Knishes are made of savory fillings enveloped in a flaky, soft dough, formed into a ball and baked or fried until golden. A great knish is a symphony of textures: flaky, soft, and bursting with fillings ranging from meat to buckwheat.
My favorite kind is a potato and onion knish with a heavy seasoning of black pepper. They appear at luncheons, Friday night dinners, brunches, or on the go with a dollop of deli mustard. No matter the filling, knishes taste like comfort and remind me of sharing a meal with my grandparents.
A Rich History
Knishes have been quintessential New York street food for nearly 100 years, appearing on the menus of every Jewish deli and stacked high on street carts dotting the city. It’s not hard to imagine why knishes are the ultimate handheld comfort food since they’re chock full of starchy potatoes and carbs.
Knishes are of Jewish and Eastern European descent and gained popularity in North America when Jewish immigrants brought them to New York and opened knisheries in the early 1900s. These knish shops helped the Jewish population launch into society and make a better life for themselves.
Tips for Making the Perfect Potato Knish
- Make it in stages: Knishes can be labor intensive, so break it into steps. Make the dough and the filling up to 3 days in advance and chill in the fridge.
- Season liberally: Don’t be shy with the salt and pepper, the potatoes can take it!
- Chill the dough: Chilled dough is easier to handle than room temperature dough.
- Roll it thin: Don’t be afraid to roll the dough too thin. You’ll wrap it around the filling, and a thin dough means more flaky layers around the potatoes.
Put Your Own Spin On the Knish
These potato knishes are classic but also easy to tweak with different fillings, a shortcut dough, and more:
- Cook the onions in shmaltz (chicken fat) for added flavor
- Short on time? Roll in puff pastry for a shortcut version that still tastes delicious. You can swap the potato filling for leftover mashed potatoes, too.
- Experiment with fillings like sweet potato and roasted garlic, spinach and ricotta cheese, or mashed squash and ginger for a new take on the classic knish.
Classic Jewish Deli-Style Recipes
For the dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup neutral oil (like vegetable or canola)
1 large egg, whisked
1 teaspoon white vinegar
For the filling
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the egg wash and serving
1 large egg, whisked
1 tablespoon water
Mustard, for serving
Prepare the dough:
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the water, oil, egg, and vinegar and pulse until just combined. It will resemble a shaggy dough that no longer sticks to the side of the bowl.
You can also make the dough by hand. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well, then add the liquid ingredients and mix until completely combined, using your hands as needed to bring it together.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rest for 1 hour at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator.
Cook the onions:
While the dough is resting, make the filling. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until they have browned and softened, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cook the potatoes and assemble the filling:
Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water until fork tender, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the cooked onions to the potatoes along with the butter. Mash with a potato masher or fork until smooth. Let cool.
Roll the knishes:
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a very thin rectangular sheet (approximately 10 x 20 inches).
Place a 2-inch wide log of the potato mixture running about an inch from the bottom of the dough. Roll the dough around the filling and into a log. Not too tight—it should roll around the filling 3 to 5 times.
Form the knishes:
Use your finger to make 11 indents equally spaced down the log approximately 2 inches apart. Use a small knife to cut the log at these points, making 12 knishes.
Pinch at one end to seal; this will be the bottom of the knish. Pinch and twist at the other end or leave open.
Brush with egg wash and bake:
Combine the whisked egg and water in a small bowl. Place the knishes on the prepared baking sheet evenly spaced apart, pinched-side down. Use a pastry brush to brush each knish with the egg wash.
Bake until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve with deli-style mustard.
Store leftover knishes in a paper towel-lined airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer. Reheat refrigerated knishes on a baking tray at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes until warm.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 16g||20%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||13%|
|Total Carbohydrate 29g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||18%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|