Crisp pastry crust, bittersweet chocolate, and gooey sweet-tart cranberry jam make these gluten free rugelach a sophisticated twist on the favorite Jewish cookie. Perfect for your Chanukah celebration, or for an anytime treat.
Critics have accused Thanksgivukkah, the once-in-a-lifetime convergence of Chanukah and Thanksgiving, of trivializing both holidays. The next collision of the two holidays won't occur for another 80,000 years, and many companies are cashing in on the coincidence.
But when a family member suggested having a Thanksgivukkah feast this year, my main concern was for my poor brother, who somehow gets stuck making both the Thanksgiving turkey and the Chanukah latkes. I worried that he might implode into a pile of turkey-and-potato pancakes (which actually sounds kinda good...).
My other concern was that between the prayers, Menurky lighting, and the pre-feast giving-thanks rituals, it would be about 80,000 years before we would get to actually tuck into the pumpkin kugel or sweet potato tsimmes (which also sound kinda good).
My brother, who is hosting the dinner, wisely declined all Thanksgivukkah festivities (except for lighting the Menurky given to him by my mother). And while I'm not sad to have to forgo caraway-crusted pumpkin pie this year, I did decide to bake up some cranberry chocolate gluten free rugelach. Because while I hope to still be baking when I'm 80,031-years-old, I thought I'd better seize the opportunity while I could.
What are rugelach anyway?
Rugelach (a.k.a. rugelakh, rugulach, rugalach, ruggalach, rogelach) are tasty small pastries of Jewish origin. The name means "little twists" and they are commonly formed in the shape of a crescent. The pastry part is similar to an enriched pie dough made with butter, cream cheese, flour, sugar, and salt. It's luxuriously tender and flaky, shattering at first bite, then melting in your mouth. The dough is traditionally filled with jam, dried fruit, and/or chocolate, sometimes sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Rugelach are a favorite at Jewish delis and bakeries, and my paternal grandmother, Bubba, made them the best!
Making rugelach gluten free:
My gluten free rugelach pastry dough contains a blend of flours – sweet rice, oat, and millet – to give the pastry good structure and a neutral flavor. Cornstarch helps the dough crisp and brown in the oven, and a small amount of xanthan gum makes it pliable and easier to work. Cold cream cheese and butter cut into the dough add richness and flakiness.
I fill the dough with a cranberry jam flavored with port and vanilla bean. The jam is also delicious on its own, spread on biscuits or toast slathered with almond butter. (Though I'm not sure it would go with Manischewitz-brined turkey.)
I top the layer of jam with chopped bittersweet chocolate and finely ground walnuts.
Since this dough is more delicate to work with than wheat-based dough, I opt for the "roulade" style of rugelach, in which the dough is rolled up as though making cinnamon buns. Using parchment paper to roll out (and then, roll up) the dough makes this a snap.
Unlike wheat-based doughs of this ilk, which must be chilled to keep the butter cold and relax their glutens, this dough prefers to hang out at cool room temperature prior to being rolled, which keeps it pliant. Glutens, of course, are a non-issue here, since the dough is comprised of sweet rice, oat, and millet flours with cornstarch and xanthan gum to help it stick together. I do, however, freeze the pre-baked rugelach log (from here on out known as a "rugeh-log") in order to make the rugelach easier to slice. Freezing also helps them hold their shape as they bake, though it didn't stop a couple of mine from flopping over in the oven. (Don't worry, I disposed of the evidence immediately. In my mouth. Shhh.)
Lots of sweet-tart cranberry makes these gluten free rugelach taste like a cross between a cookie, a pastry, and a pie. The port and vanilla give the jam a cherry/raspberry vibe, and it blends just as seamlessly with the chocolate and nuts. The tender dough carries the slightly salty tang of cream cheese, which is part of what makes these so addictive. The pastry is less flaky than the wheaty rugelach I've made in the past, but its melt-in-your-mouth texture is such that you would never be able to differentiate it from a wheat-based dough.
A warm-from-the-oven rugelach, oozing with melted chocolate and gooey jam, is positively transcendent. The crisp shell of pastry gives way to sweet-tart filling, with bitter notes in the cranberries and chocolate tempering the richness of the nuts and dough. They remain just as addictive when cool, serving as the ideal not-too-sweet accompaniment to a cup of morning tea or a postprandial glass of red wine (or the rest of that port).
These puppies will keep well for at least several days. Although, if you're like us, you'll be hard pressed to stop your hand from wandering into the cookie jar any time you go near the kitchen, which may become a disturbingly frequent occurrence.
If you want to get your Thanksgivukkah on, try this Pumpkin Challah or these Pumpkin Challah Cinnamon Buns, which I concocted years ago, before Thanksgivukkah was even a glimmer on the horizon. Mazel Tov!
MORE FAVORITE GLUTEN-FREE HOLIDAY COOKIES
- Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies (vegan & paleo options)
- Gluten-Free Biscotti
- Matcha Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF/vegan/paleo)
- Gluten-Free Chocolate Ginger Cookies
- Gluten-Free Rugelach
- Gluten-Free Chocolate Cookies
- GF Ginger Molasses Cookies
*Bojon appétit! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make these gluten free rugelach, I’d love to see. Tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.*
Gluten Free Rugelach with Cranberry Port Jam, Chocolate, and WalnutsPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
Cranberry Port Jam:
- 1 1/4 cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries (4 ounces / 115 grams)
- 1/2 cup sugar (4 ounces / 115 grams)
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
- 1/3 cup ruby port (90 ml)
Cream Cheese Dough:
- 1/2 cup sweet white rice flour (2.75 ounces / 75 grams)
- 1/4 cup millet flour (1 ounce / 30 grams)
- 1/4 cup gluten-free oat flour (1 ounce / 30 grams)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch (1.25 ounces / 35 grams)
- 2 tablespoons sugar (.75 ounces / 25 grams)
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, in 1/2-inch (1 cm) chunks (3 ounces / 85 grams)
- 8 tablespoons cold cream cheese, in 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks (4 ounces / 115 grams)
Filling and topping:
- 2/3 cup walnut halves, lightly toasted, and cooled (2 ounces / 55 grams)
- 2/3 cup finely chopped chocolate (70% cacao mass) (3 ounces / 85 grams)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream (or milk, or water)
Make the jam:
- In a small, heavy-bottomed saucapan, combine the cranberries, sugar, vanilla pod and scrapings, and port. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then simmer over low heat until thick and chunky, 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Let the jam cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the dough:
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the rice, millet, and oat flours with the cornstarch, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt to combine. Scatter over the butter and cream cheese pieces, and process until the dough comes together in large clumps, 15-30 seconds.
- Dump the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and gather it into a rough log. (No need to wash the bowl just yet.) Place another piece of parchment on top of the dough, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a long, skinny rectangle that measures 16 x 8 inches (40 x 20 cm) and is 1/8-inch thick (1/3 cm). With every few strokes of the pin, peel back the top piece of parchment, place it back on the dough, flip the dough and papers upside-down, peel back the new top piece of paper, place it back on the dough, and proceed. If the dough sticks to the paper, dust it lightly with millet flour. If your rectangle is more oval, you can trim the uneven ends, stick them onto the corners, and continue rolling in order to form an even rectangle.
- When the dough is rolled out, trim all the edges flat and straight. Reserve the dough at cool room temperature while you prepare the fillings. (The dough becomes brittle when chilled; but if it's warm in your kitchen and the dough becomes sticky or melty at any point, stick it in the fridge to cool it off a bit.)
Prepare the fillings:
- Pulse the toasted and cooled walnuts in the food processor until finely chopped (but don't let them become nut butter). Dump the walnuts into a bowl and wipe out the food processor. Remove the vanilla pod from the cooled cranberry goop, and add the goop to the food processor. Puree smooth; you should have about 3/4 cup. In a tiny bowl, stir together the 1 tablespoon sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.
Assemble the rugelach:
- Slide the rolled-out dough, still on its parchment, onto a rimless cookie sheet for easy maneuvering. Thinly spread the cranberry jam over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) border on both long sides (a small, offset spatula works well for this). Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over the jam, and sprinkle the ground walnuts over the chocolate. Use your palms to pat everything down; the nuts and chocolate will adhere to the jam, making the rugelach easier to roll.
- Lift up a long edge of parchment and use it to begin to rolling up the rugelach as tightly as possible. It's ok if the dough cracks a little; it will sort itself out as it bakes. When the rugelach log is rolled (which I now dub the "rugeh-log"), leave it seam-side down. Cover it with parchment and give it a gentle squeeze, as though you were rolling sushi. Transfer the rugeh-log, still on its pan, to the freezer and leave there until firm, at least 30 minutes. (At this point, you could wrap and freeze the log until ready to bake.)
Bake the rugelach:
- Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375ºF (190ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Remove the frozen rugeh-log, unwrap, and place it on a cutting board. Brush it all over with the heavy cream, and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Slice the rugelach into scant 1-inch thick pieces (2 cm). Too thin, and the rugelach will flop over as they bake, so use a ruler to be safe. Place the rugelach seam-side down on the lined baking sheet and bake until golden on top and cooked through, 25-30 minutes. Immediately use a spatula to remove the rugelach from the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack. Let cool at least 10 minutes.
- Store the rugelach airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Mara @ ElementalCustard says
That looks fairly fantastic.
Thanks, Mara! We seem to be on the same wavelength re: your Chocolate Hazelnut Cranberry Wreath.
Mara @ ElementalCustard says
Tis the season! :)
Can brown rice flour be substituted for the sweet white rice flour? Otherwise, can you suggest a different substitute?
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
Hi Mara, the sweet rice flour here is important for the texture since it's stickier than regular white or brown rice flour. I'd recommend subbing a GF all-purpose flour blend such as Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 which is based on sweet rice flour. Please let me know if you try it!
Starla Gladden says
Wow this looks awesome, and im loving your gf recipes.
Starla! Thanks for the sweet words!
These are gorgeous! I think your brother will be glad you made them. :)
Aw! Thanks, Ileana. :)
Eliott Rodgers says
Hi Alanna! I'm signed in as Eliott, but this is Janine!
Thank you so much for this fabulous recipe. I hardly bake at all, and these were a huge success!! The recipe was easy to follow, and would be even easier for someone with more experience than me. Eliott and I thought they were delicious, so my fingers were crossed when my family tried them. My grandmother was a Viennese pastry chef, so I was bracing myself. To my delight, my family loved them - even my cousin and my aunt, who are amazing chefs and bakers. The added bonus was that they could not believe they were gluten-free. Here I'd always thought I hadn't inherited the baking gene... maybe it's just been dormant all this time! Thank you again for this recipe! Now I can't wait to try more!
Yay!!! I'm so glad you gave these a try, Janine, and got in touch with your inner baker - that makes me incredibly happy! And I'm glad the cookies were well-liked. Thank you so much for the lovely comment!
Have you ever frozen these?
I haven't but I bet it would work fairly well.
If I could chime in, years later, for anyone else wondering--I made a double recipe, and kept one log frozen for several days. I pulled it out of the freezer, sliced as usual (a few more cracked, but ultimately it didn't matter too much), did the milk/sugar/cinnamon, and baked as the recipe stated. They came out fine!
I made this recipe as posted for the holidays and they were fantastic! Everyone was so surprised they were gluten-free! Also used your more recent piecrust recipe at Thanksgiving (yum!) and that recipe had Chia seeds in place xanthum gum. Could you use Chia seeds for this recipe as well?
Ooh, I'd like to try that! Please let me know if you give it a go - I bet it would work!
I was wondering if I can just use oat flour and millet flour and just leave out the sweet white rice flour? Would it work if I used 3/4 cup oat flour and1/4 cup millet flour?
Hi Mirym, I don't think that would work very well as the sweet rice flour helps hold the dough together. I suggest making it as written once, then tweaking as you like to your personal taste. :)
Hi Alanna! I’d love to bring this to a Hanukkah potluck dinner. Any ideas on a non-dairy cream cheese replacement? (Butter is ok but not cream cheese...)
I would try a non-dairy cream cheese, such as Kite Hill! Maybe try a half batch to test it out and see if it works? Please let me know if you give it a go!
This recipe seems to be missing a few steps.
First, the instructions don't say what to do with the cinnamon/sugar mix or cream. Based on the photos, I've deduced that these are used to coat the outside with the cinnamon/sugar mix.
Second, the instructions don't say how long to bake them or at what temperature.
It seems like the instructions are missing a whole heading on what to do after taking the log out of the freezer.
Since mine is already in the freezer, I'm going to just bake at 350 F and hope for the best! :)
Thank you so much for catching that! I had a copy/paste fail when I recently inputted this recipe into my new template. I've re-added the instructions! :)
I made a vegan version of this by substituting Earth Balance for butter, Daiya cream cheese for dairy cream cheese, and Silk coconut coffee creamer for heavy cream. It worked great!
The Bojon Gourmet says
Yummy that sounds amazing Adam! :)
This recipe is outstanding. It’s hard to find sweet white rice flour but I found it in H Mart which is an Asian supermarket. Definitely a keeper.
Is there typos in the recipe? The volumes for butter and cream cheese don't equal the weights listed.
I double checked and they are correct! What do you think they should be?
Lynne Plauson says
Can I make this dough without the xanthan gum?
I haven't experimented with this, so I'm not sure. The dough might be crumbly and hard to roll. Please let me know if you try it!
Made these for Christmas Eve with my mother's recipe for apricot filling. The dough is perfect - it makes wonderful cookies. All of Alanna's recipes in the Alternative Baker and this blog always turn out beautifully. Thank you!
Aw thanks for trying my recipe and for the sweet note Carole! I'm so glad you like the rugelach dough and Alternative Baker! That apricot filling sounds divine - what else is in it?
The apricot filling is made with dried apricots, water, sugar, and a bit of vanilla. She also made a pineapple filling that used a can of crushed pineapple, a cup of sugar, and tapioca starch to thicken. A serious and heartfelt thank you for creating the Alternative Baker and this blog -- the first time in years that I can bake delicious desserts for my family that everyone can eat and enjoy! Wishing you peace, love, and health in 2021.
Mmm those both sound delicious! I've been on a dried apricot kick lately myself. I'm so glad you're enjoying the book and TBG, that means so much to me. Wishing you a delicious new year as well!
Katy Ionis says
Another absolute miracle of a recipe Alanna! My partner was literally at a loss for words when he had his first bite - so flakey, so delicate, such a fantastic flavor combination, just wow. Kept beautifully for days in a sealed container at room temp. We had your chocolate cranberry pecan tart for Christmas so we have a predictable style :)
I love how easy this dough was to throw together in the food processor and so easy to work with. I misread the size of the rectangle and tried to roll it out to 16x18 and was like this isn't going to fit on the sheet tray! Lol. I got to about 13x18 and it made 19 pieces. I used 2oz sugar in the jam and 72% dark chocolate and they were still quite sweet. Next time I may try chopping the chocolate in the food processor too.
This is a revelation and I can't wait to fill it with other options in the future. Thank you for your thorough testing and incredible skill, as always.
Awwww this note absolutely made my day!! I'm *so* glad you two loved the rugelach and that the recipe turned out well. Please let me know if you try them again with other fillings!
My need to avoid wheat flour is temporary, so I want to avoid stocking up on many different kinds of flours. I use Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1. Could it be used to replace the recipe flours?
I totally feel you and yes, that would be exactly the flour blend I'd recommend to replace the flours in this recipe. Please let me know how it turns out!
Thank you for your so very prompt response. As soon as I have all the ingredients I will be making these. They look to be perfect and special for gifting.
I will let you know how they turned out with the BRM 1 to 1.
This is quite beautiful. I’m wanting to make something similar to my grandmother’s lovely holiday nut roll I remember enjoying so much in childhood, yet as gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and dairy-free as possible. (I know, I sound like a joy killer already). In my memory, her filling was simply ground walnuts, honey, and sugar; I’m dreaming of this recipe as a perfect point of reference for putting a replica together for this holiday season. I remember well that the taste of hers was heavy on the honey and possibly had either an egg or milk wash- the dough had a soft and luxurious bite. Any suggestions for me that may come to mind?
Hi Alanna! I can't have the rice flour, as I've told you. My mother used to make these and send them to us early in our marriage at Chanukah. We were ecstatic when we received them. I wonder if something else could replace the rice flour. Cassava? Should I even try? Thank you!
Hi Alene, Aw that's such a sweet memory! I think cassava could work well! Or maybe almond flour with some extra tapioca flour. Please let me know what you experiment with!
I have been looking for a gluten free rugelach recipe. They are one of my favorite cookies. I can't eat oat flour, is there another flour that would work in its place? thanks
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
Hi Jen, glad to meet another rugelach fan! Depending on what you have access to, you could sub by weight:
light buckwheat flour (or dark, but it will have a different flavor)
Please let me know what you try!
Hi Alanna. I've been missing my grandmother's rugelach and was excited to see your recipe. I hate to ask but could you suggest a substitution for the cranberry port jam? I'm a chocolate purist who doesn't care for fruit and chocolate together. Or, should I just eliminate the chocolate? Thanks very much.
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
Not at all, I understand! I've made rugelach in the past with no jam, so I think that should work just fine! They will just be a touch more tricky to roll up since the jam won't be sticking the chocolate and nuts to the dough. Please let me know if you give it a try!