Kasha Varnishkes

Kasha Varnishkes on a fork.

Rumor has it that this is the kind of kasha varnishkes that made the late Joan Rivers plotz. [Editor’s Note: We usually don’t indulge in gossip, but this information is just too critical to not pass along.]Renee Schettler Rossi

LC Gribenes Garnish Note

The only way we can possibly think to improve this simple and classic kasha varnishkes recipe–that is, if you relied on schmaltz to coax the onions into caramelized submission—is to indulge in an untraditional garnish of crisp roast chicken skin, also known as gribenes. Happy Hanukkah, indeed.

☞ Table of Contents

Kasha Varnishkes

Kasha Varnishkes on a fork.
This kasha varnishkes recipe is made with farfalle or bow tie pasta and kasha and caramelized onions and schmaltz or olive oil.

Prep 10 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 45 mins
4 to 8 servings
818 kcal
5 / 3 votes
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  • 3 large onions chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil or schmaltz
  • 1 pound bow-tie pasta (farfalle)
  • 3 cups coarse grain kasha
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Heat the oil or schmaltz in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft and golden brown and properly caramelized, at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and eventually reducing the heat to medium or even medium-low so the onions don’t scorch.
  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lightly salted water according to package directions.
  • After you get the water for the pasta heating, in a separate pot bring 6 cups salted water to a boil. Add the kasha and return to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the kasha is soft but still holds its shape and retains some texture.
  • In a large bowl, gently combine the onions, kasha, and pasta. Season the kasha varnishkes with salt and plenty of pepper to taste.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 818kcal (41%)Carbohydrates: 105g (35%)Protein: 24g (48%)Fat: 35g (54%)Saturated Fat: 5g (31%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 25gTrans Fat: 0.03gSodium: 2066mg (90%)Potassium: 698mg (20%)Fiber: 14g (58%)Sugar: 10g (11%)Vitamin A: 135IU (3%)Vitamin C: 9mg (11%)Calcium: 168mg (17%)Iron: 5mg (28%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The first law of pasta attraction applies whenever bow-ties (or farfalle) are involved. And this almost foolproof kasha varnishkes recipe does not escape this law. I had made varnishkes once before and loved the idea that something as homely as buckwheat groats could make a vegetarian pasta recipe so comforting. The proportions are more towards the grain in this recipe, and easy to cook for a quick, weeknight, out-of-the-pantry dinner that’s deceptively simple. Don’t overcook the kasha—you want the kasha to have a slight texture rather than a mushiness. When it’s done just right, it’s almost the texture of a ground turkey sauce with pasta and onions. Start sautéing the onions while the water is coming to a boil for the kasha and the pasta. (I did the onions in a Le Creuset and put them in a warm oven with the lid on while I finished cooking the kasha and pasta.) While I am sure this would be delicious with schmaltz, I think it would detract from my feeling that this is a healthy dish! The recipe can easily be scaled up or down. I did a half recipe for just two of us, and we had leftovers for lunch the next day and maybe a bit more. With the leftovers, I wanted to brighten things with more pepper and a tiny bit of acid (lemon or sherry vinegar would do).

Although this recipe for kasha varnishkes veers a bit from the traditional ones I know—I’m having a hard time picturing my bubby (Yiddish for grandmother) using extra-virgin olive oil, and I know at least one recipe that has an egg added to the kasha at the beginning—I served this to the same gentile group who had previously taste-tested (and devoured with pleasure!) , and both were equally a hit. Kasha varnishkes are an integral part of the food traditions I learned as a child. They’re right up there with bagels and cream cheese, noodle kugel, matzoh ball soup, knishes, and blintzes as happy and comforting food. For my friends, kasha was a new grain and a new flavor, but they were just as happy as if they were eating a comfort food they grew up with. It’s difficult to judge how many this recipe will serve, as it’s so easy to go overboard, seriously overboard, eating kasha varnishkes. I think, with a reasonable portion, this would serve 6 to 8 or more. The problem is, it’s hard—nearly impossible—to eat a reasonably sized portion. I watched my guests eat their first serving, then seconds, and on to thirds, and none of the portions were tiny—happily, the recipe makes a lot and could easily be halved to save yourself from too much comfort. Note that when the instructions read, “freshly ground pepper,” know that in a traditional rendition, at least as I know it, that means lots of black pepper. Also, all the ingredients could be combined and then served in the skillet used for the onions.

Originally published December 16, 2014



    1. Arlene, it’s remarkable how food brings us back in time, isn’t it? So glad this recipe was able to do that for you. And yes, I completely agree, this is so delicious. Greatly appreciate you taking the time to let us know. Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

  1. Hello to all. I was born and raised in the Soviet Union in Russia. I speak Russian, it is my native language. 🙂 In Russian “kasha” means “porridge.” It can be rice “kasha”, semolina “kasha”, buckwheat “kasha”, pearl barley “kasha” etc. “Buckwheat” in Russian called “grechka”.

  2. There are as many ways to make kasha varnishkas as there are Jewish households. Here is mine….actually from a friend who gave it to me.
    This is not dry like sawdust which is like the kasha your relatives used to make. This is moist, delicious, and goes great with gravy from beef or chicken dinners.

    1 10″ fry pan
    1 lg. white onion diced coarse
    1 stick margarine, so it will be non-dairy and not of meat product origin.
    1 c canned sliced mushrooms
    1 pot to boil water for bow-ties, or pasta pot
    1 c farfelle-bow tie pasta, dried
    1 large pot to toast and boil up kasha
    1 c kasha medium or coarse, dry
    1 egg extra large, scrambled
    2 c boiling water if you want parve kosher, or vegetarian broth or chicken soup or beef broth any one of them will work, just depends on your practice of kosher or not.
    salt and pepper to taste, lots, this is otherwise a very bland dish, be generous with the salt and pepper.

    Instructions: Step one; Boil up some water in a pasta pot or just boil water in a large kettle of water which is for the pasta.
    Step two; In fry pan, melt margarine and heat to medium hot. (Could use butter or schmaltz or vegetable oil)
    Step three; Dice large white onion and place in fry pan with margarine, sauté to translucent. Then add the mushrooms continue to sauté and keep hot.
    Step four; Pour kasha into a separate clean dry pot on medium high heat and toast it to fragrant.
    Step five; When kasha is toasted AND STILL HOT WITH THE POT STILL ON THE HOT BURNER OF THE STOVE TOP, pour the scrambled egg into the kasha quickly and with a whisk quickly stir it around. It will clump at first and then it will dry out and the grains will separate. When the grains are separate and dry, pour onto the kasha the 2 cups of boiling hot water or broth, MUST BE BOILING NOT JUST HOT, MUST BE BOILING HOT when you pour it into the toasted kasha! Stir to coat each grain, then cover and let simmer on low for 10-15 minutes, less for medium grains and longer for the coarse grains.
    Step six; into the pasta pot of boiling water, add the farfelle and boil it up for ten minutes, then drain.
    Step seven; With a fork, fluff the kasha and add salt and pepper to taste, it needs LOTS of seasoning, it is a very bland product, add the pasta and toss, then add the onion, mushroom and margarine mixture and toss again with a fork. Taste for seasoning, it will likely need more salt and pepper , adjust it so that it is seasoned well. I’m exhausted from typing this.
    Serve with chicken or beef gravy or by itself.
    Serves: 10
    Prep Time: 0:30

    1. 5 stars
      That was the best recipe. We all loved it. It sure added lots of flavor. I always made it like my mother-in-law showed me but there was no flavor. I always wanted to add some butter and seasonings. I’m so glad I read your recipe. I will always make it this way from now on. It was a big hit.

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