Hanukkah is here and that means that Jews around the world will spend eight nights gathering around the Hanukkiah, telling the story of the victorious Maccabees and of course, eating so. much. fried. food. In eras past, people stuck to their own foods: Ashkenazi Jews fried potato latkes, while Sephardic communities came together over leek Keftikes. Today though, we are more aware of the breadth of Jewish culinary tradition than ever. Connecting with foods that have faced extinction through assimilation, forced or otherwise is the perfect way to honor Hanukkah’s theme of maintaining Jewish identity, religion and culture in the face of adversity. We’ve gathered fabulous recipes from around the world, so try a new recipe this year- it may inspire you to learn more about Jewish communities and Jewish history from around the world.
1. Zengoula (Iraqi funnel cakes)
Zengoula is a delicious non-doughnut for Hanukah! These Iraqi funnel cakes with a lemon syrup will brighten your Hannukah meals. The Iraqi Jewish community was once one of the most vibrant in the world. Jews have lived in Iraq since about 586 bc until the early 20th century when more than a quarter of Baghdad’s population was Jewish, as a result, the cuisine is rich and varied. Find the recipe for Zengoula here!
2. Sfenj (Moroccan doughnuts)
Sfenj is eaten by Maghrebi Mizrachi Jews from North Africa. They are much easier to make than Sufganiyot, which were actually adopted in the 1920s to give Jewish professional bakers more work at Hanukkah. So skip the fussy filled doughnuts and make your friends a big, golden plate of sfenj. They’ll love you for it, I promise. Find the recipe here!
3. Bunuelos (Sephardic sweet fritters)
These fried treats from the Iberian peninsula can be made vegan, a perfect alternative to doughnuts. If you’re hosting a large gathering or are craving traditional Hanukkah sweets that align with your vegan values, look no further. Find the recipe here!
4. Gulab Jamun (South Indian doughnuts)
These balls of fried dough are drenched in sugary syrup and are a Hanukkah staple in Indian Jewish communities that have existed in Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa, and Kerala since at least the middle ages. The oldest community is located in Kochi in South India where Gulab Jamun originate. Find the recipe here!
5. Polish Apple Cake
This cake developed as a kosher alternative to traditional European pastries that often contain milk and butter. In this recipe, oil and eggs come together to make a golden, sweet crumb that’s bound to delight. Get the recipe here.
6. Keftes de Prasa (Spanish Leek Fritters)
Keftikes are a go-to savory fried Hanukkah food for Spanish Jews. These are similar in ingredients to Ashkenazi potato latkes but include bright green leeks. Jewish food in Spain was forced underground for centuries during the inquisition when neighbors would use the cooking of Jewish dishes as evidence against those who were forced to convert but practiced their religion in secret. Carry on the tradition, find the recipe here.
7. Frittelle di Chanukah (Italian honey and fruit fritters)
Jewish families in Italy make these holiday fritters with fragrant anise-flavored Sambuca, dried fruit, olive oil and honey. Find the recipe here.
8. S’mores Sufganiyot (American variation on Polish-Israeli filled doughnuts)
Sufganiyot, based on Eastern European doughnuts were popularized by Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the 1920s as a scheme to put Jewish bakers to work at Hanukkah by replacing home recipes with more complicated pastries. They took off in popularity and are now synonymous with the holiday across the United States and Israel. In an ironic twist, a new generation of home bakers is innovating and developing delicious new variations on the Sufganiyot their parents would have bought at a store. Get the recipe here.
So what are you waiting for? Grab some friends and family and get to cooking these delicious dishes that exemplify the ever-growing diversity of Jewish cuisine.