The Best Hanukkah Food to Make This Year, from Latkes to Brisket
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, starts November 28, and if you haven't settled on how you're celebrating (or what you're serving), we've got your back. The Jewish celebration honors the Maccabean Revolt against their oppressors, which led to the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Legend has it that the temple’s menorah miraculously stayed lit for eight days, even though there was only a small amount of oil (come on, y’all remember the Rugrats episode). Today, people all over the world symbolically light their own menorahs for eight nights, plus exchange gifts and share some seriously delicious meals. With that in mind, here's our guide to the best Hanukkah food to make this year, whether you’re hosting or a guest.
What Are Traditional Hanukkah Foods?
Here are a few of the essentials:
- Matzo Ball Soup: It’s traditionally eaten at Passover, but some families serve it for many Jewish holidays. Matzo balls, made of matzo meal, eggs and some kind of fat (like schmaltz), are a serious upgrade from crumbled saltines, no?
- Latkes/Levivot: Bless these crispy, addictive potato pancakes. Latkes and levivot are essentially the same—the main difference is that the former is a Yiddish word, while the latter is Hebrew.
- Brisket: No, not what you buy at your favorite barbecue spot. Jewish brisket is equally as tender but usually braised in the oven like a stew instead of smoked, often with potatoes and carrots.
- Kugel: It’s basically a noodle casserole made with egg, cottage cheese and sugar.
- Sufganiyot: Aka jelly doughnuts. While doughnuts were traditional holiday fare by the 12th century (foods fried in oil are an homage to the Hanukkah miracle), Polish Jews started filling them with jelly in the 16th century once sugar became cheap.
- Challah: This old-school braided egg bread can do a lot more than top-notch French toast. No Hanukkah spread is complete without it.
Here are our 30 favorite recipes to bookmark for Hanukkah 2021, traditional and modern alike.
2. Noodle Kugel
Our favorite thing about this casserole dish? You can bake it up to two days in advance. Just pop it in the oven for a few minutes to reheat and it’s ready to devour.
3. Honey Challah
It shows off your baking chops big time—and doesn’t require one second of kneading.
5. Matzo Ball Soup with Chicken Meatballs
Sure, the noodles are tender and the meatballs are beyond juicy. But the real star here is the homemade chicken broth.
6. Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce
Because latkes get lonely without sides of sour cream and applesauce.
10. Oven-Baked Beef Brisket
This five-pound beauty cooks in the oven, but also boasts a flavorful dry rub, sort of like a hybrid between Jewish and Texan brisket.
11. Grilled Halloumi
If your family doesn’t mix meat and dairy, skip this side. But if your family does, this side is salty, tangy and ridiculously simple to make.
13. Harissa Sweet Potato Latkes with Spiced Yogurt, Mint and Pomegranate
These ain’t your Bubbe’s potato pancakes. They’re topped with a zesty yogurt sauce that's spruced up with lemon, garlic and cumin.
16. Hamantashen Pie
You might see these triangular cookies in stores during Purim, a holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from a Persian Empire official. They're often bursting with apricot jam, chocolate spread or raspberry jam, but feel free to use whatever fruit filling you'd like.
17. Herbed Cheddar Latkes
Shredded potato patties fried in oil aren’t mouthwatering enough, you say? Cheese can fix that.
23. Mixed Lettuce Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Complete with endive and radicchio. Serve the Parmesan curls on the side in case some of your guests don't eat meat and dairy together.
27. Superfood Chocolate Mendiants
In our book, these are like really, really fancy chocolate gelt. Hailing from France, a mendiant is a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruit.
30. Peanut Butter and Jelly Donuts
We have a feeling the kids at your table will be all about this nutty twist on sufganiyot.