For those of you not in “the know,” knishes are mashed potatoes wrapped in pastry dough — similar to pierogis or empanadas. These bad boys were once a common New York City street food brought by the Eastern European Jewish immigrants, and, while they are not sold on the street anymore, some Jewish bakeries still sell them. They can be either fried or baked, round or square, snack size or meal size (doesn’t everyone want to make a meal out of mashed potatoes and pastry?). They can even have different fillings, but the mashed potato filling is the most common. Oh, and they usually have a lot of dairy and eggs, meaning that despite their simple ingredients, they are not traditionally vegan.
This is where I come in.
Searching the internet, I had difficulty finding any easy to follow vegan knish recipes. Some called for ingredients like store bought vegan sour cream (and, no shade, but have you tried store bought vegan sour cream?) and none of them had adequate instructions for how to fill the knishes.
So, I thought I would figure it out myself and share it with the internet.
I went digging through the deep dark non-vegan web to see how everyone else was making knishes. It seems that the small, round ones were the most common, so that’s what I decided to recreate. Some had the tops open with a little potato sticking out and some were completely covered with the pastry flour. I found it easier to leave the potato showing, but my mom, g-d bless her, said she remembers them not having any potato showing. You can use some of the extra pastry dough to cover the tops if you are on team mom and are good at shaping small pastries.
For this recipe, I created two variations: One with homemade sour cream and one with vegan butter or olive oil for when you can’t be bothered to make your own sour cream.
You will also notice that the recipe for the sour cream makes WAY more than you need for this recipe. I tried to downsize the recipe, but my Vitamix is too large and will NOT blend small amounts. If you have a small blender, you can try to downsize the recipe, BUT I make this sour cream all the time and it almost never goes to waste. I use it to top burritos or tacos, in soups like borscht, or mixed with herbs and spices to make a dip, spread, or pasta sauce. I am also working on some creative ways to use the sour cream, so stay tuned.
This is certainly not the easiest recipe that I have on here, but it is great as an appetizer for a party. They are super cute and will definitely impress your friends!
So, channel your inner bubbe and and roll some potatoes in pastry! It’s worth it.
Makes About 20 Small Knishes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
For the Sour Cream
1 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, soaked for 1 hour if not using a high speed blender
1 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Filling
2 large onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pinch of baking powder, optional
1 large yellow or white potato*
1/4 cup sour cream or 1/4 cup olive oil or vegan butter plus 1/4 teaspoon each garlic and onion powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
For the Dough
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup neutral oil
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 tablespoon of olive oil, reserved for coating the knishes
- First, caramelize the onions. Preheat a large pan over medium heat, and chop the onions into thin slices. Add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil plus the chopped onions into the pan. Add a pinch of salt and baking powder (the baking powder will help them caramelize faster). Allow to cook until tender and brown, stirring occasionally to prevent from burning. Add water or more oil if the onions become too dry. This should take about 20 minutes (30-40 minutes if you do not add baking powder).
- While the onions are caramelizing, peel and dice the potato into 1 inch pieces. You can either boil or steam the potato. To steam, add your steamer basket to a pot with water at the bottom. Preheat the pot over low/medium heat. Add the potatoes to the steamer basket and cover the pot. To boil, simply add water to a pot on low medium heat, place the potatoes in the water, and cover. Either method will take about 20-30 minutes. Check periodically to see if they are tender. When they are finished, they should mash easily with a fork.
- While the onions and potatoes are cooking, make the sour cream. To make the sour cream, simply add all of the ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth.
- Once all the potatoes and onions are done cooking, place all of the mashed potato ingredients, including the onions and 1/4 cup sour cream that you just made, into a large bowl and mash away with a fork until they are fluffy. It is ok if there are some lumps.
- Now you can work on your dough. Add the dry ingredients to a large bowl. Then, slowly add in the wet ingredients and mix. It should be a smooth, slightly stiff dough.**
- Split your dough into two even pieces. It is ok if they are not exact.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place one piece on parchment paper or a nonstick surface and place parchment paper on top of the dough (this is not necessary but it makes rolling easier) and roll out with a rolling pin. You should have something that looks like this:
9. Now, add potatoes onto one side of the dough. Do not spread them out over the whole surface and do not over stuff the dough.
10. Roll up the dough like a big ol’ cigar. Seal the ends as best as you can.
11. It’s time to cut the knishes! Cut the dough into about 1 inch pieces. You do not have to seal the tops, but try to make them as round as possible.
12. Complete steps 8-11 for the second piece of dough. Your knishes should look like this (or perhaps even nicer and more uniform because, unlike me, you are good with small pastries) before they go into the oven:
13. Place the knishes onto a nonstick baking tray. Coat the knishes with a little olive oil or spray oil before putting them in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping them half way through.
14. Take them out of the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and you have knishes! WOO! Yeah, you rock! Now, take them to your friend’s potluck and knock their socks off.
*I have tried this recipe with both white and yellow potatoes, and I prefer the yellow potatoes.
**If you want to make the dough in advance and refrigerate it, make sure to bring it to room temperature before using it. I find that the dough is better when it is made right before rolling it out.