The Best Hanukkah Food to Make This Year, from Latkes to Brisket
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, starts December 10, and if you haven't settled on how you're celebrating (or what you're serving), we're here to help. 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:
- Matzoh Ball Soup: It’s traditionally eaten Passover, but some families serve it for many Jewish holidays. Matzoh balls, made of matzoh meal, eggs and some kind of fat (like schmaltz), are a serious upgrade from crumbled crackers, 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 braised in the oven like a stew, 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 make for a top-notch French toast. No Hanukkah spread is complete without it.
Here are our favorite recipes to bookmark for Hanukkah 2020, traditional and modern alike.
1. The Crispiest Potato Latkes Ever
The key to making drool-worthy potato pancakes? Removing all the excess moisture from the veggies so they’re super dry when they hit the oil.
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.
4. Jewish Brisket
Unlike Southern brisket, which is typically slow cooked over indirect heat, this one is a lot like pot roast. It braises in a savory mix of broth, crushed tomatoes and red wine.
5. Matzoh 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.
7. Not-Quite-Homemade Jelly Doughnuts
This sufganiyot has a delicious time-saving secret: canned biscuit dough. Keep it classic with strawberry or raspberry jelly.
8. Israeli Salad
Four veggies + five pantry staples = one pretty, refreshing (and unforgettable) side
10. Oven-Baked Beef Brisket
This five-pound beauty cooks in the oven, but also boasts a flavorful dry rub. Think of it 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.
This recipe calls for brown sugar-walnut filling spiked with cinnamon, but you can also use raspberry jam and almonds or even chocolate-hazelnut spread instead.
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, spruced up with lemon, garlic and cumin.
14. French Onion Brisket
Your favorite cozy soup is itching to be reborn. Trust us: The purists at your table won’t miss the tomatoes.
15. Chocolate Banana Bread Babka
If you think all babkas are dry, this recipe will prove you wrong. Bananas in the batter and streusel make it super moist.
16. Peanut Butter and Jelly Donuts
We have a feeling the kids at your table will be all about this twist on sufganiyot.
17. Herbed Cheddar Latkes
Shredded potato patties fried in oil aren’t mouthwatering enough, you say? Cheese can fix that.
18. Beef Brisket with Wild Mushrooms
Dried porcinis and a pound of wild mushrooms pack a serious punch of umami.
19. Superfood Chocolate Mendiants
Think of these like really, really fancy chocolate gelt. Hailing from France, a mendiant is a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruit.
20. Chocolate-Covered Caramel Matzoh
Picture crisp matzoh buried in layers of toffee-like caramel and chocolate topped with flaky salt and peanuts. Sounds like a Hanukkah miracle to us.