Rugelach is a well-loved holiday cookie, and a year-round favorite too! These traditional rolled pastry rugelach cookies are filled with a sweet filling made with brown sugar, walnuts, and raisins.
Rugelach is a traditional Jewish dessert, originating in the Jewish communities of Poland. In Yiddish, rugelach means “little twists”, and that’s exactly what we’re making today!
These little twists are made from a pastry dough fortified with cream cheese and butter. The rugelach dough is wrapped around a sweet, classic raisin and walnut filling and then formed into mini crescent shapes before baking.
The process of making rugelach cookies is similar to making cinnamon buns, or cinnamon roll cookies!
Rugelach cookies are traditionally made for Hanukkah and Rosh Hashana and will often show up on Christmas cookie trays too.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- A Fun Hands-on Cookie Recipe: This is a molded or formed cookie recipe, which means that you’ll take some time to roll, cut, and wrap the dough into the perfect crescent shape! It’s a fun recipe to get the whole family involved in, and kids especially love playing with cookie dough.
- A Traditional Rugelach Filling: While you can technically fill rugelach with just about anything, the filling we’re making today is the most classic. Walnuts, raisins, and brown sugar create a delicious cinnamon sugar swirl.
- Step By Step Instructions – With Pictures! Keep reading to learn all about how to make the best rugelach cookies, and follow along with my easy instructions.
Complete list of ingredients with quantities and instructions is located in the recipe card below
- Flour, Sugar, and Salt: These are the dry ingredients for rugelach dough, which come together much like a pie or pastry dough.
- Cold Butter: cut unsalted butter into cubes before cutting it into the dough.
- Cold Cream Cheese: do the same with cream cheese, and keep both the butter and cream cheese cold until you’re ready to use them.
- Cinnamon Sugar: This doesn’t get mixed in with the other ingredients, but instead is layered underneath the rugelach filling. You can buy cinnamon sugar, or simply mix 1 cup of granulated sugar with 4 tablespoons of cinnamon.
- Brown Sugar and Granulated Sugar: This combination makes a sweet and flavorful filling for these cookies.
- Cinnamon: More cinnamon makes these cookies taste amazing.
- Walnuts and Raisins: Once we’ve pulsed the filling in the food processor, these become a delicious paste.
You’ll also need a beaten egg and coarse sugar to coat the cookies before baking.
How To Make Rugelach
- Fill the Food Processor with the flour, sugar, and salt needed for the dough. Pulse for just a few seconds to combine the dry ingredients.
- Add Butter and Cream Cheese: Add cold cubes of butter and cream cheese to the dry ingredients and pulse again until the mixture is crumbly.
- Mix the Dough: Remove the mixture from the food processor and work it into a smooth ball with your hands.
- Chill: Divide the ball of dough into four equal sections. Gently flatten each into a thick circle, and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
- Make the Rugelach Filling: Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon to the food processor
- Roll Out the Dough: After the dough has chilled, you can preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Then roll one disk of dough into a circle that is ¼ of an inch thick using a rolling pin. If needed, use a pizza cutter to make the shape a mostly perfect circle.
- Cinnamon Sugar: Sprinkle a handful of cinnamon sugar (about ¼ of a cup) over the dough, leaving a ½ inch margin around the outside edge.
- Add Filling and Slice: Top the dough with ¼ of the walnut raisin filling, covering the cinnamon sugar completely and evenly. Use a pizza cutter (or a knife) to slice the circle into quarters, then slice each quarter into thirds so that you have 12 wedges.
- Roll Up: Starting from the outer circle and widest part of each triangle, tuck the dough in towards the filling, rolling it completely towards the center creating a crescent-like shape. Do this for all 12 triangles.
- Place: Place 12 cookies at a time on the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between them.
- Brush: Brush each rugelach with beaten egg, then sprinkle with coarse sprinkling sugar.
- Bake: Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. While the first batch is baking, you can start on the next one. Continue until you’ve baked all of the cookies. Transfer the rugelach to a wire rack to cool completely.
- You need a food processor to make this recipe. While I’m sure there are ways around it, it is going to be easiest to mix the dough and the filling for rugelach using a full-sized food processor.
- You can wash the food processor, or not. I’d suggest rinsing out the food processor between making the dough and mixing the filling, however, it’s not entirely necessary. The machine should be empty after you take the dough out of it, and any small remnants of butter or flour won’t affect the filling.
- Keep the butter and cream cheese cold. To make a flaky pastry, you want to blend cold fat in with the flour. I usually cut mine into small pieces, then put them back into the fridge until I’m ready for them.
- Chill the dough. This is also important when you’re making pastry! Keeping the butter cold up until the point of baking is key.
- When rolling out the dough, be sure to flour the surface well. Use a spatula to scrape underneath the dough, loosening it from the surface multiple times before topping it with cinnamon sugar. This will ensure that your dough will not stick while you’re rolling.
- It’s OK if it looks crumbly. The dough will come together once you press it together into a ball with your hands.
- Work in batches. You’ll make 4 trays of rugelach, and you should keep the dough in the fridge until just before you’re ready to work with it. So, while one tray is baking, you can roll out the next piece of dough. Don’t try to make all of the rugelach at once.
How to Store Rugelach Cookies
These cookies will keep at room temperature for 3 days if stored in an airtight container, or for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
You can freeze baked ruglelach for up to 2 months, just let them thaw before eating!
Other Rugelach Fillings
This cinnamon/sugar/walnut/raisin filling is very traditional, but rugelach can be filled with any sweet fillings! Fruit jams such as apricot or raspberry are amazing, or try caramel sauce or hazelnut spread. You can even play around with savory fillings if you want to. Here are a few tasty combinations to try:
- Dried cranberries, pecans, and mini chocolate chips
- Apple Butter, cinnamon, and walnuts
- Apricot Jam and slivered almonds
- Nutella, Hazelnuts, and dried cherries
More Traditional Cookies to Bake:
- 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
- Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
- Pizzelle Cookies
- Classic Gingerbread Cookies
- Ricotta Cookies
- Pie Crust Cookies
Babka is typically a yeasted pastry made with a laminated dough that is folded many times to create flaky layers, much like French croissants. This dough is then spread with a filling and then braided before baking. The main difference between the two is that babka most often contains yeast, while rugelach does not. Babka is also very different, depending on where it’s made, so in some instances, the two are more closely related, but rugelach is always going to be small, twisted pastries rather than a whole loaf.
Yes, the dough for rugelach can be made and kept in the refrigerator for up to three days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If frozen, allow the dough to thaw before using. You can also freeze the shaped but unbaked cookies for up to 3 months. Bake directly from the freezer, being sure to add the egg wash and sugar before putting them in the oven. Just add a few minutes to the baking time if needed.
You’ll be so glad that you decided to make rugelach for the holidays this year! The crisp, flaky cookies with a sweet cinnamon filling are loved by everyone. Be sure to Pin the recipe!