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The Best Hanukkah Food to Make This Year, from Latkes to Brisket

Hanukkah, known as the Festival of Lights, starts on December 18. If you haven’t decided how you’re celebrating this year (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 (y’all remember the Rugrats episode, right?).

Today, people all over the world symbolically light their own menorahs for eight consecutive 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.

How to Make Latkes for Hanukkah (or Whenever a Craving Strikes)


What Are Traditional Hanukkah Foods?

Here are a few of the essentials:

  1. 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?
  2. Latkes/Levivot: Bless these crispy, irresistible potato pancakes. Latkes and levivot are essentially the same dish—the main difference is that the former is a Yiddish word, while the latter is Hebrew.
  3. Brisket: No, not what you buy at your favorite barbecue spot. Jewish brisket is equally as tender but typically braised in the oven like a stew instead of smoked, often with potatoes and carrots.
  4. Kugel: It’s basically a noodle casserole made with eggs, cottage cheese and sugar.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 34 favorite recipes to bookmark for Hanukkah 2021, traditional and modern alike.

1. The Crispiest Potato Latkes Ever

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

The key to making drool-worthy potato pancakes? Removing all the excess moisture from the spuds so they’re super dry when they hit the oil.

2. Noodle Kugel

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, vegetarian, beginner-friendly

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

  • Time Commitment: 6 hours
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

A picturesque loaf shows off your baking chops big time—and doesn’t require one second of kneading.

4. Jewish Brisket

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours and 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

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. Matzo Ball Soup with Chicken Meatballs

  • Time Commitment: 5 hours and 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly

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

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, <10 ingredients, one pot

Because latkes get lonely without sides of sour cream and applesauce.

7. Not-Quite-Homemade Jelly Doughnuts

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, make ahead, beginner-friendly

This sufganiyot has a delicious time-saving secret: canned biscuit dough. Keep the doughnuts classic with strawberry or raspberry jelly.

8. Israeli Salad

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, make ahead, no cook

Four veggies + five pantry staples = one pretty, refreshing (and unforgettable) side.

9. Brussels Sprouts Latkes

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, vegetarian, special occasion-worthy

Swap spuds for the most versatile fall veggie out there. Never shredded Brussels sprouts before? It’s super easy—even without a food processor.

10. Oven-Baked Beef Brisket

  • Time Commitment: 5 hours and 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

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

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, vegetarian, <30 minutes, <10 ingredients

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.

12. Rugelach

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, make ahead, special occasion-worthy

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

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: gluten free, special occasion-worthy, vegetarian

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.

14. French Onion Brisket

  • Time Commitment: 4 hours and 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

Your favorite cozy soup is itching to be reborn. Trust us: The purists at your table won’t miss the tomatoes.

hanukkah food skillet latke
Nosh with Micah

15. Family-Style Skillet Latkes

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients, kid-friendly, one pan

Behold: the most low-maintenance latke recipe of all time. Feel free to spice things up by adding extra fresh herbs to the batter, like thyme or rosemary.

16. Chocolate Banana Bread Babka

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, kid-friendly

If you think all babkas are dry, this recipe will prove you wrong. Bananas in the batter and streusel keep it super moist.

17. Hamantashen Pie

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, make ahead

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.

18. Herbed Cheddar Latkes

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

Shredded potato patties fried in oil aren’t mouthwatering enough, you say? Cheese can fix that.

19. Beef Brisket with Wild Mushrooms

  • Time Commitment: 4 hours
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, high protein, special occasion-worthy

Dried porcinis and a pound of wild mushrooms pack a serious punch of umami.

20. Spiced Apple Challah with a Pretzel Crust

  • Time Commitment: 4 hours and 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly

Sure, it's so gorgeous that it looks like you ordered it from a fancy kosher bakery. But we're most impressed by the ingenious two-ingredient apple juice glaze.

21. Charoset

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, no cook, beginner-friendly

Charoset, a side made from fruit, nuts and red wine, represents the mortar enslaved Jewish people used to build pyramids and other structures. It's usually served at Passover, but its flavors still pair well with Hanukkah mains.

22. Noodle Kugel

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, kid-friendly

This sweet custard dish's crowning glory? A layer of buttery, cinnamon-sugar cornflakes (aka the kids' table's favorite part).

23. Mom’s Tzimmes

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients

Tzimmes is an Ashkenazi stew made with carrots and dried fruits that's usually served at Rosh Hashanah. This version also throws canned pineapple, apples and sweet potatoes in the mix.

24. Mixed Lettuce Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, vegetarian, no cook

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.

25. Matzo Ball Soup

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, one pot, crowd-pleaser

You're less than two hours away from this Hanukkah classic. Use shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken to save even more time.

26. Slow Cooker Pot Roast

  • Time Commitment: 10 hours and 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: slow cooker recipes, high protein, crowd-pleaser

Only 15 minutes of prep and this brisket alternative is ready to pop in the Crockpot until fork tender. Be sure to reserve all the juices for better reheating.

27. Matzo Brei (Fried Matzo)

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, <30 minutes, beginner-friendly, kid-friendly

This common Passover breakfast tastes just as satisfying in the winter. Think of it like a buttery matzo scramble.

28. Mashed Potato Fritters with Smoked Salmon and Chives

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

Leftover mashed potatoes on your hands? Serve these fritters instead of latkes at breakfast, along with smoked salmon. (Smoked and salted fish became a key part of the Jewish-American diet after Eastern Europeans immigrated to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.)

29. Superfood Chocolate Mendiants

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, make ahead, beginner-friendly

Hailing from France, a mendiant is a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruit. In our book, these are like really, really fancy chocolate gelt.

30. Chocolate-Covered Caramel Matzo

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

Picture crisp matzo buried in layers of toffee-like caramel and chocolate, then topped with flaky salt and peanuts. Sounds like a Hanukkah miracle to us.

31. Apple Cinnamon Cake

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, beginner-friendly

Apple cake is commonly served during Rosh Hashanah, since apples and honey symbolize hope during the Jewish New Year. Choose a tart type of apple to bake with, like Granny Smiths.

32. Peanut Butter and Jelly Donuts

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

We have a feeling the kids at your table will be all about this nutty twist on sufganiyot.

33. Sweet Potato Pecan Latkes

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole meets Hanukkah latkes. Pecans, cinnamon and mini marshmallows push these fritters into dessert territory.

34. Tie-Dye Sugar Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly, crowd-pleaser

When in doubt about dessert, you can't go wrong with some festive cookies. Feel free to save time by using store-bought sugar cookie dough.

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Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.