Discover the Traditional Foods of Hanukkah and How They Have Been Preserved Through Time

Hanukkah dishes.
Many traditional Hanukkah dishes have been blended with modern ingredients or experimented with to give a new flavor to otherwise ancient recipes. (Image: Olaf Speier via Dreamstime)

Although the tradition of celebrating Hanukkah has been preserved for thousands of years, the food has been kept accurate to its original recipe. Learn about this celebration in the modern world and how its traditional foods are still enjoyed today.

The preservation of Hanukkah food in America

Being Jewish in America typically means experiencing a range of Hanukkah dishes. This is because the food depends on the local availability and what’s in the area to use.

Over the years, Jews have strived to keep the same customs. Though there are now different ingredients available, Hanukkah food has been kept intact as its recipes remain unchanged in the modern era.

If you’re interested in learning how Hanukkah food has remained the same in a shifting environment, read our article to learn more about preserving food for this Jewish holiday.

What are Hanukkah foods?

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that includes eight days of worship and is also known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication. This event consists of a special prayer and fried food cooked in oil. 

This festival is a tradition that honors how a single jar of olive oil was kept clean to light the Temple’s Menorah. This feast celebrates the oil with oil dishes and a meal commemorating the occasion.

The eight-day celebration involves lighting a candle on the Menorah one by one each day until all eight lights are lit. The ritual also involves reciting special prayers and singing traditional songs.

Latkes, also known as potato pancakes or levivot, are fried or baked in oil.
Latkes, also known as potato pancakes or levivot, are fried or baked in oil. (Image: Yuliia Bodaniuk via Dreamstime)

10 traditional Hanukkah foods

Many traditional Hanukkah dishes have been blended with modern ingredients or experimented with to give a new flavor to otherwise ancient recipes.

Here are the top 10 foods that have remained the same throughout the years despite the changes.

1. Latkes

Latkes, also known as potato pancakes or levivot, are fried or baked in oil. Some versions also include added zucchini or spinach to make this recipe healthier.

2. Noodle kugel

Noodle kugel is a unique egg noodle casserole with a creamy and sweet flavor. It is a classic comfort food with an important place in Hanukkah.

3. Challah

Challah is particularly popular due to its recognizable shape. To make challah, there are usually two stages: making the dough and braiding it with three stands and up. Some people get creative and use braiding patterns to make interesting art pieces.

4. Blintzes

Blintzes are a great combination of sweet and savory in one dish. They maintain their taste as part of the Jewish holiday while still following the Hanukkah cooking style.

5. Sufganiyot

Sufganiyot are commonly known as Hanukkah donuts and they are filled with jelly. The good thing about this is that you can make different variations of this Jewish dish based on preference.

Sufganiyot is commonly known as Hanukkah donuts and is a jelly donut.
Sufganiyot are commonly known as Hanukkah donuts and they are filled with jelly. (Image: Rafael Ben Ari via Dreamstime)

6. Rugelach

Rugelach can be considered the Jewish version of a cookie with multiple modern versions. Some people cooking this dish choose to add unique flavors, including almond, raspberry, chocolate, and others.

7. Hanukkah brisket

This dish usually takes the center spot at the table, surrounded by other dishes. Aside from its taste, it makes a great centerpiece and adds to the aroma of the feast.

8. Matzo ball soup

A Hanukkah meal is not complete without soup! Whether for starters or to accompany your meal, matzo ball soup is typically cooked in one big pot and simmered on the stove. This dish is sometimes called Jewish penicillin.

9. Tzimmes

Tzimmes is an excellent side dish since it goes well with almost any other Hanukkah food. If you’re a fan of carrots, this side dish is perfect alongside other mains like brisket or other Hanukkah dishes.

10. Babka

The good thing about the babka is that it’s not too complicated and can still be made by a beginner baker. Although the process may seem intimidating initially, going through it step-by-step results in an easy recipe.

In summary

While some people have added their twist to the various Hanukkah recipes, the most important thing is that the holiday has been kept alive and food is still cooked in a way that involves oil.

In America, though some food has been adapted, the main essence has been maintained to honor the proper celebration of the Jewish holiday.

Celebrating Hanukkah has been kept alive for thousands of years, and its traditional foods have been faithfully preserved. Discover the modern-day celebration and how its classic dishes have remained unchanged despite evolving.

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