  • Lemon curd (1/3 cup) with sliced almonds (1/4 cup)
  • Fig jam (1/3 cup) with slice almonds (1/4 cup)
  • Peanut butter (1/3 cup) and raspberry jam (1/4 cup)


Smoked salmon (8 oz) with dill or chives (1-2 Tbsp)

  • Slice into the 16 pieces first. Then put a single layer of salmon on each slice. Sprinkle dill or chives over the disc.

Asparagus spears (4-5, pre-cooked) and parmesan cheese (1/4 cup)

  • Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the whole disc. Then slice.
  • Place a 1.5-2 inch length of asparagus at the wide edge of the slice and then roll up.

Mushrooms (1/3 cup, pre-cooked) with chopped walnuts (1/4 cup) and cheese (1/4 cup)

  • Sprinkle the walnut and cheese over the disc. Place the cooked mushrooms around the outer edge. You may need to move them around by hand as you start to roll to make sure each slice gets a bit of mushroom.

Olive tapenade (1/3 cup) and roasted peppers (1/3 cup)

  • Spread the olive tapenade in a thin layer. Then sprinkle the peppers around the outer edge.


[i] American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/eating-problems/weight-changes.html. Accessed December 9th, 2021.

[ii] Manganaris, G.A., Goulas, V., Vicente, A.R. and Terry, L.A. (2014), Berry antioxidants: small fruits providing large benefits. J. Sci. Food Agric., 94: 825-833. https://doi-org.ezproxy.cul.columbia.edu/10.1002/jsfa.6432

[iii] Gruenwald J, Freder J, Armbruester N. Cinnamon and health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Oct;50(9):822-34. doi: 10.1080/10408390902773052. PMID: 20924865.

[iv] Alasalvar C, Salvadó JS, Ros E. Bioactives and health benefits of nuts and dried fruits. Food Chem. 2020 Jun 1;314:126192. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.126192. Epub 2020 Jan 11. PMID: 31958750.

[v] Vinson J, Cai Y. Nuts, especially walnuts, have both antioxidant quantity and efficacy and exhibit significant potential health benefits. Food and Function. Iss. 2 2012

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