What is Farfel?

Passover Farfel "Mac" and Cheese
Miri Rotkovitz

Farfel is a tiny, pellet-shaped egg noodle with ingredients similar to German spaetzle or Hungarian nokedli. Farfel was once a popular side dish in Jewish Ashkenazi cuisine and was served simply seasoned alongside meat or poultry. The word farfel is Yiddish.

Farfel is sometimes called egg barley, though it contains no barley, and doesn't much look like it, either. You can find commercially prepared, ready to cook farfel in the kosher section of many supermarkets. You will see the toasted egg barley available as well. Look for Manischewitz Premium Enriched Egg Noodles Barley Shape and for Manischewitz Toasted Barley Shape Egg Noodles. Although these are kosher, they are not for Passover. As they are made with flour, they contain wheat and are not gluten-free.

To further confuse matters, most folks nowadays are more familiar with matzo farfel, small bits of broken matzo used in Passover recipes. Matzo farfel likely gets its name more from its size and shape, rather than its culinary qualities, for while it's small (though not as small as "real" farfel), it in no way behaves like an egg noodle in recipes. Matzo farfel is used as a bread substitute during the Passover holiday in kosher-for-Passover recipes, especially in oven-baked dishes.

Farfel Tradition

At the Friday night Sabbath meal, the Baal Shem Tov, the father of Chassidut, would eat farfel. He explained that farfel is related to the Yiddish word farfallen which means done, over, finished. Whatever happened during the week or in the past is finished; Friday night is the time to put the past in the past, move on, begin anew. Thus began the custom to eat farfel during the Sabbath evening meal.

  • Pronunciation: far - ful
  • Common Misspellings: farfal
  • Examples: My children want me to make farfel instead of rice for the Sabbath dinner.

Egg Farfel

It can be challenging to find farfel in mainstream groceries, but you may find it if there's a kosher aisle. Keep in mind that it may be labeled "egg barley." Feeling ambitious? You can make farfel from scratch using this recipe. It has only three ingredients: flour, eggs, and salt. You make the dough and then pass it through a grater and spread out the egg barley to dry. You can use it immediately or save it for a couple of days.

You can add egg farfel to soups as you would add barley, rice, pasta, or potatoes. Or, try this Hungarian browned egg barley, which is similar to a pilaf. You can easily find recipes for mushroom egg barley as a side dish.

Matzo Farfel

Though many people only break out matzo farfel during Passover, you can cook with it year round. Try this recipe for savory simmered matzo farfel (Meat, Passover). While you can buy prepared matzo farfel from a kosher market, it is also easy to simply break up sheets of matzo yourself for this purpose. The recipe is simple and it takes only 10 minutes to prepare.