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Chocolate Rugelach might be my favorite of all the Jewish cookies. Layers of flaky pastry filled with rich dark chocolate and crunchy toasted pecans are just irresistible.
Chocolate Rugelach are the perfect festive cookie for Hanukkah. Sure, Sufganiyot are showy and a great way to celebrate the miracle of the oil at your Hanukkah festivities. But give me a Chocolate Pecan Rugelach the next morning for breakfast and I’m happy.
Rugelach is one of the most classic Jewish cookies and this chocolate-and-pecan-filled version is to die for. Rich, buttery, flaky cream cheese dough layers enclose a smooth, chocolate-y filling studded with toasted pecans.
I shied away from making rugelach for years because it looks so complicated. But the truth is that the pastry is really easy to manage. It’s very similar to the cream cheese dough I use for the Czech cookies called Kolacky.
What ingredients do you need make Chocolate Rugelach with Pecans?
The only special tools you need to make this Chocolate Pecan Rugelach are a rolling pin to rool the dough out and, ideally, a pizza cutter to trim it into a nice circle and slice it into wedges.
The chocolate filling is easy to make, too: Just melt the chocolate in the microwave, mix in the sugar and cocoa powder, and spread it onto the rolled out dough. Sprinkle the pecans on top of the chocolate. Next you’ll slice the whole thing into wedges, just like a pizza. Finally, roll up each wedge into the classic spiral.
The ingredients need to make this rugelach cookie recipe are simple. Here’s what you need for this chocolate and pecan filled rugelach:
- All-purpose flour
- Unsalted butter
- Cream cheese
- Sour cream (see my note about omitting sour cream below)
- Semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate
- Light brown sugar
- Cocoa powder
- Toasted pecans (or substitute almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or a combination of nuts)
- Coarse sugar or turbinado sugar for garnish (optional)
I have tried dozens of recipes for rugelach and have found that some use just cream cheese in the dough while others use a combo of cream cheese and sour cream.
I think the dough made with all cream cheese is a little easier to handle, but the ones made with sour cream result in a lighter, flakier pastry. This recipe uses the combination, but you can use all cream cheese if you prefer (use 8 ounces cream cheese and leave out the sour cream).
How do you make them?
Making rugelach looks complicated, but it’s really pretty easy. The key is making sure your dough is well chilled and rolling it out to a nice even thickness. A pizza cutter is also key to easily slicing the dough into wedges. Here’s how to do it:
- Make the rugelach cookie dough in the bowl of a food processor by pulsing together the flour, salt, butter, cream cheese, and sour cream until the mixture is a crumbly texture with pea sized balls or just until it all starts to ball up together. This technique is very similar to making a classic pie crust.
- Remove the dough mixture from the food processor and divide it into 2 equal size portions. Form each half into a ball and place it ont a large piece of plastic wrap and then flatten it to a disk. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap.
- Chill the rugelach dough disks in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or in the freezer for 30 to 40 minutes.
- While the dough chills, make the filling by melting the chocolate in the microwave (or in the top of a double boiler). Add the sugar and cocoa powder and stir to mix well.
- Roll each dough disk out to about 1/8-inch thick and trim off the excess to make it a nice circle.
- Spread half of the chocolate mixture on top of the dough, leaving about 1 inch uncovered around the edge and sprinkle pecans over the chocolate.
- Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the circle into 16 wedges (cut into quarters, then cut each quarter in half, then cut each half in half again).
- Starting from the wide end of a wedge, roll the dough up around the filling to form the classic spiral-shaped cookie.
- Place the rolled up cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches in between, and brush with an egg wash.
- Sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, until the rugelach are golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Serve at room temperature.
Tips for Success
- Roll the dough out on a piece of parchment (this will make it easier to transfer to a baking sheet if you need to put it back in the fridge).
- Work with half of the rugelach pastry dough at a time and keep the other half in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use it.
- If you find that the dough is hard to work with after rolling it out, lift the parchment paper it is on and slide it onto a baking sheet. Tuck the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 15 or 20 minutes to chill the dough again.
- You can fill one half of the dough with the chocolate mixture and nuts (halve the quantities for the filling) and then use the other half of the dough for a different filling.
- You can freeze the dough, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 6 months. Thaw the dough disks in the refrigerator overnight before using.
- Most recipes say to roll the dough ¼-inch thick. I think this is too thick, though. I have never measured, but I think I do it closer to 1/8-inch thick. See the picture in the step-by-step process shots in the post for a visual of how thin I roll it.
- Once the dough is rolled out, trim it to a nice circle, which will make it easier to roll up around the filling.
- Spread the filling evenly over the dough and be sure to leave about 1 inch of space around the edge.
- Don’t put too much filling or the wedges will be difficult to roll up.
- Make sure the chocolate filling is not too warm because you don’t want it to heat up the dough too much, which would make the dough difficult to handle. On the other hand, the chocolate needs to be warm enough to be spreadable. It’s a delicate balance!
- Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into wedges. It’s much easier than using a knife (though you can use a knife if you don’t have a pizza cutter.)
- If you prefer, you can roll out the dough, fill it, cut it, and roll up the cookies. Arrange the unbaked cookies on a baking sheet and freeze for at least 2 hours, then transfer them to an airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months. Arrange them on a baking sheet, brush them with the egg wash, and bake them as directed in the recipe. You may need to add a minute or two onto the baking time.
- You can fill your rugelach with all sorts of things! This chocolate version is my favorite rugelach filling but you can substitute raspberry jam, strawberry jam, raspberry preserve, poppy seed filling, apricot jam, cinnamon sugar with nuts, golden raisins, chocolate chips, or any other sweet filling you like.
More Jewish Cookies you’ll love
If you love this easy rugelach recipe, you’ll want to try my other delicious Jewish holiday cookies. Lemon Coconut Macaroons are perfect for Passover since they’re made without flour.
Honey Cookies with orange and cinnamon are perfect for celebrating Rosh Hashanah. And jam-filled Hamentashen are ideal for celebrating Purim. Any and all of these cookies would be right at home on a Hannukah cookie platter!
Chocolate Shortbread Cookies are always welcome on any cookie platter.
Chocolate Rugelach with Pecans
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 6 ounces cold cream cheese cut into pieces
- 1/3 cup cup sour cream
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water for the egg wash
- 2 to 3 tablespoons coarse sugar optional
- In a food processor, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter, cream cheese, and sour cream and pulse until the mixture comes together in a rough ball.
- Split the dough into 2 equal pieces and form each into a ball. Flatten each ball into a disk and wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or in the freezer for 30 to 40 minutes (see note about freezing dough for later).
- While the dough chills, make the filling. Put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at 50 percent power in 30-second
intervals, stirring in between, until it is melted and smooth. Add the sugars and cocoa powder and stir to mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Roll each dough disk out into a large circle, about 1/8 inch thick*. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the excess off to make it a nice circle.
- Spread half of the chocolate mixture over the dough, leaving about ½ inch uncovered around the edge.
- Sprinkle half of the almonds over the chocolate.
- Use the pizza cutter or knife to cut the circle into 16 wedges (cut into quarters, then cut each quarter in half, then cut each half in half again).
- Starting from the wide end of a wedge, roll the dough up around
the filling to form the classic spiral-shaped cookie. Press the point into the dough to make it stick. If needed, use a dab of the egg wash to hold it together.
- Place the rolled up cookies on the baking sheet, leaving about 2
inches in between.
- Brush the egg wash over the exposed parts of the dough. Sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
- At this point, you can repeat with the remaining dough, chocolate, and almonds or you can bake the first batch (keeping the other half
of the dough in the refrigerator) and then prepare the second batch after the first one comes out of the oven.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, until the rugelach are golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Serve at room temperature.
ingredients for the chocolate filling and the nuts in half and use them to fill
half of the cookies. Use the other dough half with a different filling. 1. If you prefer to use all cream cheese in the dough, use 8
ounces instead of 6 and omit the sour cream. 2. Most recipes say to roll the dough ¼-inch thick. I think this is too thick, though. I have never measured, but I think I do it closer to 1/8-inch thick. See the picture in the step-by-step process shots in the post for a visual of how thin I roll it. 3. If you prefer, you can melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler instead of the microwave. 4. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. 5. You can keep the dough in the freezer for up to 6 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before using.