At Hanukkah, Jewish families celebrate an ancient miracle, when one day’s worth of oil lasted for eight days. It’s not a surprise, then, that oil-based cooking is an inspiration for this holiday’s decadent feature dishes. But whether or not you celebrate Hanukkah, these must-try comfort foods are sure to warm your belly and satisfy family and friends on any cold winter night.
Latkes (Potato Pancakes)
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Your favourite breakfast foods (hashbrowns and pancakes) have combined into one glorious stack of onion-y dinner goodness. Making these is a family affair: they don’t taste right if there aren’t half a dozen people crammed into your kitchen hand-shaping the patties, fighting over flipping duty or trying to sneak a bite. Load them with sour cream, applesauce, or caviar if you’re feeling fancy.
Jewish-Style Braised Brisket
With all of the pre-dinner shmoozing (read: chatting) that goes on at family events, waiting for that meat course can be tantalizing. Likewise, preparing this mouthwatering masterpiece requires a long-game strategy—we’re talking 3-4 hours in a good roasting pan—but it’s worth the wait. Bonus: This dish can be made in advance and stored in its braising liquid up to 4 days before your party. Extra marinating time, anyone?
Sufganiyot (Jelly Doughnuts)
This globally recognized treat has a special place in Jewish tradition. It’s easy to fry up a batch in your own kitchen using a cast iron frying pan. Customize with different jams, or swap the milk and butter with coconut milk and coconut oil to make them dairy-free. These treats are best enjoyed fresh. (This also serves as justification for eating several. Right now. You’re welcome.)
Sweet Noodle Kugel
Noodle Kugel is an ultra-comforting casserole, and it’s unbelievably simple to make. This creamy dish is lightly sweetened, which might seem surprising at first, but have a little faith…it’s a must-have at Jewish holiday gatherings for a reason. Serve it warm or cold next to your main. Adding raisins and a dash of cinnamon is highly recommended.
Classic Challah Bread
Challah is a type of braided egg bread that’s traditionally shared on the Jewish sabbath. After it rises, each braid loop forms a scrumptious little bun that can be broken off as the bread is passed down the table. Move aside, dinner rolls! This moist, luscious loaf is the perfect complement to any hearty meal.
These flaky spiral crescents are made with a special cream cheese dough, and can be filled with dried fruit, chopped walnuts, chocolate, poppy seeds, or whatever else your heart desires. Consider them a timeless treasure. They’re found in Jewish bakeries and cafes all year round, but rugelach-lovers will find any excuse to bring them out, and nobody ever argues.
Homemade Chocolate Gelt
In old Jewish tradition, money (“gelt”) was given out at Hanukkah. Nowadays, most families distribute chocolate coins wrapped in gold or silver foil. They’re often store-bought, but personalized gelt can be made at home if you’re crafty. Prefer white chocolate? Try mixing in some matcha powder for added flair.
Hanukkah Chocolate Gelt Cake
Very lucky kids get a Chocolate Surprise Gelt Cake at Hanukkah. These cakes typically have a hollowed-out core filled with (you guessed it) chocolate gelt. One slice reveals the spoils, and havoc ensues! For a less messy but equally delicious option, people with a sweet tooth can chop up the gelt and use it for cake layers. In the spirit of the holiday, some recipes call for olive oil in place of the eggs and butter.