Jewish Childhood Comfort Foods From Around the Globe – Kveller
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Jewish Childhood Comfort Foods From Around the Globe

From blintz to breadfruit matzah balls to chopped herring, these beloved dishes are childhood staples in Jewish homes across the world.

Sweet Homemade Cheese Blintzes with Raspberry Sauce

via Getty Images

Everyone has at least one childhood comfort food that takes them back to warm, happy memories: sitting at grandma’s table, a treat from holiday celebrations, a special dish that parents would whip together when a child was ill. 

Jewish kids growing up worldwide, from Paris to Panama City, often have some unique comfort foods. Sometimes that food can be a local specialty transformed into a kosher-for-Passover nosh. In other instances, it’s a hybrid of a classic Jewish culinary item with a flair of regional flavor. 

I love learning what Jewish parents around the world get nostalgic about when they think about childhood throwback foods. Perhaps it might inspire you to try out some new ideas in the kitchen as well!

Central and South America and the Caribbean

Jewish communities in Central and South America date back all the way to the days of Christopher Columbus and the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions in the 1400s, with an additional mass wave of immigration from Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. The largest communities are located in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Uruguay and Chile. 

The Jewish history of the Caribbean also dates back hundreds of years to the 16th century, and Jewish kids growing up in places like Cuba, Curacao and Jamaica have their own culinary nostalgia.

Some nostalgic Jewish comfort foods for this part of the world include Mexican tortillas (which can be made kosher for Passover) with various fillings like brisket and the popular Cuban combo of guava paste and cream cheese spread on items like matzah or challah. Jewish kids the world over grow up getting Jewish penicillin, also known as chicken soup, when they’re sick. Chicken soup variations in central America can include the addition of cilantro, chayote or chile peppers. 

Breadfruit matzah balls are a popular way of integrating a common produce item in the Caribbean together with Passover traditions. Pan levy from the Curacao Jewish community are crispy sponge cookies often consumed with hot cocoa, made during Jewish holidays or for occasions like a bris — and they’re a big hit with kids. Other Caribbean Jewish staples that kids might grow up eating regularly include coconut fish soup and fried plantains


The culinary traditions of Ashkenazi Jews come out of Europe, so they’ve certainly influenced a lot of Jewish comfort foods worldwide wherever European Jews have immigrated. For Jews who grew up in Europe in recent decades, there are many traditional comfort foods of childhood that still reign supreme, like cheese blintzes and kasha with noodles.   

Ukrainian Jewish kids often look back happily on stuffed pepper soup and various varenyky (dumplings) prepared by doting grandparents. 

In Germany and Switzerland, many items from the famed Milka chocolate brand have been kosher for years, making them sweet memories for current adults. Legend has it, though it’s still up for debate, that British Jews invented the most ultra-British of dishes, fish and chips. Regardless of its truth, you’d be hard-pressed to find a British Jewish parent who won’t be brought back to the early years with a stop at the chippy.


Jewish life in Australia, New Zealand and various Polynesian islands such as Fiji is relatively recent compared to many other parts of the world, with Jewish history in the Oceania region dating back to the 18th century with European immigrants. Since this part of the world is under the Equator, what can make Jewish nostalgic food in Oceania a bit unique is that some of the Jewish holiday foods aren’t necessarily seasonal the way Northern Hemisphere Jews might think of them. 

Hanukkah culinary associations tend to grilling and barbecuing on the beach (it’s summer during Hanukkah down under, after all), and the ubiquitous “fairy floss,” the term for cotton candy in Australia and New Zealand, is a food that many Jews in Oceania associate with the holiday alongside jelly donuts. Vegemite spread is indeed kosher, so Aussie Jewish childhood favorites do often include the staple toast with Vegemite. 


The largest Jewish population on the African continent is in South Africa, where Jews have lived continuously since the 1600s. Since South Africa boasts delicious fish in terms of its location, many South African Jewish kids grow up eating quite a bit of fish, from chopped herring to snoek pate. Another childhood classic for South Africa’s Jews is melktert, a sweet custard pastry that can be found at many synagogues for an after-service treat. For kids of the ‘90s and beyond, Nando’s is a world-famous Afro-Portuguese chicken eatery with global locales that originated in South Africa, and to this day South Africa has the only kosher Nando’s.

Israel and the Middle East

The drink sachlav (or salep) is a warm beverage made from orchid root that emerged from Turkey and Iran and became a popular beverage throughout the Middle East. Many Israelis and Middle Eastern Jews have fond memories of drinking it as a child; in Israel it’s often prepared with a thick, sweet consistency, frequently topped with nuts or cinnamon. 

In recent years, Israeli kids have lots of contemporary favorites when it comes to taking them back to the past: Krembo sweets, Bamba and Bissli snacks, ptitim couscous (often prepared very simply for kids as a comfort food with minimal additions), sabich sandwiches and Hashachar Ha’ole chocolate spread being just a few examples. 

Has this article made you hungry? Great! Time to start some new Jewish culinary traditions in your family that your kids will get to have their own delicious associations with for years to come.

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