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8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World

Hanukkah is eight nights, so if you’re hosting meals throughout the holiday, you’re probably looking for menu ideas and a little variety.

We’re here to help you expand your menu and learn more about traditional Hanukkah foods, from the classics you might already know to more surprising holiday treats from Jewish communities around the world – with 8 recipes for all 8 nights!

Keep calm and eat yummy Hanukkah food!

To give a bit of background, Hanukkah foods usually fall under one or more of three main themes: 

*Fried food – to remind us of the miracle of the oil in the Temple that lasted for 8 nights instead of one

*Dairy – to honor the legend of Judith, who inspired Judean fighters by beheading an Assyrian general after feeding him salty cheese, which made him so thirsty that he drank wine until he fell in a deep sleep

*Sweets – to celebrate, and as a treat for kids to encourage Torah learning and Jewish pride

And now, here are our top 8 favorite Hanukkah foods you need to try for a truly festive and tasty holiday! 

 

 

1. Eastern Europe: Potato Latkes
8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World

Potato Pancakes aka Latkes

Of course, we have to start off with all necessary due respect to the beloved Hanukkah potato pancake, a timeless dish that’s forever popular among Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern European descent, particularly in North America today. Known as latkes in Yiddish or levivot in Hebrew, these holiday classics are the ultimate, super-satisfying comfort food, made out of grated potatoes and deep-fried in oil. Naturally, varieties in recipes abound, but we're sharing our favorite, tried-and-true formula.

And don't forget your favorite topping - whether sour cream, applesauce, chives, ketchup, hot sauce, or even sliced smoked salmon.

Click here to get the recipe!

2. Poland & Israel: Sufganiyot
8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World

Varieties of Sufganiyot

While latkes may be all the rage in the Jewish diaspora, the quintessential Hanukkah food in Israel is actually the sufganiya (plural sufganiyot) – a yeasty, fried variety of donut – and every fall and early winter Israeli stores announce the ushering in of Hanukkah season with their festive donut displays.

Originally hailing from Poland, where they were called ponchiks in Yiddish, and adapted by Israeli chefs over generations, today these decadent holiday pastries come with a variety of fillings, from the traditional fruit jelly to chocolate, caramel, custard, and even alcohol-infused flavorings.

Whether you call them ponchiks, donuts (or doughnuts), or sufganiyot, make sure to grab some for the holiday, or try making your own! And learn more about the history of how sufganiyot came to Israel here.

Click here to get the recipe!

8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World
3. Morocco: Sfenj
8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World

Moroccan Sfenj (Photo: Dikla Frances/The Nosher)

The Moroccan-Jewish community has its own famous version of a yummy fried Hanukkah donut, which has made its way into mainstream Israeli culture as well: sfenj. Ring-shaped and made out of a rich, spongy dough, they are traditionally eaten warm and drizzled with honey (for an extra-special reminder of the Land of Israel) or sprinkled with sugar.

Click here to get the recipe!

4. Iraq: Soft Halva
8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World

Iraqi Hanukkah Halva

When you hear halva, you might be thinking of the crumbly Israeli treat popular in Jewish homes all over the world, made from a tahini base and available with various flavor additions.

However, there are actually several diverse regional variations of halva: Iraqi Jews make it with flour, Indian Jews with agar-agar and milk, and those from the former Soviet Union use a sunflower seed base.

If you’re looking to try something different but easy enough to make at home, check out this recipe for soft Iraqi Hanukkah halva, traditionally garnished with nuts and eaten with a warm flatbread.

Click here to get the recipe!

5. Turkey: Keftes de Prasa
8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World

Turkish-Sephardic Leek Patties aka Keftes de Prasa (Photo: Susan Barocas/The Nosher)

While potatoes are commonly associated with Ashkenazi Jewish communities, those hailing from Spain have often made leeks a staple of their cuisines. Sephardic Jews of Spanish origins who settled in Turkish lands during the Ottoman era took their love of leeks and incorporated them into this fried Hanukkah classic: leek patties, known as keftes de prasa in Ladino.

Click here to get the recipe!

8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World
6. Poland & North America: Rugelach
8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World

Walnut & Raisin Rugelach (Photo: Penny De Los Santos/Jewish Food Society)

The roll-up treat known as rugelach originated in Poland among Yiddish-speaking Jews, was perfected by Jewish immigrants in New York, and is today popular in both North America and Israel. Israelis eat it year-round as a sweet shabbat treat, but for many American Jews it’s especially associated with Hanukkah.

Different popular fillings include cinnamon, chocolate, nuts, raisins, marzipan, poppy seed, or fruit preserves. Some rugelach variations are dairy, with a rich dough made with butter and cream cheese - especially perfect for the diary-eating tradition of Hanukkah!

Our favorite rugelach recipe is this dairy version with walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon.

Click here to get the recipe!

7. Puerto Rico: Spicy Corvina Ceviche
8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World

Corvina Ceviche Fish for Hanukkah, with Fried Plantains (Photo: Armando Rafael/Jewish Food Society)

Even though Hanukkah is heavily associated with dairy, sweet treats, and fried veggie patties, for many Jews it’s just not a true holiday without some fish - the traditional Jewish shabbat and holiday table staple.

If you're looking for something unique and a bit more spicy to serve your Hanukkah guests, consider this ceviche fish dish from the Jewish community of Puerto Rico.

Click here to get the recipe!

8. Denmark: Risalamande
8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World

Danish Rice Pudding aka Risalamande (Photo: Penny De Los Santos/Jewish Food Society)

The Jewish community of Denmark has been historically known for its relative prosperity and good relations with its Christian neighbors, so it's no wonder that classic Danish Christmas treats and other winter foods have been lovingly adapted into Hanukkah holiday menus.

For a healthy, sweet, and somewhat unexpected dairy treat, try this Danish Hanukkah rice pudding known as risalamande, originally inspired by Denmark's Christmas puddings and passed down in Jewish families for generations.

Click here to get the recipe!

 

Happy cooking, and may your Hanukkah be filled with crispy treats and tasty sweets!

And don’t forget to set your holiday table right! Check out our top Hanukkah gifts for hosts and amazing Jewish tableware items - as well as all our amazing Hanukkah gifts and essentials straight from the Land of Israel.

8 Classic Hanukkah Foods From Around the World

Blog Topics

/jewish holiday gifts/hanukkah gifts/hanukkah gift baskets

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