Homemade Chrain

Homemade chrain is a simple but transformative side for gefilte fish, rich meats like brisket and nearly anything else that needs a kick.

Two glass jars of homemade chrain with a silver spoon lying beside them.

I make chrain for Pesach. It’s easy with a food processor, and the results are glorious. I’ll never buy it again. Double or triple the quantities, if you wish.–Ruth Joseph and Simon Round

What is chrain?

What’s chrain, you ask? It’s a heck of a memorable condiment traditionally found on the holiday table come Passover and, in eastern Europe, Easter. Its bracing robustness is most terrific alongside rich dishes such as deviled eggs, gefilte fish, and roasted hen, although it also works admirably as a dip with crudités. Depending on the precise proportion of ingredients that the cook chooses, the condiment’s characteristics are either that of a magenta beet relish spiked with a touch of horseradish or a clear-the-sinuses horseradish paste with a tinge of pink—suit yourself, tweaking and tasting as you make it.

Lurking in some of your minds is no doubt the question, Why make it when I can buy it? In response, we have only to quote LC recipe tester and chrain aficionado Sema Stein: “Although a veteran chrain user, this was the first time I have made it myself. The result was delicious with a serious bite to it. I must say, it is the best chrain I have ever had.” Tasting, it seems, is believing.

Homemade Chrain

  • Quick Glance
  • (5)
  • 15 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 24 | Makes about 2 cups
5/5 - 5 reviews
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Ingredients


Directions

Place the whole, unpeeled beets in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 30 to 45 minutes. 

Drain the beets and rinse them under cold running water until they’re cool enough to handle. Using your fingertips, slip off the skins. Then coarsely chop the beets. (You should have about 4 cups, give or take a little.)

Place the chopped beets along with the remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until the desired consistency. (Consider adding the smaller amount of salt and sugar for starters, then toss in more if desired.) Taste and adjust the amount of horseradish accordingly. Cover and refrigerate the chrain for up to 1 week. Originally published March 21, 2013.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Though a veteran chrain user, this was the first time I’ve made it myself. The result was delicious, with a serious bite to it. I must say, it’s the best chrain I’ve ever had and I won't be buying it again.

The end result was a beet paste with very small chips of visible white horseradish. I processed the mixture for what seemed like a long time, but wasn’t able to reduce the horseradish root to a paste. I stopped processing due to concern that the beet would become too mushy and not hold up against the gefilte fish that it was paired with. I used cider vinegar and I’d increase the sugar to 1 1/2 teaspoons and reduce the salt to 1 1/2 teaspoons. I didn’t use the garlic.

The color of this alone makes this a winner. The chrain also clears out the sinuses very efficiently. And it’s delicious in small doses.

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Comments

  1. My mother makes two kinds of chrain: one with cooked beetroots and one with raw. You need to very finely grate the horseradish, and the beetroots as well, but separately. Mix them by pulses in the magimix. And season them at the end with sugar and salt dissolved in vinegar. No need for oil, especially not olive oil. Divide into small amounts in glass jars to keep the sharpness.

    1. Thank you, your mother’s chrain sounds fabulous, and we so appreciate you sharing her tried-and-true techniques. I’m certain I’m not the only one who appreciates them and will be incorporating them into my next batch….

  2. This is a popular side dish in Eastern Europe. Horseradish root (“hren”) is commonly added to jars when preserving vegetables for winter.

      1. Basically horseradish is used as batonnets in all kinds of pickles (dill, sauerkraut, insanely good sauerkraut-filled peppers, green tomatoes, cauliflower, carrots etc.) My grandmother preserved whole green peppers only with horseradish and tap water and never failed, all were good and firm when taken out to be stuffed. She put a couple of batonnets inside every pepper and then tucked them one inside the other, making sort of a “pepper tower”. Needless to say, we are not talking 16 ounces here, but 10 to 20 liters (3 to 6 gallons) or even wooden barrels for sauerkraut.

  3. OK, as typical for a Jewish reader, I also have a recipe for chrain. Mine I got from a 96-year-old Jewish bubbie, which makes it VERY authentic. Except for the preparation, which is very modern. You buy a long horseradish root, and if it’s not firm you wet it well and put it very wet into a plastic bag for a few days and it will absorb the water and refresh itself. If it’s hard when you buy it, then start here. Take your 2 medium-size raw red beets and peel them. Your hands will be red, but then all your friends will know what you’ve been doing. Your sink will also be red if you peeled the beets into the sink and then you will have to use cleanser and rub a cut lemon on the porcelain. This is getting to be work. But aren’t you supposed to suffer on Passover? Cut your beets into chunks. Peel the horseradish and cut it into long strips. Set your Kitchen Aid stand mixer on the counter and attach the grinder with the small holes. If you don’t have a grinder, go to the store and buy horseradish already made, it’s easier, quicker and less cleanup, and it tastes fine. Take a plastic bag. A long one, like the kind a newspaper might be delivered in or a big resealable baggie. Open one end and tie it up to the open end of the grinder. The other end, cut open and let it drop into a big quart pickle jar or canning jar like a Kerr or Ball jar. Start the motor on the grinder and start putting the horseradish and beets down the shoot and you will see the perfectly ground texture coming out into the bag and dropping into the jar. When you are done, take a long spoon and mix in white vinegar and some water to wet the mixture and then add salt and some oil, but just a little splash and then a little sugar. Mix well and let sit for a day and mix again and adjust salt and sugar. The color will be pink the first day and turn deep deep beet red as the days go by.

  4. I make horseradish every year but never knew it was called chrain. I do it a bit simpler though, just a beet for color, the horseradish and a touch of vinegar. Maybe some salt. Not sure it is the recipe that counts. What counts is getting lucky with a good hot horseradish to clear the sinuses!

  5. My Polish family serves a relish that is similar, called chrzan, for Easter (pronunciation is pretty similar to the Yiddish). My aunt would boil the beets, but my uncle roasts them in their skins. Either way is fine. They both would grate the beets and horseradish on a box grater till tears ran down their faces! Chrzan stands up well to rich meats and is great with the traditional Easter fare of ham, kielbasa, and boiled eggs.

    1. We’d heard rumors of a similar recipe traditional at Easter, Suzanne, so many thanks for clarifying that. I can only imagine the memories you have of witnessing those tear-stained faces as a child. Many thanks for making this recipe nondenominational.

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