Hanukkah Recipes to Warm Your Belly and Heart
Hanukkah is a Jewish winter holiday known as the Festival of Lights, or chag ha-ooreem in Hebrew. It celebrates the victory of the Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, king of Syria, and the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century BCE.
According to the Talmud, one of Judaism’s central texts, the Jewish people who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed a miracle: Although there was only enough oil to keep their menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued flickering for eight nights. The Jewish leaders established an eight-day annual celebration to commemorate this miracle, which we know as Hanukkah.
During Hanukkah, Jewish families light a candelabra called a menorah with nine candles: eight to represent each night of the miracle, plus the “helper candle” that lights all the others, called the shamash. To celebrate, Jews also cook fried foods to symbolize the oil from the miraculous menorah. Dishes including latkes (fried potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts) are traditional fried Hanukkah foods, though many families also enjoy other cultural treats such as kugel, an egg noodle casserole. This year, why not bring Hanukkah—and your kids—into the kitchen? Follow these mouthwatering Hanukkah recipes to inspire some holiday cheer in your young chefs.
Let’s Make Latkes
Similar to fritters or hashbrowns, latkes (pronounced LOT-kuhs) are a type of fried pancake made from shredded potatoes. Italian Jews in the thirteenth century originally made Hanukkah pancakes from ricotta cheese, but when potatoes became a prevalent crop in the 1800s, potato latkes became the norm. In other parts of the world, latkes have also been made from grain—most commonly buckwheat or rye.
Whether you like them savory (topped with sour cream) or sweet (topped with applesauce), these crispy treats are a staple in many Jewish households during Hanukkah.
- 5 large potatoes
- 1 small onion
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs, matzo meal, or flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- A pinch of black pepper
- Canola oil
- Toppings (sour cream, applesauce, honey, sauerkraut)
- An adult grates the potatoes coarsely or finely, according to your family’s preference, and then grates the onion to the same size.
- An adult places the grated potatoes and onion in a paper towel and kids squeeze the paper towel tightly until it absorbs all of the liquid. Next, place grated potatoes and onion in a large bowl.
- Children lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl. Kids then add eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper to the large bowl containing the potatoes and onion and mix until combined.
- An adult heats oil in a large pan, 1 inch (2 ½ centimeters) deep. Keep children well away from the cooking area as oil may spatter. For each latke, place a few spoonfuls of the mixture together in the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd the latkes—putting them too close together will make them soggy. Using the back of a spoon, pat down each latke to flatten it.
- Fry the latkes on each side for 3–4 minutes until golden and crisp around the edges. Repeat the process until the batter is finished.
- Blot excess oil with paper towels and serve warm with desired toppings.
Frying Sweet Sufganiyot
The word sufganiyot (pronounced soof-GAH-NEE-yote) comes from the Hebrew root word for “sponge”—which is fitting because these little doughnuts soak up oil. Sufganiyot are a delicious Hanukkah dessert that’s easy to customize with your children’s favorite sweet filling.
- 3 ½ cups flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon dry yeast
- 1 egg
- 3 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cups milk (room temperature)
- Canola oil
- ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
- Filling (strawberry or raspberry jam, hazelnut spread, vanilla pudding)
- An adult sifts the flour into a large mixing bowl. Kids add salt, sugar, and yeast and mix well.
- An adult adds the egg and butter to the flour mixture and combines with a mixer on low speed. Gradually add the milk and continue mixing for 8–10 minutes until the dough is soft.
- Kids form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size (approximately 1–2 hours).
- Once the dough has risen, place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it to ¾-inch (2-centimeter) thickness. Kids use a circular cookie cutter with a 2-inch (5-centimeter) diameter to cut circles out of the dough as close to one another as possible to avoid creating scraps.
- An adult places the dough circles on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and covers it with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise again for 20 minutes.
- An adult heats 1 ½ inches (3 ¼ centimeters) of oil in a large pot or skillet until it reaches 350℉ (180℃). Keep children well away from the cooking area as oil may spatter. Place 4 dough circles into the oil and fry for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
- An adult removes the sufganiyot from the oil and places them on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining dough. Allow the pastries to cool for 10 minutes before filling.
- An adult fills a piping bag with the desired filling and makes a small slit on top of the sufganiyot using a sharp knife. Place the piping bag inside the slit of each sufganiyah (the singular word for sufganiyot) and fill until you see the filling peeking out the hole. Kids can help fill the sufganiyot, but supervise younger children to avoid spills or overfilling.
- Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, serve, and enjoy!
Create a Crispy Kugel
Kugel (pronounced KOO-gl) is a noodle dish from twelfth-century Germany. It has become a typical side dish on Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) and Jewish holidays because it’s said to resemble the food the Jewish people received from God during their 40-year sojourn in the desert.
Kugel uses potatoes or eggs as the base of the dish, and it can be savory or sweet depending on the flavors you add. Many Jewish families put their own spin on it, but this is a sweet noodle kugel recipe.
- 12 ounces extra-wide egg noodles
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for the noodle water and to taste
- ½ cup unsalted butter cut into pieces and 1 tablespoon to grease the pan
- 8 large eggs
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 pound full-fat cottage cheese
- 1 pound full-fat sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- An adult preheats the oven to 350℉ (180℃) and brings a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the egg noodles according to the package instructions. Drain when the noodles are al dente (soft with a slight firmness in the center) and leave some water clinging to the noodles.
- An adult melts the butter pieces in the microwave or on the stove and then sets them aside to cool. While the butter cools, kids whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is frothy.
- Kids add the cottage cheese, sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to the egg mixture and whisk vigorously to combine. An adult adds the melted butter and whisks until mixed.
- An adult adds the hot noodles to the egg mixture and tosses them until coated.
- An adult transfers the noodle mixture into a greased 13-inch-by-9-inch (33-centimeter-by-23-centimeter) baking dish. Make sure the noodles are evenly distributed and pull a few noodles to the surface to crisp up over the sauce.
- Bake the kugel for 50–55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The top should be browned with crispy noodles when finished.
- An adult removes from the oven and lets the kugel cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing, serving, and enjoying.
Get Crafty for Hanukkah
Hanukkah is a time for celebration and connecting with your family. Even if you aren’t Jewish, you can learn about this fascinating holiday—and the way Jewish people celebrate around the world—and share its wonders with your children.
Learn more about Hanukkah with this DIY menorah craft, spin the dreidel with family and friends, and enjoy making (and eating) delicious Hanukkah foods together.
If your young chefs are craving more in the kitchen and beyond, send their curiosity soaring around the globe with our Kitchen Adventures subscription box. Every month, they’ll receive kid-friendly recipes and kitchen tools, explore world cultures with fun hands-on activities and games, and build practical skills and confidence as they learn to cook with you.