A soft, flaky pastry filled with sweet cinnamon-spiced nuts and dried cranberries, Rugelach may look and taste fancy, but these cookies are surprisingly easy to make.
Classic Rugelach Cookies
Growing up I used to watch my mom make Rugelach, which seemed like 40 days and 40 nights until they were ready. HA. It’s funny how the concept of time for a child is so distorted. A few years ago I finally tried making Rugelach myself – while they look fancy and taste really special, they are surprisingly easy to put together.
The dough begins much like any other pastry dough or pie crust. If you can make either of those, you can definitely make these! And if you haven’t tried your hand at either of those, no worries. You’ll see just how easy it is to do in this Rugelach recipe.
With a warm cinnamon-spiced filling, these are perfect for the fall season, but they really are a year-round dessert, great for a weekend brunch, bridal or baby showers, and anytime you want a wonderful treat that’s a little different or fancier than your typical cookies.
What is Rugelach?
Rugelach (pronounced raw-guh-luhkh) means “little twists” in Yiddish. They are a classic pastry treat that originated from an Eastern European crescent-shaped cookie known as kipfel. Often served on Jewish holidays, including Rosh Hashanah and Hannukah, but can be enjoyed by anyone at any time. The dough is similar to pie crust but with added sour cream to keep it moist, and while the filling is traditionally a combination of nuts and warm spices, you can use virtually anything. Chocolate, jam or preserves, nut butter, fruit, and cream cheese all work as fillings.
The ingredients for the Rugelach pastry dough are similar to what you’d need to make a pie crust, while the filling ingredients add the flavor and texture.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
For the Rugelach dough
- Flour: Just regular all-purpose flour works great.
- Salt: To enhance the flavors.
- Unsalted butter: If you use salted butter, omit the extra salt. The butter should be cold and cubed.
- Egg: You’ll only need the yolk for the dough.
- Vanilla: For flavor.
- Sour cream: Helps keep the dough moist and tender.
For the Rugelach filling
- Sugar: This filling uses equal parts granulated sugar and brown sugar.
- Chopped walnuts: You can also use chopped pecans, if preferred.
- Dried cranberries: Raisins are another good option or use a combination.
- Cinnamon: Adds a warm flavor. We’ve also made this recipe using our homemade apple pie spice, which has a wonderful mix of flavors.
- Powdered sugar: Used for dusting the work surface.
- Egg wash: The egg wash is made with egg whisked with milk and is basted on before baking. This results in a beautiful, golden exterior.
How to Make Rugelach
While Rugelach may appear difficult to make, in reality it’s surprisingly easy. Just remember to allow proper time to chill the dough and you’ll be good to go. Here’s a brief summary of what to do:
(Don’t miss the complete printable recipe card below, along with a video for visual help.)
- Prepare the dough. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor 10-12 times until pea-size crumbs are formed. Divide into 3 equal portions and flatten into a disc shape. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
- Make the filling. Pulse all of filling ingredients until finely minced.
- Assemble the cookies. Roll each dough disc into a 10-inch circle. Brush with water then spread the filling in a thin layer. Cut into 12 wedges. Carefully roll each wedge. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Bake. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the tops of the Rugelach with egg wash and cinnamon-sugar. Bake until lightly golden brown. Allow to cool then dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tips for Success
While Rugelach are simple to make, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Keep the dough chilled. Only pull the section of dough you’ll be working with out of the fridge. Allow the rest to continue chilling until you’re ready to work with it.
- Refrigerate cookies until ready to bake. If you are baking just one tray at a time, refrigerate the remaining cookies until ready to cook.
- No food processor? Use a pastry cutter. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a pastry cutter for the dough. Just note that the dough should be in pea-sized crumbs, so you will have to put some muscle into it.
- Switch up the filling. You can put virtually anything inside your Rugelach. You can swap the nuts and dried fruits to others or completely switch it up by using fruit preserves, apples and cinnamon, or chocolate.
How to Store
How long does Rugelach keep? You can store your Rugelach cookies on the counter for up to 5 days. Just store them in an airtight container and enjoy at room temperature.
Can you freeze Rugelach cookies? Yes, these Rugelach cookies freeze well. Just allow them to cool completely then pop them in a ziploc bag and transfer to the freezer. They’ll keep for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and then bring to room temperature before eating.
Or freeze the unbaked dough: Alternatively, you can freeze the dough. After it has chilled in the fridge, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and pop it in a freezer-safe plastic bag, then into the freezer.
More Easy Cookie Recipes:
More Jewish Food:
For the dough
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour , spooned and leveled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter , cold and cubed
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup sour cream
For the filling
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- powdered sugar (for work surface)
- water (for brushing dough)
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk , for egg wash
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Place all the dough ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 10-12 times until pea-size crumbs are formed. (You can also do this with a pastry blender or fork, but it will take a lot longer and you'll need to use some muscle!)
- Transfer the dough onto a work surface and gather the pieces into a ball. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and gently flatten into a disc shape. Wrap each one in plastic wrap, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Make the filling: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the granulated sugar, brown sugar, walnuts, dried cranberries, and cinnamon until very finely minced and well combined. The filling will feel a bit moist. You’ll have about 2 cups total.
- Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
- Using one disc of dough at a time (keeping the others chilled until ready to use), transfer to a clean surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll each section of dough into a 10-inch circle. (Dusting the rolling pin with powdered sugar if necessary, to prevent sticking.)
- Lightly brush the dough with water. Spread 1/3 of the filling over the top in a thin layer, gently pressing down to adhere.
- Using a pizza cutter (or sharp knife), cut the dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 equal pieces, so you end up with 12 wedges.
- Roll up each wedge, starting at the wide end, taking care not to push too hard or wrap too tightly (you don’t want the filling to ooze out during baking.) Curve the ends inward just slighty to form a crescent shape (optional.)
- Place rolls onto prepared baking sheets, point-side down, 2 inches apart.
- Repeat with the other two discs of dough. (If only baking one tray at a time, refrigerate the remaining cookies until ready to bake.)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Combine the 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
- Working with 3 or 4 Rugelach at a time, brush tops with egg wash and immediately sprinkle with some cinnamon-sugar.
- Baked for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.