Menus for Before and After the Yom Kippur Fast

When thinking of what to eat before and after, it’s important to keep in mind what best prepare your body for the undertaking. Here are some tasty and nourishing ideas.

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Chicken, farro, carrot and turmeric stew.
Chicken, farro, carrot and turmeric stew.Credit: Vered Gutman
Vered Guttman
Vered Guttman

For many, Jewish holidays are about food. Even the fast of Yom Kippur ends up being all about the food. But when thinking of what to eat before and after the fast it’s important to keep in mind which menu will benefit and prepare your body for the undertaking- without unnecessary headaches, dizziness and starvation.

There’s a lot of good advice online, and it is all based on the idea that the pre-fast meal should include whole grains that will keep you feeling full for the longest time and a light protein in moderate quantity that will digest easily. The pre-fast meal may be the only meal a year when filling up with veggies may not be a good idea since they will not supply you with the excess energy you need for a day of fasting. And don’t eat anything too salty or spicy, since that will make you thirsty.

As always, our grandmothers knew best and many of the traditional dishes consumed before Yom Kippur in the Jewish diaspora keep these basic rules. Ashkenazi chicken soup with kreplach is one good example. So good, actually, that the Libyan Jews used to serve a similar chicken soup with egg noodles for the same meal. Yemenites have bone marrow soup, which is also similar.

For the main course, Bukharian Jews eat osh pulao, a dish of rice, meat and spices all cooked together, and the Moroccan Jews make a tagine of the chicken used for the ceremony of the kaparot. It’s these last two dishes that inspired me to come up with the farro, chicken and carrot stew (see recipe below). It includes everything you need for the pre-fast meal, including whole grain, light protein and excellent taste.

As for the break-the-fast meal, it’s a good idea to start slow with a cup of sweetened drink, such as tea and a slice of cake, which again is exactly what was always done in most Jewish communities. The Israeli Ministry of Health suggests breaking the fast with a date, much like the way the Ramadan is broken according to the instructions given by Prophet Muhammad.

A not-too-heavy meal should follow the tea and cake. Moroccan Jews serve Harirra, a lamb, rice, chickpeas and tomato soup, some for pre-fast and some for break the fast. Harirra (see recipe below) is popular among Muslims in Morocco for breaking the Ramadan fast. It’s ideal for the purpose, since it can be made in advance and quickly reheated before the meal.

Se’uda mafseket (pre-fast menu):

Chicken soup with kreplach

Chicken, farro, carrot and turmeric stew (recipe below)

Break the fast menu:

Tea with honey and fresh mint

Date and date molasses cake

Harirra soup (recipe below)

Chicken, farro, carrot and turmeric stew

Fresh turmeric root is available in many health food supermarkets and in Asian supermarkets. Substitute with turmeric spice if you can’t find the fresh root.

Serves 4-6

8 skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 1½ lb.)
Kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 lb. carrots, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons grated fresh turmeric (or 2 teaspoons turmeric spice)
2 cups farro, washed

1. Wipe chicken thighs with paper towel and arrange on a tray. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper on both sides.
2. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy bottom pot on medium-high heat. When the pot is very hot brown chicken on both sides in two batches. Remove chicken from pot and set aside.
3. Add 2 more tablespoons olive oil to pot, add onion, carrot, turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from pot.
4. Arrange the chicken at the bottom of pot, top with carrot mixture, then with farro. Mix 2½ cups boiling water with 2 teaspoons salt and pour over farro. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then lower heat to lowest and cook for one hour and 15 minutes. After 45 minutes of cooking, open the pot and gently mix the farro. Cover pot again and continue cooking. Let stew stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Harirra soup

As with other stews and many soups, this one benefits from a night in the fridge, which allows the flavors to develop.

Serves 8


1¼ lb. lamb shoulder, bone in
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons tomato paste
Small bunch cilantro, chopped
Small bunch parsley, chopped
1 chopped red onion
1 stalk celery, chopped
6 peeled garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
30 oz. canned peeled tomatoes
½ cup chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
¼ cup lentils
¼ cup brown rice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon coriander
Kosher salt to taste
3 tablespoons flour

1. cut lamb into ½ inch cubes, keep the bones separately. Put oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat and brown lamb and bones for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for another 30 seconds, then add herbs, onion, celery and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add bay leaf, tomatoes, chickpeas and 10 cups of room temperature water, bring to boil, lower heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 2 hours.
2. Add lentils, rice and spices and cook for another 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.
3. To thicken the soup, mix flour with 1 cup boiling water until smooth and slowly add to the soup. Cook for another 5 minutes.

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