Making a Traditional Food Healthier: Blintzes (Cheese-Filled Crepes)

blintzesI’ve been thinking about blintzes, a traditional food served on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost). To make these yummy, creamy, cheese-filled crepes, you fry the crepes, fill them with sweetened cheese, fold them into an envelope shape, and refry. They’re not the healthiest choice for a few reasons:

  • They’re fried, twice!
  • They contain no vegetables or whole grains
  • They’re high in fat from the oil and cheese.
  • The filling is sweetened with sugar
  • The crepes are mainly eggs, and the filling also contains eggs. This is a concern especially if you are watching your cholesterol.

But blintzes are traditionally for Shavuot. For many people the holiday is just not the same without them.

There are a few different approaches to this common dilemma.

You can say that the holiday is once a year. You’re going to enjoy it and not feel guilty.

You can go to the other extreme and skip the blintzes, which are time-consuming to make, and serve fish or a vegetarian dish with lots of salads and whole grains.

Or you can do something in between—serve the blintzes alongside other less traditional, but healthier, foods. That way everyone can have a taste of their favorites. Another compromise is to make the blintzes healthier, and hope that they still satisfy the traditionalists.

How to make healthier blintzes (cheese-filled crepes)

  • Use a non-stick pan to make the crepes, spraying oil on the pan in between each crepe.
  • Use part or all whole-wheat flour. The crepes won’t be as thin and crisp.
  • Use low-fat, or no-fat cheese.
  • Cut the sugar in the filling.
  • Fill some or all of the blintzes with sauteed onions or mushrooms, or other vegetables, instead of cheese.
  • Bake the blintzes in a greased pan instead of frying them in the last step (thanks to Norene Gilletz’s Pleasures of Your Food Processor for that tip).
  • Serve with a marinara sauce instead of white sauce, sugar (!), or sour cream.

What approach do you take when it comes to traditional, yet unhealthy foods?

More Shavuot recipe ideas:

Lentils with Onions and Garlic

Greek Salad with Feta Cheese

Mushroom and Barley Soup

I’ll post a recipe for blintzes tomorrow.

Photo credit: antiparticle


  1. If you like sweet filling you can also use fresh soft fruit like cherries, peaches, apricots or various berries or raisins. Cut them in smallish pieces (sort of the size of raisins) and mix them with a bit of the white cheese you use. This reduces the amount of cheese and you can leave out the sugar as well. (works for me)

  2. Eggs are not all that unhealthy. Dietary cholesterol such as that found in eggs doesn’t raise cholesterol levels nearly as much as saturated fat. spray oil or very small amounts of canola oil are a good idea. I tend to use 5% cheese in things like blintzes and cheese cakes, because it’s kind of a balance between good taste and not terrible amounts of fat. My mom always baked the blintzes once filled. Saves loads of time.

    My parents’ typical shavuot meal was baked salmon as the main course and blintzes as a side dish. It’s not cheap, but it is delicious and very healthy.

    My husband likes meat meals for chag even on Shavuot, so I just make a cheesecake and puddings (husband won’t eat cheesecake) and we have “kiddush” of milchigs about an hour before lunch.

    here’s a blog q for you… how does one deal with picky HUSBANDS??

  3. What approach do I take? The one you mentioned earlier – skipping the whole time consuming process. I don’t see the point in spending so much time making something unhealthy.

    My family will probably disagree with me on that one though, and since you ‘ve given such good suggestions to ‘health up the blintze’, I may very well give it a try. Happy Shavuot!

  4. There are certain dishes that I leave to other people, because they are experienced and expert. Or I order them in restaurants. This means I don’t make blintzes (I don’t like cheese ones, and I don’t think anyone could touch my grandmother’s potato ones), I don’t make matzah balls, I don’t make cholent, I don’t make cheesecake–or really anything that requires a bain-marie.

    For shavuot I usually make salmon and a pasta salad. I may try a new recipe I found for zucchini feta pancakes. Our lunch guests are bringing the cheesecake. 🙂

  5. Ms. Krieger says

    Ohhhhh….I could never skip blintzes on Shavuot. I make them as my maternal grandmother did, using farmer’s cheese and vanilla extract (the vanilla extract must be in an alcohol base, or the texture of the blintz is ruined…I don’t know why, b/c I use such a comparatively small amount of extract. That’s just how it is.)

    Shavuot without blintzes wouldn’t be Shavuot. I never make them any other time of year.

    Another dairy dessert I will have to make is lokschen kugel. My husband has developed a taste for it recently.