How I Make Shabbat in Two Hours

A reader asked me how she can cook for Shabbat in two hours or less. I referred her to my tips for winter Fridays. Today I’ll describe what I actually do most weeks.

The biggest revelation for me was that I could serve the same thing both on Friday night and Shabbat morning. My kids are all happy with chicken and potatoes, so I make up a tray of cut-up chicken (my husband usually does that chore) for the oven and fill the pressure cooker with potatoes, which I scrub and don’t peel.  If sweet potatoes are in season I add some, leaving them whole because they cook faster than white potatoes.

I don’t bake every week. I try to make a double batch of challah early in the week and freeze it. This week I made it on Friday, but I try to avoid that even though the taste is superior. Sometimes I roll out a piece of the challah dough for cake, spreading it with a thin layer of oil, cocoa powder or cinnamon, and sugar. You can add raisins, nuts or fruit, then roll it up like a jelly roll.  Challah and/or cake is one convenience that I buy when I am short on time. With a big family, though, those expenses add up. Often one of my teens is happy to make a cake.

I always serve chicken soup on Friday night. If I don’t have a container frozen from a previous week, I use the neck or wings from a whole chicken. Since the family prefers dark meat I started putting the breast in the soup, removing it when it fully cooked and saving it for another recipe. Making soup involves peeling and cutting vegetables so it helps if some can be done in advance.

Appetizer for lunch is always cut melon or grapefruit, depending on the season, and we always have a fresh salad.

For seudah shlishit, the third sabbath meal in the afternoon, I’ll serve the  side dishes or make a  salad from the leftover potatoes.  Otherwise we’ll have tuna, or cottage cheese in the summer.

That’s my basic menu. Time-permitting, or if I have company, I add techina, chumus, bulgur, or another cooked vegetable or salad. It’s a little low on vegetables, so I try to make up for that the rest of the week.

When you are planning don’t forget that washing dishes, cleaning and setting up for Shabbat can be time-consuming, especially if you have kids underfoot. So start early and remember that people get hungry on Fridays too.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like:

Saving Time in the Kitchen

Keep the Heat Out of Your Kitchen This Shabbat (see the update at the end)

Putting Quick Meals Together (CookingManager.Com)

Pressure Cookers for Quick, Tasty and Frugal Meals (CookingManager.Com)


  1. When I am short on time I have a few tactics that help me out:

    Draft my husband for chopping/peeling – plus his chicken soup is better than mine.

    Switch the menu to include more salads – they don’t require oven time.

    Make use of a crockpot – it’s a very ‘set it and forget it’ type of appliance

  2. I make soup or bake as early as Wednesday. I could probably do the whole thing in 2-3 hours IF someone else is washing dishes and IF my kids are not home. (So, really, never 🙂

  3. mominisrael says

    KosherBride: The weekend here starts on Friday. Good point about salads. Another method of quick meals is to make two one-pot meals. For another day.
    Kate: I know people who make soup on Wednesday, but I’m afraid to let it sit in the fridge for so long. I have a bigger family than you. Yes, the dish-washing help makes a big difference.

  4. Z - Ima Undercover says

    I really need to get my stuff together. I can hardly even think about preparing for Shabbat…unless we order a meal from kosher mart already made. Then we eat all week!

  5. I often slice up potatoes and put them under the chicken (also washed and not peeled). They get the flavor from the chicken). I have a smaller family and maybe need to be less frugal so I buy my chicken cut into quarters, buy premade salads (hummus, techina, etc). I also don’t make soup in the summer. It heats up the kitchen and the eaters too much.

  6. How long should this be in the oven and at what light?
    “Sometimes I roll out a piece of the challah dough for cake, spreading it with a thin layer of oil, cocoa powder or cinnamon, and sugar. You can add raisins, nuts or fruit, then roll it up like a jelly roll.”

  7. RaggedyMom says

    What helps me is to make things on a sort of rotation schedule. We tend to eat a combination of the more traditional (and heavy) ashkenazi foods like kigel on Shabbos, so I’ll make potato, apple, or carrot kigel in a larger quantity and freeze what seems superfluous for Shabbat and a night or two of leftovers.

    Challah is something that I make once every 3 to 4 weeks, depending on whether there’s anyone at the meal besides family to contribute to the challah consumption, thus needing to defrost more than a loaf. I’m not a great braider, so I make my challot in the pull-apart style – one round ball surrounded by 5 to 6 smaller balls of dough in a round tray. We serve it sliced rather than pulled-apart, though.

    I bake every other week or so. I prefer plain home-style cakes to bakery cakes, and the bakeries charge a fortune for challah and cake. It would sort of pain me to buy these barring a major time-pinch, and I enjoy baking.

    Cooked vegetables for the night and salad for the day will vary with the season and what’s on sale, and I’m lucky to have a husband who truly loves chicken. I don’t always make chicken soup, but when I do, I freeze a couple of containers and also freeze parts of a doubled batch of matzah balls. Other soups I make are a Russian-style borsch (a hearty cabbage-beet-carrot-potato soup with a tomato base), sometimes others like carrot soup or a wild mushroom soup. If the kids ate a good bowl of soup before Shabbat starts, I’m not as concerned about their too-tired-to-eat-well state later on – it’s a meal, and mine are young so they go to bed early.

    By not cooking every item every week, I find that it’s a real time-booster. If I had an extra freezer, I’d throw myself into this approach in a more regimented way and have the space to plan ahead even more!

  8. Like some of the other commenters, I make soup and bake in large quantities and then freeze.

    Also, when I don’t have time to clean whole chickens, I put “basar adom” (dark turkey meat) and chicken breasts together in a pan; pour some sort of sauce (e.g. mushroom sauce) over the meat; and bake covered. (I use both types of meat, because my family is made up of both dark meat eaters and white meat eaters…)

  9. Very useful post MiI. I’ll link to it in my Friday weekly review.

  10. “So start early and remember that people get hungry on Fridays too”

    That is funny. My kids always come into the kitchen at a crucial time looking for something to eat. When I complain about it, they say, but we haven’t eaten since breakfast (and it’s 4 o’clock). It’s sometimes really annoying to have feed your children, isn’t it?

    • I giggled at that one, too! My kids eat vast amounts of food and often. Two o’clock is the latest lunch I can get away with on Friday.

  11. We also always boil eggs before shabbat so we have the choice to make egg salad for seuda shlishit (along with tuna salad).

  12. Mark, that is a great idea!

  13. Regular Anonymous says

    I never bake challah. Cakes are generally baked Thursday and that’s also chicken soup day. If we don’t have guests one batch lasts us two weeks.

    Every Friday night we have couscous – very quick to make. I microwave a combo of carrots, kishuim, onion, and cabbage to go with it. We also have either scalloped potatos or microwave baked potates – cut in wedges and seasoned with garlic powder, paprika, pepper. I roast the chickens whole and cut them after they are cooked.

    Fresh vegetable salad at both meals.

    We have been economizing lately so instead of a selection of purchased salads for Shabbat lunch, I now serve egg salad, plain grilled eggplant and ready-made humus (still a bargain at 10 shekel a kilo at Rami Levi).

    In the summer I make potato salad and chicken salad for lunch which is actually more time consuming but refreshing after a long walk home from shul in the heat.

    My children also come to me starving an hour before Shabbat starts – the problem is they (and their father) want to eat the Shabbat food!

  14. Recently I discovered the vertical chicken roaster. I sprinkle some spices or pour sauce on top, add sliced potatoes and stick it in the oven. This saves the need to cut the chicken and the results are great.

    We eat dairy Shabbat morning and meat for seuda shlishit, so I have to make kugel and two meat entrees + side dishes every shabbat.

  15. In the summer, I bake challah every other week, eating two and freezing two. My family is chickened out. This week I made a huge crock pot lasagna. It was easy and yummy and required very little attention. I always boil a dozen eggs. That gives us enough for those who want more protein at breakfast, plus some leftover if necessary. Sometimes, I make a crock pot of chili. If we have guests, we make frito pies with the chili to stretch it. I usually have crackers, cheese, and raw veggies on hand to help stretch meals. We have a large family and with the occasional guest thrown in we can go through a lot of food!

  16. okay, so we’re still only two people, but i generally make all of shabbat on friday (my only day off) AFTER running errands (including produce shopping). here’s how:
    1- i keep a freezer full of meat (but if i’m out, i can still buy frozen on friday and defrost in time by soaking in cold water) and start defrosting wed night or thurs.
    2- i don’t serve a first course. i gave it up when i lived in NY in a place that only made late shabbos and dinner inevitably started after 9pm. and if i made delicious food, i don’t want people filling up on soup or challah or prepared salads. this might change when there are more people to feed.
    2a- because we don’t eat soup (we think it’s a waste of energy, yes, call us not jewish), i don’t buy whole chickens because i don’t need the spare parts. it’s cheaper to buy only the parts i use. also, people think beef is more expensive, but calculate the mass of edible matter you get off a chicken on the bone- not so different per gram of food.
    3- i make 4 tiny challot, and get the dough ready before i go to run errands.
    4- someone already said this, but a lot of one-dish meals. you can get very creative with them. but even if not one-dish, i keep it to a protein, a starch, and and a vegetable or salad.
    5- one cake, and yes, the bakery for challah/cake in a pinch. i’m out shopping anyway.
    6- seuda shelishit is all the leftover challah, leftover salad if we have, and 1-2 spreads. and the last of the dessert.
    7- if you really have no time- fast protein using a broiler or grill pan.
    8- calculate for little to no leftovers. weekday food is much cheaper per serving.


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