Late November to December is the start of Hanukkah for Jews all across the world. People try different traditional Hanukkah foods at their parties.
On other Jewish holidays, such as Shabbat and Passover, families gather to have a special sit-down meal, but on Hanukkah, a large meal is not necessary.
What Is the Hanukkah Tradition?
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, begins on November 28. Hanukkah honors Jews who had to embrace Greek culture and religion and abandon their Jewish practices in the second-century B.C.E.
Judah the Maccabees guided the Jews, made the Greeks out, and successfully took their temple and faith back.
When the Jews returned to their temple, they found just enough olive oil to light the candelabra for one night, but it miraculously lasted eight nights.
Jews, nowadays, try to honor the Maccabees’ suffering by lighting a menorah for eight nights and eating traditional Hanukkah meals.
Most traditional Hanukkah foods are high in carbohydrates and oils, making them feel rich if you’re on a diet.
However, give yourself a break during the holiday season by enjoying the foods you love.
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What Are the Traditional Hanukkah Foods?
There are many Hanukkah foods to try throughout the eight-day celebration, and we’ve collected some of the most traditional Hanukkah meals for you.
To honor a distinct story during the Maccabees’ fight for freedom, many Jews include dairy in their Hanukkah meals.
The Book of Judith narrates that a Syrian-Greek fighter called Holofernes attacked Bethulia. Judith became friends with the warrior to trick him, so Judith deceived him into eating bread, cheese, and wine.
When he was drunk enough, Judith killed him and saved Bethulia.
That is why many Jews eat cheesy meals such as cheese pancakes on Hanukkah to honor Judith.
Latkes; Traditional Hanukkah Foods
Latkes are known as potato pancakes. You can prepare this meal with chopped or mashed potatoes that are not deep-fried. Although latkes are among the traditional Hanukkah foods, you can still have the opportunity for innovation.
Here are a few ideas to make this simple recipe more awesome.
- You can use sweet potatoes instead of traditional potatoes.
- Use ginger, curry, or Cajun spices as new flavors in your meal.
- You can add sweet ingredients like chopped coconut and dried fruits.
- Add flavorful additions like parsnips, pesto cheese, or scallions to the food.
What To Serve With Potato Latkes
Jews traditionally serve latkes with applesauce and sour cream. Serve your potato latkes with popular Israeli dips like charoset, tahini, or hummus for a unique taste.
Serve your latkes with rich toppings like smoked salmon or baharat-spiced tofu if you want a vegan Hanukkah menu substitute.
Remember the story of Hanukkah we mentioned earlier. When Judah the Maccabee made the Greeks out with the help of the Jews, they had only a few bottles of oil.
That’s why during the Festival of Lights, Jewish people eat lots of traditional Hanukkah foods fried with a large amount of oil to honor the miracle of a small amount of oil surviving eight nights.
Related: The Best Hanukkah Food to Make This Year, from Latkes to Brisket
You can cook these fried patties with pureed pumpkin, which is like a traditional potato latke.
They’re common on Syrian Jewish tables throughout Hanukkah, as well as Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Sukkot (the harvest festival).
Hanukkah Jelly Doughnuts (Sufganiyot)
Sufganiyah (plural: sufganiyot) is a circular, deeply fried doughnut stuffed with strawberry jam, and you can serve it on Hanukkah.
Sufganiyot, one of the most well-known traditional Hanukkah meals, Sufganiyot should be served with powdered sugar; wonderful sweets, right?
Sufganiyot fillings have become more creative in recent years among Jews in Israel and around the world.
Challah; Must-have Traditional Hanukkah Foods
This twisted beauty is a must-have for Jewish holidays, particularly Hanukkah.
Eggs, water, butter, yeast, salt, sugar, or oil can all be used to produce the dough. Also, you can top it with sesame seeds or poppy seeds for a salty flavor after it’s cooked.
Make croutons, bread pudding, French toast, stuffing, or grilled cheese using leftover challah from a party to surprise your party guests. You’ll have a lot of choices!
For a golden, whole-wheat alternative, we suggest Half Baked Harvest’s recipe.
Pollo Frito Por Hanukkah
Isn’t it lovely to have fried garlic butter chicken on your party table?
Fried chicken is a favorite on the Hanukkah table for many Italian Jewish families.
To cope with dietary regulations prohibiting the combination of milk with meat or chicken, spice the dish with cinnamon for a sweeter flavor.
Gelt are chocolate coins wrapped in foil that Jews use to play dreidel, a Hanukkah game.
A dreidel is a four-sided top with four Hebrew letters on each side. Every letter contains a word from the Hebrew, which indicates “there was a wonderful miracle.” (Making reference to the Hanukkah tale, which happened in Israel).
Players start with various bits of gelt and take turns rotating the top to play the dreidel game.
Players must give or receive gelt from the center “pot” based on whatever letter the dreidel turns on. When one player has won all of the gelt, the game is over.
Kugel; Traditional Hanukkah Foods
Kugel is a sweet or savory Jewish noodle casserole meal, depending on who makes it.
If you want to have the sweet version, try to use cottage cheese, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes raisins.
However, if you want to have the savory version, use garlic, onions, and other vegetables.
Brisket; Luscious Traditional Hanukkah Foods
Brisket is among the most popular traditional Hanukkah foods in many Jewish families, although Jews love having it on other holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Passover.
The Jewish brisket is different from the Texas-style since people cook the Jewish version while the Texas version is barbecued.