Rugelach is unique: It’s poised somewhere between a pastry and a cookie. It boasts a sweet filling of fruit and nuts, wrapped inside a soft cream cheese dough. You get all the buttery, flaky goodness of a croissant or Danish without the fuss of a complicated pastry dough. Win, win!
With such excellent qualities, why stop at just one version of rugelach? You can find many sweet versions that riff on the classic fruit-and-nut filling, like apple or chocolate or apricot. But today we’re urging you to think even further outside the box and try baking savory rugelach.
Before you throw up your hands and protest that it was the mention of cookies that drew you in to keep reading, bear with me! The holidays are full of parties of every shape and size. You’ll need a few reliably great savory recipes along with sweet ones. Most savory holiday recipes tend to be more involved, like fancy appetizers or yeasted rolls.
Rugelach is the ideal balance of simple and showstopping. The buttery dough is perfectly suited to savory rugelach fillings like cheese and herbs. Small and tidy, savory rugelach is a great finger food alternative to crackers or crudités.
Now that I have you convinced, let’s learn how to transform rugelach from sweet to savory!
For the savory rugelach dough
Start with the master dough recipe from our traditional recipe. Since the dough has no sugar in it, you don't need to make any adjustments if you're using savory rugelach fillings instead of sweet. All you need to do is pick your favorite flavor combinations! Once you've decided on flavors, follow the classic recipe instructions.
Savory rugelach assembly
First, roll out a third of your dough to a 10" circle. Brush it lightly with water (or melted butter, if you want to gild the lily). If you're using any sort of a wet filling, like a pesto or olive tapenade, you can skip the brushing step. You just need to make sure there's some moisture on the dough to help the rest of the filling stick and stay put.
Sprinkle or spread your filling over the dough. Cut the dough into 12 equal wedges. Roll up each wedge, beginning with the wide end and ending with the narrow end.
Place the rolls point-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush them with milk, cream, or butter to get the tops to brown nicely. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden.
Savory rugelach fillings
There's a world of possibility for savory rugelach. Whatever fillings you choose, aim to keep the quantity to a thin layer on top of the rolled-out dough. You don't need a hard-and-fast recipe for each of these flavors, but go with taste. If you like more spice, add more spice! If you like more cheese, add more cheese!
Here are a few of my favorites, plus some inspiration for more flavor combinations:
Not Your Mama's Cheese Ball (cheddar cheese + pecan): Inspired by the classic, old-fashioned party appetizer (a soft cheese ball rolled in toasted nuts). Top your dough with melted butter, grated sharp cheddar cheese, and chopped toasted pecans.
The BEC (bacon + egg + cheese): The ultimate breakfast sandwich in rugelach form! Brush your dough with an egg wash, then top with chopped crispy bacon and grated Monterey Jack cheese. Add hot sauce, if you dare!
Harvest Season (pumpkin + Parmesan): A fantastic way to make the most of seasonal ingredients. Follow our recipe for the technique.
Get Figgy With It (fig + walnut + blue cheese): This trio of ingredients is the ideal balance of sweet and savory. Finely chop dried figs and walnuts, then top with crumbled blue cheese.
Well-Seasoned (garlic + ricotta + herb): Make great use of dried herbs (fresh ones will work too!) in this easy riff on savory rugelach. Spread your dough with a thin layer of ricotta. Add minced garlic and any herbs you like. Oregano, rosemary, thyme, and parsley are wonderful together.
The Italian (basil pesto + sun-dried tomato): Simple, salty, and hard to stop eating! Spread a thin layer of pesto over your dough. Top with finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (if they're packed in oil, drain them first).
Spanakopita (spinach + feta): Combined with rugelach's buttery dough, crumbled feta and chopped baby spinach make a deliciously portable version of spanakopita: traditional Greek spinach pie.
OK, so I might have gotten a little carried away with the silly names. What can I say? I love baking! (I think in another life I should have written restaurant menus for a living.) But jokes aside, taking inspiration from foods you love is a great way to dream up ideas for everything from muffins to filled yeast breads to crackers.
Love pizza? Add sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, mozzarella, and oregano to your savory rugelach.
Love tacos? Add taco seasoning, a very thin layer of sour cream, and cooked ground beef.
Love French onion soup? Add caramelized onions and Gruyère cheese.
Combine sesame seeds and miso, or tahini sauce and za'atar spice. You get the idea!
Tips for savory rugelach success
- I recommend steering clear of filling ingredients that are too chunky, as those can make it hard to roll and shape the rugelach.
- With wet or gooey ingredients (ricotta cheese, pesto, olive tapenade), use a thin layer so that it won't ooze out as the rugelach bake. Pair more liquid-y ingredients with sturdier ones (nuts, hard cheeses, dried fruit) to help anchor them in place.
- Toast your nuts! This isn't mandatory, but toasting nuts gives them a deeper, more delicious flavor. Just let them cool slightly before chopping and adding them to your filling.
- Top it off: Sweet rugelach is often sprinkled with coarse sugar before baking. For your savory rugelach, try a finishing touch of grated Parmesan or dried herbs or flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper.
Let us know what savory rugelach recipes you're baking in the comments below!