Knishes, those beloved pockets of pastry goodness, are a tasty tradition that brings together the flakiness of golden dough with some truly irresistible savory fillings.
In this recipe, we’ve reimagined the classic knish with a plant-based twist, offering a mouthwatering combination of “beef,” potatoes, and caramelized onions that will tantalize your taste buds. Regardless of whether you’re a long-time knish lover or a newcomer, our knish recipe is here to impress and satisfy your cravings. So, roll up your sleeves and let’s dive into the art of creating these easy vegetarian knishes!
A knish (pronounced “k-nish”) is a traditional Eastern European Jewish food consisting of a thin buttery dough filled with things like mashed potatoes, onions, and/or ground meat. Knishes come in various shapes but are typically round and squat and can be found baked or fried.
Whether you’re strolling the bustling streets of New York City or cozying up on a chilly day, knish is the perfect snack or light meal to fuel your adventures. It’s compact, portable, and bursting with flavor.
Its origins can be traced back to Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, where it was a staple comfort food. Over the years, it’s traveled across continents and evolved into a fusion of flavors, reflecting the diverse communities that have embraced it.
Today, you can find knish in bakeries, delis, and food trucks in various corners of the world. It’s not just a snack; it’s a symbol of comfort and tradition, offering a flaky pastry hug wrapped around a flavorful surprise inside!
These incredible vegan knishes are made with mostly pantry staples, aside from vegan ground beef. Here are the key ingredients you’ll need and some handy substitutions:
Apple Cider Vinegar – Distilled white vinegar can be used in place of apple cider vinegar.
Olive Oil – Avocado oil, canola oil or another neutral flavored cooking oil can be used in this recipe; however, I don’t recommend using coconut oil (unless it’s refined).
Yukon Gold Potatoes – Mashed potatoes are a traditional knish filling. Yukon Gold potatoes are light, buttery, and fluffy, making them perfect for this vegan mashed potato filling. You can also use yellow, Idaho, or Russet potatoes, but be sure to measure by weight instead of the number of potatoes, as potato size can vary significantly.
Vegan Ground Meat – Any type of vegan ground meat can be used in this recipe. We used Creative Pea’s ground beef but feel free to use whatever plant-based meat crumbles you have available.
Yellow Onion – A slightly sweet onion works best in this recipe, so a regular yellow or a sweet brown/yellow onion are good choices. A white onion will work in a pinch, but it will be even more important to caramelize it in order to bring out some sweetness.
Vegan Butter –Because the butter is only used in the mashed potatoes and to sauté the onion, the flavor of the butter is the most important quality here, so use one that you like and that has a convincing buttery flavor. Miyoko’s or Earth Balance are good options.
Egg Wash – I like using a combination of soy milk with a little agave or just melted vegan butter for an “egg wash” to help these knishes brown beautifully. The “egg wash” basted on the outside of the knishes is purely for aesthetic purposes and can be skipped if you choose.
In a small bowl, combine water and vinegar. Stir dry ingredients in a separate small bowl. Using a food processor, blend the dry ingredients and water/vinegar mixture until a dough forms. Drizzle in olive oil while processing, being careful not to overmix.
Lightly knead the dough on a floured surface for about 2 minutes, adding flour as needed. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
While the dough chills, prep the filling. Boil potatoes until fork-tender, then mash with a little butter and salt. Sauté diced onions in vegan butter until caramelized.
If using Creative Pea’s BEEFFREE, rehydrate half a package according to instructions. Combine rehydrated BEEFFREE with onions, then mix with mashed potatoes.
Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half and roll it out into two rectangles about 12-14 inches long and ⅛-inch thick. Fill each rectangle with a log of filling, careful not to overfill. Brush the long sides of the dough with an “egg wash,” fold both sides of the dough over the filling, and seal. Slice into 6 equal pieces.
Shape pieces into round knishes by squishing down the top to create a squat ball and tucking everything into the center to form a round knish. Then, brush with an “egg wash” and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy hot, at room temperature, or chilled.
Knishes can be enjoyed as a snack or made into a meal and can be served with a variety of sauces or sides. Traditionally, knishes are served with things like sauerkraut, horseradish, or spicy brown mustard sauce but there are so many other delicious ways to serve this tasty pastry.
Mixed Greens Salad: Balance the hearty knish with a light mixed greens salad dressed in vinaigrette. The freshness and crispness of the salad provide a refreshing contrast.
Soup: For a heartier meal, consider pairing your knish with a bowl of hot soup, such as a creamy tomato soup or a flavorful vegetable broth. The warm, soothing combination of knish and soup is sure to satisfy your appetite and warm your soul.
Roasted Vegetables: For a well-rounded meal, pair your knish with a medley of roasted vegetables. The caramelized flavors of the vegetables harmonize beautifully with the pastry.
Hot Sauce or Sriracha: For those who love a little heat, drizzle your knish with hot sauce or sriracha. The spicy kick adds an exciting dimension to each bite.
Fruit Preserves: If you’re craving a sweet knish, consider serving it with fruit preserves like apricot, raspberry, or strawberry jam. The fruity sweetness can transform your knish into a dessert-like treat.
Hummus: Explore the fusion of cultures by enjoying your knish with a dollop of creamy hummus. The chickpea-based dip provides a Middle Eastern twist to this Eastern European delight. Try a creamy white bean hummus, vibrant pink beet hummus, or easy oil-free hummus to pair with this knish recipe.
Store the knishes in an airtight container and consume within 4-5 days for best quality. Knishes
can be reheated in the microwave, air fryer, or oven until warm, or enjoyed room temperature or
Knishes can be frozen for longer storage. Simply place cooled knishes in an airtight resealable
freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in the oven or
air fryer until warm.
The beauty of knish is the ability to add a variety of delicious fillings to it! While the classic potato filling is a beloved staple, the dough is the perfect base to add whatever flavor you’re craving, whether that’s sweet or savory! Here are some of our favorites:
Kasha (Buckwheat) Knish: Kasha knish typically features buckwheat groats cooked with onions and mushrooms. The earthy and nutty taste of kasha pairs wonderfully with the pastry’s buttery layers.
Sweet Potato Knish: For a sweeter twist on the classic, sweet potato knish offers a tasty alternative. The natural sweetness of roasted or mashed sweet potatoes, combined with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, gives this knish filling a unique twist reminiscent of sweet potato pie.
Meaty Knish: Ground beef and chicken are common knish fillings. We love using vegan ground beef from Creative Pea but any plant-based meat or ground meat substitute can work! For chicken, soy curls make a great alternative. Season with herbs and spices for a savory and satisfying option that can be enjoyed as a main dish or a hearty snack!
Mushroom and Onion Knish: Mushroom and onion knish features sautéed mushrooms, onions, and sometimes a touch of garlic. The umami-rich mushrooms and the sweetness of caramelized onions provide a robust and earthy flavor profile.
Spicy Jalapeño and Black Beans Knish: For those who like a little heat, this knish filling includes diced jalapeños and hearty black beans. It offers a spicy kick that’s sure to awaken your taste buds.
Cinnamon Apple Knish: Embrace the flavors of fall with a knish filled with sautéed cinnamon-spiced apples. It’s like a mini apple pie wrapped in flaky pastry!
Nutella and Banana Knish: Are you a fan of Nutella? Fill a knish with the indulgent hazelnut spread, along with slices of ripe banana, to create a heavenly dessert option that’s sure to satisfy your sweet cravings.
A knish is typically made of a flaky pastry crust filled with various ingredients, with the most common filling being mashed potatoes seasoned with onions and sometimes other spices. However, there are many variations, including those with ingredients like kasha (buckwheat), sweet potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, cheese, and meat.
Yes, you can mix and knead the dough by hand. The food processor just saves some time but is not entirely necessary. To make the dough by hand, mix the dry ingredients making a well in the center. Add the water/vinegar mixture and then combine, mixing by hand, until the dough pulls together. Once a dough forms, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for one hour. You can also use a blender if it has a pour spout for the oil, but it is easier to overwork the dough in a blender and you may need to scrape the sides with a rubber spatula.