Courtesy of Emily Paster, West of the Loop
Food plays a key role in just about every major Jewish holiday. And although Hanukkah meals are more lenient than the Passover Seder, symbolism still sets the stage for what is eaten and why. The following list of common Hanukkah foods incorporates traditional celebratory dishes of Ashkenazi Jews as well as treats enjoyed by Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews and the Jewish diaspora around the world.
Potato latkes may be the most well-known of all Hanukkah foods. This versatile dish starts with shredded potatoes, which are squeezed until dry and mixed with onions and eggs before being formed into a patty and fried. Foods fried or otherwise cooked with oil are symbolic call-backs to the one-day supply of oil that burned for eight in the original Hanukkah story.
In Yiddish, fried potato cakes are latkes. In Hebrew, they are levivots. If you're in the market for lower-calorie levivot or latkes, look no further than this recipe that cuts the calories by swapping out traditional potatoes with heart-healthy cauliflower.
Spice up plain potato pancakes, latkes or levivot by stuffing yours with salmon before frying them in olive oil. These stuffed potato pancakes burst with flavor and can be garnished with chives, crème fraiche or sour cream.
For a delectable cross of salty and sweet, top off latkes, levivot or potato pancakes with applesauce. You may purchase yours from a store or prepare your own custom applesauce side at home using a beginner’s Instant Pot recipe.
There is no such thing as too many latkes. Allow us to introduce you to the shoestring latke with smoked salmon and crème fraiche. For this ultra-crispy potato recipe, cut your taters into long, matchstick strings. Combine with other ingredients, form into mounds and fry.
If up for a more savory latke or levivot topping than applesauce, consider spicing a 1-pound center-cut salmon fillet with brown sugar, black pepper, dill, lemon and kosher salt. Allow the fillet to chill for two days. This salmon dish called gravlax can be served on top of any potato cake or bagel.
Although not as popular, smashed apples and pears makes for a tasty alternative to the traditional applesauce latke topping. This recipe is easily customizable — you decide how much of each fruit to include, how much cinnamon to stir in and whether to serve warm or cold.
Sub out a latke’s typical russet potatoes for sweet potatoes using this one-hour recipe. For some added spice and tang, pair your sweet potato latkes with harissa yogurt made with Greek yogurt and harissa, a North African spice paste.
These root vegetables latkes served with a side of beet applesauce are the last of our savory latkes. Made of five root vegetables, these latkes are a healthy alternative to the traditional potato pancake.
Kosher Jewish law dictates that meat and dairy shouldn’t be eaten during the same meal. However, when the Hanukkah meal includes meat, inexpensive, slow-cooked brisket is an ideal main course. Families usually have their own brisket recipe, but we are partial to this one.
For another meaty Hanukkah main course, prepare this brown-sugar-glazed corned beef. This recipe plays with notes of sweet and savory and pairs well with latkes and applesauce.
There’s no better first course on a Jewish holiday table than a big bowl of matzo ball soup. Matzo balls are made by combining matzo meal with eggs, baking powder and some schmaltz. Roll them into balls and boil in chicken stock for 45 minutes or so.
Tzimmes is most closely associated with Rosh Hashanah, but it’s an all-around holiday favorite. It’s made by slowly stewing carrots with dried fruits like dates and raisins; other root vegetables like yams are also common. They’re cooked down with honey and spices until tender and sticky with glaze.
Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and is frequently found on Hanukkah tables in the Mediterranean region. As opposed to most other cheeses, which simply melt when exposed to high heat, this dense, fresh white cheese sears to a golden brown. You can serve it simply sliced and seared on both sides as part of a meatless sandwich.
Bourekas are a classic Turkish pastry and a popular Hanukkah dish among Sephardic Jews. To make bourekas, wrap a savory filling in flaky phyllo dough then brush it with butter and bake. Popular fillings include ground meat, cheese, eggplant and spinach. This recipe calls for apples.
Babka very well might be the most decadent of all Jewish desserts. Start with a buttery brioche-like dough. Roll and braid with any of a wide variety of fillings (think chocolate, hazelnut spread or cinnamon sugar). Tuck into a loaf pan, douse with sugar syrup and bake. Like most decadent desserts, babka is best enjoyed warm.
Dairy is another symbolic Hanukkah staple. This cheese pastry recipe is named after Judith, a pioneering woman who reportedly charmed her way into an enemy Babylonian camp with cheese and wine then beheaded the enemy general when he passed out.
Latkes do not have to be savory, they can also be sweet. These mini ricotta latkes served up with a side of sour cherry sauce are the ideal candidate for a holiday breakfast or brunch.
Blintzes are thin crepes rolled up with either a sweet ricotta or fruit-based filling and pan-fried. They are delicious served with breakfast or brunch but also can be layered and topped with a sweetened sour cream mixture to be made into a casserole, or in this case, a French toast casserole.
Olive oil is a celebrated part of Hanukkah, and this olive oil ice cream is a great way to work it into dessert. Just because Hanukkah is observed during the winter does not mean you cannot enjoy a rich and chilly bowl of homemade ice cream.
If not up for ice cream, incorporate olive oil into a celebratory lemon cake. This recipe includes added instructions for a lemon glaze and whipped cream topping. Although this recipe involves putting together your own batter, there are plenty of other ways you can upgrade a basic boxed cake mix.
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